Friday, July 14, 2017

The Glass Jar

As I continue along this Dark-Night-of-the-Soul/Twin Flame journey of self-discovery, self-awareness, or whatever it is, I recently had an epiphany. Or maybe it was just an idea. 

The articles I’ve read and online support groups I follow regarding DNotS/TF journeys all suggest one thing; as difficult and painful this journey through the Darkness is, it will end. And there are moments of Light while on the journey. "We can’t appreciate the stars without the darkness.” That’s true. The stars are out during the day, we just can’t see them until darkness falls. After all, there's too much sunlight during the daytime.

I once attended a community event at the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, where amateur astronomers had set up their telescopes. Many were focused on where the moon would soon be rising, but one gentleman had his telescope pointed in an entirely different direction. He asked me if I wanted to see Saturn. Now this was late in a summer afternoon, approximately 4:30, so the sky was still quite blue. Sure enough, I was able to see Saturn-rings and all-through the telescope in a bright afternoon sky. We just don’t think of the stars and planets being out there during the day, but they are. We can't appreciate them until we can see them. For ourselves. We just trust they're there.

So, I should appreciate those moments of light I do see while surrounded by the Darkness. Or, conversely, I should appreciate the Darkness, because it reminds me the light is always there, even if it is temporarily obscured. Maybe both points are equally valid.

Many comments on these articles and groups suggest the readers and members are afraid of the Dark Night. Yet, a few commenters reply that without the night we will never truly find our Authentic Self. We must go through the Dark to find the Light. “It’s always darkest before the dawn"; "Every night has its day", etc.

So, I will get through this and emerge on the other side. And all will be better.

I recently had a down day. I have been learning to trust that the Universe will assist me in securing what I need for my greater good. Plus, I’ve been learning to surrender to the what is. And I felt I was in great place in my trust and surrendering. I've been trying to remain positive regarding a complicated situation, hoping it would work out for my greater good. After all, I had seen many, many signs and synchronicities supporting my hopes and beliefs. Then, I came across something that brought me down; and, all of a sudden I was filled with doubt. Darkness filled me once again. But, I was able to catch myself before I sank into a full-blown depression again. I simply allowed myself to be down without attaching to it. I was able to acknowledge where I was, what I was feeling/experiencing. This incident simply reminded me that I am human. I may try to live trusting that everything will work out for the best, even if the “best” isn’t what I perceive it to be for me. My marriage failed, and I’ve come to realize it has been the best thing for me. So, it did work out for the best, even if I didn’t think so at that time. But, I also have to face the fact that I am human and am subject to those pesky, but necessary, emotions. And they will be with me forever.

So, I have decided to embrace this Dark Night stuff.

Many psychologists speak of our Darkness, our “shadow self”-that part of us that we don’t like to acknowledge; our deepest fears and those ‘negative, undesirable’ traits and we all possess. These are the subconscious traits that can lead us into trouble. Someone who has been cheated on a few times might project that onto any future relationship. Someone who has been the victim of abuse might project a feeling of unworthiness onto themselves. In order for us to heal and make better, healthier decisions, we need to honor our own Darkness, or shadow selves.

I don’t necessarily mean just honor it and know that it’s there. No. I mean embrace it, and maybe address it in a way that it is somewhat controlled, but not invisible.

I’m going to put my Darkness in a little glass jar somewhere in my mind. I’m going to set that jar on a shelf and let it be. I may take it down, look at it, and return it to it’s place on the shelf. Because if I hide the jar in a closet, or drawer, I might forget it is there and get a shock when it springs out unexpectedly. If, however, it is in a glass jar and visible, I can still see it, observe it and know it’s ever present. And I can keep my eye on it. 

If I put it in a can or a box, I might forget what is inside and just ignore it, likewise forgetting what is in there. But a glass jar is transparent, I can see the Darkness in the jar. (I’m kind of picturing it as a misty blue fog. I don’t know where that image came from, but it works for me.)

While making a mental image of the jar and storing it on a mental image of a shelf in a corner of my mind is indeed an acknowledgement of my Darkness, it's still a bit abstract.

But, what if it weren't abstract? What if it truly existed? What if it were actually on a shelf in my house? What if I wrote down those Dark qualities I'm working on and how I turned them around? 

For example, I recently stood in line behind an elderly couple in a casual ethnic restaurant. It became apparent they had never been in before and had lots of questions regarding the food. And being elederly, they had health concerns: cholesterol, sodium, foods they can't or shouldn't eat. I'm hungry, I want to order, they're indecisive. I'm impatient. I have two choices here: 1) allow the impatience to build, then frustration sets in, and my mood alters and I get upset thereby having a worse afternoon; or 2) recognize they are in a new place and allow them their time to make the choice appropriate for them. They are elderly, I'm on my way there, and I can give them the respect they deserve at this time in their lives. I chose to accept the situation as it is; after all, I can't change it. Why allow something to affect me that I have no control over?

If my jar were set up, I then could go home and write down a brief note for my jar: "Today I chose patience over impatience when I was in the restaurant behind the indecisive elderly couple. I had no control over their actions, but only of my reaction to the situation." Or something like that.

I'd just have to keep up on it.

And learn to recognize when the Darkness is creeping in on me and how to turn it around in the moment.

This could prove very empowering.

Or, at the very least, enlightening.



Saturday, July 8, 2017

Judgments vs. Assumptions

We all make judgments and assumptions about others. But what exactly is the difference? And I'm not talking about legal judgments, either. 

To me, a judgment carries an emotional connection/reaction whereas an assumption is based on supposed evidence or experiences in the life of the one making the assumption. I think of it as a heart vs. mind matter; judgments are made from the heart, assumptions from the mind.

In thinking about this blog, I am reminded of a story arc in an episode of one of my favorite shows, Friends. One of the characters, Phoebe, is dating two men; Vince is a firefighter while Jason is a kindergarten teacher. Through the development of the arc, we get all the traditional comments about hunky firemen and their lack of sensitivity. We also see the sensitive side of the teacher as he comments on how wonderful it is to make an impact on a child’s life. Phoebe decides that a sensitive man is better in the long run, and chooses to break up with Vince. He doesn’t take it well, says he has more to share and sulks off to write in his journal. Phoebe then decides to break up with Jason, as she has just discovered Vince’s sensitive side which is now an added bonus to his “burliness.” She then goes to break up with Jason, who is working shirtless in his apartment when she walks in. He turns around revealing washboard abs and a nicely developed chest.

Assumptions usually lead us to making difficult and often regrettable decisions. And we all know what happens when we assume.

I remember a judgment I’d made as a teacher. One day, a new student was brought to my second-grade classroom. She had long, brown unkempt hair, a dirty pink sweatshirt, and a torn skirt. My heart went out to her because of her appearance. Her sense of unease suggested a lack of schooling, and my teacher-heart told me I’d probably retain her. Yes, I judged her based on her appearance and behavior, all in the first five minutes of meeting her.

She entered the room and I found a place for her to sit. In the diagnostic tests I administered to all new students, she did indeed test very low for a second grade student. Throughout the remainder of the year, she continued to struggle with basic concepts she should have mastered in Kindergarten or first grade. It seems my initial judgment was correct. Perhaps it was also based on experience, plus I did feel a sadness for her at my first impression.  So, I began the procedures for retaining her.

I also recently made an assumption while out grabbing a bite for lunch.

I entered the establishment and, while waiting in line to order, I quickly scanned the crowded dining room. This was a ‘fast-casual’ place where you order at the counter, they give you a number and then bring your order to your table. As I scanned for a place to sit, preferably inside as it was a very warm afternoon, I rested my eyes on a very handsome man. He had a full, dark brown, neatly trimmed beard, very broad shoulders and chest which stretched the t-shirt he was wearing.  He also had cantaloupe sized biceps. So, he obviously worked out. A baseball cap rested on his head and he appeared to be in his mid- to late-30s. He was seated with a group of men, so it appeared they were on their lunch break. 

I feel that some of the assumptions I made were justified-the size of his chest, shoulders and biceps were clear indications he worked out. The time of day, approximately 12:30, and the busyness of the restaurant clearly indicated a lunch rush was on. He wasn’t alone, so he was probably on a lunch break with his co-workers who seemed more involved in their conversation than he was. 

However, I also made some assumptions about him that were not necessarily justifiable. Yes, I was drawn to him based on his appearance, but I also came to the conclusion that 1) he probably wasn’t gay, and 2) if he were, he probably wasn’t the sensitive type.

Let me explain. First, I can’t be completely sure he wasn’t gay. My gaydar has been so broken lately, it’s not funny. But, it was just a feeling I had. Just because a man works out doesn’t make him one way or the other. There are plenty of straight men who are bodybuilders, too. But, very few of my gay friends wear baseball caps. His being rather withdrawn from the conversation with his co-workers doesn't define his orientation, but gay men are usually a bit more animated than he appeared to be. Plus, my experience with muscle men has been that they aren’t as sensitive as I like my men to be and they seem to be after just one thing. 

I'll never be sure about Muscle Man, as I’ll probably never run into him again because I rarely head down to where that restaurant is. So, I’ll just let it all go for now.

As for Phoebe, both guys ended up dumping her.

As for my student, I discovered she’d already been retained once, so I could not retain her again. I can only hope that somewhere, somewhen, everything clicked for her.