All posts by downeydee

The Butterfly Effect by Def Lepard

Yesterday was a terrific day. I started out the day spending it with someone I like very much who made me a wonderful breakfast, I made some great contacts for my business, I got free tickets to a concert with some of my very favorite people whom I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with, bumped into another dear friend whom I had lost contact with, and then in the parking lot after the concert, I ran into two friends from my puppyhood and we got to spend about 30 minutes hunting for our respective cars and chatting about life. Turns out we were parked about six spots away from each other. What are those odds? I spent good motion professionally and personally. I slept well.

Digesting this a bit more, it would have been really easy not to go. I am over-loaded with a pending move, behind in my marketing bootcamp assignments, I left late and could have stayed home. I was unfamiliar with the venue, arriving alone, a bit late. I like these people a lot but this is our first outside-of-work social event and I was kind of nervous. I parked about a mile away from the concert hall, didn’t know which entrance to go into and my cell phone was close to death. But I found a gate and got in without a ticket. I eventually hooked up with my peeps. After going for a beer and a pee, I got separated from my friend. It was while I was looking around that I found my friend who literally attended the home birth of my firstborn. It was dark as I walked back into the crowd to look for my hosts. I spent a few minutes hunting for them before I just gave up and stood alone feeling kind of conspicuous in the middle of the venue. Thought about going home but didn’t. My phone lasted. We texted and re-found each other. Some 80’s dancing later, we went to our respective exits having had a very fun time of it, and that is where I ran into my friends from, I kid you not, elementary school.

What if I had left the concert when I got separated? What if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort level and gone? What if I just let my puppy friends pass without flagging them down? I wouldn’t have built a stronger friendship that matters to me with my hosts–one that I would like to invest more time in. I wouldn’t have caught up with my birthing buddy. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have access right back into my small town high school set? I wouldn’t have bought that $9 beer. And I wouldn’t have been able to dance very badly to Pyromania.

So get off your ass and go do that thing that you really don’t want to do but think might be good for you anyway. Choose expansion over contraction. Unless, of course, they are the right KIND of contractions!

Sonnet

Upon this ball of dirt, each has a task–

An inner-driven ‘I have got to be…’

“Shall I commit to course?” most dare not ask.

The answer, tho, is MUST–it seems to me.

 

‘Tis soul deforming to evade the call:

Alignment of thine talents, dreams, and chances.

Remove, then, hope and vacancy install

When one shows up for life refusing dances.

 

The day when I articulate solution

Is not so very far–this I can feel.

Anticipating elements Confucian,

For learning, peace & love are things most real.

 

Do join my walk as I pursue discovery

Embarking on some ‘good enough’ recovery 😉

(ah, my assignment is complete!)

 

With my bag of addiction gone, I say yes to potential tribal rejection. And life…

I have been careful not to use (or at least become aware when I am using) the typical devices to medicate my emotions. MY PAID FOR FRIEND, may she live forever, points out that we humans use our vices to medicate ourselves instead of doing the hard work of sitting with our uncomfortable feelings. We medicate with overspending (check), sex (prefer not to comment), alcohol (thankfully I’m a puker), drugs (pass), gambling (rather buy books, thanks), reading (shut up), tv / internet addiction (whatever), eating crap food (oh, oh, oh, pay dirt!)…

If you could draw a graph comparing my need to use food to medicate with the amount of food I have stashed in my house to meet those needs, you would see a positive sign today: My house is free from junky snacks, and if this was for any reason other than the raw truth that I have simply eaten them all, then this would be full of valor. Note-worthy, in fact. But essentially I just ate everything, and I’m left with the real food.

You know: the kind that requires rinsing and dicing.

I mean HUGE hypocrisy here as, between paragraphs, I am licking the inside of the wispies of the bag of chocolate chips that just seconds before the birth of this post were the last soldiers left in this fight, but I have cut off the supply lines. The armory lies fallow.

Nevertheless, let’s go with this for a moment: life is an object lesson.

What do these purified cabinets represent to me? I had joined a diet program after the birth of my firstborn biological child when I realized I was an emotional eater. I was homeschooling one of my step-daughters and we were having an irrational fight over some spelling list. I stood up, stormed into the kitchen, threw my pencil against the wall, tore open the drawer containing Trader Joe’s crimson-dyed, chocolate elixir of the gods which finds itself wrapped around dried cherries and shoved half the container into my pie-hole before I knew what happened. Sixty-two points later, insight struck: I eat when I am angry (or sad, lonely, full of anxiety, fearful, facing much unknown…) That was eight years ago. Public school is under-rated.

(Note to self: do red food-dye detox.)

Adulteries, addictions, pathological self-destruction, over-developed senses of dogma, submission to man-made systems of control–even socially acceptable addictions like losing ourselves in our zealous drive to ‘serve’ others…: these distractions are ‘tools’ we use to ameliorate pain, to submit to the resistance that would keep us from being true to our dreams, to accept someone else’s idea of what our true purpose is than to do the hard work of discovery–to keep us from doing the creative work we NEED to do to claim our calling here on this ball of minerals. It takes decisive courage and sustained intentional choices to combat entropy. This is not the playground of sissies. And I recognize that I have the luxury of being as self-absorbed as this post requires only because my basic needs are met and I live in a politically stable land for which I hold resolute gratitude.

That said, our addictions deceive us and disqualify us from the satisfaction of living fully engaged lives–above the madding crowd. We fear the tribe will reject us if we step out on a scarcely traversed paths to make our mark, and so we use excuses to limit ourselves from personal alignment. To fit in, among other things.

As I take the last whif of this cleanly-licked chocolate chip bag, I decide that even if I have to pass alone through the valley of misunderstood, pain, feeling, self-taming, and personal responsibility to get to the mountain of living a life of fluid design, I am ready to start walking! Might as well: the bag is empty!

Exploring the Palace One Room at a Time or Maybe Not Needing a Palace at All…

“The adjacent possible is as much about limits as it is about openings. At every moment in the timeline of an expanding biosphere, there are doors that cannot be unlocked yet. In human culture, we like to think of breakthrough ideas as sudden accelerations on the timeline, where a genius jumps ahead fifty years and invents something that normal minds, trapped in the present moment, couldn’t possibly have come up with. But the truth is that technological (and scientific) advances rarely break out of the adjacent possible. The history of cultural progress is, almost without exception, a story of one door leading to another door, exploring the palace one room at a time.” Steven Johnson in Where Good Ideas Come From p. 36.

Learning to live with the tension of the unknown and making friends with it is now equal parts peaceful and catalytic.

I am on the other side of the door, in DWL (Dragon Whisperer Land). I got a little side-tracked from building the house; when I first stepped into this land, I thought the house was important (at first the house was important–I was traumatized and I needed shelter). Building a house seemed like a great place to start, but something has changed in me. It isn’t the house itself I need. It is the refuge of rest which it represents. The quiet place to consider. The wall to lean up against when the load is too big for me.

Now that I am past the trauma, I find that the physical structure is not all that is required for this intentional land; thriving here requires a quiet mind, a seeking of expansive thoughts, and surely at least a rudimentary shelter. As my constitution gets stronger and I have more faith in myself, I have less dependence on the conventions that held me hostage with handcuffs of known quantity and routine in that other place. I don’t need a monster fortress. I need ideas and time and only a modest space. And meaningful people that get this about me.

This new-found fluidity is something that has been such a part of me that I didn’t recognize it as a distinguishable quality. Like: before the awareness of distinct gases and advanced scales able to measure oxidation, the nuances of oxygen remained undiscoverable. Now that I am unencumbered by structure, debt load, daily tasklistery, and expectation, I have pieces in place that allow me to investigate further this creative fluidity that has not known how to manifest plainly. I don’t know if it can be measured, but it’s effect upon the system is suddenly able to be observed. Such exploration is a definitive piece of who the real me has always been.

I don’t know what shape this will take, this design of life of which I am architect, but I am beginning to lay the tools upon my workbench and here is what I have found. I have a high freedom need and accompanying room for the important people in my life to roam–a respect for that and an expectation that that is how we do things over here in Dragon Whisperer Land. A come-along-sidedness as technique on the climb. The ability to metacognate my way through the messy, undefined path–words to translate it. A broad array of skills in search of some expertise to wrap around. And a newer realization that this lack of expertise might just be the real gift here. I say those words like they mean something from far down the path which I am just beginning to traverse. Like some wiser part of me already knows this and is waiting for the rest of me to catch up to make sense out of it. I feel the weight of the truth behind this utterance, though I am certainly too early in this process to recognize or commit to an outcome. I am left then with a realization that I can begin to tinker.

For now that must be enough to comfort me. I have a pile of raw materials and have begun to define the tools I can use to morph them. Becoming ever more comfortable with my lessening need for the trappings might just be one of the first Dragons I am on my way to taming.

 

Control ‘Z’: Where the Hell Are You?

(Kind of wondering why I don’t drink more alcohol. Maybe the whole ‘Child of Irish Catholic Alcoholics’ awareness figures in there…)

At this point in my life, I draw great strength from my deep and abiding belief that framing is the key to the universe; more specifically, that my philosophy for framing rests soundly on the side of Pollyanna-ism. I also draw great strength in my life from the deep and abiding conviction that what today holds extends as far as today and how I deal with it controls what happens to it tomorrow. Mix in some hard work and time, and problems become blessings. I also draw great strength in my life from the unalterable intention I have to turn everything I am living through into fodder for ‘fiction’.

So I’m feeling pretty strong, and if you’re part of my drama, beware. I will change your name but only as far as it gets me out of legal ramifications.

As much as every fiber in my self-obsessed, oversharing soul desires to give the comical and incomprehensible details of the circumstances that feed into the above thoughts, I will hold off for now. People that know me already know; people that don’t know me can merely substitute their own life circumstances and go from there.

Which leaves me to why am I writing this blog post? I am writing this blog post because I really liked the title of it, intend to write a book entitled that, and I don’t have the book written yet.

Love,

Me

I just want to be the fucking butterfly!

personal growthAllegedly this is the larval stage. In my humble opinion, it sucks! And I don’t even like it at all.

There is a lot of pressure to perform tasks–crazy things like find cheaper housing to keep the kids in the same school district, or find a job that can cover costs and hopefully build up something to start over again. Other people are facing this and dealing with it. Other people are living and breathing day by day and hoping that they can keep all the balls in the air. And while that provides a small bit of comfort–actually a HUGE chunk of comfort–it doesn’t solve any of my problems. I want them to be fixed right now. Dammit.

My paid for friend, MAY SHE LIVE FOREVER, points out that I am in a volcanic life transition and my identity has nothing close to settled into what it will be. The expectation that I would, then, be able to put out a resume and say be employed in a life-affirming perfect calling within, say, a week is somewhat…illusory, is the word she used. She didn’t say delusional, and I choose to take courage from that. All I did was make a certain point and ask a certain question: since I am living through divorce, financial upheaval, business change, status loss, control loss, job search, parenting guilt, professional entanglement with my ex… I think I would like to pursue something that has to do with change management and conflict resolution. Do you know any good schools, and do you think I would be successful there? Seemed simple enough. Affirm my plan, Paid for Friend. That’s all I’m asking.

“You are asking me to wave my magic wand, again. Aren’t you?” she laughs. Ordinarily, I love to make people laugh, but this one is a little too close to home for me to find much brevity in it. She picks up on a panicked drive to find definitive answers and encourages me to steep in the larval more before putting so much pressure on myself to know what I will be when I grow up. Some bullshit about ‘not ideal but good enough’ and ‘temporary’ and ‘not long term’.

I am asking for the authorized, holy water sprinkled, fairy dusted plan. I pay this woman good money. And she laughs and tells me to stay larval. The larval stage feels constricting and icky. It is tight and dark and larva don’t have arms to complete tasks. They can’t pay rent when they’re stuck in that silly little cocoon. I’m not saying the idea of crawling into my bed and burrowing in doesn’t hold a certain appeal, but I WANT IT FIXED NOW!!

Someday, I suspect I will look back at this period joyfully, fondly, and with wings. Wings accompanied by sage wisdom and great fortitude. Speckles of eternal perspective and a rock core of exhortation for fellow butterflies to be. When I visualize that moment from where I am today, I see a tender little white cocoon. I honor it and wish I had a way to protect it. I look at it a little more closely, and out of the top of it is sticking my middle finger.

How a Category Got Its Name

Not having the kids, considering career transmogrification (I know: awesome word–just found it), gives me far too much free time coupled with anxiety. As a result, I am playing with this new blog-of-my-obsession (BOMO). Provides an escape more liver-friendly than vodka, and feeds my creativity! I realized that all of my posts so far are entirely too revealing. That if I do actually ever go to seek a job from someone else and my prospective employer should happen to find out I have a blog and reads it, I may be SCREWED. Good employees never use the word SCREWED and certainly wouldn’t capitalize it in a public venue. I would remind their HR department about privacy laws. But I digress.

Where was I? Oh, yes, too revealing. So after re-reading all the posts to see if I still liked them, I realized most of them were about body parts and bleeding edge emotional divulgence (which is apparently NOT a word). I steeped in the tension that realization brought me for a moment. Live with the ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ or just tell it like it is? Should I delete all the references that polite people–the kind of people who have tact–would blush about? Things like toenail fungus and rogue chin hairs? Hell no! (Again, privacy laws…) I’m going to rock out with my parts out here and make an assumption that anyone who got past the title of the blog would be expecting nothing less than an occasional oversharing. And that is how a category got its name!

Should I start writing about kittens and butterflies, you’ll be sure to know.

Note to self: soon a blog post must be written in iambic pentameter and use under-utilized words to address some facet of personal discovery. (oh… the girl lays down a challenge!)

Toe Nails, Ducks, Genetic Epiphanies

Thank God I dye my hair. The end.

Kidding.

Because I dye my hair, I occasionally have roots that need to be touched up. Also because I, like many other middle-aged women who are still AWESOME and HAWT, have hair that grows, and toe nails that need to be painted (thank you for the fungus, Grandma Downey), and chin hairs that go rogue (thank you Grandma Downey), I periodically go in to spend wayyyy too much money in a beautification process which involves the address of the above maladies. During my most recent stint I had a grandiose epiphany.

The hair dresser and I were talking about her ethnic background. Why not? That’s what chicks do: become best friends with whomsoever seems interesting and chatty. She was sharing about her five kids, none of whom resemble each other, and we were bonding over stories of how we’ve screwed up our kids and are in our mid years rebuilding our lives intentionally, trying to atone for whatever it is we do that for. Whatnot. Her explanation for the physical difference of her kids derives, she believes, from the genetic mix of native American, Welsh, German and Moor. Certainly plausible. But then I had a streak of brilliance that struck me, with brilliance.

Major aha moment–like the time I looked out in the pond and saw a duck go underwater and realized that might just be how the bird got its name.

Boys like girls.

All of history–genetic history at least (not the nasty war bits)–owes its vast diversity to the simple fact that boys like girls. Boys move for better provision and take girls with them. Boys go to war and take other boys’ girls. Boys go on adventure and find new girls. Some boys do all of the above at various levels of simultaneousity (look it up–I dare you), and they have been known to have their own TV shows. Boys write stories about this, lament about this, and pour out their life energy in pursuit of girls (marriage and responsible provision on one side and boy-dog trophy-procurement on the other). Simple fact. Yes, salt was important, and the plague had far-reaching impact. Water rights will inevitably show up as a feature, but meanwhile, in the scope of genetic history, each one of us can attest to the fundamental truth that boys like girls.

(Corollary: girls probably like boys too, or we wouldn’t spend so much money covering up the toenail fungus.)

Dragons


Liking this chapter that I’m in: enjoying very much reading about archetypes and the stories of our humanity. Bought Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces last night to accompany ‘the Writer’s Journey’. LOVING it. His language is complicated and rich. It is a thick book with many pages, small print, and large words. The story is fascinating me: how the various roles develop and overlap and intersect. With this chapter being about me restructuring myself, it resonates deeply, and I anticipate that it will be impactful as I move forward. This season, this new year—I have decided—is going to be about studying story-craft so that I can write powerfully and with resonance. Vocabulary, themes, filling gaps left by collegiate dependence on Cliff Notes, symbolic thought. The return to me. Yeah!!

Then, what are the themes in which I am steeping? Identity, service to greater good v personal desire, lonely internal journey v need to connect, fidelity to core beliefs, role of core beliefs, exploration of sexuality and emotional need, emotional landscape, transitions, role of society’s rules on decision making, thresholds of comfort and willingness to explore extreme edges of my own boundaries, living with the tension of all of this. Commitment to the journey. I feel at the place where the hero recognizes the need to go dragon-hunting as the dragon is pissing off the villagers and something needs to be done. For such a time as this…

Commitment to journey: a friend asked me if there was a chance of me reconciling. My cursory response was that if it happened it would be far down the road, that I’m not keen on putting the kids through those roller coaster feelings. It is more complex than that. It would be so much easier. But easy isn’t the criterion that motivates me to make decisions: maybe even the opposite in some twisted martyr sensibility. Not crisis-oriented exactly, but certainly complexity-oriented. Difficult to explain this internal drive to investigate ‘this’ (place I need to go) and translate it…

Am I giving up on men, he asked? For a season—also need to keep space between my future adult life and the kids. But the other side of that is that I have been walking up and down this hallway, visiting its open rooms and dallying with their baubles, distractions, and busy-nesses. Marriage, breeding, businesses, moving, apocalyptic preparation, hardcore dogma—using these distractions to keep me from feeling the uncomfortable place of just raw me. Until now, I have used those things to keep me from the closed door just to the left of the hallway as I first enter. I peaked in that door, and it was desolate and rocky. The sky was yellow and the sun hung low. There was no sign of real life. It scared me and I slammed the door shut. The vision of it haunted me, though, and I couldn’t keep it out of my mind. I began to think that that desolate landscape is the very terrain on which I will build me. Those rocks are the resources that I will use to make shelter. The hard work it will take to make that place welcoming is the work that will transform me into a strong and able Hero. One unafraid of dragons. Maybe even a Dragon Whisperer.

So do I think that I will find signs of life in that place that I am getting ready to enter? I think it is irrelevant right now. I have to go here alone. I have THIS time and THIS place to do THIS thing. I have had a vision of what this might turn into, and it doesn’t resemble anything I’ve seen before. It is intentional and creative and very, very challenging. I will probably cry a lot and get blisters. I will need to sleep on the ground until I can figure out how to make something comfortable from rocks. I will probably take a stack of books and reams of paper for when I am alone and my thoughts get away from me. Maybe one morning I will wake up and find that the yellow sky was seasonal and has all sorts of other colorful manifestations.

In my vision, there will be a time when I have a house built. It will have a porch on which I will sit in a chair which I have made and ponder things that people tired from hard work ponder. I will know the lay of the land because I will have done recon. I will have found neighbors and made negotiated peace with them—or boundaries. I will let in visitors from this place I am now. Some will like it but many might not be comfortable there. Maybe I will find someone who likes my porch and this transformed landscape. Maybe we will sit on this porch and tell each other our dragon stories. Maybe that will lead to other things…