What’s so great about average?

Life as I used to live it is starting to bore me. I find myself craving more excitement, more fun, more adventure. My most recent fantasy is to throw caution to the wind and become a Bohemian, living wherever the wind might take my. My responsibilities tether me to the Earth while my mind soars.

Average bores me. I want to taste excitement, to feel the thrills racing through my veins. I want to dance on the edge of my limits and laugh in the face of my fears. I want to be bare, open-hearted, torn open and exposed, reckless but not careless. I feel caged by mediocrity and want to break the shackles of convention.

The walls I erected as protection are coming down. Some quickly fall away and some I am tearing down, one at a time. When I feel that old familiar fear, I push back and each time, I get stronger. Soon, there will be no more walls. No more fear. No more trepidation or hesitation but a boldness that will surprise even me.

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Enough

It is not enough
for my lover to penetrate
my body
Unless he is able
to enter my soul.

It is not enough
to exchange breath in
our lungs
Without the co-mingling
of our spirits.

It is not enough
To have his hands
on my breasts
If he’s unwilling
to touch my heart.

It is not enough
For my lover to give
his erection
Without offering his strength
in my life.

Phoenix rising.

It was five years ago that I took the first brave step to a new life. After months of an increasingly unhappy marriage, I caught my own eyes in the rearview mirror as I drove off, running away from yet another horrible fight. I saw myself and didn’t recognize the person I had become. That angry woman, trapped in a dead marriage with a man whose very presence sickened me was not who I really was. It was that moment that I knew I had to get out. On July 1, 2009, after once again catching my husband in a Facebook flirt session with yet another woman, I told him he needed to leave & gave him an hour to gather his stuff. After he finally left, I sat on the couch and thought about my life. I was 30 years old, overweight, had a 2 year old son with a chronic illness and a 6 month old daughter. I had been primary caretaker to my children and although I had done some contract therapy work, it wasn’t enough to sustain an entire family and I was scared. I didn’t know how I was going to make it but I knew that staying in my marriage was no longer an option. It wasn’t until months later that I knew the full depth of my husbands betrayal–the affair with my friend from church was just the tip of the iceberg. I knew then that I had made the right choice.

My divorce was final 7 months after he moved out. During that time, I began to find my way back to myself, but it was a long, hard road. I had two little people depending on me for everything and was trying to make the best life for them while reconstructing myself. I was evolving and the evolution was something I wasn’t sure I was ready for. Old BS (belief systems) were falling away. The church that I had so relied upon in my early adulthood failed me in my divorce & I realized that there were things about organized religion that didn’t suit me anymore and I walked away. The graduate school where I was working to finish my doctorate education had some problems which ended with my transferring to another university & having to start over again. I was constantly at war with my ex husband and the battles got fierce. My family of origin, the support system I desperately needed, fell apart after my Grandmother died. The scaffolding of my life that had held me up had fallen away & I was left to stand or fall.

And boy did I stand. Sometimes I’m not sure HOW I managed to survive but I did. And I didn’t only survive, I began to thrive. Once I let go of who I used to be and embraced who I was becoming, things started happening. My private practice took off & I soon went from a small, part time practice to a full practice with interns & contractors. My dream of becoming a college professor came true when I became Adjunct Faculty for a university. Things started happening in crazy good ways and I was often found doing the happy dance around my office or home. I moved out of my mom’s house and into a 5 bedroom home in one of the wealthier communities in Colorado. A year ago, my children and I moved to Northern California to build the next phase of my dream life. I have never before felt such peace, love and joy in my life. That’s not to say it’s perfect but it is MY life. It’s the one I have chosen to create, not one that was decided for me.

I don’t say this to brag. Not at all but because I know what it is like to be in the pit of despair. After my marriage ended, I remember lying in my bed with my children sleeping soundly as tears rolled down my face, soaking my pillow. I also remember the day that I decided that I was no longer going to feel bad about what I couldn’t change. I taped an index card on my mirror that remind me that happiness was a choice. I know what it feels like to face fear & do it anyway. I know what it’s like to wrestle with demons & make peace. I know what it is to not like the person in the mirror and I know what its like to become best friends with myself.

I’ve always believed that we go through things in life to grow but also to be able to help others. I believe that it is my responsibility to reach back & extend a helping hand to someone who has been where I have been. Because I have walked this path, I know how hard it is but I also know how incredible it is on the other side. That’s why I do this work–why I lay bare my soul for the world to see. So that maybe my life can inspire someone else to get to the other side of their own personal hell. So that maybe some woman who thinks she’s unworthy because her husband cheated will realize that it was never about her, but always about his inability to love well. So maybe, a mom who is scared about her children’s future will know that she WILL make it. So maybe, there will be a man who is inspired to be a better father, knowing his children deserve it.

The ashes of your burned dreams are the breeding ground from which you’ll rise. I know it. I’m proof.

(c) Lisa Vallejos, 2014

Painted Lady, Part 2

I am sitting on the bed as I type this. I am still looking at the paint on my chest as I sit here, marveling at the experience I just gave myself. My afternoon was one that was filled with wonder and delight as I laid myself bare, naked and unashamed once again. This time, the audience was different & included my (almost) 15 year old niece. There was no loud music, just Norah Jones on Pandora & the quiet of the air conditioner.

I told Mythica my vision, and as all artists do, she added her unique stamp to it and made it something beautiful. For me, this body painting session was about turning a page and closing the chapter on this last phase of my journey. The last 7 years have been filled with challenges that literally brought me to my knees. I wasn’t sure I would survive many times. Many times, it was the grace of God & the buttressing by friends, family, professors and kind strangers that held me together. But today, as I reclined on the couch, getting painted, talking with Mythica about some of the journey, I was awe-struck with the realization that I am no longer the same person I was when this journey began.  Tears fell as I spoke occasionally but they were not tears of sorrow.  They were tears of gratitude.

In the last 7 years, I have literally seen my son’s heart beating in his chest. I have accepted that his medical situation might mean I will outlive him.   I have let go of people, including family, when it was no longer healthy for me to stay in relationship. I let go of my dream of raising children in an unbroken home. I let go of my ideal body and embraced my new post-baby body. I buried my Grandmother, grandfather, my first love and some good friends.  I left my home state & my comfort zone to pursue my dreams.

Mostly, though, I let go of all the things that I had believed about myself that came through a series of wounds. I wore an albatross around my neck that always kept me from soaring, even though I knew I was destined to fly. Today, Mythica painted the book of Lisa & the chapter headings were “Shame, Unworthy, Unlovable, Damaged, Mistrust & Fear”. The book of Lisa is now being burned up by the SoulFire within that is coming from my solar plexus, the core of me, represented by a lotus flower.  As she painted me, Mythica looked into my eyes & we laid those beliefs down for the last time. The albatross is gone, replaced with “Perfection, Worthy, Lovable, Whole, Trusting and Fierce”. Although much of the healing work was done before I got there, this was the ceremonial fire where it was burned for good. Mythica painted my vision & bore witness to the journey, embodying not only artist but healer.

When we finished, I stood before the camera, only in my sheer black panties, topless, striking a pose for the photographer. I was completely comfortable in my panties, in my pose, in my paint but mostly, in my skin. There are a few photos where the photographer caught me laughing and the bliss on my face is tangible. There was nothing but radical self love, freedom and acceptance in that room & the love of three women who held the healing space so lovingly.

Now, as I prepare to go shower before meeting some dear friends tonight, I feel that I have solidified myself, anchored my soul, if you will. As the paint drains off of my body and down the drain, I believe I will be washing the last of the ashes away. The page has turned…the winds of change are blowing wild.  I am free.

 

 

 

Painted Lady

A few years back, I was 30-something woman who was recently divorced, left to raise two children on my own and who was hellbent on not creating the same shitty relationship I had in the past. Part of the un-learning I was doing was directly tied to my sexuality & sexual expression. A number of incidents when I was a young girl imprinted in my mind that sexuality was dirty, shameful and something that should be kept hidden. In my family, sexuality wasn’t something that was openly discussed, unless it was gossip and scorn. My sexuality was, in my mind, my dark side. A secret to be kept hidden. Something that I didn’t acknowledge, much less express.

I spent the first decade of my adulthood in a Christian church environment, where the message that sexuality is wrong was pounded in my head. The desire to be touched? Carnal and must be surrendered to God. The desire to have intimate connection with a loving partner? Nothing more than the devil tempting you. Women who had sex were slut-shamed, stamped with a scarlet letter & left outside on the fringes. I continued to shove my sexual, sensual self into a closet that I would only let out occasionally (and usually when I had a drink or two, cause then I could blame the alcohol).

It wasn’t until my marriage came to a crash landing & I realized how much of myself I had given away to be accepted & “loved”, even though “love” that disallows ones full expression is hardly love at all. I began peeling back the layers of who I had become, this persona I had adopted, and started exploring other options. Maybe, being a sensual woman wasn’t the cardinal sin. Maybe a woman can be sexual without being scandalous. Maybe…

One night, I attended an event called the “Erotic Ball” in downtown Denver. For anyone who knew me at the time, this was a HUGE stretch. I mean, just a year prior I was at church 3 times a week and here I was attending a fetish ball. I put on a mild costume (cause I still wasn’t that brave), be sure to put on a mask so my face wasn’t revealed & went with my friend. While there, I came across a body painting station with a wonderful woman named Mythica. I screwed up my courage, opened my corset & Mythica painted the most beautiful wings across my chest. After the painting was done, I left the paint station & walked around the bar with my friend with my corset wide open, painted wings proudly for the anyone to see. When I was getting painted, I was terrified. I wasn’t sure what people would think of me. I wasn’t sure that I would have the balls to show anyone. I wasn’t sure that I could bear the destruction of my old belief system that the body should be kept hidden. But with every step I took, an old belief that didn’t serve me anymore fell away. My self-concept was radically shifting as I realized that I could be essentially exposed & accepted. I had always tied nakedness with sexuality but that night, with my breasts exposed, I was embraced by people who didn’t see nakedness (or paint) or a sexual object. This was the first time in my life that I didn’t connect my sexual expression with shame. THE FIRST TIME. What happened that night was profound for me. It was a key point of my own liberation. I took back my sexuality, sensuality and rejected the shame that had been heaped upon me by myself & others.

Now, 3 years later, I am coming back to revisit that place. I have scheduled a session with Mythica to be painted again, except this time, I’m getting photographed. I won’t share the art idea yet (you’ll have to wait for pictures) but this session is hugely symbolic for me. I will be, once again, laying myself bare. As Mythica paints my body, she will be helping me to expose my soul. This process reminds me of what Rollo May said: Thus every experience of creativity has its potentiality of aggression or denial toward other persons in one’s environment or established patterns within one’s self. To put the matter figuratively, in every experience of creativity something in the past is killed that something new in the present may be born.

Here’s to new life. Stay tuned.

Getting There

 

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“I’m getting there”

“Someday, I’ll be there”

How many times have you heard someone say something like this?  How many times have YOU said it?  Everyone seems to focused on getting “there”…to the next career move, to the next relationship, to the altar, to parenting, to some distant goal in the future where everything will magically come together.

Except when it doesn’t happen.  Because “there” is a moving target…it’s a myth our culture has sold us.  There is no “there” because once you get “there”, there’s a new “there” to reach.  When you are in high school, college is “there”.  In “college”, marriage or career is “there”.  When you get settled into your career, your next promotion is “there” and then retirement is “there”.  You can spend your whole life trying to get “there” and never actually arrive.

Trying to get “there” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless you make the mistake of thinking that getting “there” will be the key to your happiness.  Getting “there” is about setting goals and taking steps to achieve them which is absolutely a great idea, provided that you can learn to be fulfilled here while on the way to “there”.  The key is celebrating where you are now while on your way to achieving your goals.  One of my mentors reminded me recently that even after 30 years, there is still plenty of learning to be done.

There is no “there”…there is only here, right now.  It’s how you use “here” and “now” that create the best “there”.