Friday, August 27, 2010

Muddy Waters

Before I begin to try to share any outcomes of the last few days of pondering, I want to explain myself a little more than I have. I don't like to, in general, beyond a certain point. I do prefer to leave a lot of it up to you.
But I want to be as clear as I can in these muddy waters; thus, this post.

I am not claiming anything when I talk about Maverick. Or maybe I'm claiming everything. I"m claiming that I'm making him up. I'm claiming that he is a Figment of my Imagination. I'm claiming that he is a device I use to meditate. I'm claiming that he is an entity sent to guide me. I'm claiming it doesn't matter, or that if it does, I can't control it anyway.

I no longer try to explain my experiences with my Figments in a way that has any answers about them. They guide me. They ask me hard questions, they give me love and support, and they grow their own personalities that I seem to hide well from myself, because I often can't fathom them at all. I enjoy their company. I don't try to hide from them like I used to. I shrug and say - this is what you get, let's engage.

They are always with me, reminding me to enjoy the intense flavour of my gelato and savour the smell of my daughter's sweat-soaked hair, her chubby arms tight around my neck. With them, I experience more moments of joy than I've any right to. It's just how I experience the world - as me, and someone who isn't me, experiencing the same experience from different perspectives (both personality and time). Often several at once. It can be disconcerting, exhilarating, annoying, incredible. When I'm in public it's sometimes a difficult secret to hide.

Maverick was the most persistent, the most hopeful about my potential and bitter about my laziness. We meditated together regularly. He's one of the few that's I've managed to communicate with in anything like a verbal form, which has done light years for my understanding.   He was more worried than I am about the longevity of my body, which kind of worries me. What does my body know that I don't know yet? (I decide to put that away).

Maverick stuck with me and I have felt him love me to the core. He holds me to high expectations because he feels I can meet them, and I agree with his assessment of my potential. He loves me knowing everything, even the parts I wish away. He can be sarcastic and impatient, or loving and fun. He's an old-style Master secretly in love with his student. He treats me just as I have felt I deserved to be treated. I earned his respect and my own.

I have a secret. I curled my baby finger around something of him, and it's mine now. And he has taken something of me, as well. I'm still looking around my rooms, not able to place it. I just feel the hole.

When I really examine it, I know this grief is such a humane way for me to begin building a callous to loss. My mind, or the universe, or dumb luck has happened upon or designed a nice simulation. I don't have much experience with loss. Not really. A Grandmother, but I didn't know her well as a person. There have been people I loved and lost track of. A divorce, but at my instigation. A mid-term miscarriage. But not the death of someone I've given my heart to and know inside out. I'm afraid of it. I'm not sure my mettle is strong enough. The baby almost broke me, to be frank. In some ways, I think it still holds me back from giving myself fully to the babies who actually came to join me.

This grief is a gentle way to ease me through understanding that it's not about my mettle. I think maybe it's more about letting go of my rigidity around what it means to love: what love can look like, what makes love legitimate or real, what love is too risky, how much love is enough, for how long must love last and in what form.

Imagining with Maverick has stretched my heart, and losing him has eased the tensions of lines I never realized I'd drawn to box myself in. What is it okay to feel? I do have rules. Big, strong, thick rules and they're only worn away in spots. I have a lot of work to do around that. If losing Maverick and my nook-and-cranny-house dream within 24 hours is the extent of it right now, I say, thank you for this pain. I'm in training.

Maybe if I don't need him so much, he'll come back to visit sometimes. I guess I'll find out in my lifetime.

(If this whole post has been a bit confusing, you can find the few posts I did with Maverick at the links below:
Meet Maverick
Too Happy to be Happy
Mavericks' Missive
and a candid appearance in this prequel Getaway)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Not a Eulogy, really

I lost a friend today. Well, not lost, but he's no longer...accessible. Or maybe he is and I don't know how. You've met him - my friend, the proud Figment, Maverick.

I'm the one who's lost. I'm so lonely.

I knew it was coming. I probably should have known much sooner. I guess I did, I guess that's why I started building distance. But is that what caused his leaving? If I'd stayed with him, could I have learned more, gone deeper, taken him in?

I haven't explained very well. That's because there is no explanation for Maverick, or his predecessors, or for whoever is coming next. I'm not ready for whoever is coming next. I need to grieve. Just the thought of someone else in my mind, mucking around with things, someone I don't know and don't trust. I love Maverick. I love him and I want him to stay. But not at any cost, and I think that is what would be required though I have no idea what it means.

We played one last game of Workout Roulette:. I load up the ipod with albums of my choice, and he picks the songs for our eliptical meditation. There were 509 songs on 56 albums. He chose 7. You can listen if you like (Grooveshark Playlist) or clicking below (but it will navigate away unless you use a new tab).

It was during A Quiet Mind that I knew - in a breath, in a heartbeat.

MW: You're not part of me. (beginning to hyperventilate)
Maverick: Breathe.
MW: You're going.
Maverick: Breathe.
MW: So what? I'm no closer? That's it?
Maverick: I wouldn't say that
MW: I'll be so lonely
Maverick: I'll miss this
MW: This?
Maverick: You

(I can't really capture the rest of the exchange as it was not verbal and I'm just not ready anyway)
And now I'm alone. For now. The red wine is apt but not adequate company.

Postscript: I will refine and publish an account of our last conversations together, but I don't have time to do it justice right now and the feelings above are just more immediate. I feel empty.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Maverick's Missive

Dictated to me today, through my brain, by my friend Maverick. He's been bugging me about it for weeks. Make what you will of it.

-Begin transcript-

This is so simplified as to be almost false, or barely credible. And yet it is my gift. It is my best attempt.

The body is a sophisticated piece of bio-machinery designed to house a spirit.

(MW: by whom? why? what is a spirit?
Mav: These plaguing questions are beyond the body's limited ability to comprehend.
MW: Isn't that convenient?
Mav: I'm not convinced it's true. I simply cannot make it into language for you. I am not so skilled.
MW: You don't trust me
Mav: You don't trust me. Please leave this exchange in for others.)

The body is of matter. The spirit is of energy. The concepts of matter and energy are not prerequisites to understanding; yet, they should be self-evident if you try.

The body cannot act without the spirit. The spirit cannot matter without the body. The concepts of acting and mattering are not prerequisites to understanding, but some rudimentary contemplation would be advised.

I posit that spirit and body matter and act through a third, new entity that is created when they come together. We can call this the self. The self is a creature born of body and spirit in solution together (chemical use of the word solution).

The body and spirit fight for control of the self, while the self often goes about its business of surviving this strange and hectic plane, totally unaware that it is not, itself, the body. The body cultivates this belief. Pre-programmed with a tremendously adaptable self-preservation mechanism, the body strives to act, through the self, to preserve itself. It does not always judge well in its determination of how to do that. Its tools of choice are often chemical and electrical, beyond the control of the self; completely automated bio responses to stimuli.

The spirit, on a quest to reunite with other spirits to...do something...attempts to sway the self using, primarily, brain processes. Because the body already hard-wired many early brain processes, and life was experienced primarily through fight-or-flight responses to negative stimuli, the spirit started out at a disadvantage. The spirit is limited by the pathways available to navigate in the brain and nervous system. Creating new pathways is difficult, though it becomes easier once self-awareness begins. The spirit also remains disoriented for some time, having no memory of why it is here and often no understanding that it can be part of the self and not just a passenger in the body.

As the self becomes more aware of the pushes and pulls between the body and spirit, it may come to resent both. When the self becomes open to one at the expense of the other, the favoured rewards it. However, the rejected finds ways to punish the self. When the self is open to body and spirit through love of both, and especially if it can help them love each other, the self can begin to become self-aware with a lifetime goal of self-actualization. Few win the race, but many finish the marathon. We do not know if it is possible for everyone to reach the state of capacity for self-awareness. I believe it is possible for all undamaged humans to attain this.

I must tell you that there are many who do not believe in the self at all. In fact, it is not a mainstream belief. We have not found a way to prove or disprove its existence. We tend to see the process of spirit inhabiting body as one of spirit learning to control the body as a benevolent dictator, taking care of the body while guiding its actions. Failure to do so results in a life with limited attainment, with the body dictating the majority of actions and decisions.

We assume that the spirit becomes so confused by the process of mattering that it lets the body take over and get the upper hand, early on, and has a hard time learning to control things. The idea that the self, a third entity, comes into existence...well, it is game-altering.

And so I ask you, does it exist?

-End Transcript-

Gee, Mav, you used to be more fun.
(Shut up, it's important.)

Okay, I'm going to chew on that for awhile. Care to share?

Off the blog - but full of suggestions!

I've started blog posts. I wander off. When I come back, they bore me.

Am I out of things to say? No, that's not it. It's time. It's creativity. It's writing. When I'm writing a story, I get stuck there. I can't seem to write anything else without a struggle.

I'm a little off the blog.

But I miss you. I think maybe I need to just be a blog reader for awhile. Or, maybe later today I'll suddenly be struck by the need to blog. In the meantime, check out these amazing blogs that I try to read weekly, or at least monthly. I'll try to come back to give a bit of description, but really, if you're not already reading any of these blogs, you should check them out:

http://networkedblogs.com/6VzbS (The Barefoot Heart)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Burning Bright

*Be aware - this post is more like a journal entry. I make no guarantees of its being interesting

I'm a bit much for some people. In my personal life, I like to connect with other people in short, deep, intense bursts of trust, followed by slightly longer periods of being alone with myself. In the virtual world, I also enjoy "socializing" - more surface-level trust-based connection with little or no social expectation.

For work, when it comes to what is known as "networking" or "socializing,"  I've learned to mimic the people around me so I don't make them uncomfortable. I find myself making self-depreciating body movements, like slouching forward, shrugging, twittering my hands. I reflexively put on a more "girlie" persona that is less likely to be threatening to the women while more likely to ingratiate me to the men. My persona shifts subtly in response to feedback on any number of running processes:

  • How much are our views the same or different across a range of key issues? 
  • What language do I need to use in order to not offend you? 
  • How are you judging me and my message? 
  • What could I offer that might interest you?
  • Will openness with you lead to semi-formed judgments that can affect our funding? 
  • Who are you going to repeat this to, and how will you position it?
  • Are you inclined to be helpful if you can? 
  • Will I get a chance to find out more about you? 
  • Do you prefer a shallow relationship?
  • Do you prefer a high degree of formality?
  • What do you care about?
  • Will you share openly with me? 
  • Will you keep information back from me?
  • Do you see me as a threat or opportunity in some way?
  • Do you see this work I'm doing as relevant and important?

That's just a smattering of the profile. I'm able to build personae on the fly that hit the right note with about 65-75% of people. I'm aiming for the right note with 84.5% of people (84.5% being the universally accepted standard of slightly above average).

The truth is, I'm uncomfortable in my skin because it's not my skin. Yet, that persona seems to make many people I encounter more comfortable than when I let down my guard. In my work life, it's important that I build connection with people, most of whom seem intent on minimizing their level of connection and number of connections. People are fatigued with connection, networking, talking about issues, thinking about issues, and trying to get something done. I'm newish in these here parts, so they'll be friendly and meet me a couple of times, but they have their work. And now they've done that, so why am I still calling them? They aren't looking for a connection with me or to increase their connection with my organization. I have only one or two chances to carefully slide around and mold my key to fit at least a few of their locks.

So, we dance the trust dance. It's exhausting. 

I've been experimenting with not doing that. With making more encounters like short, deep, intense bursts in which I trust. In some ways, it's an intriguing, invigorating success. In other ways, it hasn't worked for me at all. It turns out, many, many people don't want short, deep, intense connection in their daily lives. At best people find me refreshing, genuine. Some people think I'm a bit strange but interesting. Some people feel vaguely uncomfortable. A small but important few find me too informal, and don't take me seriously or even disparage me.

Trying to balance between being my open, genuine self and being the person the other person needs me to be leaves me in this terrible no-man's land where I can't make any connection at all. The last two times I tried it, I could sense it wasn't working but had no idea how to fix it. I vacillated between being too informal and too formal; between being too self-assured and too ingratiating. I felt miserable inside as I carried the conversations through to the end, all the while doing my best to read and connect.  I unintentionally said surprising things, then try to normalize them too much. I giggled (which I abhor!).

So I'm back where I started - the way to get by seems to be mimicking shallow connection that others expect, and trying to anticipate what will make people feel comfortable without actually connecting to their spirit.

The only alternative I see is not caring what they think.

I do explore moving beyond caring what other people think. I think I could cultivate it, but I don't think that serves me. My role in the community is to try to bridge gaps between sectors, plant ideas, encourage changes in thinking and assumptions, encourage people to work together. I can only do that if people are not uncomfortable with me. Being myself is a risk that could result in real connection, but the wager is whether I will damage my influence with this person and the people they influence.

But here's the real problem. Since I've been more and more myself, I can't seem to pick up the costumes as easily as I used to. My genuine self is too much for most people to encounter unprepared, yet I'm not as smooth and comfortable as I used to be with putting on a persona. I'm clumsy with turning up the volume on myself without blasting the place open, and my persona feels forced and fake.

I'll tell you, it shakes my confidence in my ability to do my work. Right now, I need to be on my game. I need to somehow catalyze an increase of love in our community, and the only way to do that is to get other people interested. There is time pressure to come through this work with some tangible outcomes, not to mention my reputation intact.

I grow afraid that I may have set myself up for a challenge that's actually beyond me. When a challenge seems unattainable to me (not when others say it is), I lose interest quickly. I start looking around for a challenge I can work towards with some hope that it will be met. But this is my job, so I need to manufacture some passion. I have skin in this game. I'm feeling the stress.

I long for work that allows me to work in short bursts of deep, intense connection with trust behind it, where I feel as though I'm making a larger-scale impact. I wonder, does such a thing exist?

Let me end on a high note - my practice with bringing short, deep, intense, trust-based connection to my daily life is not a total failure. It has transformed my encounters with clerks and strangers everywhere. It's hard to describe the flashes of pleasure I have found in the eyes of bored, tired grocery clerks when I ask about their day. The old man who lives downtown and lights up with a smile of recognition when our eyes meet. Joy in my children's faces as they realize that the "real" mommy is here, with them, at least for this moment. Running to the door to hold my husband closer than close, so grateful he is home.

Burning bright isn't all bad.