Tag Archives: self

put this antique on the roadshow…a life less lustrous

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it is nighttime, not typically the right time for my write time, but this first day of a brand new year begs for words to greet it. tiny christmas lights twinkle their last wishes my way as i finally sit down and start to play with my words. mmm, words…they tickle and comfort me with soft ideas and breathy inspiration, so close to my heart they change its rhythm sometimes. so special is the feeling, that most of my reflections on the passing of 2011 fall on how i found my words again.

my writer’s mind started this day by reading again a “note” i posted the same day last year. i was in a similar mood. new year’s day seems to find me pensive if not a little melancholy…i’m noticing a trend. i wonder if it’s always been that way.

at that time, i timidly published those private thoughts on facebook, shared among friends, and was humbled and warmed by the responses. i had no idea why i would make public what amounted to a typical, front porch, rocking chair-style journal entry. i quiver a little now at the implications of that morning and of those words i released into this balance of electricity and magnetism we call life.

i’ve often claimed i was a writer, the declaration always carrying the casual, apologetic tone of weekend artists and idols.  i hadn’t earned the right to describe it as more than a hobby, often started, often stopped. i still haven’t. i’m still scared i never will. and so i was afraid to talk about how i was feeling, that my words were coming back to me, flirting with me, teasing me…that it felt like they were coming back to stay, maybe to change my life.

but seven months after describing what i could only hope was an awakening and not just another lucid dream, i started this blog. during those seven months, all filled up with other kinds of living, i almost let it happen again…the steam evaporate from my passionate breaths and dreams. but something tugged at my focus, sending reminders on airplanes to denver, pulling my emotions to the surface on the surface streets of jack and dean’s LoDo, painting rainbows over mountains and monuments like a child in a coloring book. the awakening continued.

i write. i can say that now, at the beginning of 2012, without the internal wince of a fearful fraud.

woven throughout my post last year is a desire to break through my apathy. i desperately wanted to give some things to myself in 2011. i was hoping i could find the “discipline” or “motivation,” to make and break some habits, imagining what it would look like when i got everything right. the fantasy view. knowing how my soul rebels against the words “discipline” and “motivation,” i pushed a prayer out there with a promise to myself to keep down the  “shoulds,”  embrace when possible the “coulds,” and not worry so much about making them “dids.”

looking back today was a spiritual moment. i had prophesied my year and then fulfilled it. i didn’t do it with resolutions. i didn’t do it with promises. i gently gave myself the right, not the obligation, to keep trying…to know we never really get it right…to be happy that i’m doing my best, even when my best doesn’t impress me very much.

i spent 2011 making and breaking habits i’d struggled with for years, decades, a lifetime in some cases. i was afraid to mention a single one loudly for fear i would flag again and shrink further from those who had encouraged me.  the jinx i would deliver myself was ever-impending and inevitable. i preferred to try and fail in private…no need for the world to know the weakness of my follow through.

but i did mention it…in  some detail, out here for the world to see, and on display in my physical world too…and the jinx never came. my cautious, intentional steps toward things i finally really wanted continued, even as i sensed the heights i was reaching, even as i lost touch sometimes with the earth beneath my feat. and feet.

i grew to love 2011. i imagine it will always be a favorite, despite its pits and zits. it’s in the record books for me. it started with such a lackluster opening act, but at the time, i wasn’t really interested in lustrous things anyway.  i wanted to see everything at its rawest, most naked…where i could trust it and my own perceptions. i knew that recently, as the luster had worn from some of my treasures, i found i’d been fooled by a more than a few.

sometimes your favorite things turn out to be pretty unspectacular, even ugly, when all the sparkly parts are gone.

sometimes under a little patina you find a masterpiece aging with its own tasteful hue. and that was me. my life in 2011. i found the masterpiece under all of the shiny tragedy and fantasy.

and i found out that sometimes luster can be restored. a little can be nice.

i started it all by putting it out there on facebook. my private words and thoughts. i only apologized a few times for doing it, and i will only apologize once here. i still don’t know what i’m doing. but i’m doing. and i’m less and less afraid to do it out loud…to live my outrageous life as outrageous me.

i kissed 2012’s arrival much more sweetly than 2011’s.  last year was like a rocket launch with all of that potential energy on the launchpad, not much movement at first…then slowly it rises…until it inconspicuously hits cruising speeds that barely translate in the earthly mind. and that all fits neatly into my lustrous little world view. 2012 sounds so space age to me. i think i’m cruising for a while, with some good systems go.

i’ll see you same time, same place next year, alphabet. you and me…we’re good together. and to my friends and readers, happy new year…again.

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shiny up your gratitude and give it a display case, or “3 Things You Should Just Learn to Accept”

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so i decided to rest my aching muscles last night by moving furniture…swapping one heavy table at ground level for a large CD cabinet in a third floor walk-up. as two girls, attractive ones even, my best friend and i were unable to find anyone with arms and a back muscle or two to help us out. we’d been trying since november. we threatened to hire an anonymous odd jobs type guy (a.k.a. a craigslist killer) if someone didn’t step forward to offer some help…there were bribes involved…but no takers. the bribes offered were of the garden variety…beer, food…plus the guilt trip of maintaining our personal safety. perhaps lap dances would have garnered more enthusiasm, but based on the response crickets we heard tuning themselves for a long requiem, i’m not sure anyone but anonymous odd-jobs criminal guy would have taken the offer.

so i went with the ol’ “date a strong guy who likes you and hit him up for favors” trick. classic. and he still likes me, even though i forgot to mention the stairs/third floor walk-up part until just before our departure. i swear i forgot. and the truth is, he offered to help, and i accepted. it was that simple…except that accepting help is hard for me, and asking is damn near impossible. now that i’m on my own and defiantly independent, with a kid, a dog, two cats and a house full of stairs and heavy things, i’ve had a chance to flaunt my strength, and stomp around all satisfied, like my 2-year old, pointing at all the things i’ve done, “all by myself” (or in her words, “by Self!”).

yesterday i accepted help that was offered graciously, from someone who offers help regularly to friends and family all around him. i also remember friends, a funny and generous couple whom i’d only just met, who volunteered to spend a day painting my townhouse with me. i remember the humble gratitude i felt that day, just like the gratitude i felt last night admiring the freshly open spot where that table was, and the CD/OCD project i now have waiting for me in my basement. the truth is, we really do very little “by Self!” there is always some village, visible or invisible, helping us out.

this asking for help and accepting it thing is part of a skill set that i’ve been working on for a long time. these are skills i never learned at home. in fact, they were discouraged there, either intentionally or through the magic of guilt or through the subtle art of underminement. (that’s a term of art, my art, or maybe al gore said it first, ew). so here are three lessons on graciousness that i’ve reluctantly learned, and with serious difficulty, accepted as practice:

1) learn how to accept a compliment – don’t qualify it. i still do this more often that i’d like. it’s that “oh, this old thing?” mentality…the need to apologize for or downplay your role in presenting something worth complimenting. i read somewhere a long time ago, that the only thing you need to say in response to a real compliment is a real “well, thank you!” ex:  compliment – “you have a beautiful home,” response – “why, thank you!” vs. “oh, it’s a mess, i really need to clean it, do that one dish in the sink, ramble, ramble, ramble.”

2) learn to accept gifts – this includes allowing someone to pick up a check at lunch or dinner when they offer. i have an employee who has managed to pay the tab every time i’ve taken her out. it’s embarrassing to me, and discourages me from meeting her over a nice lunch instead of in the stuffy offices neither of us work in very often. learn to accept gifts and favors without guilt, without feeling like you now “owe” the giver something equivalent in value or effort. most of us know how to give without expecting anything in return. we also know it feels good. give friends and strangers a chance to feel good. again, a heartfelt, “well, thank you!” will do. an old fashioned thank you card is a nice touch…but these days, an email or any expression of gratitude will typically be enough to kick start a karma bus of goodness for you.

3) learn to accept and even ask for help from well-meaning, gentle souls. it might be a new boyfriend with moving muscles, a stranger in a grocery store parking lot (a well-lit and populated parking lot), a neighbor who spots a way to help you out, new friends with paint supplies, old friends with some spare change to lend to a dependable friend in need, or friends and family who want to support you when you struggle with emotional or physical health.

giving these things, compliments, gifts and help, makes people feel good. the act of giving freely feeds the Universal energies of generosity, Love and compassion. but to give freely, one needs a recipient. don’t just be a “giver,” it’s a subtle form of control if you give and never allow someone to give back. it’s a form of underminement, and it lacks the vulnerability, intimacy, and equality that comes from reciprocity. remember to open your heart and set aside your independence sometimes to actively “receive.” it’s ok and your gratitude is only the first gift you send back to the giver. Universal Love and joy will track them down and deliver more. and of course, never be a “taker.” we all know a few of them, and they dress themselves quite differently than “receivers.”

we are a generous and social species, especially when we let our best energy flow freely. open yourself to that energy and you will find myriad and effortless ways to give and receive that make the world (your world) spin a little more smoothly.

the Buddha on cookie crisp

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in a few moments, i will begin my mommy day. i will be better at it today than yesterday…but not because practice makes perfect. last night as i was coaxing my insomnia out the bedroom door, i opened and read a chapter of a book that a sharp and enlightened friend, also a new-ish mother, passed to me many months ago. the book is titled “Buddhism for Mothers” by Sarah Napthali. i’ve been remiss in reading it cover to cover…and without realizing it, i made it another “should” on my list of Admonishments for Procrastinators. when i mentioned to another friend that i’d only managed to pick it up and read certain parts that spoke to me in those moments, he said, “how very Buddhist of you,” or something to that effect. i loved it.

so last night i did it again, i picked up the book and selected a chapter toward the end. i was reading it, all full of myself for already “knowing” a great deal of the information, when part of it struck me full force in the chest and shook me with new awareness, spreading electricity from my solar plexus to all parts considered. and of course it did, why else would that chapter have been chosen for me?  the page i dog-eared, the question that started the movement inside of me, was predicated on such a simple twist of perspective…a simplicity so common to my greatest insights…like your quietest friend approaching with a hug and a knowing smile. it is a simple question reframed…a question we ask ourselves in the face of every decision, struggle or strain – “how do i approach this moment?” instead, ask yourself “what does this moment require?”  i first applied it as i was staring over a bowl of cookie crisp, chomping away with my head swimming in not very zen thoughts about the book and the Buddha. i threw the brakes on that train of thought and asked, “what does this moment require?” and my answer? “enjoyment of this loud and silly sugar snack.” from there i stared at each floating cookie, the dismembered chips floating and sticking to the sides of the bowl, and reveled in the crunchy ridiculousness of calling this substance “food.” it took all of 15 seconds of providing what the moment required for me to feel the smirky grin of understanding and connection crawl across my face. cookie crisp has never felt so good, never spoken to me like it did last night. it was the most zen cereal experience of my life.

in a discussion on the fallacy of “self” and its very existence, on the impermanence of everything, Sarah reaches deep into the Buddhist teachings to shatter my illusions of “the person i have become today,” and of “me-ness.” i have a lot to learn about and through meditation. i am a beginner with a busy and intrusive mind. i need it though, to sort through all the bounty, pain, joy and sorrow that fills my dreams and minutes. i feel comfortable living in this moment without a “self-image” except that i’m not very good at it…as indicated by the use of the word “i” at least 20 times already in these paragraphs. so perhaps it’s more accurate to say that i’m comfortable with the “idea” of living without a self-image, and that i’ve tried to think and read my way around any regular meditation practice.

that little taste of the Buddha, masquerading itself as a date with “whole grain” frankenfood, inspires me to write here, and to press on in practice and habits that feed illusory bodies and impermanent minds with something a little more substantial than floating cookies.

mmmm. floating cookies.

playdate with little miss Petulance

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man, that first cup of coffee went quickly. i think it’s burning my stomach lining i drank it so fast. i feel rushed this morning, knowing that i have a toddler sleeping upstairs, fresh from grandma and grandpa’s spoiler factory in western new york. a toddler who will wake like the tiny sleeping giant that she is, to throw joy, tantrums and whirling winds into my morning.

i feel reluctantly rushed this whole week, trying to sort out a bunch of my own evolution and squeeze it into a regular, worldly human’s schedule. i’m not complaining, or lamenting less inspired days gone by…but i do find myself whiny and petulant and feeling what i would call selfish. my inner toddler wishes i had my own “patron of the arts” to fund my free spirit…and a live-in “servant” (aka Personal Assistant?). unfortunately, i think people like that expect you to create some sort of art before they consider volunteering funding for further adventures. and i’m just not quite established or brilliant enough to attract unpaid interns for the PA job.

i look at my daughter’s new Curious George Mood Puzzle and realize that i’m in all of those moods at once…though the ache in the pit of my stomach is not real sickness, it’s Love sickness. it’s the kind of Love sickness that makes it hard to think about serious things for very long, the kind i don’t really want to go away, the kind i will never have enough sick leave at work to cover, the kind i’m suppose to manage, not “cure.” i wish giving and receiving Love to myself, to people and to these pages was a paying gig. i wish everything came as easily to me as words do from my mouth and fingertips.

so today i will name my most recent amalgamation of moods…i shall call her Petulance. i look to my daughter for examples, for a crisp definition and easily recognizable signs that Petulance is eating up my day and spirit. she’s 2, she does petulant well. she expresses it outwardly, boldly, unapologetically and sometimes with a whine that, while irritating, is expected and correctable over time.  it is SO much less attractive on me. and even though i keep much of it concealed from the grownup world, i can see it in myself in the mirror, and in many of my recent spiritual reflections. lately, as fun and interesting things have populated my heartscape and schedule, i’ve not had much luck trying to overcome Petulance and her abhorrence for my 9-5 responsibilities.

it’s time to try something different, an experiment. today i will embrace Petulance and attempt to forgive myself for all of the whining, the sulking, the procrastination, the selfishness, the laziness and all of the inconsistencies and recriminations floating around my skull and clouding my vision of an enlightened life. i’m pretty sure that an enlightened life includes all of the moods and attributes included in these paragraphs. efforts to eliminate them feel futile (like my job sometimes)…so i will welcome Petulance and her constituents graciously as visitors, even if they are the kind most can only take in small doses. perhaps if i welcome them, feed them, comfort them and then show them kindly to the door, my magnanimity will have enough energy and focus leftover to spend on the tasks and dreams at hand.

my magnanimity may need a glass of whine…er…wine later and a grownup friend to talk to after entertaining Petulance all week. and my toddler may need a glass of (something age appropriate) and a stuffed elephant to talk to after dealing with one day of me. if anyone has suggestions for entertaining and wearing her out, i’m listening. i’m talking about suggestions for Petulance, not my 2-year old.

consequently karmic

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i don’t hear people use the word “consequence” to describe the results of anything good. maybe i’m missing it in conversation, but it seems to be one of those words that appears only in the same context as “discipline” and “learning your lessons,” usually mentioned in my internal dialog by deep-voiced authority figures…ones like the fake voices i sometimes use when reading to my little girl. as for me, i’ve seen consequences fall like burning rocks of lava from my sky for quite a while now…a shitstorm of consequences that burned and hurt and scarred, resulting from the actions of myself and another…Consequences of Doom that were volcanic, cataclysmic and explosive. i’ve also seen how important it is for every person to experience the natural consequences of their actions, doomy, gloomy or glorious.

consequences are merely outcomes…the natural outcomes of actions taken or not taken sometime earlier. they can feel awful, okay or even great…but the consequences themselves just are. i lollygagged through my day yesterday, fearing the unknown, imminent, unfortunate consequences that surely were looming behind my next whine or moment of procrastination. as i furrowed my brow through an all day recrimination festival, it dawned on me that the goodness in my life is also a consequence, or an enchanting collection of consequences, from a few things i must be doing right. it’s important to realize that consequences are your teachers, not punishments, not rewards. they teach us how to navigate choices, read people and relationships and keep our momentum when we catch a nice wave.

when things are this good in my life, i find myself searching for the mistake(s) i’ve made in the past or am about to make that will bring down with a crash all of the happiness and strength that i’ve built and enjoyed recently…bring it crashing down around my soft head and wide, exposed eyes of wonder. that search for doubt and impending despair is a product of fear, a little emotional luggage i suppose, and a sense that no one can really stay this happy…that i might not deserve it, that no one does…that someone or something will come along to suck the wind and enthusiasm right out of my chest.

but as flawed and messy as my life and soul can be, i’ve done a lot of things right. i Love with all my passion and heart. i protect human dignity and living things with every advantage i’ve been given, employing all of my strength, compassion and wit. i forgive myself for my flaws and laugh heartily at them, while celebrating those of others as the imperfections that make this Universe an eternal, delightful, forgiving playground. that’s gotta be worth something, right? i do it all because it feels good…but i have to acknowledge that my active Love in this world also brings consequences.

i’ve heard that karma is a bitch. that sounds kind of judgmental to me. i’m thinking that those who say it often probably experience the bitchier side of karma more than some. me?  i like karma. we get along just fine, even if we are both feeling a little bitchy. (then again, i typically love and play well with “insufferables,” i’m a a little weird that way). it’s important to remember that karma (or whatever spiritual/cosmic equivalent fits better for you in this context)  is also responsible for the delivery of Love and joy and fulfillment…not to the perfect, but to those who put out the effort to live hard, be kind, stay open and have faith. karma has no judgement. karma is consequences. take a look at your consequences sometime…the way you see them is the way you see your life. what you learn from them will be your life.

my blackberry just buzzed and since i’m expecting the call, i have to assume that it’s karma, wondering why the hell i’m so late to work. so i gotta run (or meander)…the Consequences are all there waiting for me and i really don’t want to piss them off.

balanced beaming and bumper cars

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bleah. monday morning. my illuminated life still delivers plenty of dimly lit, squinty-eyed, grumbly-breathed monday mornings. i polished off a particularly outrageous, particularly “me” weekend last night knowing that the physical and psychic transition into this day might drag a bit…and it is. Reluctance is leading Team Motivation this morning and a couple of important members are missing from the round table.

coffee is speaking up, and like my dad, is always a little miffed at the ones who call in sick on a monday. it means that coffee has a LOT of extra work to do, and has to listen to the others bitch and moan while it covers the whole team’s ass. now coffee and another motivator..the one i’ve never met in person and whose name i don’t remember (instinct? survival instinct? something base like that)…are pushing me to live today, to do the things that make me proud and happy and that fund the rest of these words and dreams. work, dishes, laundry, cat-food shopping…it’s hard to push a limp body up a monday morning hill.

so this limp body is twitching, stretching proudly (and gently, ouch), and straightening up to face the parts of life that come after a weekend of friends, shooting guns for fun, baking yummy treats, playing scrabble, watching movies, losing sleep from all the excitement and then tubing my way down the shenandoah and potomac rivers on the clearest, sunniest day of the summer. i’m recovering from a weekend “off” – of a lot of things. i left my monday through friday job where it belongs, my baby girl was on her own vacation for a few days, and the darker side of my attitude took a good long hike. two of my favorite people provided companionship and affection and enough laughter to make my belly sore. i believe i made the most of a rockin’ summer weekend. if there was more to be made, i was too happy, busy and exhausted to notice.

i did notice this morning, however, all of the chores, tasks and obligations i either skipped or that were already laid out for this week. ugh. i’ve never been great at balance. i mean the physical kind. it plagued me in some sports that i was otherwise good at, and looms in my mind as the inevitable reason i would fail a roadside sobriety test, no matter my condition. i can’t even walk down a sidewalk without playing bumper cars between friends. i know there are ways to work on balance…core muscles, muscle memory and practice…but my innate sense of balance has a starting point, a set point…and it’s a little squirrely on its best day (except that squirrels are actually pretty good on a balance beam, if not a little spazztastic elsewhere). the point is, i know i can’t pull off “the dream,” my purpose, without working this balance thing.  the elated, the dreary, the bone-crushingly sad, the euphoric, the mystical, the blue, the exhilarating, the exhausting, the indignant and the livid…all of those influences inside me have to balance, at least enough to stay on or in view of the Path…wherever its twisty terrain leads. so right now i’m grateful for all of you “bumper cars” who help me stumble along. i’ll need a beltway-monday full of them today.

WARNING: never mix metaphor, guns and alcohol

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i’m excited this morning, my head filled with various instruments of dissonance…enough that my thoughts blend and twist and delight and disturb me like a favorite My Bloody Valentine track…with enough layers to combine a dirge with elation and compress it all into one long, busy sigh of complicated pleasure.

why so dissonant? my dreamy self will dress soon, in long, protective sleeves. this emotional pacifist will put on some badassery, inside and out, grab my badass best friend and go shoot some guns. hells yeah. we will learn our careful aim and techniques from a Texan, a real ranger, someone with lots of guns. i will shoot at circles or other inanimate targets, haunted by visions and the ghost of an ever-preserved charlie heston. i will fire safely down a range, prepared for the recoil of the gun, and maybe my soul a little. i know i will flinch at least…challenge my ears, my nerves and my gentler sensibilities. and. i. can’t. wait.

mixed emotions can make me ambivalent…or they can thrill me. mixed emotions are the signage that advertise my boundaries for me. sometimes i need to sift through to the firmest emotions and fortify a boundary…and sometimes blow one apart. today i will do the latter in a most literal way. that’s (one of) the funny thing(s) about boundaries…we need to establish protective boundaries, the kinds that teach others how to respect and please and support us in being our best outrageous selves. then we need to turn to our inner gunslinger and blast our way through the boundaries that limit what we think we are entitled to experience in this life.

i love comfort. i’ve kept jeans longer than any job or relationship i’ve ever had…but i bet like me, you feel the beauty and perfection of comforting things most when you come back from somewhere well outside your comfort zone. staying inside that zone decreases the scope of what we think of as possible, as acceptable, as inevitable. comfort zones breed contentment, then boredom, and then either complacency or rebellion. some people find complacency to be a natural, inert state. i find that complacency destroys both my sanity and the refuge of my comfort zones…makes them into dingy, depressing prisons of habit and stunted opportunity. from within those prisons, i can only decide to die or rebel.

so i’m going to go blow some holes through my complacency, renovate my comfort zone, add a piercing rapport to the sound of my rainbows, throw a pinch of gunpowder in for flavor and lay a little heat on my palate. sounds to me like a meal i might wash down with an ice cold mexican beer when it’s all said and done…or maybe some tequila…to flush the lead taste from my mouth and swallow the awkward chunks of these poorly mixed metaphor. wow,  i’m thinking in some seriously strange tasting visuals about guns and alcohol. thank God i’m not driving.