The Wheel of Life

“To banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.”
― John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice

Crack

Loser shame…this remark shook me deeply today as I was trying to find relief for the feeling emanating by a small event on Friday’s night.

I realized I have been dealing all my life with shame; haunted by the fragility of my shell and clinging to the silent hope that it will end someday. I cannot accept my own mistakes and imperfections because it is like opening the door to the monster of “they were right;” I am a loser, a small being trying to play in the arena of the great talents and winners, with no other weapon than love and will.

How can I enter a world of “glamour and elite” if an unmerciful spotlight – as those in the towers of a maximum security prison – is chasing my every move, threatening to expose me as a fake!

Glamour? Elite? What in the heck am I talking about?

It is hell to step out and open your heart completely naked to others. It is harder when you secretly feel that you do not have the right to do it, you feel like pretending to be touched by the Gods and to be able to read their magic code. It is a game of life and death, all or nothing.

You have been accumulating the expertise and resilience needed to battle over years; it should be ready by now!

What is wrong with you?

It takes just a tiny moment, less than a second to understand you are not going to make it that day, is all blurred, lost, and you would have to face the audience and say, I am sorry, I cannot remember and leave the stage.

Yep. I messed up playing at an event.

It happens to all, not a big deal, people tell you and you smile and agree on the outside, while the inside is going through your toolkit of self- improving techniques and adult intelligent attitudes trying to shake off the empowered loser and the shame of not being perfect.

Yes, it happens! But it happened to you, and your entire story comes down, crushing you and speaking the many voices you tried to ignore while growing up, turning a life calling into an obsession or worst simple stubbornness.

Self-doubt emerges tall and strong. Back to the past, the starting point!

There are indeed Dragons living within…

At the moment I stood tall, went back to my seat and clapped and cheered the next player. Somebody in the audience asked the presenter if I could play another thing. I listen with horror.

The weird thing is that he said something in the line of – we know, or have been told (not sure) that she plays amazingly beautiful, perhaps she could play something else?…

Back to my old story! I don’t have anything else! Caught with the hands in the Cookie Jar again! You should have something else!

The school director asked me if I had the score, which I did! So it was settled that I will play again after the “Star” finish his presentation (this said with respect and admiration, I love the kid and is amazing to see how big he is in the literal and metaphorical sense of the word). I was actually embarrassed to play after him and to have a “breakdown” with him present…

The night went on. IF this was my old story, I would have left crying and completely distraught; this time I danced, sung and play the Cuatro (Venezuelan instrument) till the night was over. I was a life force life. I have to admit I am not sure if it was making up for something or just because I allowed myself to be seen and my shame to transpire openly and dissolve into my other selves.

When the time came to leave, a couple of women came to me. One of them told me that she had almost cried. That it was so emotional what I have played. I thought it was the first one, which went well! But to my astonishment, it was the one I had to read! Both told me how much I have touched them. I thank them for bringing me “back home” to a place of worthiness and compassion.

Still, I have been having real trouble to let this run through my system and heal the many wounds around my right to be a pianist.

During the weekend I have been moving around followed by the unrelenting dark cloud of failure. I have been turning my eyes away, focusing on making sense of the all the drama around a tiny experience than nobody but me seems to be fixed on!

Why is that, why do we cling to the horrors and overlook the gifts?
It is just me?

I imagine people commenting, whispering and even enjoying my “stumbling”. I see myself small and isolated. – “The world will not look at me the same. I just gave up my cover!”

Can you begin to understand the power of a story based on the belief that I am not good enough or worthy of the passion and wonder I feel for music and the way it touches me?

As I write these words in an attempt to atone for my weaknesses and imperfection, I can see clearly the exaggerated, almost hilarious script running through my head! Are you kidding me! No wonder why you are terrorized by and feel trapped by the gifts you love and give sense and purpose to your life.

It is such an unhealthy hate-love relationship constantly been fed by my inability to accept the fragility of life, to overcome my need of external validation and the fear to actually realize that “I am nothing!”

How much time of my life am I willing to sacrifice in the name of a personal image build upon fear, rejection and the “should’s” that will make me feel loved?

How can I expect to be loved for who I am, if I cannot love myself?

It is a long journey of compassion and innocence, a true leap of faith, the one I am taking to meet the girl, woman and soul filled with visions of magic, tenderness and amazement. The fragile creature who stands alone in the midst of her hopes and dreams, her strengths and vulnerabilities, and doing everything in her hands to be loved to feel worthy; is summoning the courage to move through shame and fear, self-doubt and criticism and stand up for her humanity.

Yes, I am afraid…

Afraid of:

—losing my way.
—not being able to honor those invisible forces pushing within my soul and heart, asking me the last self-sacrifice, to show up raw, naked complete imperfect and to trust that somehow the light in me will fickler and connect with others.

I am afraid…

—that I will ever be able to grasp and express how unbearably and beautiful is to be human, to love what all your heart, to dream the impossible and to bear a life that does not match my expectations.
—to admit I stop breathing every time the thought “I will never make it” enters my mind.
—the feeling that whatever purpose or heroic path the Universe entrusted me with, it forgot to bestow me with the necessary weapons (magic or not) for the task.

What if I am just a shell of strength and accomplishments hidden a weary pantomime plenty of losses and failures?

I am just a human being admitting how hard is to be one; how much I long my life to be meaningful and easier. How much I dread to show up and be rejected. How much I long to belong and be remembered… to know that I truly exist and there is reason for me to be here.

I long for someone to believe in me, even when I give in and turn my back to life; someone who knows what I am going through and points at the sun, the stars or the bright moon on a dark night…
Someone different than me…

I want so much for my students, for the people I love, for the world as a whole, for nature and the future!

How can this simple and small woman aspire to inspire others to keep the light glowing if she is fighting to keep her own coal burning?

Perhaps just admitting here that although my life might not be the example of strength, accomplishment and courage I ask for it to be; I wouldn’t trade any of those invisible moments – sometimes tragic, sometimes magic – when I enter the sacred and touch the infinite… Those fleeting moments when my soul and I seem to walk as one and I know all is right…

There is such love and surrender… I then understand why a Higher Intelligence would like to become human and experience life; why unlimited divine sparks take refuge in mortal temples and patiently await to bloom.

For that,
—I am willing to risk to be seen without disguises.
—I am willing to move back on stage to voice the wonders and beauty of the extraordinary and the ordinary dwelling in the soul – mine, yours, the world’s…

For that,
—I willingly sacrifice my dreams of perfection, the ego’s shell of “having it all figure out” and offer the imperfect and brutally honest song of a human being committed to just BE…

Rumi said…

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

May I find the poetry in it,
May you find the poetry in it,
May all living beings find the poetry in it…

An Ordinary Day Story

“She held herself until the sobs of the child inside subsided entirely. I love you, she told herself. It will all be okay.”
― H. Raven Rose, Shadow Selves

innerchild1

You are peacefully reading, minding your own business or just waking up a Sunday morning slow and gently. Actively engaged in your “gratitude and appreciation” ongoing process, you do your best to focus on those “grown-up” intentions and changes you have put so much effort into and then, life happens…

Somehow you find yourself in the middle of a freaking out drama that you even did not know was going on and part of your family is there at your room’s door. The happy greeting and surprise turns into the inevitable  face’ expression before dreadful questions as…

What is going on? What is that you have done this time?-

After the shock, it is time for the slow-motion-movie to begin… You see yourself, frame by frame- lost, explaining, justifying, describing what you think the situation might be, confronting versions and trying to remember if there is any proof or alibi of your whereabouts the time in question!

I am sure you know what a terrible place to be this is for all – the accused and those granted as “executors of the will” and judges…

In milliseconds, the pain and anger start building up and you can only hear those dangerous words triggering a long story of powerlessness and loneliness. You are being dragged into that deep black hole of inadequacy and rejection, your eyes fixed in those real and imaginary heads moving one side to another in disapproval.

You want so badly to be the good and assertive person you know you can be, but an impenetrable wall rules against hope and trust, and tears replace the loud and messy allegations for fairness. Giving up seems the only way out…

The clocks moves and it dawns on you…

I inadvertently keep role-playing the little kid who wants to be done with unfairness;  the little kid who wants to be loved and chosen as part of the clan. It is incredible the strength this small thing can cast and how she is able to overrule the intelligent and supposedly mature grown-up I like to think I am.

It is hard to be “mindful and enlighten” when deep feelings of unworthiness kick in and the Orphan archetype shows up in all its overwhelming shadow and aided by the irrepressible verbosity of complaints and grievances of the Victim’ one!

I become so small… submerged in this world of fear and despair, where I am torn apart between fighting the monsters of resentment and victimization and trying to pull up my “boundaries setting tools;” with as much success as the one in the hands of my inner lawyer trying to build the case of self-love, self-compassion and mindfulness.

It all goes south, when the tiny girl in me, makes herself present and snaps. Yes, all becomes a painful and quick death…

At the precise moment when I am able to detach myself and play the scene back; self-loathing and shame get up mocking the entire “self-improvement” program I have voluntarily submitted to for many years.

The search to understand what the heck is going on, has many underlying currents messing around and silently eroding my attempts for better responses to this kind of situations.

In my case, asking others to put themselves in my shoes, becomes a sharp reminder of my failures and current circumstances, which not only does not allow many exits, but thwarts my feeble “self-loving” efforts.

The truth is that nothing someone can say compares to what I can say to myself, and how terrible I feel for not being the person I think I should be – or worse – the person I know I am and have not been able to put in charge of my life.

How much time of my life I have been wasting in this horror play?

How much time spent either depressed or overwhelmed by the circumstances and my poor “actions” or lack of them?

This can continue endlessly, and it will, if I do not assume who I am once and for all; because there are plenty of things in my “nowadays” life, I have no control over.

What then?

I went back to the wise words of the finest people* I have the gift share this time and space:

What is working, what do you have power over?

I have control over my choices.

Only for today, I chose to be compassionate about my lack of saintly-martyr qualifications and past failures. Just for today, I going to acknowledge that I did the best I could, and even if this is so tiny that get lost in the ocean of drama, and madness I find myself in… I am doing the best I can.

Thus, I am going to take thing less seriously. I cannot undo the feelings, thoughts or awful decisions spoken in a moment of pain, I can see them for what they are; a cry to be loved, accepted and feel safe.

I can focus on the kind words spoken, common experiences shared and things I do in my little “cave” upstairs that bring me solace and hope; and use all the energy I can summon to break the chain and build the life I deserve.

I can appreciate the effort and care of well-intentioned kinfolk and huge my little child. I can keep traveling the road of faith and trust in and tell her that I love her and everything is going to be well. We are being taken care of in a way that we might not understand, but surely much better than those we could ever plan.

Thus, I sit here and write and silently connect with all those who wrestle with self-love, unconditional acceptance and faith.

I am looking at the sky with joyful eyes and a trusting heart…
Grateful for this milestone in my journey toward who I am…

 

A Note of Gratitude to Ali Rodriguez, Betty Rae and Joseph Crane…

And to my brother for hugging me back…

 

Persistence

Persistence

“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power,
but because its persistence”
Jim Watkins

At times I wonder whether there is a secret to progress in our spiritual and day-to day existence. Some days, life flows easily. We cruise along enjoying the ride feeling energized and empowered; we savor our experiences and even test our luck. Others, we seem to be plunged in a dark cloud; our attention wanders and we lack motivation and drive. In those days the smallest of the efforts requires a real choice, a pure instance of will.

When the progress seems so slow that is almost imperceptible, what is the secret to keep up? Simple, Persistence…

Like most virtues, staying engaged for the long haul must be cultivated, practiced and valued. On less than perfect days, even a little inner effort can go a long way. If we stay with our intentions through thick and thin, storm or sunshine; each drop of effort accumulates and winds up, making a gradual but huge difference in our inner experience and goals.

In the “piano world” we know about the “slow-fast” practice; which stand for going maddening slow when facing a difficult passage and gradually pulling the metronome faster notch by notch. It feels like eternity! Nevertheless, if you have forced the speed before being ready – physically, mentally and emotionally – the passage will fall apart in the worst of moments and you will have not only to re-learn it; but fix the bad habits that came with being impatient. A real nightmare…

How do we summon persistence? What is behind it?

In my case persistence comes from remembering what really matters to me and what I fear the most. Both serve as sources of momentum to push me forward.

The former, has to do with the intrinsic value I draw from the activity and the joy and wonder I am rewarded with. It is not a secret that when we are passionate about something, it is far easier to persist, even if the results do not come as fast as we would like to.

When I play very difficult music or I am lost in a canvas, I can feel terrified of getting nowhere or of messing up the work already done. I find myself silently asking – What am I doing? What are you trying to prove? Who are you to do so? – It is just when I ask – Why; why are you doing this? -that I stop and connect with a deeper sense of purpose, the calling shaping the “Who” I must become.

I imagine and feel in my heart and soul the musical phrase already accomplished. I can actually hear the sound and the mysteries unveiling through it! Or I see a pictorial outcome that is far better that what I could have ever imagined; because I allowed the painting to speak to me. In those moments I know… I am looking into a threshold in time and space. I have been given a piece of eternity and to make it happen at will, I need to push forward, I need to persist.

The second alternative (what I fear the most); is focusing on the obsessive and nagging though screaming at me- what would have happened if you had actually conquered resistance and did not give up? Where would you be? I do hate this…. Fear of regret over lost possibilities, is powerful enough to keep me doing whatever is that I am up to, even if it means struggling forever.

Thus, when the muse of divine spark is missing and I cannot summon it; I think about regret. I go back to other occasions when I lost momentum or wasted whatever little effort I had put on. I think about having to start again, not with the fresh attitude of a beginner facing a new task; but with the annoyance and guilt of knowing where I might have been if I had persisted.

It sounds cruel?

Do not misunderstand me; I know that sometimes I will fail to persist. I would even fail to use any of the above alternatives. In those times then, I shall appeal to a third wave. I shall sigh and tell myself- Human, Mercedes. I am sorry but you are human –  I smile, forgive and start again.

What is your recipe for persistence?