Not Forcing

The Summer of Me took a turn down a different road; the things I had hoped to achieve physically, thwarted by health issues. Perhaps the barriers were raised because the roots of planning grew from negative soil. Soil in a field rife with self-judgment, and skewed views of the way things needed to be in order to be pleased with myself –  if I could just be the weight I want to be; if I could be shape and size I want to be, things will be much better; I will feel better about Me.

Self, the all-knowing Mother, so calm around the bouncing, impatient child Ego, says in translucent tones, “No honey, this is not what you should be doing right now.”

Impetuous child. She pouts, thinks she knows better and does it anyway.

It has been “settle down time” for a while. In it, gentle daily lessons and reminders of self-acceptance. Doing as I please in moderation, even though it is often accompanied by a certain unease; breathing into being with the transitory nature of now.

Soon, when I am confident of my health, I will return to the road I had started upon. I should take Self with me; she will be an invaluable guide and a steadying force in the company of a headlong kid.

Mother and Child; Self and Ego.

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Manifest my drum set

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Law of Abundance.

I like to walk at a nearby horse farm that has a long trail through woods, and across fields, and which, at points, neighbors with back gardens. I have walked by the houses and lusted after pools, cabanas, patios and decks. Nothing extravagant, but certainly nice. I have felt jealousy, and bitterness and lack in my heart, and not just at these possessions but toward other peoples’ successes. It’s how we judge ourselves and each other, even the most spiritual of us who are not monks in a monastery would have to admit to a slight inkling of the ego’s darker nature.

It was one evening that I walked by the same back gardens and caught myself having the same thoughts. “When will we…?” “Why can’t we…?” “Will we ever…”? “Ugh, These people are so lucky…” It was then that the Law of Abundance principle popped into mind; a practice which I understand but have trouble instituting consistently.

I guess it’s a double-edged sword on a personal level; having been in a position of absolute financial wreckage with a family to support, the overtones of which still waver around. It’s challenging to maintain the belief that what you want can be yours simply by believing, envisioning and feeling that they truly already are. But, I also have a natural bent toward believing that these sorts of things actually work. In fact, I have a very good friend who practices this manifestation belief daily, and she is quite successful.

So, I joined a group on Facebook to help buoy my abundant side; took part in a ‘manifest $200’ for the day and promptly got a $600 bill from the dentist, which is sort of funny now but definitely was not at the time.the-creator1

I’m not one to be deterred or downtrodden very often so I set about consciously practicing daily gratitude for all the things I have. This is where it begins; truly appreciating that what we have is all we need. We don’t have a lot of money but we are able through one avenue or another, to provide a summer of fun for ourselves and the kids. It may not be a Caribbean vacation or at trip to Disney but it’s more than we could have done in years gone by. We live in a great, little neighborhood with an abundance of friends for our kids, and with watchful eyes, and texting parents, they are able to stay out until bedtime. We are blessed in many ways, and we are rich with love. More and more these days, I think and believe that I have everything I need.

With all that taken care of on a daily basis, I would now like to manifest a book written by me on the bestseller list, and a drum set for my husband. Actually, I think I want the drum set more than the book because watching him practice a beloved rusty skill would be all I’d need.

A book would be cool, though, so I’d better get back to practicing, writing, imagining, believing, trusting, hoping, creating, and loving.  Consistently.  Decisively.

Peaks to Valleys

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Carefree to careworn overnight. It’s been coming for a while; another rolling wave crashing upon a peaceful shore, threatening the careful facade, and fragile sandcastles.

The same old, same old worries and frustrations that dog us, bark alongside us, remind us of our position of lack, make it so difficult to turn that canine on its head, and find ways to express our needs and wants from a positive position.

The routinely outturned pockets, offering fluffy nothings. Holey clothes, children’s worn shoes wincing as for bike brakes. Desperate for respite.

The wave builds. The alcoholic crutch returns. The creeping excuses, and rationalizations. Building, building. Disgruntled. Self-judgment. More wine, please. More chips, please. Enabler, enabled.

And crash…

Tucked away today, in my cave. Tired. Thinking. Planning. Determined. Trying not to berate.

Dammit. Summer’s coming. Back on the clean wagon. Must to be fiercely erecting barricades all around to stop from falling off.

I hope I can still see the scenery through the gaps.

 

Gooses and Ganders

The bodypump instructor looks at me as we’re coming to the end of the class. Training our shoulders is the last thing we do with weights. Contrary to her recommendation, I have not loaded my bar. In fact, throughout the entire class, I have put whatever weight I feel comfortable with on that bar. I don’t hold with the run of the mill mindset that heavier is better. That the more you lift, the stronger you will become. Sure, your body will adapt over time but I don’t want to do that, I’m fine with a lighter weight, and lots of reps. She looks at me, and I see a sort of chiding in her eyes. We are both English too, so there’s a weird connection, as if we are comrades and I should do as she does because we are of the same cloth.

I run through a list of silly excuses if anyone should ask, because I feel that everyone sees even though I know that even if they do notice, what they have seen will be forgotten as soon as they leave. I think I can tell them that I am recovering from surgery, or an illness, or that my doctor has warned me to take things slowly. I laugh at myself for doing this, and for second guessing my actions. But it’s too late, I don’t have time to put extra weight on just to follow the herd. So, I carry on and I can feel my muscles working, and it is good. The next day, and the day after, I know that I didn’t slack off really because everywhere is sore anyway.

The other mother approaches the bus stop one morning last week. I am wearing my three quarter length workout pants, sneakers and a sweatshirt. I am planning on going for a run immediately after work, and there will be no time to change. Plus, my boss is out of town so I can pretty much wear what I like. But, I’m conscious that the pants are a bit too flary around the shins. I have never been able to find the regular leggings that fit past the knee. Frankly with my hips, I don’t think it would be a good look for me anyway. I watch the other mother but she doesn’t notice that I see her look at me from the waist down. I wonder what she thinks. Does she think that my thighs are too big? Or that the pants make my ankles look skinny? Or that I must have the day off because I’m dressed in workout clothes?

Later on, I take my first full run outside. The first for the year. It is hard work. I run much of the course the first time around. The second time, however, I walk more than I run. I wonder how the other mother is so slim.

I am an observant person. I notice the little things; looks, actions, and behavior of other people. I’m good at that. Maybe it’s a trait of the writer’s mind.

I am becoming more observant of the inside, too. The wagging finger and bullying voice that try hard to convince me that what these people see and think of me is important to me. That I must conform. That I must believe what I perceive. That I must believe what the thoughts are thinking up.

I was easily bent to their will as a teenager and twenty-something.  How glad am I that now, in my forties, I am able to set those things aside and do what is right for me.

Huzzah!

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.

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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All About the Goat.

It’s been a ‘taking time’ sort of year. That sounds wrong, as if I had snatched time away. So I guess I’d rather say I have been working on ‘being with time.’

Monsieur Goaty Goat

Monsieur Goaty Goat

This goat is the perfect example of my being with time. During soccer season, my husband drove our son to practice and to coach, and on alternate nights, I drove our daughter. The fields were located at the end of a long driveway that wound through a place stuck in time. I thought it was the coolest thing: decayed buildings with worn pictures of what looked like British Colonial Indian men wearing turbans and holding rifles. We drove by an abandoned miniature golf course, and just past that, a large penned in structure with peacocks, chickens, horses in a field beyond, and this fat goat.

It became a ritual for my daughter and I to hope that the goat was hovering at the entrance gates. Most nights he was, and we were the only ones to stop the car, get out, and say hello. The goat didn’t give a shit, of course. Merely sniffed an outstretched hand, turned and trotted off to his perch. But I loved that we did that, even as other soccer moms raised eyebrows driving by, I loved it.

Being with time was sometimes a struggle; during our moving crisis, it felt narrow and tense. Many other times, I argued with it; wanted it to speed up so that healing could be done faster; anger and resentment would fade quicker. But time goes at its pace, and we must go with it. Like the one lane road we often find ourselves traveling on, stuck behind the slow driver with no passing allowed.

In the roominess of the space I sit when I’m feeling at peace, I see how valuable this particular year has been. I will admit to clinging to certain sufferings and still, I’m not sure why. They aren’t ready to be understood yet, so I am still…always…continually…learning to accept them. But when they rise up I can lash out; I’m working on that. But mostly, time for this year has been so beneficial to the most loving relationship next to self, and that is with my husband.

Bidding adieu to 2013, a time of learning, growing, stretching, understanding, loving, fearing, anger, detaching, resentment, judging, wishing ill-will, forgiving, apologizing, making peace, reaching out, hoping, wishing, hugging, kissing, making love, creating, writing, expanding, thinking, separating, dancing, crying, seeking truth, breaking, sitting, mindfulness, meditating, thanking, gratitude.

2014 will no doubt, bring more of the same, although with a little less financial crunchiness, and that’s just fine.

Now for a little bit of visual feastiness:  My favorite video of the year. The song by itself is ok, but when I watch it with the video, it makes me so happy.

Lose Yourself to Dance. Why? Because, really, it’s just a wonderfully, uninhibited, freeing, soul-reviving thing to do.

Peace to you All.  Keep Dancing!