Inner Royalty and Self-Respect (In the Cards)

One of the themes I’ve been encountering this year has been related to the outflow of my energy. In the Northern Hemisphere, we are moving into the warmer seasons, where, at least for me, my mood and daily productivity tends to be stronger than in the cooler times of the year. I feel that I’m exerting effort more than I’m replenishing my reserves. In particular, I been paying more attention than I normally would to my desire to be helpful.

A core strength of who I am as a person is that I am highly skilled at problem-solving. It is natural for me to analyze situations based on the available resources and to select among various outcomes the one I think will work the best to address the issue at hand. This gift is one for which I’m grateful, but I’ve found it is not often well-received by others. If offered unsolicited, it slips from being an act of kindness into a “know-it-all” place. What frustrates me to no end is when people turn to me for help and then become offended when I am frank with them rather than support their continued denial of reality. Those who can’t face hard truths rarely respond well to those who are comfortable in observing the world as it actually is.

The phrase “pearls before swine” has gone through my head more times than I can count since the pandemic began. I tried to warn others about what was coming, only to be dismissed with hostility and to have the basic facts I was presenting be ignored or discounted. Everything I predicted would happen has, as well as far more serious outcomes than even I had anticipated. I want to pour my energy into people who respect me enough to know that I speak truth and who will be honest with me in turn, but I also need to find a way to reclaim my efforts that are futile and lost on those who won’t face reality.

It feels like a psychic exchange occurs in which I am robbed when someone asks for my advice and then stomps on it, or treats me as ignorant in areas where I am nothing of the sort. It is a loss of dignity, so perfectly captures in the “pearls before swine” image. I know there is a deep traumatic wound that is being exposed when these situations happen, because I suspect an outside observer might not feel that I’ve endured a grave moment of dishonor.

I am working through imagery and ritual that will help me realign my sense of self-respect and dignity when I am dishonored. Icons of crowns and robes and regal adornment are flashing through my head along with moods of luxury and abundance. Where I want to not trip over myself is to fall into the dehumanization trap of believing that those who are rude to me and who don’t value my gifts are worthless or beneath me. It is not really about them but about my need to remain intact when the best of me is viewed with scorn and contempt. Their denial of my truth speaks to their inability to be honest with themselves as to their weak or impoverished or emotional parts of self more than it says anything about my relationship with mine, but, when I continue to focus hatred towards them rather than to celebrate myself, I buy into their lies. My lived reality is that I acknowledge all the parts of myself, even the ones that are difficult to accept and that I have a rich inner world.

There is plenty for each aspect of myself and each part’s role is vital to who I am as a being. A practice dedicated to inner dignity, inner royalty, inner respect and inner truth and ownership are life-giving ways of honoring who I am that may help to restore each jewel of my energy back to myself. I’ve never conceptualized this process in this way and am curious as to how this viewpoint will change how I see myself. If you’ve had experience in this area, please share in the comments!

Even in My Dreams, She Haunts Me

I dreamt of my mother last night. The specifics of the dream, upon awakening, were immediately lost to me, but the impression of herself she’s carved on my psyche feels as though it is pulsating with remembrance of the scarring she caused. So many years have past since I’ve seen her in person that the line between who she was to me and what she represents to me has blurred.

I wrote yesterday that my capacity as a person isn’t related to the approval of cishet white men. I think I need to acknowledge part of what that means to me is that my parents’ views of me are irrelevant to my worth as a person, but also admit, in the same breath, that they still contour the shape of my inner world so much more than I wish they did. My reactivity to being dismissed and disrespected, the impulsiveness with which I direct my energy to defend myself, is a straight line from being constantly verbally abused and gaslit as a child and teenager.

My mother, real and internalized, was the queen of denial. She could cry and say she was never unhappy. She could have a conversation with me and, hours later, tell me she’d not seen me all day. She could witness my father sexually abusing me and pretend nothing happened. Reality was a malleable, unsequenced energy that she bent to her will. I didn’t have access to voice recorders or cell phone video growing up, but I have no doubt she would have found a way to deny the digital as well as the physical world.

She’s entered my mind as of late because of the pandemic. I fully expect, if she becomes ill, to hear from my siblings for the first time in years as to how desperate she is for my presence. This happened a few years ago when she got cancer, and, when I tried to form a limited amount of communication with her, she denied that she in any way initiated their contact with me. She thinks she owns me and can manipulate me to suit her needs after all this distance, time and hard truths.

I feel contempt more than any other emotion for her and it leaks through when I am disrespected by people who might, even in an oblique way, stand in for her in my mind. My dream had only the emotion of terror and the sensation of being trapped, that she found a way to make the story of my life collapse into itself and become only the abuse, the denial, the betrayal and the fear that underlies my relationship templates. A part of me wants to light up all the circuit boards the next time I’m rebuked for sharing a verifiable truth, to call out the privilege that is no doubt driving the “well, actually…” I’m receiving. I know this will lead to a response of useless and defensive posturing. The truth of my triggering will be apparent if I start emailing sources and data to prove my point.

My mission statement for this year includes “powerful vulnerability.” I wonder what the response would be if I responded with “you telling me I’m wrong about something I’ve extensively researched and for which I could easily locate 10+ scientific sources is reminiscent of how my parents responded to me when I spoke a truth they didn’t want to receive as a child. I’ve learned how futile it is to argue with someone who doesn’t give my voice the weight it deserves, so I’m not going to waste any more energy on this discussion.” There are people who show me through their responses that they value what I have to say and take it in without defensive skepticism. There is a new story of my life I can tell, but I have to stop stalling out in the shallows of my past in order to do so.

“Don’t Worry, Everything Will Be Okay”: An Insidious Form of Denial

I wrote yesterday about feeling that my energy was misdirected by trying to warn people who are complacent about the coming (or already arrived, depending where you live) pandemic. It got me thinking more broadly of how people respond to my fears and ways that I have come to discern between people who listen deeply and honestly and those who deflect. I’ve described both stances below (there are of course way-stops between these approaches and times we might use one or the other depending on our energy level) as well as ideas for self-care if you are an anxious person.

“It’ll be fine”

I have a standard retort for people who tell me my worries are unfounded: how do you know? Unless they are a trained expert in the area, at which time I will defer to their judgment, someone telling me I’m “worrying about nothing” gives me far more insight into the nature of their character than it does into the rationality of my anxiety. I definitely believe that some people operate from a default of denial–nothing is real unless it is affecting them personally. They obfuscate and deflect legitimate concerns because these anxieties hint at the fact that the world can be an unjust, unfair and brutal place. If it isn’t happening to them, it can’t be happening.

Yes, those of us with heightened anxiety can easily overestimate the potential likelihood of a danger occurring, but we can also spot trouble before it arrives. I contingency-plan with the best of them and, because of my efforts, I steer clear of certain issues into which others move without pausing. Holding back “I told you so” strains my throat when I notice my unheeded warnings coming true again and again. Attempting to protect one’s self by denying reality has as many consequences, if not more, than wasted worry.

“I have my doubts, but we’ll face it together”

Responding to someone who lapses into extreme anxiety does not mean engaging in panic yourself or denying your read on the situation. Rather, it is perfectly fine to share fact-based evidence that might help to mitigate some of their concerns, especially if you ask permission first. This is where I have would-be comforters lapped; I can quickly absorb a tremendous amount of factual information, so I am ready to go with the latest scientific statistics and projections while they share three-week old data they heard on a podcast. On the other end of the spectrum, anxieties that have little basis in reality might be easier to counter with science, but the people who struggle with them might also be less receptive to scientific reasoning.

To me, the best way to support someone who you might view as “fear-mongering” or overly worried is to establish what your objective take on the situation is, and to then focus most of your energy on the trust you have in both the other person as well as in your relationship. When I share my pandemic prep with people IRL, I wish at least one person would say something along the lines of “well, I know who to ask if I decide to prepare a list of items.” The most I’ve gotten so far was someone declaring they would come to my place if the shit hit the fan, which only angered me at their callousness. If you can connect to the person and let them know that you appreciate their forward-thinking nature, even if you believe it to be too trigger-happy, as well as let them know you will be there to help them cope if or when the situation fully develops, it may help them come down from flight or fight into a more productive, problem-solving state. Scared people make rash decisions; prep for an event such as a pandemic requires a rational response, not a panic-stricken hoarding of toilet paper.

Mental Self-Care for the anxious

If you are reading this as a highly anxious person yourself, here are some practical steps you can take if you are facing a situation that seems to concern only you and in response to which you are being told you are over-reacting.

1. If possible, consult the experts. Nothing is worse in my mind in regards to anxiety than getting riled up by people who have an agenda to push or those who base their ideas on fantasy. Find the scientifically-accurate experts who do not stand to benefit in a substantial way from peoples’ responses, and listen to them. In regards to the pandemic specifically, this is the person to whom I’m listening (as well as reading research as it is published).

2. Share your concerns judiciously. Even if your anxieties are pushing at you, decide whether the person to whom you want to speak is likely, based on past experiences, to listen carefully or to simply dismiss you. If someone acts as though you are completely irrational, consider whether there might be other people in your life that would be more open to hearing what you have to say.

3. Before taking any practical steps, if possible, make a list of items you might acquire or plans you might enact, and then wait at least 24 hours (or a good night of sleep minimum) before you follow through on what you are considering. I have worked myself up in recent days into wanting to buy an oxygen concentrator and a large solar power station. Because I slowed myself down, I realized the oxygen concentrator’s cons outweighed its possible benefits, and that I would face serious security issues with a solar setup as it would have to be placed in front of my house and would therefore be highly tempting for someone to steal if we actually end up in a situation where it would need to be deployed. By slowing myself down, I resisted panic-buying and have been able to better use my resources.

4. At the end of the day, remember that we all die, some of us in unexpected ways. I keep this truth in my mind not to feel depressed but to boost my feelings of acceptance of my life situation. When we run out of practice steps in handling a crisis, coming to terms with the reality of it can, at least for me, open internal space for contemplation and grace, rather than a raging “there has to be a way” as the elements consume.

5. Remember you are likely not as alone as you might feel you are. There is a limit of rational action that I can take at this point, and, as terrifying as it is to me, I find myself coming to a growing knowledge that I might have to *shudder* cooperate with my neighbors if things go really side-ways. In modern Western societies like the one I inhabit, there is a particular sense of individualism where people may literally never speak with or help out their next-door neighbors, not because they hate each other but because they are able to sort their lives in a way that does not necessitate such interactions. I am not so naive to think that my federal government will do anything useful, but I have a bit of trust in my local officials to try to mitigate disaster and in myself to work with others as needed. Scarcity can promote selfishness but it can also promote sharing; I hope that the latter is what rises to the surface in the areas where people are struggling right now.

In conclusion, a person’s level of anxiety is not the best marker of their capacity for acting in a rational way. People can under-react just as much as they over-react and can respond too slowly to a crisis as well as too early or without justification. If you are highly anxious as I am, my advice is to reserve your time and energy for acting with as much objective reason as you can, with the support of people who know what they are talking about because of their education and experience, as well as those in your life who offer a caring, gentle presence when your anxiety gets the best of you. Please share how you care for yourself as an anxious person!

Authentic Living (In the Cards)

For today’s card draw, I used the In an Open Hand deck I am developing and drew the authenticity card. This card focuses on self-expression which is perfect for this moment in my life as I recently took a big step legally in relation to being trans and changed my name. The process itself was extremely stressful and took much longer than anticipated. Because of this, I haven’t felt much cause for celebration or “newness” of self as of yet, but I anticipate an internal shift will arrive.

One of the prompts that comes with the authenticity card invites a reflection on what it means to move across the boundary of self. Someone I know was diagnosed this month with a terminal illness, which brought up a lot of internal reactions for me as to the finite nature of each of our lives. I was surprised to find myself having an intensely spiritually-centered response in that I view death as a sacred transition, just as transitioning in terms of embracing my gender has a sacred quality to it for me.

As I experience them, both changes are embodied; they cannot be separated from the physical states to which they correspond (other people may of course transition in terms of gender without making physical changes). Life experiences that are wholly embodied are, then, an opportunity for knowing that cannot be taught. There is another side to which we are moving that is undefined and which we have not known consciously but yet which we know in our bones. Having traversed new waters, we are never the same.

As I connect these concepts, I wonder if part of the reason I get so frustrated with those who misgender me again and again is the fact that their actions belie their stilted grief for who I was and their state of denial of the movement I’ve undertaken as a person. What does it mean, perhaps, for their sense of their gender if someone else can “leave” or “change” what they believed to be permanent? What if the lands we declare our own are themselves constantly shifting? What if we box ourselves in so that our true voice is hushed?

In the same line, I observed others who got news of the terminal illness diagnosis shut down and seem stalled out by it, likely because they hold tightly to an idea of how things “should” happen, whereas I found myself filling with a sense of expansiveness as to, if there is no other path but the one unfolding, what do we make of ourselves and the situation? (I fully acknowledge that I could be engaging in spiritual bypass and would never bring these reflections to the person who got diagnosed unless she went there first). I am stressed by decision-making–the pulling up of the anchor–moreso than the arrival on new shores. I want to know in my body what it is to be human; these being-in-body journeys depart at different times and to different locations for each of us, but the living-with instead of in-spite-of or in-denial-of is where I want to be. What is an embodied experience in your life? How did it shape your spiritually? What do you know of life that you didn’t know before?