Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Radical Self-Reliance

My first Burning Man in 2012
According to one of the 10 principles of Burning Man, radical self-reliance is to discover, exercise and rely on your inner resources. This is what I've finally begun to empower myself to do in my life and it feels amazing. It feels freeing and enlightening and amazing.

Over the past week a few of the caring people in my life have shared with me that I project as someone who is deeply depressed. I've been told that I project as a “hurt puppy” and I need to “get over it”, that I need to tell the past it's dead and move forward, to stop wallowing in the past, and that I just seem (at least online) as someone who is incredibly sad. I do appreciate the concern and as painful as it is to hear these things, they are true. Well, the fact is, I have been deeply depressed. 

But, it's also true that I have been doing lots of things to climb out of that depression and to move forward in my life. I just haven't been writing about them online as I work through them. The awesome thing about this message from these people is that it gave me a hardy and swift kick in the pants to refocus my energy from the negative to the positive. 

Where radical self-reliance comes in is here: for the last couple of months I've been reading everything I could get my hands on in search of “the answer” and I've come to finally realize that I already have all of the “answers”, all of the tools, that I need to move forward to not only be a better human being but to see my own worth in the world. Now I need to use them and do the work. Reading about changing my way of thinking isn't going to automatically change my way of thinking. I have to recognize my old thought patterns and consciously make a change when they rear their ugly heads.

This past week I had the opportunity to do just that. A situation came up where I found my thoughts going to this place where I was comparing myself to someone else. The self hating thoughts of “not enough” came flooding in and I allowed them to until I finally realized what was happening. I was able to catch myself, stop the comparison and focus on the stuff that is good about me, that I do have to offer then began to work on accepting and embracing those things about myself. I was also able to realistically see that not everyone would appreciate those things about me or treasure the love I have to offer and have it be enough and that's ok. The fact is that I am enough. I am more then enough for someone out there and I am working every day on convincing myself of that fact.

Within that same situation, I was also able to recognize an old thought pattern of martyrdom and stop it in it's tracks by creating a boundary. Without going into much detail, I wanted to keep my integrity in the situation and knew that I couldn't do that if I continued a dialogue with a person who approached me. The intentions were good, I believe, but because of who she is and the feelings it brought up for me, I couldn't continue. It felt like I had been pushed a few steps back in my progress and I couldn't let that continue. Continuing with it is something the old me would have done, the one who wants to help everyone even if it's painful for me. So I set a boundary and spoke my truth about how I was feeling and you know what? It didn't kill me. As a matter of fact, it felt good to stand up for and care for myself. It felt good to step out of the situation, keep my integrity and be totally honest about it all.

As far as the past goes, it's just that. The past. There is nothing I can do to change it. What's done is done. I've owned up to and apologized for my mistakes and all I can do now is forgive myself and let it all go. I know in my heart that I will always love and have a place for those who I have hurt and who have chosen to let go of our connection. Torturing myself over it isn't going to bring them back and it isn't going to change how they feel. It only affects me. It's time to let it all go. Let the grief bubble up when it does, sit through it, then move on. Let it go and move forward. Let it go and move forward.

Focusing on the facts of my life in this present moment help me to see that right now my life is pretty frickin' awesome.

  • I am in the middle of an amazing photography project that has brought so much good to my life.
  • I have two really great part-time jobs that balance each other out nicely.
  • I work for really nice people who appreciate me and treat me well.
  • Even though the doggie daycare doesn't pay much, I'm paid in so much more than money.
  • I love my job at the doggie daycare so hard and I've learned some new things at the IT job.
  • Both jobs are here in town so there is no commute. My walk to my afternoon job is very pleasant and a nice break in my day.
  • Paydays leave me feeling incredibly grateful and I have finally learned to save 10% of my pay every week. It isn't much but it's fun to watch the balance grow and saving that money has helped me to make my final trip for the project plus it's allowed me to give a few Solstice gifts this year. It will also help me with getting back to Portland.
  • I live with an awesome woman who has so graciously given me space to move through this time in my life. As painful and disappointing as it is for her, she still loves and cares about me and my well being and has opened her space and her life up to me. She shares her time and her animals with me and the friendship that we are growing is beautiful. I am so grateful for her.

This year I have so much to look forward to.

  • In a week and a half I will be in NYC for the first time visiting friends in Brooklyn for the weekend and galavanting around town with my camera on what we're calling “The Great NYC Queer Photo Geek Out”.
  • A week after that I'll be visiting my sister in Connecticut who I haven't seen in 16 years.
  • Sometime after that I'll drive up to Maine and visit a cousin I haven't seen in 36 years.
  • I get to spend at least the next 4 months living in and exploring beautiful New England.
  • I can't wait to help plan and celebrate Tracy's 50th birthday party at the end of April.
  • Trips to Boston on my own and with Tracy.
  • More trips to Crane Beach to enjoy the sand and the sound of the waves. It's only 15 minutes away!
  • Springtime in New England. I hear it's gorgeous and I can't wait to witness it for myself.
  • I get to help a friend and a photographer who I have admired for years on a big photography project. I am so excited and honored to work with her and learn from her.
  • Over the course of the next year I get to put the Butch/Femme Photo Project book together and get it published.
  • My trip back to Portland sometime in May will include visits with friends and family along the way as well as some camping stops on my own. Some in places I've never been.
  • Over the next year and a half I'll be planning and saving for a solo trip to Burning Man in 2015 to be a Temple Guardian. It's a trip that's been tugging at me for a bit now and one I am very excited about.
  • Once I get back to Portland I have some incredible friends and family who have already offered up space for me to land and get settled. Plus, Portland has so many doggie daycares I can work for! :)

All of this plus I have an amazing group of friends and family who love and support me no matter what. Life is pretty fucking awesome. Focusing on all of this good is exactly what I have been doing lately and it, combined with my Zen meditation and journaling, is what's going to bring me out of this funk. I can feel it working already.

I am so incredibly blessed. My love and gratitude go out to those who have helped me reach this place on my path.


  1. I love all of this! Except the part where you're not bringing this edition of the Butch/Femme photo project to Hawaii. Well, there's always the next book! Hehe

    Self-awareness about so many things at once - I admire your courage in facing it head on. I didn't write about my own struggles, but this fall has brought a similar sense of facing reality in my life. Enlightenment gave me so much stress I got hives. It's a relief when you can get through it enough to get a larger perspective. So glad you are moving into that space. All good thoughts going your way.

    1. Oh, if only I had to money to get to Hawaii!

      Yes, it's definitely a relief when you can get a larger perspective. There are days where I have to continuously remind myself of that larger perspective, too. Thank you. All good thoughts going your way, as well.

  2. I'm really proud of you for working through things in an authentic and loving way. Reading about how to do something is never a substitute for rolling up your sleeves and doing the work but it's a pretty common step. You were studying up, preparing yourself. And now you're on your way back up. Remember that even if you slip back a little on the way, there are a whole lot of us holding the rope, waiting to greet you at the top.

    1. Thank you, Kyle. That means a lot to me.

  3. That is amazing Wendi! I have another friend who is going thru a similar situation as you and I am just going to tell her to suck it up and get over it also!!! I hope it brings her out of her funk! Good luck to all of your goals lady!!

    1. Please be gentle with your friend. It's not the best way to help someone who is experiencing a deep depression and could actually make things worse for her. Just listen and be there for her. She has to come out of it in her own time and in her own way and knowing that she has caring and supportive friends is the best help you can give her.

  4. I don't know or care who commented on your hypothetical projection of Hurt Puppy or told you get over it. But I hope you know that's toxic speech. He or she may not have meant harm. But they caused you to doubt yourself and try to change yourself.

    I'm here to tell you they are wrong and you don't need to change anything. I see how you've blossomed into an artist, a thinker, and a giver. Being a giver is a vulnerable place to be, a landscape full of self doubts as part of the territory.

    You're doing everything right. Take this as truth and armor up against critics external and within.

    1. Thank you. I know they said those things from a place of caring and concern. Thankfully, their tough love helped this time. Instead of letting it drag me down further, I used it as a stepping stone.

      I am, indeed, doing everything right and am armored up against critics external and within.