Dirty Little Lies And Other Truths

I’ve had some hard-to-swallow ‘ah-ha’ moments in my life. Epiphanies aren’t always pretty.

In my forties, I developed writing-for-self-discovery techniques specifically for mucking around in my subconscious. After decades of pretending to be what everyone else wanted, I had an overwhelming desire to know who I really was. In the process, I dredged up uncomfortable core beliefs only to discover that many of them were lies:

You’re not loveable
You’re not worthy
You’re not smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough
You can’t do it alone
Everyone leaves
Love hurts
What you say doesn’t matter
What you want doesn’t matter
Nobody cares about your opinion

The list went on and on. My thoughts, self-esteem, and actions had been informed by those subconscious beliefs.

I needed a different narrative but mantras didn’t work. Saying something over and over again doesn’t change anything if you don’t believe what you’re telling yourself. I found if I listed facts that countered the lies I could reshape my beliefs. For example, I challenged the ‘you’re not smart enough’ story with the fact that I’d graduated at the top of my class in college. ‘You can’t do it alone’ was a joke. My income was supporting my three daughters and jobless husband. Those exercises changed my life and propelled me to move abroad and write my memoir.

Fast-forward to yesterday.

A friend read my completed manuscript and we met for lunch. I asked for an honest, spare-no-feelings critique. Her feedback was insightful and I took notes. Then she swallowed a bite of coconut gelato, sat back and looked dreamily over the rice paddies stretching before us. “You were a clear example of the prostitute archetype,” she said.

Have you ever experienced a situation where something hits with such force, such truth, you’re caught there and everything else dissolves around you? My chest constricted. I held my breath. My heart rate tripled at the very least. Goosebumps lifted the hair on my arms. A sickening lurch rolled through my stomach and five marriages scrolled across my mind like a movie.

But we were married. My pathetic rebuttal was silenced by the ugly certainty that marriage changed nothing. It was, in fact, the ultimate soul-selling deception: my services for their income secured by a vow.

I’d written the memoir but I hadn’t seen myself for what I was until my friend pointed it out. I’m grateful in a stunned kind of way. It reinforces what I’ve witnessed time and again as I’ve gone through the process of regurgitating my life. We are the stories we tell ourselves and often they are fabrications that make our experiences bearable. We can accept small revelations of actual truth doled out over time if we’re aware enough to see them.

Accepting that I played the prostitute role is a hard pill, but I swallowed and I know my friend is right. In spite of this grossly unflattering information, there’s a part of me (undoubtedly my shadow) that’s excited. Something hidden has been dragged into the light. I’ve been given the opportunity to examine the implications as they affect me going forward and make necessary adjustments. I’ll be a healthier human as a result.

And my honest friend? I appreciate her more than ever.

The image at the top is attributed to lonerwolf.com. To learn more about the prostitute archetype click here.

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Going Bananas and Still So in Love

BANANA FLOWER YESTERDAY

SAME BANANA FLOWER TODAY

Maybe this doesn’t seem insane to you. I’ve never found an example that shows the rate of Bali growth as eloquently as these two photos of the same flower taken less than 24 hours apart.

Yesterday afternoon I shot the top image and posted it on my blog. About 10:00 a.m. this morning I happened to glance in that direction. I couldn’t believe my eyes! So I apologize for the repeat theme, but it proves to me I’m not crazy. I’m not just imagining trees that spring out of the earth and blossom overnight, growth here really is out of control.

Which sheds light on another area. Not only are things on the physical plane amped up and intensified, so too, on the spiritual plane. Inspiration and revelation seem to ooze from every nook and cranny of this island. Healers from all over the world come to Bali to work because it’s easier. Their healing gifts are supported by the life-force here, the same life-force that makes my banana flower burst it’s casing and bear fruit overnight.

Bali is magic. I don’t want to try too hard to figure it out. I’m willing to be like Peter Pan (I do believe in fairies, I do believe in fairies) and just allow myself to be amazed.  And why not? Bali never fails to deliver. And I’m in love, I’m still so in love.

 

 

 

Drinking from Blackwater Pond

black-water-pond-john-gusky

black-water-pond-john-gusky

Mornings at Blackwater
by Mary Oliver

For years, every morning, I drank
from Blackwater Pond.
It was flavored with oak leaves and also, no doubt,
the feet of ducks.
And always it assuaged me
from the dry bowl of the very far past.

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.

And live
your life.

I may have said this before, Mary Oliver is my hero. She surprises me. She uses common words in uncommon ways so I have to pay attention. I can’t get lazy and just assume I know where she’s going.

This poem is particularly significant as Ms. Oliver speaks of ‘the dry bowl of the very far past,’ and ‘the river of your imagination…the harbor of your longing.’ Then she urges that you ‘put your lips to the world and live your life.’

What I love about this is that you realize from her beginning stanza that the world is Blackwater Pond. It isn’t clean or clear. Rather, the trees weep their leaves into it’s depths. Wild creatures swim and feed in it’s murkiness. It’s gritty and real, and this is what she suggests that we put to your lips and drink. 

When we do that, as she did every day, you connect with the present and move beyond the distresses of the past. You begin to see things differently, to imagine, and to dream, until finally you are capable of making different choices. You begin to live your life.

Give yourself permission to let go of whatever is holding you back. Don’t allow the past, or your perception of the present, or your mistrust of the future, to confine you.  Your life can be so much bigger than that.

 

Tadpoles, Caterpillars, and a Naked Tree

There is a lesson here. I’m sure of it. The Tree, rounded and lush, was home to a pair of cooing doves. Many times daily they sought cover in  her protective branches and rustled around copiously completely hidden from prying eyes. Mine.

The Tree

That morning I spied a ladder propped against the trunk. Look closely…it’s there. Being unfamiliar with the species of Tree or the possible nature of her fruit, my first guess assumed harvest. The Tree had produced something delectable that Ketut would gather. I parked myself on the balcony in a position affording the most advantageous view and waited. My patience was rewarded. Ketut climbed the ladder with a wicked-looking curved knife in hand. On his way up he chopped at a few stray branches and sent them crashing through the vegetation below. Next thing I knew, the ladder was below him. He was scaling the trunk and hoisting himself into the thick crown of leaves above him.

Ketut in The Tree

In the next instant he was hacking off branches at an alarming rate. Well, I mused, maybe this is a pruning rather than a harvest. What if the doves have a nest in there? What if he upsets it and they can’t go home? Anxiety was setting in. At the onset I had feigned nonchalance, observing but trying not to be obvious about it. Now I was fully engaged, horrified, not wanting to believe my eyes. Hack, hack, hack. More and more branches crashed through the palms and frangipani below. I had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting Stop! Please stop! Ketut, after all, is the gardener and the garden, after all, is not mine. With each loud whack of the knife and each crashing fall of a branch my heart sank a little deeper into grief. I turned away and busied myself with distractions not wanting to see what I feared.

Later, after all had been silent in the garden for some time, curiosity compelled me. I had to look. Mon Dieu! Butchered! Denuded! The Tree stood naked and grotesque against the sky. This was abominable! I needed an explanation. My thoughts were stormy…Where is he? Where is that Ketut…that butcher! He’d better have a good story because I an not happy.

Naked Tree

I found him, of course. Summoning as much composure as possible I inquired, politely, about the tree. It was for safety, he said. Too much wind, tree fall on house. What about the birds? I needed to know. Was there a nest? Many nest, Ketut smiled, but no egg. He further explained that he was not finished. The whole top of the tree would be cut off but his knife had broken. The whole top of the tree. Then what? I asked. He smiled that angelic smile…Then, one month maybe, new tree!

I’m sensing a theme here…first the frog, now the tree. Death and rebirth. Transformation. For my last visit to Bali I lived at the edge of a rice paddy. I arrived when the new shoots were tender green rows against the muddy earth. I left just before harvest. The paddy was a golden field, ripe, mature, and I had grown as well. This time I live at eye-level with the treetops. My neighbors are the birds. I am in mid-heaven, halfway between the sacred and the mundane. And I know why I’m here. Yes, to rewrite the manuscript…yes, to hold a workshop…but the greater purpose, wrapped all around in this beautiful cocoon of my home, is to liquefy. I’ve already felt the beginning of it. I could be terrified, or I could yield into acceptance. What choice does the caterpillar have? What choice do I?

A lone dove sits on a naked branch of The Tree. One month, little friend, I tell her, one month.

Growth

I took a photo from my balcony that first morning in Bali. The tender young shoots of rice plants in the paddy below spoke of new beginnings, possibility, unlimited potential. They were like pre-schoolers marching in obedient rows, drinking deep of the nourishing mud at their roots.

Every morning since then I have eaten breakfast overlooking that same paddy, observing the subtle changes, drinking in the green of it, the succulence. I have seen it tended by barefoot women, bent all day over their task, mindfully pulling away what doesn’t nurture, what doesn’t belong.

And this morning when I sat down to breakfast and drank in the view it was like looking in a mirror I could so clearly see my reflection there. The seed of self planted here in the healing climate of Ubud has taken root. Things that do not belong to my truth, that do not nurture my growth, are being pulled away. I have met someone that I vaguely remember from a long, long time ago, a simple girl with poetry and passion in her soul. She got left behind when she didn’t fit the image I created for myself, the person I thought I ‘should’ be. We’re getting reacquainted. She’s a grown-up version with life-grit in her pores, not very pretty but very, very real. I am falling in love for the first time…with myself.

The rice paddy, too, has matured. She is a vibrant maiden now, full-grown but not quite ripe. I may not be here for the harvest of the rice. It’s not a plant whose growth I can predict with familiarity like tomatoes or corn. I’ve heard it has to turn golden before its time. I don’t need to know. It has fulfilled its purpose for me. Others will enjoy the fruits of its yield. My job is to show up for the reaping of my own late-sown crop.

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