Why Do I Have To Be The One Who _________?

Why do I have to be the one who ________?

Have you ever found yourself asking this question as you have struggled to sort out a difficult relationship? You know. One of those relationships when you have felt like you are on the receiving end of inappropriate behaviour on someone else’s part? When you have felt like someone else is projecting their issues onto you? When you have just wanted THEM to do their part, apologize, figure it out, leave you alone?

I have been in this place more often than I care to remember. And I encounter it often in training and coaching situations. Why do I have to be the one to “fix” this? Why do I have to be the one who reaches out? Why do I have to be the one to forgive? Why do I have to be the one who takes the lead on this? I am not at fault here!

bandaged heartEven in times when I felt I had made enormous strides, I was sometimes challenged on playing the victim role. Ugh! There is nothing pretty or powerful about that. Nothing. Once, when I asked this question, the energy healer I was working with challenged me with a good hearty, joyful laugh. “Because,” she said. “When you do this, you win.” Resignedly, reluctantly, I did the work – MY work. Because she was right.

It is simple really. When you do the work you need to do in your own journey – which for me I have named the Journey to Openheartedness – you win. Always. Inevitably. This is not winning like winning and losing. This is winning like peace in your soul. Winning like stepping into your strength and power, not because of someone else, but because it is the right thing for you. Winning like clarity of who you are, what you stand for, what you will stand in your life.

Palms holding a beet shaped like a heart

Palms holding a beet shaped like a heart

And what you learn sorting out one tough relationship is translatable to all your relationships. When you sort it out with yourself, you stand differently in every context, not just the one you sorted it out in. You begin to discern more often more quickly what is yours to do and what belongs to someone else. You leave them to do whatever they choose with their stuff – hang onto it, release it – it is not your business what they do or don’t do – and you focus on what is yours to do.

It sounds simple when I write it or say it. It can be. Honestly, though, it is can also be an intense, intentional journey over a long period of years. While it could be true (and the Law of Attraction would say it is true) that you could shift everything literally overnight, that is not my experience, nor the experience of people I know. As one of my coaches said to me, you can do the energetic, non-physical work in an instant. But then you need to ground it in physical experience, shifting patterns that you have taken years or even a life time to grow. It is an invitation to stay in your journey, despite setbacks, despite not seeing progress, despite experiencing the same patterns over and over again. Until the day it shifts. When you notice something has changed. Sometimes when other people have noticed something has changed.

You can continue to give away your power by stubbornly holding onto the notion that someone else needs to do the work – and it is hard to pry away that thought (I know) – or you can step into the fullness of who you are – one step at a time, embrace all that shows up, give thanks for the person and the learning, acknowledge and own your own growth. After awhile, the difficult situations do diminish, you stop focusing on other people and what they do or do not do and you simply focus on what is present and alive for you, in any given moment.

CA red dress Day 1It is worth it. I tell you that from my own open hearted healing journey. I wouldn’t have it any other way – now.

Redefining “Til Death Do Us Part”

marriage quoteBy now you have probably seen the photo (like the one here) of a very old couple with some version of the following question and response inscribed across it: “How did you manage to stay together for 65 years?” “We were born in a time when if something was broken we would fix it.”

There is so much implied in this statement. That all those couples that managed to stay together for all those years actually had good marriages, “fixing” whatever didn’t work.  That for those of us who didn’t manage to “fix” our marriages that we never tried or that we didn’t try hard enough, left on a whim.  It assumes there was something fixable or worth fixing.  That we failed, maybe even that we were failures. I certainly know enough people, including me at one time, who took failure on as part of self-identity.

I don’t know many people who have left a marriage or other long standing relationship on a whim, without a great deal of reflection, pain or agony. Without understanding that an individual’s or couple’s decision has far reaching ramifications for their children, their parents, for other extended family, for friendships, for all the financial and asset unraveling, to legal procedures and more. It is not a simple thing to leave a marriage. Not the first time.  Not even the second time for those of us who have been through it twice. (Can’t speak for more than twice but I’m sure others could.)

Every time I see that particular image, it gives me a quirky little pause. Lots of thoughts register.  So much is implied, intentionally or not.  Mostly I think about appliances and gadgets like televisions and radios that used to last “forever” and could be fixed that now seem to be designed for obsolescence, fixing them often costing more than replacing them.  But marriages are not appliances. And the word “fix” always seems to need quotation marks as I think about it the context of relationship.

I find myself wondering, “Really? People ‘fixed’ broken marriages “back then”? All of those couples that made it to 30 years, 40 years, 50 years, longer?” I’m sure some of them did and I’m sure many of them didn’t actually “fix” their marriage but they found ways to stay in it – healthy or otherwise.  How many of them lived in pain and hurt that was never addressed? Learned to co-exist because divorce would be a failure worse than death? Stayed together because of obligation or religion? Died inside and lived as hollowed out shells of former selves because it was the only way to stay?

Many of us have a keen sense and eye for the state of relationships.  It is pretty easy to tell when couples are happy together, connected, loving each other, supporting each other, when they are working it out, appreciating each other or co-existing, living separate lives under the same roof, sleeping in separate rooms or when they are not happy, not working it out, hating each other, dying inside. The energetics and dynamics of physical interaction conveys loud and clear the state of the union, even to untrained eyes.  Whether individuals speak about a significant other or not when they are in relationship also speaks volumes and what they say about their significant other is another indicator.

While one person can influence whether a relationship works or not or how it works, it really takes two people to want to be in the work of relationship together for healthy relationship to thrive. Healthy relationship needs healthy individuals. If one person or both have to “disappear” to keep the relationship together, is that “fixing” it? The dynamic give and take of relationship is hard work.  Not all relationships are “fixable”.

Twice divorced, I’ve given a lot of thought to marriage and relationship.  Had I known more in my first marriage, maybe it could have been “fixable”.  By the time I allowed myself to see how bad it was, how unhappy it was, it was beyond repair.  I thought my second marriage would be a dream and it was more challenging than I could have anticipated.  And this one, this second marriage, I, and we, tried hard to “fix”.  But for many reasons it was not fixable and the “cost” of staying together was rising as time went by.

We discovered we were each being invited into our own individual reflection and journey, which in the end did not bring us together but showed us the need to go our separate ways.  We became aware that our relationship had come to a place of completion, that we had learned with each other some things we might not have learned otherwise. For me it was embracing the stranger in me – embracing all those elements of myself – the ones that wanted to make me small and the ones that wanted me to fly – to come to wholeness; to open my heart fully through strength and vulnerability and to find compassion for myself and for others in the journey; which is an ongoing daily practice.

With continued reflection and in conversation with friends also going through separation and divorce, I began to ponder the notion of vows and particularly the vow of “til death do us part”. I wondered about death taking forms other than physical death – like death of relationship, death of marriage, death of aspects of ourselves.  And I wondered if the vow is not actually “until completion” instead of “until death”? Which then raised the possibility for me that completion might be something that happens in one lifetime – in minutes, over months or years or until physical death.  And maybe it could also be something that crosses lifetimes – that some relationships and some patterns are not completed in one lifetime. Perhaps some of the things we are completing now are from previous lifetimes and some of the things we are in at the moment might not be completed until another life time – if you believe we have other life times.  A long time ago a soul friend of mine offered to me one of the most heart wrenching but true things I had ever heard, “Kathy, some things are not meant to be completed in this life time.” And, it would seem, some things are.

I am not anti-marriage.  I celebrate and see great hope in enduring couples that clearly have a healthy, loving, mutual relationship.  And I am sad every time a relationship ends, even when it is clear that it needs to.  And I bow to the journey of those who stay in marriages, able to make things work out with varying degrees of success and challenge; and to those who do make great sacrifice, if that is their path – who am I to judge?

These are the cycles of life, of relationship, of marriage. Would it have been that I could have been married for 30 years or 50 years, but not at the cost of dying a little every day, of losing myself, of never really living life to the fullest in the way my soul kept – keeps –  calling me to. I followed the path that called me into difficult life choices because this was the path that called me to integration and calls me into living in the fullest authenticity I know how to live every day to varying degrees of success – in this moment and the next and the next.

Embracing Projection

One of the ways we distance ourselves from the stranger within is by projecting our issues, our own shadow, on to someone else, as if they were really someone else’s issues or someone else’s fault.  We do this with greater and lessor degrees of consciousness.  Every one of us has projected onto others at some point and we have all been the subject of projection too.

Projecting onto others is a way of externalizing the source of our pain.  This happens when we are afraid to examine how we might be the source of our own pain.  It is easier to blame someone else and we can become quite skilled in rationalizing why it is about someone else rather than ourselves.  It is one more way of giving power and voice away.

“We cannot get from others what we have not given ourselves. We cannot receive all the goodness, love, beauty, and joy that is awaiting us if we shut it out, if we believe ourselves unworthy.” ~ Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness

Sunset at the lake in Lake Park, MN

Sunset at the lake in Lake Park, MN

Learning to embrace that which we want to project, brings it home for healing. When we can do this we reclaim our power, reclaim our voice.

The other side of this is when we are the subject of projection.  It can be confusing when we are on the receiving end of projection.  It can appear in many ways from an angry outburst to a very logical rationalization of why we are portrayed as the antagonizer of the other person, why they somehow cannot do better, why they are stuck – because of something they believe we have done, somehow we have held them back – or so they want to believe.

One of the ways we can recognize projection is by the energetic impact that comes with it.  This energetic impact is often what creates the confusion within us, especially if we are new to the awareness of being projected upon.  For myself, I use to take it on, figuring there must be something wrong with me, something I could fix to make everything all right.  I gradually became aware that not all that was being projected onto me was mine. Then I needed to learn to discern what was mine to work on and what belonged to the person doing the projecting so I could let it go.  The mantra, “no one can create in my reality unless I let them” became a life affirming guide in the journey.

The fear was that what was projected on to me was my stranger in action, the stranger in me that I felt needed to be disarmed.  But the only way to disarm what we perceive to be the stranger is to embrace it. In the embracing of it we “take whole”, as my partner Jerry Nagel says in his work on World View, and we once again step into our power and our voice, inviting us into openheartedness in whole new ways.

The journey to open heartedness is not about being exposed in a way that is threatening or harmful.  It is about waking up and opening to the full range of emotional melody that resides within us—the full range, the rich textures of symphony that wants to make itself heard, not just a narrow range of notes played in isolation.  Through the journey to openheartedness, I am learning to live in and with vulnerability—not as weakness but as strength—and I am relying on emotions as a guidance system that is unfailing the more I learn how to use it.” ~ Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness

My emotional guidance system will tell me when I am projecting, when I am being projected on, as I listen to it. It then is also a guide on what aspects of me, of the stranger in me, need to be embraced into wholeness of being.

Not Just Cover Design: Sacred Art

Like the book itself, the artwork on the cover of Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedenss, has a story of its own to tell.  It is a story of synchronicity and timing, one of flow, one of channeling and of ritual or initiation.  It is the story of two things, each percolating for years, each on their own.  The book, of course.  And the artwork. And not just any artwork – sacred art.  Sacred art for me and for the book.

The genesis of the artwork was a long brewing curiosity and interest in possibly getting a tattoo.  Around 2009, when I felt the birthing of the second half of my life, I began to imagine getting a tattoo.  I didn’t know what image I wanted, nor did I know where on my body I would want to put this image.  At one point, my son’s girlfriend found a fabulous shamanic image of a woman and a power animal – which I bookmarked and then lost when I got a new computer.

When my interest in a tattoo renewed itself, I began searching the internet for images, knowing I wanted a lion as part of the image. Nothing ever emerged that resonated deeply for me or that I wanted to put on my body in permanent ink.  And then, early in 2013, at the same time my book was moving to its publishing phase, a Facebook friend began to blog about her journey to a sacred tattoo and I knew I was supposed to pay attention.

Through this friend, I got in touch with sacred tattoo artist Tania Marie.  The tattoo was to represent the spiritual dimension of my journey so I shared a couple of chapters from the book that reflected this journey as well as other reflections on what I felt the tattoo was to represent.  Tania meditated on me and my journey and began to channel the design.  What she channeled, before even reading what I sent her, was very consistent and resonant with what I shared.

Around the same time, the publisher started asking me about any ideas I might have for the design of the cover of my book. It was the first time I put the two things together.  Without even seeing the design, it occurred to me that the spiritual skin just might become the artwork for the book cover.   When I saw the artwork, I knew it was so.

Kathy Sacred Tattoo DesignArtwork by Tania Marie

There is much story contained in the elements of the art which embraces the elements of earth, fire, air, water and spirit and I will share some of it here, largely in the words Tania shared with me.

The medicine woman is in the process of shapeshifting into the lion who is my journey partner since my first drumming circle experience in 2000.  The medicine woman wears feathers of the eagle or owl in her hair, entwined twigs and leaves of Mother Earth, his mane and her hair and shawl all merging and integrating.

A lotus essence, almost like ethereal fire, emerges atop the swallowtail butterfly, with energy integrating into the lion’s mane, the medicine woman’s hair and shawl. The butterfly is releasing and freeing its creative abundance and joyful breadth of life-giving and is a messenger of powerfully transformative healing and regenerative energy and symbolism across time of the precious miracle of life, hope, love, transmutation, magick, joy,

The art is hugely rooted in shamanism, centeredness, balance, groundedness, empowerment, expansion, opening, releasing and honoring, as well as deepening emergence – all symbols and allies in deep journey and in transformation which is in continual motion.  Such a humbling experience to be offered this gift to be put at my back as a symbol of deeper healing, gifts, growth and protection.

Kathy 07 natural - Version 2

Photo by John Coleman and Michelle Murton

 

When it was time to have the tattoo inked on my skin, I went to see Kyle Bowles at Soul Harbour, the same tattoo artist that my friend had used.  It was done in two sessions, the first to do the outline, the second to do the colour.  Many people have asked me if it hurt.  It is hard to explain.  It is pain and not pain at the same time.  The only way I could think of it was as an initiation – like I might have gone through in a previous time, as the medicine woman depicted in the art, ritual, something that had to be done.

I love the colour version of the tattoo on my back – Kyle and I picked out the colours and it is even better than I imagined it would be.  And it was the black and white original art work that was to adorn the cover of the book.  I sent it off to the publisher and the design team there sent it back with the colour and shading that was just perfect for the book.

The interweaving of story, synchronicity, beauty, love and joy. A depiction of one aspect of the stranger in me showing up in the fullness of the openhearted journey.

9781452575728_COVER.indd

Welcome to Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness

A memoir is a strange beast. It is an attempt to distill an individual’s life’s experiences and lessons in story form with the hope that in the storytelling someone else sees a thread that resonates with their own life journey, that some inspiration arises or, at the very least, it is viewed as something worth reading.

CA red dress Day 1My good friend Christina Baldwin is known to say, “The shortest distance between two people is a story.”  My book, Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness, is full of stories.  I am tempted to say by way of humour, “And some of them might even be true.”

When I found out I was adopted at the age of forty-six I learned that many stories I had been telling myself about myself and my life, that helped me making sense of my life and its journey, turned out not to be true.  They were small stories; like why I was shorter than all my immediate family members, why my hair turned grey at a young age, where I was born. It gave me pause. In discovering I was adopted, everything had changed.  And, yet, nothing had changed. It made me wonder what other stories I was telling myself about myself and my life that also might not be “true”.

Abraham-Hicks says the biggest disservice we do to ourselves is in telling “the truth” over and over again, keeping alive the stories we wish would go away, the ones we don’t like living into but which we continue to tell simply because “it is the reality of our situation”.  If we want to change our situation, we must tell a different story.  When we tell it often enough, it can shift the shape of our life, eventually becoming true since our minds do not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined.  This is why Napoleon Hill in his seminal work, Think and Grow Rich, said, “Thoughts are things.”  But it is a tough thing to grasp when many of us are attached to the suffering of our stories rather than the joy of them, to the human tragedy experience rather than the soul journey perspective.

I have been imagining myself as a writer and an author since high school when I enrolled in a journalism correspondence course (which I never fully completed), imagining I would enter a career of journalism (didn’t happen) and when I chose to write a novelette in my final year of high school for my English class instead of doing all the other assignments (the novelette did get completed and I still have it).

The first time I created a vision board for myself back in 1998, the first image that came to my mind unbidden was that of a podium, partly because I imagined myself as a motivational speaker and partly because there was something in me that just knew I had stories to share that maybe other people would resonate with.

The early gestation of my book was back then too and some of what is contained in the book was originally written a decade or more ago.  It is with a little bit of disbelief that I hold my first book in my hand, with copies already sold, readers already saying the most beautiful, heartwarming things about it, ready to send it further out on its own path into the world.

Stories and life journey do not happen in isolation. I am aware that these are my reflections, stories of specific moments in my life, moments that have intersected with others on the journey.  The way others have experienced these same intersections may be somewhat or vastly different than the way I have experienced them. Their experiences are their stories to tell but I would not be the person I am today without having crossed paths with these fellow journeyers, without having had the experiences that I did in relation to them, good, bad or otherwise.  For each and all of them I am grateful.

I share my stories as a way to dive into the deeper patterns that shape life, relationships, healing, and journeys. Even as I re-read and edited them, they moved me—sometimes to laughter, sometimes to tears. Even though I have spent a lot of time unearthing and living with these stories, some of them still have the capacity to delight and surprise me. My hope is that they do the same for you, that along the way you find your own intersection points with your story – or, at the very least, you enjoy stories of someone else’s experience – believable or not.

I imagine this blog will capture many of the soul journey stories, hosting self stories that used to all reside under the Shape Shift blog and that there I will continue to write about what I’m learning through the Art of Hosting work and world that is so much a part of my life and experience. Sometimes a post will show up in both places when it seems relevant.

I would also invite you to check out the Embracing the Stranger in Me Facebook page where I am already seeing a community of support and inspiration arise, fuelled by all who interact with it; as well as the Twitter page for the book.  And I would also love to see your comments here.

Thank you for intersecting with my journey now.  May you immerse yourself in the book or the blog or both and may your path rise up to meet you as you journey well.