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The Longest Night: How To

First of all, let go of all expectations.

The theme is the Longest Night: Finding Light in the Darkness, and is always, always, always held on the eve of winter solstice (December 21).

1)Send out invitations however you like – I use social media and the occasional email.

Given the theme, invite friends whom you feel you can be spiritually naked with.  The more the merrier, or not. It’s up to you. Personally I love having an eclectic group of friends who are intelligent and kind.

2)Each person is encouraged to bring a piece of writing, poetry, artwork, music or visual art to share with the group.  Have them bring copies to give out if they can.

3) Pot-freaking-luck – this not only takes the pressure off of the host, but it offers everyone a chance to bring a special dish that honours the spirit of the evening. Sharing food is an intimate act of friendship.

4)Offer a place to sleep should anyone be enjoying a few beverages or, if you’re in Canada, cannabis.

5)Offer all of the seating you can; couches, chairs, cushions, stools. Basically, form a cozy circle where people can relax.

6) Draw numbers to see who shares first, second and so forth.

7)Begin the evening with a toast, or reading appropriate to the theme. Light a candle as a symbol of the season of mystery and hope.  The joy of the evening is to share, discuss and share some more, taking everything at a leisurely pace.

8)Enjoy one another’s company.

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The Longest Night: Your Invitation

Like most adults, the magic of Christmas wanes with each passing year. This year I’m struggling to grasp that spirit at all, even a tiny shred of it.

I absolutely love getting out for Christmas dinners with my friends, I enjoy strolling the markets, and listening to Christmas music.  I realized just how un-Christmasy my life is this year after reading an update from my cousin this morning about having his first Christmas dinner in the books.

This after waking up and staring at the ceiling of what used to be my writing room, and thinking just that…this does not feel like Christmas.

When I was a young mother, doting on my son, baking, cooking and inviting friends into our home made the season so very special. Long past having a big wish list, I have always used Christmas as an excuse to connect with the people in my life whom I don’t get to spend time with often enough. It’s a special part of the year that carries me through, having reinforced the bonds of these precious friendships.

the longest night

But not this  year. This year I am bound to the house, run off my feet, and honestly, feeling lonesome for those friends.

Loneliness and isolation can make a pathetic woman, and I am anything but that. So this year, albeit late in the season, I’m going to begin my efforts to connect with the special people in my life. The sustenance of kindred spirits during times like this is essential to anyone’s well-being.

In years past, I used to host an event on the eve of winter solstice called, “The Longest Night”, where my friends would gather, bringing a piece of art (writing, music, visual art) to share with the group. The theme was always sharing light in the darkness. Celebrating the darkness where mystery was waiting to be revealed, ideas were ruminating, and reminding everyone that there is beauty even in the mystery of the dark.

So this year, once again, I’m hoping more selfishly than ever that my friends arrive in the darkness, to be received into the warmth of a circle of friends.

 

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Always Say YES!

lovesomeone

During a quick lunch with my Mumster the topic of keeping oneself vibrant while in the midst of feeling stuck became a theme. I like to think that our conversation was inspiring to us both. Just having a quick visit with a kindred spirit, helped my sense of well being.

As some of you may know, my day-to-day life has changed recently. I now find myself in the position of stay-at-home-caregiver. It’s the longest time I’ve ever been away from work, and frankly, it’s like living in a thick fog.

Anxiety has its’ natural place during times of transition and healing. I wish I had someone here to give me a hug, offer me a passionate escape, or a giddy drunken Christmas date night.  But that is not so.  What I have is myself; the stalwart, courageous, positive, kick-you-in-the-ass-just-enough-to-keep-you-going-all-day fabulous woman that I am.

The first thing I reluctantly gave up being here doing what I’m doing, was my sleep pattern. I’m a natural night owl, and later nights are always the first thing to come galloping back into my life  when I’m not on my work-home routine. If  I could force away the anxiety of wondering how I’ll adjust when I do go back to work, late nights aren’t a bad thing.  Mostly because just last night, head on the pillow, I was lulling myself to sleep, silently re-telling the stories of my literally ‘shitty’ day,  and it came to me! Novel number 3! Late nights are a breading ground for creativity, and that’s heady stuff.

Quietly, I got up in the darkness, crept past the orange-pink glow of the salt lamp, and made my way to my notebook, scrounging a pen from the medication log on the nursing cart in the makeshift hospital room that is now the living/dining room.

I curled up under my favourite wool blanket from Ireland, and wrote a basic outline, including main characters, and a handful of their personality quirks. I then pounded back a piece of lemon cake, the crumbs at the bottom of a bag of dill pickle chips, swigged back a hot cup of tea, and then went back to bed. Inspired.

That’s the same way I woke up.

Not only do I have a full novel to edit, I have another one ready to be born, and butter softening on the counter for a batch of sugar cookies which I will decorate in layers over the next two days for the sole purpose of doing something other than letting my brain rot. I have a list of books to read, and have managed to finish 3 of them, and I”m slowly grinding my way through the fourth (  a dense book of essays).  I also have wine. And whiskey. And tea.

These things are enough.

Enough to keep me motivated, creative and vibrant (under the circumstances).

Yes, I miss my yoga classes. I miss taking my time and poking about my favourite shops. I miss even going for a flipping walk! But these are not things I have control over right now. I can control what I manage to do while I’m limited to the house with brief periods of respite and so can you.

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As I’ve written many times, the spirit of Advent (waiting with wonder in the darkness) is one that resonates deeply with me. It reassures me of an idea that I believe in; out of the darkness and the muck of life, sprout the most fruitful of ideas and experiences.

If you are feeling stuck, take a few minutes to yourself. Grab a notebook and pen; jot down unfinished projects you’d really like to finish. Maybe it’s a new skill you’d like to learn  or  a book you would love to tuck in to read from start to finish.  Just let yourself relax into some kind of stillness of mind that will accompany you on a journey of wonder and discovery.

Most importantly if you have friends out there who offer a different perspective, a couple hours of respite, a moment of escape, always, always, always say YES!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mid-Life Clarity-Did You Work at it Your Whole Life?

hit you with a carThere is little that gifts perspective as much as experience.  And I’ve had experience in spades.

I’m pretty much home-bound with an ill sweetie these days, and have had lots of time to reflect, get frustrated, feel grateful, be sad, be relieved, be worried, and be overwhelmed. In other words, to be human.

Although I was a professional palliative care giver for the best part of a decade, nothing really prepares  you for personal crisis. The stress of organization, paperwork and dealing with an over-burdened health care system has been an eye opener.

What life has prepared me for though is clarity with regard to circumstantial right and wrong, and life is nothing if not circumstantial.

As I was rushing to pick up  a few groceries yesterday, the cashier tossed a bag on top of my groceries, and then began checking out the next person, who was looking sour-faced and in a hurry. When did we give up our expectation as consumers to have some quality interaction with the businesses that we give our money to?  When did every person having a pleasant interaction with someone else become a pain in the ass? Oh, darling, that’s easy, it was when you became an asshole.

Our caring civility has slowly eroded over time Even errands have become unpleasant interactions instead of being instances during the day we exchange kindness with people.  We have all become assholes to some extent, consuming, rushing, and being caught up in the necrotic social ideal that the material trumps relationship.

This is part of mid-life clarity. This is part of holding myself to the standard of living and overall health to which I aspire – happiness.

Making my way out of the parking lot of the store yesterday, traffic was impatient with pedestrians and pedestrians with traffic.  Everyone assumes that they come first. Which reminds me of a classic Jimmy Buffett question,

Were you born an asshole? Or did you work at it your whole life?

I do believe that no one is born an asshole. I also believe that you have to work at it to be extraordinary at it. You also have to work to be kind, compassionate and engaged with humanity. Perhaps choosing unwisely is the collective tragic comedy on the stage of life.

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To All of You Miserable SOB’s

miserable bastardListen up for a sweet minute, all you eye-rolling-smugger-than-thou-would-be-hipsters-if-you-weren’t-too-freaking-old; over-use of sarcasm just makes you annoying and irrelevant. Which will eventually lead to you sitting down to a big ole’ thirteen course meal of humble pie. In public.

Unless you have something fun and constructive to add to any conversation with generally contented peers, you may want to consider shutting the hell up. There is little more debilitating to your general attractiveness as a human being, than being a social rain cloud.

As a young woman, I thought I could change the world via the inevitable truth in journalism, protests, and heated conversations at social gatherings.  I am convinced now that I was wrong.

Change happens slowly, like the relentlessly gentle passage of water which eventually cuts clean through rock.

Sarcasm never wins the day, especially if that is the only weapon in your tiny arsenal of wit – Because you are annoying.  And although most people will either pitch their tent within two camps; camp silent resentment or camp rage out loud, your miserable SOB comments will eventually stir waters that run very deeply.   At that point prepare to be just as publicly embarrassed by your underdeveloped personality as you try to embarrass everyone else.

 

 

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Worst Case Scenario – Just Take a Nap

free spirit

Recently I had a back-stabbing event. You know, the kind most people finish with in seventh grade?

It got under my skin. At first it upset me, and then I remembered M. Scott Peck’s famous work, People of the Lie.

His work was my first exposure to understanding the age old question, “What the hell is wrong with you?!” The sad truth is that some people cannot accept joy or joyful people. They are suspicious of anyone who isn’t as miserable as them. Darkness always seeks to extinguish the light, and to that I say; shine brightly darlings, don’t pay any attention to the banshees scratching at your back. Carry on and blind them with your dazzling spirit.

I’m too old and lazy for retribution. Besides that, being bitchy is bad for my middle-aged complexion. I’m on the other side of the hill of time now, and I want to enjoy it.

Long ago I decided that when someone was cruel to me, I would not let them win. By win, I mean I would not fall into the trap of doing anything harmful to myself; binge drinking or eating, negative self talk, or not doing something I was looking forward to.

riverIt’s been a great philosophy for me. Often I accomplish a lot of wonderful things when I’m pissed off. Creativity gives me the opportunity to birth something fun and new. Creativity is truly a slap in the face to any demons that hunt us down when we’re vulnerable.

During my quiet time, I have made things, and written things, and tended to my garden. I reclaimed the magic in abandoned ideas. I lived fully and completely in-spite-of,  and sure enough, it has turned into joyful abandon.

Keep writing my darlings. Keep painting and drawing and stitching and singing and dancing and making the world a happy place.  And if you’re just too tired of the bullshit, take a good, long, nap.

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Purpose & Payday – Your Monday Meditation

purpose

Purpose. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, like ‘badass’ and ‘tribe’. I judge people when they level up one notch on the  organically- crafted-hipster-ladder by using this kind of catch-phrase.

I figured out my purpose a long time ago, but it wasn’t until I thought about purpose that I could put it into a fifteen second elevator speech. But let’s face it, fifteen second elevator speeches are for salespeople, not purpose driven folks. I was just thankful that at over 40 years old, I’d been intentional enough to realize what my purpose was.

Purpose is what sustains us, whether we’re aware of it or not.

So here’s a little story from my day at the local holistic healing fair about purpose;

“You’re completely done.” She looked me dead in the eye when she said it. “Just finished with all of it.”

I nodded.

faery magicThree decks of cards later (Faerie, Archangel Michael, Angel) it was confirmed by the powers that be that I was jonesin’ for a complete change of course.

But I already knew those things before I sat down didn’t I? We already know as intuitive beings when what once imbued meaning into our lives has vanished. Validation is nice though, isn’t it?

 

 

 

 

 

I wandered down a few more aisles at this holistic healing show, and bumped into a soap maker. Not just any soapmaker, but Momtaz, a third-generation soap maker.

Third-effing-generation…let that sink in.

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I spent some time (and money) at her booth, and casually asked about her Aleppo soap.  She informed me that it is the oldest soap recipe in the world. She was passionate about her work, she told me all about the properties of the soap, how you could use it on babies with extreme eczema and fragile skin. She was so happy that I was interested in what she was doing that she gifted me a bar, and in turn, I promised her that I would share it with someone who might need it. That’s purpose.

I made my way methodically through the rows of booths. I admired how these (mostly) women were making their purpose pay.

Until now, I’ve been injecting my purpose into every day life. I thought that was satisfying enough, but more and more I’m feeling like it’s not. My job pays, but my purpose only gets to sneak a peak once in a while in the shadow of my career.

Back to the lady who made twenty bucks reading my cards. She was retired from a job similar in nature to my own. She could relate to how bone-tired I am from caring for other people. The twenty dollars she charged was  a small price to pay to be reminded of what I already know I’m meant to be doing.

Whether it ‘s the holistic approach like I tend to take, or the professional approach a la Mike Drak, investing in what we love to do can reap financial rewards later in life.

For many of us, our purpose will have to be injected into our daily grind. And our daily grind will have to include significant time to work on projects that develop our purpose. And this is what will sustain us now, and in the future.