Clarity Part 1: Not my circus, not my monkeys!

Well, this blog series has been a long time coming. Over the next few weeks, I want to share my personal journey of the last few years with all of you. It felt at times like life was happening at lightning speed, and now that the puzzle pieces are putting themselves together, the picture is becoming more and more clear.

For years (most of my life, really) I was the person who tried to fix everything. Somebody was upset? I’d spend hours or days trying to figure out why, how I’d caused it, and pour endless energy into being perfect to avoid that person becoming upset. People not getting along? Arwen the peacemaker comes out to play! There was a time when I would spend easily an hour or more on the phone with person A, listening to their side of the story, then do the same with person B, then call each of them back to say “Here’s what I heard from the other person.” Sound exhausting? It was!!! Walking on eggshells was my habitual way of interacting with people and the world, and let me tell you, it was an enormous energy drain.

Now, looking back on those years, I see all the ways that my energy was being siphoned off to support other people. The most obvious consequence was that my internal resources tended to become dangerously drained easily, and I would regularly become so overwhelmed that I went into full on hermit mode and did only the bare minimum human contact. It was not a pleasant pattern to be living out, let me tell you. However, my becoming the world’s most empty well and being a hermit was not the only consequence of my taking responsibility for others.

I was attracting into my life people who *needed* me to be that go between, the scapegoat, the peacemaker. Over time, it became more and more difficult for me to keep myself going and play those roles for others, and in 2016 I hit my breaking point.  I had been practicing Kundalini Yoga & Meditation for slightly under 2 years, communicating with myself more and more, and simultaneously  felt myself having less and less tolerance for old habits that weren’t supportive (hello, walking on eggshells!) Eventually, after trying everything I could think of to fix it, I left my first marriage and came back home to this safe valley in western Montana that I love. I felt like a shadow of myself, and had this deep knowing that the most important thing to do was to get ME back.

The biggest blessing in this immensely challenging time of my life was that as I reclaimed my personal power, it became obvious what was and was not mine to take responsibility for. Someone else’s feelings? Not mine. People I care about disagreeing? Not mine. This strong theme of differentiating what was and was not mine to cope with began to play an enormous role in my personal choices, and the phrase “not my circus, not my monkeys” (I wish I could remember where I first heard it!) came to be a light-hearted reminder to myself that I only carry responsibility for myself, what I do and how I react.

So this is the universal call to all of us: may we all maintain our own circuses, take care of our own monkeys, and lovingly let go of circuses & monkeys that are not ours so that their rightful owners can do their own work.

P.S. How did I get myself back? Stay tuned and follow this blog to find out next week!

Bridges

The bridge in this photo is at Château Anand, the 3HO ashram near Poitiers, France. In the summer of 2016 , I spent 40 days volunteering at the Château.  Every morning I practiced Aquarian Sadhana, 2.5 hours of yoga and chanting. Every afternoon, by myself or with friends, I would go down to the river that borders one side of the Château, and spend time on the bridge.

 

There were days when I would find myself on this bridge for hours at a time. Peering through the metal slats to the rushing water below, seeing the calmness of the water before it crashed down the rocks, listening to the sounds of passersby in their kayaks and canoes, writing, meditating, crying… that bridge was the space that held me as I faced what felt like an endless pit of darkness in myself.

Dianne Reeves, an amazing singer, sang Sergio Mendes’ “Bridges” on the first album of hers that I was ever given.

“There’s a bridge to tomorrow
There’s a bridge to the past
There’s a bridge made of sorrow
That I pray will not last
There’s a bridge made of colors
In the sky high above
And I think that there must be
Bridges made out of love”

(listen here)

Her voice soared through my head…. bridges made out of love. What would that look like? What would it feel like? At Château Anand, it looked like an old, solid metal grating going across a small waterfall, and it felt like the patterns that formed on my legs and backs of my thighs as I sat there, cross-legged, writing everything out, crying all the tears I’d suppressed, feeling everything that I’d tried to keep myself from feeling. The small red lines on my legs always faded away, as did the intensity of my emotional agony.

40 days after I first arrived at the Château, an old friend picked me up. We walked down to the river, and I showed him the bridge. To him, it was a simple metal bridge. To me, it was everything. It was the place where I’d spent enough time looking into the dark to see the light glimmering in the shadows. It was the home of my new self, the woman who honors her inner knowing. It was, and is a sacred space. A space that I revisit when I close my eyes, and the safe, comforting feeling of sitting on that bridge stays with me. One day, I will return. I will go visit “my” river, “my” bridge: the place that gave myself to me.

Until then, this simple bridge over the healing river at Château Anand stays with me. May each of us find our bridge. Metal, wooden, whatever its physical makeup is or is not, may it be a bridge made out of love.