Sometimes we just don’t know what’s around the corner.
About 6 months ago, I started working with an organisation called YesCalifornia; I was nervous about the direction the world was headed, and terrified that the new administration were going to plummet us into new depths of social conflict and environmental degradation. If life wanted to get my attention, this was the way to do it. Put Trump in as president, frighten my feminist values and my feminine self, whilst concurrently threatening my home; my planet, my environment, and the communities around me, as well as my values around education, freedom of speech and the desire not to go to war, for anything. Serendipity left nothing out of this prompt.
I knew an artist once, who, as a person, was very timid and sweet. When I first saw her art it surprised me and it shocked me; it was so full of raw expression, strong reds, emotional violence, big pieces. I couldn’t put her demeanor and her work together. It dawned on me that that was how she maintained her sweetness, was by expressing her complex truth on canvas, in the abstract; strong, expressive and fleshy. Unapologetic. I know people were embarrassed when they saw it; unsure how to accommodate such boldness in public. Her boldness kept her sane. Simultaneously intimidating some, whilst inviting others to ask themselves some hard questions about their inner lives.
Somehow these two paragraphs relate to each other. Perhaps this page is my canvas.
I seem to get drawn back again, and again, to my own inner anguish that often escapes me in the daily busyness of living. Two things have brought it forward: my brother Tim, and my work with YesCalifornia. Somehow both these elements have drawn me back into the womb of my mother loss and where it took me creatively and personally in my life, in relation to habit pattern formation, and hiding… or trying to.
I’m beginning to see something.
I’ve been experiencing stress this semester – in bucketloads. Juggling the responsibility of teaching 90 students, working with YesCalifornia and trying to write this book that will ‘save the world’ from the looming future (‘no pressure!’). This morning when I awoke, I was aware of a deep energy that prompted me to suddenly understand a correlation between the stress that I’d been experiencing, and the reactions I’d been having to my brother Tim’s own healing process around our mother’s death – which has caused him to reach out to me a few times in very feeling-oriented ways (not something I’m used to). The energy was grief… and the fear released. As I lay there, my mind catapulted me back to when she died and a decision that I suddenly understood I had made – even though I was the youngest – to take care of everyone, to try to save our family, to try to keep it moving forward (like a boat) as one unit. I wanted to save us from the drowning I was experiencing. I had my own way of doing this, and my father fought me for the position of leader of the family. By rights it was his, of course; he was the actual parent, and the elder, and we were living in his house. And yet. There was something in me that wanted to manage, control and nurture the healing process in the house. I had a maternal instinct, yet I wasn’t qualified to fulfil it. I wasn’t emotionally prepared in my early teens but, scared, I was reacting to a loss that I felt I couldn’t manage and that no-one else was seeming to try to manage for us – I felt alone in my fear and overwhelmed by the loss of our family structure. Unqualified to meet the conditions of my internal and external environment, I burrowed into an attempt to control, to alleviate, to create order and to build a floor to stand on. I was building a boat whilst I was out at sea, and I was trying to make it big enough for my whole family.
All my life I have felt like I’m building a boat whilst I am out at sea and have felt continually underqualified to do it. I have lived my life that way. It’s partly why I am so creative, or perhaps because of it – I don’t know which provoked which? I have studied skills alongside needing to use them; whether it’s NVC (non violent communication), healing (Reiki, Emotional Body Balancing, Light Body, Therapy), Consciousness (MA at JFK University) or art. Art has been the one thing that elusively has called me forward to make music, to paint out my feelings, my questions, my reach for love and connection.
I noticed, a couple of months ago, that I started using this boat image, to describe what it felt like being in YesCalifornia. It has felt apt. And it was only this morning that I started to see the correlation: that this is what started happening for me as a child, when our mum died. With no advance training, I believed I had to become someone that knew what she was doing, knew how to mother, to do her job as well as she could, without asking for help. So I strived to march ahead, to try to make it safe for myself, and for my family. I got it wrong so many times, because there was no support for what I needed to do, to know, to learn, to understand, to hold. And I just tried harder. I tried to master more skills, in case they would help – who knew when I’d need what skills?? And my tool belt got bigger. Whenever I fell, I rose. I was trying to make sense of things. It was hard. I wanted to feel safe.
The big realisation, the big push, came with this newest campaign at work. I recently initiated a campaign that I framed as ‘the big one’, I felt like it could do the job, ‘save us big’, in our bid to get 585,407 signatures to get our petition to win CA’s freedom on the ballot. It started off feeling exciting and positive. I felt pumped and animated to be able to develop the idea with my crew, over time. I also felt anxious ‘had I started it soon enough?’ ‘would it work?’ ‘what if it didn’t, would we have enough time to run another idea?’ ‘would I still be accepted and respected if it didn’t?’ ‘how would I feel if I let them all down?’ ‘how much harder can I push to make this work?’ There it was again, the boat, the sea, the anxiety and the feeling of life and death. Plus the feeling of ‘it’s all on me’. Survival. Only this time the family had gotten bigger. It wasn’t just my own, it was everybody’s, the whole of CA, all trying to escape the deathly storm of of our future. The question is, why has my default been to not think I can ask for help?
Systems. My father was emotionally manipulative – very skilled – and we couldn’t change that. We tried to support him but, through his mental and emotional machinations – and my own reactions to them – I found myself bobbing in and out of the family network, in and out of safety (sometimes it felt safer to be outside it and sometimes it felt safer to be inside it), trying to make sense of the signs for when it was safe and when it wasn’t. A recipe for craziness. Our dance was possibly the longest drawn out display of missed communication ever. And not for lack of trying. It caused us both pain. An intimacy based on hardship. And I felt like a failure. I thought I had failed because I couldn’t make him happy. My father could not communicate his feelings, and I had yet to learn how. As you know, that is a long climb. And, in my desire to belong, to simply be loved, I was determined to fight my way into his heart but the fight was full of anger. That is how I learned to overwork and to strive for perfection. Because I wanted to get noticed, to be admired, to be accepted into, and admired by, you guessed it… the family. And what is a team but a non-biological rendition of a family – which is where YesCalifornia, and the relationships within it, come into play in this time of healing.
So, this morning it stops. And I ask the question ‘who do I really need to save?’
These bold acts of love are a signal, and so is the timing. I rarely invest myself publicly in something, I like to avoid failure and judgment – just like the next person. And yet for this campaign, for some reason, I have gone all out. I guess it was just time to bump into the part of me that has been afraid to allow myself my own life, to be happy, now. At YesCalifornia I’ve been carrying this idea of trying to protect my extended family (yes, the whole of CA), and driving myself crazy thinking I need to understand all the moving parts myself in order to do that: ‘someone has to hold it together!’ ‘someone has to make sure the boat’s seaworthy!’ But why me? Do I have to? Or do we get to, as a team? How submerged is my trust? Can I cultivate that team-work within myself and loosen the grip on the rudder?
One thing that’s helping is that because of forming deep bonds with my colleagues on this worthy cause, standing up for what we believe in, I feel I have been given a chance. A chance to shine. A chance to be appreciated. A chance to experience love again. I get support. I get appreciation. I get things done, and it feels good, because I’m part of a team. And we get things done together. It works.
What I am beginning to notice in this experience, is that the aloneness is lifting. And that the sea is always changing. I am always with a team. Whether it’s at SFSU or at YesCalifornia, or putting on a Sound Healing event at Grace Cathedral or an evening on music and healing at Merced Public Library, or doing a sophisticated Women’s Healing Retreat in beautiful Napa Valley (we have another one coming up May 4-7!). The point is that, as an adult, I only have to choose the parts I want to do/be/have… that I am good at and enjoy, when I’m working with a team. And, for all the rest, I can get help. I do not have to keep building the boat out at sea. I don’t have to work that hard, not anymore. And not alone anymore. And, most importantly, if the sea is rough, I – we – can bring the boat into harbor. And if that boat’s broken… well, we can get another boat, or wait for the sea to calm, or choose another method altogether. We’re not short of options.
What matters is freedom now, not just in the future. Happiness now, not just in the future. No more waiting. It’s time to breathe deeply, to sing fiercely… to fly freely.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share your stories.
And remember, you can ask for help too. Email me and let’s see if there is something you’d like to move towards that feels like it’s been eluding you. Perhaps now is that time. One offering I can recommend is the video series that I developed: ‘7 Stages of Self-Transformation‘ to help get you started, very inexpensively, on a beautiful and personal creative journey into yourself… to ask some questions and get the ball rolling at your own pace, even using your own preferred style.
I include a song for you to enjoy on the subject of freedom and flying… ‘Dreaming With Wings’ – enjoy!
I am here. Reach out.
Bio: Clare is a sound-healer, international speaker, protector of the sacred, and educator for the creative potential of humanity. Clare has been a singer/songwriter, recording artist, performer and healer for many years. She researches Consciousness for Social Change and teaches Creativity & Innovation at SFSU & with individuals. She also has developed a theory Dynamic Emergence for our collective evolution – you can work with her individually, or as a social group. Musically, she has 7 CDs (available on her website) and has taken her knowledge of sound healing and conscious reality shifting onto many platforms including; radio, hospitals, conferences, workshops, ritual space and performs for sacred yoga and Labyrinth walks at Grace Cathedral, SF. She’s used Sound for her own healing and for deepening her relationship to the Sacred. She accompanies herself with Shruti and piano. Her work and music are at clarehedin.com & dynamicemergence.net. She has recently released a personally created video workshop series: 7 Stages of Self-Transformation (only $79).