Permission to Touch

12694843_10206724520889788_1593744844446308582_oWe do this to our girls.  For their own protection, we say.  And maybe there is some real harm we save them from.  But at what cost to them?  What price does our world pay?

We tell them touch is dirty, hugs are easily misinterpreted for something ugly, their bodies are dangerous, boys are bad.  But what about the boy that needs a hug from the girl growing up with him next door to help him through a tough day at the mercy of playground unkindness?  What about the brother that finds the world so hard and cold he turns to fighting with others rather than get the need for touch met curled up in the arms of his big sister as she reads him to sleep at night?  What about the other girls who learn they need to focus on being better, looking better, getting better grades, doing better things than her rather than holding her hand and dancing in the rain?

We do not tell them they are a beacon of light to us and other children, that beams of beauty and healing flow from their fingertips and into the veins of those they touch.  We do not show them that their kindness makes the world a better place by simply being here.  We do not teach them that their bodies are made with soft rounded edges to express the welcoming gentleness of their souls within.  We never give them permission to learn love as a clean and essential thing, to use touch to bring power to the world.

Instead we cover their budding forms with drapery and block the power of their purity from view.  To protect it, we say.  We need to do this, we say.  We stifle the very sunlight and oxygen they need to grow strong and healthy.  We flout the purpose beauty has, which is to be seen.  We pour their liquid innocence into a cubed plastic trays and put it in the freezer.  As if beauty could ever be killed.  As if we could really protect their souls from being hurt.  As if love could ever be ugly.  As if the dry edges of hard cold could be better than the wet heat of heartbreak.

Yet there are those who crack their shells open and learn to build fences instead of walls.  They let themselves be seen and trust themselves to monitor the distance between their bodies and others.  There are those who create boundaries balanced with the boundlessness of their hearts.  Large light shines around the edges of the little bowls they were first hidden under.  Silver linings warm even the darkest of their interactions.  Electricity strikes when their palms touch the businesslike hands of others to seal the deal, to welcome the discussion, or to end the meeting.  Their black-ice pantsuits hint at the curves of hearts still beating hot red blood deep within.

We do not teach them, but our girls learn that they can be love and light in their world.  They are women now.  The only permission they need is their own.

Advertisements

SHOULDING all over your life

I, like the vast majority of the billions of people on this Earth, have a habit of beating myself up.  It’s one of those things we are socialized to do.  As a baby we bite mom’s nipple and hear her cry out in pain and displeasure, and so we learn not to do it again to avoid that punishing reaction.  As a toddler we learn not to leave our toys in the hallway because Daddy will put us in time-out. To avoid the punishment of time-out we pick up our toys.  And so it continues – detentions in school are avoided by us doing our homework, we work hard in order to not be told off for bad grades, scoldings and spankings from our parents teach us our SHOULDS.

We all have our own shoulds.  I should wake up early to get to work on time.  I should save money for retirement.  I should speak kindly to someone who has offended me.  I should protect my virginity until I am a married woman. I should go to church on Sunday.  I should pay my bills on time.  I should complete my education.  I should brush my hair 100 strokes before going to bed at night.  I should do this, I should be that, and I should go there…

Let’s face it.  There is a SHOULD for every minute of our waking lives.  In the words of one of my closest friends, a life coach, “We are SHOULDING all over ourselves!”

In a growing awareness around my own shoulds, I have come across some interesting understandings.  I don’t have to be right about any of them but this is what has been mined from my own life.

At the bottom of every guilt tower is the foundation of a SHOULD

  1. A SHOULD is a boundary past which a person feels it is impossible to cross without punishment.  It’s like an electric fence – you know the ones where the family dog has a collar that sends a jolt of electricity if he gets too close to the borders?  Well our SHOULDS are our collars.  They send a crippling fear through our being when we hit the edge of our comfort zone.
  2. We are fully responsible for the fence!  In fact, we set the fence up.  Now why would the family dog do that to himself?  Why would he set the stakes down at the edge of his family’s property and put the collar on his own neck?  A dog wants to be FREE!  Free to chase the neighbour’s cat or swim in the neighbour’s pool when it gets too hot.  It makes no sense that he would do that to himself.  Why then would we?  Why do we set our own fence up?  Yes, as children we are taught our shoulds.  But as adults with keys to the house, why do we keep the fence?
  3. Shoulds get in the way.  When you are put on a train running on rails you are only able to follow the direction that those rails go in.  People before you have set those rails down, toiled and laboured to lay those tracks.  And so, on a train set on rails, you are only able to go where people before you have been.  Think of all the places in the world that have never seen a train!  Think of all the places that have never seen a human being!  To stay on that train is to never be able to see those places. And so it is with shoulds.  Your shoulds keep you on the rails.  Shoulds take you only where you and those who have taught you have been before.  The power of your own mind and the uniqueness of your own creativity and your own journey cannot be found on the rails of shoulds.
  4. The punishment is never as bad as it seems.  Sometimes it doesn’t even exist.  Here we are referring to run-of-the-mill shoulds – not the shoulds in the penal code that say things like “You should not rape your neighbour’s wife”.  Laws and crimes aside, the freedom beyond your electric fence is more enormous and more delicious than you can ever imagine sat in your own yard.  The little electric shock that comes from busting through the barrier is often a small price to pay for so big a prize!
  5. How we experience the world beyond the should depends very much on whether we are able to leave the should behind.  Sometimes we pass the barrier and carry the fence.  From shoulds come guilt.  What is guilt but a bunch of busted shoulds?  Look at something that makes you feel guilt.  Look deeper for the should at its foundation.  If you took the should out of the foundation, like a jenga tower you’ll see the guilt fall down.  I’ll give you an example.  Last week I planned to run 9 miles.  I set a goal and went a step further and created a should.  Each morning, however, I woke up with a pain in my right foot and aches in my knees.  I have had knee trouble before and know the danger of pushing too hard and so I opted not to run on those mornings.  At the end of the week I had not run my 9 miles and was feeling quite guilty about it.  Looking closely at my guilt I found the SHOULD.  I SHOULD run 9 miles this week.  Taking the should out of the foundation I looked again at the facts – each morning I woke up in pain, that pain would have worsened with running, I was not wrong to not run.  And POOF – guilt was gone.
  6. There are no good SHOULDS.  In my humble opinion, shoulds are judgments formed about what is.  It isn’t the should that is important, but the thing that is.  Shoulds are statements of exclusion, limitation, and punishment around the thing that is.  It is very easy to find shoulds in your life that you think are constructive – we all have some shoulds that we like the most.  But are they really healthy?  A should makes you wrong or right.  If you abide by your should you get to reward yourself by feeling good.  If you breach your should you get to punish yourself for being bad.  I say quit beating yourself up!  The world outside of your shoulds is much bigger than all of this punishment and reward stuff!  More important still, the SELF you have outside of your SHOULDS is much bigger than all of this!

I’ll leave you with a test to perform on your own life – see if this Should assessment works for you.  If it doesn’t and you like your shoulds just the way they are, throw out my opinion without a second thought.  But if you face down even the shoulds you like and test them and find them wanting, please feel free to let me know.

Take your favourite shoulds – the ones that you like – and list them out.  I’ll list a few of my favourites out for you.

  1. I should work out and be healthy.
  2. I should speak kindly to my employees.
  3. I should work a minimum of 8 hours a day to enrich the lives of my clients.
  4. I should visit my grandmother weekly.
  5. I should bathe my dogs once a week.

Now turn your shoulds in to statements of fact, commitment or identity.  Neither right nor wrong, these are I DO, I WILL or I AM statements.

  1. I will work out and be healthy.
  2. I am an employer who speaks kindly to my employees.
  3. I do work a minimum of 8 hours a day to enrich the lives of my clients.
  4. I do visit my grandmother weekly.
  5. I will bathe my dogs once a week.

When a week passes and I haven’t worked out, what is there to do with my statement?  Working out is no longer a SHOULD but a WILL.  When a should is broken, the beatings begin.  I say, put the bat down.  Simply say it again.  I will work out and be healthy.  Recommit to who you have decided to be and what you have decided to be.  Is a should needed to make it happen?  I am sure you will see that it isn’t.

Looking forward to hearing about your shoulds!

BRAIN

There was a time when all I was was right brained – I lived to play the piano, danced and didn’t care who saw, wrote poetry well into the morning hours, believed in love, stripped down to underwear and ran and jumped into the sea, and thrived on meeting and connecting with new people.

And then I grew up.  Or that’s what I was told happened.  I began to analyze the shit out of everything, to pick apart the music for the inaccuracies, justify everything I did or wanted to do with evidence and reasons, calculate income less expenses in my head while walking my dogs in the morning.  Getting things right became more important than being beautiful.

But now… I’m gonna regress a little and wallow in the gorgeousness of my childhood.  I’m gonna spell stuff wrong, throw a tantrum here and there, wear big hats and dance in my comfortably round body and skip down the middle of the damn road thank you very much.  I will drink in the morning, laugh when I sneeze, and stare at gorgeous paintings for hours barely breathing.  I will clothe myself in colour, blast music until my car vibrates, speak with flowery words, and eat dessert first.

The right brain, the part of us that is being killed off by education and expectation, is where beauty lives.  It is where the purpose of life exists.  Time to reconnect.

City Dreams

Saturday morning sunshine woke me.  But I wish I’d blocked out the light.  I DID NOT WANT to wake up.

In my dream just before I woke up and rolled over on the softest bed ever, somewhere in New York City.  There was a duvet and loads of pillows covered in white cotton sheets.  The light was filtering in through a balcony door somewhere – I couldn’t see it from my nest but I knew it was there.  This was my room.  And I was not alone.  Through one half-opened eye I could see to my right, asleep on his stomach, was my life partner.  A well-built man with back muscles relaxed under tightly stretched nut-brown skin, he promised to be at least two inches over six feet tall standing.  I got the sense of comfort, security, belonging and strength from the moment.  And then there was a knock on the door.

In came our housekeeper to give him something important to sign.  “Come in” he grumbled from his position, head in pillow.  “We’re not doin’ anything.”  That one made me smile inside but I was too sleepy to laugh.  But I did draw the blankets up around my chin, snuggling deeper down.  She came in, gave him a pen and a piece of paper, he signed and she left as quietly as she’d come.  When she was on her way back to the door he turned to me and drew me into his space and we both went back to sleep.

And I woke up.

That day I decided it was ok to dream of love.  There is no shame in it and nothing dirty about it.

The dream followed me for days until I met its equal.

I woke up this morning to Lola licking my hand hanging off the side of the bed.  She spent some time on my fingers and started pulling at my whole hand with her two front paws.  My dog loves her hind legs so much I think she thinks she’s human.  She follows my every move when I put on my makeup and brush my teeth so that I’m sure if she tried she could do it herself.  Next she’ll want me to teach her to drive!  And so she took my hand in her two hands and tried to coax me off the bed.

But I didn’t want to wake up.

I had just walked into my Aunty’s house in London to tell her that I had found the perfect house!  Before that moment of waking, I had trecked all of the South East’s suburbs looking for a home for me and my two dogs.  It needed to be reasonably near to the train station, reasonably near to a park or a nice walking route, and reasonably near to my Aunty.  I had found the perfect flat for the three of us to live in and was going to take my photos to Aunty for her opinion.  And then Lola woke me up.  To reality again.

I am dreaming at night of a new life, travelling to new cities in my sleep.  There is a growing itch spreading past my toes and my ankles, telling me it’s time to get on a flight.  And so this morning I booked my flight to New York.

Elevation

Over the past year there has been some revolutionary movement.  The earth has shifted and the world I live in will never be the same again.  There is something about the steps that one takes through the passage of time that leaves something that cannot be erased, corrected, reviewed, edited and makes every second unique and different from the last.  It has been a step by step climb up a steep mountain.

Have you ever done one of those hikes that are marked as “amateur” routes on some tourist map but make you question the sanity of the map-makers half-way up?  I did one a few years back with my parents up Stickle Ghyll in England’s gorgeous Lake District.  My mom and I focused on our feet and hands, step by mountain-stone step, handhold by craggy handhold, looking only to the next step.  About an hour in we stopped to catch our breath, share twiglets and suck down a swig of water from my pack.  It was shocking to turn around and see the world sprawled below!  How far had we come looking just one step at a time!

That is how the month of July has been for me – near physical collapse from pushing too hard past challenge after challenge I’ve come across a small ledge, a respite.  It’s to small for me to get comfortable here, I am permitted a short break only, and then it’s time to climb again.  But MAN OH MAN what a view!

This weekend I’ve been knocked out with the flu and some deep reflection on how far I’ve come in one year.  There will be much writing done in this quiet moment and some of my recent findings will be flipped through and dissected, perhaps even making it on to this blog.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!  And embrace the growth that each step has for you!

One step at a time up Stickle Ghyll, these “walkers” will be shocked at how far they have come when they stop to rest ~From Geograph

TEST: How Responsible Are You?

So… with my pet peeve on responsibility out there, I went in search of ways to test yourself.  Click here to try it out for yourself!

My result was 41.5 out of 44 and was explained as follows:

“Your score puts you in the highest category of social reasoning. You will see ethical and moral values as important to the needs of society and will appeal to basic rights or values. You might say “Honesty is a standard which everyone should accept” or “Life is sacred.”

Conformity to ethical norms is important to you, in terms of a responsibility, obligation or commitment for all individuals, although you may be willing to consider exceptions in some particular circumstances. You are likely to suggest that with entitlement or privilege comes responsibility.

You will appeal to considerations of responsible character or integrity in others, preferring a consistent or standard practice of behaviour in order to avoid damage to social institutions such as the legal system.

However, you will want to see an adjusted case-by-case application of standards for the sake of fairness to all people. Lastly, you are very likely to appeal to standards of individual or personal conscience, as well as of honour, dignity or integrity.”