Sometimes I believe I hate you.

At this time of physical low, when I feel torn between leaving my work early to go to bed, and call off rehearsals in favor of tea, blankets, my family and couch, I am prompted by an inner voice to remember the reasons for feeling so great and light in recent weeks. It’s a natural part of living this life that you experience the tos and fros but it’s the manner in which you allow it to happen that makes it a good or bad experience. For instance, you could wail like a banshee and feel tense or you could close your eyes and let your soul waft around, dipping into the highs, the lows, and all the places in between. Of course, some midway point between banshee and ragdoll seems to be the norm.

Recently I took a step forward in healing, and in forgiving myself. In so doing, there became an opening of the heart toward certain circumstances. This situation is far from being healed or on solid ground and it doesn’t take but a hiccup for it to cause distress. There is a connecting thread that binds me to this; barely seen but its presence colludes with the mind to seek out any news. This causes thoughts and emotions to furl up the beach like an incoming tide to wash away whatever work I had done to smooth things over.

In my Warrior training, I have become more aware of thought so instead of pushing away these needling contemplations, I imagine opening a door. And, like Buddha to Mara, I invite them in and make them welcome. This is not to say that I engage in their frivolous, flighty ways; I just allow them space and perhaps a cup of tea. In my imagination, they are gobsmacked and don’t know what to do; with no mental wall to push against, they have no will to fight, and fade away.

I must remember always, and moreso when I’m feeling under the weather (because that’s such a vulnerable state) that whatever I read or see or hear or imagine is not truth. And that I really don’t hate you.

Because the only truth that matters is my own.

“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.” Ruiz

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Softly, Softly…

hard softSometimes when you’re lying in bed on whatever days that are yours to sleep in, between sleeping and waking, the mind draws itself into awareness. Done are the crazy roadtrips of the night; the events that make no sense and wisp away into the morning, or perhaps, like me, remnants remain for you to gnaw over. You are content and warm under the covers; floppy, sleepy. But the mind rubs its hands together, ready to take full advantage of your drowse. Little does it know that by opening up a can of worms, it could be presenting a moment of healing.

It was yesterday morning, the kids were home from school for yet another snow day which meant I had to stay home too. I had the extra hour or so in bed, and in my doze, yet with no will to do so, I cycled back to the summer of 2011. I’ve gone there before, drawn by how I felt about myself and how (I can see now) that was projected onto a woman I called my nemesis but who was probably a very nice person.

We still had our lovely restaurant and our kids went to a private school but beneath it all, our family writhed like chained prisoners. Ultimately, our efforts would prove fruitless but until the day of release, we were bound to keep trudging around on the wheel, grinding away, going nowhere. On a spiritual level, I was nowhere near the place I am today; whatever light that shone inside was shrouded in jealousy, fear, judgment, anger, and hatred. I judged myself against other people. And the prettier, the thinner, the richer they were, the more I could beat myself up.

My kids’ school, in particular my son’s grade, decided to hold their ‘Back to School’ parent gathering on the patio of our place. My husband and I were honored but nervous, and I recall, as I was deciding on what to wear from my closet of painfully old clothes, wondering what this other woman, this “nemesis” would be wearing, would she be there at all?  It was a pernicious trail of thought; one that led to my choice of the dowdiest outfit I had which inevitably led to feeling frumpy, inadequate, and clumsy which then led to drinking too much at the table shared with the principal and his eye-poppingly skinny wife. I laughed too loud, I broke a glass, it was noticeable. And this woman was there; tall, blonde, very slim, in a lovely figure-hugging dress. She oozed serenity. I had been to her house for a birthday party; it was spacious and organized. She had three kids and she didn’t work and she was living the life I had wanted for my family. I admit that I was so filled with envy, I couldn’t see the good in anyone. I imagined she laughed at me internally; could see through my guise of smiles that covered up the “look at us, we have a restaurant and we’re as good as you but I know really we’re not and you’re so fucking lucky.” 

This was played out to me in its entirety yesterday morning, and I let it do so. This other woman was beautiful and she had a grace about her, no doubt. But I remembered another time after her father had died suddenly. I passed her in school during a parent/teacher evening, and it was obvious she had been crying; her eyes were red and puffy, and if I had wanted to mentally scoff and say “Now she looks like shit!”…I couldn’t. In spite of the green eating away inside, I felt only compassion. I stopped and offered my sympathies. She looked me squarely and sadly in the eyes and thanked me. One soul connecting with another in a time of sorrow.

As I lay there, coming to the conclusion of the playback, the ego wilted a little.  A stronger voice arose uttering the word ‘soften.’ So I did. I allowed myself to view the patio scene from a perspective of compassion, for the frayed person I once was. I saw this other woman not as my nemesis but as a beautiful woman with a lovely family. The memories softened and loosened their grip. I knew that all I had felt and was still feeling on occasion when she came to mind, was my torch to extinguish.

In that moment, with eyes closed, tucked up in bed, I freed myself a little bit more of the hardness around my heart. It helped me soften toward other things too, and I allowed myself to be open in their direction also.

Another step for my little light. I’m so grateful, I could cry.

Friday Fictioneers: Going Out

Photo courtesy - Erin Leary

Photo courtesy – Erin Leary

Going Out

Word count:  99

It had rained hard and in all directions for days. Residents had been locked in so it was no surprise that on the fifth day, when the sun strained a glowing light over the hamlet, the people hesitated from their houses.

Emily, young, cabin-fevered, ripped aside the curtains and gasped a wide happy intake of air. She shoved her arms into the duffle coat, teased her feet into the wellies and flung open the front door.

Her mother gazed fondly; Emily kicked her way across the river-road, climbed the fence and spent quite some time galoshing in the fields.

Heart of a Writer

“A writer, if he is any good, does not describe. He invents or makes out of knowledge personal and impersonal and sometimes he seems to have unexplained knowledge which could come from forgotten racial or family experience… If you describe someone, it is flat, as a photograph is, and from my standpoint a failure. If you make him up from what you know, there should be all the dimensions.”

So sayeth Ernest Hemingway.

A fledgling writer, I am but I hesitate to even use the word writer since it feels like a title to be earned. But what is there below that? A dawdler, a doodler, a thinker without following through-er?

I don’t brag about my creations; trust me, much of it is not worth bragging about, and I feel a sort of vague disgust when people do. Therein I think, lies my biggest obstacle; judging vs. understanding. Since coming into awareness, and the belief that we are all created equal, having the capacity for so much love, I balk at labeling people.

There was a guy standing on the edge of a very busy road. He was thin, wearing thick glasses, droopy clothing, holding a single grocery bag, waiting for a break in the traffic to be able to cross. I saw him for three seconds, tops, and in that time the first thought that came to mind was that he must be poor. His lips were moving so he must be slightly off-kilter to be talking to himself, and as he stood there he shuffled his feet alternately. I drove by with those first impressions. The image ruminated, and the things that weren’t so obvious came into view; he had been smiling with an open face, the glasses might have been a different prescription than he needed because his mouth was open and his teeth were plainly visible as he strained to see clearly. Most of all, he looked happy. Just happy with who he was, where he was and what he was doing, and even where he was headed to, maybe.

There was a woman behind me at the drugstore. She was talking to a young man, who I assumed was her son. She was brusque, and bullish, striking down everything he said with a harsh “Nope.” It seemed that her son hadn’t received some money that he was owed, and she was sure that if the funds did come through, it wouldn’t be the full amount, or the person owing would renege on the whole thing. She was quite successful in degrading both her son and the unknown person in public. Finally, she grudgingly agreed to lend her son the money (which, no doubt, he would be hounded to pay back very soon) and made her way to the ATM at the front of the store. In order to get there, she had to walk by me. She addressed the floor with her “excuse me” and as she shoved by, I had the clearest vision of the kind of person she was. At a gathering perhaps, she would be the one listening to, sharing and taking in all the gossip, storing it away, to be reproduced some other time when it would serve a juicy purpose. She would be the one who knew more than you, and would verbally stamp all over any opinion that differed from hers. She ate fast food. She smoked. She judged with a flick of her eyes and could see nothing of a stranger beyond the surface.

What a strange position for me to be in. With a writer’s mind, I see the characters as they are, in an environment of my choosing, playing out scenes and conversations as I imagine would befit their personalities. Then the Buddha mind speaks up and gently reminds me that it is unkind to judge people; to pigeonhole.

I have struggled with this notion for a while: when you receive inspiration from what is around you, what has happened to you, what you have experienced, who you see, how they behave, how do you vanquish the idea of being judgmental to get down to the creative nitty gritty?

“As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.”

And right there, it’s quite simple.

The guy crossing the road, the woman in the drugstore; no matter where I put them, they gotta have roots. So that instead of painting a vapid picture, I create a statue with parts and pieces pulled from many memories, an outline that I can fill in with what’s in my mind. Judgment is eliminated and in its place, an open heart and mind, delving into what is already known.

But still, you won’t read about what I’m working on, why I’ve been away, have you missed my writing, and oh, this will be great for my next book. Because I’m not trying to elicit your comments or your personal strokes. That’s just the ego talking, so write like it’s your soul on the page and keep your torment to yourself.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” 

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Friday Fictioneers: Cast Away

Photo courtesy:  Dawn Q. Landau

Photo courtesy: Dawn Q. Landau

Cast Away

Word count:  102

Nedra had taken the day off work and driven two hours to their favorite beach. She pulled into a spot not far from Jake and stood to scan the shore; he was sitting on his towel, wearing shorts and a shirt. Faint concern for his lack of swimwear was hushed by the thrill, and Nedra reached in to her bikini top to plump her breasts.

She removed her wedding ring upon approach, sucked in her stomach and squared her shoulders.

“…I got this…” Nedra overheard his phone conversation.

“…I’m done with this old bitch, man. I’m ready for some young meat. ”

dropkickmebaby

marga t. is one of my favorite writers here, and I particularly feel connected to this post today.

Life as Improv

Shattered_by_nimra
“Tired of Speaking Sweetly
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth
That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,
Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.
God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most…

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Mentally Parental

I don’t often write about another large part of my journey, that of being a parent. But the topic is pleading with me so fine, here I go.

Our kids are the first in the family to be born close enough to each other that they suffer and love being playmate siblings. My husband’s sister was seven years younger and I was an only child. My Dad was ten years older than his sisters, my in-laws had large gaps or like me, were the solitary kid. Only my Mum had a brother with whom she was close but that was mostly a fear bonding created by what I can only assume was a violent household.

We have one of each:  A boy and a girl and I love them both with my whole heart and more. As Big Nut Brown Hare says, “…to the moon and back.”

Our daughter is a physical, emotional and spiritual manifestation of all that my husband and I could ever have wanted in ourselves. She has a strong sense of who she is and what she can do. What she cannot do, she will try and try to achieve until she gets it. She is focused, self-assured and confident.

Our son is the opposite; he has a low self-esteem, is reluctant to try or do most anything new, physically or mentally. And when he is made to, it’s the end of the world. He gives up easily, has admitted that he doesn’t believe in himself (but I’m not sure he really understands what that means.) Last night, after a particularly trying day, he wrote a note and stuck it to his bedroom door:

“There is room for 1 person in this room because no-one loves Sean”

The thing is, he is so loved. And I see what he doesn’t: creativity, a quick mind, a visual learner. He is capable of so much more than he realizes and we flounder to help him understand. I am pretty good at motivating myself and seeing the benefit of affirmations, quotes and the like; they nudge the soul to realize its potential. But when I’m with my son and I’m attempting a heart-to-heart, all those wonderful phrases disappear. It’s baffling. He’s uncomfortable with praise and lord knows, we are not the kind of parents to go overboard with it. We give praise where it is due, and guidance as best we can.

Our son is the culmination of the parts of my husband and I that, when we look back on our lives, we feel we could have changed. We were both drifters, with undefined goals, but unlike our son, the springboards that we jumped from into our own futures were not so well-cared for. We see that in our histories, we have hindsight, and like so many other parents now and before, we have a mental chime that reminds us not to be like our mothers and fathers. We seek to show more affection, feel more connected, give the kids more avenues to choose from. Provide them a stable, nurturing foundation with which to carry solidly down the road.

So whaddya do when you have one of each? One who you know is aware of the others’ ease of accomplishing, of figuring out, of taking on a challenge and getting it right? How do you raise him up without having him step on a pedestal, content with that much? Fearing going any higher because to do so could mean failure? Do you conceal your frustration, temper your anger, speak sweetly? Or do you let it fly after you’ve encouraged, cajoled and invited, then moved onto ultimatums, delivering news of consequences should the responsibility not be carried out? Do you expose the honesty when you’ve hit that wall? And for what cause, for what benefit? Shouting and yelling serves only to confuse and reflect your anger back to you, but when all else has failed, it becomes the last raw option.

Certainly we don’t give up. We continue the back and forth, push and pull, throw in the towel, pick up the gauntlet that is parenting. Keep on loving and keep on showing love. Carry on guiding, making them do the things they don’t want to because in the end, it’s more than we had. Like the familial chain it is, it will go on and on.

There. God, this has been a long drawn-out affair which proves to me that being a parent is the hardest job; it’s a lifetime commitment with deep emotional roots. The manual is blank and confusing with every page, and you can’t skip ahead. You can flick backwards but the things you applied a few chapters ago may not work in the present.