I’ve rolled up my sleeves and joined the Tracking Wonder Vision Quest 2015 for the month of December, stepping midstream into a beautiful group of questers and visionaries delving into hearts and intentions under the compassionate curatorial stewardship of Jeffrey Davis. We respond to prompts (crafted by 12 visionaries) and share reveries across our sites. If you are intrigued, quest with us by visiting Vision Quest 2015 to sign up.
I will resume posting November Butterfly poetry prompts in 2015; visit this link for a list of the eleven poetry prompts available to date for the iconic women gracing Section I of November Butterfly.
Today’s Vision Quest 2015 prompt (Day 6) was written by Todd Kashdan (author of The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why being your whole self – not just your good self – drives success and fulfillment(Hudson Street Press) with Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener as well as Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life (Harper Collins).
Which emotions do you feel most guilty about having? Afraid that others might find out?
How could you spend this year trying to be open to the emotional window that allows you to be courageous? It rarely feels good right before we do something courageous, but these moments are the most meaningful and treasured.
I love that Todd Kashdan balances jugular (prompting us to admit what we’d love to mask from others) with gentle (offering us the image of a private emotional window we might install behind the scenes in order to grow).
I experience more shame than guilt for indulging (or being at the mercy of) certain chronic emotions. Though grappling with shadow selves has probably always been an asset for writers and artists across genres, bloggers enter the fray in a potentially more vulnerable way due to the immediate and far-reaching audience the web affords us when we post something. And part of what makes a blogger compelling is precisely the ability to mine a 360 view of the self in today’s fishbowl web culture where fierce levels of reveal are often the norm.
For me, the challenge to blogging sustainably while working on new writing projects remains how to stay grounded. How do I remain authentic without gutting self or others, and how do I stay focused and true, internally, while expressing outwardly? I’m sure I’ll be living the answer for the rest of my life, following the compass of my heart, which really means the compass of spiritual listening, weighing, balancing.
The emotion I wish I weren’t dogged by so much–that I wish others wouldn’t know about me–is chronic anxiety accompanied by a lack of trust in the universe to care for all of us, women in particular. I would prefer to appear confident and trusting. I’m facing these fears in a renewed fashion with the publication of my first poetry book (last week I wrote about the fear of annihilation in Patterns of Incandescence, Indigo Griefs, and Sky Girl).
Kashdan’s prompt brought to mind an incident from several years ago when I thought I was going to San Francisco for a night out with the moms (a new group I had just met). As much as I love my three children, and as every mother will attest, the thought of a city meal and adult conversation sounded beautiful.
When plans morphed to forego dinner in favor of attending a rave on Treasure Island, I had my first full-blown panic attack. I stayed behind in the room twenty floors up in the rainy city skyline. I watched from the window as my friends in their mini skirts and halter tops folded themselves into the taxi, wondering why I couldn’t just relax, take a pill like they did to take the edge off and let go and “love a little more.” But it just wasn’t me.
By 3 am, after enjoying the pristine white of the hotel suite alone, passing the time by editing a friend’s manuscript, I salvaged my self-esteem when the moms returned bleary-eyed and reeking of cinnamon, smoke and beer, by reading Tarot cards for them. I even allowed them to dress me in belly dancer’s scarves and aqua eyeshadow to better play the part, their antics harmless by then, since we were now secured inside for the night.
I was acutely aware that it felt safer on the reader’s side of the equation than it did earlier to have them cajoling me to enter the wild night outside the hotel with them. I came face to face with my abject terror when it comes to women and their budding sensuality and my lack of trust in our society to not take advantage of these grown women. In the months that followed, I leaned on a group of women writers (many I met through A Room of Her Own Foundation) to mine the anxieties surrounding the heart of that experience and to finish writing my own story in poems (see Revising Guinevere, When Trees Mattered More Than Boys and Emerging from the Cocoon: Sisters, Real and Imagined).
Now that the book is out, I’m walking through that abject fear every time I go out to give a workshop or a reading. The outer work is sharing writing process and encouraging others to list their mentors and their hope spots. In other words, my emotional work remains private and internal, but the outer work of holding workshops affords me the opportunity to bridge others to their mentors where they too can garner the strength to mine their own stories.
New Windows, New Questions
Kashdan also asks us: How could you spend this year trying to be open to the emotional window that allows you to be courageous?
Though I’ll be on book tour this coming year, I’m simultaneously working on a second manuscript. I’m turning from the “body” story (chronicled in the first collection, in which poems track memories and projections about what it means to be female in our culture across iconic personalities) to the writing of poems about the spiritual body. This second manuscript focuses on a commune I lived on for six years in Illinois and so far is haunted by questions that linger in the psyche regarding charisma and power and danger.
When I “reframe” Todd Kashdan’s questions, they become:
Which emotional window would give me the courage to revisit those years on the commune with balanced eyes? Which window will help me trust spiritual beauty again?
How and why does power corrupt?
How do you stand in the beauty of another’s beauty and maintain your own?
How can you be goaded to blossom without giving over your harvest too soon, or too freely, or laying down your cause, or, your body, as often happens in cults, for the leader?
How can each one of us urge the highest form of bloom in self and others?
The emotional window that allows me to be courageous would be a frame sturdy enough to withstand remembering that time and to withstand the pain and joy of life itself and this life of reaching past oneself to something else.
Just as writing November Butterfly depended on connecting to a beautiful group of women writers and supporters, I imagine it matters to read about and connect with other children of communes in order to come out of the solitary dark. It is a shared quandary (and the poems need not come out of a stoic isolation I’ve been guilty of maintaining until now…And look! there’s that word, guilt, Todd–it only took the entire post to access it, but here we are).
Thank you Todd Kashdan for the questions and thank you Jeffrey Davis for organizing and curating this Tracking Wonder #Quest2015. I welcome comments or thoughts on any of the questions or topics above.
Photo Credits: All photos taken by Robyn Beattie with the exception of the last two (yours truly). November Butterfly’s book photo is by Robyn and the cover design by Don Mitchell of Saddle Road Press.
December 19, 2015 Update: Additional questers musing on the question Which emotions do you feel most guilty about having? Afraid that others might find out? posed to us by Todd Kashdan:
The Upside of My Dark Side: Difficult Riches by Suzi Banks Baum, such a rich and soul-searching post about alcoholism, raising daughters, the pivotal family response to menses, and how to yet find joy given the painful tapestry of one’s past.
Dark Side of Quest 2015: Women of Wonder by Ginny Taylor, a brave, beautiful, lucid look at the ways sexual abuse affects parenting mothers and some ideas about how to salvage joy.
#Quest2015: Come to the Darkside: We have Teddy Bears by Brenna Lynne, another brave look in the mirror, this time around “Fakebook” and envy across media streams and writer accomplishment streams with a dose of self love and humor.
The Upside of Your Dark Side by Kate Arms-Roberts, with beautiful alchemical image of silver and gold bowl and reflections on emotional patterns.