"I was born with an enormous need for affection, and a terrible need to give it." - Audrey Hepburn
I’ve been noticing lately that in our culture when someone speaks about “needing” another person or community interactions to resolve challenges, most listeners have been rigidly conditioned to respond to them with words of caution, deterrence, or advice to foster one’s independence and “stand on your own two feet”. I only rarely hear encouragement for those in need to guiltlessly accept support or to let others take care of them, even if the givers will be directly enriched by the results of their offering. When in our cultural history did we adopt this awful story that needing each other is bad, unhealthy, to be universally avoided? When did the very word “need” become an epithet, a sin, a burden, a character flaw that must be torn out?
Did it begin when modern psychology described the condition of unhealthy co-dependency? Did this concept then, as often happens when digested by mainstream listeners, become misinterpreted society-wide into the story that all co-dependency and all need of interconnection is unhealthy? I cannot agree with this story. Need and codependency are integral to life. It is simply a fact, not a fault, or even a virtue. We are co-dependent beings and we do need each other to cocreate healthy, sustainably successful lives — not just “we” humans, but all beings and resources on this planet, and beyond.
Individual people and creatures cannot stay alive in isolation; they need plants and animals to eat; they need sunshine, water, dirt, air, and gravity; and many of them need at least a minimal contribution from others in their species if they want to reproduce and carry on their unique forms of existance. We need our relationships with each other to understand ourselves, to make meaning from our experiences, and to cocreate both the problems and solutions generated by our presence in our local and collective environments. We are all part of a community organism. Co-dependency is the essential ingredient that allows us to exist at all.
So, without apology, without regret, guilt, or shame, I refuse the isolation story. I choose healthy co-dependency. I choose relationships. I choose interconnection. I choose community and the unlimited potential of co-creating. And I welcome with open arms everyone who wants to need, interconnect, depend on, and cocreate with me.
"Well, after this I should think nothing of falling down stairs.” - Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Inside, I am full of rabbit holes. They are old now, these burrows, and fortunately most of them are empty, or nearly so. A few might have a dust-bunny or two, the final remnants of fur and leavings. They weren’t abandoned, these burrows, merely unpacked; they were more storage space than nest. A functional solution no longer needed. Now, the holes can air out; can slowly refill as the natural movements of my life gently shake, loosen, and rearrange the surrounding soil.
Different events created each of these rabbit holes. During my childhood, some experience would generate too big an emotion for Young-me to fully process at the time. These too-much bits would burrow, would create a short tunnel and then nudge a space out of the surrounding soil. They would wait, patiently, calmly, for a time when I could safely feel them.
That was all they ever needed, these bits, to be fully felt, even for the briefest moment. That is all our emotions (at least those not due to physiological imbalances) ever need from us — to be accepted as real, and felt without judgement. When that happens, emotions naturally and completely pass, their message successfully delivered, with confirmed receipt from our conscious self. Emotions are simply our body’s way of pointing out something to our mind, something in our environment or current experience that our mind did not see, understand, or fully process.
Conscious-me has always liked to be efficient, to see patterns and connect ideas through the simplest possible pathway. Subconscious-me happily followed suit; when she noted emotion-overages, she would identify each one as either “similar” or “new”. Only “new” emotions would be allowed to generate a new rabbit hole; “similar” emotions would be stored in an existing burrow. Simple. Efficient. The only problem with such efficiency was that we (Conscious and Subconscious-me) never imagined how long it would take to arrive, that time when I could safely process the overages. We also had no concept of how many overages there would be, nor the impact of their accumulation.
Eventually, by my teens, the system began to fail. The burrows were maxed out; leaking through their lids. (They needed lids by then, with heavy doors, and locks). When another big-emotion event would occur, Subconscious-me would still try to be helpful. Out of hope and habit, she would open the lid of the appropriate rabbit hole, and try to stuff in the current too-much; but it wouldn’t work. Instead of relief and successful safe-keeping, there would be an uncontrollable escape of similar emotions from past events. During an already-emotional experience, I would suddenly be feeling not only the current emotions but a tidal-wave of old similar emotions as well, with no way to separate the two. It took me years to identify this pattern, to understand what was happening and gather the skills and support I needed to create the safe time we had been so long awaiting.
These days, the burrows are open, lidless; the cleansing of each is well-commenced, and for some is even complete. These days, when a current event incites a big emotion, Subconscious-me no longer sends bits down a hole, but rather uses them like a magnet, to draw any old remnants out. And I can feel the difference clearly now, between the old and the new, even when they concurrently rise. I can acknowledge them both, feel them both, and feel my body relax; message delivered, receipt confirmed. With increasing frequency, there are no old emotions in the mix at all. There is simply the Present, my experience of Now, and an internal shiver shaking loose a little more soil, gently healing the holes back into wholeness.
"Sometimes the shortest distance between two points can be a very circuitous route." - Anonymous.
I have a new home. After twelve years of living in partnership, ten years of those living in cities, all followed by six months surrounded by boxes in temporary shared housing, I recently signed a lease to live in an amazing one-room cottage at the base of a rolling mountain range. Gone is the anonymity of the urban multitude; the neighbors knew my name before I even moved in. Far away is the roar of traffic and endless construction; birds chirp outside my window by day, crickets and frogs sing me through the night. Last Friday, a doe walked up my driveway as if it were hers, which it is, and last night a ninety-minute run up the nearby mountain trails felt far too short to be complete, but I had a dinner guest coming, so the countless miles beyond my turnaround await another day. All this, and I’m a 20 minute drive from Los Angeles.
This is one of many changes in the past six months of my life, and one of the most comforting. There are, of course, amazing things to be learned from mobility, from finding home within oneself instead of external anchors; I appreciate all that I have learned by standing exposed before new mirrors.
Perhaps it is a strong internal home that has made me so very good at moving my external one; in the past twenty years I’ve had at least that many mailing addresses; the shortest stay a few months, the longest 3 years. Yet there is much also to be learned when one has the time and space to be still; to spend less time drafting new maps and finding the nearest grocery store; to have more time to hear the deeper levels of local music that reveal themselves only upon repeated listening. I am ready to explore this kind of stillness again. I want to hear the soft brook rippling beneath the swooping bird song. I want to see on the outside of me the home I feel inside, and know that I am also moving forward in this current stillness; liquid and solid. Me in both states.
“There are two kinds of stones, as everyone knows, one of which rolls.” - Amelia Earhart
I’ve been craving moss lately. Not moss for eating, but rather moss that could grow on stones, or at least stones that stay still for long enough. When given the chance, moss like that will gently envelop exposed surfaces like a custom-fit sweater, an intimate fur, a sentient shroud. Moss like that could cushion a stone’s jolting roll, would soften some of the inevitable bruises incurred when tumbling to new ground.
To geologists, most stones larger than 10 inches in diameter are called “boulders”. To non-geologists, a boulder is simply any rock too big to be easily moved; it is a stable, stationary thing, unless featured in Greek myth or action movies. Yet to rock climbers, boulders transform themselves beyond mere stone, they become a three dimensional puzzle, a unique problem, a brief adventure that can be pursued without the complication of ropes or harnesses, carabiners or slings. They become a chance to experiment, an opportunity to explore techniques that cannot be used on longer, higher, riskier routes.
These days, I feel as if I am bouldering through Life. Mostly, I am enjoying this, the adventure, the strengthening of languid muscles. Constant newness is the easy drug of choice for the insatiably curious. Yet such freedom also brings discomfort, absence of familiar stabilities, and necessary surrender to the flow of events, the unpredictable unfolding. It requires a staunch tolerance, an unrestrained willingness to sit in that damp discomfort, soaking for as long as it lasts, long after fingertips and toes have wrinkled into raisins. Given enough time, I now know, this can awaken a low hum inside: a craving for moss.
Perhaps I just need to seek out the right seeds, mix them with paste, spread them on, and wait for the next cycle of rain and sun. Or maybe I need to pick a pattern, find some appropriate yarn, and begin to knit.
"A fish may love a bird, but where would they live?" - Drew Barrymore
Other than eating, sleeping, and breathing, there aren’t a lot of activities that I want to commit to every day. Daily vitamins? An oxymoron. Replying to emails, texts, or phone calls? (Cringe). Hugs? Well, okay… eating, sleeping, breathing — and hugs.
Yet despite my much-proven bias, I recently fell into a new daily habit, one that I gratefully thank a fellow artist for sparking when she introduced me to Molowtow paint pens, which combine very nicely with pretty much every other sketching tool I’ve tried. Now for almost five weeks running, and many more to come, I’ve been doodling a postcard every night before sleeping. For doodle-lovers, I’m posting them in weekly batches at: http://dawnrevettdoodles.tumblr.com/, and keeping this blog as a broader mix of my thoughts and paintings.
Unsurprisingly, the new addiction has leaked into my others, and directly inspired my next promotional postcard, coming soon to a mailbox near you…
“Every wall is a door” - Emerson
My dictionary defines vulnerable as exposed to the risk of being attacked or harmed. My thesaurus lists synonyms as endangered, unsafe, unprotected, wide open, defenseless, helpless, and pregnable. It lists one antonym, resilient: able to spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed; able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
For me, even writing the word “vulnerable” triggers an uprush of conflicting emotions. There is (unsurprisingly) resistance, as well as the horror of facing anything without my previous armors, safeguards, or other (often illusory) protections. There is reluctance to risk any new exposure, especially voluntarily. And there is relief; a sense of freedom; as if here, in this unwalled state, there is finally room to stretch my wings to their full span, having shed unnecessary weights and now being light enough to fly. This inspires the thrill of adventure, and the excitement of unprecedented possibilities, unpredictable discoveries, and expansive new growth.
I am relearning how to trust fall. Here is not a comfortable place; it requires far more shedding of conceptions, limitations, guidelines, and stories than I ever expected. But I intentionally set forward on this path, so I am learning to accustom myself to the awkwardness, to sitting still with air that quivers around me, with changes that feel like insects crawling across my skin, with newness that smells of alien sweat instead of roses. I am learning to accept and embrace this current limbo, to surrender into this endless field of unknowns which on first impression form no logical sense, no linear story. So that I can be truly resilient, wide open, lose and regain shape. To rediscover who I am, without the walls.