Thursday, April 26, 2012

"I Don't Know Nothin'..."

"...except change is going to come"--Thank you Patty Griffin.

This is one of my favorite songs of all time.  "I don't know nothin' except change will come.  Year after year what we do is undone."

The one thing I do know?  Is that we're walking in the right direction.  There isn't another.  I think the essential piece will always be surrounding yourself with people who will encourage you to pursue your own direction and in your own way.

I'm realizing more and more of late that "it don't come easy," but it certainly does come.  Persistence.  Intentional practice.  Willingness to pick yourself up and try again.  And again.

I have so many people in my life who are willing to remind me of what's true...over and over and over...And I hope we can all offer this to the people we love.  And to the people we encounter.  It's simple, really.  We listen.  We support.  We regain our perspective.  We see the facts as facts.  We manage to suspend judgment and simply acknowledge.

And we do a really happy jig when we acknowledge that it's all exactly as it is, and we wouldn't trade.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Paradoxes and Wide Open Spaces

One of my favorite Story People stories is:  "feels like some kind of ride, but it's turning out just to be life going absolutely perfectly."  And my favorite moments in life are when I can sit back, laugh a bit at myself and realize that I'm finally able to see the truth of the perfection.  I'm a fan of letting go with both hands, clearing space for whatever is coming, and moving forward knowing that anything is possible.  It's scary as hell sometimes, but it sure as hell pays off big when I trust that the outcome will serve.

I wasn't prepared for the level of bliss that closing on my house this past week and selling my things would offer.  I haven't been able to stop smiling.  I've reclaimed my own ways of moving through the world...and my belief that everything we put out into the world will always come back to us.  Generosity of spirit, of time, of energy is never wasted.  And I am so grateful to so many who have shared their spirit, their time, and their energy with me when I've needed them.  These feelings of gratitude are both humbling and expansive.

I think I've finally given myself permission to look forward and shrug off any last bits of debris (aka  responsibilities) here.  I have a dissertation that can be finished in the next months from anywhere I choose to be.  I have an amazing series of professional experiences that I'll tuck in my belt and walk away with.  And, truthfully, in retrospect?  Not one regret.  I put my whole self in, all in, all the time, to everything I took on.  And it's paid off.  And now?  I teach another month, I write, I pack, and I drive away.  And I smile.  The ride, despite some momentary crash and burns, has gone perfectly.  I will leave here with the experiences I came here for, and now it's time to see where those lead me.  And things feel wide wide open.

Last week at yoga, one of the themes was "paradox"--as in the ability to see the beauty that surrounds us even when we're feeling sad or dark.  And I think that this whole ride is a continual paradox:  the world can be harsh and ugly, but there, in a moment of darkness, is a hummingbird, a smile from a stranger, a moment of utter peace even when everything feels like it's crumbling around us-- these moments are truth. These moments are our core.  These moments remind us that despite indications to the contrary, life is going absolutely perfectly.  Everything is always precarious in the day to day.  It is our core being that keeps us on course.  And happiness always returns.  Always.  We can step into wide open spaces knowing, trusting, that there is so much that will fill us up, and so much that we can offer.

And if I can continue to move through the world in the ways I believe in, and if I can hold my course to what I believe to be true and right no matter what else is happening around me?  And to recognize that this is going to grow and change as I do?  Then the paradox is a blessing.  And the wide open spaces go on and on.  This drawing in and expanding out--simultaneously --seems to be the balance we continually walk.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Purging and Finding

There are treasures and minefields lurking behind every closed cabinet door. When I was young, I would have found this process an adventure.  I would have snuck to Narnia beyond the panel in my linen closet.  I would have run far and free in snowy fields never wondering if I was going to make it back.  Maybe, however, there is some part of me that still thinks this is going to happen as I slowly empty the contents of armoires and night stands that I will sell at next weekend's garage sale.

There is always, in this moment of purging belongings, a moment of nostalgia (stumbling upon something you haven't seen in a while; associating memories with it; deciding whether or not to discard it).  Whatever the said item is, it does take a moment, even if it's only a split second, to determine whether it comes along with you on the next stage of the journey, or if it can be left behind.

And I will say that this process of letting go of the material existence that fills my home is a strange mixture of melancholy, a desire for it to simply be done, and a disbelief that years of living can be discarded so simply.  I am a natural purger.  Growing up, we moved every couple of years, and hanging on to lots and lots of "things" never made sense to me.  As an adult I've followed the same pattern.  When I move, I move in my car.  Yes, I know, there are many adults who would choose to rent a moving van, put all of their things in it, and when they reach their new destination, they take them all back again and put them in order.  I can't quite understand the logic of this.  This could be simply because my "large" possessions?  Were once someone else's...and I like the ecology of passing them on again to someone else.

So, as I work through this process of culling and purging...there are moments that stop me short.  A note written tucked in a file that I'm sifting through...a photo of a time I hadn't thought of in a while...a tiny bowl from Italy that I will snuggle in the box of linens I'm mailing to my new destination...and will find there, tucked in flannel sheets, with the same sense of surprise I had when I first found it in a shop in Tuscany.

And there are things I'd prefer not to see again...because they are associated with another time and another belief system that I no longer adhere to.  And that's the beauty.  Someone else can pick these things up, find them beautiful, and walk away with a gift.  It is this fluidity of "stuff" that I appreciate.  I'm pretty sure there's more out there.  We pass it around, those of us who don't insist on buying everything retail.

And there's vulnerability that surfaces when you purge.  There's vulnerability in saying, "Well, I kinda thought this was a forever kind of deal, but look at that, it wasn't."  And there's vulnerability in saying that sometimes, truly, letting go of expectations is a tough thing to do.  And there's vulnerability in saying  that despite the fact that the end result is feeling more than okay, the means of getting to this place didn't.  And sometimes, "stuff" is just "stuff"--and the stories we associate with it are just stories.  And the narrative continues whether we acknowledge it or not.  So we may as well acknowledge the stories, laugh and cry at the appropriate (or highly inappropriate) times, smile, cry, and purge.

And there's vulnerability in acknowledging that this is not exactly what I had anticipated.  I wouldn't trade my current life trajectory, but that doesn't mean that the past two years have been one's I'd like to re-live.  I would love it if the stories of time weren't carved so completely within me.  I would love to be able to place some of them out for sale at my garage sale:  "Would you like to buy a portion of that workaholic phase that didn't serve me at all?"
"Maybe you could go ahead and take that infidelity, resentment, and hostility story-line out of my mind--five dollars and it's yours.  Go ahead, keep it. "  And then these "things" would be gone and not tossing around in me.

I know these lived experiences are not "things" that can be bought and sold.  And, on some level I am grateful for this.  On some level I know they are the foundation from which I operate.  And, on some level, I'm hoping that some of them will leave on their own accord.  Allowing me to find, once again, who I am, after the purge.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Kindness and Facing Forward

A woman spoke at my school this week about a local project for spreading kindness ( She shared her story of losing a child at a very young age to a sudden death.  Her project began as a way to  face forward and continue to live while walking wounded.  And I thought of how many people are out there "walking wounded"--and so often we can't see the wounds.  It's so strange to think about the fact that a person can be broken open, but on the outside look totally "normal."

The smallest signs of humanity can be the things that save us from retreating, turning around, or simply losing ourselves again in the pain of a past experience.  It's hard to keep facing forward.  Hell, it's hard to live in the present regardless of how glorious our past has been.  And there are so few people out there who have not had to stare darkness in the face, pick themselves up off of the floor, breathe deeply and will themselves to carry on.

I don't think there's anything wrong with honoring the past, nor do I think that taking time to mourn when the past surfaces in us is a weakness or a failing.  We just need the constant reminder that the past is past, not current reality.  Remembering is just that; it's not a re-experiencing. There's no truth but that exists in the present, despite triggers that launch us backward into some space in our memory.  And the only person we're truly accountable to?  Is us.  I try to remind myself of this.  When you're harder on yourself than anyone else would possibly dream of being, it's hard to remember to be gentle in this accountability.  But it's necessary.

I was riding my bike up Mt. Lemmon highway on Saturday morning when a biker pulled up next to me to chat.  It was a man who had coaxed me up miles of mountain a couple of summers ago, and who, through his absolute kindness during that time (and without knowing a thing about me or what I was living through) helped me face forward and move upward--literally.  I remember a day when all I wanted to do was turn around and ride downhill, and his company for a couple of miles boosted me to my highest point on the mountain yet.

And there's the professor I talked with on Friday evening at yoga who congratulated me on my return to my dissertation and the progress I've made.  And the fact that she had been keeping track felt like an honor.  She said, "I know it was a rough time.  But I'll tell you, as someone who's a little bit's just life."  And I said, "Yes, it's just life."  And I realized there's a hell of a lot more of it to go.  It's a little bit easier when we keep our eyes toward what's in front of us.  And it's more than a little bit easier when we know how much more kindness exists out there.  Random or not, kindness is a gift.  And, I'm pretty sure, like love, it's a renewable resource.  Be kind.  Indeed.