Friday, November 9, 2012

Fault Lines



The other night I got home from picking my daughter up from school and the headache that had been in the background swelled to a debilitating fever pitch at the same time my stomach was seized by what felt like a vice grip. I dragged myself to the kitchen to make dinner for my family and then sat down at the table and watched them eat. 

And then earthquake. Just a little 3.3, but the epicenter was only nine miles out to sea from where I sat. As the tension began to release its grip on my stomach, it started to make sense. I had been reading the tension building up along the fault line before the earthquake. This happens from time to time with me and earthquakes. Looking back, I think I knew something was up because I found myself intently watching the neighborhood dogs being walked below my patio the hour before. I had been watching to see if they were alarmed in any way.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
It is like this in life for me. I feel the tension building around a situation along the fault line of a relationship, work, health, and so it is not exactly a surprise when something blows up. Sometimes the tension resolves in holy release, where the outcome exceeds my expectations. Sometimes it’s a disaster where I end up having to call in emergency relief to retrieve me from the wreckage. Mostly, it falls somewhere in the middle.

I have a habit of blaming myself for these situations, placing fault on myselfthat there was something I should or should not have done. And lately I’ve been noticing that I do something that makes these fault lines even more painful for me: I don’t say what I really want. I color my feelings in response to the energy I am reading from other people. I look for the peaceful middle ground, often at the expense of my own hidden desires. Yes, there is something good in my mediation methodology, but there is also something insidiousa lack of courage, a fear that if I speak my desires that I will be left...alone. It’s been a poignant lesson over the last few months as I have begun to speak what I desire out loud, even when I know that it will (at least for the moment) place a rift in the smooth flow of my relationship with another. 

After an insanely busy summer, I needed to get away from my responsibilities for a moment and play. So I made arrangements for my daughter, booked plane tickets to New York City and announced to my husband that I was going. It was a bold gesture. The look on his face was a mix of surprise and questioning, but I stood my ground. I knew that discussing it would have led me down the slippery road of compromise as I tried to ease his comfort with my decision. Over the next few weeks he peppered me with comments about the trip, making it clear that he did not appreciate me making the decision to go without consulting him. It was not easy for me to sit in the discomfort of that space and not defer to his opinions, but it changed me to do it. Even though he didn’t like it, it was not a make or break situation. He was still there when I got home, and I came back from New York with more energy than I had had in months.

Sometimes I am nostalgic for the person I was just a few months ago. For much of my life I have stood behind and supported others while they found success in the worldgrounding romantic partners, business partners, family and friends to the detriment of my stepping out into the world. That status quo persona was comfortable, but it was not representative of the person deep inside. I want to be out front, leading the charge. Now it’s been long enough in this new path that I can’t go back. 

What I am beginning to notice is that there are many who have been waiting for this to happen, waiting for me to step out from behind the shadow of the peacemaker to blaze a trail, cause a stir, incite change. And that it is not my responsibility to take care of those who do not understand where I have gone. This leg of the journey is about walking the fault lines between who I used to be and who I am becoming, and learning to stand confidently in my desires whatever that tension brings.