Archives for posts with tag: resilience

On Oct. 15 2011, my husband left me.

I don’t mean left me as in, we talked about separation, we divided up our things and he departed the house — you know, with agreement. With finality. With closure. With conversation. I mean, he left me as in I returned home one evening to find he had packed up all he could fit into the car, cleared out the bank accounts, and left the keys behind, with nary a word or a note –and never to communicate again via phone, text or email (at least, not until seven months later when he wanted to get the rest of his things).

To be fair, we HAD talked separation. After nearly a year of marriage counseling, and another few previous years of strife and struggle, I had finally come to the realization that the marriage was never going to be truly that  — a marriage, a joint union, each spouse standing for the other, making decisions for the marriage in lieu of the self. The morning he left, we had talked a bit more about the logistics of a separation, what the process might be.

But his actions that day had me feeling just one thing: ABANDONED.

Abandonment was my worst fear, realized.

It was the stuff of all my nightmares as a child, a teen, and even an adult. It’s what I had fought to avoid — in all my relationships, in my jobs, in my every day.  By 4 am the next morning I was exhausted, unable to sleep and devoid of any feeling except a deep pit in my stomach that was unquenchable with the very blackness of its depth. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even think.

I was an empty vessel lying in bed that night and morning. I didn’t know until then how much of my soul had gone into keeping the very thing I feared the most — abandonment — at bay.

When I called my Mom the morning after that sleepless night, all the feelings I’d been holding back, the ones locked behind the empty vessel I had become over the past three years, came flooding out in one single clarified moment. For the first time in many, many years, I sobbed, and I did it from the depths of my fear. All the loneliness, pointless wishing and hiding from myself I’d been doing came crashing in at once and came out of me in a  low empty, nearly voiceless cry turning into a deep racking sob that lasted for wordless, endless moments.

It’s amazing what can happen when there’s nothing left to lose. For the first time in my life, I asked my Mon to come and rescue me: to come and stay with me the next week as I navigated not just sudden aloneness, but with the sudden grappling of the knowledge I’d been trying to avoid for so long, maybe since just after I’d gotten married. Not only was I abandoned NOW, I’d been abandoned, really, from the very beginning. Maybe before I’d even fathomed the idea of marriage at all.

She came to rescue me, to stay with me, just to BE with me. And my restart started, again.

*******************

Abandoned, or at rest, a boat unsailed will start to rot.

Each year, hundreds of ships are abandoned at docks and on sea. Depending on how you define abandonment, the actual number could be MUCH higher. After all, while we often talk about ships as though they embody a human — usually a she, as in, “She sails straight,” or “She is a great, beautiful boat,” or “She has her quirks but she never lets me down in weather,” — sailors and shipmen alike tend to refer to how much “soul” a boat has. Some storied ships carry their own spirit, regardless of owner, but these are few and far between. I would argue that most ships only have as much soul as its captain and crew are willing to put into it.

Abandoned, or at rest, a boat unsailed will start to rot.

Abandoned, or at rest, a boat unsailed will start to rot.

Amazingly, even though many of these abandoned ships sit at docks or anchor for years, no one steps in to claim them as their own. There is an unwritten rule that, even if a ship’s owner has not taken care of a ship in years, has not visited her or paid for her dockage or done anything to upkeep the ship, She belongs to someone else.

Plenty of laws exist on the books in each local, state and international jurisdiction that make it clear that even if it’s abandoned, it still belongs to someone. Marinas have to go through piles of paperwork to get an abandoned boat declared as such before they can legally be allowed to remove it. The US Coast Guard and state natural resource departments can’t even begin to clean up the waste of an unclaimed boat until they get a legal declaration — a process that again takes much time and paperwork. Even if they do, there remains the ultimate question of who will pay for the removal of not just the boat but the fuel and oil it leeches into the water as it decays. Because ultimately, these abandoned ships eventually succumb to the water in which they languish.

A boat without water flowing by its hulls will eventually begin to rot, from the outside in. Wooden boats’ planks begin to shrink, change shape and leak water until the boards open to let more water in while the batteries die and the pumps stop emptying the ship of the inevitable water that makes its way through (because, as any seasoned sailor will tell you, all wooden boats leak, all the time). Metal hulls start to rust and welded seams eventually fail. Fiberglass hulls, too, develop weaknesses when left to the wiles of winds, waves and rain.

To prosper and survive, ships need sailed. As though there is a deep-seated recognition that an abandoned ship is soulless and without much merit, the REAL pirates of today — the ones that patrol Africa’s coast and the China seas and even parts of the Caribbean — will not touch an abandoned boat. They target vessels already under steam, with a crew, a commodity underway. These pirates know a boat abandoned is merely an empty vessel, and they want a vessel full of possibility they can steal.

***********************

In the months after my spouse abandoned me, an amazing and unexpected thing happened: I found faith. In the vastness of love foundered on dreams unrealized, I developed a deep, abiding belief in love. I found a lasting sense of peace. And I discovered I had never been abandoned at all.  In this abandonment, I found freedom to take the abandoned vessel I thought I had become, shore it up with some new boards, a bit of pitch tar and faith in a right wind and TRUST it fully again. I learned to trust myself again, and I learned to trust the sense that came from deep within that there was something else driving this ship, something that I could trust.

Photo, Pam Steude. Sometimes dark times, are really openings to more

Photo, Pam Steude. Sometimes dark times, are really openings to more

We all have this opportunity, all the time, in the small and big losses of life.

Losing a job, an important relationship, a loved one, a dream: In our human attempts to overcome the inevitability of life, the ebb and flow of dreams developed, followed and derailed, we try to keep those events that cause those feelings at bay because, ultimately, we like to think that we can control what happens to us.

We gather inspirational sayings to arm ourselves against that nagging voice that tells us in the quiet moments on dark nights that we are not good enough, not important enough or not doing enough. These work, for a time, until that next quiet moment returns. These losses force us to look directly at the one thing we fight against as humans:  that We Can Not, try as we might, BE God.

We do not consider, maybe we cannot consider, that in the clearing that loss creates, we are not DEVOID as much as we are an empty vessel ready to be filled. Perhaps then, the ultimate question is what we will fill our vessels with, what soul cry we will answer when we are finally empty enough to choose freely.

And so maybe boats – and people- ultimately become a product of their story and founding principles no matter where they sit or sail.

Left with nothing to lose, our vessels ask us what soul cry we will pick up. Our fate is not sealed: we are not an empty ship abandoned and now devoid of soul without its captain and crew to give it story and heart. Our vessel was never empty to begin with. And instead of fearing the space that these great losses can bring, we can instead remember that our soul infuses within us a continuing story.  Abandonment is a chance for us to ask, instead of what the world will bring to us, what WE will bring to the world.

I choose faith, love, hope and peace.Hope

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I am a recovering creative.

Truth be told, I am a recovering a lot of things. But that’s another blog. Ok, maybe a book since, after all, I’m getting up there in age.

I don’t mean recovering creative as in, “used to be and now seeking to not be.” I mean recovering as in, “becoming again.”

Just Say No(In case you think I am making up this creative recovery thing, I am not: it has a whole movement, a 12-step recovery process all its own, A.R.T.S Anonymous. As if artists really need help being any more anonymous: if you ask me, we need more light shined on how much work we are actually producing each day. It’s surprisingly easy to do work, without actually working on what you are supposed to be working on — this blog post being the perfect example.)

Each day I used to don the professional gear, commute 20 to 30 minutes, sit at my desk and begin the work of beginning to work. Each day was different, but the setting, the task, the GOAL, was the same: do lots of stuff to accomplish overall organizational goals, win friends, influence others and look smart while doing it!

And let me tell you, when it was working, it was HEADY stuff. When I was ON, the power was mine to wield, to make marvelous things happen for people, to make a DIFFERENCE. And I was good at my jobs – Good at getting money for the organizations I worked for; good at producing papers, newsletters, words that made people act; good at connecting people and making things happen.

But after 20 years, I was starting to run dry. The stress of not working on the words, the stories, the ideas in my head, was starting to show.

More importantly, I was starting to believe the headiness all that power of creation in the workplace created. I was starting to buy in. I started to want the fancy Brooks Brothers suits; the nicer, new car; the Washington DC parties and high-end connections and the power of knowing the people running the Ultimate Power City. In short, I started to think it was real.

Thankfully, a few things happened that leveled out my progress down the Great Corporate Power Road:

  1. My first husband left me, suddenly and without word or communicationIPhone Laura 2015 239 thereafter, after clearing out all his clothes and our joint bank account;
  2. Bereft and broken, I started exploring the whys and hows of the world, and of me;
  3. When I slipped up and let my EGO pick a power-filled job again, I ended up In a position that made me realize, quickly, that no amount of work would actually mean I could achieve the very thing I was supposed to in said job.

Ultimately, it was the crushing of my EGO — the painful tearing away of expectations, assumptions and successes — that got me out of that mess.

And so here I sit today: STRESS-less and Corporate-America-Shine-and-Dine-Big-JOB-less. Entirely for the better.

Except.

Each day I write and work on my active creative recovery for an hour, sometimes up to three. I am supposed to “play” several times during the week – and do lots of reading, not necessarily related to the book I am working on. I am supposed to work at creative things that don’t necessarily produce anything, and aren’t meant to. After I write, I head to the desk to tackle my actual creative work: Research, writing, planning. Usually for all of four hours, which is about what I have left after all that. I have yet to produce any new words for my book, and I’m only 10% done with my research. I alternate between feelings of despair, hopelessness and loneliness, and ever-soaring elation, freedom and the feeling that I have finally landed IN myself. Which, it turns out, is exactly what folks tend to feel in addiction recovery programs.

Addiction, at its core, is all about when individuals start thinking/believing and/or trying to BE God. For many of us, that’s exactly what work becomes. When you’re working, hard, every day, and making things happen, and bringing in more money each year, and hearing great things about yourself from all loads of people – well, it becomes easy to believe all that. And, you start to want to hear it more often. Until just one is no longer enough.

Our culture is set up to support accomplishment, great productions – money and things included. I’m starting to think that, in fact, our nation’s founders had tendencies towards bi-polar disorder that made them want to strike off across the ocean to unknown land to begin with – let alone settle remote outposts surrounded by woods and wilds. That certainly explains the Salem Witch Trials  to me a whole heck of a lot better than religious zealotry. Ok, so maybe it’s an equally-weighted thing.

Either way, as with anything that feels good when you first do it, but then gets more guilt-laden than celebratory, where the repercussions start outweighing the benefits, and where one is just not enough (job, shift, one more hour or one more digit increase to the salary), eventually, if work is your addiction, you hit the proverbial bottom.

Increasingly, we Americans are hitting that bottom – even as countless stories, research projects and pundits caution us that happiness does not lie in great works, money, things or more hours working. You analytical types can see the proof by reading Stanford University’s “The Relationship Between Hours Worked and Productivity,” or by watching the Ted Talk Video, “Flow: the Secret of Happiness.”  Or read up on the work of social scientists who discovered a few years ago that people who make $75k or more may feel better in general about life, but not in day-to-day, overall emotional well-being – and that, in fact, that daily happiness ratio decreases the more a person makes above that mark.

It’s just not hard to find the studies and scholarly articles that prove we Americans are working more, achieving less and being more miserable doing it.

The challenge is, of course, recovering in a society that is largely addicted to the power of work – something that ultimately is more related to culture, which would take far more than a nationwide 12-step recovery program to address.

But if any of you creative, workaholic types out there feel like tackling that fix-it, have at it.

IPhone Laura 2015 199In the meantime, the best answer might be for us each, individually, to embark upon our own recovery – creative, spiritual, family or otherwise. At the end, it’s all about uncovering what it is that throws us off balance, tracking it down, excising it and then working on re-centering.

Maybe that’s the closest we really need to a New Year’s resolution.

 

On Oct. 15,  2011, my husband left me.

I don’t mean left me as in, we talked about separation, we divided up our things and he departed the  house one day at an arranged time — you know, with agreement. With finality. With closure. With conversation. I mean, he left me as in I returned home one evening to find he had packed up all he could fit into the car, cleared out the bank accounts, and left the keys behind, with nary a word or a note –and never to communicate again via phone, text or email (at least, not until seven months later when he wanted to get the rest of his things).

To be fair, we HAD talked separation. After nearly a year of marriage counseling, and another few previous years of strife and struggle, I had finally come to the realization that the marriage was never going to be truly that  — a marriage, a joint union, each spouse standing for the other, making decisions for the marriage in lieu of the self. It had been my decision to separate to move towards divorce. And the morning he left, we had talked a bit more about the logistics of a separation, what the process might be.

But his actions that day had me feeling just one thing: ABANDONED.

Abandonment was my worst fear, realized.

It was the stuff of all my nightmares as a child, a teen, and even an adult. It’s what I had fought to avoid — in all my relationships, in my jobs, in my every day.  By 4 am the next morning I was exhausted, anxious, unable to sleep and devoid of any feeling except a deep pit in my stomach that was unquenchable with the very blackness of its depth. So much so that I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even think.

I was an empty vessel lying in bed that night and morning: As though until I had to quit fighting, hard, every second of every day and even in my sleep for the shell of a marriage I had found myself in, I didn’t even know how hard I’d been fighting. I didn’t know then how much of my soul had gone into keeping the very thing I feared the most — abandonment — at bay.

When I called my Mom the morning after that sleepless night, all the feelings I’d been holding back, the ones locked behind the empty vessel I had become over the past three years, came flooding out in one single clarified moment. For the first time in many, many years, I sobbed, and I did it from the depths of my fear. All the loneliness, pointless wishing and hiding from myself I’d been doing came crashing in at once and came out of me in a  low empty, nearly voiceless cry turning into a deep racking sob that lasted for wordless, endless moments.

It’s amazing what can happen when there’s nothing left to lose. For the first time in my life, I asked her to come and rescue me: to come and stay with me the next week as I navigated not just sudden aloneness, but with the sudden grappling of the knowledge I’d been trying to avoid for so long, maybe since just after I’d gotten married. Not only was I abandoned NOW, I’d been abandoned, really, from the very beginning. Maybe before I’d even fathomed the idea of marriage at all.

She came to rescue me, to stay with me, just to BE with me. And my restart started, again.

*******************

Abandoned, or at rest, a boat unsailed will start to rot.

Abandoned, or at rest, a boat unsailed will start to rot.

Each year, hundreds of ships are abandoned at docks and on sea. Depending on how you define abandonment, the actual number could be MUCH higher. After all, while we often talk about ships as though they embody a human — usually a she, as in, “She sails straight,” or “She is a great, beautiful boat,” or “She has her quirks but she never lets me down in weather,” — sailors and shipmen alike tend to refer to how much “soul” a boat has. Some storied ships carry their own spirit, regardless of owner, but these are few and far between. And, I would argue that most ships only have as much soul as its captain and crew are willing to put into it.

Amazingly, despite the ships that sit abandoned at docks, no one comes to claim them as their own. There is an unwritten rule that, even if a ship’s owner has not taken care of a ship in years, has not visited her or paid for her dockage or done anything to upkeep the ship, She belongs to someone else. And plenty of laws exist on the books in each local, state and international jurisdiction that make it clear that even if it’s abandoned, it still belongs to someone. Marinas have to go through piles of paperwork to get an abandoned boat declared as such before they can legally be allowed to remove it. The US Coast Guard and state natural resource departments can’t even begin to clean up the waste of an unclaimed boat until they get a legal declaration — a process that again takes much time and paperwork. And even if they do, there remains the ultimate question of who will pay for the removal of not just the boat but the fuel and oil it leeches into the water  as it decays. Because ultimately, these abandoned ships eventually succumb to the water in which they languish. A boat without water flowing by its hulls will eventually begin to rot, from the outside in. Wooden boats’ planks begin to shrink, change shape and leak water until the boards open to let more water in while the batteries die and the pumps stop emptying the ship of the inevitable water that makes its way through (because, as any seasoned sailor will tell you, all wooden boats leak, all the time). Metal hulls start to rust and welded seams eventually fail. Fiberglass hulls, too, develop weaknesses when left to the wiles of winds, waves and rain. To prosper and survive, ships need sailed. As though there is a deep-seated recognition that an abandoned ship is soulless and without much merit, the REAL pirates of today — the ones that patrol Africa’s eastern coast’s and the China seas — will not touch an abandoned boat. They target vessels already under steam, with a crew, a commodity underway. These pirates know a boat abandoned is merely an empty vessel, and they want a vessel full of possibility they can steal.

A boat that sits too long, too often, that’s faced a checkered past, a bad reputation, often meets if not an abandoned, untimely end, then a sad fading into semi-obscurity. Look no further than the tale of the Schooner America, a replica of the boat for which the landmark sailboat match the world tunes into today was named (This year’s match was out of San Francisco August 21 to 26 and October 2 to 7). Built by a wealthy Virginian restaurateur to be both a money-making venture and a goodwill ambassador for the US,  Mr. Ray Giovanni’s dream never quite materialized. The boat has alternated in its 20-year history between being celebrated, reviled, abandoned, recovered and re-celebrated before fading once again into the background at some dock in a port town (the full story of the Schooner America is coming soon, in a post entitled “Checkered Pasts and High Seas: The Life of the Schooner America”). Just three years after the Schooner America was built to great fanfare, celebration and media coverage, she languished at a Ft. Lauderdale marina, unwanted at the original asking price. In those short 36 months, the ship had developed enough of a reputation that few were willing to tackle a young boat with a checkered past. Its various owners in its life — three to date — have proclaimed in various ways that THIS time she was to prosper fully. Greg Muzzy,  owner of Liberty Fleet which bought the Schooner America in 1999 — only to have her run aground just a year later as she sailed on her maiden voyage out of Boston — told me in 2000: “The boat’s had a checkered life and created some bad reputations here and there. Our job is to try and fix some of those reputation problems and turn it into the best it can be.” And yet, just a few years later, Liberty Fleet put the Schooner America up on the auction block again.

A vessel facing criticism, abandonment, trials and innuendos, can hardly seem to escape that fate. The Schooner America is not the only ship to sail this tale.

And here lies the very real distinction between a vessel abandoned, and a person abandoned.

***********************

In the months after my spouse abandoned me, an amazing and unexpected thing happened: I found faith. In the vastness of love foundered on dreams unrealized, I developed a deep, abiding belief in love. I found a lasting sense of peace. And I discovered I had never been abandoned at all.  In this abandonment, I found freedom to take the abandoned vessel I thought I had become, shore it up with some new boards, a bit of pitch tar and faith in a right wind and TRUST it fully again. I learned to trust myself again, and I learned to trust the sense that came from deep within that there was something else driving this ship, something that I could trust.

Photo, Pam Steude. Sometimes dark times, are really openings to more

Photo, Pam Steude. Sometimes dark times, are really openings to more

We all have this opportunity, all the time, in the small and big losses of life.

Losing a job, an important relationship, a child, a dream: In our human attempts to overcome the inevitability of life, the ebb and flow of dreams developed, followed and derailed, we try to keep those events that cause those feelings at bay because, ultimately, we like to think that we can control what happens to us. Or, at the least, affect the outcome when they do happen- the fear, loneliness and hopelessness that can follow in the wake of our most shocking life changes.

We gather inspirational sayings to arm ourselves against that nagging voice that tells us in the quiet moments on dark nights that we are not good enough, not important enough or not doing enough. These work, for a time, until that next quiet moment returns. These losses force us to look directly at the one thing we fight against as humans:  that We Can Not, try as we might, BE God.

We do not consider, maybe we cannot consider, that in that wake, the clearing that loss creates, we are not DEVOID as much as we are an empty vessel ready to be filled. Perhaps then, the ultimate question is what will we fill our vessels with, what soul cry will we answer when we are finally empty enough to choose freely.

And so maybe boats – and people- ultimately become a product of their story and founding principles no matter where they sit or sail. The America might have been so embattled precisely because Mr. Ray founded her on two dual and competing purposes. You cannot produce a revenue to feed the company that runs you AND be a “goodwill” ambassador – which implies that it operates solely for the good of the people.

Left with nothing to lose, our vessels ask us what soul cry we will pick up. Our fate is not sealed: we are not an empty ship abandoned and now devoid of soul without its captain and crew to give it story and heart. Our vessel was never empty to begin with. And instead of fearing the space that these great losses can bring, we can instead remember that our soul infuses within us a continuing story.  Abandonment is a chance for us to ask, instead of what the world will bring to us, what WE will bring to the world.

I choose faith, love, hope and peace.

Hope