Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Favorite Mary Oliver Poem

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

-Mary Oliver

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Letting Go

Death leads us to hold onto things when embracing life means letting go.

When I was 17, my dad died. He was the sun to my solar system, so to speak. I lived and breathed for that man, which doesn't sound all that healthy, but he lived and breathed for us, so it seemed only fair. My whole life until that point revolved around one truth: Dad would always be there.

When someone dies, it knocks you on your ass. And it can take years to get back up. I've learned, the hard way, that getting back up isn't even the hardest part. Its the first battle, sure, but its the walking and running, well, basically living again that can become a battle every single day. Maybe its a battle without end. And maybe that's just life. But there are triumphs, there are realizations, loves, joys, and of course, more tragedies to knock you on your ass. Yes, that is definitely life. Yet you keep getting back up, because... well, why wouldn't you? This life is glorious when you embrace it.

And yet.

Death leads us to hold onto things when embracing life means letting go.

So life isn't just learning to walk again after you fall and break. Its about learning to let go to all of the things that tragedy has led you to hold onto, so you can embrace life with gusto.

Here are some things that have burrowed so deeply within me that I've going to have to dig them out before I can let them go:

I can recognize this as my greatest handicap in life, as it has been so far.
I know that when I was younger, I was afraid of plenty, but there are so many things
that terrify me now that I wouldn't have even thought to fear when Dad was alive.
Death, of course, is the biggest. I haven't had the luxury of waiting until my mid-forties
to face my mortality. And that fear of death has branched off into so many other fears,
including a fear of life. I could spend whole posts listing all of the things that I fear
now, but that's not important. The only thing that matters is to let go so it no longer
keeps me from the passionate life I crave. Make no mistake, fear can hold you
back more than anything else in your life, including circumstances.
You must let go of fear.

"Ultimately we know deeply that on the other side of every fear is freedom."
-Marilyn Ferguson

The Past
It seems obvious that we would cling to a past with our lost loved one in it. But that is
not the past I hold close to me. Instead I hold close the failures as almost every day reminders.
The mistakes I see myself having made, the things I wish I could change, the do-overs
I go through in my mind. I see myself as wiser today and so think that I would
surely make different choices. But today is brilliant and would not be as it is without
those choices, so why do I dive so often into my sea of regret?
You must let go of the past.

"Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves -
regret for the past and fear of the future."
-Fulston Oursler

The Future
Ah, the future, that tricky temptress. Her siren song lulls us into a placid, spectator
existence as we allow ourselves to believe that life will be better when such-and-such
happens at such-and-such time in the future. Life will be awesome when we get to
college. And then, life will be awesome when we start our careers. Or, life will
be so much better once we get out of this place. And so lulled, we let the present
pass us by as we wait for the "better" future to come. Well, you know what?
All I have, all any of us have, is right now. The future is an illusion, folks;
there is no guaruntee of tomorrow, so we need to make this day the
best day we can have. We need to find a way to embrace every moment of it,
 or the future's song will have us simply waiting for death under the illusion that
we are waiting for the ever-elusive "more" of tomorrow.
You must let go of the future.

Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.

(The Illusion of) Control
I've actually made some headway over the years in letting go of this, with the help
of inadvertant lessons from my husband who has a singular ability to just 'roll' with things.
But here it goes: We do not have control over our lives. We can make choices, that's
great, but there will always be something to come along, wrest your 'control' away
from you, and once again, knock you on your ass. This is inevitable. It can make us
stronger, more compassionate, more giving and loving towards others (because we
can control how we react to the uncontrollable), but its going to happen
(probably time and time again), and many times it will hurt like hell. You know
you can do about it? Let go.
You must let go of the idea of controlling your life.

"My friend, the panda will never fulfill his destiny,
nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control."
-Kung Fu Panda

I'm going to keep this simple. Having lost so much, I have clung to material items
for fear of losing even more, even the most mundane objects. This has not led
to a better or more secure life. So many possessions, mine and those of ones long gone,
have become a weight, an anchor chaining me to habit, to grief, to the past. To a 'me'
that is no longer, a 'me' that has long since made her way out of a coccoon that
was far too small, a 'me' that can only fly once the weight of all those 'things'
has been released. We must not cling to what we own. I'm not saying that I need
to give up my worldly possessions to embrace life, but those that weigh me down?
We must let go of possessions that become a weight in our lives.
Life is made up of experiences, not things.

"Be content with what you have... When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you."
-Lao Tzu

And now I leave you with a few thoughts from those far more eloquent and wise than I:

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."
-Lao Tzu

"The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials."
-Chinese Proverb

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."
-Gearge Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Self Pep Talk

Let's say I ended up having a pretty rough time yesterday. Even though I thought I had a pretty positive handle on things, I had so many overwhelmed (and not in the good way) moments. So let's say I may have cried not once or twice, but maybe somewhere around three times throughout the day. I even got a little upset with a cashier at the grocery store, which just about never happens. Over a little thing. Because yesterday everything felt so big. So unsolvable. So desperate. And despite what I wrote yesterday, I was so steadfastly resisting that call to live a bigger life to meet all the 'big' unpleasant things. It happens. We're all human.

So where am I this morning? Somewhere between halting apprehension and ready to conquer the world. I'm at a point where its an entirely uphill battle, but I know I'll get there, and oh, how strong I'll be. I had a few moments scattered about yesterday where I thought to myself, "This? This freezes you in your step and makes you want to hide under the covers? Darling, you've been through SO much worse! This is a speed bump, nothing more. You've conquered mountains - this is nothing. Do not fear." Yesterday I wasn't ready to listen to myself, but I think today I'm getting the message. The warrior inside doesn't back down. The wild child will not be silenced. I have stength and passion to see me through this rough patch, not to mention amazing family and a husband I don't know how I could love more. How can you fail with all of that in your corner? Exactly. There's nothing left to do here except work harder, lean a little on those I love, and prevail.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Clarion Call

So let's keep it simple and say that it has been a rough year in so many ways. We may have expected the death of my grandpa, but we never could have forseen that my lovely, amazing godmother would have died in her early 50s. That's the worst of it, but it seems like there have been at least a dozen or two other things that have helped make 2010 so not the year we wanted it to be.

And yet.

Maybe in some ways, it has turned into what we needed it to be. Oh, not the deaths and the grief. I can't say that I 'needed' that this year, but let's cut to the stress, the depression of aimlessness, the money trouble; basically the reality of the underbelly of this glorious life. We certainly haven't wanted any of it, but who knows what the future holds, who knows when the lessons we're learning now will be desperately needed, or who's to say this isn't the start of that whirlwind, passionate life I've longed for.

When you have an overflow of those quiet, soft moments, you tend to appreciate them less, take them for granted, fail to see them for what they are. And if I'm honest with myself, I know that I've been doing that. Taking the downtime for granted, because somehow, in all that's been going on, I've still had too much of it.

Maybe this is just what is needed to help us appreciate every moment of this life to the fullest instead of spending large chunks of time as spectators.

We are blessed with 168 hours of living every week, if that's how we choose to spend it; living. 168! Are you seeing that number?? And yet so many of us putter and fetter and waste away this incredible gift of life.  And maybe sometimes you need to be placed solidly in a somewhat desperate situation to wake the hell up.

That's what I'm taking from this. Maybe this is my clarion call to finally embrace life fully, to quit dipping in a toe or a leg and just jump the hell in.

"I tell you: one must have chaos in one , to give birth to a dancing star.
I tell you: you still have chaos in you."

-F. Nietzsche

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Living the Good Life

We wake up early and still know we are going to be late. I slip into my big, soft black robe, (because its finally that cold in the mornings) and sleepily stumble into the kitchen to put on the coffee. I step out the door into the chilly morning and breathe in the new day's sunshine before feeding the gloriously soft outdoor kitten and offering loves and cuddles. When I step back inside, Ringo blinks slowly up at me like 'Hey man, where's mine?' So I heft him up into my arms (because, let's face it, when we call him 'fluffy' we're just couching the fact that he's a bit fat) and cuddle him too. I don't yet realize that cuddles will play a significant part in my day.

We have family to help move, wonderful people with whom we've grown quite close, so we head over to theirs and are met with smiles and glazed cinnamon donuts. Is there a better way to start the day?  From there, we help them pack and move boxes, all the while chatting and keeping a close eye on the two kids underfoot. Its not long before I assume the role of 'baby herder,' because this beautiful angel has really gotten her feet under her and she'd love the explore the big world outside while nobody's watching. She quickly tires of the walker she's put in, so I take to carrying her around, which becomes my big contribution of the morning. (This, by the way, is where some of those cuddles come in.) Throughout the day and the big move, baby girl occasionally lays her head on my shoulder and turns my heart completely to mush. The third time, the final time, she's finally down for the count, and as I sway with her and sing softly in her tiny ear, she falls fast asleep. In those moments, the afore-lamented boundaries of my heart cease to exist, and I'm grateful for this lovely family and the opportunity to have this kind of a moment even though I have no kids of my own.

The rest of the day melts away amidst family and friends, laughs and warm moments. The sun dips down, down, down until it's said its final goodnight, and we watch the darkness descend from the softly lit dining room of still more family who have invited us all over for dinner. And every single person in the house is so truly blessed that I am almost overwhelmed.

The love, laughter, conversation where I get to know people better and better, wear me down in the most delicious of ways, until we decide its time to head home, set the teapot on the stove to stave off the slight cool of the evening, and here I sit, that same "fluffy" cat in my lap, my irresistable husband at his desk across from me, and 'content' doesn't seem to cut it anymore. I have a bruise on my shin from playing tag with the other little one in the family, and muscles are starting to let me know what they think of all the pushing, lifting, and carrying that I did today, and yet my mind is singularly at ease, my heart is full, and more family awaits us tomorrow.

This is a good life.

 Optimist: Person who travels on nothing from nowhere to happiness.

-Mark Twain

Friday, October 15, 2010

Good Morning

Its  not quite 6 in the morning. The space heater drones on behind me, because, yeah, its actually that cold. My 18-year-old darling daughter of a cat is still getting comfy in my lap. She didn't sleep well last night; now that I feel how cold its gotten, I can only imagine that the chilly ache in her bones kept her up. My poor old baby. If she would ever wear one of those tiny dog sweaters, I'd  put it on her, so she's stay warm when I'm not here for her to cuddle up with.

The coffee is perking in the kitchen, and just the sound helps me wake up. I have the tail-end of a  bizarre science fiction movie to finish this morning, but 6 AM is just a little too early to devote myself to that. At least until I've had my coffee.

I'm watching two little angels today. Okay, okay, so one may be an angel with a pointy tail in the back, but he's four. He's just seeing what boundaries are firm and which ones he can step around. So much fun for the parents. I adore this family, so I feel blessed to be able to help out for a couple hours. Kids still like coloring books, right?

I have a cat to take to the vet; the youngest, the newest. The loudest purrer I've ever met, and I've met a lot of cats. She has so thoroughly charmed her way into the hearts of my husband and I. Such a short life so far, yet so much impact. I know she doesn't realize that she helped me get through some heavy times when she was just a bit younger, that she gave me a small light in weeks of darkness, and I'll always be grateful for her little heart for that. There may be no way to tell her, but I take care of my own, and she'll always be warm and fed and loved if I have anything to say about it.

I haven't written in this blog in stream-of-consciousness, but how do you get more present than that? So welcome to my blessed morning. Now the coffee's calling my name. I hope of fabulous day is had by all.

"Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land,
there is no other life but this."

-- Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Peek at My Present

I've been avoiding posting on here. Why? For two very opposite reasons. For the most part, its been because the present moment has held much more stress than normal lately, which makes it pretty hard to embrace. In typical me fashion, it has led to a considerable amount of dreaming of a future in which several stressful issues most likely won't apply. Pretty much the anithesis of this blog.

The second reason is that last weekend I turned 25, and I have so many things to say about this that I've felt a little overwhelmed about organizing all of those thoughts and the experiences of my wonderful birthday weekend that I simply avoided it. Not very warrior woman of me.

(So, here's a little peek of it all before I head to class.)

See, I don't know exactly who I was for the first twenty-five years of my life, and deep-down I feel like it doesn't even matter, because the big questions facing me:

Who am I going to be for the next 25 years?

What am I going to do?

Whose lives am I going to touch?

I showed simple kindness to a girl in a class the other day, and she was so overwhelmingly grateful, I wanted to cry a little afterwards. I am already touching people.

I feel like, with this milestone of a birthday, I get to reinvent myself if I want to. Or maybe tweek things here and there. Be a wonderfully revised edition of myself. Be a warrior woman.

I'm going to ride the wonderful, terrifying, emboldening,
heartbreaking, precious waves of the present.

"I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible, to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance; to live so that which comes to me as seed goes to the next as blossom and that which comes to me as blossom, goes on as fruit."

-Dawna Markova

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I am...

...relishing orange spice black tea while I greet the day with utter gusto and gratitude.

...still thinking about the lovely backrub my love gave me this morning to help me wake up.

...in love more than ever before.

...reminiscing on what a delicious day yesterday was. A 'normal,' but entirely delicious day.

...drifting on the heavenly smell of vanilla that pervades our living room.

...adding to my book list as we speak. Want a peek?

  • A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
  • 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin
  • Life is a Verb by Patti Digh

...pepping up for another brilliant day.

...enjoying the moment.

...loving this quote:

"It is only possible to live happily-ever-after on a day-to-day basis."
-Margaret Bonano

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Meet the Wild Child. Meet Me.

I find myself dancing along the edges of a passionate life. Sure, I dip a toe into that glorious ocean now and again, but I have yet to find the courage to fully submerse myself in it, and here's a secret:

I long for it.

Although I have many passionate moments for which to be grateful, I yearn to live a whirlwind of a passionate life, with no regrets.

A worthy question would be, "So what's stopping you?" As a wonderful blogger once said, "Life is a choose-your-own-adventure book." That has stuck with me, so why aren't I choosing the adventure of miraculous, passionate, wild life? Because the wild child lives inside me; I feel her every day. And she whispers, "You're heart is too closed still. Open up. Break. Break open."

Like a bird fluttering against the inconsistent boundaries of my heart, determined to break free, live free, live wild and precious and unfettered. Determined, on the verge of angry at being caged for so very long. That's the wild child; that is me. Trapped, but in a gilded cage of my own making; a not-so-subtle cage of deer-caught-in-the-headlights fear, shyness, inhibitions. Fear of giving my heart to the world and never getting it back (and deep down, that wild child whispers, "A free heart is better than a closed one. Do you really want it back?")

I'm working on it. In two weeks, I'm 25, and this last quarter of a century has certainly not been awash. See, the wild child, she's not content to sit and wait; she tiptoes over that boundary more and more all the time, creating holes, dancing in the surfs of passion. I may be afraid, but that particular ocean laps at the boundaries of my heart daily, breaking those edges down as subtly as the Pacific turns high cliffs into grains of sand.

Its only a matter of time, and when I'm tossed into the waves of this life I want so badly, I will not tread water, but instead plunge into the depths of passion, delight, eternity, wonder. I will embrace the wild child who is the heart of who I am, who I wish to become, and from those moments, my heart will cease to leave my sleeve, free, glorious, vulnerable.

Because a vulnerable heart is far better than one which is caged.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Peek into My Present

The smell of green bean casserole drifts from the oven as I type, and today it represents friends and family, comraderie, love, appreciation, and all around good times. In 15 short minutes, I'll be pulling it out of the oven and hopping into the car with the husband to drive this delicious yet simple concoction to wonderful friends who also happen to be family for dinner. We usually have dinner with them once a week, and its always one of the highlights of my week. We'll talk and laugh and play with the little kids, and the baby, who is one and the most adorable thing on earth, will run and fall over and giggle and scrunch her face up in a way I've never seen, and my heart will be completely and blessedly full.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Musings of a Born-again Morning Person

So I told myself that I should really blog at the end of the day, so I can actually write about my day, but alas, as I sit at my computer, drinking my second cup of coffee after my 5:45 am wake-up, I find that there's too many thoughts floating through my head, and since I have the time to jot a few down, I'd rather not wait. And here we go:

Sitting here daydreaming about the lovely nerdiness I've developed through osmosis from my husband. The fact that we still don't own and haven't played Lego Harry Potter yet is an utter travesty. Also, we have Star Wars Monopoly tucked away in a cabinet, and I've been itching to break it out for one of those mind-boggling, up-until-3-in-the-morning marathon games. I have about 15 Buffy comics stashed on a shelf still to read before I catch up, but NO time to read them, as I'm taking 3 lit classes this semester. And while these may seem like complaints, they are mostly just me embracing  celebrating my inner geek. Can't wait till Christmas rolls around so I can brag about our Christmas droids!

Been bitten by the travel bug again. Thing's worse than a damn mosquito - its always out for my blood. Better yet, its IN my blood, this wanderlust and wonderlust. This deep, passionate need to see as much of the world and as much of humanity as possible in this short, precious life. The world beckons, and I itch to follow, to explore, to revel in all of the beauty there is to see. My heart swells with it and remembers sights so beautiful it felt as though it cracked a little. And indeed, every new place I've ventured, every ounce of beauty my eyes and heart and mind have been lucky enough to drink in, has caused a small crack, a miniscule opening in the boundaries of my heart, until those boundaries become inconsistent, insubstantial almost, with every breath of wonder that fills my lungs. Its not just that I love to travel and see new places; I love how travel changes me, broadens my world view, exposes me, humbles me, fulfills me.

I want to throw out a few aspirations for my blog here:
  • If I can ever get my camera to work again, there will be pictures. I adore photography, I love having (and sharing) these beautiful images of life.
  • Although its a blog for the now, I will be chronicling my dreams as well, because my dreams so often drive my present.
  • You won't see a whole lot of complaining on here, because that is just not the purpose of this blog. So, no, my life is not perfect, but I'm here to reflect on the blessings, not the little annoyances. I refuse to give them any more thought or power than they deserve.
  • I hope this blog will help me grow. I hope it will further break down the boudaries, the walls, around my heart, because I don't want to protect myself if it forever keeps me separated from people.

The it for now. School beckons. A big, scary test this afternoon beckons. But after that, cuddles with kitties and the husband, so its shaping up to be another good day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Some Moments

Some of my favorites moments today:

During my 5:30 am walk this morning, as I glanced from the sparkle of stars in the dark, dark sky to the tiny mirror-still 'pond,' I thought with a couldn't-stop-it-if-I-tried smiles, "What am I going to be grateful for today?"   

The phrase "lots of good smartness" uttered from my mother during our daily phone convo.

Talking gibberish with my husband and the ensuing silly laughter.

Watching the premiere of 'How I Met Your Mother' and more laughter. (Because you can never laugh enough in a day.)

And here in the next 20 minutes, being lovingly tucked in by the most beautiful person I've ever met.

Hope your day has been as blessed!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dishwashing Zen

Yes, you read that title right. Last night I achieved a sort of zen while washing dishes. While Joshua Radin and Ingrid Michaelson serenaded me in my kitchen, I zoned out into a completely relaxed state while the warm, sudsy water danced and played around my fingers, tugging on the sponge here and there. The delicious pumpkin spice candle that flickered behind the sink sent wafting tendrils of its delicate scent to tickle my senses, and my eyes lost focus watching the candle flame flicker and sway.

No, I didn't drop or break any dishes as I embraced my zen moment (although that would have been like me). While in that moment, I didn't so much notice it as subconsciously embrace it. It wasn't until it drifted away and I continued scrubbing that I felt a little wistful, just the tiniest bit bereft at its absence. Funny how so often the absence of something is more noticeable than its presence.

I can't say I love to do dishes, nor did my dishwashing zen moment convert me, but those lost-in-the-most-delicious-of-senses moments were certainly something to note. Who knew that cleaning could be a relaxing force. Ha, well, something to ponder anyway.

And if that's not an example of embracing the present, then I don't know what is.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"It is no disgrace to start all over. It is usually an opportunity." -George Matthews Adams

I have no idea who George Matthew Adams is, but its clear to me that he is a smart fella.

I have found (in my short almost 25 years of life) that starting over is both scary and wonderful, inspiring and unsettling.

Whether its a big life-altering starting over or something as simple as starting over on this blog, so often it is invigorating. Again, scary, but invigorating.

This year, I decided to start my career over. Instead of working in social services, I discovered that I wanted to be a teacher. A high school English teacher, to be exact. I made this decision just as I was finishing a sociology degree, so it wasn't exactly the best timing. Just when I thought I was finishing something, I realized I was only at the beginning.

I'm not going to lie; at first, it felt pretty discouraging, even as the hope and novelty and inspiration began coursing through my veins. After so many years of college, I wanted to start over? Am I nuts? I'm sure a number of people have thought so.

I'd say that I'm just dedicated to being happy, no matter how much work I have to put into it.

Now I have two years to go, and then I will be a teacher. Hopefully, I will start my first year of teaching just before I turn 26. Most days I feel like it can't possibly come soon enough.

And in walks the purpose of this blog... With something so big and so great looming on the horizon, it is too easy to get lost in dreams of the future. It is too easy to take the present for granted. Way too easy to forget just how great of a gift today is. And it is a gift, an invaluable gift.

The precursor to this blog was a gratitude journal that I started keeping about a month ago, after my godmother and my grandfather died within two weeks of each other. When something rocks the foundation of your world, its up to you to decide what you're going to hold onto, what stalwart will keep you from drowning in the maelstrom. Or I guess you can choose to drown, which I have no intention of doing, now or ever.

So I chose gratitude. Gratitude is my sanctuary.

Gratitude has always been my sanctuary. I just didn't realize it until after my dad died. There's no healing from a wound that deep; that leaves a hole in the heart that can never hope to close completely. But there can be growth. There are things to be learned from grief, from terror, from emptiness, from misery. And what I've learned is that gratitude is a choice, and it has not only kept me sane, but I have moments of delirious happiness that never goes unnoticed or unappreciated. The smallest things bring so much pleasure when you're mindful of their value. This mindfulness, this gratitude, has stretched the very boundaries of my heart until they can no longer be seen or felt. It is as though I stand in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight; it is just limitless love, limitless thankfulness.

Maybe I'm getting carried away. All I really meant by that particular digression is that I don't want to forget all that I have in these moments, because these moments are all I have. That's why I'm here. To share these wondrous, indescribable, heartful moments with... well, whoever reads this. And if no one reads this, there is no real loss, because the most important thing is just to remind myself.

This is a beautiful world. A beautiful life. And I intend to wring as much joy and love from it as possible while I have the chance. Because this life has all the beauty of a rainbow, but it shares the frailty and the impermanence of a rainbow as well - it is meant to be enjoyed to the utmost during the fleeting moments we are blessed with it.