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I've gotten feedback from several directions lately that the way I hold space for people, having been in hard places myself, is healing. "Life-changing," one person said. "A blessing," someone said today.

It's good to know that standing with people, saying, "Yes, that's hard. I see how hard you're working. No, you didn't deserve that," helps them. Because really, that's all I can do. I'd love to reach in and magically make them feel better, but that's not how this works. Sometimes people have done all the hard work, tried all the different solutions, and it still hurts. "You get to feel how you feel," I tell them.

I wish I could find that for myself. Someone who's been in the hard places, done the hard work, and can hold space for me to be exactly how I am right then. I tried a therapist the other day, and she seemed knowledgeable, skilled, compassionate - and distant. I don't think she's been there. I think she's helping from the outside, and that's not what it feels like I need.

The thing she said that resonated the most was wanting tending and care. Wanting to learn how to rest. I'm not sure what kind of practitioner helps with that. I picked "solace" for my word of the year, and I think this is what I was trying to get at. I forgot all about it for a while, but I'm starting to keep it in mind again.

I've been tired all the time for months. I stopped reading Twitter. I started taking my vitamin D & iron regularly again. I'm going to try not eating any rice (the only grain I eat) for a week. I do get sleep and eat well and exercise regularly. I want to enjoy my days rather than toughing them out.

(Not looking for advice, but your own experiences are welcome if you feel like talking about them.)
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Last year's word was ease. I'm pleased with how that went. )

Overall, there's still a sense of, who am I to deserve ease. Which is interesting to observe. Yeah, being aware of privilege is good, and this is one I'd like to distribute more widely. I think we all deserve and need times of ease to balance times of effort. Ease, as in slack, makes room for unexpected demands and events. It allows more presence, more kindness, fewer exhausted displays of temper. It gives us extra resources to help others when they need it. I want to keep ease in my life.

Personally, 2016 was a pretty good year for me. Politically, not so much! I spent the month of November in a state of physical terror, reading a lot of blog posts and hoping the electoral college would take action on the country's behalf. Which it didn't. I'm still hoping against hope for a reprieve, an intervention, a turning toward a more inclusive, rational, and functional US government. I plan to be part of that turning-toward as best I can.

The word that consistently comes for 2017 is "solace." Wikipedia says, "[P]sychological comfort given to someone who has suffered severe, upsetting loss, such as the death of a loved one. It is typically provided by expressing shared regret for that loss and highlighting the hope for positive events in the future." I have suffered a severe, upsetting loss of democracy in this country, joining those who had already suffered those losses under racism. I want to both offer and receive solace.

Like ease, solace is something I don't think I deserve but do need myself and want more people to have. It feels too vague, not active enough. At the same time, I think connection and community are the linchpins of resistance to the incoming administration, and solace helps create those.
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This year's word was music. I just played a short piece in a piano recital for my piano teacher's other students. The teacher and I played a duet of a (so-called) Serbian folk song, although it didn't really sound Serbian to me. Anyway it was fun (!) and I didn't play any wrong notes!!!!

My last lesson was this morning. I've gotten as far as playing all the (Western) scales, and being able to do something very simple and repetitive with the left hand while playing a melody that doesn't jump around too much with the right hand. I can puzzle out a melody I want to sing, which was my main goal.

I realized part-way through the year that I don't love piano as an instrument. Practicing never got fun, although I did manage to put in 10 minutes or so most days through the whole year. So I'm stopping. I may go back to it some day, or take some other instrument, or focus on sight-singing next, but for now I'm done.

Speaking of singing, that's gotten better too, I think partly because of the piano playing. I can semi-reliably sing a middle part on my own! That was a big goal, and I think it required growing new neurons, it took me so long to get there.

It's been a really hard year, in a variety of ways. Singing has always brought up old stuff that was in the way of resonance, and coordinating my hands for piano did some of that, too.

The word I'm picking for 2016 is "ease." Spaciousness. Gentleness. Staying in my comfort zone. There's some defensiveness about it, a part of me that wants to participate in more better faster yesterday! And there's real clarity that this is what I need now. I picked the word a while back, and haven't wavered.
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Last year's word of the year was welcome. I meant I wanted to feel welcomed, but it immediately became an imperative to make others welcome. And perhaps to make myself welcome.

reflections )

For this year, I'm choosing "music". it's important )I hope that making room for that in my life, and doing the work, will also make room for all the things I associate with music - consonance, harmony, connection, joy, presence, and letting myself be audible and visible in the world.
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My word of the year for 2013 was relax. Working hard at relaxing would have been counterproductive, so it went along in the back of my mind a lot of the time without direct attention.

I did end up working at discerning my attitudes toward relaxing, both physically and with general effort, and got an article out of that. Two, actually. Mostly I learned that relaxation and dissociation aren't the same thing. I'm still exploring how it feels to relax while staying present.

I see some progress toward not working AS HARD AS POSSIBLE all the time. Overall my anxiety level is lower. Things seem to get done eventually, if not as efficiently or quickly as I expect. There's also more resignation and less effort around my social anxiety. The line between relaxing and giving up around being "acceptable" is still unclear.

Related to that line of thought, I've chosen "welcome" for 2014. I want to feel welcome. I started thinking about it a month ago, and it immediately twisted itself around into, "I should be more welcoming." I don't like the "should" aspect, but I will pay attention when I push things away.

There's a lot of victim-blaming and magical thinking around social connections and loneliness. "You should try harder to fit in." "Fix what's wrong with you and people will like you better." Also, "Be yourself and you'll find your people." That hasn't worked out quite the way I imagined. A handful of connections I value but hold lightly, and none I depend on.
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My word of the year for 2012 was connection. Overall I'm pleased with how that went. Even though I still don't have the kinds of connections I'd like to have, I feel more peaceful and less fraught about it. For example, I didn't talk to a soul on Christmas Day (except the cat), but I didn't expect it to be different. Some deep healing happened. I do have a couple of new friend connections that I value, and a new job that gives me more people contact. As I write more, I realize that on the scale from catastrophic to spectacular, I would call the results middling-okay. Disappointing and relieving both at once.

For 2013 I've chosen "Relax." Physically and emotionally this is a skill I'd like to acquire and practice. I want ease. I want to remember and feel that I'm no longer fighting for my life, that I don't have to try AS HARD AS POSSIBLE all the time. I can idle along at 40% effort and things will work just fine and I might even rebuild some of the reserves I have scoured out.

My parents used to call me lazy. I still flinch defensively when I sit and read for a while, in my own home thirty years later, because they thought reading fantasy was a waste of time when I could be studying. It's hard to claim not working AS HARD AS POSSIBLE all the time. I suppose I'll be exploring that defensive flinch this year.

I would like to learn how to rest. I would like to feel safe enough to rest. I would like to feel that "at last!" feeling of coming home.
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For 2011 my word of the year was delight. I enjoyed noting small delights (new front brakes on my bike that don't squeal and work well in the rain!) and big ones (my book is done and people like it!).

I wanted things to go from "better" all the way to "good." Some success with that. I am physically feeling much better. My right hip is moving better (I can meditate cross-legged again!), and I just got a tip today (massage the teres muscle in the armpit) that might help with the ongoing left shoulder pain.

There have been disappointments, too. A lot of alone-time, where I'd like more community and connection. I'm feeling a bit at loose ends because the book project is done and I don't have a new project yet. It feels practically un-American to have free time on my hands.

I've thought of several different words for 2012, and I might yet change my mind again. Tonight I'm thinking of "connection". It's always been a powerful feeling for me, and sometimes I've felt unwillingly obsessively connected to people who did not have my best interests in mind. I've also felt painfully disconnected in a lot of ways.

The last two years, I've chosen words where the feeling was, "I want this now if not sooner!" With connection I feel cautious, tentative. Not because I don't want it, but because I do want it so terribly, and have for so long, and have gotten so hurt in pursuit of it. I would like to learn about a kind of connection that doesn't come with catastrophe. I want to stay out of Drama Triangles.

Also, I'm in a better place than I was two years ago. Thank goodness. I'm not as desperate for change. My practice is flowing better, and I am feeling more delight, or at least balance. I hope those things stay with me as I move into a new year and a new focus.

ETA: I used to prioritize connection over peace. That didn't work well at all. If I stay with connection as the word of the year, peace will still be a higher priority.
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For 2010, I picked "flow" as the word of the year. It felt like some part of me had a strangle-hold on the source of money and energy coming into my life, and I wanted that to shift. And it has. A computer contract has brought in some much needed income, and my healing practice has gotten busier as well. I've let money flow out as well, both for purchases and for donations to causes I support. A few sort-of functional items with irritating associations have been replaced, much to my relief.

The flow of water into the basement was less welcome, but that was mostly because the roof gutters were blocked (see, lack of flow!) and the secondary problem has also been addressed.

For 2011, I'm picking "delight". I want to be delighted by continuing flow, by dreams come true, by events and occurrences I wouldn't have thought to imagine. I want to get all the way from "better than it was" to "good" and "great". I commit to opening and expanding into delight.

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Sonia Connolly

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