I particularly miss the Mediterranean this morning. The woman I was there suspended in crystal waters without care. I woke up dreaming I was diving in from the boat.
The water is so salty. With the hint of chill that feels a lot like the early morning air between fall and winter, there is a slight edge to the brisk water that made me feel more awake than I’ve ever felt in any other ocean. Trying to describe the hues of aquamarine feels inadequate. My best approximation is phthalo blue with viridian green with a dash of cerulean. Translucent watercolors, of course, oils would be too thick. I spent a good 10 minutes absorbed by just moving my hands furiously through the water watching these tiny sparklingly crystal-like bubbles move toward the surface and break open as they met the surface.
Under the water, there was an oddly familiar sound: The sound of bacon frying. I promise, B can attest to this. It was one of those moments I won’t forget as I dipped my head back to submerge my ears and listen again. Did I hear that correctly? Maybe you can explain it by how the hum from the boats echo from the rocks off the cliffs. Whatever the cause or the reason, I found it be a small delightful moment that made me smile effortlessly. The clarity of the water to such deep depths was new to me. Being a southern girl who is use to clay reddened lakes where you can’t see your hand in front of your face, the ability to see bright yellow fish swim gingerly below was something magical. I got a smirky kick of thinking about them out running their errands and “working” down there. Going to Target and being “busy.”
Do not worry about your life. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Later watching a giant medusa pass by from the boat in such a surreal, slow fashion, it literally seemed crazy. Hi, I’m a giant jellyfish. Don’t mind me. To that point, I’d only seen them behind glass barricades at aquariums. Fairly spectacular. Fairly dangerous. Fairly wil
Of course, it’s vacation but that particular quality of alive presence could exist in my ordinary Atlantan life. I want it to. With a little more curiosity and play? At least in splenda packet-sized moments interspersed between real life obligations of working, bill paying and normalcy.
Oh to be that_______ on the regular. Happy. Relaxed. Amused. Interested. What’s standing in my way?
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions,” says the Dalai Lama. I’ve lived a lot of my life waiting for things to happen to me to make me happier rather than living from the aliveness of what is right here. Somehow in letting this sit as to how to be more attune, awake and engaged in a real daily way, it’s brought me to thinking about good boundaries and self-automy and more specifically the choice of yes and no in response to what is before me.
No, I will not _____________. No, I don’t want to have dinner with you. No, I will not continue to participate in a family dynamic that I feel is unhealthy for me keeping secrets to preserve good names. No, I want to stay home and read a book, alone, because I’m an INTJ and that’s what I need right now. No, the omelet is actually too cold. No, I will not work 14 hours. No, I will not take on an extra project on my birthday weekend. No, I don’t really want to make another hair appointment with you after you talked about how you met your now husband who was once married to your former best friend. No, I don’t want to tell you about my “deepest fears” on a third date.
“No” is not pleasant. It’s not lady-like. It’s not dainty. No is a rejection. Just say no is for bad things like drugs and strangers with candy and rapists.
Yet it’s all the tiny places where I want to help and say yes to things that aren’t “bad” - the tiny places of compromise – that have led me to this place of exhaustion, again. It is why I ended up face first in December of last year on a concrete floor dehydrated and spent from working so hard and pushing.
I sit here now running my thumb over that scar under my chin as I drink coffee, wake up, and wonder how I can be less self-judgemental that I STILL struggle with saying no. That I’m 34 with not so healthy boundaries. That I still want to please people too much. So where is the yes?
Finding my yes is about being even more authentic about what I do actually want in my life.
It’s a powerful question if you are willing to get gritty: What do I want? And what does that wanting do to my priorities.
The word want brings me to immediately ponder what the word for desire is in Latin and the various translations makes me laugh. No wonder I have a hard time defining what I “want.” Aren’t we taught that “desire” is bad – the words on this list say it all to me.
In my upbringing no equaled, well most usually, disappointing other other person. Which brings up a deeper issue that I have certainly addressed a million times in therapy – Why do I feel responsible for YOUR happiness.
There are unspoken things we all learn from the various systems we are apart of from our individual households to the larger cultural patterns in which we live. I didn’t have parents who said no to other people’s demands regularly. We cancelled family vacations, re-arranged our plans to serve the church, to counsel hurting people. Some how no felt un-Christ-like and wasn’t very serving or giving.
Something about this theme of self-sacrfice is a burden I don’t want anymore. I’ve been becoming increasingly more aware of this in the last year than any other time in my life. It’s a vestigial quality that I sick of, quite frankly. Help you yes? But I don’t want to lay down my life for you. That’s not my job. It never was. I’ll leave it up to Jesus and God the Father and the saints to do the salvific work and sacrificing.
I want nowness. Presentness. Aliveness and full on messy embodiment. I have no desire to continue a legacy of transcendence where suffering equals some far-away mystical spiritual quality – where “suffering is good” and the body is bad. I do believe that every single redepmptive act of suffering was done then by someone who was both divine and human and there is not a single thing missing that my suffering can add to that work. I wish more to stand on the side of Audre Lorde and to stop fearing this internal yes. This yes that is good. And not good as in well-behaved but good that is wild, powerful and connective. It’s anything but tame and docile.
The kind of presentness that can be amazed by simple things like rocks that are so different from my familiar, remembered beaches.
Saying no is giving me a chance to stop living my life at the margins and demands of everyone’s agenda. It’s redefining the core belief that my no to someone’s expectation is actually a yes to myself. In some other way that I matter enough to have a no. Less guilt. Less competing commitments. Less stress. Which hopefully means less gray hair and spontaneous signs of stress like the large zit on my right cheek and less time mentally battling wanting to binge eat Mexican food.
Research from the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. I think in the past I had become such a stuffer of no’s that they built up until I exploded with a more violent reaction like a toddler having a fit only when I had reached those places. Loud no’s only when my boundaries were so thin, I broke. Now I want mature no’s with thoughtful responses and thought out reasons as to why I am choosing something else.
I have been circulating around this question lately: What is it that takes away our wildness? That edgy no of being a small child who instinctively knows what feels right and what doesn’t. There is no need for a pros/cons list. And more how does this spontaneity of play little kids just have some how evaporate? I admire their ability to scream NO at the top of their lungs to whatever it is that they are hating, not wanting or feel isn’t quite right.
At the hotel on Capri, I watched the two young boys of the owner’s daughter play with their trucks in the shade of the lemon tree.
The less gentle play of boys. The oldest ramming the other’s toys dirt flying up in cloudy puffs then the youngest launching his toy high in the air bringing it crashing down into the other little boy’s toy.
In an invitation that is courageously unpopular and messy and full of falling down and getting back up, I’m inviting my divine yes out to play in a new way. In a way that is unapologetic and wild.
Here are a few more snaps of the Mediterranean: