One of those things, and probably the most obvious to all of you following along at home, is the conscious attempt I've been making to let myself be genuine. Not just genuine in an identity, which I've been trying to do for a long time, but also genuine in the sense that hey, I'm allowed to enjoy and believe and feel things that some people think are silly. That starting point was a massive leap for me, because I've always been far too self-conscious to do a lot of the things that I knew I was going to need to be able to do if I'm going to be an effective doula. I'm going to need to be able to say things that sound a little mushy. I'm going to need to be able to sit with a person who's hurting or scared and believe that I can follow that person to a place inside them and comfort them there.
I know that this is something I can do, but even though I've been told I do it, I don't see myself as an inherently compassionate or empathetic person. When I'm trying, I know I am--it's a skill I've developed, although the amount of courage it takes for me to even claim it as a skill might surprise you. I feel like saying it opens it up to invalidation. Because even though I can, even though sometimes I know I'm even good at it, I also know that I don't always get it right when I am trying, and that when I'm not trying, I'm tremendously self-centered. Tremendously. It's not difficult for me to move that center onto someone else, but it is always, always something I have to be intentional about. I'm not intimidated by that; because I've had to learn it, I know how to do it even around the edges of something else going on in my head. I think that having had to learn it makes me, if not better, than at least uniquely prepared.
That example is a major one, but again, just the starting point. I've had to make a conscious effort to find ways to let myself go, to let myself do things that might seem silly in their enthusiasm, because that's not a natural state for me.
As part of those efforts, I've also been exploring other things. I found a few recordings of Yoga Nidra practices that I've been using. I forget where I stumbled upon the idea, but I do remember that it was explained as a restful practice, one that can help with recovering from loss of sleep, which is a presentation that tells me it almost certainly came from another doula. I sort of scoffed about it the first time I tried it, and I had a really difficult time turning off my thoughts and my attempts to rest on my own terms and just following the practice, but even that first time I definitely noticed that coming out of it took a shift to get back into daytime mode. I didn't notice myself going in, and might have even actively resisted, but coming out was noticeable. And you should have seen the dogs, listening to the teacher's voice along with me. Molly melted into a heavy lump at my side, and Hobbes went calm for an entire afternoon.
One of the practices has a piece where you're led through a forest, to a particular tree, and then asked to imagine the roots, and find for yourself a symbol hidden there. Now, despite the fact that I believe strongly in the ability of our subconscious to show us things in dreams and images (because what else are they for, really? Even if they're just showing us that we're frightened or sad or lonely), I kind of scoffed again, and it took me a moment to force myself to participate. In my imagined tree roots, I found a round, flat, grey stone, roughly square, with a diamond shape carved in the middle. As I "looked" at it, it shifted, changing colour and shape until it became very clearly a tiny porcelain daffodil, a symbol of spring and renewal. Most of you know how I feel about that kind of symbology, so it meant something to me that this kind of symbol is what came to me. It surprised me, completely.
I'm trying not to feel silly and weird as I tell you this story, because most of it isn't something I "believe" in, really. I certainly don't believe in it strongly enough to recommend it to anyone else. But there are a lot of things in my life like that, and I'm trying to convince myself that just because I'm afraid other people might think they're silly doesn't mean they can't be important to me.
Funnily enough, this post started with the intention to write about my experience with people jumping the medical model ship, but it didn't end up there at all, did it? Another time, maybe.