When are you “in” and when are you an “outsider?”

Much of my life I have felt I was an outsider. While others might have had safe homes, mine was a war zone. I was kept home for three months out of a year I see from my grade four report card most likely from being bruised so badly I couldn’t be in public. When I did attend school the possibility of frustration leading me to tears was a haunting presence. The report cards exclaim to my parents, as if they are the school’s ally, that “Cherie will frequently burst into tears for no reason.”

The dyslexia which I only discovered after it appeared in both of my children, caused me to have difficulty learning to read. I would sit quietly and listen with interest when my father read G.H. Well’s Outline of History out loud to me for hours at a time. So the failure to read was obviously not a sign of lack of intellectual curiosity or a lack of depth of mind.

leaving the fire and darkness

My teacher in Grade three kept me in at noon hour to work with me until I made a break through. Bless her persistence. It is when I first knew that one caring person could change your life. It is probably when I knew I wanted to be that teacher, that person for others’ lives.

However, the social outfall of being abused, emotionally weak (with a hyper sensitivity to others’ energies) and having learning disabilities lead to a deep sense of shame. I retreated into myself. Others would bully me, isolate me and my response was not to defend myself, to step into my power but rather to shrink even further.

What effect has this had on the landscape of my life? Having a quick, perceptive mind locked in a shame-filled personality is a formula for failure.

Although I scored in the 98% on the standardized National Education Exams for all grade 11’s and all grade 12’s in the United States, I had few close friends. I could not speak out freely in class unless I was suddenly overcome by my inner power. When people talked about oppression of national minorities, about denying power to others, with a mindless philosophy that would lead to pain for others my mouth would open. I would blurt out something that I didn’t even hear or register. It was like channeling. My teachers told me I was brilliant. Classmates would come to me to ask what was going to be on the test or just before an exam ask me for answers to something they could not decipher. But that was one of the few times they spoke to me.

I know now that most of the failure to be seen was mine. Having taught acting classes for 25 years I have seen how those who carry pain and low self esteem make it almost impossible for others to show affection and to include them.

Where am I now? Today when I saw that artists had created banners for a street in our town, it came back. The full hit in the gut pain of being outside, excluded, not validated, being invisible. After working as an artist almost daily for 18 years, my work is not on display.

Is it that my work isn’t considered important? I am not selling. The work continues to be shown in secondary venues. Even though I garnered awards in the European shows in Florence and Vienna, I lose money when I have booths at local fairs.

Because of my spiritual beliefs and because of the interior plastic surgery I have done on myself in the last two years I am able to sit with the deep grief I feel coming up. Again, my body tells me I am less than others. I am not included. I am somehow damaged and a lesser being.

These stories are old stories. They are the stories of a little girl who is dressed beautifully and sent off into the world. But under her starched puffed sleeve dress are bruises on her arms, finger prints in blue and green.

Under her bow on the back of her dress are marks and fractured bones.

So my job, my practice is to step back and watch the reaction in my body. My lesson at this time in my life is to be honest with myself.

I am neither an insider nor an outsider. I am an artist who is called to create by some higher urge. My visual art, my poetry, my plays, my voice rising in choir, my dancing and spreading my arms out to take the space are my soul’s work.

These people whose banners are flying have spent time building a network. They validate one another in this tribe of artists. Social equity results in more exposure of their creations.

It is the hours over coffee, the showing up at events, the building a following that pays off. Literally pays off. So this is another in the lessons that I am learning.

I also realize that I can never quite trust my interpretation of events. As within so without, my spiritual teacher reminds me. How much of my reality am I creating and how much of my reality am I misinterpreting? As Buddhist teachings say, “If you see Buddha, kill him.” So being able to drop the story and just know feeling excluded hurts. Feeling invalid and invisible hurts.

The work is to feel that in my body, sit with it as if it were a baby as Thich Nhat Hahn says. Let it cry. Then move on to make my life more satisfying. Grieve it, feel it then heal it.

The questions always comes back, “Who are you when you are authentic?”

I am still struggling. Perhaps, because of my family history my social development is not very far along. But today, this day I am working on the problem that life has given me. My heart is open to those around me who offer me friendship.

I am learning that if a friend needs me, to stop everything I am doing and just go be with that friend. I am learning that I no longer need to isolate myself. I will never show up at an event or in life simply to push my agenda or to garner financial gain for my art. It is against my nature.

But perhaps, I can begin to see that by being genuinely caring there are connections I can make to others. That I don’t need to hide any more.

And as for bullies. Yes. They exist in the cultural community as well. But now I am strong enough to either turn around and leave ( if the energy feels negative) or to speak out against the attempts at manipulation. I am no longer afraid to speak up. And I don’t need to zone out, to disconnect and allow the channeling voice to speak. I can speak from my heart in my work, in my friendships and in my life.

Living with Intention and Love

I might be growing up. Gratitude for my lessons.

One day, my banner will be waving for all to see. I know this.

Distant and Dealing

I have not posted for six weeks. The sense of making each day count has been the driving motivation for me lately. After reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I made a chart for my refrigerator. On the chart are those things which are most supportive of my well being, in other words the care of my body.

At the top of the list is drinking water. From all that I have read, getting enough water can offer immense support for the “plant.” Inflammation is a response which must be avoided. Inflammation damages the body, creates stress and can lead to a cancer response. Drinking enough water also keeps the body from signaling “hungry, hungry,” when in fact it is dehydrated. Toxins are also carried through with water. Honoponopono practice which is traditional Hawaiian spiritual practice has as its core drinking water. A blue bottle is placed in the sun (try that in the Okanagan winter). As the sun goes through the water, it is believed it activates it to heal. The thought that the practitioner is supposed to hold is that all past “scripts” are washing through the body. What happened to me when I was two or twenty or sixty is now flushed out. Now. That brings to you now. Without a story, a bag of past grievances slung over the shoulder. Just you, the ground, the breath and the flow of water washing through the body.
Sleep is the next item on my chart. Getting eight hours sleep can pull down the inflammation response very efficiently. When the body is rested, it feels strong and calm. The daily attacks: bills, broken appliances, family disasters, angry people are inevitable. But if the body feels strong and rested, a person is in a more capable state. Solutions are easier to discover. I also find that it is easier for me to not attach to the difficulty with an emotional state that strangely enough usually outlasts the problem. So often in the past I start to out run the tiger long after it has retreated to the dark forest again. The sound of my own hyperventilation and pounding anxiety would accompany me long after the threat had passed.
And friends are extremely important. In scientific experiments of people under stress, it was discovered that their telemeres shorted. These are the “shoelace” like tips of DNA strands. The longer they are, the longer your life span. Stress will shorter the telemeres whose job it is to repair cellular damage. So women under stress raising handi-capped children who formed into a support group had a slowing down of the telemere damage and in some cases actual repair to the repair kit.
My goal is to make contact with old friends or to meet new friends every day. As with all activities, it becomes easier the longer I do it. At first, going through the door after my long retreat was like breaking through one of those aluminum foil barriers on a jar… only it was over the door. One evening I went out just because I didn’t feel like going on.
These simple items top my list on my happiness project chart. Another part of the process, is to realize that it is a process. When I misstep or don’t have an X to put in the box, I realize that I am changing myself for the better. I celebrate that and treat myself with compassion because I am my friend as well. Right?