The Art of Surrender in the War For Ourselves

what is your whyAt the beginning of this new year, I enrolled in a new course. I had my sights set on accomplishing something.

But the universe had different ideas. At least that’s the way I choose to perceive it. Instead of bemoaning the shitty administrative capabilities of the school where I registered, deep down, I believe that this has happened for a reason.

New year, new me.

Or not.

When I got the unexpected bad news, I was dressed to take a little trip in to the school and take a look at where I would be spending some significant time. At first I was angry, and then I thought I should cry, and then I just put my hands up in the air and let it go. It was a full two second wave of emotion. And that was that. I surrendered.

Today has been a humbling reminder to practice what I preach; to allow myself to both have faith in and be vulnerable to my purpose. I can’t pretend that I’m not discouraged, and quite honestly, I feel a bit lost.

But what is my purpose dammit?! Is it the work that has left me feeling burnt out? Is it continuing to create a warm, loving home? I don’t think it’s either one of those things, but I think they are part of the greater whole for me.

But every woman needs something to call her own, the trick is to find the answer to the question, ‘what is my purpose’, and to keep finding that answer with every incarnation of ourselves as we age.

Finding our purpose is a living art of surrender in the war for ourselves.

 

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When We Lose Our Neighbours

greed economyI’ve lived here four and a half months, and said hello to exactly three neighbours. It’s amounted to a total time commitment of under 10 whole minutes. 600 seconds.

Earlier this week a news story broke about a house fire and the resulting fatalities. A single mother and two children living in a multi-family house died.  The house is  suspected to have been scraping under the radar of housing regulations, as most affordable housing does.

A neighbour was interviewed saying that he lived ‘nine-steps-away’, but had never met the family. Just nine steps.

And therein lies the problem. We no longer have a sense of community. We are no longer neighbourly. We no longer have the energy or resources to care for others.  We no longer have the inclination to take the time to build relationships with other people. Our world is losing its humanity in the great race to keep the economic machine rolling.

eat cake

Recently the raise in Ontario’s minimum wage has people divided over the benefits and drawbacks. Primarily the arguments are about the ability of businesses to ‘catch up’ and make profits. What is lacking in the conversation is what has been happening to the most vulnerable people in our communities for a very long time; decreased access to safe housing, health care, and the resulting social maladies. What is also lacking is a discussion regarding the  ridiculous wealth acquired by those who say they cannot afford to pay a fair, living wage.

The short-sighted argue that by raising minimum wage, the vulnerable will become jobless, and their situation worse. And they’re right. Unchecked greed will make all of it worse. Protesting for and protecting the vulnerable can only create a stronger community. It’s what neighbours do. It creates community. It prevents bad things from getting worse.

The word neighbour seems to be going the way of the word chesterfield. Perhaps we’re unwittingly becoming more like our neighbours to the south than we’d like to think.

The Season of Mystery & Light

street lampI’m early, I know.

Advent is not officially upon us, but the shitty greyness of November sure is.

We are smack in the middle of the time of year when everything is bare, grey, and tired.

Not quite officially Advent, the season of mystery, of waiting, of germinating in the darkness so that we may blossom in the light is definitely upon us.

What better way to embrace it all than to try some new stuff?

This year, it’s all new to me; my home, my relationship status, and most significantly, my role as a mother.  Whatever you call your celebration of light in the darkness that you celebrate, the reality is November is often a month of feeling less than sparkly.

As always, I’m embracing it. All of it.  Well, at least I’m trying to. Trying ‘new stuff’ may help ease the doldrums, but is it the solution? I’m not so sure about that.

Being able to be still in the darkness takes incredible strength of mind and spirit. Allowing yourself to feel it deeply without running from the discomfort may be the secret to rising into the light refreshed and enriched. It may also send you to the psych-ward for a few weeks. Chacun son gout.

I try to remember the significance of the tiny lights twinkling in the cold and the darkness. They are the symbols of hope when we are not sure of our place and where we belong, and sometimes that’s all we have.

 

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.

 

Ringtones, Podcasts & Cupcakes

Today my phone chimed in with the famous ringtone I used to assign to men worthy of the term, ‘lover‘,  Let’s Get it On. Yes, I’ve a twisted sense of humour and I’m a phone screener extraordinaire. This ringtone used to either inspire my laughter or disgust, and based on my reaction, I knew whether I wanted to pick up or not.

 

What are old lovers if not opportunistic? Having known my preferences for well over a decade, he was fulfilling his annual happy-new-year-can-I-get-up-your-skirt-check-in-requirement, that quite frankly, had served him  well throughout the years.

Despite my hands-off status, it was interesting to hear from him. You see, besides his jack-of-all-boudoir-trades skills, he was quite a companion of intellect as well.

Which got me to thinking about thinking.

plato-s-symposium-anselm-feuerbach-1873Intellect and thoughtful conversation have always been a huge turn on for me. In our fast-paced lives of distracted-attention-deficit-afflicted-engagement with our loved ones and contemporaries, who has time to think? Like, really take time to put an idea on its’ axis and examine it from all sides? More importantly, who even realizes that we don’t do that? Most importantly, who takes time to set aside a few hours to have meandering discussions about ideas or the creative process, or how we found ourselves at the bottom of the political wheel again? Very few people even have the time, attention or inclination to actually read books (yes, plural) with fully expounded upon ideas, let alone form any original thoughts all on their own. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scolding anyone, I’m as guilty as the next cog.

Tonight, the noise from the television was right up with there with the noise from a leaf blower (a contraption I believe proves our culture has lost it’s collective fucking mind). With dramatic music playing in the background, and a black and neon blue-lit set to match, celebrity couples were  being pimped on one of those disgustingly pretentious cooking shows.  Le sigh….

Has the world seriously come down to this? Really? We’re judging other people’s fondant and cupcakes with more earnest than our national leaders? Buh. Arf. Do something worthwhile for crying out loud! Sit at the table and eat wieners and beans, but for the love of all that’s holy, try to have an intelligent, engaged conversation.

The poop on the television was in direct contrast to the entertainment I chose on a short road-trip this afternoon. A phone call from a previous lover inspired me to take  time to indulge in some exercise for my intellect. It was refreshing to step away from the madness and listen to someone who has taken the time to do some thinking for us.

 

In a world filled with entertainment that at best can be a terrific study in dramatic background music (queue the chocolate cupcakes ), podcasts can offer us  something more substantial.

Trust me, I understand the value of small talk to safely test the waters of new acquaintances. For every discussion about philosophy, spirituality, art, or global justice, there is also a place for sports and fashion, but now, more than ever, we need to nurture our collective spirituality in order to hang on to not-so-long-ago-hard-won-social-justice.

Set the table and I’ll bring the cupcakes.

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 Father’s Day Meditation

coffeemorningToday is the day that we celebrate Dads. Fathers, step-dads, adoptive dads, and for some of us, those men who became mentors and ‘father figures’ to us fatherless sons and daughters.

If you have a father who loves you, mentors you, and is an example of kindness, goodness and integrity, I hope that you celebrate him well today.

If you have a father who, provided mentoring in a much more zen-monk-beating-you-with-a-stick kinda way. Raise a glass. Yes, I’m being deadly serious my succulent little tarts.

Maybe having a jackass for a father has made you a better person? Perhaps the experience has inspired you to a deeper spirituality, taught you the wisdom of forgiveness, or just simply clarified how not to be. If not, then you really need to work on yourself darling. Seriously…

Being ‘fatherless’ has been a blessing in disguise. At first there was pain, anger, hatred, and a deep desire to roll my pretty little sleeves up and spew fire and hate his way.  But after awhile, slowly, like a fog lifting, I began to realize just how wonderful my experience has been. I know that being fatherless has opened up a whole new world of goodness and hope.

I have been blessed with a plethora of wonderful men in my life. Really, really great men who are kind, thoughtful, ethical, and a whole lot of fun. These men are all my fathers, and I thank them all this Father’s Day, from the bottom of my fabulous heart!

For all the ‘Dads’ in my life, this is for you;

Nice Luggage, Let Me Burn It For You

burning luggagePart of my spring ( and sometimes fall ) ritual is heading off to a silent, spiritual retreat. Lead by monastics, it’s an opportunity to sit with my own thoughts, emotions and reflection.

For most participants it’s a bit gruelling, myself included. It’s not the silence that we struggle with, it’s the constant clanging of our own thoughts echoing relentlessly in our own minds.

Silent, solitary reflection leaves no room to escape one’s own bullshit, as it were. There are many silent tears, some not so silent weeping, but much joy in having a sangha to practice with.

Trying to be a better person isn’t a one-shot deal. It’s a daily effort, and a life-long journey. I’m better than I used to be, but boy oh boy, do I ever eff it all up sometimes too.

And I’m not alone in the eff-ing it all up. We all do it. Because we’re all human, and we’re all afraid of something.

Today I wanted to go get a puppy, eat Captain Crunch cereal for breakfast, and go out to stomp in the mud without combing my hair. In other words darling, I wanted to be a kid; A carefree, do what I pleased individual, immune from consequences. I wanted to escape.

Escape from what? I lead a rather charmed life, I’ve cultivated an image of  independent-do-as-I-pleaseness, and lots of women are a bit jealous of it. But it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. It’s a hard thing to change, this hard-won, Teflon veneer, (and just as hard on my sweetie), and quite frankly darlings, I’m way overdue for a change.

Alas, this morning I did not do any of those things that would have been escape-like. Instead, I made breakfast, threw a load of laundry in, and stared at my tired eyes in the bathroom mirror before sighing a big sigh and convincing myself to let it go and get on with my day.

In my previous post, Spring Road Tripping, I wrote about the rare sound of the laughter of friends. It seems that as adults, we’ve all over-packed and prepared an arsenal of protective gear  for our futures, based on past wounds. Whether you’re thinking the key to lifelong happiness is building a wall to keep everyone out,  blaming someone else for your own mistakes, or simply burying your head in the sand, rest assured, you’re only buying into your own bullshit. So don’t bring along a wardrobe for it.

Bullshit in a  frock is still bullshit. No one deserves to be judged based on someone else’s behaviour, no matter how you tart it up. Last night I did it, and my sweetie did it, and from the sounds of it, we’re not alone.

Time to let that shit go lovelies. For me, you, and everyone.

Can you enter into each interaction with a sense of generosity?”  That was the quote of the day, and immediately I thought, “Can I enter into each interaction and let all of my fears, baggage and hurt, go?” I figure if we can let that go, there’s really no other intent than generosity. If we can let that go, there’s really no expectation.

It’s the same for a lot of people. Can we enter into each interaction without casting a shadow from the past on something unspoiled, true and good? Can we?

Fear seems to be the beast, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been letting it get the best of me lately, when really, I should be rejoicing.

Life is good. Love is good. I think that’s all I should carry with me on the next stage of this strange and mysterious journey. That, and a little bit of emergency chocolate. Pass me a match and that bag over there, will you?

Decluttering; Physical Space for Our Spiritual Mojo

letitgoChange is the only constant. It’s one of those cliché sayings which sings a universal truth.

As a professional in the area of saying good-bye, I’ve had most of my adult life to contemplate what change and loss mean. I’ve discovered after all of this time and all of the practice I’ve had waving bon voyage to life, that I’m neither good nor bad dealing with my own emotions. I’m merely human.

I’m about three months late here getting to my annual decluttering.  I tend to start at the back of our little abode, and work my way to the front.  My walk-in-closet has become a repository for stuff I’m not ready to say a final adieu, and craft projects that moved with me here over eight years ago.

So often we equate loss to death or divorce, or the careers that build up our egos. But loss is as shapeshifter, forever appearing and then becoming invisible in our lives. It’s there, like music at the dentist’s office; for the most part you don’t hear it over your whirring mind, but every once in a while you notice the sound of the piano, or pan flute, and it either irritates the hell out of you, or lifts your spirits. Either way, it’s there.

One of my projects is to sift through a pile of photo albums. By pile I mean about 30 books.  They’re all little tickle-trunks of memory and persona that myself and my loved ones have tried on over the years.

It’s time to say good-bye to those things.  Keeping a few photos to pass along to my kiddo, and tossing the rest will not only give me more space, but also release some of the tidbits of  old memories that cling like dust-bunnies to my identity.

This morning I had a brief chat about building new relationships and not dragging shit from the past into them. That’s something I’ve become good at – not reliving my many adventures in man-land. At this stage, I do not want to punish any man for someone else’s behaviour, nor do I wish to relive any of my past relationships with anyone else. I certainly am not ready for a starring role as spectator to someone else’s ended love-affair. I’m too old for that darlings, and frankly, it’s a little dull.

At this age and stage, after all of my life experience, I appreciate true love, laughter, silliness and shenanigans. Kindness is king, and nice matters.

Decluttering is often the physical evidence of letting go of the past, and being able to step unencumbered into the present moment. Spiritually it’s a cleanse, and it re-invigorates us.

With the release of physical items that hold the energy of past experience, I often feel lighter, more grounded in who I am and what I’m about.  I also have room for fresh, new clothes and fresh, new adventures. There may even be some space in there for new memories that we declutter years from now, smiling and happy in our hearts about remembering-when.

 

 

Sink Or Swim; Nostalgia & a Little Shove

mylifeHolidays tend to make us nostalgic. Thank goodness that they’re officially over for 2015.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard, “2015 was a terrible year“. Wow.

I prefer to frame my year as a deli sandwich. The bread was delicious, but the meat of it was a little sour. In other words, the first and last thirds were great (as in; good enough), but the middle really blew.

How often as children did we say a year was terrible? We didn’t darlings. We just did the 10 second countdown to the new year and moved forward with joyful, curious abandon.

sufferingNow we yearn for the days when life was simple and  we still believed in magic. Friendships and family were taken for granted, and happiness was just on the other side of the screen door.

As adults, we tend to overcomplicate things. ‘Be kind and play fair’, seem to have gotten lost in the big, adult personal ethics playbook. And that just stinks. Because it hurts. Yes, people can be selfish and cruel, but they can also be kind, giving, and lovely to snuggle up with. Naked.

As human beings, we all want to be loved. We all need and want strong friendships, a true love with whom we can  share our most intimate selves , and bourbon. Ok, maybe the last bit is all about me, but whatever.

When we lose ourselves in the fray of losing the one person we fell in love with, we feel broken. I’ve been there. It hurts. It’s scary, and it puts a pretty harsh filter on our vision of the future.

Just this summer, I sat, sobbing on my friend’s front step, while she nursed my broken heart and damaged pride. I felt empty, hopeless, afraid and lost.

We live in a world that prizes the individual and yet makes it impossible to live without the safety net of community, family and friends. Yes, the great Western-way-of-life has unfolded into a wonderful cock-up of psychological dissonance. But what do I know? I’m just a girl after all.

I do know this. The holiday season has seen a lot of falling in and out of love; happy hearts and hearts that have been broken and need time to heal, relationships that are worn thin, or worn out altogether.

The beautifully terrifying part of it all, is that the only way to heal a heart is to live life. The very life that has tossed you like a small boat on a big, angry, ocean, leaving you feeling washed up and broken beyond repair.

Cling to curiosity. Let your friends lead you when you are  blinded by tears. Be wary of the seductive pull of too much sleep, lack of self care, and try to remember how good it feels to laugh after you decide to, ‘fuck it’.

As a quasi-Buddhist-lover-of-Christian-ritual, this speaks to me. You have two choices; get up, dive back into that same unpredictable ocean to wash yourself clean, or wallow in the sand getting burned by the sun and possibly gnawed to death by vicious, exotic fauna.

Sometimes you need a friend to role you back into the ocean. In some cases, you need a friend to drag you, kicking and screaming, back to life. It’s called tough love, and we all need it once in a while.

Nostalgia and wishing for a happily-ever-after is a waste of time.

havetimeYou and I both know that more than anything else, this is true; life is short and precious.

Take the time you need to sit quietly with your broken heart. Don’t run away from it, or deny it what it needs to tell you.  Take your sadness and swaddle it like a helpless infant. As difficult as this may seem, you will see that soon enough, you will be at peace with it.

Weep. Cry. Scream into your pillow…and as you take your last gasp of sobbing breath, get ready for a shove back into the ocean of life.

You’ve always been a beautiful swimmer darling. Always.