Notes on Courage
Inner work for outer action.
My first vlog (what a horrible word), is a story from my Soul Camp experience a couple weeks ago! Since I loved the experience SO MUCH, I also wanted to do a quick plug for Soul Camp West, which is happening at the end of October in California. Tickets are still available and if you use the code LINDSAYSOUL you'll get a 20% discount!
This past week, I returned from a 3-day silent retreat at a local hermitage run by the Franciscan order of the Catholic church. After over two years of non-stop going, I knew it was time for me to disconnect so that I could reconnect. Before I was left with myself in the hermitage, I was asked if I had any specific prayer requests (they pray for all hermits during their stay) and simply asked to get what I needed.
A lot of what I needed was space to re-center. I got that. I was also looking forward to diving deep into the writing of my book. I got that too. I painted, I walked, I sat, I slept. It was glorious. During my stay, I had multiple encounters with deer. At one point, I was standing in front of what the Franciscans refer to as the "window to God's creation" and off in the distance saw a patch of brown that didn't look like tree bark. Wondering if it was a deer, I sat and watched patiently trying to attune to what I was seeing. I saw a movement that confirmed it was alive and made a request that it come closer. Within a minute of the ask, the creature moved closer into sight and I noticed a rustle of leaves behind it- a baby! I'm not sure how long I sat with them, the momma keeping fierce watch and the baby playfully scampering away and back again each time bringing them a little closer to my dwelling. No words can describe the absolute awe and delight I felt to witness a few moments of their life.
Between writing grants and ushering in a new session of arts activities at heARTS, I've been re-engaging the world of Pinterest. I used the site a lot before heARTS was a really real thing and it helped me to fine-tune my vision and it inspired action.
In my journey down the rabbit hole, I found a pin from the Arts and Healing Network that quoted ME! I read it and was able to give myself a little pat on the back for the words. Those were good words I used!
For me, painting is a way to look inward, and for others I think art can be an opportunity to express themselves outwardly - something that might not come easily. Either way, I think the power is in the story. Artistic expression offers the opportunity to share parts of ourselves we might not otherwise share.
I'm still in awe of the fact that the Arts and Healing Network recognized me for courageous heARTS' work just 6 months after opening the doors! It's pretty *magical* actually. When it first happened, I was elated! I felt affirmed for all the hard work and it bolstered my heart to keep moving forward.
The public acknowledgement was also a huge wake-up call for me, because as wonderful as I felt, I also became aware of my tendency to shrink. My inner critic was quick to tell me not to be too happy or too open about it. People will think you are boastful and arrogant.
I've spent the past year, grappling with this tendency. Thanks to the loveliness of Liv Lane's Project Light Year (2015 registration ends today!) I've been learning how to shine. My tendency to shrink is quickly diminishing. Like I said in my last post, I'm ready to celebrate my life with abundant gratitude-- and that means all the amazing, magically extraordinary parts of it!
Part of my bridge story has always been unexplainable. That day, as I sat against the median, I remember saying out loud, on repeat, "I don't know how I got out of my car."
Over and over again. The words fell from my mouth in some kind of controlled hysteria.
"I don't know how I got out. I don't know how I got out."
I didn't know how, but I did know why. Scratch that.
I knew why, and I had an inkling about how-- but the how was wrapped up in all kinds of mystery and magic. It was an explanation beyond my understanding and wrapped up in all kinds of survivor's guilt, so I stuck with "I don't know", whenever someone asked:
How did you get out of your car?
Since I didn't have any answer (at least not publicly), everyone else tried to answer it. And oh the answers!
All I have to say is that it's not fun having the most pivotal moment of your life told through the framework of other people's belief systems. It kind of shocks me how invasive people can be about what I consider to be the most personal and intimate aspect of who we are-- our spiritual centering.
[Side note: It's not helpful to try to explain someone else's life and experiences through your own lens. It's diminishing and self-serving. It can also be really damaging in the case of race, culture, gender... Instead, ask questions and check your assumptions.]
So, do you want to know what I know?
I know that there was magic. Divine magic.
I know that it wasn't until I surrendered to the situation-- stopped fighting and started accepting-- that the magic happened.
I know there was help. Divine help.
I know there was purpose. Divine purpose.
Because I knew all that, I never looked back. Never wished for another chance to take that first missed exit, or the second. Despite the pain, I trusted it had a purpose-- that I had a purpose for still being here.
Why not just tell people that?
When it comes to the Divine, my knowing is kept in my gut, my intuition. I don't pretend to understand the mysteries of the Universe, but instead try to honor them as such, Divine mysteries. My experience is the kind people want to label with loaded words and place into their own box of understanding. I don't fault them for that-- it's understandable, and in some ways I shared my experience in a way that people could draw their own conclusions, from their own perspectives.
Then, there's the heavy. Thirteen people died. What right do I have to claim Magic? Divine intervention? I thought it was selfish to even think about the magic-- let alone to speak of it out loud. So I didn't.
Now, with some years and distance, I recognize how much worse it could have been. I remember emerging from the water thinking everyone would be dead and instead seeing survivors standing next to their car calling loved ones. There was Divine intervention all over the scene that day. It showed up in mysterious form and human form. It eased pain and brought hope. It Lit up the whole world in one of our darkest hours. (Don't you remember how everything just stopped, how all of a sudden our disagreements and little life stressors didn't matter so much? I could feel it, the collective consciousness as everyone tried to make sense of the senselessness.)
Over the summer, someone finally gave me an answer that honors the magic of my experience in a way that felt good to me.
One of the young women who comes to heARTS watched a news story I was in and she questioned, "So you really don't know how you got out of your car?"
"Nope I really don't."
"I bet I do... MERMAIDS!" she exclaimed. Then looked a little sheepish, as though I would think it was silly.
"MERMAIDS!! YES!" She didn't know in that moment how happy I was, to hear an answer filled with wonder and imagination, instead of dogmatic belief systems.
No one can deny the magic of mermaids.
So now my answer is clear, and on Aug. 1 this year I had an (A)riel tattooed on my arm-- the same arm that reached for the light above the surface of the water. The same hand that holds the physical scars from that day.
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
When I was 5 or 6 years old, I started swimming lessons. In order to pass the first level, I needed to jump into the deep end of the pool and use the skills I had learned to stay afloat. I was so scared that I wouldn't remember how to swim that I refused to jump. It didn't matter that I had been doggie paddling in the shallow end for most of the summer, that there were instructors there to keep me safe, or that I would fail the class and have to start over. The fear of not being able to touch the ground held me back.
It still holds me back.
It's no longer the lack of confidence about my skills that keeps me grounded. I know that I have the skills to fly. I've studied, practiced, and paid attention. Still do.
These days, I find myself struggling to fly because of the little voice in my head that says:
"Don't be too confident."
"Don't be selfish."
"Don't shine too bright."
We all have that little voice and it can do a number on our sense of self-worth and add weight to our flight.
But guess what?
There's a BIG voice in my heart (in all our hearts), that lightens the load. I know that when I listen to that voice good things happen-- no, no-- great things happen!
In the lead up to the launch of heARTS, I was filled with guidance from that BIG voice. I was following my heart and it felt so right. With each new step in the process, new opportunities arose that felt like Divine encouragement to keep me going.
As my dream became a reality, I had a harder time hearing my BIG voice. The day to day realities of running an organization pulled my head from the clouds and the little voice started to get louder again. As the volume of that little voice increased, my satisfaction with my DREAM JOB decreased.
Exhaustion, confusion about my personal/professional identities, fear about money, and grief over the loss of time for friends, family and even the dishes, caused me to question my heart. Suddenly, thoughts of getting a "real job" ( WHAT?! ) crossed my mind and I had to start doing some serious soul searching and self caring.
Aug. 1 has become a kind of re-birth day for me-- my life day. Last week, I took a reflective journey to the memorial and the river. Throughout the day, the Universe gifted me with reminders that even birds have to learn how to fly. Baby feathers floated into my path throughout the day and when I returned home in the afternoon I received the biggest gift of all-- flying lessons!
A family of hawks, who have been nesting in our neighbor's tree, used our backyard for flying lessons. Three hawks lined our 4' chain link fence and another was on the ground, all appeared to be fully grown. At first we thought the one on the ground was injured, it was flailing about and struggling to fly. We wondered if the other three were watching over it- protecting it. Then we noticed that the hawk on the ground was trying to grasp chunks of woods-- remnants of a tree trunk. Turned out he was learning how to fly with the additional weight of the wood-- mock prey I suppose. Eventually another hawk took to the task and the first flew up to the fence-- assuring us that what we were witnessing was indeed flying lessons. (You can watch the action yourself in the video below.)
The Universe's message to me that day was loud and clear-- permission to fly.
Just like the hawks, I'm still learning how to fly. They helped me understand that I don't have to rid myself of the weight (the grief, the self-doubt, the guilt) in order to fly. I need to learn how to fly with those feelings-- despite those feelings. I am learning to turn the volume back up on my BIG voice and trust my wings.
About the blog:
This space holds thoughts and ideas generated from my personal journey of healing and recovery from trauma, co-dependency, and white supremacy culture. Opinions are entirely my own.