About 6 years ago, my previous next door neighbors cut down everything that was beautiful in the yard next door to mine. The 100 year old camellia, the massive rhododendron, 2 large water oaks, and more. Why they opted to buy a home in an urban forest instead of a clear-cut suburban development was beyond all of us as we watched the canopy and the wildlife disappear. Mercifully, they moved but not before destroying much of the block.
Before their destruction began, the shrubs bordering our properties began slowly creeping through my fence and into my yard. This was great! Established plants in my yard for free! Once the evil neighbors cut down or pulled up everything on their side, the shrubs sought more refuge in my yard, growing rapidly and blooming each spring. Last year we lost the Norwegian spruce next to them. Despite our best efforts, it had been declining for years and added little to our canopy. Or so we thought.
I looked out the front windows this week and was blown away by the blossoms! Our refugee shrub was aflame with flowers, basking in the increased light it now receives.
Everyone needs a safe place to bloom. When we allow a little space in our yards, our lives, or our cultures for something new to find refuge from where it previously did not thrive, we give space for it to flourish in countless ways that add to everyone’s lives. Whether we’re talking plants, ideas, or people, the potential is exponential.
My New Hero for Helping Each of Us Fix the World
For a time when I’ve been so happy to hunker down and be in the studio with my watercolors, I can’t help wanting to continue making a difference in the world at large. Part of me could be in here, making what I want, unhooked from most of the rest of the world for the rest of my life. But there is another part of me, a really significant part of me, that needs to implement the changes I want to see in the arts, in education, and for humanity. Tara Mohr reminds me that this part of me can’t be denied or downplayed and gives significant tools on how I can do both.
Normally, I wouldn’t suggest a book I haven’t yet finished, but one chapter into Mohr’s book Playing Big, and I can safely tell you that her tools on dealing with our inner critics, just in that one chapter, are worth the price of the book and so much more. Finally there is someone (besides me) who gets how women’s cultural inheritance limits us in massively unhelpful ways and who offers a path beyond those limits (not me yet, but I’m working on it!).
If you sign up for her newsletter, not only do you get some of the best blogging out there, she offers free, weekly, online group coaching sessions that dig deep. These aren’t the usual “come to my free training where I only offer the solutions in the expensive online course I’m hawking” style sessions. She offers 1-2 courses each year, but they are separate. I’ve attended one coaching session live and watched a couple of other recorded ones, and the insights are mind blowing (and, dear readers, you know how discerning I am).
And Finally, a Deep, Heartfelt Thank You
As I kept an intense travel and teaching schedule for so many years, I got amazingly good at hiding the cost. Years of bench work, and before and during that time, years of dancing, left me with raging tendinitis in many of my joints, the pain of which can’t be dimmed by a good pair of sneakers or a lower lumbar cushion. It’s complicated.
Before I went through 6 months of physical therapy and dry needling, pre-COVID, the way I coped was to find all the reflexology and deep tissue massage spas I could possibly afford along my journeys and destinations. If the airfare was the same, I’d pick airport connections that had the best chair massage places. I knew every good place in an airport or near a teaching studio from Atlanta to Oakland, New York to Seattle, and Milwaukee to Houston.
I am still deeply grateful to these relative strangers for holding me together so I could bear walking too far, dragging my bags, and standing too much in order to do what I love. My amazing deep tissue specialist here at home used to tease me, “Victoria, I know you have needs when you’re away from me. I understand and forgive you.” She knew better than anyone just how jacked up my shoulders and neck remain and how my survival entailed begging people to dig their elbows into my trapezius muscles and their knuckles into my arches. All joking aside, I couldn’t have survived without each and everyone of these neuromuscular therapists and reflexologists, not to mention my kick ass team of physical therapists, most of them women and people of color.
When I heard the news of the mass shooting at the massage spas in Atlanta, I was completely horrified but unfortunately, not as surprised as I should have been. If psychotic people have weapons, they tend to use them. My heart went out to everyone touched by this and yet more hate crimes. It took a moment, probably because of the shock, for me to connect that I could have been a sitting duck in such a place. As I let myself fully feel the fear, the faces and kindness of many of those therapists who helped me, flashed through my mind. My heart goes out to them, to everyone touched by the psychosis of racism, and the fear of being targeted for seeming different.
Thank you to everyone who helped relieve my pain. May you not have to live in fear.