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.

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.

 

Wharehouse Shopping & My Mortality

shoes

I’ve been feeling miserable as hell, but faking it quite well.

Sounds like the lyrics of a B-class rock song, but  it’s true.

I’ve been on the downhill slide of feeling like absolute shit for months, and mostly successful at ignoring it. Until yesterday. Yesterday was not a good day in the health diary of your-fabulous-one.

But here I am, at home, and not dead. Go figure.

Haruki Murakami wrote that pain is inevitable and suffering is optional. It’s a particularly Buddhist quote and it resonates with me as does the fact that the natural state of our bodies is one of health.

So, today, faced with setting up more appointments that will see me sitting in dirty yet sterile looking waiting rooms, I decided that despite pain and suffering, I was going to get on with the business of life.  I mean, I have shit to do man.

Spring has sprung in our little corner of the world, and I fully intend on taking advantage of it.

 

Today after my appointment with the doctor, who confirmed that I am indeed NOT dead, I went to get myself a new pair of  shoes. While I was shopping at one of my sketchy wharehouse sales that make me feel the essence of living on one salary, cue the gunmetal steps with the wood two by four railing and bald fluorescent  lighting….

Anyway, I needed these damn walking shoes…at about twenty five steps into what I am convinced is the next best thing to illegal merchandise, the namesake of the wharehouse gets on the intercom and I shit you not, he says this…

….You’ll have to excuse me because I don’t speak Chinese, so you’ll have to put up with my English. To all of you who are tearing apart my store, I’m going to have my staff ask you to leave. I paid for this stuff and I don’t want you ruining it. I’d rather you shop somewhere else because I don’t need your business…

At first I was appalled, and then I almost died laughing. What a circus!

Often I’ve been accused of being too direct, too bold, too independent, too smart,  wearing clothes that are too loud, and having boobs that are too big.

“Have you ever thought of having those reduced?” Um, yah genius. Would you like to pay my bills while I heal? No? Then shut up.

"No, no, no! It's longer with a bigger blade!"Having been feeling loogy for the past few months, I’ve had some time to reflect. I’ve actually been scared. Yes, afraid. I’m not often afraid of things, but the thought of really, really bad news about your mortality can make you a bit anxious.

What I realized is that I have very few (if any) regrets. Other than having my finances in better order, or a little less clutter for my son to clear out, or maybe not being able to be a mom for longer, I really have had a life well-lived.

Most of that is because of my too-muchness. I have lived out the curious corners that most people avoid as they tread the safe line of social acceptance and keeping up with the Jones’.

what are you talking aboutSo I had to give kudos to the man who called out the rabid greed of warehouse shoppers today. I love being with people who know how to cut to the chase when it’s necessary. Life is, indeed, short.

The last thing I want to waste time on is bullshit, and the first thing I want to waste time on is good conversation, delicious food, wonderfully thoughtful company, playing, laughing and being present in the joy that the present moment has to offer.

For now I will cope with this ill-health in the best frame of mind possible, remembering the comforting truth that the natural state of my body is one of health, and that although I may be in pain, suffering is optional.  I will also wear bright clothing, speak my mind, and laugh at everything.

So, if you’re mucking up my present moment, I’m going to ask you to leave. I don’t need your business.

 

 

To-Do Lists; Faking it ‘Til You Make It

autumtodoBalance is hard to maintain.

I’ve tried pilates balls, running, meditation, hard work and hard partying.

Last night an old pal asked me what was on my Fall To-Do List. After I told him, it felt kind of mediocre. A little pathetic even. They were simple, fun things, with nothing that really deserved a blue ribbon or a mug shot on a trade magazine.

But those simple things do matter.  It’s the little things that string together moments which define a life.

Wandering off the beaten path at the McMichael gallery last week, a dear pal and I talked about the year we’ve had. When I discussed my summer and autumn to-do lists, his remark was a chuckle, “It’s like faking it ’til you make it“. And he was right.

Hardworking, intelligent, emotionally capable folks, (like moi) tend to be good at isolating themselves when they feel vulnerable. I have learned through experience just how important it is to call out for a lifeline and grab hold.

My friends have answered that call as best they can, given their own chaos and capabilities.

A relatively new pal suited up at the last-minute and humoured my desire to participate in Nuit Blanche. Others have shared coffee, baseball games, girl talks and gone shopping with me ( I hate shopping).

My seasonal to-do lists may seem forced, but so far so good. Each day my heart mends a bit more. 

 So far each item on my simple lists have provided me with connection to other wonderful human beings, and that my darlings, is what life is all about.

Music As Therapy: Knee Deep with Zac Brown & Jimmy Buffett

peenMusic is an ancient form of magic. It can transform the atmosphere within seconds, and conjure emotions that have been buried deep.

If you are excelling at the art of living (and it is an art darlings), despite the middle-aged or just aged person looking back at you in the mirror, you still manage to rejuvenate, dismiss the nay-sayers with a regal gesture of your arm, and still have lots of life left in you.

We play music at all of our rites of passage and carefully select which melodies and lyrics reflect the emotions that words seem inadequate to describe.  For instance, on the way to a funeral, AC/DC’s Highway to Hell came blaring out of the radio. It certainly changed the mood in the car, especially for the priest.

At an outdoor summer concert with my kiddo, after a spring and summer of emotional bull-riding, I let the music of one of our favourite-fun bands wash over me.

Gonna put the world away for a minute
Pretend I don’t live in it
Sunshine gonna wash my blues away
Had sweet love but I lost it
She got too close so I fought it
Now I’m lost in the world tryin’ to find me a better way

The sun was setting over a ferris wheel lit up with bright colours, seagulls were flying over the roof of the amphitheatre, and all around me were thousands of people  had paid out their energy (aka money) to escape from the stress of life to sing and dance and be washed clean of the crap of daily living.

Wishin’ I was
Knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky, breeze and it don’t seem fair
The only worry in the world
Is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise, there’s a fire in the sky
Never been so happy
Never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise

This tune brought me back to a holiday I took with my kiddo.  We had so much fun listening to this song as we planned, packed and piloted away. Every time I hear it, it’s like a trop-rock meditation bell reminding me to chill-the-heck out.

Wrote a note, said “Be back in a minute”
Bought a boat and I sailed off in it
Don’t think anybody’s gonna miss me anyway
Mind on a permanent vacation
The ocean is my only medication
Wishin’ my condition ain’t ever gonna go away

I recognize that my note to the world saying, “Be back in a minute”, can apply every day. We have happy hour at our house. It’s a relaxation ritual that involves letting the demands of the day wash off, and lots of laughing about everything.

As it turns out, you can abandon stress right here, right now, if you so choose. Life has relentless stamina, and even though there may be times you don’t want it to go on, it just keeps on rolling like the ocean after a storm.

This champagne shore watchin’ over me
It’s a sweet sweet life livin’ by the salty sea
One day you can be as lost as me
Change your geography and maybe you might be

Whether you’re cleaning the house or front-row-centre, always, always, always, choose the soundtrack to you life carefully.

Knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze blowin’ wind through my hair
Only worry in the world
Is the tide gonna reach my chair
Sunrise, there’s a fire in the sky
Never been so happy
Never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise

Come on in
The waters nice
Find yourself a little slice
Grab a backpack
Otherwise you’ll never know until you try
When you lose yourself
You find a key to paradise…