Tag Archives: self-improvement

I love, I love not

17 Jun

Having grown past the shock of the persistence of aging, I found myself in a sea of remorse with nothing more than metaphoric water wings, of which I relied completely upon to carry me through each subsequent stage of grief.  The wings themselves consisted of waning bits of optimism, tireless stocks of hope and self-deprecating humor, the company of other relics caught in the same storm, and loving encouragement from my children.

the old gang

When least expected, I awoke from the madness feeling confident and completely at peace.  All signs of panic had vanished; it was as if having been victim of a terrible virus I’d assumed would last to the end of my times, I had spontaneously healed.

Thus, in earnest, began Phase II, a great reconciliation, of sorts.  It was an otherwise unremarkable period with the exception of occasional energy bursts and perplexing eruptions of silliness and laughter that oddly coincided with the arrival and duration of spring.

This amazing lack of anxiety caught me off guard; I began making lists of things to do, and then, quite un-expectantly, did them.  My dad always said there is something wrong with everything, and indeed, his philosophy proved true for me as I felt myself inexplicably turn from teacher to observer of the puzzling phenomenon called life.  Suddenly it no longer felt like a requirement to give my opinion on every subject entering my personal space, quite the opposite; I was compelled by invisible unknown forces to keep my mouth shut while listening to the opinions of others.

Although I’d sincerely tried to do this before, I had been unsuccessful. Strangely, this time it was a natural progression, a silver-haired right of passage that effortlessly squashed  the Queen EGO, who had, until that very moment, commandeered and dominated the entire mother-ship.  In subsequent days, I felt as if I’d awakened on another planet; so much of what I had grown accustomed to had disappeared.  But as weeks passed, I indulged in the novelty of sweet surrender, growing stronger but less attached everyday.  It wasn’t as if I no longer cared; I did, but the emotional baggage attached to evolving current and personal events had disappeared, leaving me fresh and full of vigor.

waking on another planet

Currently, I’m in what can only be called Phase III, the playground of the devil; a mental sphere separating old habits of strict discipline and strong opinions to a more abstract conceptual attitude about everything, as I simply continue to hold my tongue.  All of this change and I am still not afraid.

The brevity of life eventually makes prophets and soothsayers of us all as we observe the cycles and repercussions of evolving life.  I can sit for hours watching the wind play in the trees.  I can lose myself in the flight of fire flies, or I can calmly observe younger generations rushing into each day with the zeal and urgency of a mob of small children with new toys they don’t want to share, or with the apathy of defeated orphans.  I can sign a dozen petitions a day, write letters to politicians I know no one of power will ever read, and make 10 telephone calls a week imploring one person or another to do the right thing while feeling as if my entire body is floating above the lunacy of it all.

fireflies

As far as the drama unfolding across the world that bravely, or foolishly, is fastidiously shared via social media, I have a pretty good idea how it will all end.  It’s like watching a re-run of history repeating itself as if no one was paying attention the first time around. And I can choose to either shake my head in disbelief, or consciously disconnect from the chatter of angry old men and women who’ve soured on everything that doesn’t fit under the narrow microscopic lenses of their own philosophies as they systematically crack the whip across the backs of the unfortunate.

I can do all this without falling apart.

Sometimes I make eye contact with everyone in the grocery store.  Other times, I stare at my shoes, leaving my tongue at home on a comfortable chair, or in a loaf of rising bread, or in the melodies of old Patsy Cline songs.  Some days I love the world, some days I do not.  Some days I relate, see myself in everyone else; but there are days I look past every face letting each blend in a massive blur of anonymity, and I feel absolutely nothing.

grocery store crowd

My New Age friends are quick to say everything is as it should be, but they’re full of bologna.  No one is supposed to starve to death.  No one is supposed to be raped or tortured.  Philosophically speaking, some days it is sunshine, others, it is rain; but even in the depths of the darkest storm, even with the floor boards coming loose and tripping us up,  we can agree to quit fighting ourself, understanding that if everyone else did the same thing, the world would immediately begin to heal.

I don’t worry much that there are so few years left in my life to live, instead I worry for the quality and abundance of those left in my children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Morgan's birthday 2012

chris and billie  Brian and kiddos Crissy and Trent Chris and kids roller rink

ashley

I refuse to wring my hands or join the angry disillusioned masses of seniors scorching the good earth as they march against time trying to bring back the old days.  The old days are gone; we need to learn from them.  Today didn’t just happen; we formed it, all of us, but many of us will die, leaving the mess for others to clean up even as they struggle with their own generational responsibilities and challenges.

The only constant in my off and on love affair with life are the feelings I have toward children.  Their plights and futures put an extra kick in every pump of my heart.  I worry about all of them; borders and nationalities mean nothing to me.

Last month, I watched a child standing in a food line with her mother who apparently has Down syndrome.  There was nothing I could do to change the trajectory of her life.  That gives me pause; reality hurts my soul, but reality is also the cold earth warming in the early days of new spring, and fresh life growing in mossy clumps across the base of winter worn trees. And soft tunes carried on the wind from the strings of a child’s violin to the rocking chair on my back porch.  And clouds gathering.  And bad news on the television every day, and weddings and births.  And hope for future generations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crones in Fuchsia

13 Sep

The bathroom at the end of the hall has no windows.  When I close the door behind me, it can either feel like a moss green and latte cell, or a safe house; whichever depends on how I’m feeling at the time.

This morning, it was sanctuary.

I knew the day wasn’t going to be easy no matter what kind of spin I put on it, because yesterday I received a letter beginning with the words: Welcome to Medicare.  My plan was to keep today light to stave off age related issues of insecurity, but if I’d really wanted a retreat day, I would have skipped checking in with my Facebook page, wouldn’t I?

tarot the fool

A friend had posted an article relating to internet security that was thoughtful, and while not alarming, I confess, it fed my paranoid side that is suspicious of rapid change.  Like any animal with a head larger than mine, I don’t completely trust it without a proper courting phase allowing me time to ease into the unfamiliar, rather than busting through its doors.

This morning a Facebook entry hit a raw nerve, sending me into the shadow that Medicare began the day before, and I found myself heading to the room without windows at the end of the hall.

Small windowless rooms, most notably closets, have long been my sanctuary when the big, bad wolves of the world close in.  As a child, I believed I was invisible cowering inside, safe from sharp teeth.  As an adolescent, I could feel myself blending into walls, crouching behind an assortment of clothes that played to the particular role I assigned myself for the day.  As a young wife, closets offered refuge from the raging bull in the other room.  In middle age, I became my own closet, moving in, putting the pieces back together again.  At this stage in life, closets are just another chore needing attention.

dark closet

But this morning, thanks to Medicare and Facebook, the small, windowless room whisked me back in time, and for a moment I crouched in deference to the past that made me the woman I am today. And I covered the crone’s lips in bright fuchsia lipstick before opening another door and entering.

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Ambivalence: Dealing With It, Understanding it is Fear’s First Cousin

2 Sep

I always experience a blend of excitement and sadness this time of year. It feels like each day is suspended on a great curve or a massive arch, and having passed the midway point in yet another season, summer achingly descends toward its inevitable end while fall waits around the corner, giddy with anticipation. For summer, each ever-shortening minute seems to mourn the loss of delicate carefree days, but fall is like a child anticipating the first day of school, bursting with energy and full of endless possibilities. 

I hate to see the flowers go, but I love the spectrum of autumn colors, and savor the thought of shorter days and lengthening nights; its nature’s way of slowing us down, bringing a little work/rest balance to our lives.  When the forest erupts in nearly indescribable color, there’s pep in my step that is missing in the heat of deep summer.  I love the bounce and the crisp air that carries with it a hint of wood burning in distant fire pits and fireplaces.  Still, I miss the elegance of blossoming flowers, the sound of bees congregating over the oregano and thyme, the fragrance of sage and rosemary, lavender, Thai basil and lemon eucalyptus.

my love affair with flowers continues MY STUFF1

Each year the changing of seasons is a bit different from the last.  If it’s been a particularly wet summer, the landscape captures the story of persistent rain beating the ground, distending the earths belly with forced feedings that erode fragile ecosystems, destroy newly fallen seeds, and drown insects and other small creatures.  The bodies of summer are carried by rushing streams of rainwater until snagged by mounds of debris that have collected in nooks and crannies across uneven ground.  These makeshift cemeteries will be their last resting place as they ferment and dissolve back into the earth that bore them.  The initial fragrance of rain intersecting dry earth deepens to a musky scent before succumbing to the eventual stench of decay. 

Even the trees seemingly weep, their branches weary, and bark swollen.  While I celebrate the bounty of water, simultaneously I mourn the loss of my precious flowers as they lay their heads to the ground in absolute surrender.  Manically, I’m up again watching the birds feed on fat worms plucked from sodden grasses, easily satisfying their appetites in a ritual of sustainability and regeneration.  If summer has been cruel, if skies have refused to provide water to the dry pleading soil below, the landscape withers in brittle tales of want and desire.  And the earth splits in spidering cracks and crevices, creating safe havens for insects, invertebrates and small mammals. 

cracked earth 1

The trees on the horizon shrink in rising dust, their parched leaves defeated, and dropping by the handfuls with even a hint of a breeze. And as far as the eye can see, there is a backdrop of scarcity and woe.  Soon we move indoors in search of something more, leaving the earth to endure the scalding heat alone.

Evenings are one of the few rewards we find for having suffered the dog days of summer.  Late afternoon often marks the arrival of migratory birds in search of something to eat or drink,  Their musical voices are soothing and reminiscent of old women haggling in a market place.  By dusk, when fireflies begin to light the hem of the woods, we return to the thick, warm air, languishing in lawn chairs, shooing flies and gnats from the corners of our mouths as we talk about the weather, or dream aloud of cooler days to come.

I match each season to the cadence of my own life.  On the cusp of fall, I find myself finishing projects I began in the spring and nurtured all summer long, and compiling list after list of things that must be done in preparation for the cold, dark void of winter that is building just around the corner. 

I’m plucking the dry heads off daisies, sunflowers and Echinacea and scattering their seeds throughout my gardens.  I’m preparing a list of bushes and tree limbs to prune in late October.  I’m harvesting and drying herbs to use in the cold months when their roots are resting beneath ice or snow.  I’m starting construction on small Halloween gifts for the children on my street who delight me year after year with their eager faces squealing “Trick or Treat!”

MY STUFF 2 halloween door

I’m a little early with what I call my Annual Fall Clean-Out, the time set aside to sort through everything I’ve collected or saved since early spring. I’m editing the clutter.  If I don’t, everything I own suddenly owns me, and I become a slave to their upkeep.  I’m getting too old for heavy cleaning and shuffling stuff from place to place anymore, so I’m downsizing in my own way.  I admit to the absurdity and obvious conflict of being both a serial cleaner and one tittering on the abysmal brink of hoarding, and confess that I run myself wild saving for what may or may not ever happen, while throwing away what isn’t actually needed.  I understand that I am my own particular disease just as much as I am its own particular cure.

bandaide on heart

Today is September 2nd.  Outside, if feels as if summer is still with us, but our calendar is filling with autumn activities.  Soon the leaves will turn and begin to fall, and I will pile them on top of all my flower beds to insulate against the bitter cold that lies ahead.  Summer was slow starting for us this year, and already the night temperatures are dipping into the 60’s.  I remember standing on our deck on the fourth of July and telling my husband that winter would arrive soon.

“Sooner than we’ll be ready for it, I fear,” he said.

Time passes so quickly these days.  It seems we are always looking over our shoulders toward yesterday, yesterday when the babies were born and life was joyfully packed with activity and pseudo-drama.  Yesterday, when everyone we loved was still alive, still laughing or causing grief.  Yesterday, when tomorrow seemed a million years away.  But I’ve no time for ambivalent thoughts today.  My sister telephoned; she and her husband and my brother and Mom are coming for a visit at the end of the month.  I have so much to do before they arrive…and there is so much to look forward to, so many busy pleasures and rich experiences for Rich and I to explore before the bone cold winter hand knocks at our front door and whispers our names.

old couple in love 1

  

 

 

Keeping Secrets and Caring for Our Shadow Side

19 Aug

top secret stamp itty

It’s a challenge at times, especially when they rise to the surface, refusing to be ignored.  I can push with all of my might, using laser-beam focus, but it doesn’t help a bit.  Mama used to say ‘some things take on a life all of their own’, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that every single thought, every action and consequence, does exactly that.

A few minutes ago, this was a blank page; now it’s a presentation of my personal beliefs.  Each time I strike a key on the keyboard, the page develops into something more complex than it was when I decided to sit down at the desk. I could stop writing now, but even if I do, I’ve already planted a tiny seed that could grow into a monster, or turn into dust that will simply blow away.

It’s a risk I can’t wait to take.

The world is alive.  Sometimes I picture myself as a tiny cosmic dot hanging onto the bushy outer fur of the world as it races across countries and vast bodies of water, timelines and contrasting poles, picking up speed without breaking stride.  It takes every bit of my strength to stay in place, and not be shaken from the world’s great back like a dog would shake off fleas.

There are days I can admit I am a parasite, and other days I am certain I am a vaccine.  But in either state of mind, I am honest with, and forgiving of myself.  It takes a lot of energy just to talk, but it takes me much more to be silent.  My mind is an ocean churning.  There are dangerous rip tides, under tows and furtive currents to be considered.  There are the whirlpools of life and death struggles playing out beyond eyesight.  My mind is full of formidable forests growing from its sandy floor.  There are centuries old shipwrecks hiding bones and lost treasure.  There are species of fish never before seen. In the sea, I am not at the top of the food chain, I am a little fish in a very big pond; that’s how my mind sees my body, and I can either be lunch or a servant to the brain that owns me.

ocean surge itty

I love the sea as much as I am frightened by it.

For years friends urged me to write a book.  My response never wavered, “Who am I to tell anyone how to do anything?” I would ask.  Yet here I am, shooting off my mouth about my philosophy on secret keeping.  I’m able to rationalize this by convincing myself that no one here has ever lost any money over anything I’ve said.  I’ve never tried to present myself as an expert on anything; I’ve never tried to sell my ideas.  I have sold poetry I’ve written, but I don’t do poetry on the two blogs I write.  I keep blogs the same way I used to keep journals.  Getting older has its perks; I’m no longer interested in what others think about me, and while I know I’m not an authority on any given subject, at this age, I give myself permission to say what I think.

If I have to lie to keep a secret, I don’t keep it anymore; I set the darned thing free.  I haven’t had to do that but a couple of times in my life, but each time I have, I’ve felt robbed afterwards.  No one has ever forced me to divulge anything, but I have been convinced to submit to another person’s will before.  Going against my own values is never good; it’s an act of weakness that makes me ashamed of myself, and I hate feeling that way.

Anything can be a secret really.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be heavy information.  Maybe it was nothing until you decided to elevate it by designating it as a ‘secret’.  Nothing moves a non-issue to the front of the line like good branding.

I have lots of secrets.  If I let them go, I lose part of my mystique, and I’m not about to voluntarily give any of that up at this stage.  I have so many secrets, matter of fact, that I categorize them with indexing ranging from recipes to sex.  (Got your attention, didn’t I?)

Whatever task I attempt, I carry my baggage along for the ride.  I’ve gotten rid of most of what I wanted to get rid of, but I’ve kept an awful lot.  My husband is a fixer.  He always wants to improve everything from a situation to a point of view.  I resist being fixed.  I read a book years ago about Native American philosophy and was transfixed by the whole Shadow Side perspective.  There is light, and there is darkness.  The author explained his ancestor’s respect for the difference between the two, and their understanding of the necessity of each.  Without the light, nothing will live or thrive.  But there are times the light is threatened, and to ensure its survival, man calls on his shadow side to protect it.

light and dark itty

Calling forth the shadow is not done lightly, nor without ceremony.  A ceremony sets an intention; in the case of protecting something as important as a value or the ability to live the kind of life one loves, it is the starting line.  A purification/dedication fire is lit and dancing begins.  Prayers are offered to the Great Ones above.  Finally, paint representing the savage nature of the shadow inside, is smeared across the face.  Then the battle begins.

warpainted woman face itty

The author emphasized the importance of knowing when to pull out one’s shadow and when to put it back again.  To enjoy the acts involved in destruction is to become stuck in one’s shadow. To be stuck in darkness prohibits light.

I appreciate the truth about myself, but it doesn’t matter to or affect anyone but me.   I’ve learned how beautiful the light is, and how necessary it is to ensure its survival.  I’m comfortable with my shadow side too.  The secrets I keep, keep my shadow alive.  I respect any memory that has impacted my life so powerfully that I chose to keep it secret.  I’ve given a name to my shadow side, (that’s a secret too), but I often consult her opinion on issues before I act; I find her wisdom invaluable.  I choose my battles carefully these days, but once I determine a battle is completely necessary, I light a candle, set an intention, ask the Universe for support and guidance, and then I do what I believe is best, no matter the price.

victorious woman standing in low tide itty

Watch the Signs…

21 Feb

Not street signs, although it’s always a good idea to know where you’re going and what rules you must follow to get there, but when I say Watch the Signs, I’m shooting lower and deeper.  Reality isn’t something you witness with your eyes; it’s the place you live under your skin, beneath your bones, inside your heart and mind.  Reality isn’t easily recognized; you’d think it would be, but actually, you’ll probably spend a great deal of your life occupying space, nesting in a specific place, wearing a variety of particular roles and calling it all real

Lately I’ve noticed more and more people seem content to play that game their whole life, never asking if there is anything more, or if there is something they might have missed. I did that myself for many years.  When you’re busy taking care of a family, there isn’t a lot of time left over for considering the philosophical implications of the decisions you make in daily life; but if you run full blast on empty long enough, you’re going to collide with something so powerful; it knocks you off your feet.  For me, being down was the perfect time to ‘go in’. 

What I discovered in the long process of introspection, was alarming.  I made a list of the qualities I believed most fairly represented me as a person.  Every day I had to mark something off of that list.  The list was a litany of illusions; it was protocol for being me. I would have liked to believe I’d simply outgrown the list, but by this time, I’d quit lying to myself.  I had to take the truth on the chin.  As I came to terms with each illusion, it was easy to see why I’d felt one way or another, why I’d made one choice over another; and it was easy to forgive myself once I identified and embraced the source of my need to please others more than to take care of myself.

This wasn’t the blame game; it wasn’t a pity party either; this was solid interior work.  Every so often, I fall off the philosophical wagon, but I don’t stay in the dirt very long.  It has become second nature to remove myself from the chatter and clatter of messaging meant to demean, rather than to elevate or educate.  I am careful of the quality, intent and content of things I put into my mind through television, books and articles, and banter with friends and acquaintances. Once introduced, even if not fully digested, information alters the process of perception. *  ** 

The voice I’m most interested in is my own; that does not make me selfish, rather it acknowledges the importance of accessing lessons I’ve learned as I’ve grown from a child into a mature woman in the autumn of life. 

Self-Is, I say daily. Self-knows. 

There is a line we cross to reach nirvana, once crossed, you can never go back, but even if you lose your footing, you understand you will not die in the fall. 

This morning I was thinking of all the things on my to-do list and feeling overwhelmed.  I walked to the window in my bedroom and looked into the forest.  It was 8 o’clock,but still dark; thunder rumbled from the north side of the mountain to the south, and sleet fell in crystal sheets.  The mobile art my father made that hangs in our pink Dogwood tree, was encrusted in ice, long icicles spinning in the wind like kitchen knives.  Young pine trees were bent to the ground forming surreal arches; bright, yellow Daffodils gleamed like yellow diamonds, and I spoke out loud to the God of such things, asking

Why do I feel as if there isn’t enough time to get everything done, why not just begin?  Why does today feel like a burden?        

I’d scarcely gotten the questions out of my mouth when a large piece of bark peeled from the side of a tree, falling to the frozen ground, revealing the answer.

The tree used a storm to rid itself of unwanted diseased bark

I can use this time to deal with old wood I still carry.  I’ll have ample time to go inside again, to dig through my own storm, to deal with lingering or new issues, and to mindfully prepare my inner soil for the promise of spring.

If you follow all the signs, you’ll see that the answers are hidden in plain sight, and instead of feeling as if you’re carrying an insurmountable weight on your shoulders, you’ll begin to understand that weight grounds us only for as long as we need. 

And that revelation in itself, will give you wings.

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  • The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
  • The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D.