The final straw was when a leaflet plopped onto the mat entreating me to support a campaign against same sex marriages.
I was already feeling annoyed by the endless junk mail that I carry to our recycling bin every day, but that leaflet transformed me from annoyed into irate grizzly bear territory.
So I shredded it and stomped about a bit, ranted on Twitter and then wrote a sign that I taped to the front door: ‘NO LEAFLETS OR FLYERS. Thank you. They go straight into recycling bin. Save paper. Save your energy.’
I unsubscribed from a raft of email lists that I no longer value, so now I know that what comes into my in-box will be something I actively welcome. That feels so much more spacious because I’m spending less time online sifting through the silt to find the golden nuggets.
These practical steps have made a difference but also got me thinking about what I needed to notice about myself.
Whenever you have a disproportionate emotional reaction to something you can pretty much guarantee it’s because it’s opened up an old wound.
So I sat with my reaction to the anti same sex marriage leaflet, feeling into my body, noticing my breath and trying to get in touch with my truth.
My truth is that I feel frightened by ‘mob mentality’ when people join together through hate and ignorance to campaign against an issue like same sex marriages. It scares me when people unite through fear and anger, building dangerous momentum by fanning the flames of their cause.
Think Salem witch hunts and the Holocaust and Ku Klux Klan. It scares me that human beings are capable of projecting out that amount of fear and anger. Maybe even I am capable of that in some deeply buried shadow part of me.
And so I deepened into my breath, feeling my way into what else I needed to notice.
I feel angry when someone else dictates how other people should live their lives; when someone else dictates how I should live my life. My inner 8 year old wants to shout ‘you’re not the boss of me!’ and go running off laughing.
And my breath carried me to a deeper truth.
My inner 8 year old was so scared of life that she would never have been so rebellious. She wouldn’t say boo to a goose and family legend has it that I spent my early years peeping out from behind my mum’s skirt, I was so painfully shy. I want to make up for it now, I want to go back and fight 8 year old Jackie’s battles for her. For me.
And then my breath carried me into another truth that felt raw, closer to the bone.
When someone forces something unwanted into my space, it feels like my boundaries have been ignored. It could be a leaflet through the door, an opinion about my parenting, or a sexual advance from someone inappropriate.
I’ve always found it difficult to speak up in situations like that. The desire to be a good and reasonable person not wishing to hurt someone else’s feelings has meant there’s times when I’ve said nothing when I should have said no.
I’ve noticed that if you don’t say no, people usually assume you mean yes.
So now I’m exploring the power of no and it’s powerful. It’s scary. It’s exciting.
I’m feeling happier, realising that I have the power to choose. I can communicate my choices clearly, and if other people don’t like them that’s really not my business.
In the weird shifting sands of 2012 I’m finding that unexpected things just don’t fit me anymore. Fundamental things that I thought defined me. I’m making vastly different choices about how I use my energy.
I’ve found myself getting angry on many occasions these past few weeks as I discover and define and express new boundaries. The pendulum often swings far out the other way when we’re trying to find balance.
We all want to move through the sound and the fury to get into the light as soon as possible, but sometimes anger needs to be held and honoured. Not acted on, that is very different, but held and accepted rather than pushed away.
When we get in touch with the shadow parts of our personality and stop repressing them in the attempt to be ‘good people’, we bring anger and fear and intolerance out of the universal shadows.
When we hold a safe space for our anger and our fears, the less power they have over us. The more power we find within ourselves.
By choosing not to have crappy leaflets posted through my door and choosing to unsubscribe from email lists I never read I’ve got in the habit of marking my boundaries. I’m practising clarity instead of silence.
Often we need to practice on the things that don’t seem so important before we feel confident enough to make changes in bigger ways.
The more I say no to what I don’t want, the more I find myself saying yes to what I do.
My son commented on the difference in me. He says he likes ‘new mum’. He perceives new mum as happier and more spontaneous, saying yes more as well as no.
New mum said no to yet another evening spent working and took him for a picnic by the river instead. New mum said yes to sleeping in the garden and pitched the tent by the pond. New mum isn’t prepared to choose duty over joy any more.
When we make clear choices about where we spend our energy, we become much more empowered.
I’m still feeling bear-like but it’s less grizzly, more protector of space. In a favourite astrology book Sun Sign, Moon Sign by Charles and Suzi Harvey the image for integration for my sun/moon combination is “A mother bear fights for territorial rights, wins the battle, and then splashes into the river to catch swimming salmon for her cub and herself”.
I never fully got that until now.
As I ponder on the best ways to catch salmon from our local river (!) I’m wondering:
- Where you are keeping silent when you want to be saying no?
- Who is testing your boundaries?
- Where in your life do you need to put up a sign that says ‘No leaflets or flyers’?
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