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