Abounding Grace & The ‘F’ Word

angrywomanFor months, maybe even years I wrote about how I had observed the incredible life-affirming beauty of grace in action.

I wrote about people overcoming heart-shattering loss, adversity, and hardship with incredible grace; without fists to the sky, without making the lives of those around them miserable, without despair.

I wanted to be able to handle shit that way. I think we all do. What I have discovered is that we don’t necessarily want the practice that it takes to be graceful. In other words, it takes hardship to to learn how to navigate the rough rapids of change with some savvy and style; Without using the ‘F’ word, without letting the shit show shadow all of the other other elements of our lives that we have to be thankful for.

As I have been chronicling in my mid-life-move blog, Andsheshines, (Be sure to subscribe!!!)

I believe I’ve finally leveled up when it comes to coping. You can read about some of my experiences in the great adventure of preparing to empty-nest,  moving in with a man for the first time in two decades, and everything else that goes bump-in-the-night while those stages of life march onward. Time waits for no woman, and I’m going to ride my time like the wild woman that I am.

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Making Space: The Genius of Silence

coffee lakePractice makes perfect.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve relied upon this little nugget of wisdom as a parent when my kiddo whines about not being able to do something. My response has always been; “How do you think I got so good at it? Practice makes perfect; get to it.

Yesterday I was anxious. The kind of anxious that feels like you have a thousand bees buzzing in  your head telling you all of the things you need to do, have to worry about, and can’t control. I was miserable; inside and outside.

Fortunately for me, I had a few hours of quiet time at the end of the day .Quiet for me is heaven. Quiet in the morning gives me time to meditate, and to take in just how fortunate I am.  It’s never a process whereby I sit cross-legged on a cushion wearing a mala made in Bali or a tunic made of hemp. No. It’s simply sitting with my thoughts.

Last night, in the quiet of solitude, I was able to spend some time reading the words of Thich Nhat Hanh.   It reminded me that my practice is not perfect. Far from it in fact. Just because I studied at the temple, attended dharma classes and go to silent retreats does not mean that my meditation muscle is exempt from a good workout on a regular basis.

As adults, we forget that our health as a whole is something that we need to practice on a regular basis.

It’s time for me to make space for some of the books and advice that I’ve gotten in the past. It’s time to make an effort again putting theory into practice.

It’s time for the genius of silence, and for my practice of peace to become a little bit more perfect.

The Buddha at Our Feet: The Wisdom of Annie

buddhist toesBecause life is short, and our intuition is bang on.

That’s why we need women in our lives like Annie.

Annie is my new pedicure professional. She’s voluptuous, has a full-rolling-belly laugh, and swears like a sailor. She also believes in spirits and the unexplainable.

I had stumbled into her shop after having a wonderful massage from another great lady, Erin, my massage therapist. She had just finished up our hour long appointment by rubbing sweet orange essential oil in my scalp on on my face. I looked the full part of a wild woman, and I smelled like heaven.

“Oh my god, it looks fantastic! I thought you had mousse in it.” Was Annie’s response when I tried to explain away my crazy she-wolf hair.

Annie could barely take her eyes off her phone when I walked in, no doubt skeptical about having to deal with another ho-hum woman who wanted her nails shaped just so-and-not-like-that-but-like-this. But both being straightforward and open women, it didn’t take long for us to connect.

Crouched at my feet was a wise-goddess disguised as a blue-collar-service worker.

Sometimes we stumble upon people in our lives that reinforce our own wild nature. Annie is one of those people.

At first, I thought, “Sweet Jesus, save me from the blabber-mouthed fool.” But she kept talking, and I realized that although some of what she said was shocking, it was all true. True to her, true in the world, and deeper than talking about the weather, or how our children were doing so well in school. Annie gets it.

She gets feeling nervous about firsts, body image, the plate full of worries that every woman sits down to every morning. She knows what it’s like to look down and think; I’d rather go hungry than digest this shit, and she carries on. We are kindred spirits.

It is so easy to slip into the Stepford-trap of conformity, of body-hating, of tame language, or wanting what the Jones’ have. It’s so easy to not be satisfied, to crave more, to fall into the trap of feeling not-good-enough.

Women like Annie are few and far between. I have been blessed to have her in my life; a Buddha at my feet.

Letting Fear Scream Like the Child It Is

It’s April 7th and there is snow on the ground. I feel (physically) like I’ve been hit by a truck , and you know what? I’m so miserable I want to crawl out of my own skin.

zen circle.jpgWhich is really crappy. But sometimes crappy is ok. Sometimes we must embrace the tired, sore, discouraged and frustrated parts of our psyche and let them have their say.

Today I’m not in a shit mood, that’s why I’m writing about it. I’ve gained a little more perspective and had a little more sleep.

You see,  I was also in a shit mood on the 9th. Despite the sun shining in as I drove to work,  some poor sod got the finger when he rode my bumper, and not just a flip of the bird. I must have held it up there  and waved it around for a full 10 seconds like a hillbilly waving the confederate flag. I wanted to make sure he saw it. Yah, not a proud moment.
It’s in these moments, I want to not only be aware of, but practice, Thich Nhat Hahn’s famous teaching about cradling our suffering like a newborn baby. I want to be aware of that, but what I usually do is spiritually squirm like a spoiled toddler, wanting to stamp my feet, whine until someone gives me ice cream and then tucks me in for a nap.  But I am getting better at it.

Spiritual practice is long and sometimes it feels grueling. In a culture that praises speed, cultivating grace is a long, slow, lifetime process.

Recently I’ve had the benefit of more solitude and silence than usual. Unlike during years past, I’ve had questions of clarity pop into my mind about my attitudes, reactions and fears. Better still, I’ve had the opportunity to let the reasons why come to the surface.

angry trollWaving a white flag and needing a hug, all of these reasons have come crawling out of the past. Finally. Since the distillation of my emotions and thoughts, fear seems to be their leader.

When you’re angry, jealous, sad or hurt, ask yourself why? And then ask yourself why again. And again, and again….trust me, it always, always boils down to fear.

So give yourself the bad days, the pissy, miserable moods, and yah, every once in a while you might slip up and lay on your horn for thirty seconds or flip an intentional bird. Just look a little deeper if you can when the clouds have passed. You might catch a glimpse of your fear poking out of hiding, ready to make friends.

 

Teenage Head vs. Buddha

be here nowMy sweetie and I are not of the same vintage. We often find ourselves WTF’ing about our friends’ antics, and our choices of entertainment .Yet we persevere, giggle, and learn A LOT.

It was this past weekend at a Teenage Head concert that most of my Buddhist training came back to me. Present moment? Pul-eaze, these folks were hanging on to the past harder than me hanging on to my only child’s innocence.

The present moment was nowhere to be found. Hanging on to beer bottles like the social-teddy-bear-comfort-of-underage-drinkers, fifty and sixty-somethings duded themselves up in outfits that should never, ever, be seen in public. Ever.

Were they having fun, or out there hoping to have the same kind of fun that they organically experienced in their youth? It’s a spiderweb issue, never really to be dissected.

I’ve had the good fortune of being exposed to trauma and crisis. Yes, I did say good fortune. I say that because I’ve witnessed true grace under presssure. Whatever the age or stage, it takes grace to transition to another phase with success and with some modicum of fabulousness.

Which brings me to the crux of what I’ve been thinking about lately; how to remain happy in the present moment, and continue to be spontaneous even as fear disguises itself as good sense and responsibility.

It’s tough. “We get cautious“, my gal-pal said to me during a conversation about how we’re feeling ‘old’.  Just yesterday I was stretched out in a worn blue gown that ties at the back on the pale green sheets of a gurney, being told about parts of my internal organs that were not healthy.

edith-piaf-non-je-ne-regrette-rien-columbia-8I regret nothing; The crazy nights out, my falling in and out of love,  career changes, my devotion to my kiddo, and especially my larger-than-life-sometimes-too-much-for-you personality.

What I do regret though is the caution that has gotten comfy and is taking up space in my psyche.

So, I hope to find joy in new places, experiences and acquaintances, that maybe, just maybe will scare me a little bit.

I beg of you. Let the 80’s hair, leather and old artists go. rade it in for the some half-shaved version  of the now, more sassy leather, and support new artisits. Find something new and fresh. Live in the present moment. Allow your body and your soul to mellow and change. Rejoice in your softening.Read new authors, go see new plays, listen to live music written and performed by kids who could be your own, paint your living room red, learn to code….

Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart, and laugh. Laugh a lot.

 

 

 

What the Women’s March on Washington Means to a White Chick

goddess

” A house divided against itself cannot stand.” ~Abraham Lincoln~

I’m as white as they come. I’m a woman. I will never be and have never been anything other than I am. I will never know what it’s like to be Black, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, financially affluent or well-connected, and the folks who identify as all of those things and many more will never know what it’s like to identify as me.

Farah Stockman’s article on the front page of the New York Times brings up a lot of really great questions about race, class, privilege and other social issues. I suggest you read it.

The Women’s March on Washington is an opportunity to come together as a community to protest the ass-hat who was elected (and yes, by a number of ‘white women’) as the next President of the United States. I believe that everyone who voted for Ms. Clinton should be in the streets to protest the twisted fuck up that is known as the Electoral College. I believe in the power of numbers and the power of kindness.

To the groups who have made the March a divisive issue, thank you for falling into the eons old trap of dividing women to diminish our power. It happens in families, in the workplace, and now, under the spotlight of a grand social scale.

For once in our history of gender, let us come together without any other motive than to access the full potential of our political clout; the marginalized power of the sacred feminine.

What spiritual, political and ethical living come down to for me is; how would you treat me if I needed your help on the street?  I like to think that we would all, when we’re eye to eye, regardless of race, creed, class, gender or anything else, reach out and help. If you don’t feel the same way because I am white ( thanks for assuming), perhaps your place is not at an inclusive March?

You’re preaching to the converted. We’re there because we support equality, and we’re not afraid to learn more.

Bring your signs. Show the world what you stand for; is it gender equality, racial equality, equal pay…??? Bring it and come in droves. But don’t hate the next person for being different, appreciate them because they are there, standing side by side with you, supporting you even though they carry a different message. What matters is the message of unity against evil.

I will stand happily with my white friends, my black friends, my Muslim and Buddhist friends; male, female, trans and anyone else who simply wants to make the world a more loving place to live. I don’t care how you identify, as long as it’s from a place of inclusiveness and love.

This is what the Women’s March means to me.

 

Commitment – The Other C Word

going-all-the-wayYears ago I read an article in one of my Buddhist magazines that was about the freedom of commitment. At the time it seemed like a radical idea to me, you know, that freedom and commitment should co-exist. Commitment after all has this connotation of strangling one’s freedom, especially when it comes to romantic relationships.

The gist of the article was that once you have committed to something, you no longer spend energy on the wavering. Your mind is clear, and you can live a better, more enjoyable life.

Yes, yes, yes…to all of the cynics out there who still give reason the blue ribbon and instinct the dreaded, thanks-for-participating-but-you-suck ribbon, we know, anything can happen, nothing is forever, and change is inevitable.

I challenge those freaks of social programming to ride the rapids of change as well as those of us who trust our gut.

This year has taught this little family a lot about commitment. As my kiddo weighs his many options to ‘commit’ to a school and a team, the rest of the family holds their breath as well, because for years he has been the center of our world. Where he goes will change the course of the flow of our lives too. With that commitment comes the peace of mind that our wee little reptilian brains crave; order and predictability.

 

So, that’s one kind of commitment.

The other kind is the get-down-on-one-knee-and-let’s-become-one.  On top of  life changes to my role as mother, I’m also at that mid-life-make-it-or-break-it-stage. I’ve lived the ‘freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’ my entire life. I’ve been alone. As in alone-in-the-world. I’ve always wanted a sidekick, a partner who is committed to crazy old me, and who is my best friend and lover.

Last night, sitting quietly by the glow of the Christmas tree, I had a chat with my man-pal, and I talked about taking him ring shopping tonight. At which he balked. Not a good feeling, but honest, and I can appreciate that.  So, with my own little tropical-cocktail-all-aglow-buzz, I sat quietly for a while and let my thoughts whisper to my heart, which then translated for my head.

Just like my son committing to a team and a school, one person committing to another is something only they can decide. There will be no ring shopping tonight. There likely never will be for me. I’m not really the type of woman who does that anyway. The best people come into our lives and want to stay because they love us. A man will commit or not, and in the mean time, I will live my best life possible. Every type of healthy, lasting relationship takes commitment and that is something that can’t be manufactured.

If the people and relationships that you want in your life are not committing to you; your employer, your lover or your friends, commit to yourself. Commit to making choices that will ensure you have the freedom to spread your wings in order to find the things that make your heart happy, and are easy to commit to.

Blowing Out the Candles

candlesOn the eve of my 4o-plus-somethingish birthday, I cannot help but reflect upon the lessons I have learned this year. In theory I’m an expert.  In practice, however, that’s another story.

I do believe that the difference between theory and practice is the key to successful living though darlings, because bridging that gap is the difference between annoying should-sayers, and the people who shine brightly and inspire the rest of us.

Grace has been a concept I’ve wanted to put into practice  throughout the past few years. There are  times I have failed miserably; my birthday breakdown at a bar while trying to sort out my mother issues; my insecurity as a partner, my ability to maintain a positive attitude in light of the every day demands of living. Yah, I’ve failed a few times.

But I have learned a few things from all of that bluster, and I’m old enough to take the liberty of sharing them with you;

  1. I have spent way too much time on my hair.
  2. We allow ourselves to be led by a false economy and fabricated news. Does it feel right? Do it. Does it feel wrong? Don’t. The world would be a better place if we all followed the golden rule.
  3.  If you love your body, it will love back. At a certain point you realize your body feels better when you eat this and not that; when you do this and not that.  It loves water and apples and decadent butter cream chocolate from your favourite Chocolaterie. It does not like to listen to people incessantly rambling about fad diets or extreme routines. Love your body, let it gently communicate to you, and it will love you back.
  4. Kindred spirits aren’t terribly hard to find, but it’s terribly hard to be vulnerable enough to get to know one.
  5. Create things. Anything. Creativity is your human spirit making itself present in the world. Let it sing, paint, write, carve, stitch, bake….whatever! Let your mind wander and your spirit reveal itself.
  6. Do not let bitchy people ruin your day. Attitude is contagious – be sure to protect yourself.
  7. Nobody’s watching. Seriously. Just relax.
  8. Change is scary, but constant. If you can be excited through the fear, you have life licked.
  9. You need friends of all ages; older ones and younger ones, and people who transcend age. You need nurturing and affection and the awesome healing power of human touch.
  10. Flannel jammies, hot tea and a good hobby to keep you occupied are three simple things that are highly under-rated.
  11. Always, always, always buy the shoes.

The Economics of Time; How We Spend Our Days

coffeeinnature

How did it get so late so soon?          It’s night before it’s afternoon.              December is here before it’s June.       My goodness how the time has flewn! How did it get so late so soon?                ~Dr. Seuss~           

…and we do spend them…

More valuable, and even more volatile than the markets, my awareness of the preciousness of time becomes more acute as I age.

Today I woke feeling less than rested. Actually I felt like I’d been not only hit by a truck, but dragged along a wet, dark gravel road for twenty miles. My body actually ached from relaxing. Relaxing! 

The past month has focussed a spotlight on how I’m actually spending my days, and how much energy goes into caring for and worrying about the comfort of other people. It’s a fine balance when you are a nurturer who needs nurturing.

So this morning, perched in my Adirondack chair on the patio feeling like my body weighed ten thousand pounds, I  made a decision to spend the day creating; writing, learning how to play my new sparkle-purple ukulele and then tending to the few things I must do; an appointment and  groceries for dinner.

Staring up at the sunshine gently streaming through the September evergreens, I gave myself permission to spend the day wisely. The energy I expend today will bring me  joy  in abundance.

How we choose to spend our days is how we choose to give our energy to the universe. In such a fast-paced world, with so many temptations, it’s easy to skim the surface of life keeping busy without time to satiate the gentle yearnings of our spiritual selves; waking up quietly in the fresh air with a cup of steaming coffee, keeping the slow quiet company of loved ones so we can share our thoughts and feelings  without agenda, letting the poetry in our hearts find its way onto the page, and taking pleasure in the mundane tasks like cooking that maintain our homes as safe havens of love and support.

Today I will spend my time wisely, like the precious gift that it is. My wish for you is that you get to do the same.

 

A Place You Belong, A Sense of Purpose & Someone Who Loves You

storytotellYesterday I started reading The Rainbow Comes and Goes. Perhaps drawn by fame and perhaps drawn by the mother-son relationship, I lugged it in to my pedicure appointment and settled in for a bit of escape.

I have to admit, my first literary choice was Change Up, but I’d forgotten that on my way out the door. So, having had  a crap weekend, struggling with grief, belonging, and contemplating my very independent (aka alone) status in the world, I shelled out for a book that had piqued my interest, but likely never would have read had I not been so distracted. Ah yes, we must be thankful for serendipity and the overwhelming feeling that we need to disappear.

It’s interesting to me that the stories people tell themselves; the ones that shape their identity and perspective often go untold. It’s often the ugly-step-sister emotions, like not being good enough, that drive us to be better. They drive us toward what is right and good, because let’s face it, wrong and bad are only fun for so long.

Reading about Anderson Cooper and his famous mommy G.V. reminded me again that we’re all the same inside. Regardless of whether you’re just an average cog in the machine, or someone strapped with a moniker tied to family and wealth, I believe that we all seek the same things; a sense of belonging, purpose, and connection to someone who deeply loves us.

When those things are missing, getting out of bed in the morning can be a bit like taking the first step on the road to hell. Being tired is one thing. Being tired of it all is another. But we do it. We get up when we feel out of place and alone, and we carry on. We all must do it every once in a while, but lately, as in the past few years, it feels a bit relentless.

So, if you’re feeling out of sorts  (like me), you need to have some quiet time to see what’s out of balance, and what, if anything, you can do about it.

Reading a short essay about meditation and practice, I came across an idea that helped me during my last retreat. When we meditate we begin to ask ourselves basic questions. We may seek answers from books or teachers or friends. The reality is that no one has the answers, and just as importantly, no one can tell you which questions you need to ask yourself. But it always comes down to ‘why’.

During a walking meditation along the Ottawa river I came to my ‘why’. I was more than a bit surprised at what I came up with. Which of course led to a more important why, and I’m still working on that one.

As you work toward your ‘why’, may you have peace in your heart. Wishing you and I both a place where we belong, something to do that makes us proud, and someone who loves us deeply.