The Tattoo On My Back

I like things integrated.

Growing up, my parents even worked to start a school where the subjects were integrated, and later valuing a different school where the students were integrated racially and economically.

So it is ingrained in me to look for integration, and I ran towards The Evergreen State College’s unique learning integrated approach, as well as the synergistic approach to learning and teaching in my graduate program. Blending. Holistic. Parts of a whole.

It is also why I find it very difficult to have several different interests and groups I’m a part of and why it’s comforting when those things blend, even a little bit.

I am immeasurably happy when CrossFit friends or fellow church members come to my theater performances. Or when I’m on stage with someone that also attends my church. Or when my work agency receives support from both of those others, and I find my daily work life including CrossFit and Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

This is also my greatest challenge in a profession where I am legally and ethically obligated to keep things separate.

I like things to blend and overlap and connect. I can find my home and my identity when my life is like Legos, interlocking and making something bigger from each of the individual pieces.

But occasionally I have difficulty when there are glaring contrasts and I bump up against a few of those from time to time.

CrossFit or Yoga? The “grrr” and drive of CrossFit in a concrete room with the dominant colors of black and gray surrounding the messages of “be tough”, “push through it” and “never give up” and “fight fight fight” vs. the gentler work of yoga, in a room of lit candles, meditative music,  breath, and the work of release and surrender used to gain strength and balance and flexibility. Both are challenging, both make me sweat, and help me get stronger, and improve mobility and stamina. But very different approaches.

And I love BOTH of them. Of course I know that’s okay. I don’t have to choose. I can love both and many do. But for me, it is unnatural without them overlapping in some way. So I struggle at times to find that intersection where both meet. I often feel the need to be divided and I hate that. Either one or the other.

I am a social activist. I also am a very accepting, non-judgmental person, and for some, those are two things that never mix. In my faith community, I am able to “Stand On The Side of Love” in my ability to use love and compassion and acceptance while still speaking out for what I believe is right and share my opinion.

But a few weeks ago a friend was angered and possibly hurt by something, or several things, I said, and in her comment on my Facebook wall she made some accusations that cut me deeply. Other friends hurried to back me up, and criticize her for her opinion and her comments and at first I welcomed that. I was hurt, and angry, and felt I needed and deserved the love and the snark delivered by those who hadn’t misunderstood me, and who loved what I had to say.

But aside from the hurt, mostly I was bewildered. Something must have gone wrong in how I communicated my views. At least, it went wrong for my friend. I was willing to entertain the notion that something did not get communicated by me if someone I cared about felt I was not approachable to talk to about how they were feeling, and who thought I held judgment and self-righteousness in my heart for those that did not agree with me. It was easy to align with my supporters, “It says more about her, than it does about you” and “that’s not the type of friend you want anyway”. But that isn’t true for me. Because she, despite our differences in many things, is my friend. And she was angry, and offended, and hurting enough to say so, publicly. And that means something to me. Whether it’s “her stuff” or “my stuff” didn’t really matter to me.

And in our silent conflict – for we haven’t yet talked since her action on my Facebook wall followed by her unfriending and blocking of me there – I have pulled away from our shared place, the place where she and I met and have enjoyed each other.

The other side of integration is an All Or Nothing mentality that I often face in myself and struggle with. If that particular friend doesn’t like me anymore, then no one at that place does. I know this is silly, I know my friends there are still my friends, but not knowing where I stand with this one person, called into question, “Where do I stand in that place?”

Because I like integration, it also means that when one thing doesn’t feel right, I have to rework everything. For me, pulling away during conflict gives me the chance to remember who I am on my own, so I can come back to it from a place of love with my heart open.

And her gift to me was to shine a light on something I had forgotten: That there is an intersection where compassion and acceptance meets social action and opinion. And I had strayed from that place perhaps, in my vocalness of What Is Important For All To Hear and Know. To the point that in my joking about, or intensely repeating, or even smugly sharing what I see as accepted truth alienated one of my friends who stands in a different truth. I am not claiming wrongdoing on my part. But I’m not pointing my finger at her either, and never have. I’m calling attention to a need in myself to be more mindful, to slow down, to trust my heart’s intention. And although I reject the words she laid at my feet, I will claim some meaning and growth for myself from it. It spurred me to take space, and in that space not only did I realize how I may have been offensive to my friend, but also how much I have needed some time and space to find my center again, to heal and catch up with myself after a variety of challenges and non-stop events bombarded me in the last half-year. Hers was a gift of a nudge both towards introspection regarding our friendship, but also for the larger context of Who I Am and Where I Fit.

Yesterday I was reminded that because I was born on a full moon and my sun and moon signs are opposite each other, I am a person that lives in the extremes and tries to bring those things together. I’m not a huge follower of astrology, but I love it when some nugget of wisdom speaks truth.

It opened a door, and I was reminded: I knew this about myself! I have a tattoo on my back, for goodness sakes, of the Tarot card, “Temperance” which has meaning in “the blending of opposites” and “alchemy of elements usually opposing each other.” This has been my LIFE. To have seemingly opposite interests, relationships, and goals and find a place where they blend. To have conflicting emotions and learn how to hold both. I fall smack in the middle between introvert and extrovert. I do some things left handed, and some things right – but not anything with both. I like some things open ended, and some things decided and planned out. I like to be busy, but crave space and quiet and peace.Temperance

I am always called on to integrate my opposites.

CrossFit and Yoga
Performing and Hiding
Social action and Acceptance
Movement and Stillness
Green Smoothies and Ice Cream (totally)
Blasphemy and Sacredness

I have to remember when I am called to integrate what appears to be a contrast or opposite, that often, that intersection I seek, that place of blending, is simply,

me.

 

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