Saturday, September 7, 2013

Teddy Roosevelt, Inanna's descent thru the Underworld, Hearts on Sleeves, and my horoscope: a love letter

I have been struggling with something recently, and while it falls along the same lines as my previous battles because it involves allowing myself to be vulnerable in a whole new way, it's different at the same time.

In my OkStupid profile I promise to be the type of person who wears her hearts on her sleeves. Most of the time that's pretty easy, unless I'm showing a part of me that has been damaged before and isn't quite healed yet. I'm the fall-in-love type, and usually have a pretty hard time keeping that information to myself (which, as you might have guessed is part of why I'm writing this). I don't hold back. I base my relationships on openness and vulnerability because I know in the deepest part of me that love isn't the kind of activity that is outcome-based.

"It is not the critic who counts; nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...."
-Teddy Roosevelt, "The Man in the Arena" April 23rd, 1910

When I read this quote at the beginning of Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly, I was reminded of my place and what it means to be Empress. The archetypal Inanna, Queen of Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld earned her title by falling, failing, being betrayed, and ultimately left to die until the head god realized "oh shit, no Empress means no life!" and convinced the other gods to figure out a way to get her off the hook in the Underworld. I didn't know that I would suffer so strongly early in my life when I chose the name Empress. It didn't register until I re-read the chapter about Inanna earlier today, after thinking over and over about how to overcome this bit of fear I've been up against for more than a few weeks.

Even while wandering and wailing, the Empress doesn't crumble. Her majesty is stripped, and in the darkness she loses everything but her vulnerability. And while coming out into the light again, she realizes that everything she is, everything she has is not based on the scepters she used to rule; the symbols of her feminine power, or her family strength; nothing based on ego or bodily integrity. The only thing that saves her life is her vulnerability, so she learns to base her relationships on that and gains so much more.

Yes, there is danger in this approach, but when the right relationships come along in all their forms (familial, romantic, platonic, dog), what results is the kind of power you don't get through symbols and artificial strength. The Empress moves past her fears, says "I love you" first, and acknowledges that reciprocity may come later, if at all. And if it doesn't, the act of loving still stands and she is greater for it.

So when my horoscope this week asked, "Is the love that's blooming a transient pleasure or a powerful upgrade that's worth working on with all your ingenuity?" Then answer came thusly:  if this isn't all aiming for an upgrade, you've spent an awful lot of time, energy, and money chasing rabbits.

This doesn't just apply to my personal life (although, that's the direction most of the reflection on this question has taken), but to my career, my activism, and my family. If I expect to be fully Empress, I cannot, must not, set out directionless. If I expect to lead, I must know whether I'm climbing a hill or a mountain; setting toward a river or a creek, with neither being better than the other, but the important part being clarity of purpose and transparency of sleeve.

It takes two hearts to be a Timelord because sometimes one of them breaks. And while this may be my nerdtastic metaphor* for living fully in my purpose, the truth of it lies in this: I wear my hearts on my sleeve. I don't bow to fear or intimidation because I was made to dare greatly and to confess love when I feel it. And even if a heart breaks, the love still lives on because the broken pieces get reabsorbed and the heart becomes stronger.

Being vulnerable with you taught me that I am more durable than I thought I was. This last year has been a terrible descent, and I won't credit you with rescuing me, because I know better. Having stood in the arena this whole time, seeing you still there as parts of me were torn away by circumstances - some that I began, some I had nothing to do with - I know that I don't need to earn your love or approval, or to show you that mine is real. Of course you know. How could you miss it?

When someone primes us for an upgrade, we do the same for them. Love multiplies love, and we come to it through vulnerability.

*I do have a funky heartbeat tho

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