A Gentle Sense of Pride

Daily Prompt: Proud

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“What are you proud of, mom? I just don’t get why you’re proud of me.”

For most of my life I’ve had difficulty acknowledging, let alone having pride in, my accomplishments. My therapist tells me it’s because I wasn’t able to see myself. And she’s right, I never could see what the big deal was about anything I achieved.

When people told me they were proud of me it would go in one ear and out the other. It just never registered. Mostly, I guess, because I could never feel pride in myself.

Growing up disconnected ~ through dissociation, etc. ~ does this. I was never really in my experiences, so even when they happened to end well (miracle of miracles) the end result had little meaning. I couldn’t feel it.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was smart, but struggled to connect with it. There was too much else (of which I was unaware) in the way, so feeling proud was difficult.

My therapist has been working tirelessly to help me change this.  She wants me to be able to see and acknowledge what I’ve done in my life and feel proud of what I’ve achieved in the face of a great many emotional obstacles.

She tells me she is proud of me for all that I have overcome to get to this point  ~  a point where I can truly start to thrive instead of merely survive. It’s only in the past couple of years I’ve finally started to grasp what she’s saying.

A New Trajectory

Last year I made important decisions that altered the course of my life; sent me on a new trajectory of healing that demonstrates just how far I’ve come.

Bear

Completing the six-month Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning certification (FEEL) program in the last half of 2014 was a major accomplishment for me. Certainly I acquired new skills that paved the way to a career as a practitioner of equine experiential learning, but perhaps more important was the personal healing work achieved along the way.

It was challenging work to be sure. Every exercise, every assignment provided an opportunity to step into uncharted personal territory and create a new life map. As time passed, trauma was released; many tears were shed; and a healthier self-image ~ one in which I could begin to see my strengths and personal power ~ began to emerge. Seeing my life through the mirror of the horse gave me the courage to see my Self and do what needed to be done to change my life again.

Of course, that journey continues. The FEEL program launched me into a deeper personal understanding and provided important life skills that I can use going forward. It also showed me how I, with the aid of the horses, can be an empathic catalyst for change in the lives of others ready and willing to walk the equine experiential healing path.

Many friends and family told me how proud they were of me when I achieved my certification. My husband was particularly supportive and thus especially proud.

Still, what really matters is that I recognize what I achieved and feel a sense of gentle pride in that accomplishment. For this is something I have experienced far too little of in my life.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

The Culture of Dumb

Daily Prompt: (Your thing) for Dummies

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I would never label anyone as dumb or a dummy. The term is abusive. The very idea of it makes my head spin.

As a certified Equine Canada coach (Level 1), Bronze certified trainer in the natural horsemanship methods of Chris Irwin, and a recent practitioner of Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning there’s one thing I know for sure ~ treating students as reasonably intelligent beings (or at least giving them the benefit of the doubt) and then being flexible enough to teach each one in a way that gives them the best opportunity to learn is, in my opinion, the best way to go.

Why am I so hung up about the culture of dumb?

My late maternal grandfather was a troubled soul and terrible misogynist. He also had a propensity for declaring that all women are dumb, and reminded my grandmother, my mother and, by extension (though I saw him maybe five times in my entire life) me, of this fact on a regular basis.

Naturally this became a canker in the family psyche and the source of much unhappiness and ruinous despair.

My granny, a petite and demure (but feisty) woman of Scottish heritage and from a good family, struggled under his awful tyranny for 27 years. Just before she left him (in 1961 at age 45) she took a beauty course. Grandpa let her because, he reasoned, it would mean that he, a labourer who never held down a job for very long, wouldn’t have to work so hard if she had a steady income.

After graduation granny escaped with her life (she needed police protection for a while), moving back to Alberta and setting up shop in the area where she was raised after her family emigrated from Scotland. Over time she recovered enough from the abuse to be able to build a thriving beauty business. At age 78 she died with a nicer paid-for home, a newer paid-for car and more money in her bank account than my pitiful grandfather was ever able to accumulate.

He died a pauper in northern Montana.

As for his daughter, my mother, despite impossible odds she somehow managed to turn her passion for singing into an international operatic career. A miracle of achievement if ever there was one. Few are aware of the uphill battle she fought to reach the heights of her career with the “culture of dumb” resonating so cruelly in the background.

I admire both of these strong women and the example they have set as I engage in my own mid-life wrestling match with the familial culture of dumb.

So, don’t ask me to educate anyone as if they’re a dummy. I will find a way to teach a person what they need to know in the way they need to learn, and know, it.

In the words of Forrest Gump … “That’s all I have to say about that.”

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Another Silver Lining

Daily Prompt: Breaking the Law

Think about the last time you broke a rule (a big one, not just ripping the tags off your pillows). Were you burned, or did things turn out for the best?

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In my 35 years of driving experience I’ve had about five speeding tickets. All were, admittedly, due to lack of awareness on my part for whatever reason. The third incident stands out as a particularly meaningful episode in my life … one of those clouds with a silver lining.

It was a beautifully clear Sunday morning in April 1999, about six weeks after my first marriage ended. I was experiencing a surreal period of my life; most unbalanced. I cried a lot, and by the grace of God and generosity of spirit of a few good friends I was hanging on.

One of these friends, who was also my shiatsu therapist, invited me to her country place for part of the weekend, including an overnight stay. Nestled in the heart of a beautiful rolling 50 acre woodland, her cabin was a 24 hour haven for me. When I left I was feeling the first glimmers of joy I’d known in a long time.

It was as I was driving home along the open, two-lane, hilly country road, not paying attention to the speed limit, that I got into trouble. I was lost in the immense sense of peace I’d finally found after weeks fraught with anxiety and sailing along enjoying a new-found emotional freedom.

And then there he was … the man in uniform. Just stepped out of the blue; flagged me down. My joy fled and was replaced again by an anxiety I’d hoped was gone ~ heart racing; hands shaking; helpless.

I tried to be sunny about it, but as soon as he started asking me questions I could feel myself choking up.

He was an older cop. Obviously seasoned. He looked at me with a bemused expression on his face and asked if I knew how fast I’d been going. I shook my head. He requested my driver’s license.

I scrambled for it in my purse and gave it to him. He scanned it back and front and pointed at the address.

“Is this your current address?”

I hesitated. “No … I live in Toronto now … ” My voice shook and faded.

“When did you move?”

“About six weeks ago.” My voice shook some more.

“Are you aware that you need to change the address on your driver’s license within a week of moving?”

“No …”

And, that was it. I fell apart. I’d been rabid about changing back to my maiden name on all of my ID and forgotten my driver’s license. How could I have been so stupid? The only thing I could do was tell him what was going on in my life. I felt so terrible.

“You know,” he said blithely after a moment’s hesitation, “I could charge you with two offences today ~ a speeding ticket for 20 kms over the limit, and  failure to keep your driver’s license current … but I won’t.”

“You won’t?”

“No … let me finish,” he pulled out his speeding ticket book, “the speeding ticket I can’t do anything about. It’s $120 fine and three de-merit points.”

He started writing. My heart sank. I sat there numb contemplating how I would pay such a fine and mortified at how this would affect my driving record.

“But,” he added as he handed over the dreaded ticket, “I encourage you to challenge this in court. Tell them the truth … and tell them that it was the first beautifully sunny day of spring and that you got caught up in it and weren’t paying attention to what you were doing, and that there was no other traffic around.”

He smiled in a gruff police-officer kind of way. He had a heart.

“What about my driver’s license?” I asked, trembling.

“Go directly to the driver’s license bureau and get … it … changed.”

I wholeheartedly agreed to do this and, notwithstanding the need to attend my day in court for the speeding infraction, I was really grateful to this kind police officer. He’d recognized my unsettled circumstances and done what he could to help.

Still, it was his parting words that impressed me the most, and not so much what he said as much as how he said them.

He stopped with me for a moment longer, leaned on the open window of my car and said with emphasis while looking me straight in the eyes, “Slow down.”

Not an unusual thing for a copper to say, but in that instant it was not just the speed at which I was driving my car that was brought to mind but the insane pace at which I’d been running my life since leaving my husband. Racing to close one chapter of my life while racing to start another.

The weekend away had brought me joy, but the admonition of the police officer helped me onto the road of peace. As I thanked him and drove away, I had a feeling that everything would, in the end, be fine. (And, of course, I drove straight to the government office to update my driver’s license.)

As for my court date … it came up about three months later. I attended the court local to where I’d been stopped, and a court officer heard my story before I went before the magistrate. I don’t remember much of what happened, except that my fine was reduced to $40, which I happily paid before I left.

I’m sure that police officer has said “slow down” thousands of times in the course of his career, but he will never know just how much the kindness behind his words that day helped me to begin to see my then frenetic life in a more self-aware light.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … every cloud has a silver lining.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

My Life Teacher

Daily Prompt: Teacher’s Pet

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Dance Like No One’s Watching

I was never teacher’s pet. Or, if I was I never knew it. School was a nightmare for me.

At the time I wasn’t aware of it, but I was a child with abandonment issues lugging around a good deal of emotional trauma. My trust had been broken at an early age by the adults I was supposed to be able to rely on the most, so trusting that anyone else, including a teacher, would have my best interests at heart was next to impossible.

And when you can’t trust anyone, who can teach you?

It’s not that I wasn’t loved. I know my mother loved me, but she was so wrapped up in her music career while putting food on the table that I inadvertently became a shadow dweller ~ lost; lonely and invisible.

I didn’t begin to understand my early history and how it created the misshapen patterns of my life until I checked myself into therapy in spring 2009. Feeling stuck in survival mode I needed someone to help sort me out.

Coincidentally, or not, it was about this time the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, complicated by early-onset menopause (or the other way around, it doesn’t matter, it was brutal) began to manifest. Anxiety and panic attacks, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight gain, et al, drove me to near distraction. I wanted explanations. I needed to know what was going on. I needed to address underlying issues and give myself life again.

Like most people I was hesitant about jumping into the mental health abyss. Psychotherapy still has such a stigma attached to it ~ as if it is a weakness to step up to the plate and ask a specially-trained objective third-party, “Why am I this way and what can be done about it?” Still, it became clear after a tumultuous trip to Sarajevo in February that year, during which I had three separate and inexplicable panic attacks, that something needed to change. And anti-depressants, or any their kin, were not the answer.

So, with my husband’s support, I found a good, trustworthy therapist. I prefer to call her my life teacher ~ a person who can safely reflect back to me who I was/am ~ for good or ill ~ and show me how to embrace what works and re-configure what doesn’t it.

And, what a journey it has been …

I have learned more about myself and my world (and my place in it) in the last few years than I’d known in a lifetime up to the point of sitting down in that therapist’s office. My therapist is the life teacher I’d never had, shining a light on a window to my world that I would never have been able to look through, let alone begin to enjoy the view.

She has shown me my strength; helped me to see my successes more clearly; opened the way for me to have the courage to recognize my pain without dwelling on it. Naturally it has not been easy, but facing my truth has given me the strength to see myself so longer as a victim but as a woman who can share the wisdom of her life experiences in profound and empathic ways.

I can say, in all honesty, that I am not the person I was when I walked into my life teacher’s office nearly six years ago. I’m thriving more than surviving.

Of course, the journey continues. There is much more to sort through; much more to learn but, truth be told, I have always looked forward to that hour and a half per week where I can sit down and sift through my emotions and issues with someone who does not judge me for the absurdities (self-judgement) that trips from my lips. Every visit my life teacher shows me how to see myself through a softer, less judgemental lens; to take life as it comes and let the past be where it lives ~ in memory only as a teaching tool. And to take what I learn of, and from, my past and recognize the strength of character that brought me through those experiences to this point.

My life teacher has taught me that my past is not my present, or my future. That I can reprogram my dysfunctional ways to create a new more holistic way of being. A way of being that integrates past experiences with present realities to support deeply-held and beautiful personal truths that have no attachment to my early childhood trauma and the illusion I’d lived under for so long.

So, you ask who my most important teacher was … and still is?

The person who has taught me to see, be, and love, my Self ~ my therapist; my life teacher.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Why even go there?

Daily Prompt: Burnt

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Gone, but not forgotten

Ashes of another time,

Things missed but not

Lamented.

For, should I die tomorrow

I would leave you all

Anyway to your fate,

Whatever that might be.

I’m sorry I could not

Save you, but in my

Heart you will ever live

As a glowing memory.

No regrets. I loved you

As I could and now

We must part.

Be well.

~*~

Too much of my life has been lived in regret and second guessing. Saying goodbye to what was and moving forward is an important life lesson, so to dwell on things that I cannot, or could not, control, is something I prefer not to do. Why even go there?

Books and music are the only things I might be sad about leaving behind, but even these are replaceable.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

The Much Maligned Vegetable

Daily Prompt: Embrace the Ick

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Interviewer: “Tell me, Ms. Doright, when do you first recall embracing the much maligned vegetable many of our readers would agree is icky? My notes don’t actually tell me what the vegetable is, perhaps you could elaborate?”

Ms. Doright: “All in good time … Honestly, I just made up my mind it was time to change my mind. Icky is as icky does. I am in no position to make such judgements. I imagine it all depends on one’s definition of ick. Mine was more about the texture, smell and taste of the thing, but I am beginning to see things differently.”

Interiewer: “Indeed, how have you learned to see it differently?”

Ms. Doright: “Oh, I went for food sensitivity testing and the nutritionist said that my body simply cries out for … it, so … you know … one must respect all aspects of the body’s needs, not just what one thinks it needs, which is often at odds with the truth. As well, this delightfully positive woman provided some scrumptious ideas for preparation. I found her enthusiasm for said icky veggie almost infectious.”

Interviewer: “Still, forgive me, after a life-time of loathing one simple declaration has the power to change your mind? I find this hard to understand.”

Ms. Doright: “Well, believe me, learning that I should make this particularly offensive cruciferous vegetable a staple in my culinary calendar came as quite a shock. I’d only ever experienced it as over-cooked, mushy and nauseatingly repugnant. The smell would be enough to push me over the edge. But then I recalled a visit to a Portuguese restaurant last summer where this icky veggie demonstrated surprising possibilities. Baked, or maybe it was stir-fried, with a delightful combination of other ingredients including, if I’m not mistaken, ginger and garlic and other things I love, it’s crispy texture and tangy taste tickled my taste buds in ways I’d never imagined possible … with this vegetable, you understand. But then, I forgot about it until this meeting with the nutritionist. And whereas my initial response to the knowledge that my body adored this veggie (full of vitamins C and K and B6 and dietary fibre and essential minerals) was to screw up my face and declare ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’, I’ve come to realize it may not be so bad after all. I simply need to learn new ways of preparing it. … Do you understand now?”

Interviewer: “Indeed, which brings me to my final question … what the hell are we talking about?”

Ms. Doright: “Why, Brussels sprouts, of course.”

~*~

A few weeks ago I went for food sensitivity testing and found out that the vegetable I loathed more than any other (found the most icky) was in fact one my body finds particularly beneficial ~ though how it would know this when I never eat it is beyond me.

Still, to honour my body’s apparent need for the icky Brussels sprout I’m looking for a few good recipes. Any ideas? (Nothing boiled, please … )

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015 

Water Philosophy in Brief

Weekly Writing Challenge: Ice, Water, Steam

(Stream of consciousness philosophizing going on here.
Read at your own risk. 😉 )

 

Mutable

Who I am is not who I was. And yet, without who I was I would not be who I am.

Ice is not without its essence ~ water.

Steam is not without its essence ~ water.

Perhaps, then, it could be argued that water is the soul of ice and steam, just as the essence of my Self is the soul of my art, my writing, my equestrian pursuits.

For without the essence of Self, these aspects of my life would not exist, just as ice and steam would not exist without their essence ~ water.

Hmmm … makes a girl think. 😉

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015