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.

 

 

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Sunday Chores: It’s All About Perspective

danceinthekitchenAbout ten years ago I was in a supervisory meeting and was asked how I was feeling about my life in general.

I was happy. Deeply happy. My son was at, what I thought then, was the perfect age (around 7 or 8 years old). My career was both paying the bills and meaningful. I was single, but content going home to my own space, and feeling safe when I closed the door. I had time to concentrate on the spiritual elements of my life, and I took the time to be creative; painting, singing, writing, playing.

It’s been a long ten years.

Shortly after that I entered into one of the most difficult and enlightening relationships of my life. It fundamentally changed my perception of the world, it challenged me to re-think what it was I really wanted and expected from relationship. Most importantly, it made me even more deeply grateful for the simple life I had as a two-person-parent-and-child household.

During the past ten years, my son remained at what I always thought was the perfect age. As his birthdays passed,  I remained in tremendous awe of watching this person unfold and grow into who he was meant to be.

My needs changed, and my career became a source of grief. I left a place that had a piece of my heart and started over. I started over again after that, and then one more time until I found what I needed.

Ten years. A decade. The wheel has turned full circle.

I’m happy.

My son, towering over me is doing all of the things that a young man his age should be doing; asking to take the car out on dates, goofing around with the guys, getting his grades in order, and excelling in a sport that has the right people watching.

How can mundane tasks like cooking and cleaning and making mothering a priority be considered cumbersome now? I just can’t see it that way.

Even though my thoughts upon waking were a list of must-do’s today; cooking so there is food in the house for my long week of shift work, cleaning so home feels like home, not a shelter,getting my taxes in order, and of course, the creative finances of a single income home.  These are all chores of a charmed life, and I am grateful.

Wishing you enough peace and joy in your heart that you can clearly see your blessings, even it they’re dressed in an apron and sweeping the floor.

 

Well Hello There Anger, You Curious Beast

rozSubtlety has never been one of my shining qualities, nor do I wish it to be. It makes for hearty discussions that can be uncomfortable yet rich. Being with people who can admit that they are afraid of the dark,  yet have the courage to explore it are the best kind of people.

I’m a fiery gal. There are no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. I am not for the faint of heart or the timid.

But I’m also soft-hearted to a fault, and love nothing more than to take people in, feed them, make sure they’re safe, and take care of them.

For many years, like many women, anger was not my friend. It’s ugly, and doesn’t accessorize well. It chewed me up from the inside out, and boy oh boy, did I suffer for ignoring it. Once my practice matured, I was able to let it in, give it room to breathe it’s fire, and finally burn off the dangerous edges.

This post was inspired by my incorrect perception. Some might even say, I was wrong. But let’s not get carried away now my sweet little peaches. Being wrong is such a bitch and entirely not sexy.

The human smorgasbord of emotion is fascinating, with a little of this and a dash of that sprinkled through the entire menu. What I’ve discovered, and I believe to be true, is that the  plethora of negative emotions are all rooted in the muck of fear. To be fearless about exploring those negative emotions, well, that my darlings, is interesting stuff.

I will be the first to admit that relationships scare the hell out of me. Commitment is a word I actually had an issue saying ( it made me stutter).  Yet, I’m a devoted, loyal, stick-with-you-to-the-end friend and colleague. What gives?

Well, after years of learning and practicing, I came to understand just how healthy it is not to deny myself all of the ugly-step-sister emotions; anger, jealousy, shame. They are all rooted in fear, and we, as human beings all experience fear and the offshoots of fear every day.

After a thoughtful discussion with my sweetie last night about anger, communication, and perception, I came back to an article by Jules Shuzen Harris, Sensei; Uprooting the Seeds of Anger, (Tricycle, Summer 2012 p44-47);

We’re going to keep getting angry. It’s going to come up. It has come up in our lives before, and it will come up again. This practice is about becoming more mindful, becoming aware of how we are getting stuck. With care and work, we find ways to get unstuck. But we also know that the moment we get unstuck, we’re going to get stuck again. That’s why it is called a practice – we never arrive. So when you find yourself upset or angry, use the moment as apart of your practice, as an opportunity to notice and uproot the seeds of anger and move into the heart of genuine compassion.

This passage speaks to me of impermanence, the Five Skandhas, and the importance of self-compassion as we practice mindful living/self-awareness.

When I first sought out meditation practice and the wisdom of the monastic teachings at a local monastery, what I really was doing, was running away from fear. I thought that I was doing something wrong, and that being happy all of the time was what being a spiritual being was all about. But, surprise, surprise, the Goddess-of-Everything-Delightful was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Ick.

Denying oneself the full-spectrum of emotion is like plastering concealer over a nasty pimple. Eventually it wears off, and it just makes the problem worse.

Our daily practice consists in running away…We are afraid of the suffering that is inside us, afraid of war and conflits…But we do not want this fear to manifest, because it hurts, and so we repress it.  We try to repress our suffering and we invite other energies into our ‘lving room’ to fill it up so that the negative energies will not be able to make their appearance there…We should not adopt this boycott policy. On the contrary we should open our door so that our suffering can come out.  (Thich Nhat Hanh, True Love)

I have committed to my practice, and I feel it slip when fear enters uninvited, tracking mud through my heart. But I won’t pretend it’s not there. I will not kick it out, or wash away the dirty footprints without taking a good look at how it got in, and what I might do lovingly acknowledge it.

 

 

 

Hump Day Hilarity: Because Sometimes You Just Need to Lighten Up & Laugh

The Swedish Chef makes me laugh uncontrollably. He’s right up there with King Julien, the other intellectual stimulation I sometimes seek after particularly stressful days.

I send this out with a heart full of love and a wish to hear your laughter ring out amid the crappola that can be the middle of the work-week.

Have fun people, and don’t forget that just because you’re an adult does not mean you can’t be silly.

Things That Make Me Happy

I think we all have enough of ‘have-to’s’ in our life. Let’s take a little peek at some of the lovely things that make life a little more bearable….

(all photos found on yahoo.ca)

Daffodils – the first sign of spring way up here in the Great-White-North.

 

firstsignspringGulpable wine

red-wine-wallpaper

Hot coffee in the morning

coffeemorning

A Shoulder to Lean On…a strong, competent shoulder…

shouldertoleanon

A really good book

gatsby

..and another wonderful book patiently waiting to be read…

bookonbed

Candlelit baths

bathbycandle

Being read poetry while in the bath

NerudaPoem

Kittens and old cats…

kitties

The first ball-game of the season

baseball

…and the first ballpark frank and cold beer…

beerandhotdog

…and the next season of ball…

oregon

Dinner with kindred spirits

bestnight

Kisses in the rain

rainkisses

Stargazing

Deep space nebulae

Waking without an alarm clock or agenda

sleepingin

Celebrating (anything) with champagne

champagne

Kindness

adopt

 

The Cocktail of Life: Make it a Double

Wild Women of the Past (8)Yesterday I was the recipient of two wonderful gestures of friendship; the first a letter from my soul mate in death and parenthood, full of the profanity and absurdity which many others would consider devastating. The second was a wonderful message from a dear friend, “I’m just at a bar having a rum and coke and was thinking of you. Just kidding, I’m having a double rum and coke.”

Both of these things made me laugh, and oh, how I needed those laughs.

When laughter has been hard to come by, these gestures of raw, imperfect, human authenticity are a gift. They are a reminder that life is short, precious and if you have the right attitude, entertaining as hell.

And so it goes, this one wild, crazy, beautifully bittersweet life. These kinds of friends are the ones who are ok to dance with me when the music is strange and I can’t see my feet.

These are the same friends who would have previously received drunken texts or phone calls, with the nitty-gritty details of my deliciously decadent personal proclivities. Before I matured of course. That would never happen now darlings….wait, yes, yes it would, but…

B.U.T.

Big freaking BUT…life gets in the way.

Or does it?

Does it wiggle it’s big ugly knee in the door jamb of our lives and force its way through, or do we swing wide the door ourselves and yell, “Y’all come on in!”

I tend to lean toward the latter. In most cases. Oh, don’t give me any argumentative who-ha here darlings. I’m all for weeping and wailing and nashing of teeth. I’m also all for blowing your nose, scraping yourself together, pouring a gin and tonic and strapping some flip-flops on, metaphorically givng the universe a very detached, “What-everrrr“.

But this comes from a woman who, when being coached through a grueling emotional exercise in counseling palliative patients, chose to give up everything else in life, (i.e. relationships, shelter, nutrition, sight, etc.), and keep her sense of humour.

My sense of humour has ruthlessly pulled me through all kinds of abuse, hard times, depression, financial strain, and the day-to-day struggle to keep on keepin’ on. The junior players were wine, bourbon, gin, younger men and pretty undies.

Despite less-than-perfect-life-circumstance, these pals o’mine manage to keep a keen sense of humour which also involves spewing profanity at the offending irritants and being able to forgive themselves for failing at being present, gentle, or forgetting to take the high road. Sometimes the high road is for folks who care too much what everyone else thinks. Sometimes the world needs a good, old-fashioned bird-flipping and f-bombing to keep it real.

Sometimes, what our adult worlds of children, jobs and spouses needs is a dash of fun and a lot of, ‘Why-not?’s thrown in. Just because you’re grown up and have commitments does not mean you have to act like a Southern Methodist preacher about it.

Sometimes you have to let go of all of the crap we are told we ‘should‘ feel, do and want. Sometimes we just need to be grateful for what we have and enjoy it.

But You Said…

"My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation." ~Jane Austen~

“My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation.”
~Jane Austen~

I say a lot of things. Actually darlings, so long as this little conversation is just between you and me, I speak entirely too freely, too much and too often.

I’m a woman who believes in living a life of her convictions, but sometimes those convictions rearrange their own little order on my top ten list, and well, frankly, it’s hard to keep track of. Pass the bourbon

For instance, I’m all for nature and preserving our environment, but I’m skeptical of the effectiveness of our recycling programs and political platforms from which they come neatly tied in biodegradable green-bags. I’m an animal lover, but frequently find myself muttering things like, “Those damn squirrels  buried their peanuts in my clematis pot again!”

Often I say things like; I would never do that, and then I do just that. Usually after a few drinky-poos and some goading by my shenanigan loving gal-pals.

The reality is that everything that we say, do and think is circumstantial, and we’re nothing less than fallibly human at all times, despite our perceived pedigree or status.

Pedigree, now there’s a word for you. I never ever thought I’d use that word with reference to human beings. It just seems so, oh, I don’t know, disgustingly bourgeoisies. Ick.

Often it is our engagement in intimate relationships which allows us to be more vulnerable than fearful.

It is here where we find ourselves peering into the dimly lit mirror of our personal ethic, and what we see is mostly a murky reflection of what we have been taught by the generations of women who came before us; a sure, unquestioning knowledge of what is and what isn’t. It is a visceral seeing and knowing beyond skin and bone.

So often, as time and circumstance wear like water against rock, the things that we once said become half-truths or nothing. We are forced to concede to the mystery of what it means to exist in a world in relation to other people who also evolve, devolve and change.

If you find yourself in a situation that is causing you to rethink your position, opinion or values, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Life is either encouraging your growth, or insistently dragging you to a higher level of being.

So if someone insists that you once said something or other and points out a contradiction in your actions, take time to consider why you might have changed your mind. Do you still want to? Do you wish to remain true to those ideas, or has your experience taught you something new?

Regardless darlings, whatever you said, should not have gone unsaid. It is in the saying, the discussion, the long, rambling, twilight  confessionals where we learn who we are and share our very best selves.

Choose Joy or Die

formI truly believe that we choose joy.

After you fish your rolling eyes from the back of your head, keep reading, because it’s not as pithy as it sounds darlings. I have not lost all sense and let my brains fly out the window of my being.

You see, we like to think that we have control over the world, and what we do in it. To some extent that’s true. We absolutely have control over how we react, bring ourselves to meet the world every day, and whether or not we are open to being vulnerable to our darker side.

Almost 10 years ago during a business meeting with a mediator, they uttered the words, “You will never, ever feel like you have enough resources for all that you hope to accomplish.

Often, these words have come back to me during times of crisis; emotionally, professionally, financially.

I’ve decided that I will keep these words, in my psyche in the stuff-that-is-fundamentaly-correct-pile, right next to lime juice in my gin and tonic, and going commando after a long day at work.

Great things have been done in this world by people who have not had the resources which we are conditioned to think that we need for success; a loving family, money in the bank, and a traditional education. I really believe that the most amazing inventions, concepts and changes have come about as the result of hardship and feeling just the teeny-tiniest-feeling-of-being-uncomfortable. Think of athletes, leaders of social change, and although I’m loathe to use big-business as an example of true success, some of the brightest business minds were not made by doing what they ‘should’. No, my sweet little peaches, they were made because they followed their hearts and took chances.

Choosing to be joyful is much the same.

When I wake up in the morning, there a zillion reasons to be fretful, anxious, insecure and unhappy. But life is far too short for that kind of misery. There are also a zillion reasons to nurture joy, to embrace the simple, but wonderful things that we are graced with every day.

Sure, we’re all going to have rough days. We’re all going to let our trains-of-thought rumble through old, dark tunnels every once in a while. We’re going to revisit mistakes, missed opportunities and regrets, but by doing this, we have a chance to change the course of our next days and weeks and years. Without joy, we choose suffering, and suffering is just a prolonged version of dying. Choosing suffering is a repetitive, painful choice to tortuously kill off our human spirit by reliving  a life of missed opportunities instead of living in the moment and stepping forward into the future.

If we choose joy. Deep joy. Real joy. The kind of joy that we may even sacrifice some of our old patterns and bad habits for, we may feel vibrant, whole, and like we’re really living. Think about it darlings…do you choose joy?

When Nothing Matters, It Matters Most

Toast 1Despite having a career which could easily see me lost day and night in the good and meaningful work I am blessed to be able to do, the energy I have to do that work comes from making time for rejuvenation, shenanigans, and spending time being nurtured by the people who love me.

Stirring honey into my tea today, I overheard a woman exclaim that she was feeling overwhelmed, and complaining that going away for a holiday just made it harder to come back and get up every day to get back to work.

I slipped my wooden stir-stick into the trash and stole a quick peak at her from under my luscious locks. She was a bit younger than me, and clearly, unbalanced.

That’s not a cynical observation.

She looked to be carrying the weight of the world even though she was sipping a gourmet beverage in an upscale coffee shop with a friend willing to listen. “Why is life so difficult“, her high shoulders seemed to be whimpering. I know shoulder language, because more often than not, my own shoulders are tensed right up to my ear lobes, and the margins in my life are tighter than cycling shorts on a man smack dab in the middle of a mid-life crisis.

You read that right. Men in cycling shorts should never happen. Ever.

Anyway…

Balance; the-shoulds-of-a capitalistic-society verses the shoulds of, Deep-down-I-am-a-free-thinking-spiritual-lush. Recently I’ve been up to a little ‘make herself happy’  balance plan.

laughingwomenFood, wine and friendship, the great triumvirate of happiness. Combine those three, and I’m a happy woman.

Before I allowed my joy to be stolen by a grand conspiracy of single-parenthood, economic necessity, and surrender, I was the queen of food, wine and friendship, the duchess of do-it-all-and-then-some, the grand-dame-of-damn-that-woman-can-dance. Oh yah, I lived in and for the moment.

That was long ago and far away, but not an impossible attitude to resurrect.

Trying to be a responsible-adult-woman, the final strike was entering into a relationship with a man who ruined all three for me; food, wine AND friendship.  I carried on in the relationship because that’s what I thought I was supposed to be doing when in fact, I was supposed to be doing whatever the hell I felt like.

Life as I knew it and dreamed it was over when that relationships ended. It was both heartbreaking (there would be no big, happy family or new babies) and emancipating. Turns out, I’m not sure I was ever convinced, other than the apparent security, that a traditional relationship was best for me after so many years of doing everything on my own.

More than a man who needed to lead, it turns out I need a man who values laughter, discovering new food, wine and ways of making sure moments matter even if it’s just sitting in companionable silence. I thought I had  someone like that making a place in my life this summer, but I was mistaken. Must have been the wine.

On my way home from the office I stopped on a whim and picked up a couple of bottles of wine to hold me over until the vintage release this weekend. I found a much coveted Italian varietal, and another which conjures a warm, no.  Wait. Not warm. It conjures memories of an electrically charged, white-hot  and carefree love-affair, aptly birthed in Sonoma, California and named Folies a Deux.

I will take my charming new find to be uncorked at a French restaurant tomorrow evening to share over a meal and wonderful conversation.

Being excited to try new wine, try new recipes, make time for friends, writing, and maybe a little tryst in a land far-far-away means I’ve got the groove back I thought I had lost.

"We all begin as stringers..."  ~ANDSHELAUGHS~

“We all begin as strangers…”
~ANDSHELAUGHS~

What on earth was I thinking? When you’ve got it, you can never lose it.

Get out there and be fabulous darlings. There is exquisite wine held hostage in bottles just waiting to be emancipated. There is savoury food waiting to dance on your palate, and friendships that need rekindling.

I also have a suspicion that there are delectable men who are worthy of wooing us, just waiting for our school-girl hearts to bow to the sage wisdom of serendipity.

 

 

 

 

Planning Your Dream

drum beatingPlanning your dream? What’s up with that?

Aren’t dreams supposed to be pie-in-the-sky, never-gonna-happen fantasies?

Well, in my opinion they are not.

Some dreams are possible and some would take something akin to a miracle to make help them come to life. I get that. But I’m a dreamer, and a bit of a lush, so I like to think that some of the things I dream about can and will in fact, come true.

I dream a lot. I often find my mind hiking well ahead, in the future somewhere, playing out some fantasy like the latest blockbuster.

Planning a dream means you have to choose one. One. Maaaaaaaybe two.

Which one to choose? Hmm? Humph!  Don’t worry, one thing at a time my sweet little plums. Once you make the first dream come true, you’ll be inspired to work on the next one, and the one after that.

Whichever of your dreams you choose, there are a few things you need to do to put the often slow, rusty wheels of the dream-making machine into motion;

quityourdaydream1) First of all, hang out with people who have similar hopes and dreams. You want to be a business success? Hang out with people who are business minded and enjoy sharing information and ideas. If you want to be a writer, hang out with other writers.  Much like getting into a new fitness routine, it’s nice to have a partner to keep you motivated. Surround yourself with people who will be your, I-think-I-can-I-think-I-can cheerleaders.

2) Research. Do some research. Do you have to save some money? Do you need to prioritize your time differently?

3) Talk about it. Talk, talk, talk, and talk some more. The more you talk about what you want, the more likely someone who can help you will hear you, or someone who knows someone will hear you. Don’t be afraid to voice your hopes and dreams out loud.

4) When it feels impossible, out of reach, and foolish, seek support from someone who will encourage you to be fearless.

If you’re a dreamer like me, sometimes it’s difficult to quiet your mind and focus on one thing that you really want. More difficult still is to become as fearless as possible.

Do your best to coax the root of your anxiety into the light, and make a really honest assessment. Most fear can be overcome if you get your ego under control.

The new year is no longer new. We’ve already lived out the first quarter. It’s time to make the remainder of the year matter.

Dream on sweet dreamers, the world needs more of that!belowthem