Human beings are strange creatures, often waiting until we are forced to change rather than choosing to change before we "hit the wall." We see signs--irregular sleep, discord with others, regular illness, excessive drama, acting outside of our values--but we ignore them. We don’t act or we don't act consistently. Each time we ignore a sign we place a brick in the wall we eventually hit when all those signs add up to crisis. Sine qua non is Latin for indispensable element or condition. I call it "readiness." This blog seeks to connect those who are searching for or have found the sine qua non of change. What makes you or keeps you from taking off? What keeps you from flying or helps you soar? What do you know about change that can help others?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


"My shoulder is killing me," I whined to my massage therapist/healer.

"Show me where on the diagram; describe the pain and when you feel it."

"To tell you the truth it's been going on for a while, it's acute today. But I've been feeling crooked for a couple of months. I think I've even had you work my left side the last couple."

He had me sit and started poking around the area of pain. He hit a trigger spot.


"What do you suppose that is?"

"It's got to be my Mom. It just gets harder and harder."

He asked question after question while he countered with his thumbs the tension build-up at a line of spots just under my shoulder blade, each tightness triggering tears and deeper sharing of indelible words, an image of the 7 year old version of myself still resenting old hurt. Through imagining he had me love and support my angry little girl and feel compassion for a mother I see trapped in a coccoon. He revealed to me the old tapes that keep me from playing the mature adult I mean to play. He helped me unstick my painful shoulder, AND my interactions with my mother. I wondered if the stuckness had anything to do with a dry spell in my writing.
"Stuck"for me is when I stop making progress in an area I am trying to change. Being stuck in one area of our lives can set us up to be stuck in other areas. Plus, most of the things that make us stuck are emotionally charged, often unresolved things from the past. Our unconcious is so busy working to fortify the effects of the past it hardly has time to work on the present. If we are aware, we can even pinpoint its physical sign, hyperventilating, anxiety, sadness, etc. If we are smart, we'll get some help to break up the jam. That's when I first went to see Tom--my stuckness expert and psychologist.

It seems when I experience one lesson, it's usually followed close by a couple more of the same theme. As a matter of fact, one of our friends expressed her stuckness via email too recently to be coincidence. She had been trying to work on some long-term health issues. In the course of the written exchange, she mentioned that she hadn't slept for years. She was working on it. I applauded her insight. I supported her delaying more big life changes until she gets unstuck from her sleeplessness. It's difficult to find clarity about just about everything when you're Z-deprived.

Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend and a reunion of women working on creating the lives they want. Z is a lifelong learner in her 40s, very successful in her career. Her career is not her passion. She's searching for that. Her story includes a long-standing resentment toward her family, struggle to let go of hard feelings and an unexplainable angst. D works hard on finding her mission (she's zeroing in on her talents and passions), but struggles to breathe most of the time due to a tightness in her chest and tears just beind her eyes. I wondered out loud if it was possible they needed to unstick themselves before their next big burst of progress. I'm confident each will find a way to unlock their stuckness . . . in their own time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story - I'm heartened by it.


The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I mourn for you

I cry because someone important once degraded you, carved a mark on your soul that colors your lens, distorts your thinking. I ache because your head has built a wall around your heart that protects you from people you long to know. I grieve because you serve others, settle for less than you want, sit with that lump in your throat and ache in your heart that leaks tears when you speak. I mourn for the signs you saw and ignored, parasites sucking you dry of money and emotions, of goodwill and compassion until you cannot put a sentence together any more than you can repair your life because you are clueless about where to start.

Awareness before change

Awareness November 2008

“I was hoping to come back and join you in bed,” my sweetie said clearly disappointed as he walked past me on his way to the bedroom after spending the night in the guest room where his back finds respite. “Too late,” I retorted, fully clothed, brewing a cup of coffee and unfolding my buttermilk pancake recipe. He continued to our bed, surely hoping I would change my mind. Standing my ground meant we missed out on the irreplaceable morning “spoon”—a defiance way beyond the occasion and very much out of character.

I had nothing to say on this Pancake Sunday--a ritual we started to bring the family back to the fold once a week, even after Mom arrived; even when my sweetie tried to get me to leave my post at the grill to come see the critters converged on the deck enjoying the morning’s banquet of seeds and suet. I ignored him. “I’ve got pancakes to turn,” I growled under my breath.

I could feel myself slipping over the edge as Mom poured syrup and detailed the lives of her neighbors and their little girl whom she cannot forgive for going without underpants, and the impending birth of twins, and the small house they live in, and the Mom’s favorite coffee and their latest conversation encased in a “Then I said,” and “Then she said,” recalling every word. “I don’t care,” I thought, through my blank stare.

That was the first time I realized my heart hurt. Not the “I’m-having-a-heart-attack” kind of hurt, but an ache in the anterior. I breathed deep into the pain and sighed.

Luckily only Mom had joined us on this Sunday after Thanksgiving. Instead of the usual group of friends and optimistic chit-chat, we ate with an uncomfortable quiet. It didn’t take long for her to pack up and go home after breakfast, leaving me alone to dwell on the status of my relationship, the recent and untimely death of a friend, my floundering career. My heart hurt. I breathed deep and sighed and relieved it for a moment more.

Awareness October 2009

Darkness had not yet dissolved on the Saturday morning I awoke anxious and sad and inconsolable. The contrast was stark to the usual song in my head. The frenzy prevented me from turning and breathing and willing myself back to sleep. What? I wondered.

The channels flipped on my internal tube, exposing trailers of unfinished business, the chasm I feared growing between me and my daughter, the class the previous day that produced two negative evaluations, conversation with the neighbors at dinner the night before where we talked about elders and our turn, Thanksgiving plans upended again in a phone call.

I paused and hit replay. Decades of chaotic Thanksgiving scenes montaged through; my Dad’s death on the holiday when I was 5, yelling and swats with the hair brush over dresses and curls, a major riff in the family where half split off to celebrate elsewhere, Mom insisting on celebrating one place or another creating the necessity to “pick sides,” my daughter throwing up to avoid choosing, the ache in my heart the year before. Years of chaos and drama created by ancient sadness and suffering disguised itself as current reality and visited me there in my bed to me to remind me to move on.