The Fish and the Lion

“The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.”

– Jim Hightower

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with astrology.

I look for advice and possible next steps regarding life choices according to the pattern of the stars, universal alignments and my birth place among the archives of the galaxy.

I don’t pretend to know the intricate mechanisms of how astrology works; I just know I relate to it on an instinctual level. I embrace and identify with the idea that the universe in all of its vastness is attempting to tell us something.  Encouraging us to explore more about ourselves according to when and where we came barreling into existence. Somehow that makes sense to me.

I acknowledge that relying on the positions of the sun, the moon and the planets when seeking wisdom does require a bit of thinking beyond the here and now. While some may scoff at the idea and wonder why I believe in such mystical nonsense or indulge in wishful thinking instead of focusing on cold hard facts, I partially explain my reasoning by telling them that I am a Pisces.

Whether they believe in astrology or not, most are usually familiar enough with the basic understandings of the major astrological signs and their inherit traits to indulge my whims of mysticism.

I’m proud to be a Pisces.

I have lived the truth of the elusive fish for as long as I can remember and taken it quite seriously. The last of the astrological signs, Pisces are known for being Intuitive, highly sensitive, gentle, shy, and creative. They are deeply afraid of ridicule, empathetic and notorious caregivers. They typically avoid confrontation and seek out understanding and compromise. They are alluring, artistic, agreeable, difficult to catch and even more difficult to figure out once caught.

I have defined myself by these characteristics.

Pisces is my sun sign.

I have never thought too much about my moon sign. The difference between sun and moon signs as far as I can easily summarize is that the sun sign focuses more on our obvious personality traits. It has a lot to do with ego and what parts of ourselves we show to the world.  It is basically who we think we are. Our moon sign depicts more of our basic, primal self. The one we hide from others because we are not even quite aware of its existence.

Sun signs seem to give a more generic overview of specific personality traits. The shallower side of astrology. The facade that most people are aware of while either not knowing about moon signs or not caring enough to dig too deeply underneath the surface to figure it out. Not coincidentally I’m sure, moon signs are considered to be the most accurate representation of our true selves. They offer a much more comprehensive and elaborate look at what is going on inside of us once the ego is removed. Stripping us bare and asking us to take an actual look at who we really are, not who we think we are or who we pretend to be or who others want us to be.

Recently while combing through old photographs I found my baby book among piles of discarded family detritus/treasures. I never before thought to look and see if the exact time of my entrance into this world was recorded. Specific time of birth is essential information needed to find out what the heavens have to say about our astrological moon sign. I assumed I was a fish in my moon sign as well as my sun. That is all I have ever known and the traits that Pisces sun signs display overtly are so strong in me that I could not imagine being anything else.

I plugged my information into an astrology site and waited to see what the universe had to say.

Leo.

I tried again. Maybe I typed something in wrong? That couldn’t be right.

Same result.

I was staring at a roaring lion.

A Leo?!

I have always been inherently turned off by the astrological lions in my life.

They are fire signs.

They are vain and love the limelight. They Take control. They are Strong-willed. They enjoy entertaining and being in the company of others. They are haughty, rarely indecisive, loud, and they demand to be seen and heard.

The exact opposite of everything I am.

Or so I thought.

Leos are also fiercely protective and loyal. They are magnetic and natural leaders. They are powerful and strong and they make change happen. They have little doubt that they will fail and they forge ahead regardless of overthinking outcome because they are confident in their ability to persevere.

The lion is a known savage predator that runs into danger. Fish dart away quickly as soon as any danger is present. Lions demand to be heard. Their roar is the loudest of any animal on earth and can be heard up to 5 miles away. Fish are predominately silent.

Lions fight. Fish hide.

I’m afraid of these hidden parts of myself.

The parts that are demanding  to be heard. The leader. The strong, defiant and independent fighter. The unbridled ferocity of my actual feelings versus those that are familiar to me or those that others are comfortable with. The side that some in my life have seen glimpses of that I have flat out denied. The inherit traits I possess that have been suppressed for far too long.  The idea of what I should be.

As 2015 draws to a close, I have been reflecting on many of the experiences that have led to where I am currently. Unknowingly, almost every decision I have made over the last several years has played a part in my evolving from a fish into a lion.

I have been making conscious efforts to explore the parts of myself that have been hidden. The parts buried so deep that my ego had to be dissolved a bit to acknowledge their existence. It has not happened over night. Turning from a fish into a lion takes time and a bit of suspended belief. Much the same as looking towards the heavens for guidance. Some might even say it can’t be done at all. It isn’t real. Dismiss it as whimsical fantasy.

Turn a fish into a lion? Impossible.

Luckily for me I choose not to worry too much about what others may think is possible or not.

Believing in the impossible makes everything a possibility.

This is the year for the fish to roar.

Revolt

There probably comes a time in every mother’s life when she has to ask herself this pivotal question,

“Is it really worth me going to jail over punching a nasty, miserable, liver spotted, cantankerous old lady in the face or should I take the higher road and move on?”

Last night I had my moment.

As a surprise Christmas gift, my friend bought tickets for the two of us and my daughter to see the theater production of Matilda. Kylah is seven years old. She is very familiar with the story of Matilda. It has always been one of my favorites and we have read the book together. She has seen the movie multiple times and can quote directly from it if necessary in applicable situations. She has never been to an actual musical theater performance before and it was a big deal for her. When we arrived at the theater she was smiling and talking a mile a minute. The energy and excitement she was feeling was pouring out of her and it was contagious. There were little kids all around us dressed up like Matilda, people were singing and jumping around. The whole experience felt surreal and magical.

Kylah marveled at the beauty of Proctors, the venue where the production was being shown. She pointed out all of the things I was hoping she would notice like the stage and the props and the beauty of the building itself. As the lights dimmed she excitedly squeezed my hand and said, “It’s starting!”

Then she started to cough.

She has had a cold all week. No fever, no runny nose, no truly alarming symptoms but the cough has persisted. The coughing wasn’t too disruptive initially. After all,this is a children’s  musical theater production. There were kids giggling and talking and eating all around us. I gave her a cough drop and settled in, ecstatic to lose myself in the world of Roald Dahl for the next 2 hours and reacquaint myself with one of the most beloved children’s literary uprisings of all time.

For any of you not familiar with the story of Matilda, she is a brilliant little girl born into an uncaring and abusive environment. She saves herself through her love of books and eventually uses her intelligence and inner moral compass to help fight for the rights of other innocent children that are being abused by the cruel, belittling and horrendous adults in their lives.

She revolts.

Kylah’s cough got worse. I had given her cough medicine right before we left the house but for whatever reason the cough decided that this was the point in time it was going to come back with the ferocity of pissed off lion. Our seats were pretty far back and we were not surrounded by a packed in audience. We actually had the entire row to ourselves and nobody was sitting in front of us. Directly behind us though, there was a trio of elderly theater goers.  My soon to be nemesis was about to show her true Miss Trunchbull colors.

It started innocently enough.

A passive aggressive comment loud enough to be heard about my daughter’s cough being too loud.

I get it.

Honestly, I do. Kylah could not help that she was coughing any more than Matilda can help being a genius but I do understand that it is disruptive.  Maybe not as disruptive as a loud, grouchy old lady but I understand. I whispered to Kylah to try to cough into her sleeve instead of her hand to try to muffle the sound a bit and gave her thumbs up. She was so entranced by the show she wasn’t aware that anything else was going on which I am thankful for.

The cough came and went but mostly stayed for the first half hour of the musical.  I asked her if she wanted some water and she told me yes but she didn’t want me to leave because she knows how much I love Matilda and she didn’t want me to miss any of it. I tried not to cry as I got up to get her some water anyways, assuring her that it would be okay. As I stood up to get the water the “lady” made a snide remark about leaving children home when they are sick. I ignored her because I’m trying to be the kind of person who forgives and is patient and understanding.

I also didn’t want to feed into unnecessary old lady drama. Maybe she had a reason for being so mean spirited. I can’t pretend to know what makes other people tick and most people can somehow justify their behavior or their behavior can in fact be justifiable. I didn’t have the time or energy to be her therapist and figure any of that out though.  I was just trying to enjoy a very rare evening out with my friend, my daughter and Roald Dahl.

I came back with the water and tried again to immerse myself in the show.

Kylah’s cough had dwindled but the woman was still making comments. Loud enough so that my friend suggested we switch seats. Kylah has now caught on to the fact that this random lady is mad at her over something she cannot control and is feeling self-conscious. Every time she coughed (which had lessened dramatically) she put her head down. She curled into a ball and had started watching the show through the veil of hair she was purposely hiding underneath. A show she was so excited to see she has been previously almost floating through the air with joy.

I had a moment.

I stood up.

I went to that place.

I can and do sometimes go there.

Typically I go there if I feel that any child is being treated unfairly but if my own child is being threatened I have a very specific type of rage that can be unleashed. I can very quickly go from patient, accommodating and happy mom to I’m going to tear your face off and throw it across this theater and my daughter’s cough is going to be the least of your worries mom.  I’m sure a lot of the rage stems from my own childhood and the feelings I’m still trying to work through. Feelings of not being listened to or of being made to feel ashamed when I had done nothing wrong. I’m a bit over protective because of my past experiences which can be a blessing and a curse, but at least I’m aware of my faults.

I sat back down and attempted to gather myself, knowing full well that if I said something it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Kylah has now reached her threshold of what she can tolerate while knowing her cough is making people take notice of her and she wants to leave. She is a very intuitive and emotional child. She couldn’t concentrate on what was supposed to be something special for her due to the complete ignorance of one person. As we walked by the lady said,

“It’s about time. She should have gone home a long time ago.”

I do just want to assure everyone that I would never actually physically assault anyone, least of all a menacing, little old lady. No matter how much she may have deserved it.

I could have easily Embarrassed her for her deplorable behavior. Made her cringe.  Pointed out that she was being rude purposely while my daughter was coughing due to circumstances beyond her control. I could have Accidentally spit my own cough drop on her or lap as we were exiting. I could have and wanted to unleash the side of me that sometimes needs to be set free.

Kylah’s small hand tightly grasped in mine pulled me forward.

We walked in silence down the beautifully carpeted stairs. Her cough was still coming and going. I was fighting back a mixture of unspoken rage and tears and trying to work my brain around how something so great and special and rare for us could fall apart so quickly.

When we reached the bottom of the steps Kylah said,

“We can sit here.”

I didn’t stop to question if we could or not. It was the middle of the show and I’m pretty sure we were not allowed to be sitting on the stairs, blocking a fire exit and sitting so closely to the sound booth. The usher never said a word.

He just nodded at us and smiled.

She crawled into my lap and we watched the rest of the musical sitting together in the stairwell. We could hear the music and see the actors and she could cough all she needed to.

When the musical was coming to an end, there is a scene in which the children revolt against Miss Trunchball, their evil headmistress. They stand up to her and fight for what they know is right. They use their voices and their power to ultimately scare her away forever, freeing themselves from their oppressive, controlling environment and the abuser who created it. As the song ended, Kylah jumped up out of my lap and cheered, clapping happily.

That song and every lyric written within in it felt like a personal victory. If I had let my rage overpower me, Kylah would have been embarrassed by my words and actions. Even though they were seemingly justified. I would have gone directly to that woman’s level and our entire night could have been ruined. Instead because of a lot of self control, a little divine intervention and a child guiding my way, our night was saved.

On the ride home the three of us made old lady jokes and cranked the Matilda soundtrack as loud as it could go, singing along as we drove. Revolting Children was our agreed upon new theme song.

Our night was a perfect again.

Unfortunately, the world is full of people like Miss Trunchball.

Thankfully, it has its fair share of Matilda’s too…

matilda

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDZ9I3p7xBE

How Sweet the Sound

 

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

I am still getting used to writing those words.

Admitting to my past and sharing my story has led to multiple moments of what I can only describe as tiny fracture breaks within what I thought was my semi stable reality. I thought I was doing okay. I saw no reason to reopen those old, pulsating wounds. I felt they had been stitched up adequately enough.

The ability to see beyond where I was and imagine where I could be was nearly impossible due to the inflicted abuse from my childhood. Survivors of trauma know this feeling well. There is a darkness that takes up residency. It becomes so much a part of us that we wouldn’t recognize ourselves without it. Maybe we don’t even want to. Who are we without this pain?

Sometimes the hurt from past experiences is so achingly unbearable it immobilizes us, rendering us powerless. So many people are locked deeply in the clutches of pain from past events or encounters. Agony and shame intermingled and running so deep in our veins we cannot fathom being able to fight it.

Recently I starting exploring the terrible, irresponsible and hurtful choices I was making as an adult. Choices I was making myself, not something that was being done to me or against my will like when I was a little girl.

I decided to take some accountability for my very real and incredibly fast fall from grace. I started to dig, unearth and attempt to reconcile with the actual reasons leading to my abysmal life choices. I started confronting the shame that lived inside of me. The things that are and always will be a part of who I have become today.

I decided to accept them.

Sometimes it is the very worst things that have happened to us in the past that can in fact be our most empowering tool of hope. How can we ever authentically relate to and make real, honest connections with those that need our voices the most if we don’t claim our most horrific moments?  The ones we attempt to hide, forget, deny or numb away?

Understanding that your past actions do not and will not determine your legacy begins with not trying so strenuously to will them away. It begins with acknowledging that those pieces are a part of you and they should be nurtured, not dismissed.

John Newton and William Cowper are two voices from history who perfectly help convey the message I am trying to deliver. Newton, a reformed atheist turned Ordained Minister challenged Cowper, a crazy misunderstood Christianity loving wordsmith to a hymnal duel.

Write a new Hymn to a familiar tune in time for each Thursday’s bible study.

Newton and Cowper made change happen by owning who they were and sharing their pain with others. Easier said than done but it eventually led to penning Amazing Grace, a song undeniably powerful in the simplicity of its message and one most can readily identify with.

They were from different backgrounds but they lived with the same ghosts so many of us struggle with. Pain, loss, confusion, sorrow, anger and the desire for redemption to name a few. Through their salvation and their ability to forgive, they each felt a desire to grow from their past experiences and become better because of them.

I’m guessing that neither of them ever would have expected that a former atheist slave trader and a suicidal poet who had been institutionalized for insanity would someday be the ones to collaboratively write a world changing, soul reaching and universal identified with hymnal lyric.

Somehow that happened.

What better voices than those who have come from complete darkness to help others see the light that can be found within it?

As I struggle with my own past and attempt to make amends with the abuse I endured and survived as a child I am often overwhelmed by emotional ferocity of it. Facing these experiences and sharing them with others is terrifying.

I am grateful for each and every prayer I have been blessed with. I do believe in a higher power. A force larger than myself. I just don’t think that simply putting my trust in any given faith blindly will help me or any of us find the answers.

Step outside of what you think you know and listen to the people around you.  No matter what you believe or who you pray to or what you have been told. Honor your personal truth while trying to embrace the truths of others. Explore ideas you may be less comfortable with and try to discover what is causing the aversion behind those thoughts.

Fight.

Talk.

Understand.

Listen.

Connect.

Heal.

Forgive.

Make change happen because of your experiences. Don’t stand around and wait for it to happen or place blame when it doesn’t happen the way you thought it would or use religion as a way to not see what is right in front of you.

Use your voice; however it feels right to you.

Shine your light.

Embrace your dark.

Tell your story.

Write your song.

Challenge your best buddy to a hymnal writing contest.

You never know what could happen…

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