Don't Use a Bulldozer to Move Water

song du jour: Deepest Blue, Deepest Blue

mood: it's just really early(!)

Ok, try this:
Fold your arms in front of you, and then lift your elbows perpendicular to the floor, up away from your body, still folded. See the space? Cool. Now close your arms around you like you're hugging yourself. No space, right? Now put them back the first way, folded and perpendicular. See that your arms are wrapped around nothing. You can see down straight to the floor. There is no-thing in that space. You are now 'holding space.' Now close them around your self again. Are you holding space? No, you're taking up the space. You are no longer holding space. You have filled it with yourself. Can you see the difference?

When I first found David Deida's work, I felt as though I'd glimpsed a revolutionary lighting bolt that had mysteriously been right in front of my eyes all the time, but unfortunately there is a trend in and amongst many guys aware of his work to talk about 'holding space,' and then bulldoze right on over it. It finally dawned on me the other day that many people confuse a strong sense of directionality with giving a bunch of directions. Sadly, you may be hearing it here first: inner directionality should not equal being a control freak.

It's taken me nearly 2 years to turn an uncomfortable feeling into clearer words worthy of blogging at large to say that I finally figured out most people confuse holding space with taking over control of it and equate being directional with merely giving directions. Tough concepts, I realize. How is one to be directional without being bossy? Well, I bet you could ask this lady on the set and get some good advice as to how to be the guiding river banks without damming up the flow of the river, but then, whether or not life imitates art, the people in our lives are more than actors for our scripts as she would probably tell you when this little lady wakes early from napping and demands to be held.

Before I found Deida's work, I had begun to be supremely dissatisfied with how much it took out of me to be THE mom, breadwinner, artist, sole parent, home owner, accountant, and Ms. Fix-it. Coming out of a boring turned stuff-of-made-for-tv-movies marriage, which hadn't exactly been all that different in terms of the above roles, I contemplated what it would be like to be single again, what I might want in a mate when my Snoopy-happy-dance of doing it all my way had subsided enough to want to be involved in any kind of partnership. My fantasies were of being whisked off to the opera, wined and dined in little out of the way cozy cafes, and put on a pedestal in various exotic locations around the globe. Many of those wishes came true, but what I also got was a few men, telling me what to do every few minutes. My longing to relax into big strong arms was repeatedly interrupted by their owners being all too willing to squish me and my needs into their own boxes of wishes. They didn't hold the space. They filled it with their own agendas and needs.

In my grandparents world, there was a tacit understanding. They didn't tread on each others' territory. My grandmother did not clean, move, or otherwise disturb the massive tangle of wires that supported my grandfather's multiple short wave and ham radios, and, eventually, computers, and he did not take the scissors from her sewing room or invade the kitchen for anything other than eating meals or getting something to drink. He worked himself into an early grave, paying for the space. My grandmother obsessed over its general maintenance with all gender role inspired political boundaries firmly in place (until she sold off all that Radio Shack equipment in less than a month after his funeral). I wouldn't call them happy with all their yelling and sniping, but they were clearly miserable at the prospect of not being with each other, and though my grandmother perked up and came into her own as a widow, having checks printed without the 'Mrs.' nonsense, moving money around to get the best interest, and generally feeling like an adult for the first time at the age of 67, the fun wore off after 5 years. She died of heart disease and pneumonia, but the truth was that she'd gotten bored without my grandfather.

I, the child who could equally hang with my grandfather, listening to his short wave radio or with my grandmother, learning how to make roses from pink icing, wanted so much more equality in a mate situation that I married a guy grateful that I knew how to hook up a VCR. We divided everything evenly from household tasks to household expenses. I was the logical one. He got to be the fun one. I ran around trying to fix everything. He got to reap the rewards and bust my ass when things weren't 'right.' A couple of months into my next romance, I figured out, with no small amount of depression, that even in the pre-Skyler 'fun years,' what had passed for happiness back then was tame and tepid, and so I wanted yet more from relationships. I wanted flirtation and passion and a little protected space to flow and shine. Someone else could deal with the damned VCR while I worked (with tools). Wait, no, DVD player. Times change.

As the metaphor goes, the banks hold the river and direct its flow, but so does the river change the banks, ever eroding it slowly over time. Ultimately, the masculine in any of us holds and supports in vain as the river moves as it will, but without the holding of those banks, there would be no flow, only a few inches deep of soggy ground and a lot of flopping gasping fish. It's a hellacious balance that I've yet to figure out anywhere but on my own. I only know that within myself if I restrict that flow, I loose creativity, and if I'm nothing but flow, I can't get anything finished. Too extreme either way and I'm unable to take care of myself. In communion with another, I find it next to impossible to trust that anyone will let the water come rushing down undammed and untamed, giving passage that is deep and wide enough.

I possess an unusually strong sense of self and with it, a sense of where I want to go and how. I've spent over 17 years doing what I do, and as one friend put it yesterday, I'm covered with the manifestations that illustrate I'm a master of flow states. I always know how to get there. The only thing I need is to 'hold space' for myself and make sure those close to me do the same. There is no question, however, that my preference is to be the river more than the banks, but like most women I'm not some tame little north Georgia Chattahoochee or some lovely little stream behind a picturesque log cabin. I'm the undammed Colorado. I'm the Nile without the Soviet built Aswan Dam. I'm the cataracts and the not always predictable floods that made the Nile valley lush. Occasionally, I'm the monsoons of India. Push me the wrong direction, and you'll get hit by a Pacific tsunami. No matter how men try, the weather will not be controlled.

It isn't enough to live in a time when many people, including a lot of rather with it guys, openly talk about the sacred feminine, the return of the goddess, identification with light, with love, feeling into Big Heart, creating emptiness in which feminine energy could flow, and a variety of other phrases that sound good anywhere from philosophical group discussions to more intimate talks and such in the bedroom. We must actually learn to hold space, LEAVE space for those rivers to flow in to it. When we close the space, when we fill it with our directionality, there is no room left, and all the potential divine feminine light, flow, and creativity is not guided but trampled under our narcissistic selves.

So practice that little exercise with your arms. Imagine all the wonders you will witness in what comes into that small space you are holding. Imagine that the power and beauty of what comes into it is a million times greater than what your agenda is telling you fill it with, and imagine within that potential of space is all the wonder of the world, which you may witness right in front of your face and hold gently and lovingly as you would hold a child.


David Jon Peckinpaugh said...

Yeah Victoria!

Confession... I do think it is easier for me, as a guy (and maybe other guys share in this too) to desire space for myself, while not always allowing others the same right/privilege.

Nah, I don't think this is a guy/girl thing. I suspect it is not gender/sex-specific. The smothering mother, the domineering girlfriend, the controlling husband... too many examples of 'intrusion' and 'occupation' to target one specific sex or gender.

Could have something to do with selfishness--the I, me, my, mine. How in relationships it is easy to have a sense of ownership of the other.

Spatially Yours,
David Jon

Jean said...

From now on your nickname is Gilda.

victoria said...

Being a control freak is certainly not gender specific. I've just found it particularly frustrating to find this version of it among men, who claim to talk of holding space.

I will say that the motivation is probably masc/fem bound. A smother mother is trying to fill herself with the other to which she's permanently attached. A possessive guy is looking for a place to empty into, but yeah, it's all I, me, mine stuff. Ick.