This Ecology of Leadership program is turning out to be as much, if not more, about inner growth as it is about our projects in the outer world.  I want to share my accomplishments so far, but especially want to share a very recent and significantly healing epiphany I had last week related to my reproductive past and future.

Working within the structure of the monthly weekend intensives - I had my fourth one last weekend - our monthly "buddy" pairings, and our regional program "Pods" that meet a couple times a month, I've had many accomplishments, including:
  • Clarity and planning around my goal of forming a Social Change Theatre Troupe
  • Integrating new routines of "Sit Spots" - sitting out in nature for 15 minutes, five days a week - and regular journaling into my life.  I've journaled before but had slacked on it for a while.
  • Having surgery and relying on community, including EOL friends, to support me.
  • Lots and lots and lots of self reflection and visioning, focusing on six chosen areas of my life, including drawing complex and evocative "mind maps" of my visions in these areas.
  • Supporting a couple dozen other people - of diverse ages, genders, and cultures - in the process, and opening up to let them support me.
  • From an ecological perspective, focusing on healing blocks in the "roots" of my inner life and unconscious, so that the "canopy" of what I show and achieve the world can be full and thriving.  Various processes around this over the weekend intensives and individual work in between.
To the last point, I had a huge shift, or epiphany, in this last week!

As background: Going into last weekend in Bolinas (the place where we meet is gorgeous and very special - used to be the site of Native American ceremonies and includes gardens, meadows, hills, beautiful trees and forest areas, and a short walk to cliffs and beaches of the ocean), I had experienced a revelation around my theatre project.  Reflecting on my vision and needs coming up around it, as well as just how long I had held this deep longing to be part of a troupe, I realized that most of my vision was directly carried over from a theatre troupe I auditioned for and desperately wanted to join a couple of decades ago.  Even though I knew they were specifically looking for men of color, I took it personally when I was not accepted and was devastated.  I just knew they would see my passion and abilities and welcome me into the group.  It was not to be.

In any case, I think I was looking for control around something I had not a lot of control over, and I took up this longing for a troupe and carried it with me.  I have done many theatre projects and collaborations in the non-profit, community, and activist sectors but haven't managed to form an ongoing troupe, which felt like a failure.  What I realized is that I am already getting a lot of the needs met that I hoped to meet through the troupe "right now" through my InterPlay and dance groups!  These include creative expression and collaboration within a "sacred space" or space of exploration and acceptance.  And community is coming in other ways, too, through EOL and InterPlay, so the main desire I have and that might be met through the troupe is regular creative contribution; producing educational/outreach performances and self/community development workshops that make a positive difference for individuals and the community.  I've never had this level of clarity AND I have a partner in this endeavor who is totally on the same page, my friend K.  I didn't mean to get that detailed about the theatre project but it IS a big deal for me. :) So back to the weekend....

I came with that insight, expecting a lot of focus on our projects, but instead we dove into women's and men's experiences and issues.  We divided into two groups by gender and talked about our feelings and experiences around men and being a woman in this culture.  Not a small topic.  Lot's of very deep sharing, crying, bonding, supporting.

During this experience, I shared about my abortion two decades ago when I was involved with an ex who was unavailable.  I shared about that on this blog before and reconnecting with this guy three years ago or so.  So, I knew that was a deeply wounding experience for me, and I tried to work through residual pain in various ways over the years - writing letters to my unborn child, crying, getting angry, talking to the guy about it and how it affected me, etc.

But there was more there.  The emotions were combined with a cognitive aspect, as well.  I realized through talking about it in the healing container of the women's circle and in three emotional conversations since - in the larger group, with my housemate, and with my "buddy" - that not feeling like I had choice in that situation contributed to the energy I brought to trying to have a child on my own.

* As a caveat, I absolutely know that having a child as Single Mother by Choice is a wonderful and valid choice, so it's not about the validity of that, it's a very personal realization that I brought energy and compulsion to it based on the lack of choice I felt I had back then around the abortion.

At the time, I wasn't able to hold a space for myself to reflect and consider all options, and he, who was several years older, was not able to hold that space for me or himself either.  He was driven by his own fear and desire for self-preservation and immediately shifted into convincing me that an abortion was the only valid choice.  And I, unfortunately, was addicted to him and his love and approval of me and couldn't say no, hold on here, I need to think about this, maybe see a counselor.

That's not entirely true... For a short time when I first found out, I do remember considering and telling him that I could go live with my birth mother's family in Oregon (I was pretty sure my immediate family would disapprove and likely reject me), but he argued against that.  I couldn't imagine myself, a recent college graduate at 22/23 years old, raising the child on my own and couldn't imagine losing him either.  I have thought so many times that I wish I could go back and make another choice, but that's coming from where I am now.  Now, I am able to hold space for myself.  Now, I am able to raise a child on my own.

So, I feel compassion for myself back then, and I am even finding compassion for him in his immaturity and fear, which, unfortunately, he never really outgrew.  I also feel angry that he couldn't help me - couldn't open up to my needs as well as his own.  But mainly, I just feel incredibly sad that we were both so limited in our capacities.

So the epiphany is that, cognitively and emotionally, I've been letting that experience, in part, drive my decision making around having a child.  I actually don't regret trying, though I might not have tried quite as often or in as many ways.  I don't regret trying these past couple of years with S, though I think it made us stay together longer than we otherwise would have.  If I don't have a biological child, the possibility of which is growing increasingly dim, I might have really regretted not trying.  But I brought a belief that I needed to control this situation; I needed to have a child to heal my past experience, in part to forgive myself for my past and not being able to hold that space to reflect and clearly choose what was right for me.  To take that choice back.  But by bringing these emotions and beliefs along with me, I realize now that I was actually limiting my choices and continuing to be controlled to some degree by that experience.  Does that make sense?

Which brings me to now.  Going forward, I want to let go of this pain and regret, and anger and grief.  I want to forgive myself, and, yes, forgive him, to the best of my ability.  I want to relax and trust myself to hold space for reflection and clear choice.  At this time, I am not on solid ground to pursue having a child on my own.  My finances are not at the level I would like, and my living situation is uncertain as of May or June when my housemate moves in with his fiance.  Plus, I am still immersed in EOL and would like to focus for now on community and relationship.

To end this long and intense post - thank you if you read the whole thing! - I want to share how this epiphany and healing has rolled out in the past few days.  So I had a date on Friday, and a short time into this date (which lacked chemistry to begin with), the guy starts yammering on about having kids and how women around 40 get fixated on that, and then asking when I decided I was not going in that direction of having kids, etc.  OMG, I felt revolted.  I couldn't have felt more clear that we were in completely different developmental stages of our lives.  He was 51 years old, but I know there are guys that age out there, like my housemate and like S, who are interested and open to having a child or another child.  Other things this guy said showed how insular and closed minded he was, like when he goes out in nature he can't wait to get back home.  I could not get out of there fast enough.  I went home and changed my profile to be MUCH MORE CLEAR that I am interested in having a family in some way and that I would like to meet someone who is similarly open.

I will also say that the door is open to pursuing becoming an SMC again in the future, when life circumstances change.

So this epiphany, rather than closing me off to having a family, seems to have empowered me and brought more confidence, clarity, and choice about how and when, and in what circumstance, I move forward.  Feeling so grateful for this healing process and it's impact on my life.  Would love to hear your comments, thoughts, and experiences...


Surgery and Post-Op Report

Farewell, fibroid!!!

The surgery went very well and took a bit less time than anticipated.  I have been recovering for the last few days and appreciating the pain medication.  The first couple of days were the worst in terms of pain and not being able to move around and get up and down very well.  Basically, any movement that engages your abdominal muscles hurts. 

S was a Godsend the day of the surgery and stayed with me until the next morning when he left for an activist retreat.  He came back that evening for dinner and the following day for the Super Bowl and was really supportive and there for me. 

But then, yesterday, that support felt like it was abruptly cut off when he didn't communicate all day.  I wrote him a report before I went to bed, and he briefly responded and suggested we talk in the morning.  I imagine he was feeling fear around the physical and emotional closeness of the time we were spending together, though he says that's not the case.

Ironically, the way we were together over those couple of days was what I had wanted, or imagined I wanted, the last few months we were together.  Being able to just "be" with each other and relax, hang out in casual way.  Maybe we didn't do the most exciting activities - pretty much eating and watching TV and movies - but we talked some in-between, legs intertwined and holding hands.  It felt comfortable and reassuring.

Clearly, I got a little too attached because when he went AWOL yesterday, it hurt my feelings.  Now, as I regain my strength, I'm trying to let him go with love and not be angry that he couldn't offer that closeness in the context of relationship.  I could not have gotten through this surgery without him, but we are not together anymore, and it's time to move on. 

To take it a bit further, perhaps the difficulty we are experiencing now is a gift in that I can clearly see that he still does not have the ability to communicate and take ownership of what's going on with him, and he still has anger issues right there under the surface, as well.  This is not the kind of relationship I want.  And, I still feel grateful for the support he provided at this vulnerable time.

My friends were also supportive and brought food for me Saturday and yesterday.  The lentil soup my friend (and current "buddy" in my leadership program) brought yesterday was sooo tasty and healthy, and I ate the leftovers today for lunch.  When you feel sore, tired, and dizzy, cooking is not the best choice of activity.  Two other friends are bring food tomorrow and Thursday.  I could likely prepare something by that time, but I very much appreciate the extra care and time to take it easy. 

Zoey was a trooper throughout it all.  She could sense that I wasn't able to physically care for her in the same way and adjusted her reactions to my signals.  Less jumping around and more independence; going outside in the yard by herself, etc.  She was a good girl.

In the big picture, I am glad to be rid of the fibroid - and the second small one she took out too - and look forward to the positive differences I will feel, once healed.