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Saturday, April 30, 2011

SARCASM

     Sarcasm is a deadly business. Looking at the word's etymology and rooting it back to its original Latin, it means to tear flesh. And at the receiving end, sarcasm feels like that. It cuts at me. It makes me smaller, and induces shame as well. There is an implied curled lip and a look of repulsion from the one delivering the sarcasm, a holier than thou attitude, an unspoken sigh and rolling of the eyes as if to say how could anyone be so stupid.
    It's hard to bounce back from the delivery gust of sarcasm. Like a slap in the face, I have been shut down, put in my implied place, below and beneath. I feel disheveled. I have lost my composure. Sarcasm is a form of bullying. Even if it's not delivered towards me specifically, it batters whatever it is directed towards. There's a passive aggressive element... cruelty guised as humor.
     Even sarcastic thoughts are destructive and harmful, full of judgment and false pride. Even if they are never spoken. Sarcasm is a sneering and wounding and poisonous way to approach life and other people. Maybe it's a defense mechanism, a learned retaliation for being a life long victim. There's anger behind it, and an intention to abuse.
     Happily, I no longer surround myself with sarcastic people. Most of my communications are straight up and respectful. But the occasional blast does come. I was shut down the other day by a virtual stranger. In an effort to illicit a laugh from his audience, he shrank me in front of the crowd for no good reason. And I was interested to see how readily I fed into his surreptitious lashing. I felt immediately unworthy and full of shame. Why had I thought I had anything to contribute? Silly me.
     But it didn't take me long to realize what had happened and that it wasn't really about me at all. I had a choice about taking on the negative feelings that had been delievered up so readily. As children, we are not so lucky. We take whatever is given us. But as an adult, I can let the sarcasm lie on the open air and not ingest it. I can deflect it and know that I am ok. I can even have compassion for the one who feels the need to tear at others. He is gravely misguided. His sarcasm is not funny and not insightful. It is a signpost for his own pain and insecurity. Ultimately, it is nothing more than a call for love.

I will not take ownership of sarcasm in any form today. I will not send it out and I will not take it in.

Friday, April 29, 2011

SMOKY CHURCH

      There is a church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala, where smoke from incense sticks billows out of the doorway and across the marketplace. Up the steps and inside, it is dark and cool, flickering with the light from hundreds of prayer candles. The candles are not neat and orderly, not all white, like candles in American churches. Melted wax in a multitude of colors drips and gobs and forms uneven shelves all around the internal walls of the building. Fat candles, thin ones, tall, short, whatever people have brought from home, burn and sizzle and fizz as they drip.
     Indian women in brilliant colors shuffle in and out, up and down the stairs, saying prayers on their knees, lighting candles, feeding the vat of ever burning incense. The incense smells like woodsmoke and musk and maybe a hint of frankincense. To me it smells like the spirit of the earth.
     Missionaries have come to Gutemala, but have only altered the culture part-way. Christian symbolism is mixed with pagan iconography. The church is honest and I like it. It awakens in me a primal sense of life's deep mysteries and inspires reverence for the energy behind all that lives. I think in our culture, we try to separate spirituality from life. We keep our reverence and ceremony and peace offerings largely in check.
     One of the reasons the Guatemalan church has always spoken to me is because it feels real. It brings the spirit to me instead of pushing it out of reach, up on the altar and shiny crucifix, miles above me in stilted images of stained glass. Maintain your distance and have respect seems to be the message of many American churches and most cathedrals.
     But that's not what the Guatemalan church speaks to me. It says welcome! I invite you to sit down, light a candle, and engage every one of your senses in this rich and incomprable living experience. It tells me that life itself, every minute and every breath we take is a spiritual experience. Breathe in. Breathe out. Enjoy the colors and the flavors and don't miss any of it.
     It's been many years since I stepped inside that church in Chichicastenango, but the invitation it offers calls to me still. Even after all this time, its smoke gets my attention and all of my senses awaken to the colors and the light. I am invited by that humble, smoky, marketplace church to presence and the living moment, and the vibrant spirit that is wthin us all.

Today, I am willing to enjoy the spiritual experience that is my life!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

CRAZY ROBIN MATING DANCE

     When I lived in Michigan, a male robin took up temporary residence on top of my truck mirror. He would lean over and peer at his reflection, and then take flight and crash himself awkwardly into the glass. He did this over and over, probably hundreds of times throughout his springtime visitation. I tried a myriad of ways to keep him off the truck entirely, as his droppings made an incredible mess, but he was tireless and persistant. He kept coming back.
     It took me a while to figure out what he was attempting, and then suddenly, in an instant, I understood. It was mating season, and he saw the most beautiful bird inside the mirror of my truck, the bird he had to have, the one he was driven to mate with no matter what. It seemed bizarre and un-natural, a complete anomaly. I figured the poor robin had a serious screw loose, and was relieved the day he finally gave up.
     And then the next spring, the same thing happened again, perhaps with the same robin. Once again, I chased him off, and once again, he would not leave it alone. I found it disturbing and strangely endearing both. And then I moved back to Virginia and forgot all about it.
     A few weeks ago, I noticed a robin sitting on a tree branch right outside the bathroom window and I was fascinated that he should be so close and not be frightened. I walked right up and looked at him. He didn't seem to register that I was there, and then he flew straight at the glass, startling me. He scratched awkwardly, and then retreated to the branch to regroup for another attempt. Unbelievable! Yet another crazy robin! He's still there today, determined to mate with that bird he sees, even if it takes him all spring.
    And so, in the way I do, I thought about the lesson this bird has to teach me. If I'm honest, I can definitely relate to his behavior. There is a saying that "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results." Bingo. There's our Robin, and me too, trying to force something to be what it clearly is not. I speculate coming at the situation from a different angle, from a little higher, or lower, determined to figure it out, to make it work. And I keep on crashing into the glass, and everytime, I am as surprised as the first time. I was so sure it would work out. So I sit, and watch, and justify, and consider, and feel absolutely sure that it is what it isn't, and I take flight yet again.
     Maybe this time I can eat an enormous dessert and not feel fat and guilty. Maybe this time I can feel refreshed with four hours of sleep. Maybe this time I can spend more money on luxuries and not worry about how the bills will get paid... or whatever it is. It's the robin dance, the crazy robin mating dance, and I'm grateful every time I see him plundering into his own reflection yet again, that I am not alone, and that God has sent me a reminder.

I am willing to see things as they really are today. I will let go of the belief that I can make something be what I want it to be with a sheer force of my will. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

TO SEE

     Sight is a great blessing: to be able to see! I am aesthetic by nature and viscerally aware of colors and visual textures. Rural landscapes inspire me as do urban angles and the juxtaposed planes and valleys of the human face. I see eyes, hair, structures, peeling paint, cardinals, dogs, pink tulips, smiles, steam, children, blooming trees, and lines of mountains. I see tomatoes, bananas, movement, and the ever changing sky.
     There is an endless list of beautiful sights and an inexhaustable opportunity every day to appreciate all of them. They are right in front of me. I only have to look. And there's inner sight as well, which is the ability to understand. If seeing is understanding, then what I can understand today by simply looking at the sights around me is that life is filled with fascinating variety, soul inspiring vistas, and absolute beauty in the strangest of places.

I will look around me today and appreciate all that I see.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

THE FINISHING TOUCH

     Today, I am considering the satisfaction of a job well done. I think it comes easily to begin a project with the best of intentions. It comes easily to begin with pure energy and a willingness to put forth the best possible effort. But then, part way through, enthusiasm for the job sometimes wanes. It is more complicated than I originally thought, or taking longer than anticipated. A desire to walk away grows inside me. I feel frustrated and become inclined to hurry through to the finish. And yet, to carry steady focus and integrity all the way through a job is unquestionably the way to go, because that's what makes me feel good when all is said and done.
     In massage, there's something called a "finishing sweep." After working a body part in sections- bicep, tricep, forearm, regions of the hand- the therapist then travels the entire length of the arm up to the neck and then "sweeps" all the way down to the fingers and lets go. This creates a sense of completion and "finish." It is similar to taking a deep breath and stretching after an aerobics class, or wiping the counter after washing the dishes, or smoothing the bed after the covers have been pulled up.
     Every job deserves its finishing touch, and each day is filled with all kinds of jobs, some big and some small. Bringing my best effort to each one, honoring the beginning of each, and the ending, leaves me with a sense of completeness and gratitude. It's a feeling that cannot come from anything done hap-hazardly, or part way, or from anything I leave hanging or even a little bit sloppy.

I choose to finish my effort today and take satisfaction from each completed job.

Monday, April 25, 2011

THE STRUGGLE ETHIC

     I never want anyone to know that my life is too good or that I am having too much fun. If someone suggests to me that something I am doing sounds enjoyable, or restful, or reviving, I always explain that it may be that, but it's also productive and instructive or, actually, a fair amount of hard work.
     Perhaps I don't feel deserving of vacation or recovery from the stresses of life. Always pushing, ever productive, and multi-tasking; that's the world I believe I am meant to occupy. Not one with spaciousness and ease and love flowing and gentle breezes; instead, a world of effort expended and rewards earned.
     Where did I get this struggle ethic and how do I get rid of it? I don't want it anymore. I want to believe that it's ok to relax, that it's ok to admit that I enjoy my time, that I like to go to the movies alone in the middle of the afternoon, get foot massages, lie in the sun, indulge in the occasional excesses, and that I take naps in my car. If someone asks me directly, I am truthful about my pleasures, but I blush and smile sheepishly while responding, as if I've been caught at something: guilty me.
     If I purchase something for myself, I make excuses about it... that it was on sale or I really needed it. Why do I do that? Isn't it ok to treat myself to things that please me? I feel so caught up in my own neurosis. It feels riduculous to be so driven to "doing" and productivity, and so sneaky about being restful. And it definitely isn't that I would rather be pitied than envied. I don't want either of those things pushed my way.
     I think, perhaps, that I take such incredible pleasure in relatively simple things, that they just feel impossible to deserve. That's my hook. If the world knew how richly I enjoy certain experiences, I feel sure I would be punished because I have not earned my right to them. Why should I be so blessed and so lucky? To have my health and intelligence and be athletic and in a supportive and healthy loving relationship and to love my job. It's too much... too much blessing...
     It feels like the great secret that no one seems to acknowledge that life is all about the joy of being alive, and not the fret of doing and the pursuit of achievement. It seems unspoken that we should all suffer and struggle against all odds, to earn our right to pleasures, but all the while, the incredible delights of life are ours to enjoy, and there's nothing to do or earn at all. I, for one, am going to enjoy life today, out in the open, and be grateful for the gift of being here at all.

I will remember today that I do not have to earn my right to be alive and to enjoy the pleasures of living. I will simply express my thanks.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

REVIVAL

     Whether or not I consider Jesus to be my personal savior, and whether or not I believe in the reality of the biblical story as it is told, Easter seems an appropriate time to contemplate the idea of resurrection; of revival and restoration and rising from the dead. It happens frequently in life, seems to me. I get to a place where I am without hope, where I am drab with doubt, and numb to life's joy. I feel blocked and drained of energy. I want to curl up in a ball and pull the covers over my head and stay in the dark forever. I am dead to happiness, dead to love, and dead to possibility. And sometimes I stay that way... for an afternoon, a week, a few days... and then, for no particular reason that I can point to, the darkness lifts, and I am clear again, filled with light and overflowing with love.
     There are cycles at work in the patterns of my days. There are life cycles, and death cycles. I give birth to new interests and new habits and new ways of relating to myself and the world around me, and other things are forever passing away: outgrown relationships, old behaviors, taste in clothes... It comforts me to recognize that death and resurrection are as natural in my life as they are in the life of trees. Spring is the right time for Easter and thoughts of rebirth, while everything is blooming and bursting forth with a great flash of color. All seems dead in the winter, just as I feel dead inside when I am without hope. But spring comes. Every year it comes, and hope is always restored.

I will allow for the cycles of my life, and trust in the spring that always comes. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

SELF GRASPING AND THE PIE OF LOVE

     I have an unbecoming tendency towards self-grasping. Sometimes, rather than shared joy, my first inclination in the new light of a friend's good news is to think internally, "How come you got so lucky? What about me?" Which is silly. I am blessed beyond measure. I would not trade my life for anything. But still I feel it, the small pin-prickly inner whine.
     It's a form of self-centered fear, that I will not get good things, that I will be forever punished and have struggles and non-stop hard work forever and ever with no relief. I'm not sure why I have the feeling that horror awaits me in the future rather than blessings when it's blessings that I have largely received.
     I would like to be free of this pettyness. There's nothing better than sharing someone's joy, and sometimes, I am readily able to express that. It seems to be partly determined by how close they are me. The good news of someone whose life does not really touch my own is easy to celebrate: good for you! That's fantastic! But the closer the person is, the more intricately involved in my life, the more threatened I seem to feel, as if his or her joy will steal some of what's available for me.
     My daughter used to have a fixed idea in her mind that there was a pie of love, a limited amount, and if I gave love to someone else, it meant a smaller slice for her. I explained that the more I gave, the more I had to give, that love was the great magnifying mystery. And I'm sure that joy is like that too. I know it is. And yet, I fear for my piece of it. It feels competitive almost.
     Perhaps, recognizing this, I can be relieved of it. I am always able to come around to the infectious happiness of my friends and feel their joy eventually, but I would sure appreciate going straight there, without the jealousy hitch at all, and the fear for what I'm getting or not getting. It's behavior I want to discard. I most certainly do not need it. There is enough good news to go around.

Today, I will rest secure in knowing that joy has no limit.

Friday, April 22, 2011

TRIGGERS

     It's amazing to me how my issues replay. I can find myself in a state of internal agitation and not understand why. There are usually a number of life circumstance happenings I can point to, but none of them seem to be the primal root of my restlessness. I wallow for a time in struggling confusion.
     And then, in a moment of quiet revelation, the source of my angst sneaks up on me and taps me on the shoulder. I recognize it, it's familiar, and almost always connects back to some childhood sensation that has been triggered by a present day event. I have a handful of feelings from my youth that create regular discomfort in me, the biggest and the baddest of which are shame and fear. I was teased sarcastically by my father when I was little such that I took ownership of self-consciouness and embarassment for being the way I am. And fear in a myriad of forms came to me as a legacy from my mother.
     I think the answer today comes in recognizing how small things trigger old feelings. And then having the compassion for myself to understand what's going on and let it be. If I allow the fear and shame to be, they dissolve and soften. If I refuse to acknowledge them in any way, I experience pain.

I will give myself a break today. No one gets through childhood unscathed and I am no exception. I can have compassion for my own particular vulnerabilities.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

THE GIFT OF HOUSEWORK

     Why do people hate housework? There is a general negative attitude about doing laundry, washing dishes, vacuuming, organizing, dusting, and cooking. I don't entirely understand it. I experience a ceratin pleasure in taking a discombobulated mess of dirty clothes and putting them through the cycles to produce neat, folded piles of good smelling freshness. And it's a wonderful thing to feel the heat of the dryer left in the clothes as I fold them. Sometimes I'll take a towel and wrap it around me just to enjoy the sweetness of the heat and the clean.
     And dishes are the same way. I like the transformation of mess into order, the clean-up, the soapy warm water. It's instant gratification. In a world where so much is beyond my scope and so much discombobulation and mess is out of my control, I can do laundry and clean dishes and have an immediate sense of satisfaction. It's a gift!
     Sometimes, the idea of cleaning the entire house feels overwhelming, or cleaning bathrooms, or cleaning out a closet, but the positive result of my willingness to do it is so visible and so quick. Few things feel as wholesome as a clean and orderly living space, a swept floor, or an empty trashcan. And the effort is minimal. It takes just a few minutes. And the cost for not doing it is high. My creativity and mental clarity suffer in a cluttered spae, and dirty clothes illicit seedy feelings.
     I prefer a clean house, clean clothes, and a clean spirit. I choose to enjoy housework, knowing that the payoff is easy-to-come-by satisfaction with a minimal expenditure of effort. What a bargain!

I will find the pleasure in doing dishes today. I will feel the satisfaction of a clean sink.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

CHANGING TASTES

     It's interesting to me the way what was once delightful, what felt important to me and life changing, affirming and entertaining, becomes suddenly distasteful. Maybe I outgrow it. Maybe I finally see what I was blind to in the beginning. I have always wanted to believe that things and people are as beautiful and perfect as I imagine them to be when I first encounter them and they seem all in all. And maybe they really are that beautiful in the beginning. But eventually, the illusion fades, my fantasy perception dissolves into truth, and I am left feeling differently. Or else, my taste changes.
     Sometimes I keep going back to be sure that I have not missed something. I try to recreate the beginning beauty. I open my mind and my heart. But it continues flat and forever changed. I have seen and felt something that cannot be unseen and unfelt. There may still be value, but it's not in joy so much anymore. It becomes about acceptance and the understanding that what feeds me is ever evolving.
     There have been very few things in my life, and even fewer people, that become more beautiful to me as time goes on; that keep unveiling their wonder and delicious mystery. And for those people and those experiences I am grateful to the point of tears. But most things and most people I learn to accept and appreciate with their limitations.
     I suppose it's all part of the living experience. Instead of regretting that the appeal of things and people changes, that what once was is now no more, I can be expectant and open to what may come. That's the internal space I will occupy today. I will not try to force what is no longer working in my life to work the way it once did. I will let go where I need to and be honest. I will accept the changes that come with my own journey and the path of my evolution.

I will stop trying to recreate past glories and let go of that which no longer serves me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

LIFE CARRIES ON

     When tragedy strikes, or something shifts dramatically in the routine of my days, there is a surreal sense about things. I have the feeling that life should stop, that there should be a pause long enough for grief and reflection and the incubation of new energy to continue on. But nothing stops. Life keeps on. The sun rises and sets. People untouched by my personal struggles ramble on about their everyday business.
     And maybe it's exactly because the everyday normalcy keeps on that I am able to keep on. I am pulled and guided by the hours and necessities of life, by breakfast, lunch, and dinner, by the need for clean clothes and face washing; the need for showers and sleep and conversation. All these things are small anchors in my life, to keep me grounded when I am unsettled on the inside from tragedy or transition or too much turmoil. And I find comfort in what's familiar when outside forces corrupt the pattern of my world.
     I have not experienced any great tragedy of late, but I have an ample share of transition rattling my routine. It feels strange more than anything else. It feels foreign and unknown. But I trust the transitions, just as I trust the tragedies, even when they are hard, even when they don't make any sense. And I believe I am blessed to trust them. I have this great innate faith that all is growth and progression and that the spirit within cannot die. I believe that we are so much more than the limits we see.
     So it's appropriate really that life does not stop. It's not meant to. It carries us forward into growth and change. I face things I cannot fathom and get to the other side whole and healed. The process and the routine of living are my true North while my spirit lurches and twists in growing pains and turbulation. But I do get through things, and I always have. The human spirit endures. The human spirit is beautiful the way it endures.

I will trust the transformation process today and feel grounded by my steady routines.

Monday, April 18, 2011

GOODBYE EMMA

     A friend of mine is moving away, overseas, back to England. In the past it has always been me leaving. I've moved a lot in my life. So the feelings I am feeling are new for me. I'm excited for her, for her new adventure and the clean slate of such a grand scale fresh start, but I feel the loss of her going. She has become part of my weekly life, part of my days in an integral way. My throat chokes when I consider the reality of her not being there every day with her smile and her energy. I've become accustomed to reading her moods from across the gym floor. I look for them. I've become accustomed to the cycles of her ups and downs. She is familiar. As my boss and client both, she has been central to the world at work that I have come to know and love. I'm going to miss her.
     It's my natural inclination to be more flippant about her departure than I feel, to brush it off, sluff it away with comments of how soon we will see each other again and how we will continue our friendship online. But it feels more honest to honor the closure of this time, of this particular closeness we have shared these last two years, because it's changing and will never be quite this way again. Of course we will continue to be friends. I will be delighted to hear of her travelings and struggles and joys, as she will mine, and we will keep in touch, but she will never again populate my daily experience the way she does now.
     And so, more than anything else just now, it's a time to feel sad. It's a time to process the transition, to say goodbye and wish her well but to allow for the choking feeling inside of me that rises up and sinks again like waves. It's time to allow for a few tears and the simple and deep feeling of "I am going to miss you!" to express itself. Otherwise I will supress it and overeat instead. I will crave sweets and indulge my craving and feel restless and irritable and not understand what's happening. I'm not sure why it is so challenging to admit what I feel, why I try to pretend I don't feel it and to cover it up, whatever it is. I'm willing to feel my sadness today. I am willing to feel whatever I feel without self-consciousness or shame.

I will be honest with myself today and express what I feel so that it doesn't get repressed and come out sideways.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

CELEBRATING THE BODY

     Perhaps moreso in our culture than some others, body image issues begin to plague us at an early age. We feel sure that we are too one thing or another. We are too fat or too thin, too short or too tall. We do not fit some picture we have in our mind's eye of what we are supposed to look like. Maybe we have a couple of features that we tolerate, or like about ourselves, but they shrink in comparison to the features that we do not like. For some of us, all we ever see about ourselves physically is what we don't like.
     And all the while, our blood pumps, our lungs breathe, and our muscles move and propell us. Why do we not more enthusiastically celebrate the functioning and wonder of our bodies? Miraculous and divine physical sensations occur in each moment that we live. We hear things, that alone is miraculous... we hear birds and wind and rain and conversation and music! And we feel things, textures on our skin, hot and cold, emotions and danger. We sweat and digest and chew and cry and dream. We lift and carry and cook and are sexual. We are vibrant and graceful. We are awkward and fragile. We sleep and wake. Our hair grows and our fingernails and toenails.
     We abuse our bodies with poor food choices, lack of exercise and all kinds of negative thinking, and for the most part, they carry on gallantly in spite of us. When it is too much, they cry out and hurt and get sick and we have no compassion at all. We feel irritated and victimized, done to.
     What about celebrating our bodies instead? How about gratitude and compassion and love for ourselves, for all of us; for our round bellies and robust thighs, our uneven shoulders and lack of muscle tone, or excess of muscle tone... whatever the case may be. It's insanity to resist my own skin. Today, I am willing to gratefully accept my body and all of its wonderful quirks and imperfections, to send it kind and loving thoughts and be its friend.

I will consider the miracle of my body today and be glad for it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

LIVING FULLY

     I have a distinct tendency towards intensity. Sometimes, doing the simplest of activities, like fixing myself a cup of tea, or driving down the road, I find my muscles flexed and my movements jam-packed with an urgent sense of power and energy being held back. I catch myself and relax. Fingers spread, my back loosens, and I take a deep breath. I am able to let go and settle down, almost like water pouring out of one of those huge cups at a kiddie pool. It is relieved of the weight. It swings empty for a brief second, back and forth, and then it begins to fill up again. My amplifieded energy returns.
     When I am like that, generally it is because I am fired up on all circuts with the excitement and passion of living the span of life I am just then living. I am full of juice for the project I am working on, for the destination towards which I am headed, for the excitement of my thinking, the clarity of some revelation, and the desire to excell.
     It's a very different experience for me to float through the hours uninspired, to feel flat and lethargic. That's a rare occurence in my world. I am not "mellow" by nature. I am excitable and easily triggered into passion. It's not angry or "hot" feeling. It's absolute THRILL and the vibration of living love and wanting to share my joy.
     I have a belief system which tells me there might be something wrong and undesirable about being so full of energy. I should calm down, care less, go with the flow without the need to speak up or move physically. But I have a voice and a body and so much life inside of me! I can't sit still on the inside. I have my experience and take on things, my desire to learn and exchange ideas. When I am with people, I want to engage. I want to participate. I want to listen and share. I am quiet and observant until I am ready to contribute, until I understand how I can contribute, and then I want to jump in with both feet. I'm not afraid to get wet. And if I stop myself from jumping in, I squash myself down. I feel on the outside of things. The only way in is to open my mouth.
     I reflect and soften when I am alone. I quiet and consider. And then I return to shared living and all of my bubbles rise up again, my excitement and irresistable sense of possibility. I don't apologize for it today. I am grateful and blessed to feel so much love inside of me ever bursting to get out.

There is no shame in living fully and experiencing life with passion and the excitement of all possibility.
     
  

Friday, April 15, 2011

SPACE FOR DREAMING

     Life easily becomes overfull. When it does, before I melt down or lose my ability to be calm, I need to pull back and regroup. I need to take a look to see what part of my day has become cluttered like the catch all table in the kitchen. A frequent sort through and organization is required. I need to focus and prioritize, return to center and remember who I am and what I am all about.
     There is so much in life of potential interest; so many ways I want to invest my time and energy. But I have to be selective or I will become scattered and frazzle from the inside out. It helps to be clear about what matters, but even that is not always obvious. There are things which matter according to my culture, to my parents, to my own sense of obliagtion and my age-old built in beliefs. And then there are the things that always matter, but don't always feel like they do, the things that keep me emotionally stable: my self care, getting enough sleep, eating right, communicating my fears and feelings. Oddly, these are first and most easily sacrificed in the face of some new excitement.
     If I continually overfill my plate and continually find ways to stuff a bit more of life onto the edges and scoop it on top in a big mound, my quality of pleasure suffers. I lose my ability to recognize and enjoy the small details. I Find myself wanting to lash out at others and I feel burdened and bitter. I get heavy and weighted down from too much. I am learning that in life, as in everything, less is more. I can qualify my activities and let some go. I can simplify and slow down. I can experience more joy, more laughter, and more relaxation. It's not a race after all, not an accumulation fest, and not a contest to see who can do the most in the least amount of time. It is life and unfolding and space and surprise. It is following my heart and doing what I love and being with people who inspire me and spending time alone. If I leave a bit of room, anything is possible. If I leave a bit of room, there is space for adventure and community and self reflection and all of my dreams.

I will leave space in my day today for the unplanned.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS

     Like the crosses I see on roadsides, I believe it's important to somehow mark the transitional moments in life. With small ceremony, and personal ritual, I take note of beginnings and endings. I take note of the closure of cycles, the last day of an old life, the introduction of new challenge, new relationship, new living space; the onset of fresh adventure and my invigorated willingness to plunge into the unknown.
     I like to consciously complete the cycle, to know that I am letting go of something familiar on purpose and because it's time, and I like to consciously open to the change ahead and to the introduction of unfamiliar movement. I like to sit and write my feelings and fears, my sadness at the loss of what will be no more and my hopes and nervous excitement about whatever may lie before me. I like to eat something that feels celebratory and indulgent. I like to savor each moment of the last time.
     Although everyday, in many quiet ways, invisible cyles come and go and things end and begin, it's the larger more decisive moments of change that I want to honor by my particular attentiveness. Those are the ones I am speaking of now: the markers of a lifetime, the places looking back where we can plant a cross and say right there, that's where I got married, that's where I got honest, that's where my sister died. We all have those markers in our lives.
     And sometimes, multiple things change all at once in a great leap. I am on the cusp of that kind of transition. I don't know what lies ahead or how any of it will develop and shift, but I know that it will shift, that it is shifting, and today, just for today, I am honoring all that is closing out.

I mark the visible change in my life with attention and care.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

THE GUT

     I believe that we all have an inner alarm system. Red flags fly within us, and we seem to know something but don't know how we know... which makes it easy to have doubt. We figure that we're probably wrong. It can't possibly be the way our guts are warning us that it is, mostly because it's something that we either want, or think we should want. We justify doing what our insides try to steer us away from, and then we have a price to pay. And we say, "I knew it! I knew it was going to be like this." But that is small comfort when we have got ourselves stuck yet again.
     It's terrifying to listen to our illogical instincts over and above our rationalizing mind. We can spell out all the practical reasons for action, for committment, for making the decision to turn in a certain direction in our lives, and then there's that annoying little gut sense in the background saying that it doesn't feel right. We shut it down. Nonsense! That's just fear talking! We rally freinds around to our cause. We make the case against our gut... and then we move forth... justified! And sometimes, initially, all goes well, and we pride ourselves on our excellent decision making.
     But the gut instinct has never failed to play out, at least in my life. The promising situation turns to mud. And I am always warned before it happens. I don't know how I know, but I do, and when I don't pay attention, when I turn against my gut and make the case for logic, I suffer. And I don't know why I insist on repeating the experiment. Perhaps because it requires so much trust in things that I can't see, and trust in myself. I am more willing to pay attention to my internal red flag system now than I ever have been, but it is still an evolving journey and most definitely a slow road to travel.

I will listen to my gut today, and trust the things I somehow know but cannot entirely see.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

BAITED HOOKS

     Sometimes I get to feeling overwhelmed because so much is happening in my life on so many different fronts at the same time. It can be positive movement and still be overwhelming because of all that I cannot control. I have an illusion that things should occur on schedule and according to my plans, that I should have an important impact on outcomes; that what I do and think and the ways I speculate about the future matter deeply. But the truth is that they don't.
     Whatever is going to happen happens, often in spite of me and my plans and visions. Very little of what I expect and fear and worry about even transpires. I get so hung up on hooks of fear, hooks of future projection, hooks of expectations, inner insistences and demands, that I forget to wait and see. I forget to leave room in my forward looking for unexpected curves and vistas. I find myself entirely hung up on the hooks.
     Sometimes I am caught so that I need help to disentangle, and sometimes I have to cut threads and slice what binds me. Sometimes I have to struggle and wrestle until I am free, and sometimes I just have to let go of my grip because I am the only thing holding me up. There is relief in being free of the hooks and allowing life to unfold. The trick is not to get caught up again.

I will see the bait today that wants to hook me, and let it pass by without taking a bite.

Monday, April 11, 2011

RELATIVITY

     Time is absolutely relative. When I am doing something that engages me fully, or enjoying a day off, or having fun and relaxed conversation with laughter and smiles, I am always amazed to look at the clock and see how far it has moved, and how quickly. When I am struggling through a difficult situation, when I am tired, when I am stressed out, then time drags and pulls at me. It feels as if I can't possible endure another minute, let alone an entire afternoon, or a day!
     When my twins were babies, the days were the longest of my life. So much effort and creative problem solving was packed into such small portions of time. A mess could be created in seconds. The hours between naptime and bedtime were endless. I lived in a constant state of attention and readiness for tears and tantrums, for potential accidents and injury. I was always on call, always prepared with distractions and activities. I planned adventures to fill our time.
     Maybe the reason time moves so slowly when I am challenged is because I do not accept challenge as "fun." It is something to get through. On the other side I can relax. I am resisting the moment and the experience. I want it over so I can be elsewhere, so I can be on the other side, so I can claim my "reward" for having suffered. If I could learn to relax inside of the challenge and settle into the experience, if I could let it be and not feel that old need to be ever-ready with potential solutions, ever on guard, ever prepared for flight to the other side, then maybe time would equalize some.
     At the very least, if time is poking along, that's a clue for me to take a look and be honest about what I am resisting, and decide not to resist instead. I can make a decision to be wherever I am and commit my energy fully to the moment.

I will catch myself resisting experiences today and make a decision to surrender instead.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

TIME ALONE

     I enjoy solitude. There is something incomprably freeing and delicious about having a chunk of uninterrupted time to myself, to do as I please, to be a slob, or read beyond my ordinary allotted reading time, or sit and do nothing, or be busy to the point of dizziness without anyone's judgment or opinion to reign me in or urge me onward. I can do as I please, that's the beauty of it, without having to be sensitive to how someone else feels, or what someone else needs. It's my time to let it all hang out. Some people seem to be able to do this even in the company of others, but I never have been. I am highly sensitive to the moods and inclinations of whoever is in my space.
     I have accumulated shame over the years in the fact that I need my time and space alone, and have surreptitiously snuck it in bits and pieces, sure that my universe would never support me in my "selfish" desire. But I feel differently about it these days. It really is something I need for my health and well-being. Solitude restores me and replenishes me. I am not a loner, or an isolationist. I am, in fact, a people person. I love people! I love their company and humor and perspective on life that is different from my own. I need people too, and I know that. I need people and I need time alone. I need both. It's a balance.
     I used to grab for solitude, make plans for it and protect it secretly and aggressively because I was afraid to simply assert my need for it. I was sure that others would not approve. How indulgent of me to need space. But I'm realizing that it's ok. It's ok to be who I am and to feel restored in the way I feel restored. No apologies, no guilt, and no shame. I am tired of all that. It's been long enough. Those emotions have run my life for years, and right here, right now, I stand willing to take my life back.

Needing time and space alone is ok. I can ask for it without guilt.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

EMOTIONAL PROCESSING

     When I get my excitement wrapped around the possibility of something, and then that something becomes a near reality, and then it seems to be a sure thing, I feel understandably disappointed if it falls through in the final hour. A process similar to the amping up and investment of hope needs to play out in reverse. I have to process back down.
     At first, there is a sense of disbelief, as if whatever it is has to happen simply because I am counting on it emotionally. And then there is irritation, anger, frustration; a sense of injustice and bitter discouragement, which lead to depression and why bother feelings. Then I get to bargaining with myself. I do a bit of sour grapes approach- maybe it wouldn't have been so great after all, and then look for hints of possible goodness coming out of the switch. I project alternative outcomes and ways to organize my time. Well, maybe it can work this way... Often I am still trying to get a piece of what I had hoped for in the beginning, but usually with a certain sense of futility knowing inside somehow that I'm playing with mental alternatives to try and soothe myself. When in reality, it's just a changed situation, and I need to adapt.
     I would like to be able to come to instant acceptance, and sometimes I rail against myself for not being more spontaneously flexible and able to go with the flow wherever it goes. But I'm learning. I'm beginning to understand that there is an emotional process, and that's just the way it is. I can get to acceptance, but I have to move through denial, frustration, and deal making first. It's like taking a train from New York to LA. There are stations to pass through along the way, and some of the stops are longer than others.

Things are constantly moving and shifting, both internally and externally. It's ok to be wherever I am in all the processes of my life.

Friday, April 8, 2011

COMPUTER BLESSING

     I first encountered technology with great resistance. Enormous computers were introduced into my seventh grade classroom and we had to learn how to program them by writing lines of instruction. The only one I remember is "go to 10." I didn't get it. I didn't like it, and I figured then that computers were simply not for me. And then they became the thing a person had to have to be current in life. My sister had a computer before I did, and even my father, who rigidly refuses to have one now. But I held fast... for years.
     I finally broke down and got one when I started a business in 1999 and I was amazed and impressed with how user friendly it was. I became an immediate fan of email and felt the burgeoning excitement of having discovered something new; a new toy, something fun!. Creating a website was no easy feat, however, and I spent vast funds having one designed for me. It seemed so complex, so complicated, so utterly beyond anything I could understand with its html language and coding and hosting and domain names and servers. The graphic designer might as well have been speaking Greek to me.
     But today, with a rapid google search, I can design my own website, set up a blog, access any information or image I may seek, communicate internationally in seconds, reach an audience of any kind, find like kind people to "chat" with, store my pictures, create a virtual reality, play games, read books. I can go anywhere and learn anything. The only thing that limits me is my imagination, and my physical ability to sit in front of the screen.
     But it's easy to resent our computers, to get frustrated with them for moving too slowly, needing to be re-booted, having quirks. We even blame them for the way our neck and shoulders hurt from sitting in front of them for too long with poor posture. How bold of us! All this incredible access to the world at our fingertips and we feel entitled to gripe. Well, not me, and not today. I am no longer resistant. I am curious and creative and endlessly entertained... as long as I do not abuse my screen time by becoming addictive; as long as I balance the computer with walks outside and meals with friends and meditation and enough sleep and all of the facets of self care. If I enjoy it in balance, my computer is a great blessing, a good friend, and a launching pad for all of my dreams.

Today I will not take my computer for granted. I will be amazed with all that it can do, and grateful for the ways it expands my life.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

DASHES AND BLIPS

     I'm a bit creative in a crafty way and like to do artistic projects. I have made seashell mobiles and beaded boxes, framed pressed leaves and painted pictures. And the lesson that reigns supreme for me every time I approach anything artistic is the importance of letting go. Inevitably there comes a point where I find myself urging towards tension as small details do not come together as I think they should. I get hooked into a drive for perfection. I want to destroy what I've made and start over because there is one small bit that does not please me. But the truth is that the small bits don't matter in that way, not from a creative standpoint. Each one does not have to be perfect. Somehow it comes together in the end, and the grand effect of the entire thing usually works.
     I love to stand up close to a painting in a museum and look at all the lines and dots of brushstrokes and seemingly random colors. They look like nothing up close. They are shapes and blobs. But as I step back and gain some distance and perspective, I see it. I see the unified image, the angle of a face or the wash of a landscape, perfectly captured in all those multiple dashes and blips.
     Imperfection in art adds something. To know that an image is made up of shapes and colors and scratches and wipes is refreshing to me; that the overall effect can be delightful and complete even if it seems chaotic up close. Perhaps life is like that, and the human character. I want to remember not to get hung up on being a perfectionist with all of the small details in the process of my day today, and to trust in the wholeness that comes from the vast multitude of dots of uncertainty, errands and laughter, exercise and rest.

Today I will trust the creative living process, and not get hung up being a perfectionist.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

RECOGNIZING THE POSITIVE

     No matter how I might try to pretty it up, there is not much good that can come from fault finding and criticism. I have heard that whatever I focus on increases, and I believe that to be true. If I am looking at problems, someone's imperfections, the small things that are bothersome and produce irritation in me, then I become like a hair trigger, ever more sensitive to all the negativity I see everywhere.
     And if I speak up about my discoveries, so much the worse. That gives them voice and vitality. The one who has been poked at cannot help but shrink and recoil, or else lash out in defense. There is no positive response to negative judgment. It is shame producing. And I'm not sure about constructive criticism either.... not sure there really is such a thing, especially if its volunteered. If someone asks for help or wants suggestions in order to be more effective or successful, then the proper response is more about guidance and instruction than it is criticism.
     Pointing out all the things someone is doing right has a magical effect. Suddenly she seems to do more things right. She flowers before me as I point out her greatness, her uniqueness, her successes and her special beauty. When a person feels appreciated and valued, she is suddenly able to perform beyond her own expectation. And the positive results produce more positive feelings and so it grows. I choose to focus on the positive today, both in myself and all those I encounter.

There is no percentage in criticism. I will notice positive quailities today, including my own.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

BEING THE STUDENT

     I love to inspire others, to teach and guide, to share what I've learned, and it occurs to me lately that perhaps we all do. We want to share our knowledge and experience. We hope that it may be useful, appreciated. We hope that what we have to offer makes a difference in someone else's life.
     I tend to be uncomfortable as a beginner. I feel awkward and discombobulated, as if I should somehow just know what to do in any given circumstance. But that's when I need instruction myself, and guidance and encouragement and inspiration. I used to think there was weakness in me if I didn't get it, whatever "it" was, instantaneously, and I would become frustrated and self absorbed.
     But I've changed my mind. When I don't know, if I am not catching on, I must pay closer attention to the teacher before me. I need to leave my pride alone and open my ears and my instincts to receive the learning that is being offered. It is up to the one who is teaching me to creatively instruct, to break it down in smaller steps until I understand. There is no pressure, not on me to learn, or the other to teach... only a mutual effort in the direction of clear communication between us.
     When I am learning something new, it is not really about me. It's not a test for me to catch on asap and become an instant expert, and it's not about how perfectly I perform. It is about the other person, the teacher, and his willingness to share. It's about appreciating the experience and knowledge that is so different from my own, and expressing gratitude that this experience should be shared with me.

I will pay attention to my teachers today, and be grateful for the gifts of their experience.

Monday, April 4, 2011

RESTORATION

     I have been derailed a bit of late. I became so overwhelmed with fear about possible future scenarios and all the ways things might turn out badly, that I forgot about all the gifts that are present and active every day in my life. It's easy to become blind to them, too easy; too easy to get lost in judgments and criticisms and worrying and projection, in the rush and busyness of errands and timed appointments and all that has to get done, in doubt and old stuff bubbling up, in mindgames and fantasy resentments.
     And yet, all the while, in spite of my veering recklessly to the right and left of serenity, good things have happened, and good people have appeared to spread their love, and I have heard messages that I need, and I have been given time to recover the path... once I was ready to recover it. It took a certain amount of distance down the darkly twisted road before I remembered the other way, the way that feeds my spirit with open space and expansive views of curving mountains, the way that inspires me to higher thoughts and creative possibility.
     I am grateful to be back on that path just now, and aware again of all the positives of living, the small awakenings, delicious tastes, and touching exchanges. I am grateful for weekends, and date night, and good reading material, and just the right song at just the right moment. I am grateful for heartfelt communication and intellectual pursuit, for hot tea and Jay Leno. I am grateful for humor and flexibility and hillsides blooming with purple phlocks. I am grateful to be here and grateful to be me. It's a far distance from the space I was in a few days ago and all last week. There's nothing like a bit of journaling and meditation to bring me back to peace.

I will remember to be grateful today.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

THE SPRING!

     Every year, I am surprised and impressed by the spring, that everything so seemingly dead and brown should suddenly burst forth with seed pods and bright color and flowers and fresh scents. Even if the weather doesn't cooperate. Even if it snows in April. The longer lingering light encourages rebirth all over the natural world. Things bloom in spite of my mood, in spite of political struggles, injury, human chaos and lack of hope.
     I believe that through observing nature we are meant to learn about cycles of life and death, and understand that the same is true of our own natures. Everyday, in small ways, and large ways, little bits of us die and bloom. We drop old behaviors and irrational judgments like fall leaves and bloom possibility and willingness to change. Ideas lie fallow within us and then wriggle and grow like seeds when the sun of someone's belief in us shines upon them, when we give and receive love. We have moments and seasons of rest and explosive beauty. We flop like full grown summer leaves. We cry tears like raindrops.
     The spring is a time of newness and change. It is opportunity and regeneration. Living things start to stretch and reach, ready for growth. The Oak gets more solid and anchors deeper still. Bushes fan out and flash their colors. Grass goes crazy and needs to be kept in trim. Lessons for us, all of it. We are like the Oak, like the bushes, like the grass. We grow solid. We flash and sway. We need trimming and fertilizer, sunshine and rain. We die and are reborn no less than the plants and trees. Their hope is ours. We burst forth together as the days get longer and the spring comes.

I bloom where I am planted. The spring is in me no less than the earth.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

WISH WASH

     Making decisions can be a tricky proposition. Fear and uncertainty are involved, and unknown outcomes. I want so much to make the right decision, especially now that I understand so clearly about consequences. Yet sometimes, it's impossible to know what is right until I know what is not right, and sometimes it takes making a decision and suffering consequences to conclude which is which.
     Small decisions like what to eat and what to wear are usually easier, but not always. I have had moments of overwhelm in my life trying to decide whether to wear this or that, and have tried on the options to the point of absolute internal frazzle and the induction of sweat. Even these decisions turn on mental weigh-in scales, activate the justification process, and awaken doubt. It may be the pursuit of perfection in decision making that gets me. I erroneously figure that one choice is likely to be all one thing or another, a disaster or my long awaited lottery ticket, and that if I choose wrongly I will have blown it all forever. It's dramatic of me, but I bet I'm not alone in this.
     So what to do? The best I can, I suppose. Perhaps what is most important for me to remember is that nothing, no one thing, is all black or all white. Out of each decision that I make, challenge will come, and satisfaction, frustration, and reward. Much as I want things to be clear, evident, and secure, the guaranteed only thing that is for sure forever is that everything is all mixed up and how I feel changes constantly.
    Ultuimately, the lesson for me in decision making is to consider thoughtfully and choose what seems the best option with the information I have. And then, let it go. That's the trickiest part of all. I second guess myself, want to go back, re-do, decide again. I drive myself crazy with that energy. But once the decision has been made, if I made it thoughtfully, and I am second guessing only to second guess, then I need to stop, and leave it alone. I need to let it rest, and turn my attention elswhere.

I will catch myself getting frazzled over decision making today. I will take a deep breath, make the best choice I can, and then leave it alone.

Friday, April 1, 2011

GROUNDED LIVING

     I used to pride myself on being intense. I was extreme by choice and with a certain pride. The farthest possible point from the center was where I wanted to be. I had no use for anything moderate or reasonable. I considered those energies "boring." I wanted to be dynamic to the point of explosivity. Truth be told, it was a bit exhausing and I had messes to clean up, and lots of drama, but it felt like real living to me, like living worth the while. I wanted to burn irrepressibly and ecstatically like a bonfire. Hearth fires were entirely too calm.
     Today, I see things differently. I value what's steady and what's grounded. Catastrophic thinking and pushing myself beyond all reasonable limits do not hold the appeal for me that they once did. Much like a pendulum that swings in wide arcs around a circle, and then cycles closer and closer to center as it continues to swing, I live much closer to the middle than I used to. In fact, ragged divergence from the things that center me are startling and uncomfortable today. They do not feel adventurous and thrilling the way they once did.
     Solitude centers me, and silence, and good food for my intellect as well as my body. And laughter is earthing. It comes from my belly these days and not my nerves. I am anchored in taking the time to sit down and eat my breakfast instead of bursting out of the house with coffee spilling aross my hand. I am centered in breathing and listening, in being thoughtful before I speak in an important conversation.
     All of which is not to say that I am lacking passion. I most certainly am not! But it's passion with roots. I am no longer a pinball flicked about by the currents of movements around me. I am solid in a way I have never been before,and directed by my values instead of my mood. I know what matters and which way to turn for answers. I know that it's ok to have doubt, to not be sure, to feel afraid, but none of it is reckless today. It is built on something strong and sure, something I have discovered within me, a certain trust. It is faith and freedom and courage and love. It is my anchor and my launchpad both. It is age and wisdom. It is the consequence of growth.

I am solid today, and earthed. I am anchored in my values and rooted in faith.