I have been giving a lot of thought lately to empathy and the role it plays in my life as an artist. I am one of those who was born into this world without her protective armor, so since my very first memories, I have felt the inner workings of those around me for better or for worse. Without even consciously doing so, I began to make my decisions based on how to avoid upsetting others, not so much because they were scary or innately evil, but because any slight deviation from center in their own guts, meant I would feel it straight in the middle of mine. But I was also born a wave maker, a vibrational shaker and a truth earthquaker. And it wasn't until recently that I learned just how confusing, and totally painful, that combination can be at times.
I was put here to hold my divine feminine ground and shine my truth unapologetically, but, at the same time, I have these giant antennae that pick up all of the feelings of those around me (even plants and animals and rocks and rivers). So what happens when I have a truth (or ten) that I know will cause people around me to feel unease? What happens when I see an injustice that I feel needs voice, but I know I will get slammed with waves of low vibrations the second it leaves my lips?
It's this weird place of being brave, and then being beaten; and I don't have all of the answers but I know what doesn't work.
What doesn't work is shutting down your truth.
Somewhere along the way, I began to honor the God of Should. "Should I post these words, or will I lose followers?" "Should I tell this person that I know they are using me, or will she think I'm a bitch?" "Should I say no, or will I seem antisocial?" Should, should, should, should. And Should is never happy. There is never enough. It will take over until you are so lost in the forest of what-everyone-else-wants-from-you that you can't really see your way out. And then, in that place, you just kind of curl up on the ground and give up.
Basically, the moment I start to put "Should" in front of anything, I am setting myself up for a soul shut down and death. Because inevitably, in an attempt to protect myself, I will decide to bite my tongue, play by the rules, and try and make everyone else happy. Should is like the nastiest drug ever, and eventually I'm like a broken down shell of myself begging the world to just love me. "I'm doing everything I should be doing. Why am I not happy?"
Here's why: Because in order to swallow my words, in order to play it safe, in order to play by the formula of high rates of social acceptance, I have to shut it ALL down. Not just bits and pieces. I think I can just shut down a few things (oh, I'll just stop sharing my heart on instagram... Oh, I'll just choose to be polite even when I need to be assertive...) but I don't work that way. My heart only knows two ways of being: open or closed. And in order to make the Should Gods happy, it has to all be locked up and sealed tight.
I have tried you guys. I want all of the haters out there to know that I read your words and I listened to your gossip, and I really tried to be the person you all wanted me to be. I did! And it kind of worked because you stopped posting mean things about me and you stopped whispering so much, and I didn't feel the wave of your hate slamming so hard into my empathetic shores. So, being invisible actually does stop the pain of judgement, but here is what I didn't really get until now: the pain of judgement is nothing compared to the pain of living a life of self-imposed oppression.
Holy fucking cow my friends. That's where the real pain lives. I was so concerned with protecting myself from other people's feelings that I actually couldn't move. Like my entire body hurt when I so much as walked. I cried a lot. I had lots of migraines. I had a bunch of panic attacks. I felt directionless and confused and trapped. I cut bangs. I tried to stop cussing. I even accepted a job working 55 hours a week in a building with no windows.
And it's not like this is the first time this has happened in my life. I go through these stages where I just want SO BADLY to fit in that I contort myself to fit into unfamiliar boxes. There was one phase, right after I had Braedon, where I wore pearl earrings and sold Tupperware. I thought I had to be a certain kind of Connecticut mother so I had aprons and more than one pair of high heels and multiple shades of pink lipstick. And that was also the time when I drove myself to a mental hospital and begged them to let me in. I was convinced that there was only one way to be 'a normal Mother' and since I couldn't do it AND be happy, I thought I must have been crazy. They gave me a tour and then told me to take an art class in town instead. I signed up for my first pottery lesson and the next week, I found myself dancing outside of the studio, covered in clay, the pouring rain washing away whatever leftover Martha-Stewart-delusions that were still lingering.
I am perhaps the worst player of the game of pretend in the history of the entire universe, BUT, I also have become pretty stellar at navigating my way back into my own authentic power.
The ocean. The rain. Pottery, and photography and rivers. Soil. Screaming at the top of my lungs into the mouth of a waterfall. Writing a blog post after an incredible yoga session that left my heart beating to the rhythm of the tides once again. I always find my way back.
I am a whole-heart-loving-empathetic-bad-ass-mother-fuckin-warrior. And maybe I am here to get lost and found enough times to become an expert at it, so that I can light the lantern for other women who are ready to return Home, too.
And actually, I lied when I said I didn't know what the answer is. I do. I've just been afraid to admit it because of the whole should thing.
The answer is in connecting, right up close, with one another. Because when a group of whole-heart-loving-empathetic-bad-ass-mother-fuckin-warriors get together and form a tribe, we are there to lift one another, and squeeze one another's hands, and smear fresh mud on our faces when we've forgotten how.
Sisterhood is the secret.
So here I am, switching my heart to its ON position once again. Letting the words out of their cages, burning the critics to ash.
And, with arms open wide, calling in the tribe.