Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Out from Under the Thumb

"This is who I am.
  You can like it or not.
  You can love me or leave me,
  cause I'm never gonna stop."
    ~ Madonna

"You do not have to be good.
  You do not have to walk on your knees
 for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
 You only have to let the soft animal of your body
  love what it loves."
      ~ Mary Oliver

I am Facebook dependent. Some of that is due to my current living abroad situation. Facebook keeps me feeling connected to my friends and family, it is a lifeline to back home and allows me to feel like I still have one foot planted there, in safe and familiar territory. Facebook is my venue for sharing my ideas, my interests, feelings and also the writing and art I have been creating. For the most part I love Facebook and I am so grateful for having social media, without it I would be much more isolated and my creative endeavors would struggle to have momentum, because the truth is I crave your approval. I should not need it, actually I don't need it, but I do wish to have it. Please don't read this as fishing for compliments, because that is not why I am sharing this. I am sharing this because if it is relevant to me, it just might be relevant to you.

I started an experiment with this blog a number of weeks ago. I wanted to boost my creativity and return to some forms that I love, photography and poetry. I also wanted to mindfully explore my ability to share without attachment to an outcome, in this case the currency of approval, your likes and comments. I wanted to challenge myself to find confidence in my own regard for what I create.

I thought it would be easier than it has been. Actually it has been very hard, it has stirred up all kinds of old wounds, negative thought patterns, ingrained insecurities. This experiment has brought me face to face with a big chunk of shadow and what a treasure trove of potential healing and growth I have stepped into! I have noticed things about myself and also things about the environment I am participating in. I only have control over one of these things. Yep, that's right, me. I only have control over myself . How I choose to act, present, hide, respond, react, process or deny, all of these things are my responsibility. How anyone else perceives me, likes or dislikes me, is their responsibility. I don't own other people's thoughts, actions or feelings. I can set down that heavy load, but even knowing that, I realize I keep picking it up, carrying it on my back.

I write my poems, take my photos, dig into deep parts of my heart and soul, unearth myself, and then I risk big time, I share them with you. My Facebook friends are in this space too, sharing pieces of themselves, their day to day, their families, events, opinions, inspirations. I wonder how much any of us really steps forward, what do we hold back for fear of what others think?  It takes immense courage, absolute bravery, to really do this vulnerability thing. I sometimes find myself hesitating fearfully as my finger poises to hit the share button. If I keep quiet, if I keep to myself, I won't have to bear the potential disappointment of not getting your seal of approval, that thumbs up.  I have amazingly received a lot of support and encouragement from many friends, and I am exceedingly grateful for that, but in the spirit of honesty here, I have to say of that validation, it is just as I suspected, I always want more. That part of it is so important! That is my work, right there! The wounded ego is insatiable. Those holes in me will never be filled by other people or anything outside myself. I shouldn't base my view of myself or what I offer on how many thumbs up I can collect. I am trying to land in a space of open and independent gratitude more and more, for all the gifts I have outside myself and more importantly what I have inside myself.. We all must own how we are showing up in this life, but I will say, it does help to have a village!

It helps to have a village, a tribe. Since starting my experiment I have found I am increasingly and intentionally trying to be a support for others, even if it is just hitting that like button. Knowing that this small gesture, this click, might make someone feel seen, validated, less lonely, is worth the moment it takes. Why wouldn't I do it? When someone shares a heartfelt thought, a beautiful picture, a writing, especially when someone posts something that is personal and vulnerable, I try to remember to take that second of effort, to at least like what they have offered, and I do my best to comment if I have something relevant to say, or just a word of support. I don't see all of my friends posts though, so I attend to what comes across my screen and trust that it is what needed my attention that day. I want to be more generous with my kindness. I don't do it perfectly, but I am bringing intention and awareness to it. Let's be generous with our kindness, you have no idea how the smallest acknowledgment might uplift someone, even through a screen.

But mostly I want to say to myself and to you, the most important thumbs up of them all is the one we give to ourselves. We all have value. We all deserve love. We have all made mistakes. We have all experienced pain. Whatever you bring to the table in this life, bring it fully. We are all here to grow, we are not here to stay small and fearful. Notice what lights you up, what makes you feel expressed and express it. Dare to expand your horizons, especially if you are afraid or uncomfortable, especially then.  You are better to follow your soul's longing, even if it appears you must go it alone, out into the thick jungle of unknown possibility. If you don't, you stay in the small safe cage of predictability. There is a quote by someone, "A comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there." I am trying to create bravely, expand my vulnerability, go to new places, risk more of myself. I am getting out from under the thumb of fear slowly, step by step I go.  Now that I started, turning back is not an option. I won't be pinned down. Love will set us free. Freedom is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves.  Let's go out and get it!

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