Thursday, October 16, 2014

Walking (Kind of) Calmly into the Darkness

Slowly, but surely, the days are shortening at the rate of six minutes a day.  I have done the math;  It does not bode well for my sensitive psyche.  I recognize that from now until the winter solstice, I will be in constant search of coping mechanisms.  I've determined that the gym is a better place than the bar to fritter away the darker hours, so am establishing a routine.  I've decided that television may play a role in my life again.  I am comfortable with that.  Everyone says, "The first fall is the toughest."  Since most of the people I speak with have lived here for multiple years, and have not succumbed to hard core depression or alcoholism, I have to trust that there is an acclimation that occurs.

I have committed to playing outside no matter what the weather.  I bought a ski pass.  I've got this thing.  Except when I don't.   For someone who has been prepared to flee at any given moment, who has always determined that I am safe as long as I can put any necessary belongings into the car and drive away?  I've got to laugh at my choice.  I've chosen a place that is more difficult (and expensive) to get in and out of than any before.  I'm proud of myself for taking this risk, but I also recognize that…well, this is a hard core move for a transient creature.  If you're traveling within Alaska, you're just traveling;  If you leave the state, you've gone "outside."  Um, this phrasing freaks me out a bit.  Yes.  It does.  I'm trying to roll like a local, but…

A few weeks ago, I spent the day a writing workshop where we were asked to examine how we interact with the world around us, and also note what the world around us offers up or requires of us…I can't help but note that this environment offers up spaces and experiences that allow me to interact with it in a pretty singular way…

And so, yes, on clear nights, I look up.  Northern lights are joining us.  Stars are fucking startling.  The glacier glows in the moon.  This is just the beginning of crystal nights.  I know this.  Hope reigns eternal that the power of place can override the fears that emerge.  I'm dreaming of cross country skiing on frozen lakes, snowshoeing to remote cabins…and settling in for some good long sleeps…for now I hike boggy trails, breathe in the expansive views, and remind myself that there isn't really anything like this.

I was talking with a colleague last week about how little I'd gotten done since I'd moved here…wondering why I couldn't build community, meet all of the teachers in the region,  teach classes and build a social life in one fell swoop--and she looked startled, and said, "You've been here, what, five months?"  And I felt startled.  She was right.  Reminders.

I'm flying to Anchorage on Sunday, heading to the big city for a conference presentation…and to go to Nordstrom.  Oh, brave new world.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Compression and Expansion

Rebecca Solnit, in The Faraway Nearby writes:  "The bigness of the world is redemption.  Despair compresses you into a small  space and a depression is literally a hollow in the ground.  To dig deeper into the self, to go underground, is sometimes necessary, but so is the other route of getting out of yourself, into the larger world, into the openness in which you need not clutch your story and your troubles so tightly to your chest"  (p. 30).  As is apt to happen, my story has caught up with me.  As is apt to happen, I am working my way back to the larger world so I can thrust this story from my hands and into the ether, because it does me no good to cling to.

I've been moving through the world as openly as I can in the past months; I've taken in; I've offered out.  And now?  I'm finally hitting that space where I realize that I might need a bit more incubation before taking on anything else, but "everything else" is heading my way.  I continue to carve spaces for kindness and unconditional love to etch themselves into my core--dreaming of rivulets in my psyche…one drop at a time carving careful canyons through me.  I've found I've cultivated a good amount of gentleness with self, and I am working on extending this same gentleness into situations that are proving more challenging emotionally and spiritually.  Always, always, always:  returning to intention and practice.

I traveled by ferry last weekend to a yoga workshop on the heels of a challenging week, and I was looking to quiet a nervous system that had taken in a bit too much…and I recognized, only after the first evening of practice, that I had tucked every bit of stress I've been feeling into my shoulders and back--such a clear physical manifestation of stress and the interconnectedness of mind and body…and such a clear reminder that I needed to acknowledge, that, despite the awesome photographs, the gorgeous scenery, and fun lessons learned, that the past few months have not been easy.  Sometimes the most worthwhile things in life are just plain exhausting.

I have been toying with the idea of expanding my existence to allow space for a partner.  I have not met this person, necessarily, but I am recognizing that for the first time in a long long time, this might be something I'm interested in:  "Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone"--Elizabeth Gilbert (Committed, p. 91).  But this in itself is a pandora's box of trouble that I'm uncertain I want to open.  e.e. cummings writes:  "Be of love (a little)/ more careful/ than of everything.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Picking and Choosing What to Leave Behind

I have no idea where the past month has gone.  I know I'm here, but I don't know where I've been.

I moved into my house (which is slowly becoming home) a week and a half ago.   The lead up to it saw me inhabit  seven different spaces in three weeks.  [Maybe that's where the past month went].  By the time I arrived here, my car smelled like a wet dog, and unpacking it was a bit of an archaeological dig.  However, I did find some things I hadn't seen since I moved away from Tucson three years ago:  I unearthed a couple of prints I had purchased in Madrid, NM  that I had loved for years, and had totally forgotten; a baggie of antique marbles; Jack's collar and photos; and a brass Ganesha that I think has been riding under my driver's seat for multiple years.

I brought my belongings into the house and realized that it felt like a very large and echo-y place…and I had that momentary flash of "WTF?"  Then, I reminded myself that the "F***" is life (thank you Cheryl Strayed for this reminder and phrasing).  And then I settled down (as much as I could in my moving-in manic stage).  I filled the refrigerator with too much food; I made myself waffles for breakfast; I played music loudly and danced through the living room.  Friends arrived to take me garage-saling, to deliver a couch, then a bed, and then…I played the tunes a little bit louder and realized that it's a good ride, this.  And I could feel myself sighing and expanding into the experience.  It wasn't until a rainy hike that Monday after work that I finally breathed deeply into me again.

It will be a ride.  I tweak the dials on the scene--a grill on the back patio; a new speaker to add to my sound system; a cow-shaped creamer that is amusing me to no end.  The bonus?  I actually want to be unpacking here.  I realized I've kept a bit of myself packed and ready to flee for the past years:  "camping" in the places I've lived and rented (investing only in things that were easily transportable, since I knew the inevitable purge would be imminent), and traveling so much for work that I didn't notice.  And here?  Here I only want to fully ground myself into the space, to devour the landscape around me, and to engage…to engage fully with the world around me.

A dear friend's dog (who was also dear friend) passed this week, and this prompted me to look through pictures I hadn't revisited in more years than I'd care to think about.  I've tucked so many bits of myself and my past away.  I think it's time to celebrate it all a little bit more.  I think it's time to look at the past years as a time that has continually led me to beautiful friends, to amazing spaces, places,  and adventures, and a little less like something that I'd like to hide away from myself.

We can choose.  Here's to reclaiming all that is amazing and leaving the detritus in the dust.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Edges of Understandings

I'm celebrating a month as an Alaskan this week.  It's been a sprint; it's been a wander; it's been exhaustion; it's been exhilaration; it's included moments of feeling stunned, and moments of feeling settled; it's been life.

Those of you who know me well, know my tipping point when it comes to being homeless…I'm a fabulous gypsy, but there comes a time when I need to lay it all down and settle into a space.  I've hit that place this week.   I'm scared to do an analysis of the ratio between "time spent in flux waiting for a home" and "time settled into a home" in my life. [Hell, maybe I should go ahead and do it; I might be surprised].  Well, I've hit the proverbial wall with my current instantiation of homelessness, but, there is light, yes.  There is mooring on the horizon.  And, being a woman of action, I am a squeaky wheel.   Response to the squeakiness has thus far been well-received, and things are moving forward.

So, amidst the unsettled-ness of my current world, I continue to walk through moments of awe and wow, and moments that remind me that I am on the edge of my understandings of the world around me here.

Some more observations:
1)  I asked students to share "interesting observations" from their weekends.  I got:  "I was having dinner at my fiancé's parents' house and we saw ten eagles descend on a bait ball and tear it to shreds"; "My daughter went out to our net-fishing camp with my sister's family for the next two weeks"; "we caught more king salmon this weekend than we ever have before;" "There's a construction crew in our village that is raising each of the houses eight feet off the ground…"  And I thought, shit, I've got some googling to do.  

2)  I have been running into these little mossy creatures who live in the woods--they are tree stumps (well, that fact has been wholly obscured by their full green regalia, but that's my assumption) --and I can't shake the fact that they are watching me from beneath the moss--I feel like they are nature's Ewoks.  

3)  The whales I am seeing are humpbacks (apparently--I've got a new "marine creatures handbook" that is helping me identify all of my new friends).  Their presence makes me feel tiny and huge at the same time (just as it is possible for me to feel utterly unsettled and completely at home at the same time.)  

4)  Tlingit people have two distinct moieties ("each of two parts into which a thing can be divided"):  the Eagle and the Raven.  These moieties are "love birds" apparently--and woo each other since you can only marry outside of your own moiety.  Within each moiety, there are different clans (all gloriously based on the animals of the region).  The Eagle and the Raven are each represented in totems throughout the region (including the front of the local Fred Meyer).  I appreciate the presence of each.

5)  That being said, I've also learned that the Raven's call can take multiple forms--almost like a mocking jay (Hunger Games nod).  The eagle, on the other hand, has a chirp that is seemingly at odds with its sheer physical strength--it's lilting and high pitched.  One of my coworkers came back in to the office after having said goodbye for the day.  Apparently, a raven told him to go back.  He returned for a time, but couldn't figure out why the raven had told him to, so he left again.  

6) It rains.  And people wear "XTRATUFS" (aka TUFS)--these brown rubber boots that are a staple in a Juneau wardrobe.  I have no Tufs (yet), but I am getting some good mileage out of my Bogs.   "Is it waterproof?" is a question I'm getting used to asking.

7)  My schedule is opening back up next week after three-weeks of intensive teaching and feeling as if I've built one too many planes while flying.  I have a lot to learn.

8)  Speaking of planes, Alaska Airlines throws "Thank you" parties for its loyal customers (which is funny, since in Juneau you don't have another choice--except in summer, when Delta also flies in and out).  I attended one as a guest this evening with a colleague and his wife who are in the Million mile cohort--since the choices are only air or water in and out of this place, the airline has a good thing going.

9)  When I do unpack my car and move into my new house, you can bet it's going to be a darn long time before I decide to pack it back up again.  I've got enough to learn here to last me at least a decade (at least).

10)  It rains.  Thank goodness...  Or the 20,000 people who pass by here in cruise ships (um, 1500 crew + approximately 2500 passengers per boat…with 3-5 pulling in each day…) might decide to stay….and I am awfully fond of low population density...  That being said, standing in line at the grocery, or walking around downtown, I'm constantly in a swirl of languages from around the world…interesting sub-culture this cruise ship world.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Phenomenal Women Passing

Here’s how I process and here’s how I love.  I look for words.  I have been reading Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost for the past couple of days.  She says, “Lost really has two disparate meanings.  Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing” (p. 22).  I have been wandering in a new space where the unfamiliar has been appearing to me daily, reminding me that the world is vast and awesome, that the unfamiliar awakens my spirit, inspires me, and allows me to walk through the world in a more spacious way than I have for a while.

"I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision." --Maya Angelou

This same spaciousness and space has led me further from family during a time when I have also been confronted with a true loss, of the familiar falling away, and I mourn.  A death at 93 is not a tragedy, but it is a loss.  A phenomenal woman who shaped me, loved me, and who is a contributor to both my wanderlust and my spirit, has moved on from this world.  My grandmother shared a generation with another woman who inspired us with her words and her passion for this life, and they left this world within days of each other.  I'd like to think that Maya Angelou's words and spirit can help me process the loss of someone I have loved so simply all of my life.

"The ache for home lives in all of us.  The safe place we can go as we are and not be questioned."  --Maya Angelou

I am from everywhere and nowhere, but I come from a family of oil rigs, football, and chicken fried steak.  I am from a world of Baptists and big families.  And, although I've never lived there, I am of the red dirt soil that is south central Oklahoma.  I am born to gentle accents and catfish.  I know that black eyed peas are for good luck.  I know that okra is damn good fried.  I know that there are highways so flat you might lose the horizon.  Where I come from is love.  It’s not easy love.  It’s not lazy love.  I come from people who know, without a doubt, that this is the reason that we are here in this world.  I come from hardscrabble folks who have become more and more "comfortable" with every generation, but I believe that there is a scrappiness and a persistence, a grit, that runs in our lineage.   I am grateful, because it is this grit that has allowed me to run far and wide in this world.  

"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself."  --Maya Angelou

With the loss of my grandmother, I have lost another connection to family and "home." I have also been recollecting the experiences and influences in my life that allow me to walk inside of my own skin.  I hold the memory of the woman who regularly reminded me that I am enough, that I am loved, and I know I was generously afforded spaces where there was nothing to do but love.  I settle into memories of chicken frying in the kitchen and hands of gin rummy, and the smell of perfume and lipstick kisses on my cheek.

The fact that this world has held the hearts of women as phenomenal as these two who have come before me is worth celebrating, and with this is the recognition that there are many of us mourning, rejoicing, inspiring, loving, and fully embracing who we are because of women like these.

I am a Woman
Phenomenal Woman.
That's me.
--Maya Angelou

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lessons and Observations from the First Few Days in AK

What I’ve learned in my first five days in AK:

1.     Daily views of glaciers can help your mind rest.
2.     Even when you’re exhausted, seeing an eagle swoop down in front of you is something to take notice of.
3.     When the sun comes out, and it’s 60 degrees, it’s warm.
4.     The shape of the state of Alaska can be replicated with your right hand:  pinky, ring, and middle finger fold in at the middle joint; pointer and thumb remain straight.  I live at the thumb joint.  (So glad to know that there is another state besides MI that does this…I always wanted to be part of a tribe that could point to a place on their hand to represent where in the state they lived).
5.     There are five kinds of salmon in the area.  These are "easily" remembered by their correlation to fingers (at least for 2nd graders, apparently)…I can only remember the following:  Thumb=chum; pointer=sockeye; middle finger=king; ring finger =silver; pinky=???  There is no finger for “farmed” in this land.  J
6.     I come from “down south”...  As in “I have Lisa Richardson here in my office.  She just moved here from down south and wants to begin her home loan process.”
7.     There is a section of town called “Out the Road.”  When you drive “out the road” there is a sign that says, “Road ends: 24 mi.”  And the road, indeed, just ends.
8.     Bear scat in your driveway just means you should make a little noise and be “bear aware” as you move about.
9.     People swimming in a glacial lake in dry suits is kind of novel.
10.  I don’t need to add any extra time in my daily commute for traffic, but I do need to be aware that I might have to add time for “random chats with very nice strangers” along the way.
11. A ten o’clock sunset at the end of May makes me stay up WAY too late, but, thankfully, the gentlemen doing construction on the house I’m renting are un-phased by my bed-head and bleary eyes when they arrive with their power tools at 8 a.m., and as I scramble to get out of their way.
12.   There do seem to be an awful lot of men here.  And they all seem to be wearing Carhartts and doing quite manly things.  I think of this as nice icing on the already amazing scenery cake.
13.   Yoga might take on a different meaning in this setting.  Meditation might as well.
14. I haven’t heard a siren in five days.
15. I have heard a waterfall.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Art of Losing in This Wild World

This evening I suddenly had a craving for some vintage Cat Stevens.  Listening to "Wild World" as I walked to meet a friend:  "If you want to leave, take good care.  I hope you meet a lot of nice friends out there..." I smiled because I have been so lucky; I cry for the same reason.  It's hard to keep saying goodbye to people I care about.   It's a hell of a lot easier to get by when I am surrounded by beautiful people in my life, sharing lovely experiences, but then there's the rub, right?  And although I know that there will be reconnections, maintained connection from a distance, and more and more exciting adventures to have together, the ease of walking down a street together?  Or dancing alongside one another on a random Sunday evening?  Not as much, or at least not as often.

Elizabeth Bishop writes, in her poem "One Art":

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent 
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

And, as I contemplate leaving behind yet another household of "things," I recognize that this is an art that I have mastered.  The loss of yet another couch or chair or end table is no disaster.

I lost two cities, lovely ones.  And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

Saying goodbye to place is not so difficult either.  There are more.  There are so many places filled with undiscovered sights, sounds, and adventure that it's difficult to bemoan the moving on from one space to another.

However, her last stanza?

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture 
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

I understand that Bishop is referring, most likely, to a romantic partner, but the same can be said for friendships.  Saying goodbye?  Even when you know you'll see one another again?  Even when you know it's by no means a forever sort of thing?  It's not disaster, but there are tears to be shed, partings that tug at my heart, and a reminder that these moments are worth savoring, that these people are what keep my heart from breaking in two.   I've seen a lot of what the world can do, and I've seen friendships conquer most every harsh reality that can be thrown our way.  "Ooo, baby baby, It's a wild world."

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Through lines and Themes

I think about all of us stumbling through...looking for through-lines, for the theme that emerges in the patterns, while also trying to be attentive to where we are at any given moment.   As it is so often in literature, it is in life:  the theme emerges slowly and often down a plot line that we were reticent to follow.  It takes some time to put together the pieces, but once you do, it washes over you as if you had known it to be true all along.

We're all walking different stories, and hopefully owning each and every one.  The first post I made in this blog, referenced a conversation between characters in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun in which two characters were discussing life as a long line that reaches into infinity, "and because we cannot see the end, we cannot see how it changes."  And I remember thinking how very terrifying this is at times.  And I've revisited these same fears again and again.

What has emerged in the past weeks, however, is the realization that in our shared humanity, we will each feel moments of trepidation, uncertainty, and, yes, fear.  And, in our best moments, we know these will pass.  I rejoice in those moments of synchronicity, when the theme emerges, and all of the seemingly disparate details, symbols and images align.  I am grateful to be the author of the story I'm walking in.  And I'm grateful for all of the characters in this grand adventure.

 I recognize that I don't want to be walking any other path, and that sometimes, the path you didn't even know existed, is the most right.  Funny how that works.  I'm good with a "protagonist learns to listen to her heart" theme interspersed with "honesty and love are all there is" and maybe some "resiliency of human nature."  Yeah.  All of those would be lovely.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fear Landscapes

"Becoming fearless isn't the point.  That's impossible.  It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it."  --from Veronica Roth's Divergent.

I've made a decision.  It's an exciting one.  I want to simply feel excited about it.  However, this week, I watched anxiety and fear rear up as I tried to wrap my head around the logistics of my next move.  I watched myself lose the clarity that had led to the decision.  I realize that as much as I love new adventures, new possibilities, and new challenges...a big part of me is ready for a space and time to exist for a bit without "new" always being an adjective that I need to use.  It's coming.  It's just not now.  There is "new" waiting for me, yet again (and, yes, I know that there always will be, but I wouldn't mind a few things remaining more familiar).   I walked through my own fear landscape this past week (in which there is truly only one fear, but it's a big one):  a fear of choosing incorrectly.

I'm grown up enough to own each of my choices, but still childish enough to wish that I could have everything play out just as I'd like it too.  However, I'm also wise enough to know that the ride will offer up possibilities I never even knew existed.  Hell, the past few years have proven this to be true over and over again.

George Eliot says, "It is never too late to be what you might have been."  There is something about the phrasing of this statement that is not quite right for me, maybe because I would prefer it to say:  "It is never too late to be who you are," but I appreciate the underlying sentiment.

Here's to possibilities that we never knew existed; here's to recognizing that no decision is all right or all wrong, and acknowledging that if we listen carefully, we can move forward in ways that are more attuned to how we want to move in the world (literally and figuratively) than they might be otherwise.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sustenance and Awe

I heard silence this past weekend.  I saw expansive spaces inhabited by no humans.  I saw icy sculptures that nature had made glowing a luminescent blue.  I breathed deeply.  I was alternately terrified of the prospect that was in front of me and awed by it.  Now I am only awed (and deeply hopeful). Annie Dillard, in all of her brilliance, wrote:  "How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives."  I've been thinking a lot, as I consider how I want to move forward in my life, about how I want to spend my days, and where I want to place my attention.  What I do know is that much of the man-made world is wasted on me.

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name:  News From Small-Town Alaska was my airplane read as I returned to the bay area Sunday.  Heather Lende writes, "Wild places are reminders that the world doesn't revolve around us.  It doesn't care about our little successes or smashing failures.  The tides ebb and flow and the seasons change regardless of how we live or die" (p. 146).  It is with this in mind, that I reframe how I want to move through my "little successes" or "smashing failures."  I want to move through these in a landscape that alternately terrifies and awes me.  I have done a good job of grounding myself in a space that occasionally terrifies, but rarely awes me, and I'm ready to see if awe and comfort can exist simultaneously in my life.

Friday night, I sang along, as Ruth Moody sang, "Life is long, love, life is long...we have time, love, we have time."  And, Thomas Merton says, "Prayer may not be a conversation with God at all.  Maybe it is listening to that light inside you."  And maybe listening to that light inside each of us (whether we call it prayer or not) allows us to see all of the love and all of the time we have before us, while knowing that we are borrowing all of it, so we should probably go ahead and move toward what provides both sustenance and awe when we can.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Good Reminder

I spent last week in the plains of Manitoba in the midst of (I quote a life-long Manitoban) "the longest, coldest winter I can remember."  And, it's a land that I love, for no apparent reason (this love is especially confounded by the sub-zero temperatures that didn't let up, and wind chills whipping across the improbably flat landscape).  But, I think the validity of my perspective was confirmed when the woman I was working with said, "Well, you certainly can't forget you're alive when you step outside."  These moments when you're acutely aware that you are alive, and when there is no hiding from or obscuring this awareness, are particularly powerful.  And there is a singular kind of power in such a rugged landscape.

Tonight, after a yoga class that has my legs feeling like dead weights, I am reminded of this again, as I am in every moment when I am asked to hold a pose that shakes: accept the discomfort, and simply be with it.  And I continue to recognize that there are things I'd love to shy away from, that I'd like to move through without having to feel (and, yes, there are times that I choose to escape so that I don't have to).  These are the moments that are worth paying attention to.   Obviously, we can reframe our perspectives any time we want, but the best work might be in the attentiveness to what's is right in front of us.

I've been teasing out some notions of purpose.  I've been recognizing the spaces in time when I'm offering up all I have to a situation that needs what I have to offer; these are the ones that make me feel most alive.  It's not that the work isn't hard; the poses (whether on the mat or off) are painful at times.  But, they are so much less painful than simply going through the motions.  I'm a grown up enough to know that there are times when we have to go through the motions to get to the "next thing," but I am also aware enough of my own mortality and the presence of time to understand that too much going through the motions is a waste of a good passion (and a good life).

[Sadly, the BeeGees' "Staying Alive" has now lodged itself in my head, but I will move through this (a good example of what it might be okay NOT to pay attention to).]

What I do know to be true?  No one magically landed in a "perfect life."  No one magically had a trajectory that was devoid of challenge or distraction.  The people we see who seemingly have all they need and wanted?  Well, I'm pretty sure they worked their asses off to create that space.  They decided (and formatively assessed, adjusted accordingly, ad nauseum) what to attend to.  They decided what was serving them, how to exist in the spaces and places they chose, they owned their choices, and they moved forward as they continued to listen deeply to what they heard from themselves.  And, since they're human, I'm pretty sure that there are still some really challenging life-events to move through. I'm pretty sure not one of them said, "Oh, well, society said I had to do _______, and now I'm thoroughly satisfied with my existence."  There's a deeper listening going on.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

No Crazier than Yesterday

I need to hang some more mental laundry out to dry.  It hit me yesterday, solidly in the face, that I've spent the past two months alternating between being in motion and running in place.  My mind has been running amok, and all the while I have wished I still was.   I'm reminded of this quote, though I don't know where it came from:  "You're not any crazier than yesterday; you just didn't notice." The nice thing is, when you notice the crazy, you can also notice the reality. In reality,  I am grateful for the tears that well up when I ride the BART through the east bay and see the poverty that surrounds me;  I can't just look away.  I am grateful for the compassion and the fury that I feel when I see people jostling for power in subtle ways because they can't find it other places in their lives.  I am grateful because I remember I'm not numb to all of this.

And now that I've noticed the simple truths in my reality again,  it's time to release myself from this crazy captivity I've allowed myself to fester in of late.  You know you're in trouble when you've been hanging out a bit too much with "the imagined me" and forget who "me" is.  This is what happens  when I spend a little too much time grasping and trying to figure out how to get what I want (in the future) and too little appreciating what I have (in the present).

I've moved through these five mental states that are definite hindrances:
1)  The wanting mind; 2) Aversion:  I can't be happy until X; 3) Restlessness and agitation (usually associated with worry about future); 4)  Sloth and torpor; 5) Doubt.
Turn these on repeat and you've got a really fun time.  My mental state has made my mind a place to avoid, one that Anne Lamott describes as:  "a bad neighborhood that I try not to go into alone."

Noticing seems to provide an antidote to the crazy, and I am sitting still with some pretty basic truths, yet again:  impermanence and change are all there is...if you hold on you will suffer...and all thoughts arise and disappear on their own.  (And my mind goes "bla bla bla, Lisa, you've already circled back to this a million times over."  And I reply, "Yes, I think that's the routine...forever." And then I think, "Well, shit.")  And I am grateful for this process, even though it makes me feel hugely un-enlightened.     It allows me to feel grateful for silence when I find it, for green, for the ocean's presence, and grateful that I know these spaces. It makes me grateful for dinner and conversation and dancing and movement. I am grateful to be someone who is not trapped by fear, though I feel it regularly, and it holds me snugly in its embrace at times.  I am grateful for daffodils blooming in February.  I am grateful for my wanderer life because it brings me closer to truth even when it takes me further from comfort.  And I am grateful for hope.

My life is a path of steps and missteps (but I can't view them that way, really), and I can't imagine a reality that didn't include them all.  I might trade a few, if pressed, but I wonder what the trade off would be.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Direct Correlations

There are all of these time-killing online quizzes going around:  "Which level of Dante's inferno are you going to?"  "Which fairy tale princess are you?"  Today, after completing the "Which Disney villain are you?" quiz (it's Friday; a momentary diversion was a good thing), we were tangentially talking about the movie Frozen, and my co-workers couldn't believe I hadn't liked it.  Deadpan, I explained that it was really disturbing to realize that you had been less insightful in real life than a princess in a Disney film.  [If you haven't seen the film, do not worry, this allusion is best encapsulated by the moment in the film when the plucky princess needs someone who loves her to save her, and the  prince, whom she thought she was going to marry, said, "Well, it's too bad there's no one who loves you here."  The audience gasped as he tried to kill her, even though we all saw it coming].  We laughed pretty hard over this one, and, in truth, the movie was lovely, and I've never had anyone actually try to kill me.  Disney villains aside, the moral of the movie was that true love, given freely, is what frees us, and what makes the world pretty damn beautiful (or, in the case of the movie, un-frozen).  And this is what makes any story line move from "tragedy" to "comedy."  And it's what makes me grateful for my own storyline.

I wrote out a series of Valentine's notes to people I love last night. By the time I was finished, I was absolutely floored by how much gratitude and love I have for so many, and how truly amazing that feeling is.  Tonight I reveled in the routine of a Friday night yoga class with a friend, and the pure joy in the connection.  I reveled in the reminder by the yoga instructor that we practice in community, and there are no levels or borders in this community.

And, I am reminded, as I revel in all of this, of Brian Andreas' story "Love Match," which reads:  "I want to be loved for who I am, she said, because being loved for who I'm not just stresses me out."  Ahhh...  yes.  Direct correlation between being loved for who we are (including by ourselves) and our ability to lean into life and love and joy.   I'm enjoying these findings.