waiting on the front porch

she just stood there on the front porch waiting for her will to come and get her she was packed she had a suitcase full of noble intentions she had a map and a straight face hell bent on reinvention she was learning about please and huge humilities then one day she looked around her and everything up til then was showing and she wondered how did i get here without even knowing where i was going? ~ani difranco

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Location: montreal, quebec, Canada


Monday, October 23, 2006

keeping my promises

i have spent a lot of time thinking this weekend, in large part to this woman's post; a post i just read, combined with what i've been thinking about, made a revelation just spill out of me.

i am not very good at keeping the promises i make to myself.

this is something that i have thought of a few times, but never with so much resonance; even though i have noticed the power of positive thinking, and felt first-hand how critical i can be, i never once thought that by breaking my own promises i was weakening my self-image.

now i remember all those times when i woke up in the morning, telling myself i was going to go for a run; or do the dishes; or research that paper; and i let myself "off the hook" for whatever reason. at the end of the day i always felt disturbed, and somewhat disappointed in myself.

granted, i am the person who creates 3-pages of to-do-lists each morning, thinking she can accomplish it all, and feels crushed when she can't. i have insanely high expectations for myself, and when they aren't fulfilled, i feel that i'm throwing the world out of balance, that i'm not doing my share.

this past weekend i've felt, a little, like i was running away from myself. i could feel the "space" (what i've since come to call "the hole") gnawing at me hungrily, even though i had company in the beings of two wondrous women; even though i was working and had homework and some socializing thrown in for good measure.

as an aside, do you know that somewhere in the world, i believe south america, someone thought up the alcoholic combination of red wine and coca-cola? and that it isn't half bad?

i tried to fill it each way i knew how. i made sure i had enough junk food to last me through my 'lockdown', a good movie, and some alone-time through the company. last night when i came home to my thunderously-empty house, i felt something give. it felt like the last strand of denial.

a few (short) years ago, i was coming out of an extended communal-living period. i had lived in various communes and couch-surfed for the better part of 6 years - and when i finally signed the lease for my own own place this july, it felt like i was fulfilling a sorely-needed dream, a place for just me.

it has been incredibly healing for me, and incredibly challenging as well. i never knew how deep silence could be, if there's no-one else to break it.

i love that i can buy whatever food i want to fill my fridge with, listen to the radio first thing, read until 3 am - but sometimes i forget, when i'm stretched out alone in my bed, that this is what i asked for.

it was in ottawa when i felt that need in me first cry out - this need to be alone. i remember exactly when, and where it was. i was living with the hobbit in our third-floor apartment downtown. i was working full-time as a cashier at an organic grocery store, going out most nights, and volunteering 30 hours a month on a crisis line.

part of my training as a crisis-line volunteer was to recognize signs of my own burnout. this has never been something that i have been good at, especially when it comes to helping people. i feel like i want to, and can, take on and on and on all the pain in the world, just to take it away from others. i felt a special protectiveness for women who had just been sexually assaulted - this instinctive knowing of how violating that is. i never wanted to sign off at the end of my shift; i just wanted to keep taking the next call, then the next, then the next.

one of the last calls i took was a 'regular'. i can't say much due to confidentiality, but this woman was schizophrenic and had obviously experienced some trauma in the past. she was so broken, and so lost, nothing i could say to her reached her. i broke from "the script", i ad-libbed, i tried to show her that i was a friend in some way and nothing worked. she got upset, said i was betraying her, and then she hung up.

i know now, as i think i knew then, that i couldn't save this woman, even though every part of me wanted to - but at that moment, i felt something in me give way. a voice in me said: stop. you can do no more. heal yourself.

it is that moment that i can pinpoint as realizing that i needed to change, that there was a part of me that was being buried alive by how i was living my life. it was the seed that, once sprouted, became the idea to start writing again, to make a portfolio, and send it to a university in montreal. i made a small promise to myself, one that i bent and circled around for months, but ultimately fulfilled - and that promise led me here. where, i can safely say, that no matter how challenging it is, i am living the life that i wanted for myself. me.

i won't say that i'm finished restricting myself with high expectations - that's too big to promise all at once. i can't say that i'm finished valuing other people's opinions above and before my own. but i can say that my voice is getting stronger, and i am trusting it more and more.

the more i do, the louder it gets. this is good. it feels wholesome.


Blogger Cheryl said...

I do the same thing, but didn't really realize it, or let it register until I read your words...got to work on that.

7:57 p.m.  
Blogger Deb R said...

"i can say that my voice is getting stronger, and i am trusting it more and more"

That's a pretty big thing to be able to say, y'know. Yay for you for taking that step!

8:28 p.m.  
Blogger ruby said...

we are thinking along the same lines (again), my friend. more to come...

8:30 p.m.  
Blogger Cheshire Cat said...

I've never lived on my own so i have no idea what it would be like. The closest i've come, is near the end of august both my roommates were gone for about a week and a half and i was left here alone with the two cats. At first, I was bored and for the first time in years i actually wanted to call someone - to talk to anyone on the phone so i wouldn't feel alone. It was much too late to call anyone and so i didn't. i actually tried to think of excuses to call my dad at work. But after a couple days, i started to really enjoy being alone. Being able to walk around the house in my underwear without worrying if someone was home or would be coming home. being able to do stupid, silly things like dance naked in front of the mirror and not feel embarrased that someone might see me. Lying in bed all day and not feel guilty about someone thinking i'm lazy. Being able to do anything and knowing that only i would be here to judge myself. and for some reason, i wasn't judging myself. because no one was here to see me, i stopped judging me and just let myself be for a while. it was nice. I kind of felt guilty for not missing Chris though. I was glad when he came back, but sometimes it's nice to be alone.

10:42 p.m.  
Blogger bee said...

cheryl~ i have a lot of work to do, too. we can do it together. :)

deb r~ thank you - that means a lot. you seem to be a woman who trusts her own voice, instinctively. am i right? any tips?

ruby~ oooh, i can't wait. tell NOW. ;) (hugs)

brenda~ for me, anyway, it's like all the things that i tried, subconsciously, to "run away from" in myself were all of a sudden there, in front of me, and i had nobody to distract me from them. for a while. i've done a lot of healing here, but it was a bit tough. sometimes. ;)

12:10 a.m.  
Blogger Amber said...

This is very honest. It actually gives me something to think about; where I am now, and where I was when I was younger. I also have a heart for helping survivors of sexual abuse, and did it for many years. It is so easy to lose sight of yourself, when you do this work, because you see so much need that the "regular" world doesn't see. I also had to step back and away, when I had kids. I felt like I couldn't give enough to everyone... Hmmm. You are the second person who has made me think about that choice in the last couple days... maybe because I am thinking of what I will be doing next, and I understand now the need for balance. The universe leads me.

Thank you for your vistit! I do hope you comeback, if you like. As will I. ;)


8:02 a.m.  
Blogger Claire said...

Cool, cool post sugar! Oooh, and that red wine and coca-cola thang is called kalamucho and it was the thing of things my sophomore year of uni....

You're one of the few people on earth I know who've tried it / described it / alluded to it!


10:49 a.m.  
Blogger Jessie said...

bee, i am so happy for your happiness. i suppose it comes in waves, like all good things do...but i find comfort in your words and in the healthy commitment to yourself.

i feel like, in our own ways, we are both in a simliar "place" in our lives. it is wonderful and amazing and hard and...lots of things all at the same time. and maybe that's one of the reasons i enjoy our friendship. it keeps me "on track" in so many ways. your words just have a way of doing that.

here's to life lived real.
love ya,

12:15 p.m.  
Anonymous ceanandjen said...

What beautiful and honest post. I believe that as we grow older and really start the journey of self discovery, we come to these major forks in the road, or "defining moments" that cause us to pause, and then actually make decisions based on what we know is truly the best for our souls. Nothing comes over night; however, you have made just wonderful strides, and it is inspiring.

Thank you for sharing a part of your journey.

2:18 p.m.  
Blogger la vie en rose said...

yes! and that is where we start...listening to ourselves, our wants and needs, honoring our voice and our power...and every day we practice that we become stronger...

2:26 p.m.  
Blogger Colorsonmymind said...

Ohh it is so wonderful to have our journeys, cross and intertwine. I learn so much from your wisdom.

The voice is getting stronger......

Love to you

8:10 p.m.  
Blogger Wenda said...

Interesting post. I've just finished reading "A Life of One's Own", a book written eons ago by Joanna Field aka Marion Milner who at the age of 26 began to experiment with methods of discovering what she truly wanted for herself apart from all the ideas of others she'd been cloaked in. Of course, getting still and really listening to herself was high on her list, but she wrote a lot about what else she learned,too. The topics of self-knowing and self-trusting are timesless.

Thanks, btw, for stopping by my blog.

8:40 p.m.  
Blogger kerry said...

you taking these steps for yourself and writing about your path through solitude and silence and burn out and desperately wanting to save others... it is speaking to parts of me that have been waiting to be spoken to. thanks for these words, they heal me some too and i hope they continue to heal you.

9:38 p.m.  
Blogger Sacred Suzie said...

Testing testing

11:45 a.m.  
Blogger Sacred Suzie said...

Oh good, I can comment! You are amazing for doing that kind of volunteer work. I'm sure she realized later that you were just trying to help her Bee. Remember to be gentle with yourself too. We commit to doing so much and when we realize we can't we feel like we let ourselves down. But you haven't! Just stay open, don't commit and see what happens.

11:46 a.m.  
Blogger Susannah said...

good for you, my love. listen to that voice! this is the first time i've lived on my own too, and i'm loving it. obviously i'm hating the circumstances surrounding my being here, but god, living alone has been a revelation. my own space, to be me, to decorate as i want, to have my shit everywhere (or not) and no one cares.. bliss. i'm not sure if i could live with another person again... big hugs to you, beautiful Bee xo

4:04 p.m.  

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