There Will be Days Like This

I have been a Van Morrison fan for a while now. I know it isn’t his best song; as pointed out to me by a long gone lying, cheating, assjerk¬†of a boyfriend. I will have you know, I am laughing about this. But, it’s true. There will be days when you are flummoxed as to how to shift your coordinates, when Grammarly¬†points out that you can’t spell, you feel like you don’t have anyone to go to, and you choose to wear the weary gray of sorrow like flailing wings. Up, up, up you say. Breathe in, breathe out, working to lift yourself beyond the mist to where you know there is sunlight. But, instead, you nibble your nails that have finally grown, wander to nowhere, and feel waited down by nothing, really. There will be¬†days like this. Buddha says to be with it. This is where the mind and body are. Even he knew, sometimes you wake to light and sometimes you wake to shadows. There will be days like this and this to shall pass.

And then, you get a call from an old friend. Someone who caused you pain, who hurt you more than you’d ever been hurt, but who due to that one constant connection you could never walk away from, and over the years you’ve forgiven him. And now your dreary day, it’s a gift. It’s a chance to slow down, to watch the angle of the sun cast light upon buildings in ‘just that way’ that makes you catch your breath. You stop and feel the miracle¬†that is your body, you savor smells and taste the richness of happily, homemade food. And you stop wishing there was something more to your life or that things were different; because you know they could be worse. You stop withering in your own self-doubt and the incandescent refuge of self-pity. Yes, the mind woke to this, no, there didn’t feel like there was anything for it, yes, you would’ve held to it rather than find out someone is fading, and someone is leaving.

There will be days like this. I want a story that will remind you that life isn’t predictable. You think this is the road you’re on, but there isn’t a guarantee. We act like there is. We act like everything will always go on just as it has been. Children will grow up, move on, and become more fully themselves. We will create new lives or re-develop old passions. We’ll carry out the trash, wash our clothes, and not think about someone forgetting who they are, or that one day¬†in the future there will be the¬†last pulse of a fighting organism. The body wants to live. Did you know that? It isn’t just the mind that wants to go on; the body wants to live too.

Watch someone’s body struggle to stay here. The mind, spirit, soul, I think it knows better. I think it leaves long before the body gives up. All of those cells, all of those memories threaded through like movement and music and leaves moving in the breeze, they hold on. The body can’t forget. The mind, it understands. It rises above, let’s go, shifts, and whispers goodbye, at least I hope mine will. But for now, I hope it kisses the beauty that is life, squeezes each moment for its flavor, blinks of¬†grandeur, flat out tragedy, love, and light. I hope it pulls on that delicate, oft lightly worn, sense of peace and lays down beneath a tree, smiling, irrevocably content to just be here.¬† I wish peace were more tightly woven. Burlapish. Thick and hardy. Is it possible? Is that what sitting for hours, watching my breath, being in the moment is all about?

Maybe, maybe that is really what meditating is for. Maybe sitting each night quieting the mind, knowing that you can find a breath to hold on to…and then another, is what will hold us through days like this. Maybe it will keep the lock from turning and releasing¬†the thundering hooves of all that drowns us. I don’t want to drown out reality. That isn’t the answer. I want to be able to stand, to be a temple for someone, to touch the light and carry it long enough to pass it on. We can run this together, holding the weight when the other person needs to rest, keeping the torch lit for all who are being pulled into the shadows…holding the darkness at bay. It doesn’t take much, a touch, listening, even just a smile. You’d be surprised how easy it is to just stand still and notice, nod your head, speak your truth, but don’t walk away. Just be present.

Life, this is ours, but only for now. There are fundamentals of life that will potentially crush us all. As friends, spouses, lovers, parents, siblings, and partners isn’t our duty to try to be present for our others, and maybe, if we can, those throughout the world who are less able to carry the light than we are? Isn’t it? There isn’t any bargaining, buying out, ways in which to evade reality. It will find you whenever and wherever you are. How you deal with the realities of your life, there is your open option board. There won’t always be good days, and, I suppose, if you are having an off day as long as you aren’t making others suffer, it is what it is. There will be days like this.

I write not because I wasn’t ready, not because I forgot how harsh reality can be, but because I was ready. I was able to be present, to hold still and to cradle the suffering of another. I was ready, but I didn’t know I would be. So, know that you may be called upon, on your most terrible, horrible, worst, off, ridiculously wrong side of the bed days, to turn outward and be there for someone else. It may be for good or bad, or both. It may open the door to things you prefer not to look at, things that have shrunk you, or closed you off in the past. Know you have the option to say~ can we talk about this later, always. And that’s ok. But when we can, if we can, I hope, we can stand still, be not just a little light in the darkness but a beacon, and also a wall others can rest their backs upon. I hope we can offer a moment of verbal silence; where everything is said and nothing is spoken.

Because there will be days like this…always.

There will be days like this.

Snow Day 2018

Our school was one of the only schools in western Ma, not to call a snow day today. We had a professional development day, so no children would be harmed in the¬†act of having all the teachers go to work. Hopefully, everyone got home safely. Me, I took the day off to contemplate quiet spaces, overfull rooms, and my current need to have root canal surgery. I just stuck my tongue out at the computer as if the offensiveness of the act, having a root canal, was somehow projected¬†from the screen. Look at that strangely straight gray square line at the bottom of the third tooth. That is where I suddenly discovered a sharp edge with my tongue. Things rarely slowly appear. Things more often than not feel …’suddenly.’¬† Perhaps,¬†another blog. What I want to speak¬†of are edges. In both yoga and meditation, they talk about finding your edge. But perhaps edges are more prolific than that.

IMG_20180207_123826.jpgIn yoga, we bend forward, find that spot just past comfort,¬† just before pain, and steady on. When meditating it is much the same. Thoughts, emotions, insurgents (just wanted to be sure you were paying attention… and it does work) arise and we are told to hold to our edge, experience the vibration of that which has arisen and steady on.¬† If it gets too much, breathe, back away, there will come a day when you can sit with it and be okay. In the books I’ve read and during the dhamma talks I’ve listened to, words like simple, ordinary, and faith are slid in like herbs in a recipe, and all you can do is smile…even with a cracked tooth.

I have been reading books on meditation, and listening to dhamma (truths, the teaching of the¬†Buddha) talks a lot lately. The minute I hear one of the teacher’s talk, my body instantaneously relaxes. Not pavlovian at all! More times than not, nothing much other than chatter arises, but last night there were tears. I had met my edge, and it met me. Sometimes the edge comes in an understanding, or a current¬†reality, a moment in the past or an acceptance¬†of the past, or possibilities¬†of what the future may be. And you steady on. You breathe in, knowing you are breathing in, and you breathe out, knowing you are breathing out. You hear the word simple and you shed tears for simple. Ordinary seems like the most extraordinary thing in the world. Snow falls and the world feels quiet and the thought of ‘faith’ seems possible.

Sometimes at work, I feel like I meet my edge 20 times a day. Through reading about meditating and listening to dhamma talks, I have learned to take a moment in the midst of the morass and check in to see what thoughts or emotions are coming into focus. It works, while walking, talking or working.¬† I wake up to the moment, find space, breathe, stay present and move on. We are told, more often than not,¬†to focus on the person who is speaking.¬† One of the dhamma talks said to check in with what is arising inside. To be told to check in, while listening, was a new one. I have been, and it is interesting. There was a show, a long time ago, call Ally McBeal. One of the characters would say, ” I’d like to take a moment.” He would then tuck his forehead into the crook of his thumb and pointer finger. It was funny. Now I think, “Hey, can I do that?” Checking in to assure I don’t react, checking in so I can hear clearly and respond. Perhaps we could try it. It wouldn’t be ordinary, but it might be funny.

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Beautiful, simple snow!

I am all for funny.

 

Recently, in a meeting, called by my boss, I was able to check in to see how I was feeling, and maintain attention to what was being said. I could feel when anger arose, and thought, ‘Ah, anger,’ away it went. Then came frustration, a sigh for the ridiculousness of it all~ each one passing as I brought in my attention. One of the people in the meeting was clearly getting defensive. When there was an opening I said, “It isn’t personal. This is just the job.” Everyone in the room was close to their edge, and then it passed, like a wave, for all of us.

Even more extraordinary, the person who was getting defensive apologized to me. Score one for ‘faith.’¬† For sitting on the cushion every day, moving towards that edge, and believing that one day this will make a difference. Every day I reach for simple. For me it is about letting things be as they are, not trying to change was is unrolling in front of me, accepting that there may be times when the snow doesn’t fall and allow me to escape my ordinary. But also, accepting that ‘ordinary’ is a beautiful thing…here in my chair, out in the world, alone in my room. Ordinary opens like a flower, rises like the sun, turns back with a smile when it passes by. And sometimes it stands on the edge with you and reminds you to look up. Ordinary reminds you to breathe in confusion and breathe out simple. Ordinary reminds you that there probably isn’t anything you will do, or have done, that hasn’t already been experienced by someone else.

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My camera was on and I realized that within the frame was the word “Awe”. (Yes, and several others) But for now, let’s go with ‘awe’ at the ability to stand at the edge of our lives and push through, to reach out when we need to, or to breathe in and embrace ‘faith’ that the work of meditating will hold you at that edge. It will not let you fall. And one day, one day in the future, instead of falling, you will step out and fly, and you will realize that that too, is really quite ordinary.

Patched Memories

I have been ill the last few days. There is something you may not know about me…I am terrible at being still. Probably due to years of dancing 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. That is not to say when I get clucky (Aussie¬†slang for moody) I can’t manage a good half day not moving from a spot. But when I am forced physically to sit, feeling completely rat -shit, (Sorry I have an Aussie slang dictionary open) I have to do something. So, Here is¬†one way in which I deal with imposed stillness.

When my mother passed away she was working oIMG_20180117_110422.jpgn a cathedral quilt pattern that required tons of tiny squares. I couldn’t get rid of them. We divided¬†them. My sisters took what they wanted and I was left with the rest. When one of my favorite jeans produced a rip in the knee so large, one leg almost became shorts, I pulled out the patches. I am not great at embroidering, but I am willing to work on it. And so, color entered my wardrobe.

My wardrobe, for years, was fairly monochromatic. For ease, I choose white, black, brown and pink as my color scheme. I would add colorful scarves and purses and, of course, my blue jeans. It was easier to figure out what to wear in the morning but at times it felt boring. My mother’s wardrobe was the exact opposite. Her closet¬†was filled with bright yellows, oranges, and rich oriental reds. She always looked beautiful. As I have¬†been adding the patches to my clothing I have also added some colorIMG_20180117_102845.jpg. Here is a favorite soft pink, cashmere sweater that had thinned through much wear.

These patches instantly bring an additional love to something that has brought me comfort on these cold New England days. And, a part of her is with me. Her hands slid across these colors, shifted them and matched them to each other. She saw something, most likely, poetic about the shades, or perhaps it reminded her of looking off over Lake Michigan. The way the sun hit the waves and cast colors over the water. She went to North Western College, and to a nearby church whose cathedral stain glass windows gave me an insight into her love of colors.

I remember her cutting these daily and watched as she made pillows for my sisters. I can’t complain, I have an amazing quilt on my bed that she made. Her attention to detail for stitches was seen in her attention to detail in care for others. She knew how to keep things together. To place just the right amount of attention where it was needed. To hold you with¬†just the right amount of space to let you figure things out, or to pull you in tight when more was needed. Something I wish I had more time to learn from her. I’m working on it. IMG_20180117_110448.jpg

I know she would love to see these old, faded wonders. She knew when I had a bad day. In I would walk with a Gap or TJMaxx bag, out of which I would pull a pair of soft, gentle, pair of blue jeans. I would take off my work clothes, put on the jeans, and plop down on the couch next to her. They were my worst and best days. They were gardening with my mother and walking in the park with my dog and son. They were Saturdays at the creek watching Coda splash in a pool created by a dam, ice cream at the country store and muddy paw prints. They were sitting on the steps of the house we would call home, all the things that remind me of a good life. They still are. So, I will patch them till there is nothing left of them. And then I will let them go.

LIke everything that arises, colors fade away. I don’t mind. I know every one of those memories, the good and the bad. And, while I don’t live in the past, I do like to glimpse because I can see happy. Patch by patch, I can remember. Not covering the bad, but stitching together the good of a life fully lived….and that is something.

 

If you are interested in patching your jeans with these colorful squares, the squares can be purchased at local quilting stores.

Finding Passion~old and new

What is passion? And, how can I get it back? ¬†When I was young I had a passion for a lot of things, horses, Breyer horses, pretending to be a horse, being outside, dogs, cats, and horses. I started riding when I was very young. I never missed a weekend riding. Saturday morning, my parents would drop me off at the barn at 9:00 and I would ride, clean stalls and tack, ride, wash and brush the horse and at 5:00 they would pick me up and take me home. I don’t remember, but I don’t think I ever missed a Saturday. I do remember that after I was kicked in the head, only living because I only weighed so little,¬† I returned to riding two weeks later. The passion I had for horses eliminated¬†any fear I had for being hurt. The first thing I did was to get right back up on the horse that kicked me and with all of my 50 pounds, let him know who was boss.

The passion I felt for horses eventually transitioned to ballet dancing. By the time I was 16 years old, I was dancing 6 to 7 days a week. When I became a professional dancer, we worked Tuesdays through Sunday. Many weeks I would go to the studio on Mondays to give myself a class, review what we were performing and just play. What I realize now is that word ‘play’ is the key. Learning to become a good rider or dancer is work. I didn’t see it that way. I danced for close to twenty years. I missed one day due to illness. Why? Because for me, it was mostly playing. It was work but I kept it light … most of the time, and the stress I felt only made me push harder. Now, stress eats me up. I get colds, the flu and once pneumonia.

Dancing was difficult at times, ¬†but I was as responsible for that as anyone. There were times I got in my own way and put kinks in my life. Blushingly stupid ones at times, but ones I learned from and don’t hold against myself. We need to be stupid sometimes. That said, I am older now and have learned from my past and hope I have a better ability to project where things might not quite pan out if I were to say, take the low road and not listen to my gut. But this is about passion. What happened to it? Where did it go?

I love many things but nothing has been driving me the way it did when I was younger, and I miss that. I was driven when I was in college as if the last vestiges of all my passion and determination were funneled into learning what I was going to be doing for my next stage in life. But as I sit week after week not writing, or creating any artwork or letting myself stretch into, or be poured into, something ~I am starting to worry! Will I ever feel that way again, or will I just slip into the oblivion of daily whatnots and allow myself to squander my time here?  It is as if I have forgotten what flow feels like.

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It has been a very long time since I wrote this. Months of living, studying Buddhism, going to retreats and finally, I have found something that makes sense to me. Perhaps that was what all the searching was about. I have become¬†enthralled with working to see how to live life differently not doing different things. I have enjoyed trying new things like painting, improv and a variety of workouts some of which I have enjoyed (Krav and Spin classes), some I haven’t (one class of hot yoga). I will try hot yoga again, just not where I did before. And, I will still explore life because that is a large part of who I am, but with mindfulness, it seems as if many of the things I have been doing are now fresh to me. I am not as bogged down in the mire of sameness. Plus, each moment is a moment of awareness.

Sometimes the moments are quiet moments, but there are plenty of moments in which I see how I view life based on past concepts and I have to pause, see the reaction arise and let it pass by. It is an attempt to see what is reality and what I am pushing to conform to how I view life. It can be both easy and hard. And I am still working on the basic understanding of mindfulness. I think that is what makes me so excited. Even with all the learning coming back to the basic level is helpful, if not necessary. In ballet, we always started at the barre. It didn’t get more complex after the advanced level. You returned day after day to the barre, first plie’ then tendu’s and on and on. But always starting at the barre and warming up for further depth. With mindfulness, it starts on the cushion day after day, breath after breath till you comprehend how to focus on other objects such as the body, sounds, and on and on. It is a rhythm I am familiar with~ a cadence that resonates with me. It feels like home.

My future plans with this blog are letting you know about the books I have been reading, telling you about the Dhamma talks I’ve listened to, and I’ll¬†let you in on the new insights I have come across, the joy of retreats and how meditation is changing my life. That will be some of the new material you’ll be seeing here. I hope as I plunge into this new to me exploration you will join me for the journey. In this New Year, here is to passion, learning and a new way of looking at life. Cheers!

What Are You __________?

I have a new bullet journal/calendar. I use to have one that you had to map out each page, add do-dads, stickers, pictures, and whatnot¬†and basically create each week from scratch. At first, I loved spending time filling out the pages. That lasted about eight months. Then I thought to try different formats. That lasted three months. I figured out the format I liked, filled in three more months and found a calendar at HomeGoods that was exactly what I liked minus the stickers,¬†do-dads, and drawings. Can I just say, “UGH!”, “Sigh” and “Yay.”

My work calendar. I love bicycles. Don’t you?——->IMG_20170922_125838

I am all for simplicity. At work, we have to write reports. My practicum students come in energetic and excited that they are finally doing the work they have¬†been going to school to learn how to¬†do. ¬†They want to show me how much they have learned and I am all for it. Usually,¬†when it comes to their reports, they are either lacking or over the top. I always give them a sample of mine to follow and I will say this, mine are probably pretty middle of the road. What I am trying to teach them is; you can spend lots of time trying to reinvent the wheel or you can spend less time using what has already worked and enjoy your weekend. Tweak it, draw on it, use big words, speech jargon and go ahead add stickers if you want to make it yours, but, please, don’t waste your Sunday creating a masterpiece for something that most professional people spit out in¬†copy and paste format.

I get lots of reports that have the wrong pronouns, verb tenses and occasionally the wrong information. And, I get it. We are an over the top world with too much to do and all we are trying for is to etch out some time for ourselves and demonstrate a little efficacy. I bought that calendar. I filled it with stickers. I added post-its with questions like; what are you playing (on the guitar), what are you grateful for, and where is your heart? I added in things in the margins such as: what are you reading, favorite recipes this month and my newest question, what can you give yourself permission to give up or accept? It reminds me of where I have been, what I have done and what has been, and is currently, important to me. It is in brief, snippets of a life lived.

I wish my mother had done something similar. I would love to read through her thoughts, challenges, and triumphs. I really don’t think my son will feel the same but there are days I look back a think, ~oh, yeah, I remember that. Or, I look back and think,~ ah-ha, I did have the exterminator come last summer. With everything we seem to need to get done and everything we want to do, writing it all down frees up the mind, untangles the worry and lets us linger in a quieter, calmer mental space. We don’t need to recreate the wheel, just add iron-on patches, embroider the pockets and wear it like only we can. I realize this is about individualism as much as simplicity and yet there is so much about all of us that is the same. I find comfort in that as well.

I’m looking at a picture of my mother and my sister, Megan, and I notice they embody who they are. My sister has some big fun earrings on and a beautiful t-shirt but really what I see are their smiles. How content they seem and really¬†happy…like they know the secret. I know it, too, I just forget sometimes. I look at my calendar and I am glad to have a place to refer to when I need reminding ~ not just of things that need to be done but that life is for enjoying.

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Aren’t they beautiful?

The current questions in my calendar..they are to remind me what brings me comfort and joy not to push or bully me into doing more. They remind me to look for things that are unusual, that I am grateful for, to play music and to sit with silence. To find time and peace in just not doing. In a world that loves its constant input, I love to sit outside under the shade of an old oak tree and just breathe in this quiet, calm life.

I think I will stick with my paper checklist and simple book format calendars, stickers, drawing in the margins and questions to remind me to find time for what makes me happy. I use to believe that what I needed, what would make me more interesting, attractive, or even wanted was, well, knowing more, doing more ~ just always~ more. I know, I know enough and I do enough. Mostly, I know myself and how to be happy in this overabundant world. Simplicity. Moments of quiet. Music. Barefeet on the ground or in the sand. Family time. Friends. Animals, There is more but I think I will keep it simple and just say, life unfolds without anyone’s help. This is today, right now I am writing this blog and that is what I am being with. Simple. In a moment I will get dressed and go out with family and friends. I will stay in those moments as well. Simple. Just that. Simple.

How Things that Matter Slip Away

This is not a morose blog just an update as to why I have disappeared. I enjoy writing this blog. Enjoy looking for something to write about because it wakes me up to what I am experiencing in life and what I am thinking about. An update on my summer~I spent July cleaning my garage (lots of leftover¬†mess from moving during work last year). During the month of August, I went back to school. I learned how to teach English to students of other languages. They call it an intensive course. I will say this, that is an understatement. Classes were from 9 to 5. They didn’t end early like they do sometimes at Universities. Then, there was homework. At least two hours a night and 6 to 8 hours on the weekend. It was truly exhausting.

Somehow I managed to get one to two things besides laundry done on the weekend. The course ended and the next week… I went back to work. That was it. Summer was now work and work was moving an entire department into a smaller room with lots less storage (total nightmare~ not the people, the move), dealing with the idiotic bureaucracy ( you wouldn’t believe the bulls**t paperwork they want to be done), screenings, evaluations, reports, and meetings. And, as it was pointed out in a meeting today, we’ve only been back to work 15 days.

What keeps coming to the forefront of my mind is this, am I doing anything I love doing? I used to write poetry, sketch, paint, kayak, and visit friends at the lake. This last year I started learning how to speak German because I’m traveling there. When the day for the first class came, I was so overwhelmed I ended up canceling. It wasn’t feeling like it would be joyful. On top of work, it just seemed like¬†too much. As you know, I meditate. Sometimes the best part of my day is sitting and saying to myself, “I don’t have to think of anything but this moment.” What a relief. Except I miss the magic, miss the focus, miss the quiet on the lake.

I don’t know how it slipped away. I don’t know how I forgot to find the time for the things I want to do. Work feels like a Tsunami. Just as summer reminds me of who I am, what I love, how to feel alive, work rises up, floods the land and sets me afloat. Perhaps it isn’t a good idea to use flooding as a metaphor. I get it, I am fortunate to have summers off, though usually, I do work through them. I feel guilty about it. How funny is that? It seems I¬†should have figured this out before now.

Perhaps being aware of how I feel is the beginning. I realize that sometimes the things I am doing are self-imposed and not really necessary. Like the German. I would love to learn a language, but it can wait. I could even go and not learn the language and still do just fine. What I really don’t want to do is continue to miss out on the things that bring me joy. For now, that would be autumn hikes, reading, starting to paint and write again, getting out and meeting my joy with open arms. What I need to do is to slow down and figure these things out. So, tonight, I’m going for a hike. When I come home, I’m going to take a bath, read a book and listen to my heart. Perhaps this time I will hear my joy.

 

Sadly Seeking Happiness

In a group of texts this morning my sister was suggesting a book about joy and finding happiness. These have been hot topics for us over the last few years. We have passed probably 40 books between us about happiness, flourishing, and joy and the many ways of obtaining them. Yet, my favorite statement was one that pointed out that if you are hunting for it, you won’t find it. It isn’t in a book, piece of clothing, or even sex, for that matter. Though for the moments we are purchasing, reading and sexing… life¬†can feel pretty good. Till the bill¬†comes in. I think, for most of us, what you are looking for is already there. You just have to be present and aware of what it looks like.

There are currently lots of books about being happy. Happy being something different for everyone. Sometimes just burying my face in my sweet dog’s fur equals happiness. At other times, happy, even content, seems elusive. Life brings on a sense of sadness that no chocolate, fluffy pup, or hug can crash through. I have come to accept there is no maintaining full on happiness. Happiness comes in as many shades as do the other emotions: sad, mad, and afrad. (It should be spelled that way no matter what the spell checker says) While only one¬†of these emotions is my favorite, each of them has their¬†moments and serve a purpose.

All the colors of the rainbow are not my favorite, either, but without yellow, there wouldn’t be green. Without a deep sense of love, there would not be loss or sadness or any of the other emotions. I understand wanting to be happy more than sad. I do, and I think what we should work towards is to have the negative emotions at play far less than the positive ones. But, not accepting their presence may be a nightmare waiting to happen. Put off feeling something and it will surface, eventually. Most of the time, I try to search for why I feel something and address it head on…yeah, totally sucks sometimes, but there you have it. Not a one and done but the next time it comes up it will feel less bad and so on. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to figure out what it is that is bothering you.

I was a professional dancer during a previous part of my life. It’s true what they say, you can wake up one morning and go to rehearse your part and it looks as if you have not been rehearsing the piece for the last four weeks. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for it. There’s a glitch. You slept wrong or had a bad dream that is lingering, you ran out of milk for your coffee or had to get gas because you forgot to fill your tank the night before, you had so many hot flashes you’re pissed at the weather you’ve been wishing for, looking forward to, for the last eight freaking cold arse months of winter…oh, wait, that’s just me. But that’s what I mean, life is unpredictable, moments are unpredictable, people are unpredictable.

Part of being mindful is trying to stay open to the unpredictableness of life. I recently heard a quote by Bruce Lee; “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless ‚ÄĒ like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash.” Water flows wherever it goes unless it is on a steady surface. It shapes itself to the moment. If we can shift like water, allow ourselves to mold to the moment, not to say one should accept being polluted or hurt in any way… could that be boiled or frozen, would it be possible to move through life with less resistance and more acceptance?

I really think it is the unpredictableness that is the most difficult part. We all want to feel like we have a sense of control, wish that we could see how the dots of our life will connect, want to know there is a rhyme and reason for everything. It isn’t possible to see any of this in the moment. Perhaps in hindsight, though. There are many things about life that I don’t understand, but I accept them just like I accept that I probably use 1% of the full potential my phone, iPad and computer have to offer. I accept there are great books I will never read (totally sucks), that I am not the center of my son’s life (as it should be), that love is elusive and men are fundamentally indeterminable; for me anyway. Therefore, I enjoy what I can determine. Things like the fact that rye bread, butter, and tea are perfect when my stomach hurts, that if I am in any way upset or off kilter a good workout always bring me back from a frazzled state, taking a beat and a breath before responding keeps me from reacting, something I am happy to have in my toolbox. Actually, make it my make up kit. Let’s forget the male analogies for now!

Yes, there are times when there is sadness in me. I breathe, put some space around it and try to continue to move through my day. Unless I can identify why it is there, I try not to take it personally and I stay open for the shift that is possible and may come at any time. Sometimes we just need a moment of sadness to help us wake up to all the happiness that is possible, and perhaps already in our lives. Perhaps all of this is to say, there are healthy reasons for our emotions. Emotions can be there to tell us it is time to slow down, to give something time to assimilate into our lives, or that we need to get out of our own way, or that is it is time to walk away from something that is not good for us. Happiness happens. I choose to remain fully aware of when it sheds its light on one’s life. And while contentment and other emotions might contribute to the times, I’ll be open to the moments happy, sad, mad or afrad. Hopefully weighing in more in favor of happiness.

Sitting Still or a Blog about Nothing at all, Really

I spent Friday mostly doing nothing. You might not think that is a great feat…but for me, it can be. ¬†It isn’t that I can’t be lazy, I can. I just enjoy doing things and once I set my mind to doing something I have a hard time stopping till it is fully done, which is why I am writing this and not cleaning the garage. So¬†that’s what this is all about! Huh, I thought¬†I just wanted to write a blog. I admit I did go to yoga Friday. I watched a movie; Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson. It was very good. Do you think¬†that is her singing? Totally beastly if she is that talented. I knitted most of a scarf and I did a bit of gardening. All the planting that needed doing is done, so for me, the garden is now a place of pleasure that I weed now and again. ¬†This is a new flower that has bloomed. Notice the fairy house; lower left. It glows at night. Looks like they are having a party, or staying up late reading.

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Fairy house with a new flower.

This morning I went out to push the garage opener but because the air was so amazingly cool for a July I just stood looking at the garden. It is one of my favorite things about New England; hot days, cool nights and sweet, delicious cool mornings. These types of mornings¬†make many things seem possible, like cleaning a garage that is filled with so much whatnot my shoulders rise thinking about it. What’s a girl to do? Keep on swimming, keep on swimming…

If Dori can do it, I can, too. Here is another new flower from the garden. There will be about fifty of these beauties in a few days. At first, there was a lot of yellow, then red and now purple. Currently, our front yard is ablaze with color, which always brings me to my mother. My mother would’ve loved this garden.¬†IMG_20170709_112317

I think color was one of my mother’s favorite things. Her wardrobe was bright and vibrant. Very unlike my own. I remember one of my sisters flipping through my clothes and saying, “You realize you have absolutely no color to your wardrobe. It is so, autumnal!” That was back in the day when you got your clothing colors by what seasonal colors you looked best in. I did have a few colors in my¬†wardrobe. I had a few t-shirts with color, but mostly I wore black, brown, and white. Also, the bigger and baggier the better, which sparks a memory…One day, my mother and I were out shopping and I¬†wandered off looking at a baggy sweater I saw on a mannequin. My mother came up to me and said quietly, “I don’t think they would appreciate you being here.” I was shocked. It was a store. What was the problem? The problem, I weighed about 100 pounds and I was looking at a sweater in the plus size section.¬†¬†I can’t help it if they had super cool, comfy looking clothes! Man, I wanted that sweater. It might even have been colorful, but I doubt it.

I’d like to think there is a part of me that is not just a paled copy of my mother. That all those years together, somehow her essence seeped into my soul. That all the colors I plant, paint with and have now started to wear are how she shines through me; how I hold her heart in my heart. I know she was how I first came to define beauty. She was the person who taught me what it meant to be kind, how to be compassionate and

IMG_20170709_112509what caring really meant. She was the person our friends came too, to seek help and comfort from and we nodded our heads in understanding.

So, here I am, avoiding the inevitable but treasuring a person who taught me that when something seems overwhelming…take it a bit at a time. Maybe that is why I sat down to write this blog. I needed to stop to remember. I needed to remind myself it’s okay to be still for a while. To let life settle, let things be quiet and to find joy in all that is beautiful …right here.

And, maybe I need to be reminded how lucky I am. I get this day, to do something or absolutely nothing at all. How sweet is that?!?

 

 

 

 

Sweet Summer

IMG_20170531_162532¬†This is how summer really started for me. We walked outside to a Robin building her nest. I have to say, at first, she wasn’t very good at it. She brought plenty of grass and wispy materials over and attempted to meld them into a circular structure that hung over the edge but mostly fell to the porch. I can’t say how many tries it took for her to finally manage the nest you see, but I can tell you she was persistent. We were on and off the porch throughout the day she built her nest. She knew what she was getting into and seemed unfazed by our closeness. We did buy a hanging plant to give her more shelter from our traverses in and out of the house.

There were four perfect blue eggs in the nest not long afterward. I was in the last few weeks of a very stressful period in my work schedule and relished¬†the moment I would return home to see what new curious thing she would be doing. Often she would lie with her tail up the side of the garage, beak held high. We would look out from the kitchen window and smile at her attempts to keep the eggs warm. Then we noticed a change in her attitude. She would squawk at us when we came in and out. That is what really alerted us to the fact that the babies had hatched. They weren’t really beautiful to look at even after they acquired¬†a more fur-like¬†covering. I did paperwork and they metamorphized into small sweet, quiet birds. We watched them grow with tufted heads and the ability, what seemed like suddenly, to fly. Soon they were all gone. I don’t think it took more than three weeks. How does that happen?¬†IMG_20170702_125353

Soon work ended and I went to volunteer for a teen retreat in Barre, MA. I will not tell you about that here other than to say: It was one of the most breathtaking, happy, hopeful moments of my life. And it was both mentally and physically exhausting. When I arrived home, my housemate had finished her golden retriever’s posh water feature. I am sure we will spend many joyful hours chatting while he saves tennis balls from drowning¬†disasters. I am not sure how her kelpie feels about all this. She prefers sitting on picnic tables and observing her territory. Notice: no picnic table??!!?? My sweet canine thinks it is super cool that the chipmunks like the deck as well. Mostly, he just lies in the yard waiting for something to forage and forget that he is there. All in all, so far it has been a really great summer. The weather is here and everything is beautiful. Even the rain creates ease. Less watering when it crosses the mountain we live on.

Recently, I was lamenting how there were so many things to do this summer that it already felt over. I am not sure what I allowed myself to get worked up about. Yes, there are plans already mapped out, but there will be days and evenings to be still. Days to sit in wonder at all that is going on around me. Evenings to be chatterful (what my son called a particularly loquacious young girl) with friends. I just have to remember to be here, in this moment. Watch the birds fly and the balls be saved. Be silly and enjoy the fairy houses and the beautiful flowers. Share jelly beans and charred marshmallows. Find a quiet spot and just be… one with life. Hooooo Hoooo….

Pirouetting Isn’t a Way to Live a Life

I recently, okay about a month ago, wrote a blog about a boy who once loved me. And to state the obvious, I loved him, too. We met, we talked, we stumbled through difficulties with communicating between two different¬†languages¬†and cultures and one day there wasn’t anyone else in the room. There wasn’t a need for words. There was just us. Two people¬†growing in the silences and awkward moments, fingers entwined, trusting that despite our differences we could still see something in one another.

Li was from Red China and was grasping the English language and our cultural nuances achingly so. I could see how the wealthiness pained him. When at parties, he tensed despite his smile. But, he was at ease in my small apartment. It was sparsely furnished and quiet. At ease at the ballet studio and on stage where life was big and full and loud. I was going¬†to go into all the details of our relationship. I do remember it all very well. But these decades later, what I want to look for is the long view. We have allowed time to pass, slipping out from beneath our skin. Perhaps, now we can find something more than the answer to the question asked of me by an octogenarian at the premiere of Li’s movie in Houston, “I guess we’ll never know, did he marry you for love or to stay in America?”

It makes me want to ask: when are we not children anymore? Scientist state that at around the age of 25 the brain is fully formed. Piaget says, even before that, there are four levels of development to be acquired; sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete and formal operations. My Child Development Professor stated that some people never make it to the Formal Operations stage. They are stuck in concrete operations seeing life in black and white, seeing life without the ability to see other more abstract reasonings behind the why and how something may have happened. Why this academic lesson? Decades later, I understand: it doesn’t matter why he asked me to marry him. There was a duality to the question that the asker may never understand. But somehow, at 20 and 18 years of age, we grasped the larger picture and stepped into life.

In order for Li to ask me to marry him, he had to trust me more than anyone he had ever trusted before. Not only was he asking me to do something that would alter both of our lives forever, he knew the change might be irrevocable. And so did I. He wasn’t just asking me to marry him. He was asking me to be someone he could trust. Someone who would not betray his heart (and in that, perhaps, in the long run, I failed). If I were to say “No.” and turn him in, what would befall him then? Did he fully understand what it meant to be married? Did either of us understand what a partnership looked like, how you sometimes have to bend? How it can’t be all one and not the other? No. He was taken from his family at the age of 12 and mine was dysfunctional.

We were in love with being loved. And in love with ballet. The world that saved both of us. He wanted a life that would allow him to dance without walls, as did I. Formal Operations… outside the box, he had an opportunity to ask something of someone he trusted. I was willing to take that step despite what I knew of Ben Stevenson and his anger towards such things. Did I ¬†sacrifice myself? I wasn’t a victim of anything. I went into the moment eyes wide open but still blinded by an innocence of all that could happen. After we were married, held in the Chinese consulate for 21 hours and whisked away to be on the cover of almost every newspaper in the world, and then to be on Good Morning America, where would the spinning stop.

Li and I were young. He often was led to trust someone he should have questioned. He might not see this, but everyone isn’t always right. Ben didn’t like our union. It grated on him for reasons only he will know. Though I have my own thoughts on that matter. Love is love. We all want it. Past the concrete understanding of what love is, is this huge universe of what it can be. Looking back, the story is this: he asked me to be there for him, to stand beside him and hold his hand. He asked me to be someone he could trust his heart, and his life, too. He asked, across a table, over a big plate filled with dumplings made to say goodbye, to marry him. Right or wrong, he asked out of love, fear, desperate for a life he was told to leave behind. He asked the person who had laid next to him breathing in the luxury of an untampered life. He asked after he said, “I love you, no matter what”. He asked, I said “Yes.” What would you have done?