Learning Self Compassion

Maiden meditation

Image via Wikipedia

Lying around all day doing very little but blaming myself for my inability  to do anything  but lie around all day is an act of self defeat.  Despite the fact that my lethargy probably comes from a cycle of insomnia and nightmares that have been haunting me all week (and seem to be an epidemic as many peopleI know are complaining of the same problem) I, in typical fashion, blame myself. I’ve written before about how powerful I think dream energy or sleep energy could be if we only learned to make it work for the good  rather than for mass cases of insomnia. (See this post The Power of Sleep and Dreaming « Woman Wielding Words).

I reached out briefly to the Facebook world asking for input about ideas to write about, hoping that would kick-start me into doing something. In typical fashion, I got a couple of amusing responses including:

“Fuzzy sleep stealing animals. They need to steal your sleep, but why?” and

“Secret agent cows with a mission to capture extra-terrestrial aliens, with daytime jobs of keeping our borders safe. Something like a part-time “men” in black and white. None of those brown cows, please.”

But the one that resonates most is from one of my dear friends who always manages to ground me with simple words and wise understanding. She wrote “self compassion.”

Message received , Sue, I am not practicing self-compassion. I don’t know that I have ever mastered that art. But I know it is something that I need to develop. So my first step, before deciding to blog, was to look up self compassion on the internet. I stumbled upon this website: Self-Compassion. I took the how self-compassionate are you test, and unsurprisingly am low in that department.

That has to change. Where do I begin? On the website is a guided meditation that seems like a good start, and I hope to do that later today. But that’s just one step.

I begin here, in words. This blog has become a place for me to be honest with myself. Perhaps I am too honest in a public forum, but it is easier to be honest if you know people are reading this. I also believe that others have experienced some of what I am going through, and so I feel less alone. (Note that according to the above website, feeling isolated is one aspect of the lack of self-compassion). My isolation becomes less as I write or as I read other blogs. I’ve been doing that more often lately, and trying to respond when I have something intelligent to say, because we don’t write in a vacuum. When we blog, we want to know our blogs reach someone, even if only a few people.

When I write, I allow myself to express myself.  When I write, I feel compassion for myself. When I write, I try to let go of my inner critic and just let the words flow. Of course, the critic comes out sometimes depending on what I am writing or if I’m editing. And sometimes the inner-critic censors myself, but the more I write, the more I can overcome that. The more I write, the kinder I become to myself.

So, blogging universe, I hope you forgive me if I use this space sometimes to learn self compassion. I also hope, however, that as I learn it I share my learning.  I share this journey as a gift to you, but also to myself.

Welcome and thank you.

 

Neewollah 1: Chili Experience

One of the things my new town is known for is Neewollah, a ten-day festival that “is the oldest and largest annual celebration in Kansas. The city of Independence will grow from a town of 10,000 inhabitants to 75,000″  http://www.neewollah.com/. Today I experienced my first festival activities, and I thought I would share.

The day began looking overcast, so I prepared for chilly weather, but of course was wrong. I still haven’t figured out Kansas weather. The sun popped in an out, and then the clouds moved in. The wind picked up, bringing a slight chill, but the general mugginess of the air made me feel warm. I guess my solution is going to have to be layers.

The first event of the morning was a 5K race that I did not participate in. I am not a runner. It does remind me, however, that someday I want to participate in the 3 Day Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, so I better get back on track in the eating healthy and walking department.

Following the 5K was the Fun Run for all the school kids in town. Sarah was participating. I’d say there were more than 100 kids wandering around in brightly colored t-shirts (a different color for each school). Sarah was lucky and got purple, our favorite color. Before the race they took school pictures. Sarah couldn’t really find any of her friends, so she looked uncomfortable waiting with the purple clad kids. What also struck me, perhaps for the first time, was the fact that Sarah is not white. I know she’s not, her dad is Japanese and Korean, but it was so glaring as she sat in the midst of blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids from Independence, KS. Perhaps I’m over-sensitive, but it just really struck me today.

She’s also still suffering somewhat from ‘new kid” syndrome. We ran into one of the girls that Sarah talks about all the time, and the girl introduced Sarah to her Dad as “she’s the new kid.” I’ve never really been the new kid, so I don’t know how long that stigma lasts, or if it is even a stigma. Sarah seems okay with it, but I know it sometimes hard because she wants play dates and things but I am shy about meeting people. So maybe I’m making it worse.

Anyway, back to the race. Sarah seemed to have a good time. I think she probably walked more of it than she actually ran, but what the heck. I don’t know that she has ever actually run a mile. I’m proud of her for trying.

Next was the event I was waiting for.  All morning the wind brought interesting smells to my nose, the traditional smells of fall leaves combined with a little spiciness that meant chili was cooking in preparation for the contest. Three dollars buys you a dish, a spoon, a napkin, a bottle of water and enough chili to wreak havoc on bathrooms for the rest of the day. The first chili I tasted was the best, but it was also the most surprising. Alligator chili! I never thought I would try something like that, but oh was it good. None of the other chili recipes really stood out for me. I avoided the super spicy, not feeling up to gastronomic challenges like that today. It is always interesting, I think, standing in line with hundreds of other people in a competition over spice. I loved listening to all the jokes that never fail to happen at a chili cook-off, as everyone recognizes that our decadent overindulgence can only lead to one thing at the end of the day. Sometimes you just have to love the craziness we humans invent.

Meanwhile, Sarah was drawn to the numerous bouncing activities. I wish I had the camera with me when she competed with a bungee cord contraption to see how far she could get a beanbag before she was snapped back in a flying plunge. Her face was fabulous with wide-eyed excitement and joy. Later she went on the obstacle course slide, but it wasn’t the same.

The clouds got thicker and the wind got stronger. Our bellies were beginning to slosh with chili goodness. We decided it was time to head home, but first bought tickets for our next step on the Neewollah adventure–the town’s production of Music Man this evening.

It has been a fun start. Now I need a nap.

Ahead of My Time, Yet Falling Behind

 

Arizona State University logo

Image via Wikipedia

 

9 1/2 years ago I earned my doctorate from Arizona State University. Two years of grueling course work followed by a year of intense research and writing allowed me to tack the letters Ph.D. behind my name. Then I disappeared off the face of the earth. I made choices that made me less focused on research and faded into the background of my field.

Today, I got an announcement about a Phone Forum that is going to be held by Theatre for Young Audiences/USA http://networkedblogs.com/9vDRZ entitled “Difference Through Language, Dress, and Story” and my heart simultaneously sang with joy and broke with annoyance at myself. I’m excited that this topic is being raised for discussion, but I am so mad at myself for not continuing the discussion that I started almost ten years ago.

My dissertation was “Theorizing Programming for Diversity in Three Professional Theatres for Young Audiences.” Basically I looked at the concept that many of the companies that perform specifically for young people do not necessarily represent the audiences who attend the performances. The theaters are white owned, white managed, but the audiences are not.

I made the choice, I know. I did not pursue academic writing and research despite the fact that I could. I don’t know why. I know that I am a good, insightful writer and researcher. But, I allowed my fears and my excuses to get in the way of pursuing topics that I am truly passionate about. It is deeper than that though, I was afraid.

After I finished the dissertation I wrote a paper on it and submitted it for an award with AATE (the American Alliance for Theatre Education). When presenting my paper, I was attacked by several people because I am a white woman. They felt I had no right to question issues of culture and race when I was part of the majority. They ignored my discussion of my own cultural difference (being a Jew)  and experience with cultural difference (living in Japan), and refused to sway their opinion. I think I held my own in the discussion, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. I won an honorable mention, but nobody else won an award, so that in itself was disturbing. I left feeling like I had no true voice, because my passion for understanding culture was dismissed as arrogant.

I also left more frustrated than ever with the wheels of academia.

Now, I might have been emotional at the time, as I hadn’t announced my pregnancy and got morning sickness from the stress of presenting, but that is another excuse. I did not feel strong enough to fight a battle with every word I wrote.

So I stopped.

Now, the topic is hot again, and I’m glad. But I’m also a little sad, as I feel like I lost too many opportunities and gave up too easily. It will be very interesting to see where the discussion goes. I hope that people have moved beyond the idea that only people from a minority culture have the right to discuss issues concerning diversity and culture. I hope that the community is more open to understanding that respecting difference is crucial to respecting our children and our audiences.

I hope that it promotes change.

Finally, I hope that I have rediscovered my voice.

Write About the Stars (via Writing Practice: Perfecting Prose and Poetry)

This is from my other blog, but I like it so I thought I would repost. Of course, I no longer live in a high altitude (sigh) but the stars are still calling to me.

Write About the Stars Whenever I look out the window on a clear night I think, “I should do this more often, I don’t pay enough attention to the stars.” I currently live at a very high altitude, away from the lights of any major metropolis, so the sky at night is a brilliant tapestry of mystical sparks. It represents the dreams of my childhood and the unknown. Maybe th … Read More

via Writing Practice: Perfecting Prose and Poetry

ItGetsBetterBroadway’s Channel: We Need More Voices

 

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

Image via Wikipedia

 

I needed to hear this song today.  YouTube – ItGetsBetterBroadway’s Channel.

I know it is for GLBT youths, but isn’t the message really for everyone? I believe that a lot of the hate, the bullying, the abuse, etc. comes from fear. Fear that somehow, if that person is different than “I” can’t be happy. People put others down because they are insecure in their own lives.

Yes, some of it comes from ignorance, but mostly it comes from fear. So this song is about everyone. If you live and trust in yourself and life, it gets better.

It is too bad that more people can’t see that.

While I appreciate these artists for doing this, and those who step up to give their own testimonials, I see a problem. Theater is always perceived as gay. I am in theater, I love theater, but here is a reality about theater: people who don’t get it, or don’t really understand it assume that anyone who participates is either promiscuous or gay. We all know that is a stereotype, but it is a well-known one.

So, kudos to these artists for doing this, but now let’s get some athletes, action/adventure stars, or more politicians to stand up proudly and share their stories that say “It Get Better!”

Until there is no reason to hide anymore, how can we honestly tell young people it gets better?

The Wisdom of Youth

Corvus corone in flight

Image via Wikipedia

“What is your career?” a student asked me today during a follow-up interview about the Performance Art Workshops I conducted last week.

“I don’t know,” was my unsurprising response. Unsurprising to myself, that is, as I’ve been wallowing in a confusion about my identity for a long time.

But, despite my “I don’t know” she and I got into a discussion about her future, and I felt that I said some good things. I have always felt I am a good mentor. and easily step into that role despite my own confusions.

As I was leaving, I was introduced to another member of the school He asked me where I was from and I said “Most recently Colorado, but originally Massachusetts.” Note that I didn’t automatically say Independence. His response was “Oh, a world traveler.”

On the way home I was listening to “Watershed” by the Indigo Girls:

“Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize
Till your agony’s your heaviest load.
You’ll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile.
When you’re learning to face the path at your pace
Every choice is worth your while.
Well there’s always retrospect to light a clearer path
Every five years or so I look back on my life
And I have a good laugh.
You start at the top, go full circle round
Catch a breeze, take a spill
But ending up where i started again makes me wanna stand still.”

And then it all came together in my mind. I may not be able to define myself, but I have lived and incredibly interesting life. It’s not over yet, and I have no idea where it is heading, but my story and my experiences are valuable. They have made me into a person who values people, who questions authority, who doesn’t blindly move forward. They have made me a good mentor. they have made me a person with ideas and thoughts to share.

Now, I have to put that down somewhere. So begins another of my projects tentatively called A PATCHWORK LIFE. We’ll see where it goes.

So my drive on “the country mile” took me to a new path towards myself. Thanks to the wisdom of youth.

Memory Receding

A moment of panic in the dark. Where am I? Who am I? What day is it? Why am I? This was just a dream or a moment of waking from a dream. A moment of unknowing that I cannot forget.

Is this the daily existence for a man who lived in his brain, my father?

Just a couple of years ago he was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, after his symptoms took a turn for the worst. He’d been showing them for years, but nobody paid attention, blaming his mood shifts and other difficulties on hearing or alcohol. But it wasn’t that.

It was the loss of his being in his mind.

He still knows us, but has moments of not-knowing, or moments of pure memory. He is still my dad, but then again he is not. I am not with him often, but when I am there he is not with me. Not really.

I feel like I should mourn, but I do not know how. He has always been the person I went to when I had questions that involved the mind, but I cannot say we were ever truly close. I don’t know that anyone in my family was ever truly close.

My memories have faded as well.

It is painful to know that this man who used to  be so vibrant and who used to charm all of my friends, is somehow fading into himself. I never even really talk to him anymore, as the phone is my only contact with my family and he never talks. I think my family somewhat resents my physical distance which makes it even harder to call. My physical distance is becoming metaphysical.

In all honesty I am afraid. I am afraid of watching someone dwindle and disappear right before my eyes.  But  at isn’t the only thing I fear. I am afraid of watching my future. Am I destined to disappear in a similar way, my mind receding back into memory until there is nothing left but emptiness? I can’t live life like that.

I miss my dad.

Thank You for Being a Friend

 

Dew on a spider's web in the morning.

Image via Wikipedia

 

Thanks to my good friend Sue’s response to my post “I’d Like to Introduce . . . Myself” http://lisawieldswords.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/id-like-to-introduce-myself/ I have had an epiphany: I can be defined by the relationships I’ve made and the people I’ve had in my life.

When I look back on the number of incredible people I’ve met along my life’s journey, it gives me chills. I’m not in contact with them all. All of my relationships haven’t been perfect. Some people have hurt me along the way, and I’m sure I have hurt others. But still, the incredible journey of meeting and greeting, connecting and disconnecting, finding soul mates and losing loves, all make me who I am.

Some people have been in my life for years and will remain there forever. Some people have come and gone and come again. Some are merely wisps of memory, but memory is a powerful tool.

I thank each and every person who has ever touched my life and left, with their touch, a new depth of meaning and a new connection. I’ve explored this topic before, but today it has new meaning.

The previous incarnations are:

Dots, Lines and Connections

http://lisawieldswords.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/dots-lines-and-connections/

and Connections  http://lisawieldswords.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/connections/

I guess I have a common theme often. ;)

I am defined by the people who have become a part of my life. They don’t give me a definition, they become part of my definition. And, based on the incredible people who have welcomed me into their lives, my “definition” is rich.

Thank you all! <3

I Am Golden Morning Sunshine

Golden Light

Image by RobW_ via Flickr

I am

sitting on a new chair

bought

to bring togetherness.

Brought home to

create a space of warmth for meals

and chat

and thought.

 

I am

sitting at the table.

Hot chai warms

inside

outside.

I embrace the warmth.

 

I am

Golden sun through gold curtains

enveloping the room

that holds my heart.

 

I CHANGE

breaking free of the black vines

that creep through a fall garden full of

self-doubt

twisting their way around

my heart.

 

I am.

Friend to many wonderful people.

Caring mother, partner, friend, human being.

 

I am.

Woman/girl,

Wise/innocent.

 

I am

a worshiper of golden sunlight

pouring through open windows into

my soul.

 

I am.

I become.

I AM!

I’d Like to Introduce . . . Myself

“”This is Lisa Kramer, the wife of our new Technical Director.”

“This is Sarah’s Mom, Lisa”

“This is Lisa Kramer who has a Ph.D. in Youth Theatre.”

These are the ways I have been introduced lately, or some combination of them. Most often, and most disturbingly, is the introduction as “Nathan’s wife.” Not that I mind being Nathan’s wife, but around here it seems like I can only be identified in that way, and it bothers me. In parting the other day a guest theater artist actually said “So will I see you later Nathan and (pause) wife.”

His wife’s reaction to that was as disturbed as mine was. I love Nathan. I love my family. But I am the last person to see myself as a super successful wife or mother. I’m too selfish for that, and too desirous to be identified as someone or something else. How’s that for a blatant, ugly truth about myself?

Here is the thing about these introductions: THEY DO NOT EQUAL ME!!

For example, the most professional of these identifications pigeonholes me in a frustrating way. True, I have a Ph.D. in theatre for youth. But, in the eyes of many professional theater artists, Theatre for Young Audiences is the bastard stepchild of the theater world. I love it, and I love the power of arts and theater to change the world. I also, love doing theater with and for adults.  My first terminal degree is an MFA in directing. I worked as hard, in different ways, to achieve that degree. In many ways that is the more meaningful degree. (There is a long story behind that).

Also, despite those being my degrees, I have spent the past 5 years teaching research skills, writing, honors, and general education programs. Where does that fit into this definition or label of who I am professionally?

Whenever I ‘m asked to write a bio about myself, I struggle with what to put in and what to leave out. I find it impossible to define myself.

I remember going to a mini-high school reunion once (actually it was a retirement party for my high school drama teacher) and running into someone who I knew when he was a baby. I asked him what he did, and his response was “I’m a dad! I don’t like to define myself by my job.” He said that with a positive sense of identity. He was so proud of that particular role in his life. He had a good job, but chose to identify with his role as family man. I was impressed with that, because most men don’t do that. I don’t do that.

I wonder if my struggle with identifying myself as wife and mother is connected with my desire to see women as capable of anything in this world. Or is it simply my ego at work? Probably that.

I’d like to introduce myself, but I can’t because I cannot put myself into a simple definition.

So, for now, I am Lisa Kramer, a complex version of me.

Does that work?

*******

I’m adding this the next day, thanks to my friend Sue who pointed out that best thing that I can be is a friend. So . . .

Hello, I am Lisa. Good friend to wonderful people like my partner, Nathan, my daughter, Sarah, and all of the other people who make my life so rich, like Sue.