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emptying and replenishing*

March 25, 2013

I’m supposed to be doing something else, to prepare me for an early-to-me event tomorrow morning, but there’s this thing that wants to get written about, so I guess I’ll be doing it.

My preferred spot to dictate is sitting on the bed with my laptop, with the door closed. I’d be there now, except that, 30 40 minutes ago (at 10 p.m.), Spouse told me he’d be going to bed asap, so I stayed out in the front room. Which also contains Spouse’s office. Apparently, there are problems at work that he is currently troubleshooting. This may be problematic, as last night, he was troubleshooting work problems until 3 a.m.

What I want to say is much too long to type out manually, as I’ve been doing up to this point — I can’t dictate when he’s in the room with me.

Waiting, waiting. Grrr.

(And then he went to bed. But I procrastinated for 30 minutes.)


Two days ago, a notebook at the bottom of the pile on my nightstand resurfaced. I didn’t realize I’ve ever written in it, but lo and behold, there were 4 pages of handwritten notes, dated early April 2011.

The contents of first two pages must have come from a book or a blog post, but unfortunately I didn’t attribute anything.


Power. Not just command of resources, but connectivity (highly transitive in your social network) => authority and power in your relationships.

Influence mostly flows from you outward.

Less powerful people give you gifts, resources, hoping for favors in return, but their influence over you is lesser, possibly negligible.

In a Power Couple, they have to respect each other, and negotiate, and compromise occasionally. No wonder they often have affairs, or other partnerships — they want someplace to be the Sun, not 1 of 2 stars.

Types of power: Outer and Inner.

Outer = Money. Social capital. Connections. Leadership skills. Reputation for ruthlessness/viciousness/ brutality. Social dominance. Ability to bestow favors. Laws in your favor.

Inner = Expertise. Skills. Kindness. Love/compassion. Education/knowledge.


And then notes that are clearly my own thoughts:


Spouse and I are in a power struggle, and he’s winning. Handily.


Spouse has:

  • a good job paying 2X.

I have:

  • a good job paying X
  • a large support network
  • graduate school friends
  • money in the bank, that’s growing
  • Art as a hobby
  • at my sexual peak
  • in excellent health
  • confident, assured
  • assertive
  • travel


I have:

  • no job and no prospects
  • support network has shrunk to 2 [Spouse, and BFF]
  • no longer in contact with anyone from grad school
  • money in the bank, dwindling
  • Art remains important
  • with early menopause, libido has disappeared
  • (at least partially) disabled
  • depressed, insecure
  • frustrated, feel powerless
  • no travel

I want a sphere of influence. I want to be a Sun.

A leader needs followers. Lead by – example; persuasion; fear; force.


I was thinking about those notes when I wrote today’s morning pages. That’s when I realized that all those things I had in 2006, and no longer had in 2011, were things that fit the context of my life in 2006. I was 40 years old, living in Indianapolis. I’d achieved a certain kind of pinnacle. And then I plateaued. I was both happy and satisfied, in some sense of those words, but spiritually, maybe metaphysically, I was mostly stagnant.

The year before, in 2005, I’d felt stuck in my job, but I held on where I was because I really liked my boss, and I expected I would never have another one I liked as much. Then he unexpectedly left our organization altogether. I regrouped, immediately looking for new positions within our organization. I was interviewed three times for three different positions, but received no job offers. It probably took me much longer than it should have to understand that I had gotten as far as I was going to get, where I was at.

As much as I had liked the boss who left, I had never really liked the job itself. I’d never really liked any of my jobs — and that one was #21 (out of 25 to date).

It wasn’t just that something was missing, although obviously, something was missing. It was much more comprehensive a problem. And I didn’t have words for any of it. But what I could say now that I didn’t know then is something like ~ that context was all wrong for me. I needed a different context, a different environment, with completely different possibilities. And I definitely needed a different cast of characters.

And the most important character that needed to be different . . . was me.

In 2006, I had adapted to my environment, my context. I was stifled, I was frustrated. Under the surface, below my conscious awareness, I often despaired. But nothing I tried infused my stagnant life with the chaos it needed to catch fire (in a good way).

Until, in mid-2007, I left the job I had in 2006. I spent a year as a salesclerk, making 1/10 of what I’d made in the other job. A year after that, Spouse was offered a good job in Baltimore City. I urged him to take it, and so we both moved to Maryland.

I’ve had 2 toxic (but thankfully short-lived) jobs here. And then nothing. My health nosedived; I fell into a deep depression. Every time a tiny bit of growth led me to wonder if I was finally turning a corner, it fizzled out. For months. For a year, then two, then into a third. I kept trying stuff, though — what else could I do really?


Last night I wondered, if current-me could somehow encounter me-from-2006, would we even recognize each other? Moving to Maryland set in motion a seachange along the lines of something that probably should’ve happened 20 years earlier. Even though less than 7 years separate 2006-me from current-me, we are in such monumentally distinct life circumstances — contexts — that, in a certain sense, I don’t feel we really are the same person. It’s a lot like comparing 1984-me with after-OKC-1985-me. A watershed changed everything.

I could describe current-me’s context like this: no job; no support network besides Spouse; no friends besides Spouse; almost no social outlets; no family of origin nor anyone else I would describe as ‘family’; no religion; no community, online or otherwise; no income; no respect from peers — heck, no peers — no place to exercise my expertise or skills; no anything I had, in 2006, assumed was necessary for a decent and enjoyable life.

I’ve lost a lot. I’ve given up a lot. That old life died.

But here’s what I have gained:

  • I’m more in touch with my bodymind than I’ve ever been
  • I’m in satisfying relationships with many of my subpersonas. Including Hibby
  • I now know that how my environment looks and feels, to me, is very important for my emotional health. I avoid environments that are aesthetically unappealing, and try to create environments that delight and satisfy me
  • I now know I have synesthesia, and I’m exploring what that means
  • I’m growing in my understanding of what conditions help me to thrive
  • Since 2010 (when I started keeping track), I’ve read 958 books
  • my relationship with Spouse is arguably the best it’s ever been
  • I have a close and personal relationship with the Gunpowder River; I have a more distant, but still affectionate, relationship with Chesapeake Bay
  • I have relationships with many animals and plants and rocks in my neighborhood
  • I’ve been blogging since 2009, and my words have been read almost 20,000 times, by human beings all over the world
  • I’m now not just listening to my inner voices, but we’re collaborating
  • I’ve tried a bunch of stuff, to change my initial circumstances. Most of them failed. That was painful, but I learned a lot from the process. I’m now orders of magnitude more comfortable with uncertainty, with failure, with difficulties
  • I achieve mindfulness, sometimes
  • I understand interpersonal boundaries better than I ever have. I’m experimenting with where to set them, and with whom, to what degree. I am much more selective about who I am social with
  • I’ve cooked! My food was edible, even tasty!
  • I’ve constructed garments! Some have been featured in photo sessions, worn by models; I’ve worn others
  • I’ve developed new art forms
  • I’m writing poetry
  • I’ve left behind Paganism, but I remain a mystic, an ecstatic, and a visionary
  • I’ve changed my first name. Twice
  • I’ve discovered I’m tactile and kinesthetic
  • I’ve dropped all relationships that were not working for me, no matter how long-standing or entrenched
  • I’m returning to the US Southwest this year! On my own terms, for Art Reasons!!
  • I now consider myself a photographer, and I’ve taken many thousands of photographs. At the end of 2012, my keep rate was 30-40%; now it sometimes approaches 50%
  • I trust my instincts and intuitions

There are probably 100 more things I could think of that are part of my new life, that were not part of my old life. (But it’s almost 1 a.m., and oops, I meant to go to bed earlier than this!)

*hat tip to Havi Bell, from The Fluent Self, for the title. She writes: “We can transform our internal culture by changing what we surround ourselves with and what influences we allow in. We can change how we interact with external culture by changing how we perceive things on the inside.”

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