happily, yes!


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Releasing the Elephant in the Room

When I was in high school, I was raped. Worse than the violation itself was the jumble of harmful emotions that was born of it: the anger, the shame, the fear and the inability to trust anyone that has trailed me through my life.

The silence has been the worst. Or maybe secrecy is a better word. Not talking about it, not sharing it, hiding it and hiding behind it. Always hiding. It set up years of obscuring myself from others. And I could hide from anything. Or pretend to, anyway, because I just knew that I was bad. I had to pretend to be something that I wasn’t because I was sure that I was a bad person. So, I would pretend that I didn’t smoke, or that I didn’t really drink that much, and that I didn’t have a drug problem. I pretended that it was okay to have sex with men that didn’t care about me as much as I cared about them. My outward attitude screamed, “Look at me, look at how free I am! I’m fun; I’m open-minded; I’m festive!” because that sounds so much better than, “Look at me! I’m dying inside, and I don’t know how to ask for help!”

More than anything that night, I lost my power. I’m not sure that I had that much at that point anyway. I was only 16, after all, but at that time I was putting together who I might be, and then, after that night, I just gave it all away. I didn’t like how I was or how I looked or what I was like because all of those things just ended up getting me raped. I wanted to blend in, hide, disappear, go away. I stopped wearing make-up, I started dressing down, and I quickly shrank into myself.

Just like that, I gave my power away; I let them take it. And then it blew up the rest of my life, for the next twenty some years. I didn’t know how to say no to anyone. It was just easier to say yes, because betraying myself was better than being betrayed by someone else. I couldn’t be vulnerable in a sincere way. I was just a victim, and that victim archetype swallowed me up and followed me around the world. I was nearly raped in Argentina and then again in Turkey. Nobody could protect me. I so desperately wanted to be cared for, protected, shielded from this terrible life, and nobody could do that for me because I couldn’t do it for myself.

Giving away my power kept me so small. Small was safe. I was so afraid to be anything or anyone because then someone might notice me. My default was to blend in, and not say a word. I couldn’t speak for years, unless I was drunk or high, and boy did I love to get drunk because it felt like I was putting on the outfit of a whole new person. It really was my only escape from me.

All of this giving my power away kept me from expressing who I truly am, and it allowed me to let others define me. It kept me in jobs that were small and in finances that were small. It kept me in a little itty bitty shell, and every once in a while I would poke my head out and feel the light, but then something would come up and I’d stick it back in again.

I’ve had a long search for meaning in my life. It has taken me all over the world and moved me to new places. It has prompted me to read and to learn new languages. It has led me to museums, libraries, and sweeping outdoor spaces. It brought me to yoga classes and ultimately to energy work and a daily meditation practice. With this, I finally, finally, realized that this “meaning” wasn’t outside of me, and I started to pick up those little pieces of my power that I had scattered all over the place and put them back into my self.

I forgave myself, and I forgave others. I forgave them. That doesn’t make what they did okay or even acceptable, but it allowed me to move on. I chose life and living, and I chose to pull myself together. I let go of things that were no longer serving me, and that I was no longer serving. I discovered boundaries and put them into place, and that was when I could finally stop bleeding all over everyone and everything and when others could no longer bleed all over me.

In the end, I came to realize that no one can take from me what I am not willing to give away.

I finally looked into the mirror and said, “I love you, Janet.”

This journey is not without its pitfalls. I still shrink from some things, and I still have trouble expressing my truth with some people. And there are certainly moments when I still give my power away. I am aware of it, though, and I can usually snatch back those little pieces of me before they float off with someone else.

This has been so hard to write, but it had to be written. It was the secret that I was still holding hostage; it was the ever present elephant in my room. It was my last rationalization, justification, excuse, pity party. Right here, right now, I let it go, completely, 100 percent. I reclaim myself and that little girl that I was.

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The Peace of Mind Factor

This morning when I was out walking the dog, I crossed paths with an acquaintance. “What a good dog you have!” she said as she approached me. In reality, my dog was merely being well-behaved at that moment. She is a good dog, a great dog even, when it comes to the amount of love she has for me, my son, and every other human being on the planet. But, like many dogs that love people oh so much, she has a penchant for wanting to melt her body into each and every one of us.

The body melt can be attained by a) jumping on someone, b) leaning so intensely into a person that they nearly fall over, and c) by crawling up on top of them. Add to this her love of playing and her 70 pounds of tall lankiness, and you’ve got a recipe for chaos.

Much of our home life is, in fact, pure mayhem. It’s a loving jumble of fun, laughter, and smiles with the somewhat frequent interjection of fear, anger, and frustration. “Artemis, put the socks down!” is probably the number one repeated phrase in the apartment, and it’s usually shouted in frustration. She’s a hound. She could figure out how to get to a sock if it was on top of the refrigerator. Every time a child enters the apartment – which is a lot, as they multiply like rabbits in this complex – the tornado of excitement and frenzy begins all over again.

“Artemis, down!”

“Come here, Artemis!”

“Mom, will you get Artemis out of my room?! She’s destroying my pillow!”

“No, Artemis, no!”

Outdoor Moose

During the day, when there are no kids here, she’s pretty great. She has finally, after two years, gotten to a point where she can go for an extended period of time without wreaking havoc on my home. She lies on Jake’s bed and comes out to visit me while I’m working. She might mess with the cat for a minute, but it’s calm play. It’s not the same as the afternoon worked-up-into-a-whirling-dervish of excitement play in which she throws her entire body on top of the cat because she’s overcome with ecstasy at someone’s arrival.

I have known since I got her that she needed training, and I had great intentions to do so early in her life, but I always talked myself out of it. I had a litany of excuses and justifications that I tossed around in my head: the cost seemed too high; I had other bills that needed attention; I’d get around to doing it; and someone else could help me with it is just a sampling of them.

Every single time she acted up over the past two years then, I went from my nice peaceful Janet state to stressed-out mommy monster state within seconds. Every afternoon, from 2:45 until bedtime six hours later, has been a time of high alert. Is she about to pounce? What is that noise? Is she eating something? The cost of the things she has destroyed alone is probably ten times the cost of training, not to mention the crate, the many citronella anti-bark collars, and the variety of leads I’ve had to try just so that she won’t pull when I walk her. (I’d like to mention here, with immense gratitude, a dear friend, who was of enormous financial, emotional, and mental support during all of this. You know who you are and thank you!)

All of this because I didn’t want to pay for training, because I thought I didn’t have the money for it. All of the past twenty some years of giving my power away and not trusting in myself led me to this place of fear in which there was never enough; I was never going to be taken care of properly. Even as my faith began to grow, I still spent way too much time in the vibration of what I didn’t have versus what I do have (which is a lot, in reality). Every time the dog switched to a negative behavior, my vibration and attention shifted into lack and frustration. I was defeating myself. By creating the experience of not having enough for the training, I moved into a pattern of reinforcing that experience over and over again, day in and day out. As a result, not only did I and the people close to me lose a lot of money because she destroyed a lot of things, but all of the time spent in that vibration was like a negative investment in myself.

As I wrapped up my conversation over the dog this morning, I noted to my acquaintance that I was getting the training so that I could have some peace of mind. I have known people to do this, and I’ve heard people weigh their peace of mind options before. Every time I thought, “It must be nice to be able to do that; I wish I had the money to do that.” I got home, and I went to pee, and then it happened – as many miracles do happen on the toilet – that I got that insight into the Peace of Mind Factor. Having a well-behaved dog will open up so much energy for me. It is going to eliminate the mountain of negative energy ripples that dominate my afternoon. I have done a lot of work to change my thoughts and to focus on abundance, and finally, finally (!), I am starting to get it. Dog training now seems like a small price to pay for such a wonderful investment. Good girl, Janet!

See, I'm a good girl, mama!

See, I’m a good girl, mama!


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Making Magic

I hang onto stuff. I cling to things that I think I may need one day. This can be something physical, such as a coat, a dish or a book, or it can be something abstract, such as emotions, thoughts, patterns of behavior or a relationship. I hang onto things because I worry about what will happen if I don’t have them, and because I may need them to fulfill some vague need in the future. I also resist releasing them because my thinking comes from a place of lack rather than abundance. Paradoxically, this reluctance to let things go has kept me trapped in that place of not-enough because I don’t make space for the free flow of energy.

I have had moments of purging throughout my life, and I have made it a point to live much more simply, but although I have sort of superficially given this some thought, I’ve never really dug down into the nitty-gritty of it. And then yesterday I had one of those moments, an emotional and spiritual relapse of sorts that forced me to recognize that I am only ever one step away from doing something completely out of alignment with who I am because I am still tethered to the strings of something I haven’t released.

Last year could probably be defined for me as “the year of creating boundaries.” I had to do this because of my habit of hanging onto things that no longer serve my highest good or that of the other person involved. Fear keeps me locked into relationships that I convince myself are beneficial, when really they are a place of stagnation – my ego’s way of keeping me small. That’s not to say there hasn’t been any good in those relationships; rather, it’s an acknowledgment that fear has played its role in me not allowing those relationships to take a different, more healthy course.

For many years, I had a lot of old relationships that I kept alive in my mind and that I was able to revive with the expansion of the internet. This has been both a blessing and a curse. Bringing these connections back to life filled in all of the little holes that I didn’t know existed but that riddled my soul. Just like a cigarette or a drink, making a connection with one of these people could stuff some cotton into a hole so that I wouldn’t have to feel what was really going on.

Over the past several years, I have been trying to let go of old beliefs and patterns, but I realize now that I’ve been doing it from a place of obligation. I recognized that I had to do these things, and so I would, but sort of begrudgingly. I perceived that letting go would be good for me karmically, and I’m tired of spinning the same wheels over and over again. I was also aware that it would be good for me and the other person involved because a lot of these relationships had an element of toxicity in them.  And finally, I knew that it was the right thing to do for any other people in the equation. Knowing all of this was enough to push me in the direction I needed to go, but it wasn’t enough for me to really fully digest it.

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to do just this. I am coming out of a wonderful relationship with someone that I love very, very much. It has been a very mature relationship for me, one in which I experienced exponential growth. In fact, I  was shown a completely new way to love someone, and it was such an amazing experience that even though I miss him and love him so, so much, I was able to let him go (for the most part; there’s still some tugging, but if it’s meant to be, it will come back around). For now, the relationship isn’t going in a mutually beneficial direction, so like big kids we agreed to go our separate ways, and we did it really nicely – no deception, no disrespect, no dishonoring.

It’s been a few weeks now and though I’ve shed a lot of tears, I have felt comfortable. And then yesterday, the Universe wanted to know if I was paying attention, and it threw me a little bone, just to see if I would bite. I did. It looked good, just dangling there in front of me. I convinced myself that it was okay, just this one little bite wouldn’t hurt anyone. But deep down I knew that despite how appetizing it looked, it would leave me feeling hollow if I ate it, and I did anyway. I knew all the way through my core that grabbing for the immediate gratification was not going to be satisfying at all, and yet because I was still hanging onto an old belief system, I snagged it anyway. The result was horrible. I could feel its effects on everyone involved, whether they knew about it or not. One plus one still equals two no matter how hard I try to bend the laws of mathematics.

Thankfully, though, I really have made progress, and so instead of retreating to my rabbit hole, I asked myself how I could learn from my actions so that I would not do it again when the occasion arose. I came to a conclusion, and with a confession and the help of a friend, I worked my way through it. The Universe, because it has a great sense of humor and because it still wanted to see if I was paying attention, threw me another bone just a few hours later. Unbelievable! But you know what? I acted completely in alignment with my ideals, and I walked away from the situation empowered and grateful that I was able to take care of myself and that I was able to show respect for another, even though that other had no idea what was going on.

It only occurred to me today that I was in the process of letting go of relationships and entanglements that had given me a false sense of safety and love, and that in doing so I was cultivating faith. And as I was mulling this over in my head, I internalized the notion that faith takes care of everything. I can get rid of the sweater that I like but that I never wear because it scratches my neck, and in doing so I can make room for a sweater that I like and that doesn’t scratch my neck. In the same way, when I let go of relationships and old emotional patterns that no longer serve me, I make way for the new and improved relationships and emotional patterns that nurture me and my growth.

I was able to see this in my body as well, and in the bodies of everyone as we cling to our rigid belief systems. The energetic manifestation of holding onto something old – this stagnation – creates the energy blockages that foment dis-ease in the system and that later manifest as illness in the body. Letting go allows for flow, and that free flow opens the mind, the body and the spirit to something better. It allows us to rest in faith, the knowingness that everything is taken care of and that this Universe is infinite abundance. It is only me and my restrictive thought processes and outmoded ways of feeling that keep me from experiencing that abundance. Letting go creates space for the miracle to happen, and the journey allows the magic to unfold.

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Here is a piece on forgiveness that the lovely Jennifer Pastiloff chose to feature on her blog, The Manifest-Station.

The Manifest-Station

I had no idea the response for the Forgiveness blog contest would be so overwhelmingly large. There were so many great ones ( I got over 100) that I will publish one every day this week. I love you guys. 

This essay is by Janet Raftis, an inspiring life coach living in Atlanta. Janet has taken a few of my workshops in Georgia at Hazard County Yoga and she is fantastic. Please get to know her. Offer her a comment at the end or connect with her on Facebook. Also, here is a link to her own blog which I suggest you check out.

Forgiveness by Janet Raftis.

I spent years punishing myself. I punished myself for things that others had done to me and for things that I had done to others. I did it by systematically beating myself down, abusing my body and numbing myself out. I punished…

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The One Thing

Today I am 43, and this is what I do know: The more I open my heart, the better it gets.

It only took me 42 years to figure that one out, but the more I adhere to the principle, the more I get out of it. The return rewards are quick, tangible and delicious. There has been so much good happen in my life in the past year that I can hardly believe it.

It hasn’t been without its hardships, though. The thing is that the more flexible and expansive that I become, the more I don’t fit into my old mold. I suppose that it is life’s little irony that the more you open the less you are able to inhabit the space you once occupied.

I remember an incident that occurred a little over four years ago. I was in the park with a friend, someone that I was very close to and that held a lot of influence over me for a very long period of time. We were talking to someone that we’d just met, sharing dog stories, when this stranger asked what we did for a living. I responded that I was a writer, which I was.  I had spent the previous five years earning money for putting words onto a piece of paper, which technically would qualify me as one. I haven’t been nominated for a Pulitzer, and most of my work was in very small publications, but the fact of the matter is: I wrote and people gave me money to do so.

A few hours later, though, this person that had a lot of influence over me said, “Why did you say you were a writer? You’re not a writer.”

That was one of those comments that crush your spirit, if you let it, and boy, did I let it. I allowed a whole lot of doubt and self-hatred and insecurity and ICK to just creep in there and take over. I froze. I felt all of my dreams and all of my aspirations just slip away. At the time, I had been working on a novel and I was about 150 pages in, which is a lot of writing. It stopped. Not a peep from me since that moment. Not a word despite the fact that other people, one of whom I really trust and who had a great track record of supporting me, told me that it was great. I’ve taken it out and looked at it a few times; I even printed it out once, but then I dropped it and all the pages got mixed up and I just put it away again because, who am I kidding, I’m not a writer.

It seems so unbelievable to me now that I let this person tell me who I was, but I have let a lot of people tell me who I am and who I am not over the years, mostly because I did not know who I was. I had to look outside of myself for the answers, and while I realized that many of them were unreliable, I had nothing to truly measure them against – no personal yardstick of Janet to allow me to define myself.

I was so closed. I was so closed that I couldn’t allow the sunshine in, and all I could do was sit in the darkness, afraid to move, afraid to act, afraid to take a chance doing something that I loved lest someone tell me that I was quixotic for doing so.

It took me four years to reclaim that spot, which was tenuous at best before. I mean, if I had any sense of who I was, I never would have allowed anyone else to tell me who I wasn’t.  But now I do know, and I claim it with conviction: I am Janet. I am a writer; I am a facilitator of healing for others. I am open.

I AM

And being open has brought the most wonderful changes into my life. I am in love, for one. I have returned to school to study something that I am passionate about (versus what I did when I was younger, which was to get a Master’s Degree in something that I liked but that held no long term interest for me), I have started a blog so that I can write, and I have met an abundance of amazing people lately that hold the same interests as me and that support me in everything that I am doing. The more I open my heart, the more I fill up with love. It may be quixotic, but I’m not above chasing windmills these days.  In fact, I kind of like it.


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The Pose of Wisdom

I often used to wonder how I got into this body. It seemed so separate from me. Sometimes, I would float above it and other times, I would hover around it. It truly was a shadow of me and to me for most of my life.

When I was young, I was an athlete. I defined myself that way. What do you do? I am a gymnast and a soccer/volley/base ball player. I am competitive, and I like to win. My body was this thing that propelled me forward and offered me some rewards if I worked hard enough, and it was always a question of whether or not I was enough. In my environment, I was completely judged by what my body could do, and when something didn’t come out the way I needed it too, I resented it. Injuries were inconveniences, and it was nothing to play a soccer game on an ankle that I’d twisted in gymnastics. I was not about to admit, ever, that I was weak. And the irony is that throughout all of this feeling defined by my body, I never actually felt like I was my body. I was never grounded in myself; I never knew myself.

This little war that I played with my body erupted for the worse as a high school student. I began to smoke, drink, take drugs and have sex, not knowing anything about how any of it would affect me, yet drawn to the effect it all had of turning everything off.  I abused my body because I was mad at it, and I gave up dreaming because it was easier to give it up than to come to peace with who I was. I distanced myself from myself, and that was just fine with me.

In my early 30’s, I began to practice yoga.  I enjoyed it because it came pretty easily to me. There was a lot of pleasure in looking around me and seeing that despite the fact that 15 years had passed since I had done my last backbend, I could still do it better than just about anyone there. Yoga was cool, because I could do it well, even though I was completely missing the point.  Despite the fact that I had some amazing teachers, all of that enlightened discourse about not comparing ourselves to others and honoring our bodies was lost on me. Child’s Pose was a sign of weakness; my injuries, which I largely ignored, were frailties that I had difficulty acknowledging. When I did address them, it was because they offered me an excuse as to why I couldn’t do something anymore. When the backbend became too painful to power through, my wrist became my scapegoat.  With all of this going on, I couldn’t stay in the game. Because I still wasn’t in touch with my body, or with me, for that matter, I didn’t stick with it. I’d let it go, and then get back to it for a minute, only to let it go again. It was lovely, but it didn’t fulfill me, because I wasn’t able to fulfill myself.

I finally returned, happily, gratefully and with a different mindset, about nine months ago. While I still wasn’t honoring my body 100%, I was open to the idea of doing so, and at that moment, that was sufficient. One day in class, I listened as my teacher told us that we could move into Child’s Pose whenever we needed. Of course, I didn’t need to. And I wouldn’t have, except that she went on to talk about how Child’s Pose is also called the Pose of Wisdom. Oh, damn! She had me now. This one comment touched a chord deep inside of me that was ready to be struck. I realized that I had been taking it all way too seriously; that I had been taking myself way too seriously. Jesus, Janet! Let it go already!

I am a total proponent of Child’s Pose these days. I love it. And I see the wisdom of the child that teaches us to honor our bodies, to respect them intuitively and to have fun with them. It’s still a struggle some days; I may never be able to completely give up wanting to be the best and to be acknowledged for that, but what I do know is that my body is this amazing vehicle for my spirit in this time that I have here and I am grateful to it for that. I also realize that my spirit is love and joy and laughter, and if my body is a vessel for that, then I ought to have some fun with it. (Oh, the wonderful, not child-like implications of that statement!)

A few weeks ago, I attempted full Mermaid Pose for the first time. On the first side, I totally got it; I mean, I nailed it, which is exactly how I smugly thought of it. I went on to the other side cocky and full of myself, only to fall out of it, over and over. The joy of this was that this repeated falling out of it cracked me up. I laughed at myself for falling, I laughed at myself for my arrogance, and I laughed at myself because it felt good to have a laugh at my own expense. After class, my beautiful teacher came up to me and hugged me, and said, “You have no idea how great it was to see you laugh like that when you fell.” Actually, though, I do; I really, really do.


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Shedding into Lightness

I have spent most of my life being scared. Fear has been such a fundamental part of my life that I was completely unaware that it was even there. I sort of understood that it kept me from doing some of the things that I wanted to do and that it kept me doing many of the things that I didn’t want to do, but other than that it kept itself tucked away in a successful attempt to pretty much sabotage any idea I ever had about getting on with things.

One of the reasons that fear was able to hide itself away so easily is that it tricked me. Seeing as fear is a manifestation of the evil machinations of my ego, my ego came up with all kinds of tricks to keep me in line. One of those was to completely fool me into believing that I was not fearful at all, but instead very, very courageous. Anyone that has ever been intoxicated with me can attest to this false bravado that I carried with me for years. Do an aerial off of a picnic table in a deserted park in the middle of the night? Sure! Hitchhike home from Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach in the middle of the night at the age of 14? Why not?! All of my life I had been chasing courage, trying to prove to everyone, and especially myself, that I had a whole lot of it.

All the while, I watched my life pass me by. Oh, I did some stuff, even some stuff that required a good dose of self-confidence and courage, such as traveling around the world, a lot of the time by myself, and living as an ex-pat on two separate occasions for a total of about 10 years. But none of this required digging down deep and pulling up me, that part of me that I would, in fact, consider the essence of me. As long as I didn’t have to expose myself in any way – I suppose so that I couldn’t be hurt in any way – things were okay. So while I was cruising along, afraid to jump on the bandwagon of my dreams, I stayed stuck. I continued to bartend and wait tables. I hugged tightly to an industry that has served me well as long as I haven’t been serving myself and I dreamed of helping others while being too afraid to help myself.

I have learned some amazing things along the way and have been of service to others many times. I do Reiki and I write; I’ve taught and I’ve experienced the unbelievable joy of being a mother. All good stuff, I promise. But I still hadn’t found my “it” and while I would nod in its general direction every once in a while, I would quickly jump back under the covers. I wanted to discover this thing that I knew was there, but not enough to fully commit to uncovering the years of sludge that were hanging out on top of it.

Finally, though, I reached my tipping point. I had recognized my dream, and I had recognized the fear keeping me from it. I kicked it into high gear: more meditating, more yoga, more reading and writing, more lessons, more actually following the guidance that I was receiving. It has been the most terrifying and the most gratifying time of my life. Everything came to a head about a month ago. I decided to take a Manifestation Yoga workshop with Jennifer Pastiloff. I had read some of her writing (good stuff!) but didn’t know much about her teachings. I signed up without looking into it, which is a blessing because I later saw that she teaches Karaoke Yoga and I don’t know if I’d have gone for it – that was definitely outside of my comfort zone. The workshop was amazing, and I laughed, and I cried, I danced, and yes, I even sang.

When my awesome friend and yoga teacher, Mandy (of Form Yoga, for all you Atlantans), and I first arrived at Hazard County Yoga, where the workshop was being held, we were given tattoos that read, “What are you manifesting?” I put mine on the inside of my left wrist. That workshop and the tattoo were my tipping point. All of the work that I had done finally paid off. A few days after the workshop, I looked down at that peeling mess of a tattoo and thought to myself, “By not doing what I want to be doing, I am only manifesting more of the same…more fear, more anxiety. If I want a change, I have to change.” It hit me. I had read and said those words a hundred times, but at that moment I understood them. That very day I signed up to study health coaching. And every day since, I have committed to following through with “Janet’s Rules to Live By” that I composed during that very workshop, one of which is to do one thing every day that scares the hell out of me. It’s only been a month but things already don’t frighten me that much anymore. You see, once I started living through my fears, I saw that there really is nothing to fear, except for fear itself. Thanks, FDR, I finally really get it.