Tag Archives: perspective on life

Stepping Off the Path–and Getting Lost in the Weeds

 

From Pinterest: Mystic path. Sendero místico.  by Zú Sánchez. on Flickr

From Pinterest: Mystic path. Sendero místico. by Zú Sánchez. on Flickr

 

For the past four years, I’ve worked diligently to establish my sense of myself as a writer. Following my own plan and routine, I’ve spent pretty much every waking moment writing or thinking or talking or dreaming about writing. I’ve given myself short breaks, a day or two here and there, but for the most part even during those hours and days of respite, the stories continued to flow through my mind, the voices muted to a whisper but always in the background, patiently waiting.

For the last few months, I feel as though I’ve stepped off my life’s path and have been stumbling around in the weeds that grow beside it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve come to realize that the more I ramble about, the more I learn to identify and admire the weeds, the more comfortable I feel meandering away from my path and that is a scary thought.

I had great expectations for the New Year. I decided that 2014 was going to be positive, “The Year of I Want To,” twelve months of doing exactly and only those things that I want to do rather than doing the things I feel like I have to do. Into my routine, I’d insinuate a disciplined hour of journaling every morning (rather than scribbling down my thoughts about the day in a few hurried minutes at night right before bed); I’d burn incense and meditate each and every morning without fail; I’d stretch back into my yoga practice; I’d still get up early but I’d set a more realistic schedule for myself, beginning my work day later (9-ish) and end it earlier (6-ish) so that I could bring walks and fun and balance back into my life. (In retrospect, I’m convinced that the sound I heard outside my window as I sat at my desk and planned my year was not the wind at all but was, in fact, the Universe laughing hysterically.)

January rolled around and my life took a sharp turn. My routines were interrupted, my days were spent focused on everything but writing, everything that had to be done or needed to be done rather than what I wanted to do. I convinced myself that once the work was done, once the house was painted, the garage was emptied and organized, the shed was cleaned out, the yard was fertilized and weeded and pruned, the car was replaced, our money issues were resolved, and my life was turned on its head, I’d get back to writing, that I’d get my plan back in action and the writing would commence in earnest. (Or I’d just abandon all hope and get a real job.)

In my mind, I see this detour as a strange little road trip. I see myself bumping along my path, eyes forward, scanning the horizon for dips and turns, hills and valleys. I swerve to miss a pothole now and then but for the most part I am right on track, aiming for the sweet spot right in the center where the going is easy. Then, out of the blue, a storm kicks up and my little patch of paved road turns to dirt and mud. Lightning strikes up ahead and I find my path is blocked by downed trees and blown debris. But hey, there’s a rest stop right there so I pull off my path and take a breather. Before I know it, the rain’s gone, the sun’s shining, and it’s time to get back on the road. But while I’ve been sitting in the parking lot waiting for the storm to pass, eating Cheetos and watching the road wash away, nagging little thoughts have crept into my mind and they’re not just about the long and winding road ahead but about the vehicle I’m in. When was the last time I changed the oil? When was the last time I bought new tires? Checked the blinkers or the brake lights? When was the last time I looked down at the gas gauge or the odometer reading? And–oh, look! Is that a dandelion? I love dandelions! There’s another one over there! No, that’s a daisy. I love daisies! (Sigh.)

The weeds have grown tall around me. (They’re green and have the sweetest little white and yellow flowers.) I should get a blanket and sit down right here and read for a while, I think. Reading is a good thing, an old passion that makes me happy. But it feels like there’s something I’m missing, something I should be doing. I’ve stepped off my path and gotten lost in the weeds but I can hear a rumble off in the distance. Maybe it’s my path calling me back. Or maybe it’s the Universe laughing hysterically.

When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Jingles, Tingles, and Shingles: It’s That Time of Year Again

IMG_0011

It’s a dark and dreary night. The sky is black with rain clouds and the wind is whipping the branches outside my window into a frenzy of tap, tap, tapping. But that can’t be right! It’s 7:27 in the morning, ten days before Christmas and all should be shiny and bright! If I look out my window to the right, I can see the neighbors-across-the-street’s tree blinking through their front bay window. If I look to the left, I can see a blow-up Santa surrounded by colorful lights being batted around by the wind. So, all is shiny and bright through the storm. Well, shiny, anyway, and slick with rain.

Christmas in Florida is just not the same as Christmas in Maryland or Ohio or New Mexico. There’s no snow (I miss snow!) or sparkling ice or icicles (I miss icicles!). The temperature dipped down into the low seventies this past week (brrr) but besides the pine cone wreath on the front door and the neighbors’ lights reflecting off the rain puddles in the street, nothing feels Christmasy this year.

I’m tempted to buy a can or two of snow and frost the windows just for fun. Or paint my front door bright red. Or dress my dogs in ugly Santa sweaters or hats with jingle bells. (That might work for Sophie but the other two would put up a fight, I’m sure. They’re pretty sensitive when it comes to their dignity.) 

Shopping doesn’t put me in the Christmas mood either. The stores are crowded and the pickings are slim when it comes to buying woolly sweaters and socks, gloves, and mittens, and sheep skin coats and hats. Most stores simply don’t carry them, which is sensible I suppose since the big sellers seem to be Hawaiian shirts with Santa under palm trees on them and red and green beach umbrellas. This is a tourist town, I keep reminding myself, filled with people desperate to get away from the wintery things I miss.  Maybe next year is my mantra now. Maybe next year I will roll in snow and freeze my butt off. Maybe next year I’ll return to one of my old haunts and get snowed in. Maybe next year!

This year, I will listen for the jingle of sleigh bells on the radio; I will wait for the tingles that come with watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the hundredth time; I will be thankful for the correct diagnosis of shingles, take my medications, and think of my red itchy patches of skin as organic holiday decorations; and I will think of Tiny Tim and his message of hope:

God bless us, every one!

 

 

 

Peace, Love and Fluffiness

lambs

My mother was anorexic most of her life. I’m not sure when it started, but in the years before she passed away, she’d look in the mirror and instead of seeing a beautiful woman who had aged with grace, she’d see a fat little girl staring back. I thought anorexia was a plague of teen-aged girls but at 74, my mother was their queen. She was also diabetic which gave her an excuse to count her food: she could eat nine green grapes and eleven French fries at McDonald’s, her favorite, six of this and seven of that. My mother was also a counter–of things and people and ideas. She counted as she walked and talked and talked and talked.

My mother had an affinity for people and sheep. One year around Christmas time, she made stuffed lambs for all of her friends, 27 in all, I believe. She sewed and sewed the sweetest little woolly animals until she was sick of making them. She’d had arthritis, both ostheo and rheumatoid, since her late twenties so her hands were crippled, bent, and swollen. I cannot imagine the pain she suffered to make those little lambs, but I know that she was happy making them right up to the end when the pain in her bones became excruciating and she couldn’t feel her fingers. She never made another one but she poured love (and blood from her pricked fingers) into the ones she made.

My mother’s home was always full of warm and cozy things, sweet things, tiny little things, dolls and clowns and sheep. She had a magnet on her refrigerator, a reminder of her imagined plumpness. It was in the shape of a very woolly sheep and said, “Ewe’s not fat, ewe’s fluffy.”  And she was. My mother was fluffy, like a warm blanket or footy-pajamas right out of the dryer on a cold winter’s night.

So today, while my mother’s on my mind and I’m taking a writing break, I wish you peace, love and fluffiness.

I’m into week two of National Novel Writing Month: 50,000 words in 30 days. I’m about half way there and I’m being diligent. Good luck to all of my fellow NaNoWriMos! If you’re reading this, thanks for taking the time! Now, get back to work!

I’ll be back to normal soon, I hope. In about two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

A Change of Heart

Heart

 “They invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate countless worlds, and we fall back. Not again! Not this time. The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther! And I will make them pay for what they have done!” 

The quote is from Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Start Trek: First Contact. And me–in my head.

I’ve been stressing lately over the bullying of my friend Margaret, preparing for a battle that seemed winnable but not without casualties. On an internal level, I’ve been meditating, visualizing, and spreading the light for a peaceful resolution. On a rational level, I’ve been promoting a stance of “hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” On a gut level, I let my past override all of my peaceful thoughts and reverted to living in fear. I’d been there, done that and I carry the scars of the bad guys’ wins. I guess that’s why it’s easy for me to shift into defensive mode, but I know that I can’t let my fear consume me. In the midst of my stress, change occurred.

I’ve found that subtle shifts can be surprising. Have you ever noticed that? You find yourself embroiled in some seemingly untenable situation, gird your loins for battle, lock and load your cache of snide and witty comebacks, and walk into the fray loaded for bear only to find Hello Kitty waiting to greet you.

It’s surprising. It’s shocking. It’s disconcerting to say the least after all of the tedious preparations and hard work. You’ve rehearsed exactly what you’re going to say (if he says this, I’ll say that; if she does this, I’ll do that); you are sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are about to meet Godzilla in the flesh and the battle will be to the death–or at the least  to total annihilation on an emotional level. “I will go down fighting!” becomes your mantra echoed by “I can do this!” You are psyched and ready to go to war for your rights and your dignity. Shields up! Set phasers to stun!

And then all of that flies right out the window when you’re greeted not by your mortal enemy but by a kitten with a smile and the shocking words, “Good morning! How can I help you ?”

Crap! Now what? I hadn’t prepared myself for this! Niceness is what I’d secretly hoped for, prayed for, wished for while doing my deep-breathing exercises to relieve the stress in my heart and gut. This is what I’ve wanted all along: civil communication. Margaret and I crossed the battle lines on Friday and were treated with respect and kindness. We came away with a renewed sense of peace and calm.

Apparently, there’s been a change of heart for those people who were determined to make Margaret’s life a living hell, for the people who have bullied and taunted and spread rumors about her for over a year. I don’t know how it happened or when or where or why. But like me, I suspect there are several other people involved in this debacle who are experiencing the same sense of relief I’m feeling. It’s very hard to live a happy life, to maintain thoughts of peace and joy while carrying a big stick. It’s exhausting, actually. Somewhere, someone has decided to lay down the stick, walk away from the battle, and try to live in peace.

The fight to end the bullying may be over for now and as hard as it’s been to deal with,  I’ve been reminded of a few valuable lessons:

  • Standing up for others is always the right thing to do.
  • Peaceful resolutions can happen–even when you least expect them.
  • Finding peace within me sometimes requires conquering old fears by allowing myself to feel the anger and move through and past it.
  • The desire to be “all in” regardless of my fears is sometimes enough to create a shift in me, in my heart and in my own beliefs.

I’m not sure how this works in others or if I’ll ever know what caused the shift, but there has obviously been a change of heart. At least for now. At least for today. My own heart has opened in gratitude for a battle unfought. I am thankful for this day.

I pray it lasts.

 

Jumping or Falling: It’s All a Matter of Perspective

Deep end of the ocean

We are one.

I’ve been feeling that for quite a while now, thinking it, meditating on it, talking about it with friends and family, writing about it, saying it out loud and then watching for the words to manifest. My friend Sue and I have been whispering back and forth across the miles, understanding that the deep change we have felt coming over the past fifteen years of our friendship has finally arrived. We are one.

October 24 was Global Oneness Day. I sat transfixed in front of my computer as I listened to panel after panel discuss Oneness. Joy took root in me as I listened to Marianne Williamson, Neale Donald Walsch, Panache Desai, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Lynne McTaggart, Ken Wilber, Don Jose Ruiz, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and a long list of other visionaries come together to vocalize the words that have been hovering around me. We are one.

I’ve been searching for a way in to happiness. I’ve contemplated what I have that I can offer up to help fill the void I’ve been feeling. How do I become a part of the Oneness movement? How can I be in the Oneness? By 10:30 on Wednesday night, I knew the answer. I AM the Oneness. There is no way NOT to be.

It is not our identifiers of ourselves, our politics, religion, status, size, shape, color, ethnicity, or gender that make us one. It is our humanity that makes us one; it is the expansive soul of humanity recognizing itself as one spirit having a billion human experiences and coming together in Oneness.

The joy that I’m feeling is tinged with the thrill of anticipation and just a hint of anxiety. I’m a cave dweller, after all. Jumping in has always been hard for me. I’ve stood on the edge long enough. I’m ready to take the leap. Or maybe my certainty that I’m all in comes from the feel of a hand at my back, lovingly nudging me toward the abyss. One way or the other, I’m going in. Jumping or falling, it’s all a matter of perspective.

Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason

From Pinterest with no credit attached.

From Pinterest with no credit attached.

I’ve been struggling lately with the idea that “Something has to be done!” in several sectors of my life.  

I truly believe that We Are One,  that we are linked through an unconscious something that allows us to tap into each other’s thoughts and needs, to feel each other’s human-ness and/or spirituality. I’ve felt that something with my children often. I feel it with friends every great once in a while when I get a sudden urge to call or email them–at four in the morning.

Some people might call it compassion, our human ability to feel for others. Or empathy when we are able to experience someone’s pain and make it our own. Some people might call it a waste of time, a fruitless action, or a pointless endeavor. Some people might call it love.

Whatever you want to call it, it is time we all start taking responsibility for each other. I’m not talking about taking the blame or the credit. I’m not talking about building a commune to house each and every soul (although it wouldn’t be a bad idea to recognize that we already live in one). I’m talking about taking action to stop the bullying and the bullshit. I’m talking about calling people on their careless actions. I’m saying enough is enough.

The last three years of my life have been spent writing fiction. I’ve been quite prolific and successful, garnering my own sense of satisfaction. My next book and newspaper article and magazine story will be non-fiction. It is a story of neglect and needless pain, a story of ridiculous action and more ridiculous non-action, of lives damaged and destroyed, of loss and injustice and juris-imprudence. The names will not be changed to protect the innocent. The story will not be filtered or white-washed or cast in a rosy glow. “It is what it is” is an apt description.

I’d like to say that I’m rocking the boat, making waves, or ruffling feathers but I’m not, really. My new intention is to sink the boat; to drop the pebble into the ocean that causes the tsunami; to pull out the feathers one by one and then make chicken soup with the bones.

For those of you who ask me from time to time what I’m writing about, from now on, this will be what I’m writing about. There’s more than one story to tell, more than one life involved, and more than one person willing to come forward to talk.

I’ll still be writing novels and short stories and allowing my muse to take me where it will. But sometimes you just have to do the right thing for the right reason. With love and honor and respect, of course. Let’s just call it Right Action.

BTW: If anyone knows who the artist is for the above photo, please let me know. I’d love to give credit where credit is due.

Silence

Grey sky with trees 01

Silence

Unnerving silence.

The house is quiet this morning. No whining dogs. No banging trashcans. No voices drifting over the back fence. It’s eerily quiet really, the kind of silence that would propel a sci-fi-minded writer into the realms of zombie apocalypse.

Tree branches are shifting in a soft breeze, but I can’t hear the wind. Even the birds are silent, huddled in their nests, resting, waiting. Normally, I can hear trucks on the highway, the squeal of brakes; the bell ringing first period from the school up the road. This morning, there is nothing but silence under a grey sky that stretches as far as the eye can see. No blue. No clouds. Just grey.

The world feels muffled, cut off from the normal creak of its axis. As I write, there are no cars whizzing by my window, no walkers, no joggers, no one.

Silence.

Unnerving silence.

It’s time to begin again, to write a new story, to create a new life.  It’s time to fill the silence with song.