THE PRECIOUSNESS OF A POLAROID

I have been putting off writing a post about Polaroids for a long time because I am not entirely certain that I will be able to adequately tame my emotions surrounding these objects of enchantment, in order to think clearly enough to channel writings that make any kind of sense. My hope is that after you have read this post, you will, at the very least, feel a greater appreciation for and understanding of Polaroids and the preciousness of their nature.

For most of my life, I never thought very much about Polaroids. I thought, as everyone does, that Polaroids were cool, and pretty much left it at that. I went to The University of the Arts (1998-2002) in Philadelphia to study photography (this was just around the time that digital photography began to emerge, and I was educated for the most part in the art of analog photography, using traditional film and darkroom techniques), and I recall during many of our studio classes, we used Polaroids to aid in the exacting of our film shoots.

When you are shooting photographs in a studio setting, there is always a lot of coordination and apparatus, and studio photography is not exactly candid or loose. It is quite a production in fact, and taking a Polaroid beforehand is necessary in order to gauge the lighting and every other aspect of the composition of the shot, so you don’t waste your actual film on getting all of those fine details correct.

We would have a ginormous 4” x 5” camera set up (this means that the actual negative that was produced from this camera was 4” x 5”, which is pretty damn big), and this camera was massive and heavy and cumbersome and crazy. The large 4” x 5” negative film sheets (4” x 5” film does not come in a roll like 35mm film, but in individual 4” x 5” sheets that must be loaded by hand) were rather expensive. So, we would shoot a Polaroid first and if the Polaroid looked perfect, we would then go ahead and shoot with actual film. Since I found studio photography tedious and un-inspirational in general, I linked Polaroids with just one of the many aspects of a very boring and time-consuming creative process.

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The 4” x 5” sheets of film go behind that rectangular gridded area and this is essentially the frame of the shot. Image obtained from here.

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This is a 4” x 5” film holder and only two sheets of 4” x 5” film go in here, one on each side. PS, you have to load this film blind in a pitch-black room so you don’t expose the film.

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This is an exposed and developed 4” x 5” negative, ready to be enlarged and printed in the darkroom. These are also great for making contact prints, which means that you don’t enlarge the image, you print the image at the actual size of the negative. In general, when you enlarge something, you gradually lose quality the bigger you go. But when you make a contact print, the quality is 1:1, so contact prints are incredibly crisp and delightful.

The only time I enjoyed using Polaroids was when the department head would get a new camera and would want to test it out and play with it, and we would all mess around in the studio, taking fun Polaroids of each other. In many ways, this messing around with a camera reflects one of the fundamental natures of a Polaroid—FUN—and the studio photographic process seemed to take all of the fun out of something that was so potentially dreamy. An instant photograph is truly dreamy when you really break it down, and even though I didn’t care for the exactness of studio photography, it is important to note the versatility of this amazing product; up until digital photography took over, a studio photographer literally could not do his or her job without the assistance of Polaroids.

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Playtime in the studio with Polaroids

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Worktime in the studio with Polaroids…I hated this shoot and felt 100% uninspired…

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Taking a break outside the studio, probably on my way to get pizza. PS I loved that coat…

As I gained greater exposure (pun not intended, but accidentally awesome) to the Polaroid and its many uses, I began warming to this phenomenal invention, and really started to become rather attached to having “The Polaroid” in my life, feeling an exquisite lack if I went too long without utilizing some form of Polaroid-ic process in my creative work. Also around this time in college, Polaroid released a fun-as-hell plastic camera called an i-Zone (1999). The camera was small and lightweight and the Polaroids it produced were preciously miniature. The image itself was only about 1” x 1 ½” and it spit out of the camera in the form of a brightly colored strip of paper with the image in the center. This camera was perfect to take with you to a bar or a party and just snap away, capturing the evening of magic and madness.

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So now that we have smart phones and Instagram to capture images of fun times with friends, and massive digital cameras to take care of perfecting studio photography, what now is so great about a Polaroid picture, and why is it so precious?

For one thing, Polaroids are currently quite rare and in order to obtain a Polaroid camera, you can’t go into any old store and buy it like you could in the 80s. You have to order it online, bid for a used one on eBay, or maybe if you are lucky, you can find one in your parents’ attic (if you are of a certain age). Even if and when you do get your hands on a Polaroid camera, you still have to purchase the expensive film. One pack of Polaroid film is $16.99 on Amazon and you only get EIGHT Polaroid pictures out of that! I actually ordered a Polaroid camera (not an original, but a newer version) online a few years ago and it sucks. It actually doesn’t even work now and I can’t figure out how to make it work. It was over $100. And the images I did take with it looked terrible. They were washed out and whitish and just not the same as original Polaroids. Even the worst looking Polaroid back in the day was still beautiful in terms of quality.

In general, the nature of rarity implies preciousness. If you don’t have something anymore and you want it back (one version of rare), this object of desire becomes that much more precious to you, as you long for its return. If you have finally obtained something that you have wanted for a long time and have worked very hard to get (another version of rare), you don’t want to lose it, and that thing feels extraordinarily precious to the point of desperate clinging. I personally feel both versions of pain when it comes to Polaroids.

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The operative word in the above definition for “precious” is “object,” and in my opinion, the object-like nature of a Polaroid is what sets it apart from all other forms of photography, with the exception of the Daguerreotype, the most precious photographic object of all [if you are curious, click here to read my post about The Incredible Daguerreotype].

Photography in general is quite an elusive medium. It is essentially the process of capturing little particles of light and holding them in a box, then regurgitating those particles of light in whatever way the photographer chooses. This is fundamentally a process of removal (within the process of creating something new), and with each step of the process, more and more of reality is subtracted. By the time we have our finished product, it is only a whisper of actuality, which is what truly makes photography so fantastical. However, we give up a token of concrete reality in place of the slippery image we have created, and that token is part of what makes something precious. No one wants a picture of a baby when they can hold the actual baby in their arms and feel it breathing. No one wants a picture of a sunset when they can be on a beach and feel the warm light dancing across their face. The preciousness of reality, that token of tangibility, like a gem in the palm of our hands (as opposed to just an image of said gem), is removed during the photographic process, and a Polaroid is one of the few comforting antidotes to that loss.

[Keep in mind, the Polaroid doesn’t pretend be the messenger of any image-based factual reality, but it does offer us something compact that we can literally grasp and actually feel.]

A Polaroid combines the dream-like nuances of everything fleeting about the photographic process, with something you can still hold in your hand, like a jewel-encrusted locket. Of course, we can hold in our hands a 4” x 6” snapshot or a digital printout of an image as well, but it doesn’t have the same effect. The amazing part about a Polaroid, and my favorite aspect, is its encasement. The Polaroid represents the product of what is literally a portable darkroom, showcased within a sharp white frame. The Polaroid camera itself is a box that handles the shooting, the developing, the printing, and the framing, all in one machine, and the Polaroid picture is the prize for such efficiency. For the most part, I don’t even really care how the image of a Polaroid picture looks. The object-ness of the thing wins me over every time.

The misleading aspect of Polaroid pictures is the image quality. In general, the images produced from a Polaroid camera are pretty lousy. Many of us take one look at a Polaroid and feel a speck of frustration from the lack of information that a Polaroid provides. We inspect the image and have a little fun with the fact that it only took about 60 seconds to produce, and we literally toss them aside. Polaroids are the quintessential tossable photographic images. And it is true, the quality is always off, always fuzzy, nothing crisp, with color shifts and glitchy spots. There is very little a person can actually control with a Polaroid picture, and this tends to piss people off, or at the very least, bum them out. However, I take the opposite stance, and believe that once that surrender of control is embraced, so much beauty emerges, if you just take the time to observe.

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A cropped portion of one of my Polaroids. Look how dreamy and beautiful this image is. The various shades of green deliver me to a blurred and magical forest, dripping with life and vegetation; and that strip of golden goop lining the bottom edge is a wonderful accident that just happened. The image is reminiscent of an actual dream.

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Close up on the goop. This is evidence of the portable darkroom aspect of Polaroid picture production. In short, when the image is captured within the camera, a light sensitive chemical process takes place inside the box, and when the image is spit out, the chemicals are smeared across the image. This is why you always have to wait a minute or so for a Polaroid to complete its developing process, because the goop that smears across the image is still working. This golden strip is just a bit of that beautiful goop that accidentally hopped outside of the frame, and it’s my favorite part. If you want to geek out on the process, this article explains it pretty well. 

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In order to understand the precious nature of a Polaroid, I think it’s important to inspect the back of a Polaroid as well as the front. I happen to LOVE the backs of Polaroids. The square inside the frame is matte and silky and decadent, like black chocolate truffles.

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One of my Polaroids from 2004 (this is the full version of the goop-lined close-up example from above). I am an abstract photographer by nature, so I’ve never been interested in capturing reality in a photograph, but rather creating another reality entirely.

I swear I’m not the only one who thinks Polaroids are incredible, and even though I’m not an art historian, I think I would be missing something if I didn’t mention Gerhard Richter in a post about Polaroids.

Gerhard Richter (don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure I’m not far off) was one of the first, if not the only, contemporary artists to put Polaroids on the map in terms of “high art” and “fine art,” and Polaroids are often an integral part of his body of work. He uses Polaroids in sketches and collages, often paints in the style of a Polaroid (blurry and hazy with washed out colors), and also paints over photographs and Polaroids. If you don’t know who Gerhard Richter is, in 2016, he was listed as one of the top 10 highest paid artists with a net worth of $40M. In 2013, one of his paintings sold for $37M at Sotheby’s. Not that money should be the deciding factor when it comes to art (unfortunately, money tends to be the deciding factor when it comes to many, many things), but Richter is influential in the contemporary art world, so if he is saying that Polaroids kick ass, people in the art world listen.

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One of my favorite creations by Gerhard Richter. He combined two things I love the most in art—Polaroids and collage. Image obtained here.

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I can’t find an image credit for this one and I don’t know if this is using a Polaroid or not, but this is to give you a general idea of how he plays with imagery, mixing photographic images with paint and creating an alternate reality within this clashing of opposing worlds.

If you can obtain some old Polaroids of your own (attics and basements in the homes of family members is a good place to start), I’m envious of, but also happy for you. I only have a handful of Polaroids left from 2004 and I am working on converting them to a series. They had been sitting in an envelope for 15 years and when I finally took a closer look at them, I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were/are. I hope I did the Polaroid at least a little bit of justice, and I hope the next time you come across one, if ever, you will take the time to hold it in your hands, turn it over and feel that silky black surface, and enjoy for a moment, the wonder of this precious object.

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The beginnings of my series of Abstract Polaroids ca. 2004

SPIRIT ANIMALS

I feel so much gratitude this week, coming off of a rich and inspirational weekend with my tribe. Last year, for the first time, we decided to rent a house in the woods of Pennsylvania for a weekend, and the trip was cathartic and beautiful and amazing. We decided to do the same thing again this year, and this gathering was another resounding success. There is too much that happened and most of it is quite sacred to me, not even appropriate to share on my beloved blog. However, I do feel excited to share with you the details of one of the exercises that took place on this trip (each of us plans a spiritually reflective activity or workshop for the group to partake in). The exercise I led focused on exploring our individual spirit animals, and it was incredible and super fun! If you are fortunate enough to have a tribe, or even just a group of friends who are open to new things and with whom you feel comfortable being vulnerable with, give this a whirl!

If you are new to the idea of spirit animals, I recommend taking a look at Animal Speak by Ted Andrews. I acquired this book long ago and use it regularly, especially to translate the meaning of animals that appear in my dreams. My copy of this book is tattered and torn from over-use and I always learn something new when I refer to it. Also, Ted Andrews is generally considered a bit of an authority when it comes to all things nature-spirit-related, so if you are going to invest in any book about this kind of thing, I would go with anything by Ted Andrews.

PREPARATION

To prepare for this exercise, I purchased five small picture frames, one for each member of the tribe. I went with 5″ x 5″ and they were about $8 each at Michael’s Arts and Crafts. I then cut out five equal squares of bright white Bristol paper (any paper will do, but thicker is better) to fit within the dimensions of the frame. On one side of each square, I printed one of the names of each of our tribe members, so essentially, one square of paper for each member of the group.

I also purchased one large packet of colored pencils and one small packet of liquid glitter pens. I divided up the colored pencils and separated them into small bundles of four colored pencils each, keeping each bundle within a certain color group. For instance, one bundle had a yellow green, and dark green, a grass green, and an emerald green. Another bundle had an auburn color, a dark orange, a rust red, and another darky orange color. Then I matched each bundle with a color corresponding glitter pen. There were leftover neutral colors like browns and grays and blacks, so I kept these all together so everyone in the group could use them. Finally, I wrapped each bundle in a fun animal print wrapping paper and mixed them up so I couldn’t tell which color bundle was which. This whole sorting out of colors process was maybe the most exciting and fun in terms of preparation but also made me the most psychotically frenzied. Definitely don’t stress out about this part and just have fun with it!

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Finally, I selected a meditation track to be played during the exercise. I went with my intuition on this and also made sure to choose a track that I thought everyone would love. I typed in “Spirit Animal Meditation” and sampled different tracks. I ended up going with a beautiful and very evocative track called “Animal Images” by Shamanic Drumming World. I highly recommend using this track, as it was very effective and everyone LOVED it.

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THE EXERCISE

When it came time to begin the exercise, I set up the room beforehand and laid down the five white squares of paper (VERY IMPORTANT: KEEP THE SIDE THAT HAS THE NAME OF EACH PERSON IN THE GROUP FACE DOWN AND MAKE SURE TO TELL THE GROUP THAT THEY ARE NOT TO TURN THEM OVER), the five wrapped colored pencil packets, and five pencils. Before the group entered the room, I told them to pick a seat where they felt comfortable, and to intuitively choose one square of paper, one wrapped bundle, and one pencil, again reminding them not to turn over their square of paper. I also had them each choose a hard surface, such as a book, to lean on, so they could remain comfortable and work in their laps.

Once everyone was seated, I explained to them what we were going to do. I essentially told them that one of the members of the tribe’s name was printed on the back of their card, and that we were each going to be tapping into the spirit animal for that person, and then illustrate the animal on the card. I also told them that the bundle they chose contained several colored pencils and a matching glitter pen, and that this reflected the color energy of their spirit animal. I asked that they use those specific colors within their illustration since the color is just as significant as the animal. [I let everyone know that of course, if someone needs to borrow another color from someone, that’s fine, but it is important to stick to the color scheme that each person intuitively chose.] I made sure we did the meditation before we revealed the color, so our meditation would also not be tainted or influenced by the color we selected.

I played the meditation track, which was about four and a half minutes long, and checked in with everyone after the track was complete. This is a group activity, so of course, if someone needs more time, we all wait patiently, no pressure at all. Once we were all ready, we each went around and opened our wrapped bundles to reveal our spirit animal color. The surprise factor was the funnest part of this whole thing and we all loved it! Some group members saw colors during their meditation and ended up with that same color–nothing is a coincidence! Other group members felt uncomfortable with the color they received, indicating that they had effectively channeled the energy of another tribe member and clearly not their own. Once we had all opened our color bundles, I made sure to INSIST that everyone use the glitter in some part of their illustration. Glitter is an often overlooked and underutilized medium, but it is very important, especially when it comes to spirit, animals, and magic! Glitter is truly DER BERST thing ever invented…

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Everyone in our group is a highly gifted intuitive, so I didn’t really have to get into much detail with them about how to do their meditation and how to call upon the spirit animal. Some of us used reiki, and some of us asked our guides for assistance. For the most part, every one of us had a spirit animal reveal itself very quickly, and for the remainder of the meditation, each tribe member spent that time gathering more information about the animal, it’s environment, it’s personality, it’s significance, etc. I understand that working with intuition may be new to many people and can feel intimidating. However, it can be a very simple process, and the more you use it, the stronger your intuitive abilities become. For those of you who are new to intuitive meditations, here are some basics to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you are surrounded by people you trust and feel safe with.
  • Make sure your body is comfortable and relaxed.
  • Close your eyes and take some deep breaths.
  • It may be helpful to place your hand on the object (in this case, the square of paper with the person’s name printed on the back) so you can tap into the energy.
  • Your mind does not have to be completely clear, but make sure your mind is not racing with thoughts. Your mind should be calm and open. Let go and allow. [I had an animal in my mind before I began my meditation, but that was the animal I created with my thinking mind. When I actually closed my eyes and asked, a completely different animal appeared and it was very clear and remained clear for the entire meditation. This is the difference between using your thinking mind and your intuitive mind. It’s subtle but distinctive.]
  • Ask in your mind a direct question, such as, “Please show me the spirit animal for this person.” You don’t necessarily need to know who you’re asking, and you can default to something like “Spirit” or “Source” or “God” if you are unsure, but if you still feel like you want to address an entity of some kind.
  • If you do have angels or guides whom you connect with regularly, ask them to assist you.
  • If your mind bounces from one animal to another and doesn’t really stick to any one thing, that probably means that you are using your mind too much and not your intuition. When you are using your intuition, the response is usually pretty clear and simple and you can feel it. Emotions might accompany the information you receive. But if your mind is too bouncy bouncy, try taking some deeper and slower breaths and focusing your mind on something static, such as an apple. It sounds silly but it works. Next thing you know, some animal might pop into your mind’s eye view and take a chomp out of that apple. And that just might be the spirit animal you summoned. Go with it.
  • For this exercise specifically, you can also try imagining an environment in nature, such as an open field, and you can ask for the animal to reveal itself in the field. Just be careful, if for instance your animal is something found in the water, it might have trouble showing itself in that field. Just be open and allow the environment to change if it wants to. Visualizations are very helpful to concentrate on if your mind is overactive and not relaxed.
  • If you are really having trouble focusing, you can also try concentrating on your third eye area (the space slightly above the bridge of your nose, in the center of your forehead). Take deep breaths and focus only on your third eye. Once your mind has calmed down a bit, then ask again.
  • Try not to doubt yourself, and if you are not sure, just ask for more certainty.
  • Have fun!

Once our meditation was over, I played some lighter and more uplifting music to listen to while we worked on our drawings. I personally chose some tracks by Jai-Jagdeesh, but you can choose whatever you want!

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Final illustrations, from left to right: King Cobra, Mystery Bird (the bird in this meditation was very clear, but not exactly defined in terms of species, and that is okay!), Mink, Elephant, Owl

Once we were finished with our drawings, we each went around and first revealed our drawing (NOT THE PERSON’S NAME…YET) and explained the information that was received during the meditation. This part was so fun because we were all secretly trying to guess who’s animal was who’s and the surprise factor again made it so fun! Once we had all gone around and revealed our animals, we then went around again to reveal who’s name was on the back of each card. Lots of sharing, lots of back and forth, lots of fun and excitement. It was truly magical!

Once the glitter dried, I popped each image into one of the pre-purchased picture frames, and everyone got to take away something sacred from our weekend.

You can conduct this exercise in whatever way you want, but this format allowed for enough structure to make sure the result would be effective, and yet enough openness and time for play. Again, being with a group that is loving and trustworthy is key. Even though this was tons of fun, it was also very sacred and very special and everyone must feel safe to explore and be open within themselves and within the group.

My tribe and their spirit animals..

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Erin’s spirit animal is an owl, channeled and illustrated by Matt

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Matt’s spirit animal is a king cobra, channeled and illustrated by Erin

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Amanda’s spirit animal is a bird, channeled and illustrated by Hillary

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Libby’s spirit animal is a mink, channeled and illustrated by Amanda

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Hillary’s spirit animal is an elephant, channeled and illustrated by Libby

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Beautiful Pennsylvania

 

 

THE GODDESS ATTAINABLE IS EXPANDING

I have created a new and improved website and I’m so excited to share it with you!

This Goddess Attainable blog began in July 2017 and is NOT going anywhere, so don’t worry! However, as of late, I have also been cultivating my lifelong pursuit as an artist. I have kept these platforms separate for some reason, but the time has come to merge, and it feels amazing to finally align in this way. After all, this goddess is not just one thing. She is many things and has many forms of expression. It feels good to have everything all in one place now, and I invite you to enjoy the refurbished Goddess Attainable experience. Again, this blog is not going anywhere and my new website has a link back to this beautiful baby.

I have my artwork not only available to view on this new website, but you can also visit my shop on Society6 if you are hankering for a tangible piece of this goddess. I refuse to be possessed by anyone, but I don’t really mind if you want a memento from The GA to beautify your life.

Visit my new site if you get the chance, follow me on Instagram, sign up for my newsletter, and/or just keep enjoying my blog! Thanks always for the support and until next time…

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THE RETURN OF FLAVIA

Flavia is restless again and I don’t know what to do. I’ve recently taken to strange fits of rocking and bouts of getting up and needing to move around, without purpose or understanding. Most of the time, all I can think about is creating something, and yet I don’t know what to create. I have started a few projects and they have sadly felt like regurgitations of old work—never very inspiring or inspired.

Maybe it’s okay though. Creation is truly a process. All the mediocre gunk has to come out and make room for the amazing. It’s just how it is. The expulsion of literal shit always does feel a bit disgusting and that is just part of the creative process I think. If you have an animal, you need to clean up her poop every day, even if snuggles with her at night make it all worth it.

I feel a bit like there is a fire burning inside of me. I know that sounds silly like something from a poem, or something Al Pacino would say—or if not say, then he’d be thinking or feeling it. Doesn’t it always seem like his insides are kind of on fire a little? I feel something stirring and it doesn’t feel comfortable.

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Image obtained from here

Some artist quotes that I can relate to at the moment:

“All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story; to vomit the anguish up.” -James Baldwin

“I had so much fire in me and so many plans.” -Claude Monet

“The works must be conceived with fire in the soul but executed with clinical coolness”. -Joan Miro.

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” -Michelangelo

“True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.” -Albert Einstein

RETURNOFFLAVIA_Joan-Miro-Woman-Bird-Star

Joan Miro’s quote hit me the hardest. So true for my process. So difficult to manage that fire and not allow it to take over during the creative process. It can’t be a sloppy explosion on the page. It has to be thoughtful and channeled into something great. The raw fire never works in art, I don’t think. That fire needs the artist to tame it somehow and still keep it alive. Very difficult to do. Image: Woman, Bird, and Star [Homage to Picasso] by Joan Miró, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia

I need to create today. I need to go home and create. But I’m scared. I’ve been obsessed with my old work lately. Like obsessively in love with it. Like pining for it. And that’s amazing on one hand, but on the other hand, it keeps me terrified to create new things. The biggest fear as an artist is worrying that the last good thing I created was the last good thing I’ll ever create; and that every attempt moving forward will just be a sad stab at trying to achieve something that I just don’t have in me anymore, that no longer exists.

I think Flavia and I (if you don’t know who Flavia is, you can read my earlier blog post to meet her and get to know her a bit first) are working a little better together these days. Either I have taken on more of her energy, or she has taken on more of mine. Either way, I don’t feel like I’m at odds with her as much and I think I can maybe work with her a little better now and find a way to give her what she needs. What does she need though?

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Perro Aullando [Yelping Dog], 1960 by Rufino Tamayo (Mexican, 1899-1991), Color lithograph, Art © Tamayo Heirs / Mexico / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, Minneapolis Institute of Art.

I think she needs to do something she’s never done before. She’s not stupid and she’s not dull. She gets bored really very easily and repetition actually makes her a bit angry. She needs new. It doesn’t even matter if it’s good or bad new, it just needs to be fresh and she’ll be fine.

The need for new is scary also. This goddess can get comfortable with the same steady and secure flow. Mixing things up is always a bit dangerous. What if things go terribly and failingly awful? And yet, even this goddess knows that the stuff that art is made of is monumentally and crushingly groundbreaking. It must be. Flavia will make me brave.

I feel like Martin Short in Innerspace. If you have never seen this 1987 film, I’ll give you the brief scoop. Martin Short is this mousy, every day guy (this goddess can’t relate to that, but just go with this analogy for a sec) and he’s accidentally been injected with a miniaturized machine piloted by Dennis Quaid, an experimental scientist who was expecting to be injected into a rabbit. Dennis Quaid has the balls of the pair and over the course of the movie, gives Martin Short that bit of umph and confidence he was always lacking. In turn, Martin Short protects Dennis Quaid and aids him in returning to the real world, safely and soundly. Still, the entire process for Martin Short is literally painful, uncomfortable, unnatural, and he resists the reality of his situation for much of the movie, making his life more difficult. Once he finally lets go, both of them begin to help each other. It’s kind of a brilliant movie that everyone should watch.

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Film still from Innerspace. Watch a 2-minute clip from the movie here.

Anyway, Flavia must make me brave, like Dennis Quaid did for Martin Short. Flavia’s not scared. Not in the least. And I’m not so scared that I can’t move forward. I just hope it all goes well. And I know I’ll feel better once I create something that makes sense of all of this mess. Once I create something that is new and fresh and opens me up a bit, Flavia will relax, I know it. I just have to give her what she needs tonight and hope she doesn’t injure me in the process. It might feel like shit coming out or it might feel flowing and amazing. I have no idea and won’t know until I start.

I will let you know how it goes and get back to you soon…

FINDING PEACE AT WORK

For the most part, everyone in my life, with the exception of a few, is absolutely miserable at work, most of the time. The people I care about the most, day in and day out, struggle with their work life, and at times it becomes difficult for me to witness. It burdens me that my loved ones are suffering at least 40 hours of their week, every week of every year. Although for the most part, these same people are usually working much, much more than 40 hours a week. I can see the toll it takes on their health, their relationships, and their overall sense of joy in life, and it is a major bummer. For reasons I will detail below, I do not have this problem, and I do not believe that it is because I am more fortunate, or luckier, or smarter, or fill-in-the-blank. I believe it is because I choose not to tolerate a lot of shit that others might tolerate. And I believe that most people don’t think they deserve to be happy at work, or worse than that, they don’t believe happiness and peace at work is even possible.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHANGE JOBS

I know this is scary. I know that even the thought of upheaving your life, searching for a new job, going through the nerve-wracking process of interviewing, and then learning a whole new position, can make you wanna barf in your mouth just a little. I know. However, when a situation at work is so bad, and you have concluded that no matter what you do, you are not working in an emotionally and/or professionally supportive environment—yes, that should be your bar—then it’s time to leave. End of story.

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Just to give you an idea of what I mean by “bad,” here are a list of just a few symptoms and signs that your work life is under duress and that it’s time for a change:

  • You are so stressed out that you have recurring physical symptoms like tummy troubles, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety attacks, etc. (I quit a job once for the sole reason that every time I walked into that office, my stomach twisted up into knots and didn’t untwist until I left).
  • Your personal relationships are affected by your job (arguments with your partner regarding work, loved ones complaining about not getting to see you enough, working at home when you should be spending time with your loved ones, coming home really late and missing out on family and friend time)
  • You live in fear of your boss and walk on eggshells around him or her
  • Vacation time and sick time are problematic (your boss is mad at you when you take off or guilt trips you when you ask, you are not even granted time off unless it is an extreme emergency, and when you do take time off you come back with an insurmountable and overwhelming workload)
  • You dread going to work every day (or most days) and you don’t feel better or relieved once you leave because you have to do it all over again the next day

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This is no way to live…

THE BOSS FACTOR

The most important relationship you have at work is the relationship you have with your upper (boss, supervisor, head, whatever). Pay close attention to the way this person (or people) address your concerns and respond to your needs. And let me back up and start by saying that you should be able to express your professional needs and concerns to your boss at all times. If you have not yet attempted to do this, then that is on you. And if you have concluded that they are incapable of meeting your needs, being sensitive to your concerns, and above all else, are incapable of acting in the name of your needs, then you are in an unsupportive environment. And an unsupportive work environment is essentially the equivalent of an abusive relationship. No matter what you do, you will not thrive in this environment. It’s not personal. It’s them, not you, and you need to get out. Don’t make excuses for your boss or offer up reasons why they are so unsupportive (they are crazy, they are an asshole, they are stressed out and have way too much worry about, etc.). Some or all of these excuses may be true, but that is irrelevant. Regardless of the reasons why your boss sucks, you need to leave. No one will pluck you out of a terrible situation and move you into a better situation. You have to pluck yourself.

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Film stills from Wonder Woman (2017): Remember when Wonder Woman plucked Steve from the sea? Well, even though WW is amazing and can do almost anything, she can’t save you from this and you have to save yourself. No one else will, and this is exactly how it should be.

Imagine if you went to your love partner or friend and told them, “Hey, I have been doing my best and yet I am feeling really overwhelmed and unhappy because of this and this and this, and it would be really great if you could _________.” I know that your intimate or personal relationship is not the same as your work relationship, but the same principles apply. You as a human being have every right to state your reasonable needs and expect for them to be heard and considered. Also, it doesn’t count if your needs are heard, your conversation goes well, but the same patterns keep happening. You must hold your uppers accountable, and when it comes to work, words of reassurance are not always enough. At times, action must be taken in the name of YOU. And if your boss ignores your needs, makes you feel guilty for asking, threatens your position, and/or does not follow through on promises, then they are most likely never going to. At the very least, your boss should be honest with you about what is possible, and if they can’t meet your needs, they should tell you something along the lines of, “I’m sorry but I am not able to do this for you at this time because of this and this and this reason, but what else can I do to ensure that you are feeling valued and that you can stay with us?” or “I will try to work on this problem for you, if you could just be patient, and please check back with me in six months,” or ideally, “I didn’t realize this was a problem and I thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will take care of this for you and please let me know if you have any other concerns. We value you as an employee and want to make sure you stay with us for a very long time.”

MONEY

If you’re broke, that’s reason enough to look for another job that offers better compensation.

KNOW WHEN TO BE PATIENT AND WHEN TO BOLT

If you have already concluded that your job and/or boss sucks, and you have already been putting yourself out into the job market, good for you! Now all you can do is hang in there and be patient. It is not advisable to quit your job with nothing else lined up and you will find something eventually.

However, if your situation is really bad, as I have described above, please consider leaving your current job for any kind of job that hires you, as long as the pay and benefits are at least equal to what you are receiving now. You might know that you need to leave but are holding out for that “perfect position” that will be the answer to all of your work woes. However, that might be a bit unrealistic and when things are really bad, you have your health and relationships to worry about. Don’t waste more time than you need to holding out for a specific position if your personal life is going downhill. Your health matters and your relationships matter, more than anything else the world. When all is said and done, all you have left are the people that matter most to you and the health of your body. You are dead without your health and there is no joy without love. So, keep those things in perspective as you dredge through your days, hoping for a way out.

When you are in a survival situation at work, focus all of your energy on getting out. Finding peace at work is a process and it takes time. You might have to take two or three or more positions until you get to the one that meets your needs completely. Finding peace at work is kind of like finding a good relationship. You have to date and you might have a lot of shit experiences until you find someone who adds to your life, rather than taketh away. But staying at a shitty job is like staying in an abusive relationship. And you can’t get to that one great partner until you leave your current shit partner. With each person, you learn more and you realize what will and won’t work for you. It’s the same with your job and it’s a process.

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Over the Rainbow by Jim Warren

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I will end this post by giving you a laundry list of symptoms and signs that represent what finding peace at work should look and feel like.

  • You feel peaceful when you think about your job, as if it’s a second home, a second family
  • Even though you may come up against conflicts and disagreements with your uppers and co-workers, you can easily work them out together and move on without resentments or any harsh backlash
  • You have people at work who value you, tell you they value you, and show you they value you (praise, promotions, kindness, patience, understanding when you make mistakes, concern for your well-being)
  • You, for the most part, enjoy what you are doing during your day (more than 50% of the time)
  • You might have a stressful day here or there and there may be days when you dread going to work if you have something stressful to face, but these days are few and far between
  • You have fair pay with opportunities for growth, and you receive benefits such as healthcare, retirement contributions, paid vacation and sick time, or some other variation of equivalent benefits that meet your needs
  • Your job is aligned with your personality and skill set (if you are a people-person, make sure you are not in a remote office location where you rarely interact with others; if you are amazing at numbers, make sure your job involves numbers so you can shine and show off to everyone how amazing you are—FYI, not everyone is good at numbers, so if you are, own that shit!)
  • Your commute is manageable (maybe not ideal, but manageable)
  • You have time to take adequate breaks during the day in order to clear your mind, get fresh air, and just step away from your tasks

All of this and more is possible and you deserve it, Goddess!

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THE TRUTH ABOUT THERAPY

I think it is a safe assumption that every human being in the world needs and wants love. And it is also safe to assume that many of us do not always receive the kind of love and/or the amount of love we want and need. We might have had a fantastic childhood with loving parents, but maybe we were teased as children and that may have stripped us of a portion our love quotient. Or maybe our parents kinda sucked and we learned to depend on our friends, getting by, but still suffering from a deep love depletion. Either way, most of us in our adult lives have hopefully found ways to get the love we need and want, but there are always gaps and cracks lurking within our emotional topography, and love-lack is a fact of being human.

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@libbysaylor

I also believe there is a great amount of shame contained within this love-lack epidemic. I think human beings walk around all of the time feeling unloved, empty, confused, and broken, and usually believe they feel this way because they suck. Or, one might believe that everyone else sucks, but I think that is just an easier way to deal with the feelings of emptiness. Because when you get right down to it, it’s really painful to experience loneliness and feelings of not-good-enough-ness, and many people can’t really deal with this kind of pain. They self-medicate, find ways to escape, or latch onto anyone and everyone who sends the slightest bit of kindness their way. The latter method was and is my preferred method of choice. To me it makes the most sense to just reach out for love. But when we feel empty and gross and unlovable, we can reach too hard and too far and too fast, push others away, and feel even worse. Or, if self-medication is your faux-healing style, you might drink or drug or eat yourself into oblivion, leading to again…feeling much worse.

THERE IS ANOTHER WAY TO DEAL WITH THE PAIN, AND IT ACTUALLY MUST INVOLVE ANOTHER PERSON

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Two Clouds, Montana 2006 by Jay Wesler

I have been going to therapy for years. My father put my twin sister and I into therapy when we were five years old (we had some family trauma going on at the time). At that age, therapy was totally traumatic in and of itself and all it did was make me feel like something was really wrong. I knew something was really wrong, but I also knew that this woman (I remember her name was Nancy and she was really nice) was not really going to be able to actually help in terms of literally and physically relieving me of my actual trauma, and that is all I really wanted. In a way it made me feel lonelier and more frightened because I knew I was safe in that room, but I also knew I couldn’t stay in that room forever, and being there just compounded my feelings of sadness and fear, knowing that I couldn’t just go home with kind Nancy. I felt frustrated being taunted by the refuge of all that was Nancy. Why show me what I can’t have right now? It simply hurt too much to touch that level of kindness and love amidst all of the fear I was experiencing. Better to just forget that kind of love is even possible and work on simply trying to survive the storm. When you’re stuck in a storm, vulnerability keeps you exposed and shields keep you protected. I just couldn’t afford to feel the softness of love from someone who couldn’t save me, and I preferred to put my energy into building barriers of protection. Therefore, my stint with Nancy was quite brief.

In college, I returned to therapy, this time with a very different agenda. I no longer needed assistance with trauma, as I had survived my childhood and was now attempting to manage my life as a completely broken, insecure, neurotic, and miserable twenty-year-old. This time around, what I really needed from a therapist was a strategic method to help me obtain a boyfriend. For some reason, I had it in my mind that finding a boyfriend would relieve me of all of my painful symptoms of misery, angst, and self-hate. It seemed like a fairly logical and straightforward solution at the time. Unfortunately, I had this knack for repelling men. I was really, really good at it. They would come close, intrigued by my looks and quirk and outward awesomeness, but would quickly scatter after a short, short, short, time spent with me. Many times, a boy would bolt after one conversation. This obviously troubled me greatly and so I set out on a mission to untie the knots of my childhood, knowing my repellent nature was most likely caused by my deep-seated childhood issues. Once I could sort through my shit, find that repellent on/off switch, I could then finally land a male companion who loved me more than anything in the world, who could save me from myself, and who could essentially “make me happy.”

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Freshman year of college, 1998/99. I loved that coat.

This method worked kind of. After a few stints with several therapists, I did “land” a boyfriend. He had lots of love to give and absolutely tried to save me from myself. This worked really well for the both of us in some ways. I finally had someone tending to my needy emotions, refusing to leave me, and he had someone distracting him from his own issues. He was really comfortable playing the role of savior, allowing me to remain in the glamorous role of “crazy broken girlfriend.” I suppose after several years of that, my role began to feel more and more inaccurate and unnecessary, and my attempts at breaking out of that role with him by my side didn’t gel very smoothly. There were things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see and ways in which I wanted to grow, and he just wanted to stay put. The relationship ultimately ended and I left with a newfound mission to find myself and live a life of passion and love. I was devastated by the loss, but it was a move that we both needed to make for ourselves.

[During this period, I saw a really lovely therapist who began to gently present the idea to me that this relationship might not be serving me. I immediately stopped seeing her.]

Six months after the break-up, I found a job in New York City and moved to the Big A in the hopes of finding love, and thus, overall life awesomeness. I honestly didn’t really care that I had this kick-ass job at one of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the world. If my life in NYC didn’t include finding and being with my soulmate, then what was the point really? Boy after boy after boy weaved in and out of my New York Life and shameful disappointments reigned. I wasn’t exactly dating during this period of my life. It was more like I would meet a guy, become instantly obsessed, try not to fuck it up, and then he would inevitably run. Or, if he hung around too long, I would push him away, even though in my mind I had decided that he had rejected me. It was a brutal pattern that I locked myself into and it lasted awhile. I went to therapy for a brief time as well but felt frustrated by her lack of useful advice and lovingly challenging feedback, so I left.

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2007-2011, NYC

After four honestly amazing years of fun, drama, excitement, and adventure, I became fairly convinced that I would probably not find my soulmate in New York. I was also longing for nature and home and was certain that I did not want to live my life as an elderly single spinster in such an urban jungle. In May of 2011 I left the city and returned to Pennsylvania.

I found much stability after leaving the city and for the very first time in my life, lived alone in my own apartment. I am still in my precious little space and it has been a beautiful, cathartic, and profoundly spiritual set of years. My space is so sacred to me, as I have made it so, and I have moved in and out of many growth and healing experiences during this time. My tribe (aka spiritual friend group) was formed since returning to PA, and I also experienced deep healing and forgiveness with the passing of my mother. I have created countless works of art in this space and have dated several men who still sucked but who stuck around a little longer than usual and didn’t suck quite as much as some other guys from my past. Progress.

Upon returning to PA, I of course continued to search for that “perfect therapist” since I was still ultimately single and beginning to lose hope. I was looking for that one therapist who could crack the code of my issues and release me from that mysterious thing that had been keeping me alone for most of my life. Whatever that thing was—I actually thought it was just one thing—I was certain that once I found a good therapist, she would zero in on that thing and help me remove it. She would swoop into my life with her therapy wand and cast away all of the mysteriously toxic muck that had been plaguing me for decades, so I could finally learn how to not be such a loser.

A PERSON’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR THERAPIST IS REFLECTIVE OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH EVERYONE ELSE…A MACROCOSM OF THE MICROCOSM

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I don’t really understand what is going on in this image, but this is what came up when I Googled “macrocosm of the microcosm” and I think it looks pretty kick ass.

One of the main issues that blocked me from receiving the benefits of therapy was my “I have everything under control” mentality. I definitely believed that I knew exactly how to manage my life, I knew what I was doing, I knew what I needed, I knew how to go about getting it, and I really didn’t need anyone else’s input. I would seek input from everyone, including a therapist, whenever I got frustrated with the shitty results of my strenuous and exhausting efforts. But I would also reject everyone else’s input, usually to their faces, and this kept me in a truly vicious cycle of control. Only when I decided to surrender a huge chunk of that control (I might have even surrendered all of it at one point), did things begin to change.

During a point in my life when I felt I was at the end of my rope, perhaps just before The Goddess* arrived, I finally decided that whenever I ask for help, whether that be through prayer, or actual human inquiry, I would listen to whatever was said and take action based on that response. This took a great amount of trust in the Universe. I had to trust that my asking was a symbolic gesture, surrendering myself to the Universe, and that whatever came back was exactly what I needed to hear, an answered prayer so to speak. I blindly trusted that the Universe was working through the people in my life, guiding me and informing me, and I felt safe and relieved to finally be taking someone else’s advice besides my own. I was essentially allowing the Universe to guide me and truly trusted that I would not be led astray. I knew my way just wasn’t working anymore and I opened myself up to the world. I surrendered my control and softened my barriers. I let love in. And it wasn’t scary. It was great and it was easy.

*The Goddess refers to a profound shift I experienced within, after deciding to snap out of my addictive “find the guy” obsession. During this shift, I created The Goddess Attainable blog and continued on my journey with a me-centric love focus.

When I met my current therapist, I thought she was cool enough, although I wasn’t always certain that she “got me.” Our senses of humor were off and I don’t know if she was always able to keep up with my emotional analyses. At a certain point, I grew tired of her feedback or style or whatever thing that I always deemed incorrect about this or that therapist, and I decided I was going to drop her. I was seeing another medical advisor at the time and I casually let her know that I was going to move on from this therapist. I trusted this medical advisor for the most part and was always impressed by her sharp and profound insight. To my surprise, she urged me to maintain this relationship with my current therapist and to confront her about some things that might not be working for me. Dread. Never in a million years did I ever want to tell a therapist (or anyone else I was in a relationship with) my actual feelings about the relationship. Best to just leave and find someone better (this pattern for me has been absurdly repetitive in all of my relationships throughout my entire life). I would have rather done anything than confront my therapist and try to like, work things out. I recall this trusted medical advisor kept using the word “illuminating.” She said this could be an illuminating opportunity for me, and she was absolutely correct.

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@libbysaylor

Somewhere along the line, I learned something monumental about the point of therapy and it has made all the difference.

A GOOD THERAPIST’S MAIN AGENDA IS TO SIMPLY ACT AS A STEADFAST SOURCE OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

My therapist is a person like everyone else. I’m not sure I like her and I honestly have no idea if she likes me. But I do know she loves me. I know that whatever I think or feel or say, no matter what, it’s okay with her. She laughs at my jokes and she roots for me. And I never before saw the value in that. I never made the connection that a person simply loving me could heal me and ready me for more love. My biggest mistake in all of my years of therapy was putting my therapist on a pedestal and knocking her off when too much time had passed with me remaining single. That was literally how I judged all therapists. Honestly, I was so broken for so many years, I just didn’t even really imagine that unconditional love was even possible. Of course, my family members love me and I have always felt supported. But even family members have agendas and biased angles jutting into their streams of love. I know my love for them is biased and full of agendas most of the time. It’s kind of normal and it takes a lot of work to love someone unconditionally. But this is literally a therapist’s job. And most of them are actually pretty good at it. When I look back on all of my therapists, every single one of them (with the exception of “The Yawner” who always talked to me about her eating disorder), was so kind, so gentle, so interested in me, and so available. Perhaps, for so many years, I simply wasn’t ready to let that amount of love in. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for the The Return of Nancy, even in my adult life. Only when I truly decided to surrender it all and open myself up to guidance and assistance, did I actually realize the transformative healing power of unconditional love.

That’s it folks. That’s all there is to it. Pretty simple actually. Go into a room with a person for about fifty minutes and just let them love you. And then go back to that same person next week, and let them love you some more. And keep that going until something changes. It will, if you let it. I wish you luck with this. It’s a beautiful thing and completely worth the co-pay.

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Detail from ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo

WHEN A GODDESS MEETS A MAN

As difficult as it is for a woman to define herself, know who she is, and feel good about herself and her life without a man; it’s equally as difficult for a woman not to lose herself, not to give away her power, and not to disappear completely when she’s with a man.

This post was actually inspired by an article featured in the January 2019 issue of Elle Magazine, “Jennifer Aniston Doesn’t Need A Happy Ending,” by Carina Chocano. The essay is short and subtle but still moving and I highly recommend that all Goddesses take five minutes to read it, as it is very Goddess-Attainable-esque. I love Jennifer Aniston as an icon (since I have no idea who she really is in real life). Over time she has seemingly emerged as this combination of real and unreal, and has in recent years become the embodiment of the ultimate single woman Goddess, kicking ass and finding her way, honestly and confidently. She simply refuses to allow anyone but her to define her, and she continues to calmly communicate in her own relaxed but firm kind of way that, “Nah, that box you want to put me in, nope, that’s not really gonna work for me. I have more important things to do than get bent out of shape over what you think about me.” She’s a grown woman.

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Image courtesy of Elle Magazine. Photographed by Zoey Grossman and Styled by Alison Edmond.

I have to say that being single was pretty easy for me once I stepped into my Goddess. I battled with being single for years and years, struggling uphill against my single-ness, filled with shame and embarrassment over every rejection, over every holiday that I was “still single,” over every woman who walked by and flashed her engagement ring in my face. I am not sure how I actually found my Goddess, but I think it’s safe to say that I just exhausted myself with feeling lousy about being single. I got into my car after a crummy date one night and just decided that I was done living such a powerless existence, and I vowed to do whatever I needed to do to transcend that way of living. I also recognized in that moment that society’s expectations of a woman’s love life are so insidiously poisonous, setting us up to feel terrible about ourselves always—and I got super angry about it, which felt super good. This blog emerged from my conscious decision to put all of those painful expectations down and to instead put myself up.

After about a year and a half of rocking my newfound Goddess energy, my relationship status shifted from single to not single, and I am now having to relearn how to step into my Goddess, only this time in the presence of a man, which is WAY different. It’s super easy for me to be a Goddess with no men around—or rather, with men kept at an arm’s length. Not caring what men think about me and unapologetically expressing my thoughts and feelings as a single woman is totally cake. I can feel pretty and flirty and confident when I am out and about with a man because I know that he won’t ever get to see me up close when I’m a wreck, curled up in a ball of insecure confusion. But bringing a man a bit closer into my Goddess realm exposes this unreachable Goddess to reveal a real woman with real issues.

How does a woman behave like a Goddess within the constructs of a romantic relationship? Spoiler alert: I have no idea and am learning as I go, so I am not going to give any advice in this post. However, I invite you to join me now while I take a deep dive into some juicy and honest exploration.

Firstly, I don’t think there is any way that a woman can discuss how to be a Goddess in a relationship with a man, without first addressing and examining honestly the nature of her relationship with the most powerful male figure in her life: her father.

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My favorite place to be was with my dad. I learned at a very early age the art of clinging neediness and was really, really good at it.

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This is me at three days old, 1979. Don’t you just love retro photography?! Not to mention handlebar mustaches.

My father was (and still is) a very positive, protective, dependable, and consistent force in my life, so one would think that I would have a built-in, hard-wired, healthy perspective surrounding my relationships with men. However, because my relationship with my mother was not so positive (R.I.P Mama, December 20, 2017), my father’s role became that much more powerful in my life and I think this imbalance threw my ideas about men super outtawhack. Unfortunately, I learned very early in my childhood that since my mother’s protection, love, and consistency were not to be relied upon, my life instead actually depended upon my father. I learned that without a man (at such an early age, I believe a girl’s concept of her father and men in general are interchangeable) I was literally, not even metaphorically, but literally unsafe and insecure. I learned that my physical and emotional security was attached to a man and that my life and actual survival were reliant upon a man’s presence. Sadly, my childhood took me through some quite literally unsafe times, and every time my father was there for me, my feelings of terrifying dependence and utter reliance on him grew stronger. In my mind, the loss of my father absolutely equated to the actual death of this young Goddess.

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I’m the crazed looking child on the left with my twinnie twin next to me.

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I have always loved fishing, or maybe just the idea of fishing, because it has always reminded me of nice times with Dad.

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He was a good dad (still is) and took us places. My lovely and beautiful grandmother would often join, making those occasions that much more magical for me, as well as a welcomed escape from the fear-filled days and nights with my mama.

So many of my years of single woman struggles consisted of me grappling with my own deep-seated tendencies to give men all of my power, often without even realizing it. I simply did not know how to unhook from the false belief that I truly needed a man. I did not know any other way to interact with a man, other than by giving him all of my power. It just happened, every single time (and still does to some extent, any time I stop practicing conscious presence in any given moment—which, who in the world can practice conscious presence every moment of the day, every day of the year?) A man would be standing next to me and I would give him my power just standing there. This could come in the form of anything from consciously or obliviously choosing to change how I was standing in the hopes that he might find me more attractive, to obsessively analyzing what he might be thinking or feeling, to any other number of insecure behaviors. Power discarding comes in all shapes and sizes and happens within an instant. And women do it all of the time. All women. Until they learn not to.

In case any woman has not been informed of this fact, I will state clearly for the record that most men really, really hate when women hand over their power. I know this statement is an oversimplification and is kind of a general and trendy sort of thing to say, but there is major truth to it. And the fact that men typically hate when women hand over their power should not be the sole reason that motivates a woman to learn to manage her power in healthier ways (otherwise, that would still be us giving them our power), but it’s a thing we do to ourselves that feels terrible and that men also happen to hate.

Unfortunately, many, many, many men are also terrified and disgusted when we as women own, express, and exert our power, even if we are doing it in beautiful, healthy, Goddess-like ways. Forget about when we are doing it in more assertive, forceful, and/or reckless ways. Most men can’t really tolerate much of that more aggressive style of power assertion in any capacity. So essentially, women are kind of set up to fail either way when it comes to the issue of power. Even my dad, who is pretty great, and pretty progressive and forward thinking in terms of female power and feminism, conveyed negative messages to me about female power at a very early age (most likely, without even realizing it). I can recall one car ride with my father when my sister and I were blasting and singing loudly the hottest song on the radio at the time, Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know. And in the height of our unbridled, emotive, melodic delight, my dad exclaimed, “Why is she so angry?!” I recall feeling angry myself about this comment and I think I blurted out something along the lines of, “Because her boyfriend cheated on her!” or “She’s not that angry!” and felt a strong need to defend ma gurl. None of my reactionary arguments assuaged my father at the time and I do believe he was actually disturbed by the song and Alanis’ intense levels of emotional outrage. He just kind of couldn’t really handle it and seemed to feel a bit scurred by the whole thing.

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Video still from Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know. Click here to watch the “angry” video and listen to her “angry” song.

Aside from power issues that inevitably arise when a Goddess meets a man, there are also those abandonment/daddy issues that well up and ooze out from the depths of the guts of most every Goddess who is practicing honest vulnerability within a relationship. I have had to unlearn in my adult life that when a man “leaves” me in any capacity, deliberately or accidentally threatens to “leave” me, or even harmlessly or temporarily “leaves” me; that those arising fearful feelings that I might actually die, which thankfully occur less and less often with practice, represent very old and deep-seated wounds that need gentle but immediate healing. And no man is capable of healing them for me. These feelings can only be healed by a Goddess’s love for herself. However, it is like a cell memory that’s triggered every time a male enters and exits our space. Enter man = Power Compromised. Exit man = Life Compromised. In many ways, being a single Goddess is so much easier because I can choose to avoid men on any given day and thus avoid having to manage any of those painful and shameful triggers. In a relationship however, there is no escaping it. Going crazy on a guy is not the best option, and shutting down and shutting off is also not healthy for a relationship. Vulnerability is required, and finding the balance between strength and softness, trying to decipher between little girl feelings and grown woman feelings, is like learning a new language. I know the alphabet and I understand how to write and pronounce every letter, but I’ve never put these new letter combinations together before and tried to make sense of them in any real kind of way. But now I must, and fast.

[Just a note that there is a huge difference between a man exiting a woman’s space within the frame of a healthy, caring, nurturing relationship; and a man ghosting a woman, playing mind games, and displaying emotionally unavailable behavior. The latter is the kind of behavior that often feels like death for a woman. If a woman feels like she might die whenever an emotionally available man exits her space, then she might have some much deeper, therapeutic, self-love Goddess work to do before she can truly be with a man in any real and healthy way.]

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Video still from Florence and the Machine’s Delilah. This song (which I LOVE) is all about Flo losing her shit over a guy, trying to cope and not go crazy, but maybe not quite capable of keeping it together on cue, and trying to manage those feelings of shame and self-disgust. This song used to be my anthem during a time when I was obsessing over a super ghosty bloke, and every time I hear it now, I think back on a former Goddess in the making, and it makes me love myself for going through that with open eyes and an open heart. Click here to watch the video and listen to the song.

I know I’m not the only woman (or man for that matter) who has daddy/abandonment issues. In our culture, we witness constantly how women do all kinds of things to manage these feelings, because when they arise, they are beyond uncomfortable to experience running through our minds and washing over our bodies. Some women, if they don’t think they can cope with the discomfort and fear, may actually go psycho hose beast and lose their shit, like Flo in the video above. Other women might come up with some kind of plan to manipulate and keep a man closer than he prefers to be. Women are skilled manipulators by nature and can often act in manipulative ways without even realizing it. In order to survive, our gender has had to find alternative means to gain and/or maintain power through vehicles other than the exertion of physical strength, and manipulative behavior is a quick and temporary substitute for true power. In many cases, manipulative behavior is way more destructive, powerful, and far-reaching than any use of physical brute strength.

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Video still of Miranda Lambert’s Mama’s Broken Heart. I’m a huge fan of women divulging openly and honestly how easily they can lose their shit over a guy and I identify very much with the behavior, even though I choose not to practice it. There is something endearing about a woman admitting how cray cray she can actually allow herself to get, and all the shame and self-hate that goes along with it. Click here to watch the video and listen to this UH-MAZING song.

In order to combat this complicated abandonment-power dynamic, a woman might also simply choose a man who is not exactly on her level of awesome in order to ensure security. If a woman is with a man who doesn’t have his shit together, worships her, and/or allows her to take care of shit that he should be taking care of himself, he’ll probably stick around forever if she let’s him. Her security is intact, although happiness, not so much.

The other way women deal with these fearful feelings is to avoid them all together and essentially attempt to prevent themselves from ever feeling abandoned. Women might avoid men and relationships and/or present themselves as super cold and tough, discarding all vulnerabilities. I actually prefer the psycho hose beast approach rather than this tough gal strategy. The Robust On The Outside Yet Wilting On The Inside technique always makes me think of the Bruce Lee adage, “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” I much prefer to let the unbearable fear run through me and incapacitate me for a time, even if I humiliate myself and/or risk losing my relationship in the process; rather than remain cold and shut down for long periods of time. That method always seems to lead to things like tumors, repressed emotions and explosions, and very little growth.

Goddesses like myself have learned to find constructive ways to manage these feelings of fear and it has only been achieved through arduous trial and error. Honestly exploring and sharing our feelings with a trusted soul is a very direct, mature, and useful tool to ease the process of taking all the muck churning from within and bringing it out into the world for exploration and healing. It’s almost like turning on a light in order to see that the Boogeyman doesn’t actually exist. This particular Goddess, along with other creative Goddesses like Flo and Miranda, also channel these murky lurky feelings into works of art.

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A painting I did about a guy I was losing my shit over—the same Delilah song guy who was ghosting me. I literally stopped losing my shit over him the day that I completed this painting.

I honestly don’t know if there is a way to learn how to be a Goddess in the midst of men without experiencing LOTS of loss and rejection. At least this has been my process, although as I was learning, I did not actually realize I was learning at the time. I just thought, “OMG I suck, stop doing this, stop behaving this way. How do I stop behaving this way?” And little by little, with each experience, and each hose beast episode, I became a little less psycho. Each time I would put a little more Goddess in the forefront and send a little more man into the background. And it started to feel good. Odd but good, because there will probably always be a part of me that feels comforted by giving a man my power. It’s familiar and easy, even though it’s essentially masochistic and self-sabotaging.

I have also found that the best way to heal from abandonment issues is to remain incredibly present while feeling and/or being “abandoned” in a relationship, and realize each time that I did not die like I thought I would and that I am actually fine. It’s a painful process of reprogramming those cellular memories but it’s the work that needs to be done. The level of shame about these feelings that we carry with us can feel so unbearable, but also motivates the soul to break our bounds and discover new avenues to behave in mature and productive ways. Living with the shame just gets to be too much for any Goddess to endure.

It should also be noted that a woman’s tendency to turn her power over to a man does not just stem from childhood issues. Society and direct experiences with men in the real world also play a hugely destructive part in this learned behavior. A woman’s meekness in her relationship can also be a direct and unconscious reaction to the fundamental knowing that if a man knew how strong, fabulous, confident, and fierce she truly was, he would run in petrified and repulsed horror. This isn’t some kind of delusional insecurity that women have conjured up on their own. This kind of thing actually happens on the reg. Many men actually bolt at the first sign of female strength, and therefore women innocently conclude that, “If he bolted from THAT, he’s really gonna be freaked out if I turn on the power full-blast. I better be sure to never do that. How can I find ways to never do that?” We as women know how powerful we are. We have just learned so incredibly early that if we want people—especially men—to like us, we need to find ways to mask the power that naturally wants to flow from us. As a woman, did you ever have your strength accidentally seep out in a candid moment only to notice the look of horror on a man’s face after realizing his beautiful and sweet princess was actually a commanding Goddess disguised as an agreeable and easy-going girl? I have. That look of horror is often enough to invoke deep and powerful shame in any woman. And if you are a woman like me who values having a relationship with a man, it’s easy to perform damage control and quickly find ways to reconfigure ourselves in order to be less horrifying to men. Rather than embracing that strength and saying, “Wow if you don’t like me when I’m at my most awesome, maybe I better go find a guy who can handle it, buh bye,” we instead feel wretchedly ashamed for grossing out our guy with our pesky primal power. All I know is that after 39 years of living, I would rather be alone and settle for stigmatized spinsterhood than play that game of trying to please and pretzel my way into a man’s idea of idealized dream woman. It’s truly exhausting.

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So, after all of this analyzing and dissecting, what can we conclude? From my experience, I have learned that it is really important to conscientiously stay on top of our shit. I also think it’s equally important, if not more so, to be vulnerable and express softness and affection when it feels natural and good and safe, knowing that we might be rejected or humiliated, but knowing that we won’t die from it. It takes a deep and confident knowing that even if we are soft and open, we won’t lose ourselves and won’t die if we are hurt. Our softness as women endears others to be soft too and we won’t get lost in the giving if we take care of ourselves. We can be open and real and give and still be strong. At least that is what I would like to try for. Taking time for ourselves is also key. If we feel ourselves slipping, we don’t need to keep a man around so he can witness our internal (or external) meltdown. It’s not productive for the relationship and it is too easy for a man to absorb our stuff, especially if he is kind and caring, and too easy for us to release ourselves from our own responsibilities. It’s important to take that extra time and get back to our own Goddess. She hasn’t gone anywhere, she’s always there. She just hangs back until we call upon her. We must never forget to call upon her.

“Can the purpose of a relationship be to trigger our wounds? In a way, yes, because that is how healing happens; darkness must be exposed before it can be transformed. The purpose of an intimate relationship is not that it be a place where we can hide from our weaknesses, but rather where we can safely let them go. It takes strength of character to truly delve into the mystery of an intimate relationship, because it takes the strength to endure a kind of psychic surgery, an emotional and psychological and even spiritual initiation into the higher Self. Only then can we know an enchantment that lasts.” -Marianne Williamson, Enchanted Love: The Mystical Power Of Intimate Relationships