Cleaning Up Loose Ends

Early on in my journey of self discovery, which is one of the main elements of Sunlight (so far), I realized that my husband played a big part in my burn out. He was a good chunk of the reason I was laying on the floor, struggling for each breath and having an emotional meltdown. Only it was suppressed because I didn’t know who I was or what I was supposed to do in this life.

It has been three and a half years and I have just clued into the fact that I need to deal with this part of the “story”, this part of my life, my journey. I don’t know how this will all fit together in Sunlight but I do feel both issues need to be addressed.

How is it that you can know something and not know it? This has happened to me before where it took longer than I am proud to admit for the knowledge of a situation to impact me.

My counselling has begun and I am now going to dive into this issue on why I let my husband hold me back. It isn’t really him. It is me. What do I need to heal or protect or assert to advance, to move forward in my life? My will is trapped in this space. It wants out. I want it out. I just need to find the key. Have I given it to my husband?

Here is an excerpt from Sunlight. It was written in September of 2010. Clearly I have an issue that I ‘realize’ at the end of the chapter but it has taken me more than three years to realize it. This part of my life, my journey, could be what has always been missing from my story. It could be why I have so much trouble trying to edit it or find a flow. We will see in time if I am right.

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Backgrounder: Michelle is my therapist and Melinda is my sister.

Michelle assigned me two books to read. The first book I read is The Joy of Burnout by Dina Glouberman.1 I read it steady for four days. That is all I do. I am feeling so good to be doing something useful. I feel in charge and that I have a purpose – to fix me. I am awake. I am alert. Well as alert as I can be. I can not stay focused on the words in the book for the life of me. I reread paragraphs many times to try to get the message but my attention span is so short I am continually losing focus. I decide to keep reading and if I lose focus I will keep on until I bring myself back to the present. What I get from the book is what I get. I was not going to put any extra effort into it. I couldn’t. I would be here for years trying to read this book if I tried to absorb everything with my non-existent attention span.

The book is draining me of my energy. It is not my intention to be mean. I am weak. The book asks more of me than I can give at this time. It wakes me up. It opens a door a crack for me so I can see some light. It gets me off the floor and onto the couch reading. I absorb new words instead of listening to the broken record in my head. I notice I am breathing more normally, not struggling for each breath.

The book asks questions at the end of each chapter that allow me to reflect on my life, heart and mind. I am journalling regularly. I jot down my answers to the questions asked. But as I reflect and write I am experiencing a real physical pain. It is my left side, lower ribs. It is intense and I often have to put the book down. I only seem to experience it when I am reading and writing answers to the questions at the end of the chapter.

 I am glad to have a purpose each day, a goal. My mind is moving in a different direction and it feels refreshing. I feel a bit like a kid who had never seen colour and I have just walked into a candy store and am overwhelmed with colour. It is good but too much for me to take in all at once. Perhaps I am rushing. Trying to take it all in quickly so I can get better and move on with my life.

By Friday I am worse than I have ever been. I can not move. I am in physical pain. I don’t understand how I can feel worse. Wasn’t any of this helping me? I felt so much better yesterday. This is crazy. I reach out to Melinda. I have no idea what we are talking about but when we hang up I find myself laying on the floor in the sun porch. I do not know how I got here but I physically can’t move. It is not just the mental pain or the pain in my chest, but my whole upper body is stiff and sore. I ache.

It takes me a week of moping, laying on the floor deep in my burn-out again, but I manage to slowly pull myself back up to the point where I can read again. As I read and do the exercises at the end of each chapter I find, through reflection, that my husband is equally at the core of my problems as work was. He may actually be the leading cause. He is part of every answer to every question at the back of the book.

 

A Bit of Sunlight: Deserving

September 21st, 2010

Dear Self,

I just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love.  I am now confused as to what happened in the book or the movie or both.  Not sure.

While I was reading the book I folded corners over of pages that resonated with me.  I thought I would now reflect on those pages or comments from the end to the beginning – yes in that order.  I will see if I can finish reflecting prior to a nap.  I hope this venting of feelings will be healing in some way.

The last thing she, Elizabeth Gilbert, says that really hung on me is the concept of ‘paying back’ people who have helped us live and showed us kindness.  I always feel like I need to pay back to these people.  There is this constant pull to owe someone something.  People give me so much that I feel forever in debt to society as a whole.  EPL (Eat, Pray, Love) says that we should maybe stop trying to pay back and instead continually say thank you sincerely and honestly for as long as we have voices.  Somehow this never feels like enough to me.  I am forever feeling undeserving of people’s help.

I need to get past this part of myself that feels like I owe somebody, or everybody, something. I need to get past this part of me that always feels guilty for living. Guilty for receiving love. I’ve often told myself that my life is too good to be true so something bad is going to happen. I feel guilty all the time. I feel undeserving.

On Saturday after my sutra study class Debra, the facilitator and yoga instructor, and I were chatting. She was telling me about things her business advisor has told her. He said that in our culture people pay with money as a means to say thank you. Some cultures give food for sacrifice but in our culture it is monetary and it should be honored and respected. Spend it wisely.

She also mentioned another piece of worldly advice from her business advisor. She said that you can’t be all things to all people. While I know this I forget it or subconsciously feel that it doesn’t apply to me.  I bend myself in every direction to make everyone happy and am flooded with guilt if someone is not.

A Bit of Sunlight – November Sutra Study

Dear Self,

At sutra study today it was just Debra and this tall blonde lady. I missed her name but I liked her. She was straight to the point, open, honest and not ashamed at how she feels or sees the world.

The focus of the discussion today was on how to heal ourselves and to not feel the bad feelings that cause us suffering. We need to reflect on why people make us feel the way we do and find a way to forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean acceptance of their behaviour but a means for us not to carry around anger, pain, guilt, jealousy or any other unhealthy emotions.

All of the five translations to study sutra 1.33 discussed the idea of balancing emotions. If you do not let good or bad feelings control and dominate your mind and actions then you will see the world more clearly. Emotions are responses to events. Events that are history, over immediately after they happen. So why do we carry the memory of them with us? Why do we let the emoitions linger? Each situation has a different reason but it all is too do with how the mind works.

Many times I have felt upset only to have it fade into happiness without my being aware. I cry and then all of a sudden I get an email and am lifted and see hope. This moment of hope, or happiness will be a moment as well. I need to find that spot where I can be stable. Where I can be content. I need to find Joy. Like what we studied in our first sutra class – our natural state. I am exhausted bouncing between my emotions.  I want off this roller coaster.

Devi, from her book The Secret Power of Yoga translates this sutra as the following:

To preserve openness of heart and calmness of mind, nurture these attitudes:Kindness to those who are happy.

Compassion for those who are less fortunate.

Honour for those who embody noble qualities.

Indifference to those whose actions oppose your values.

At first when Debra read this to us I thought, ‘Duh of course. That makes perfect sense. Why wouldn’t I be happy for someone who is happy?’ Then she gave the example of someone starting a business that would compete with her yoga studio. How can she find it in herself to be happy for them when it is at her expense?

What a great example. She did find peace and happiness for this yoga studio. She settled down and remembered that we all have gifts to give and who she can’t reach perhaps this studio can.

She gave examples of the others too but I can’t even remember them now. The one about happiness just stuck with me – how simple it seemed and it wasn’t.  It could be one of the hardest things to do.  Like, why isn’t Craig happy for my happiness in quitting my job?  Does that apply here?

Debra broke down the four attitudes to try and maintain: friendliness, compassion, goodwill and neutrality. It all sounds so easy but it isn’t. How can I apply this to my life? To my emotions with Craig, with working, with being a mother and wife?

A Bit of Sunlight – the first 30 pages

Well everyone, this is a bit more than ‘A Bit of Sunlight’.  I have posted the first 30 pages into a flip book that you can read online.

I have had it edited over by three friends and I was just told that there are still some grammatical errors.  Never enough fresh eyes.  I am posting it despite my not having time to return and find those errors.  I will assure you that Sunlight will be edited by a professional before it is published.

My intention is to offer a taste of it, to hear thoughts regarding flow, if you are attracted to the story at all, or anything else that pops up, even grammatical errors.

Click here to read the first 30 pages.

M

A Bit of Sunlight – Finding Frances

 

I am down. I have been good for days. I am not even sure how many. I went out for supper and saw Eat, Pray, Love again with some friends. I have been moving which is the most important thing I think. Now I have slowed down considerably. I just want to lay in bed and sleep this day away. What is the point to all this stuff in life? Is there a point? I don’t belong here. I hope I can sleep and the world will forget that I exist.

I curl up tighter under the duvet. I close my eyes and try to shut off the horrible voice in my head. I don’t even know what it is saying but I don’t want to listen.  I just want to sleep and There is a void in my negative self-diminishing thoughts of not belonging and having no place in this world where all of a sudden I sit up. Just like that.  Like a voice pulled me up.  I have to find a family member on my mother’s side.

I have done the preliminary research before. Many years ago, like 2004. I had found my mother’s maternal lineage in a community history book.  It listed all the children, my grandmother’s sisters and brothers, with their married names.  All I had to do was search for their phone numbers.  I stopped here, where I had to call a list of people to find one that would acknowledge being related to me. Calling up random people has seemed so daunting so the task has been sitting in limbo for six years.  I have been too afraid to put myself out there. The idea of making those calls made me feel so vulnerable. I always thought, what if the person on the other end was rude or didn’t want anything to do with me? But now I find I am moving like a robot to the living room, opening my laptop and searching on mysask.com for a phone directory. I am not in control of my body anymore. I am just moving. I have to do it today.

The first call was a lady that had no idea what I was talking about.  I don’t think English was her first language so that could be part of our barrier.  

“Hello, I am doing some family research and looking for a relative of Frances Diedral.  Her maiden name would have been Green.  Would you happen to know anyone by that name?” I ask nervously but determined.  This is happening today.

“That sounds like Granny Frances.  My husband is her grandchild.  She always talks about the Greens.”  says the lady on the other line.  She is pleasant.  Why did I think someone would be attacking me?  Why did I think this would be such a big deal?

“Would you mind passing my name and number onto her?  I would love to chat with her.”

“Yah.  For sure, I will call her right now. Can you just explain your connection to me?”  I do this and from how she responds I am certain I have found the right family tree.

“Awesome!  Thank you so much.  May I ask you your name?”

“Jane.”

“Thank you so much Jane.  I really appreciate it.”

Enthusiastically I hang up the phone.  Second call and I have hit the jackpot!  I pace the floor. I go and get dressed anxiously. I open the fridge door looking for food. Something to snack on and distract me from this lull in time while I wait for the phone to ring. I am on edge waiting for a phone call. What if she doesn’t call? What if she doesn’t want anything to do with my mom’s crazy side of the family? I feel like I am in fast-forward touching a bunch of things and moving about but all of it makes no sense and I am moving too fast to be aware of what I am doing.

I can’t take it. I grab my purse and head to the car. I will drive to the city. I can’t sit here any longer.

I am on the road. Half way to the city and I realize where I am.  It dawns on me that I am up. It was just a moment ago that I was laying in bed hoping my existence would not be noticed and now I am vibrating with so much energy I do not know what to do with myself.  I waste time looking around a few consignment stores, book stores – used and new.  Finally I decide it is time to go home.

When I return from the city, I see a red light flashing on my answering machine.   I hit play. “Marian, are you there? I can’t hear you. Marian? I don’t hear anything.” That was it. That is what she said. It sounds like she would be interested in talking to me.  It sounds like she is looking for me. I call her back.

She is a delight. I am in love with her immediately. She is kind and straightforward. I know where I stand with her and she is brimming with compassion and kindness. She is so raw and open with her emotions. “My husband George died thirteen years ago.” She weeps and you can sense the love she had for him in her tears. I realize in this moment that a stranger is crying and letting her heart pour out to me and I can’t do that for myself. Not even when I am all alone. She can be so open with her emotions and I bottle them up inside.

She tells me about her daughter, Brenda, who died of pituitary cancer. She cries, saying that “You could not find a better daughter. Ask anyone who knew her and they will tell you she was the kindest soul and she always had a smile on her face.” She is crying and I love her passion. Her freedom to be herself.

She tells me a little bit about my family tree. She says “Now, Granny Green was a selfish person. She did not give hugs. She was very regal and it was important for her to be a proper English Lady. She was the Governess to a Minister Brown in Winnipeg in the late 1880’s.”

“What was Grandpa Green like?” Excited to finally hear this, who my family is.

“Grandpa Green was a gentle, kind person.”

“Were they happily married if she was so selfish and he was so kind?”

“He was kind enough for both of them”, she replies. After a moment of silence she tells me, “I remember as a little girl Grandpa Green getting on the train to go to Saskatoon to see a doctor. He never came home. Then at the age of 21 I am at the train station holding my baby girl and all of a sudden I cry for my Grandpa. It has been so long and I still love him. We were so close.” I am still in awe about her freedom to express her emotions.

We end the conversation planning for me to come and visit her. She wants to harvest her garden and will call me to arrange our plans when that is done.