Take up space ... please!

I'm slowly reading - or maybe experiencing is a better word -  Margaret J. Wheatley's book "Who Do We Choose To Be?"  It's one of those books that offers unglazed reality so wisely, with such compassion, that I cannot rush through, nor can I stop. I keep going back to read bits over and let them sink deeper into my body. 

The words are jiggling loose unconscious assumptions - the kind that have been keeping my choices small and meek. Cracking my little bubble world more and more open. Holding up uncomfortable truth with such clarity I find myself drawing closer, rather than turning away. 

Her subtitle really gets to the heart of what she explores in this work, "Facing Reality. Claiming Leadership. Restoring Sanity."

The world has been feeling like a pretty intense and insane place lately.

That's why I'm asking ... encouraging ... imploring you, body-wise, highly sensitive, multipotentialed folks to take up space. 

Let me explain...

The more intense the world feels, the more likely we are to retreat - anemone-like - into ourselves. Staying present feels hard. Taking up more space than usual - harder. It seems to be the opposite of what feels safe and looks sensible. 

Yet, our ability to sense underlying emotions, to observe and absorb information others are not seeing, to deeply process and integrate all that input and see long-range possible outcomes not obvious to 80% of the world -- that's the role we play for our species. That's what we're wired to do. 

So especially now, when western cultures are locked into extremes of behavior and beliefs, retreating into lizard-brained survival mode, now is when our trait is deeply needed. When our leadership is deeply needed. 

Taking up space becomes both revolutionary and evolutionary. Literally evolutionary, in the biologic sense.

Janine Benyus said, "Life creates circumstances conducive to life." Ecosystems - and human communities are absolutely ecosystems - respond to threats to life by evolving new resiliency strategies...by foregrounding the members who enhance life-affirming acts. When we take up space, we're creating circumstances conducive to life.

We love, we empathize, we feel what’s happening to our communities in our marrow. AND…we are uniquely qualified to midwife small, local changes that will make a difference.

We do it every day when we use the gift of our differentness in our practices, easing people who are suffering. 

"So much is possible if we consciously and wisely choose how best to step forward as leaders for this time." M. Wheatley

(If you find taking up space daunting, let’s have a (free, no pressure) tea….)

When even self-care gets hard

Recently, I saw a social media post about self-care steps someone was taking after coming through an intense few weeks, inviting folks to talk about the ways they were taking care of themselves.

Not surprisingly, an impressive list of massages, nature rambles, spiritual experiences and the like followed.

What was surprising to me was the mixed set of reactions I felt when reading them. 

There was my usual surge of “Go you!” appreciation for people truly caring for themselves. I also felt exhausted and overwhelmed at the thought of trying to attempt any of these truly beautiful self-care practices myself. And then came an ache of aloneness and an alarming pulse of shame. (Shame?)

You see, my life right now is a storm of worry and off-the-charts stress. There are hard, hard things happening for two people I love. Two people who are inextricably woven into the fabric of my daily life. People for whom I have a foot - and a heart - in the role of caretaker.

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I'll pause here to let you (deeply kind, so very compassionate and caring folks) know I’m OK. I know you’re all wise in the ways of healing and self-love - and - I’m not asking you to do the labor of offering advice (with gentle appreciation for any who had that impulse). I simply offer this snapshot of my life to give you bit of context so what I’m saying next about self-care makes sense.

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Since a lot of my work centers around helping people cultivate resilience, my aversion reactions to this post gave me this ghostly sense of being an outsider in a space I typically call home.

That pulse of shame? She's there because "I know this stuff and I should be doing better." Which is hogwash, of course. But - as I'm sure you know - when our resilience is stretched rice paper thin, that's when our inner monsters stage their coup. 

Hello monsters.... Nope. You don't get to take over...

So right now....

--- because it’s all very intense and utterly beyond my control
--- because it's swampy with all the feelings, especiall grief
--- because my time isn't my own - or doesn't feel as if it is
--- because the weight of this is bringing me to my knees - sometimes literally
--- because massages and painting classes and long walks and silent retreats feel mythical. Unreachable. A climb up Everest in flip flops.

...my version of self-care looks like

  • Remembering to eat.

  • Breathing a quiet “yes!” when it’s veggies rather than donuts.

  • Wearing the softest, most comfy clothes I own.

  • Embracing unplanned naps.

  • Stopping by a park for 10 minutes between transportation runs, rolling down the windows and breathing. Getting out of the car optional. Walking optional.

  • Wrapping my hands around a warm cup of tea. Breathing.

  • Letting plans - for my business and life - go dormant for a bit.

  • Holding schedules - for my business and life - gently and loosely. 

  • Whispering "I love you. You've got this." when I catch a glimpse of myself in random reflective surfaces. 

  • Kindness and patience when none of these work. 

  • Kindness when the patience fails. 

  • Retroactive kindness when the kindness fails. 

So, here's my invitation to you this time: Take a moment to notice the state of your resilience. And, if it feels nourishing, whisper "I love you. You've got this." when you catch a glimpse of yourself in random reflective surfaces. Savor how that feels. Build yourself a sweet well of self-love to draw on when life gets hard.  


Finding belonging off the beaten path

Wherever I am, whether it's a shopping mall or a local park, I notice how I look for places where people are not, and go there. How often I am literally off the beaten path. How I simply have to be in the places that other people don't go.

Today, I am on a muddy trail running through underbrush full of new young poison ivy. Five yards to my right I can see a nicely paved trail. But, not two yards to my left the broad creek is murmuring. A pair of Mallards are floating past, chuckling softly to themselves. And I can see, through the sparkle of sun on water, algae-furred rounded stones lying on the muddy bottom.

Yesterday, I almost lost a shoe in that mud's cousin out here on the bank. And it didn't matter. Because the experience of the creek from here is magnificent. The experience of the creek from here reminds me that I'm alive.

There is such infinite peace here. My edges soften and blur and take on the contours of tree and stone and murmuring water. I am, simply, home.

This desire to be off the beaten path…

…rises from so many parts of me. Rises from my multipotentialed curiosity, from my highly sensitive self needing the space and the ease of natural spaces to recover, from my introverted self for the same reasons, and for my Crone-woman self.

The more years I spend on this Earth the more aware I become of how essential these spaces and experiences are to reminding me of why I'm here.

I am a being of experience and senses. For me in particular, translating those experiences into words and sharing them…

that's part of why I'm here.

I'm rambling on muddy trails so other people will be inspired to do the same. I'm laughing about almost losing shoes in the mud, so other people will laugh about muddy near misses, too. And so people will fall in love with this place, with this Earth. Perhaps we can rediscover our sense of belonging, and work to ensure that all species, including humans, thrive.

But it's not just to be in service to the Earth that I am here off these beaten trails…

It's also to be in service to women like me.

Women who have walked so much of their lives feeling like they were skirting around the edges. Like they didn't belong. Like they didn't quite fit.

When I wander a new trail, even if it's only new to me, and share that experience, I like to think that it inspires women like me to do the same. And when I share how these out-of-the-way places, these trails that are often unpeopled, help me to find a deep sense of belonging, then my hope is that women like me - women like us - will recover their belonging and start to share their own off the beaten trail experiences.

But it's also about courage. It's also about developing our capacity to navigate unknown terrain despite being scared, or worried, or anxious. Unknown external terrain and unknown internal terrain.

Because, if we're being ourselves, if we're following the urge that takes us to these off the beaten path places, there's a lot of unknown terrain to navigate.

Can you imagine how much richer our culture would be if women like us shared our experiences rather than discounting them?

Terrified and hopeful

Recently, driven by a restless yearning for thinking of substance and concern for the future of this country I call home, I've been drinking in great gulps of Terry Tempest Williams' "The Open Space of Democracy."

It started because I’ve been trying to stay present and engaged in the events of this world and that’s tumbled me like a river stone and deposited me into a space both terrified and hopeful. I’m qware of systems - natural, social, and political - collapsing. I can smell the salty tang of evolution in the wind.

My wild she-who-remembers-her-interconnectedness self understands what’s happening. My indoctrinated-in-separateness human self wants to panic.

When I take several steps back and look from the outside, this divisive and chaotic mess looks like the decay it is. In our collective ecosystem, diseased old trees are beginning to fall. Space in the canopy is being cleared for sunlight to reach through. Soil is being made. Fertile places are being prepared for new systems to set their roots. It’s death so rebirth can happen.

Seen through the eyes of one fragile human who depends - or thinks she depends - on the collapsing systems for survival, it's hard to remember this. Hopelessness and apathy stalk me, snarling softly.

So I turn to the words of one who has walked this trail before me, finding both solace and warning.

"Expect anything.
Patience is more powerful than anger. Humor is more attractive than fear.
Pay attention. Listen. We are most alive when discovering.
Humility is the capacity to see.
Suffering comes, we do not have to create it,
We are meant to live simply.
We are meant to be joyful.
Life continues with and without us.
Beauty is another word for God."
- Terry Tempest Williams "The Open Space of Democracy"

Image credit: Unsplash


Work-at-home-nomad

Work-at-home nomad

I’ve become
a work-at-home nomad.


No longer
desk sitting
(at least not exclusively)


traveling
to the places
where I feel
the land calling


places where
my body’s presence
pulls me to
wild communion


body leading -
mind and heart
passengers,
scribes illuminating
muscled semaphore


making wordscapes
from a wordless
commingling
of Place and
Presence.

© 2013/2019 Tracie Nichols

Sometimes

sometimes
riding life's
currents requires
a wider stance

a lower center
of gravity

spacious
fluid
joints

sometimes
rubbing along
life's twists is as
comfortable as
tender new skin
abruptly meeting
sharp, shifting
gravel shards

sometimes life's
molten, shaking growth
spurts ask us to be
something we've never been

that's OK

every mountain
and river and valley
was once a flat and
easy walk

think how glorious
they are now...

sometimes - © 2018 Tracie Nichols

Poet's Rebellion

Despite having blogged fairly prolifically over the past decade, lately I haven't wanted to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) in that way. I mean, the aversion has been almost visceral. I haven't even wanted to journal. And though I've never been wildly consistent about journaling, it's always felt like home.

Trusting my voice, my internal guidance system, has been an unfolding and daily practice throughout my life. So, it took a bit for me to realize that I wasn't just being lazy or crazy, or avoiding writing. My body wisdom was adjusting how I move through my days to meet my emerging, changing creative rhythms as a crone. I didn't want to write the way I had been writing because my writing needs to take on a different cultural role.

An oh-so-wise pre-crone friend reminded me that, as crones, we've moved outside the confines of patriarchal attention and expectation. We've been dismissed, therefore we're off the radar. Which is bullshit, yes. Their loss, definitely. And...it also offers us maneuvering room those still being tracked don't have. We're in a position to be uniquely subversive.

When I finally wrote again this morning, what flowed from my heart to my fingers was a poem I've called Poet's Rebellion. Because confining my words to well-regulated structures? Yeah. Not happening.

constraining my
wet-from-the-muse-womb
words to structures
breaks me a little
each time

to confine them in boxes created
by a culture gone mad
with categorizing and naming and
keywording and tagging

I
simply
cannot

each word
each breath-infused
syllable
is a tiny fragment
of livingness

and yes life,
she has rhythms and
patterns and
life-giving structures
that teach unfolding
generations how to
create life anew

but - oh my aching heart -
they are life-giving structures
not the stranglehold of
stagnating expectations found
in so many corners
down so many virtual alleys
in this conform or
be shunned culture
in this conform
and die slowly
society

to type letters
and coalesce them into
wordscapes meant to free
is both smile-inducing gift
and shoulder-bowing responsibility
to give them life
then shackle them to
the weight of “musts” and
tangle them in the bindweed
of “isms”

I
simply
cannot.

Poet’s Rebellion © 2019 Tracie Nichols

The Answer to Upheaval

Spring - any seasonal or life transition really - brings it's measure of chaos. 

Facets of life are being shuffled and redistributed. Whether by your hand or by the fine fingers of the Universe.

Chaos, while productive and essential, can become frustrating…annoying…exhausting. Sometimes, you just need the craziness to give it a rest.

I get that…so much right now.

When I need life to give it a rest, I plunk myself down in the middle of the mess, take deep breaths (lots), and counterintuitively open my heart wide. I become a well of stillness and compassion in the middle of the spinning life facets. I just refuse to spin with them anymore.

And then I listen for the rhythms, synchronicity, patterns that will weave everything together into it's new form.

Once you see the pattern it's much easier to deal with the lolloping looniness. It may not all settle into the pattern(s) you've discerned, but you know it will. And that helps. A lot. (For me, anyway.)

You are not at the mercy of anything

You are not at the mercy of anything

The most interesting stuff happens when I’m showering. In my head, I mean. This morning, for example, this cloud of mosquito thoughts dodging around the periphery of my brain came together finally and handed me this insight:

No matter what I think has been happening lately … I’ve been acting like a victim. In my life, and in the relationship I have with my business. (I can’t tell you how many time the phrase “at the mercy of….” has shown up in my journaling and during the hundreds of silent conversations I have with myself throughout a day.)

Applying nature’s wisdom to social change work

Applying nature’s wisdom to social change work

I have these groovy cards (kinda like flashcards) from Toby Lynn Herzlich of Biomimicry for Social Innovation.

They talk about applying nature’s wisdom to our social change work.

To restructuring leadership and organizations as living systems so they are more effective.

To making organizations function as living systems based on the principles of life so they are creating conditions conducive to life for all life. Human, more-than-human. All of us.

Why do things feel so.. off?

Why do things feel so.. off?

Cicadas are singing again, here in the edge-of-wild suburban ecosystem where I live. The thunderstorms are wild. Breezes are more water than air. Heat lays in visible-to-the-eye curves over soft hills and valleys.

In the northern hemisphere, summer is nearing her mid-point.

The ferocious growth rush of spring and early summer is settling into a long, lazy wander toward full fruiting and harvest.

In response to nature’s signals, I can feel lulling energy pulling at me. Thoughts curl in lazy spirals. Doing has less meaning. Being centers itself in my awareness.

Facing Reality

Facing Reality

Looking at my inbox this morning there were two more.

Two more emails from wise, compassionate people talking about ways to survive the intensity of the world while still doing our work and living our lives. I’ve lost count of how many similar emails I’ve received (and sent, over the years).

Admittedly, the capacious number is down to both the kind of community I’ve built and the expanding number of incomprehensible events slamming into our collective awareness almost daily.

In the borderlands among aging and body-wisdom

In the borderlands among aging and body-wisdom

I’d recently finished a really big project for my business. Always an energy expensive thing to do, I was expecting to need a bit of extra restorative time. Some deeper self-care.

But when I landed on the other side of the project, I found myself not only deeply tired, but also feeling like the fire in my belly that’s always been my guide had burnt itself out.

And that was disconcerting. Very disconcerting.