I kind of hit a rough patch with my original December Project. But it's okay. I discovered something that I needed to do.
FYI STAR WARS SPOILER BELOW!
I have been working through Martha Beck exercises for a few years, since I first discovered her book The Four Day Win, back in 2009. I have learned to relax my body and question my thoughts. I have learned Wordlessness, Oneness and have practiced Forming. I have identified some of my Typos, the thoughts and beliefs that put me in the same situations over and over again. I have made a lot of progress. But, still, here I am, in an office job I'm not crazy about, still no art career, still overweight. I keep working and working and still no progress. I keep asking myself: What am I missing? Because I must be missing something. Right?
I finally realized what was missing.
In mid-December, Martha Beck Tweeted one of her old blog posts from 2013, about Regret. The post listed a series of steps that reminded me of exercises from her book Steering by Starlight. Separate the basic ingredients of your regret, grieve what is irrevocably lost, reclaim the essence of your dreams. She gave an example of a woman whose biggest regret was a gymnastics meet that eliminated her from Olympics consideration. Martha asked her what she would have gotten from the Olympics: Pride, excitement, attention, competition. Once she articulated the essence of what she wanted from the Olympics, she got a job in television, which gave her all those things.
I had a feeling that I needed to reread parts of Steering by Starlight. I did that the following weekend. In Starlight, Martha discusses dismantling thoughts like digging out of a dungeon. There are three ways to do this. Slowly, by dismantling the dungeon-thoughts by questioning them and taking apart their logic. Or quickly, through the Ring of Fire, by disbelieving those thoughts (when would they not be true?) or grieving any unavoidable pain. Pathway Two through the Ring of Fire is what I have never done. The grieving.
I have articulated all of my disappointments, regrets and damaging thoughts. I have questioned them, rewritten them, analyzed them. I have done all of the exercises like this, many times. Reversed them, what Martha calls Countermanding. Even into her Wayfinder book, I have continued with this. But the one thing I have never done is grieve the loss of the dreams that never happened.
This is the piece I have been missing. Because I was still caught up in the resentment. Why didn't things go my way? Why didn't my plans and ideas work out? Why couldn't I have - ? Why? Why? Why? And it still angered me so that I was disappointed and unhappy. I can't change the past. So I had to grieve it as if I were grieving a real loss. Because it was causing real pain. I had become stuck in the Ring of Fire, within the grieving stages of Denial and Anger. I needed to move through Sadness and into Acceptance. And I could not do this without a concerted effort to allow myself to feel the loss, then move through these stages.
So, my December Project changed. And I began grieving.
When Martha says we need to dive into the Ring of Fire and 'renounce time' she means that we need to be fully present in the here and now - not lost in the past or dreaming about the future. The right now, experiencing the emotions of the loss. Feel all of the sadness. But then take action. Whatever we think we cannot do, do it. And have no resistance to the present moment. This leftover resentment has been my resistance to the present moment, because it isn't like I wanted it to be. And it has kept me stuck for far too long.
STAR WARS SPOILER
This is at Starbucks, before we went to see Star Wars:
It started when we went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, on Steve's birthday. I was completely unprepared to lose Han Solo. I hadn't read anything about the movie or seen interviews, so I was completely surprised and stunned. I walked out of the theater crying. When we got to the car, Steve ran back to throw away my drink, and I was sobbing. After the movie, we went to Lennie's for an early supper. My eyes are all puffy and red.
Steve having a beer, before Calzones.
The movie brought back memories from when I first saw Star Wars. I was 12 or 13 (it was released in May of 1977, and I turned 13 in June). The Force Awakens echoes A New Hope in many ways. And I couldn't help remembering back when my whole life was ahead of me. Thinking over the years in between, all that could have been.
The next week I tried to just feel the grieving, the sadness and disappointment. And just let it sit with me.
Over the Holiday Break, I began the grieving in earnest. Plans and dreams that I had. I always wanted to go to New York. I always wanted to go to California. I thought I was going to be an artist. I thought...but I didn't. So I let myself feel sadness for all that never was.
Nobody survives the Ring of Fire, which is what I needed. This is the 'symbolic death' and Rebirth that came up in my animal card reading back in October, with the Bat card. The death of the bitter resentment.
I had a lot of art projects I planned to work on. But I ended up not doing any artwork at all. For the rest of December I was going to work through my second hardcover Butterfly Journal (the one that was originally the Stillness Journal). I wanted to fill it with mixed-media art journaling, about this issue. Instead, I organized and sorted, and kept experiencing the grieving. I sorted drawings into the Butterfly Journal. I sorted all of the scraps and stuff in my paper box beneath my art table, deciding what to keep and what to toss.
I organized Journaling Project pieces from 2015. I had a larger stack than I thought:
When Steve went back to work on the Monday after Christmas, I began rereading my journals from 2015 and making notes. I spent three days sitting in the comfy chair, reading and making notes, sometimes tearing things out, sorting, compiling, reviewing. And I went through the grieving process.
I had fresh baked cookies with fresh hot coffee:
I had the occasional cocktail:
Symon loved having me at home. (So did I!)
I worked on the Laurel Big Journal, which still needs J. pieces tacked down with Glue Dots:
I sorted all of our filing and did shredding.
I knew that I had come out the other end when I thought about what I had been grieving over, and no longer had any anger or bitterness or disappointment bubble up.
No strong emotions at all.
I was just empty.
Our annual Holiday photo.