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.

Fear – You Show Me Yours & I’ll Show You Mine

storytotellFear is a slippery little fella. Sometimes you need to hang on to it so you don’t get damaged, and other times, you need to set it adrift on a flaming raft with an over-zealous shove and a one-fingered salute.

This past weekend, fear crept in and tried to snuggle up in my heart. Good thing I can be a cold-hearted, logical gal when I need to be. Good thing I have friends who remind me not to let my imagination get the best of me and conjure up all sorts of possible ways that my happiness can be sabotaged. Good thing I didn’t turn tail and run. Good thing.

Regardless of what we identify as being bountiful or lacking in our lives, we live within the comfort zone of the known. We live rooted in the identities that we have crafted for ourselves. We cling to our wounds until they no longer serve as shields.

The truth is, we often cling to our wounds long past their expiry date, and we do this because that is the only way we know how to go on living. We do this often without knowing we’re doing it. We fear leaving what is known and comfortable to seek what is meaningful.

During the past 48 hours I  have received calls, and had coffee with friends who have all experienced some sort of crisis rooted in fear. I was an addict. I’m drinking too much. I keep winding up in toxic relationships. Today I heard all of these symptoms, and I offered as much compassion and humour as I could. After all, being fearful is normal. We need to tell and re-tell our stories. We need to be the storyteller, and we need to be the witness to the life-stories woven by others. Change is scary, and we need our friends to walk beside us when we don’t know if we have the courage to take another step on a path that leads to goodness-only-knows-where-but-there-had-better-be-margaritas-and-a-bed.

Fear of feeling, dealing with the here and now, or not having someone to prop up an ego seem to have been  served up a la carte over the weekend. It’s  a menu everyone eventually gets served; long in the planning and very bitter. It keeps popping up on the menu until you get tired of the bitter aftertaste and are inspired to take over the kitchen.

brokenThe most curious of fears is the fear of getting what you want. It means letting go of an identity that was defined by lack of the thing itself; career success, loving relationship, independence, you name it. You have to be brave enough to break down the walls protecting your own kingdom of fear.

While trying to shake off the snug embrace of a well-known-and-outlived-it’s-usefulness-fear-of intimacy which had slithered it’s way into my mind, I had a rather synchronistic encounter.

After zenning out and treating myself to some self-care paraphernalia at an over-incensed and herbal-tea’d hippie hang-out, I wandered back to my car completely and utterly distracted. Rationalizing with oneself can be very engrossing, and I was neck deep. I was not going to half-ass this one. I was going to face this thing down even if it meant a haze of incense, tantra-drumming, and Buddhist-throat-singing loud enough to scare the bejeezus out of the neighbours. While I was getting all bad-assed and spiritual with this fear, I was being watched.

Two men of questionable intent approached my car, one wedged between the driver’s side door and the car next to me, pulled on my door handle and banged on my window while the other stood at the right side.

Thanks to good habits, my door was locked, and the car was started. Thanks to a friend who was texting an invitation for a drinky-poo, I was head-down-distracted, allowing these two men to target me.

Hours after I had safely pulled away and caught my breath from the initial shock, I sank into the corner of my couch and cried. I sobbed and relived those few seconds of that man’s face just inches from my own.

But why? I was safe in my own space now. I was ok.

I cried because the threat of harm pulled me back into the rational fear I had developed throughout years of abuse and  assault. It was like someone tossed me back into the arena to face another hungry beast after I thought I’d finally made it out alive.

What I did next was remarkable. I reached out. Well, I reached out the best I could. Via text of course, because I couldn’t bear to speak and have anyone hear my voice tremble. My pride wouldn’t hear of it.  “I kinda need you.”

It’s rather ironic that my fear of letting someone in was challenged head on by someone literally trying to get in.

presence.jpgPart of healing and kicking fear in the ass is learning that it’s ok to be vulnerable sometimes.  It’s a lesson that I have found extremely challenging. But with true self-compassion, vulnerability can be the greatest warrior in the battle on the front-line of fear.

There is a spiritual alchemy exchanged every time we offer support or receive it. This alchemy is grace in action, mercy in motion, the very human breath of compassionate and spiritual living. It is the greatest enemy of fear. It’s ok to kinda need someone, they kinda need you too. Trust me, if you show them yours, they’ll show you theirs.

 

 

 

 

Just When You Think It Can’t Get Any Worse

danceinthekitchenI have had one hell of a year.

It’s been a  ‘real doozy’ as your granny might say. Like a feather pillow at a pre-teen slumber party, sometimes you just get the emotional shit kicked out of you.

Tonight as I stretched toward the top of the cupboards with the longest barbeque tool I could find, I heard the voice of he-who-shall-not-be-named telling me that I was going to hurt myself. Deftly I scooped up a long wicker tray, and tipped it into my waiting hand…like a boss.

A few months ago, I was planning things with this he-who-shall-not-be-named sweetheart. I hadn’t been that happy in sooooo long. I was over the moon.

Tonight I’m alone.

As over the moon as I was a few months ago, I dove that deeply into mourning the loss of all that it was going to be.

What is it they say? I think it goes something like this, “ My knight in shining armor turned out to be an asshole in tinfoil“. Whatever… and at this age and stage, who cares?  It is, whatever it is. It’s. Not. My. Problem.

One thing that I do know for sure is that the future is too precious to waste dwelling on the past.

As I heard that voice in the back of my head, tipping my wicker baking basket over my head, I realized that I was truly happy. Happy. Goofy smile, humming to myself, dancing like a fool all by myself in my tiny kitchen.

I  stirred caramel corn and baked devilishly good cupcakes while bopping around my little kitchen in tights and a t-shirt, not missing anyone or anything. You see, just when you think it can’t get any worse, it often does, get better.

Over time, and with careful observation of how my mumster handles herself with grace, strength, and my favourite trait; humor, I realize just how much control we do have when it comes to having a good day or a bad day.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes life just stinks, and you need to curl up in a ball. You need to rage, cry, hate, feel insecure and alone. You need to do all of this without apology or holding back.

And one day you’ll be done with it.

You’ll find yourself all alone, smiling from the inside out, and you will realize just how damn wonderful this one, precious, life really is.

The Prick at the End of the Needle

"Blessed are the hearts that can bend, for they can never be broken." ~Albert Camus~

“Blessed are the hearts that can bend, for they can never be broken.”
~Albert Camus~

Most days I go out into the world feeling terrific, like the world is just waiting to unveil some wonderful treat.

Imagine your spirit as a  red helium balloon floating across the sky – that’s the kind of energy I try to show up with every day.

Some days though, I run into a prick that pops that soaring balloon and leaves my spirit withered and spent in the dirt,  feeling a little  slimy on the inside with the shine worn off. I know I’m not alone.

Often there is one person out there who is the prick to your balloon, at the end of the universal needle of life. You’re either the balloon or the prick. It’s that simple.

Or is it?

Tonight, as I mindlessly flipped through the March 2015 Edition of Shambhala Sun, I came across an article by Zen teacher John Tarrant. Part of the beginning of the article read like Mr. Tarrant was inside my mind;

“All that stuff you are having a hard time with? Your mind might be doing it, you know. The difference between happy and sad might be inside your mind.” And, even though your head has been filled with conversations, justifications, reasons why your ex-husband really is the difference between happy and sad, or possibly it’s your boss, your kid, or climate change – you begin to wonder…To consider you might have a part in your own difficulty is like a loss of innocence.

Driving in my car, and throughout my time at the gym, I was thinking that I need to come up with some ways of allowing my bright-red-balloon to soar while defending against the prick.

Given that my usual method of dealing with people like this is straightforward; “You know, you’re being a(n) ________ ” (choose your favourite descriptors for pricks), not being able to deal with the situation head on for fear of damage to myself, I know that I must get creative.

I thought that perhaps I could dull the prick, but then a wise and wonderful gal-pal reminded me that sometimes being struck by a blunt object is harder than a sharp object ( yes, it does help if I think of things symbolically – I’m weird like that). Then I thought about donning armor against such sharp pricks.

That might be the trick – finding armor (AKA: coping mechanisms) to outwit the prick.

So that’s what I’ll be working on for a while; ways to remain my flamboyant, positive, creative self without exposing those wonderful gifts in a way that lends itself to being popped by the pricks of life.

Gym Class Flashback

gymclassThere are few things I can recall being worse at than anything to do with High School gym class. I mean, the shorts alone were enough to make me weep, not to mention the knee-socks.

To say I’m not athletic is to say that Harper Lee is a mediocre writer. In other words, I sucked at gym. Other than basketball, and hitting a baseball, I dreaded that class more than anything, and was so thankful that the high-school-credit-gods decided that one was enough.

During gymnastics class I once did a vault and actually knocked my spotter unconscious with my right thigh. The same girl was victim to a line drive when she was pitching to me, which once again rendered her without response. When she offered to stand up in my wedding, I should have known the marriage was doomed.

Tonight, after a two-week hiatus, I took my chubby little buns off to the gym right after work and hit the cardio class. I hate this class. There is no joyful flailing of flab like Zumba or Urban Rhythms. It’s all very practical and ham-string agonizing.

My first clue that something was up should have been the lack of participants in the room. You see, this gym is busy enough that you have to be banded to attend class. It should have been full, but it wasn’t, and then I saw her. A woman who surely was the doppelganger of my High School gym teacher. The one that generations of students and their parents had nicknamed, “Spade-Face”.

Spade-Face inspired fear in the hearts of all girls with breasts. She was like a drill sergeant in purple and gold (our proud school colours) sweats, whistle and baritone bark included. Just looking at her made me pee my pants a little bit.

So, tonight in my mind, it was “Spade-Face” whom I was at the mercy of, with my middle-aged porcelain white thighs and tailored to fit sports bra.  It was a terrible class. She lost count, screwed up, and had the personality of a torn  gusset from a totally used up pair of panties.

But I made it through, without too much gasping or excessive sweating. I actually felt good when I walked out of that studio.

Spandex – the great fashion equalizer. I may wear a suit all day, and provide ‘expertise’, but when we get to the gym, it’s just my glutes and yours darling, and yours win hands-down.

As it turns out, I really wasn’t that bad when it came to athletics. Nope, like most young ladies who were abused, I just had incredibly low self-esteem, and would rather have worn a moo-moo over my svelte 16-year-old body than have anyone see skin.

Years passed, and I shed the skin of victimhood, to find out that I wasn’t such an athletic anomaly as I thought I was. I loved going to the gym, played squash, and even started running when I was in my mid-thirties. I even have a ‘sports’ injury incurred from competitive paddling. Go figure.

So, with this in mind, I have set some new goals for myself after a bit of a lazy go at living. Wish me luck, and I wish you luck too. This getting older may be harder on the ego and bones, but it does wonders for the spirit when we put it all into perspective.

You Think You Have Time

thinkyouhaveI’ve had a lot of pretty deep conversations this week. In my line of work, that’s not so odd, but in my personal life, I try to keep things gloriously simple and straightforward.

After all, time ticks by quickly, and no matter how wealthy you are, you can’t buy more of it.

My own summer has seen three young lives suddenly lost. My professional life partners me face-to-face with loss and life choices every single moment. We all, do, think that we have time. But we really don’t darlings. Life is a dazzlingly slick dance of smoke and mirrors that we barely have the ability to comprehend.

If you want to be happy, be happy. Love is rare and beautiful in this short and precious lifetime. Leaps of faith are required to make the most of your precious and delicate debut on the planet.

A delightfully delicious specimen whom I think is relatively gaga over yours truly said to me, ” I think you like being single.”

make someone love you

After having lived my words, and taken many great leaps of faith when it comes to matters of the heart, I have been let down each time.

So, my response to this wonderful man was that of course I like being single. I like my own company, and over the years myself and I have gotten to know one another pretty well.

We’re both hilarious, brilliant, and we share the same taste in men and wine. Why on earth would I give up spending time with myself unless my male counterpart weren’t as equally loving and kind?

So, that’s the crux of the matter folks. Although I won’t be making the cover of Vogue any time soon, and I’m pretty sure that regardless of however fabulously engaging this blog is, I won’t be winning the Nobel Prize for literature this go’round, I’m worth at the very least, a kind, loving partner.  We all are.

 

There you have it. Life in the nutshell of a few sentences. Everyone wants someone, but that someone must make life happy and good. You may even have that person in your life, but failed to wake up to that realization or be courageous enough to do anything about it.

Isola FarneseSo, as I make my debut into the foyer of the grand ball of middle age, I realize that however imperfect the circumstance may be, I will continue to take chances when it comes to matters of the heart.

I hope, that in the middle of that leap of faith off of the trapeze of love, I will catch the hand of my partner, and make a spectacularly sublime landing.

Time is short and precious my darlings, and I have every intention of taking a firm hold of what makes me happy and I shall passionately follow.