Sometimes, It’s the Little Things

Over the past little while I’ve been thinking about  ‘little things’….the little things that make us happy or sad or the little things people say or write (or don’t say) that open up a whole new world to us.
There is this person I know who comes off as being quiet and sometimes you might get to thinking there isn’t much going on inside, that has a way of saying one short sentence that acts like that adjustment wheel at the top of my binoculars….and I can see for miles suddenly. Is it that this person is inherently wise or just that their soul speaks to mine ?- oh, and let’s don’t go getting sentimental here – sometimes those quiet words are like a sharp knife- but they can get through to me without even trying.  Perhaps it’s just that in saying very little, about very little this person’s mind condenses and only says what is truly believed or heart-felt.  Today’s buzzword for that would be ‘authentic’.
In other posts I’ve written about the people in our lives being our ‘mirrors’ .  As the days go by I can’t help but being more and more of a believer that the Universe, or God or the light-bulb in the lamp or whatever YOU call it, places them right in our path when we most need them, often resent them the most, are hurt, perturbed, disturbed, skewered, stroked and/or  enamoured by them. But whether it’s a wonderful lesson or a hurtful lesson, it is a lesson all the same and not to sound too much of cliché, they are in my experience tiny seeds from whence the mighty oak grows.
This last little while my goal has been to learn not only to listen but to HEAR, to listen and just SHUT UP and let people talk without trying to form a rebuttal or a wise point…..just to listen. And when I think about it, isn’t listening such a gift? When I begin to think of it as a ‘passive’ activity, it’s time to give my head a shake. It’s the greatest active gift we can get or give. It seems such a ‘little thing’ and yet very few of us can really master it well.

So this post is to thank those people who have listened and heard me – with acceptance, perhaps not of what I was blathering on about but even better…with the acceptance of what I was trying to say. And this post is an apology to those people I have not always listened to properly…. and is a written pledge that I will in future try to do better….to not only listen but to hear.  Hearing someone and being heard is the greatest validation of  human dignity there is.  AND this post is a great big nod to those ‘little things’ in people, in nature and in spirit that show us there is a rung there, just beneath our feet we never realized was there before.

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A Year Has Gone

Looking back I see  this blog was started on 31 October 2013, so I’m coming up to an anniversary.  As I’ll probably be in no condition on the 31st of this October (due to a planned minor surgery), I’m starting this early, hoping to finish this before something else draws me away.
Of course when I began the blog, I thought I would be posting something every day- some wild and wonderful and insightful nugget of wisdom….but….what is that they say about ‘good intentions paving the way to hell?” ….guess I’m not nearly as prolific as I prided myself on being a year ago….or perhaps I’m just all ‘wisdomed out’, and I’ve certainly learned a lot about ‘paving’.!!!

I have been reading a lot of Brene Brown recently (she’s a shame and vulnerability researcher, speaker, all round inspiration and certainly a wit). Her books are written from her hard-won ‘wholeheartedness’ and when I grow up I want to be just like her…..and because there is no reason why I have to pick just ONE inspiration to want to be when I grown up….I also want to be the 13th Century poet Rumi who can break your heart and mend it with a few well-chosen words, AND Byron Katie….also a speaker and the creator of “The Work”…..4 little questions with a turnaround that will have you feeling frustrated at first and then very, very Zen and peaceful wondering what the hell you were making all the fuss about. The gentleness and joy of the woman just bubbles through without being sickly sweet….she might call everyone “honey” and “sweetheart” but when it comes to the truth her laser sharp sense of how to help other truth-seekers see it as well is remarkable. What really impresses me about her is her humility…it is childlike and genuine. She walks the talk, as they say.  Another person I have been following for some time now after being alerted to his ” The Daily Love” blog by my Oz friend (thanks, Maggie!) is a fellow by the name of Mastin Kipp. He has some nuggets that just make you shake your head with their wisdom and his delivery is down-to-earth and real. Just recently read his book “Falling Into Grace” and enjoyed it immensely, however, my jury is still out on whether or not we like the new format The Daily Love has gone to….they used to  have a section where people posted what they were facing or wondering about or agonizing over and readers would write in offering support and love and it was also commented on by Mastin himself or one of his “Daily Love” team. There seems not to be so much of that lately which is a shame as there is nothing that makes a person feel better than trying to help someone else and while trying to do that realizing you’ve just given yourself some advice!   Also the guest contributors sections that gave different viewpoints seem to have fallen by the wayside – Mastin often mentions them, gives them plugs for their services or new books and expresses his gratitude for their contributions to his life, but they aren’t a daily feature anymore. And right now there have been less and less actual bloggings and more advertising as he’s on an international promotional tour for his book and his courses (oh, well, they guy has to make a living right?) It just saddens me a little that all of my favorites- including magazines….English Home, English Garden, Victoria, This Old House, Traditional Home seem to be turning into what in my day were termed ‘catalogs’ and were there for the express purpose of selling me something. But, as I said, everyone has to pay the light bill and buy the paper or for the online site and the writers’ and photographers’ salaries, I suppose, so they are perhaps necessary evils. Nothing provides me with any more satisfaction on a wintery or rainy day than sitting down with “Victoria’s” sumptuous eye-candy and genteel words, and how many times has “This Old House” bailed me out of a DIY disaster? It just amuses me I guess that I pay for the subscription and as the most of the pages are advertisements  I seem also to be paying to advertise to myself!

So, it’s been quite a year….I have been learning so much; often from people I thought I was learning about….funny how that works, huh? But if Byron Katie is right, and I believe she is, all of our relationships – be they co-workers, lovers or friends, are mirrors of ourselves…..it seems when they do something that perplexes me or (let’s be totally honest here) pees me off, they are usually doing what I do myself and self-righteously feel is right for me – wrong for them! Sometimes it’s the ‘mirror image’; sometimes it’s the exact image with a different face.  Self-awareness is a long road it seems but from my teachers I’ve learned to be gentle with my stumblings.

So my 1st Anniversary is coming up and I am looking back over the year, grateful for my teachers (one of them, I thought I was teaching HIM something….not so!) and truly thankful  for all the love, blessings and support in my life and just generally looking forward to what I will be blogging about by October 2015.  Certainly not my achieving perfection but it’s such an exciting journey, particularly with all of the interesting people I meet along the path.

And  you know what? I bet this is going to be the best year EVER!!!

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Making sense out of nothing at all…

Recently a conversation with a friend of mine revealed a nugget of gold when I least expected it.
This friend is a thoughtful man, a writer, teacher and someone who understands…or at least truly tries to understand the human condition. This shows in his writing which has just won two prizes – a first and a third in a publication called “Brittle Star”, and he has a blog of his own called “Just A Writers Page” where he sets himself the task of writing ‘flash fictions’. It keeps the pump primed while he’s also working on longer pieces or in those times when he just doesn’t have a lot of sit down and write time. As a teacher his students keep him busy, as a Dad I’m sure his sons keep him busy and then there is the garden and well…..life… I love going in each day and seeing what treasures he’s left on his page. The words are magic….just ‘words’ perhaps but strung together like perfect pearls in a necklace, each gentle graduation, each perfect glossy sphere  … perfect.

Of course our ‘conversations’ are online as he lives in Scotland and I, in Canada. We have never met face to face but we have ‘met’ in our love of people and through our love of the written word. And of course like many online friendships, I know little about him….he could well be an axe murderer for all I know but it seems unimportant (easy for me to say living so far away, eh?) because I know he is a writer, I know he is a man who expresses his truth and his ideas and his love of humanity in all its perfect imperfection. So that’s enough to know of him to call him my dear friend.

So this nugget of gold …… he’d signed off an email saying that he hoped I was ‘in a good place’… and I thought about that, of just ignoring it or glossing over it as I do many things unpleasant for me….but this time I thought “No, this isn’t honest. This isn’t me” so I told him that actually  I felt I was at a crossroads, stuck, unable to write, unable to move forward…to take that 1st step out into the world again and that life didn’t seem to ‘make sense’ anymore. He wrote back, shocked, I think because he said I was always so ‘positive’….and then he dropped the nugget; he said when I was able to make sense of things, would I please write to him and tell him- a man, he said,  who often couldn’t make sense of things.

In just that short exchange the scales, as they say, fell from my eyes and I realized the element I have been missing in this quest of mine, or at least asked the question “What if things aren’t SUPPOSED to make sense?” If you are given all round pegs and only square holes why would you (meaning me)  sit trying over and over again to make them fit together?  A monkey could quickly figure out he was wasting his time and go on to other more productive things- like finding a banana.

From that day on I’ve gone forward on the premise that maybe everything doesn’t make sense and maybe it doesn’t need to for me to understand. War is a bad thing but it doesn’t make sense despite gained or lost territories and all the other nonsense politicians talk throwing young bodies into it.  And love….love is a good thing but it doesn’t make sense.  A shell pink rose in my garden is beautiful, but it doesn’t make sense; nor does a hummingbird’s feathers flashing green-blue and peacock feather hues for a second into my sight just to be gone and instant later. None of those things make sense but they all are, happen, occur, show up, grow. They all exist often with  the ugly right beside the glorious.

When all of this first occurred to me prompted by my writer friend’s comment, I felt truly brilliant for a moment….that I’d figured out that I don’t need to figure it out. It was a rush of fresh air. I felt lighter, free, unburdened.   And then I thought about the monkeys and the pegs…..ewwww…. and now I’m just kind of….well….embarrassed.  It took me so long…..I’ve spent so much time….fretting, puzzling, frustrated that I couldn’t solve the puzzle…….and jeez…..there was no puzzle in the first place………

Think I’ll go and find me a banana………

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Stepping Lightly on the Earth

My dream is to someday build an off-grid (or at least grid-tied)  strawbale house in the country preferably overlooking the Bay of Fundy or the Atlantic on a lovely plot of land – and seeing as I am dreaming here – I also want a grove a trees (some of them copper beech), a babbling brook with rainbow trout and a field of daisies, flax and aster.  The fireweed may grow on the perimeter as may goldenrod (I’ve never learned to be a snob about what others consider ‘weeds’, you see…..to me they, and dandelions are beautiful, cheerful things.  Preferably this house would be framed with reclaimed old timbers, such as those that support my present in-the-city house where you can see the chipped away adz marks in the huge beams, the windows would catch the sun all day, there would be a faint smell of woodsmoke and linen fresh from the clothesline and the soul satisfying smell of homemade bread (all of which I enjoy now with the exception of the woodsmoke) but somehow more wonderful at the end of a long field of wildflowers with a grove of mixed trees at your back and a trout pure brook singing most of the year.

I would plant a garden of vegetables and flowers, keep a few hens for eggs and a goat for milk and cheese (perhaps two goats, so they won’t be lonely….and so one can laugh as I try to do the milking).   As preserving pickles and making jams and jellies are a love of mine, I’d have great masses of cucumbers, beans (for dilled beans), onions, cauliflower and I’d plant raspberry and blackberry canes….perhaps even gooseberry and a chokecherry tree.

This whole dream was reawakened as I was looking though the Houzz site I subscribe to and I’ve tried to embed the article here….not being very technical, I’m not sure it will work!…..but it doesn’t need to really because this little blurb today is about dreaming our dreams.  Your sanctuary can be anything you can dream.  Perhaps you can even try and draw it or make a scrapbook (no, not one of those fiddly things that you can buy a million embellishments for at Michael s….I mean just one of those lovely old-fashioned plain ones with that horrid scratchy paper….and then you can cut pages out of catalogs for drapes and furniture, or print them off the internet or cut them from your favorite magazines….please, not my English Home and English Garden magazines or my old Victoria magazines as my children used to do!

As I’ve written previously in my blog, this has been a long hard winter with plenty of snow (record breaking amounts) and plenty of low temperatures (also record breaking).  In fact, I can’t remember a winter like this since I was a child.  So, as the only place here I could toboggan would be into the Bay of Fundy,  it’s been a winter closed in the house either due to huge slick ponds of ice, temperatures that stop your breath, or snowdrifts too high to wade unless you have to….and I don’t have to.

As I’ve also written before, I’ve left behind a couple of people in my life in the past year who while they provided what I previously thought was excitement but came to realize was just drama, chaos and confusion, life was seeming a little flat somehow.  Somewhere I read that to return joy to our lives we must reawaken those things that gave us great joy as children and do them again.   What did I find were the greatest joys of my childhood?  Why, living on a farm where we were pretty much self-sustaining and of all things…..paperdolls!  While the farm is a little harder to come by than the paperdolls….I can dream the farm and go there in my mind.  Luckily, knowing my love of paperdolls, I’ve been given several books of them over the years by my sister and I’ve found several either in stores or on EBay and purchased them for myself – loved those old 1920s, 30s and 40s styles long before Downton Abbey and The Great Gatsby.  It’s amazing what a great amount of joy creating my own clothing designs again for these paperdolls gave me, and as a bonus it kicked in my creative genes.  I not only finally finished the last twenty or so pages of the first draft of the novel I’ve been agonizing over,  now I’m tackling something else again  I’ve always loved but haven’t done since my teen years….painting….but whereas before I always painted in oils and wanted to try watercolor, I’ve just ordered paints, a covered palette, paper and good Kolinsky red sable brushes.   Watercolors everyone always told me is ‘an unforgiving medium’ but in my rush to reignite some passion in my life  (can Spring have something to do with this?) I’ve decided in my maturity that perhaps trying watercolors fits in some small way with my pledge to ‘dare greatly’…perhaps just on a lesser scale than building a strawbale house or falling in love again, but take it from this country girl : if you want to wind up in the hayloft, you have to put your foot firmly on the lowest rung of the ladder first.

So, yes, the caption of today’s blog is about treating the earth gently so we may pass on something wonderful to our grandchildren but it is also about rekindling joy in life when things seem to have gone flat because we’ve been let down or disillusioned (disillusionment will be a whole ‘nuther blog for another day- where it comes from, how we set ourselves up for it and how I think it can be overcome) .  We can pass on a better earth but we can also choose to pass on joy and a creative way of living.

I invite you to go back to your own childhood to dredge up those joys you may have felt you’d grown too sensible and mature to enjoy and to  think about all the ways you can save the earth by doing small things….turning out a light, putting your appliances and toys on a power bar that you can shut down and eliminate ‘ghost’ energy usage, or put on a sweater…or take off a sweater, turn your lawn into a veggie patch.  Just the simple act of recycling paper and plastics and tin cans and glass helps.  While ‘saving the earth’ may seem a daunting task for one person, that one person can make a big difference – especially if children or grandchildren are watching…….just as living with creativity and joy can also be set as examples.

So how are you going to rekindle the passion and joy of your childhood?  What one thing can you do to pass on a better world?  I’d love to hear all the ways.

 

 

 

 

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One More Time!

The weather report this morning warned we are about to experience (yet another) ‘weather event” on Wednesday. This late in March, even for Atlantic Canada that’s pretty remarkable but oddly, I’m rather looking forward to it.
The old timers all used to say call a late snow  ‘poor man’s fertilizer’, convinced it was full of nitrogen and all sorts of wonderful things to nurture the earth with all the seeds lying dormant there or the water waiting to thaw and be sucked up into the maples for maple sugar sap and  ready-to-pop buds and leaves just waiting to unfurl their greeness into the blue of the sky. They also said a new snow would ‘rot’ the old snow beneath and because I’m a farmer’s daughter who grew up on a diet of folksy earth-hugging wisdom, I choose to believe that is just what our ‘weather event” (current meteorologist-speak for blizzard) is going to do.

The robins, usually a sure sign of Spring here, are back they tell me although I’ve yet to see one.  So I’m making sure my bird feeders are full because all of those fragile looking little creatures who frequent my garden will be depending on them on Wednesday and perhaps for a few days thereafter. And you notice, I said ‘fragile LOOKING’ because truth be told, they are tougher than I am at weathering the many storms of life.

I relate to them, having just gone through my own personal storm….a storm of the soul, a storm of the heart. You know those nasty (at the time) surprises life hands us from time to time to test our mettle. However, when one is daring greatly and refusing to leave their path , storms are  the nature of that journey, just as is sun on our skin and joy singing through us vibrating the very space we inhabit.  We need both to grow.

This particular ‘storm’ was mostly of my own making (aren’t they all?) because I give in to this tendency to root for the underdog, to have faith in the impossible, to trust the people no one else trusts, to love the unlovable because I truly believe the saying ‘when we deserve love the least, is when we need it the most’.  Don’t ask me what I’m trying to do….I’m no Mother Teresa by any means – perhaps I’m just trying to prove to myself that I’m ‘a good person’….or that ‘love is the only way’ or perhaps it’s the way I test what I truly believe. I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure it out….. it has a lot to do with still believing I am my thoughts, trusting the ego in the guise of trusting the heart, I think.  Stay posted, and I’m sure I’ll  figure it out eventually….even though,  if you’ve been following you probably figured it out long ago!

In this last storm I did what I’ve done before – trusted someone again who hurt me before….and surprise of surprises, this person did what they’ve always done.  Only, you know what? It didn’t hurt as much this time and I think it’s because I’m finally getting it through my head that people bite for the same reason dogs do….they’re scared. And thinking this reminded me of a YouTube video clip of Byron Katie where she calmly said to someone ‘you go into a yard and a dog bites you. If after that you go back into the same yard this time YOU bit you, not the dog. He’s just doing his job. His job is to bite.”

So, this fellow I trusted yet again was just ‘doing his job’…..and his job at this point on his journey is to bite those who try to love him. I tried, he bit. I retreated, he followed. I tried again so this time I bit me, not him, didn’t I.  So his job is to bite (and yes, because he’s scared- like most of us, mostly of himself) and my job is to learn the lesson.

So have I learned my lesson TRULY this time? Well, I’ve stopped listening to the messages he keeps leaving (ok, so I did listen to 2…..but I am learning because as much as my heart ached for him when he said ‘you must really hate me. I hate myself” I didn’t respond. And when the message was “Did you find another man?”…..I didn’t respond. Had I responded I would have said “No I don’t hate you. I love you and no, I haven’t found another man because I’m not looking’. So there it is, I think I’ve learned something (and ‘no’ he won’t be reading this as he doesn’t know about the blog to begin with and also has no internet access either).

I love this man but sometimes as much as you’d love to keep taking treats to and talking softly and being gentle with that dog and gain his trust, experience the joy of watching his eyes turn from terrified, to wary, to full of trust…..sometimes that’s just never going to happen.  And in the end, to continue to let yourself be his chew toy is just downright masochistic…..he’s just doing his job.  So, you cut your losses and walk away and hope that maybe the next person who sees those terrified eyes and decides to try and win his trust….WILL. Because there is nothing worse than fear, living in fear….it causes all the suffering and anger and disease and disconnection there is in this world.

So, I ‘dared greatly’ and let myself love and trust again, got bit.  But I learned that I can let myself feel and love and be vulnerable and then get bit again but not be consumed or forced into not trusting in the world and reverting to The Ice Queen mode.

Do I have regrets? Not for myself because I did the best that I could for as much as I knew.  When I know more, I’ll do better.  And I’ve learned that I’m as strong as those little birds who come to my feeder. Sure, many of them go south when the cold weather comes, but they always come back and some are so brave they stay right here all winter long.  They know that Spring will come.  And better yet, they know Winter will also come round again but they aren’t afraid.

I’m off to fill the feeders for the coming ‘weather event’, hoping that the ‘new snow’ in my soul will melt the old ice that may remain to make my steps lighter on this journey of mine.

So if you see me on the road, let’s walk together for awhile and share what we’ve learned.  After all we are all just imperfect humans yearning in our souls for the same things, going to the same place….just on different paths.

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STANDING KNEE DEEP………..

When I hear ‘standing knee deep….’, that line, depending probably on where I feel I’m standing at the time, can remind me of one of two things….my biggest plumbing DIY disaster, or trout fishing in the cool streams of my youth.  At the other end of the scale from each other, aren’t they?

But today I’m not thinking of either plumbing disasters or trout fishing, I’m thinking instead of  a song “Standing Knee Deep in a River and Dying of Thirst”.  It’s been running through my head now for a couple of days as background noise or accompaniment as I talk with a three dear friends who feel they are standing ‘knee deep’ and not in a good way.  It seems to me that song is there because the Universe is trying to get my attention with it.  So today my writing is about how we feel so alone sometimes, so empty and unloved and that becomes how we come to define ourselves over time – it becomes, as I talked about in my last post, the story we tell ourselves and we forget, or lose sight of how rich and full and loved we really are.   The chorus of that  song goes (and I quote )

We go through life parched and empty

Standing knee-deep in a river and dying of thirst

My friends feel they have ‘lost’ something very integral to their happiness – one has been laid off from their job (again), one has had the man she loves inexplicably turn on her after a text message exchange-gone-wrong (and technology is supposed to be making our lives better??? Don’t get me started…..) and one has just learned the man she still loved is engaged to someone else, but it’s not just all about these  ‘recent’ swift kicks life has given them that’s got them so down, it’s been a long series of things building that have happened in their lives….and sadly when one bad thing happens it often brings to mind all the others – the missed opportunities, the family who moved away, the past break-ups, betrayals by former lovers, ill health, financial disasters.  God forbid our subconscious could just let us deal with the current situation; oh no, that would be too easy….it has to decide at a time like this to ensure our very selective stream of memory for past disasters is thriving as well!   And because Fate has such a perverse sense of humour  it’s timing was also impeccable…..right before Christmas when everyone is smiling and running around buying gifts for loved ones…if they haven’t be laid off and HAVE the money for gifts and if they HAVE  that one special person to buy gifts FOR.  The layoff, the break-ups would have been bad enough at any time of year….but now…you’ve got to be kidding!!!  As I said, Fate  has a perverse sense of timing.

So, how to support friends as they live through  pain and fear?  There are all of these old cliches that spring to mind “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade’, ‘Poor is a way of life, broke is a temporary condition’, “There are plenty of fish in the sea” “Things will all work out for the best”……and yeah, like I’m always saying cliches are cliches for just that reason, because they are true in some sense, but frankly, I’d slap MYSELF if I tried out any of those on my  friends.  They don’t need or require my advice – always the first thing I tend to try and give friends in crisis…..not because they need it, but because I guess it just makes me feel better thinking I’m doing something.  But  I’m working on that, reminding myself listening, acknowledging and bearing witness for them as they find their way back onto their path  is doing something.

But it is so hard to watch those we love standing knee deep in that river and dying of thirst without saying….’.ummmm, do your feet feel a little wet?’ or ‘look down’….. And it would serve little purpose because no one knows better than I, if you can’t see the water for tears it’s not there.

I look at my friends and I ache for them and I think…why can’t they see?  Why can’t they just see their own beauty and value and wonder? That bad times pass?…Why can’t they see what I see?   But then I have to give my head a shake and smile…not too long ago I was the one parched and empty and dying of thirst, all the while standing knee deep.  And the one who helped me most wasn’t the one who said ‘your feet are wet’ or ‘look down’, the one who helped me best just quietly listened, let me know she was there for me, let me whine and rail against the Heaven and the Fates, didn’t offer advice….In her quiet way she  supported me until I felt safe enough to take my eyes off my pain, never chided me for being silly until I could look around. And when I looked  I saw that I was standing knee deep in a river…..a river of friends and support – all holding out water to keep me from dying of thirst.

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I KNOW YOU READ IT….BUT IT BEARS READING AGAIN……..

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

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STORIES WE TELL

Okay, I’ll admit it……I’m a writer, have been for many, many years.  And sure, reading this blog a person might be hard pressed to be convinced of that as even re-reading it myself I sometimes think….was I on CRACK or something when I wrote that???  because it seems more like a ‘mind dump’ than actual ‘polished’ writing…and it is.

I’ve only had a couple of things published….stories in now defunct magazines or tiny online newspapers……But I have it on good authority I’ve earned the right to call myself a writer and that authority comes from the master himself….yup  Stephen King….probably one of the most widely read, successful and prolific writers of cracking good yarns to come along in many, many years.  See, King wrote this book called “On Writing”….pretty catchy title, eh?  And so much like the man himself….direct, no crap and to the point and despite all his success a guy who clearly hasn’t lost that Maritimer down home Maine-ness.  When I first saw “Carrie” on TV and then read a couple of books….or tired (not a fan of the genre really), I thought ‘what kind of mind would it take to write this kind of stuff all the time?”  Then I read this article (probably in the seventies) in “Writers Digest” magazine talking about how he ate about a bottle of aspirin a day, etc. etc.  It really played into the tortured artist type thing…sorry, don’t remember who wrote the article, but looking back and listening to Stephen King we find he was at the time a  self declared alcoholic and possibly into his ‘drug phase’ when the piece was was written.  But just listen to the guy today……humble, self-effacing and not even bitter about the fact that although he’s probably singlehandedly (yeah, I know, it’s not a real word, but it works) kept generations reading …..BEFORE ‘Harry Potter”….BEFORE “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest”, BEFORE “Game of Thrones”…who was there slugging it out, keeping the lights on for   those nose-in-the-air serious writers (many of whom still after years haven’t sold 1,000 books) and keeping publishing houses in business?  Yep, King.  Stephen King, my hero!  And no, I’m not into the genre he writes particularly but all anyone has to do is just read one of his books to know he’s one damned fine writer!

And do you know what King said in his “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft of Writing”????  He said (to paraphrase because I’m too lazy to get up and find the exact quote  in my well-thumbed copy) ….he said “If you write today, you are a writer.  If you wrote yesterday you are a writer.  Writers write.  So every day you write, you earn the right (catchy eh?) to call yourself a writer.”  So there….from Stephen King’s lips to my ear….I’m a writer!  I’m a writer because I’m writing…..right now.

Anyway, we’ll discuss writing and writers and how much some guy who I’ve only REALLY read a few of his books became my mentor and hero  and whittled down my “Writer’s Workshop” induced writer’s block of years ago to manageable size later because of his modest little book ” On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft of Writing” which should be required reading in every school in my humble opinion by the way because   THIS blog is about, as it says in the subject line, The Stories We Tell, but more importantly, it’s about The Stories We Tell  Ourselves, ABOUT  Ourselves-  and those, I’ve come to believe are the most important stories of all because they either make us or they break us and, by the way the bad ones if never revised, KEEP us broken.   They aren’t the kind of stories that will win us The Giller, or the Rogers Writer’s Trust prize, or the Mann-Booker, or a Pulitzer…..but you know something?  I’ll bet for every writer who has won one of those suckers (not Stephen King….oooooh nooooo, he’s not SERIOUS enough, he’s just the guy who kept the whole damned publishing industry afloat and millions reading while some of them bored the beJAYsus (as the “Angel’s Ashes’ guy would say) out of us) ….However, I’ll make a wild assumption here and say I’ll bet all of those ‘winners’ were informed and made richer by the stories THEY told themselves ABOUT themselves.

Someone once said ‘we all have one book in us’ and I believe we do…..some people write their book in the pictures they paint, or the lives of service they lead, or they write it in how they raise their kids…..but we are all, ALL of the time, writing our story…no matter what vehicle we use to do it.  And sometimes the whole story is a construct of made up crap, sadly and needs one of those massive rewrites.  Scary thought, isn’t it….

Okay, I’ll go first…..here are some of the stories I tell myself ABOUT myself….I was a really good student  (a million years ago) and led my class..so I’ve told myself I’m more intelligent than the average bear; in my life I’ve loved three very different kinds of men and lost them all – so I’ve told myself the story that love for me, is ‘giving up’ something else I love….SACRIFICING something and that I’ll always love and never be loved; every job I’ve ever had I’ve been ‘the keener’ and the sharpest knife in the drawer, hence the story I tell myself that I work longer, smarter, harder than my co-workers.   But….here’s the thing…..(1) it’s been years since I’ve been out of school and all these bright young things know FAR more than I do now (2) I’m starting to get the idea that great love DOESN’T HAVE TO equal great sacrifice (3) I’m out of the work force now and just a hack tip-tapping away on a keyboard, so there goes the ‘better than co-workers work ethic’ thing.

And the stories I USED to tell myself about myself were (1) I’m a date-rape victim (2) I’m a battered wife of an abusive alcoholic (read martyr) , and THEN  (3) I’m a strident feminist…….and those are just a few I told myself for awhile and then discarded when it finally sunk in although I was all of those things once, I refused to allow them to define me any  longer……but these stories I’ve just recently come face-to-face with now in the paragraph above….well, those are a few of the gems I’ve continued to tell myself ABOUT myself for years now and never questioned  until something amazing happened…..I STOPPED BEING A WRITER…..because I stopped writing…..have been unable to write anything but this blog and a few emails to good friends.   For anyone who used to write as much as I did, well, that’s like a runner who no longer can run, or a swimmer who can no longer swim or …..well, it’s like a  fish out of water…that’s how it feels – scary, yes. because what if this NEVER comes back?  but mostly frustrating because hey, it’s what I DO, it’s my PASSION, it’s my LOVE, how can I BE in the world and not write????

Besides a ton of short stories, I have three novels I’ve written (the first one I think I just outgrew, grew up and abandoned – maybe it’s worth resurrecting, maybe not), the second was a labour of love that wrote itself – it needs DESPERATELY to be edited but as King also says “it’s hard to kill off our babies” and I’ve been putting off doing that;  the 3rd I’m about 20 pages from the end of the first draft and ….POW…..writer’s block or whatever you want to call it.  It feels like running out of gas, it feels like a kind of death, it feels like if I don’t get over this and start writing soon I’m going to die.  It feels like fear.

But I’ve resolved to dare greatly, haven’t I, so I’m going  to get to the root of that fear and ferret out the causes for that fear…..was it that last man I loved (still do actually to be perfectly honest) and lost?  It was after him that the my muse pulled up stakes and just sort of wandered off into what someone I once knew used to call ‘the far-gone-iss-fere’…was it  this story if I sacrifice something I love, I’ll get something (or get something back) I love better?  Is that how my mind works?  Is it the story I’m telling myself about myself that is keeping me from both of those things I love…..the man and the writing?   Is it that I’ve decided I’m not a good enough writer to go on (OR that I’m too lazy to go back and edit and put the work in good writing requires) and rather than admitting I’m giving up because I’m too lazy I need someone to blame??  Oh and there is another story I tell myself about myself…..that I’m not a QUITTER…..but wait….THAT story is true, because, you know what?  I’m not damned-well quitting…..I’m not giving up on love, I’m not giving up on writing and I sure as hell am NOT giving up on living life in the open.  And guess what?  I’m not TOO lazy either!!!!

So, I’m going to dare greatly….I’m going to discard all of those old BAD, FALSE, POOR ME, I’M TOO OLD TO CHANGE, I’LL NEVER BE LOVED, I’M BRIGHTER THAN YOU, I’M REALLY TOO LAZY FOR DRAFT 6 or 7- LET ALONE 2nd DRAFT, IF I LOVE SOMETHING I’LL HAVE TO GIVE UP SOMETHING ELSE I LOVE  old stories that I’ve been telling me about me.  They are no longer valid.  You know why?  Because I SAY they are no longer valid.

So with all of my old stories gone what is there to hold on to?  Were any of them true in the first place?  A couple – I love my kids unconditionally, I love a very complicated man unconditionally, and I love, love, love writing unconditionally….that’s a pretty good start.   I feel like it’s the frame……the plot-line that freakin’ Writer’s Workshop YEARS ago kept telling me I had to do before I could ever WRITE anything important……well……maybe for SOME writers….but not for this one….I see the characters and THEY tell ME their story and I just write it down.  But as for the story about me, that I will tell to me until it’s no longer valid??? I’m going to really do a lot of work on that one because I want that story to be positive and loving and open and creative and life sustaining.

And although I’ll be the only one reading this story something tells me that of all of the things I have written and all of the things that I will ever write, THIS is the story I have to get just right, THIS is the most IMPORTANT story I will ever write because it will inform how I go forward into the world, how I will interact with the people I love and the ones I will love in future, how I will create and be, and work and live.

Here’s the blank page, here are a couple of ideas……..  I think I’m about to  start the next chapter of my life.  And this?  THIS is exciting…….scary, but exciting.

So….what stories to YOU tell yourself ABOUT yourself?  Are they true anymore?  Time for the 9th or 10th draft maybe?  Another Chapter?  Yeah, sure, it’s scary but okay….I’ll go first………

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IT’S CALLED SYNCHRONICITY, BABY!

Have you ever been having a really terrible day and suddenly met someone, or read something, or heard a piece of music, or smelled an old familiar smell and were elevated out of the mire and morass of the ‘really terrible day’?

That’s called synchronicity, Baby!  And it’s the way the Universe has of telling us that while, yes, today may be terrible….terrible doesn’t last forever, just as this one day we are living doesn’t last forever, so honor it as a one-off and totally unique and fleeting.

I’ll  be honest with you and tell you that Friday I was so low I really was beginning to wonder what the point was of going on (yes, I was feeding the ‘fear’ wolf!).  On Saturday I had planned a Christmas ‘bake off’ at my house with three women who are very dear to me – two of whom are struggling and alone and it was mostly for them I’d planned this, knowing how empty and futile this season can be for those alone (either singly or in the crowds of happy shoppers) but I wallowed in self-pity and pain all day Friday and seriously considered sending my bake-off friends an email  saying ‘Sorry but I have to cancel our Saturday’.  But I didn’t (I think I must have thrown the courage-wolf a long overdue bone or maybe he just snatched it from the jaws of my fear-wolf).

Saturday was wonderful – 4 women, a few bottles of our favorite wines, a few pages of our favorite recipes held especially back for just this time of year.  We learned new recipes from each other, shared recipes and pulled each other out of culinary disasters with a little trick one knew but the others didn’t, and  wine (here, taste this – it’s my favorite! OK, have a sip of mine!) and we shared the smells of cinnamon and spice and pastry and the oven-warmth of my dear  old house.    Mostly we shared laughter and joy and delight in just being in each others company.

Saturday’s message to me is  that I ‘have to get out more’……not out physically perhaps as this little “do” happened right in my own home, but I have to get out of my own head more….it can be a great place, or it can be a prison and showed me I am still trying to learn  that lesson of ‘getting over myself’.  And it taught me ……..with Friday being so black and Saturday being so bright and sparkling….. that I have somehow to learn balance.

Then this morning I read  affirmations (that’s okay, I’m not much into them either – mostly because I’m probably too unfocussed to remember to repeat them daily)  from a blog a good friend of mine introduced me to (thanks, Mags!) called The Daily Love by Mastin Kipp and I realized while the lessons they teach are the ones I’d forgotten totally on (black) Friday….had I received them then, they wouldn’t have resonated as they did having been balanced by my lovely (bright) Saturday.  Here they are and what I’ve learned from them so far- because I am still learning- still a work in progress:

-I feel my feelings and love myself for feeling them.  (Bad or good, I have to find the lessons in my feelings by just accepting them, learning my lessons from them, then releasing them)
-My feelings have nothing to do with other people and all to do with the story I make up about them. (How I made my Friday black – Do I truly love this complicated man in my heart, is it his divine I love and honor or am I only in love with the story I have made up about him?)
-My feelings are real and valid and so are those of other people  (I want love and caring and exclusivity and those feelings are real and valid.  He wants  a ‘friend with benefits’……you know, I ALMOST wrote ‘he just wants a FWB….” how pejorative, eh?- as if what he wants is less real or valid somehow than what I want or feel?….  No.  No.  His feelings are just as valid and real as mine are.  So if I truly love him I must honor his feelings). As Dylan wrote “You’re right on your side and I’m right on mine, there’s just all too many mornings in between”.  We just want different things, that’s all   – he wants my body but not my heart; I want his heart and see his body as a delightful part  of the whole package.   He can’t give me what I need and I can’t give him what he needs…..how sad is that really….Well, not for him perhaps as there are plenty of bodies out there for him to enjoy but for me, there is only one heart that fills mine…..his.    He was my past, and is my today but will he be my tomorrow?   I don’t know but I must trust the universe to provide not what I want but what I need.
So on Friday  when I NEEDED these messages, I didn’t get them and on Saturday when I would have read but been too busy to reflect on them, they weren’t there…..but today, on Sunday with black Friday and bright Saturday behind me, when I have the time, with an assist from a huge delightful snowstorm keeping me inside, giving the quiet time to reflect on these affirmations, they magically appeared in my inbox. 
I am still thinking, still reflecting and thanks to the support and loving embrace of the universe, still learning, accepting, daring greatly, seeking, and loving.  
And that is what Jung labelled  synchronicity!
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GETTING READY TO GO

Today I’ve decided to start getting ready.  No, not for Christmas and not even for the New Year really, but I am going to start to get ready for this trip to  my New Year….my new place.  It’s  a place  I’ve had tantalizing glimpses of over the years, in fact I’ve even been to a couple of times but I lacked the courage to stay and ran back to my safe shell  and for the past while have stood like a child in a toy store window staring longingly in again.  It’s not on any map.

So I didn’t really need to choose where I’d be going after years and years of thought, pining, anguish, to’ing and fro’ing, self-doubt and fear.  Yes, fear, because you see,  here’s the thing…… I won’t be coming back this time and that in itself is scary.  And where I’m going can be the scariest place a person can go because I’m going toward love – love of myself, love of others, love of life.

Just as on any journey  I have to decide what to take with me and what to leave behind and it is that which I’m beginning to do today.  The things so far I’ve decided  I’m taking with me are my faith, my friends, my family, confidence, hope, openness, compassion, and courage -they’re packed and I’m sure before the jumping-off point there will be many more things to take – but no matter, they are all light things as all important things are.  They won’t weigh me down.

What am I leaving behind?  Well, I’d love to be able to say fear but fear I find is like a bad penny, it keeps turning up (that’s why I packed the courage)….and like the Native American story of the two  wolves that fight within all of us for control, I guess whichever one I feed will be the one who wins….say a prayer for me that I feed the courage and starve the fear, won’t you, because either way, I’m not coming back – one of the wolves will have me, either way.

So, what else to leave behind?  How about all of those old dreams that don’t fit anymore?  Like my dream of becoming rich and famous….I decided long ago I never really wanted those two things so that lightens the load considerably.  And how about the idea that I should conform to other peoples’ expectations of me….that I be a particular religion, or act my age, or dress or talk a certain way, or always be the ‘responsible’ one, or never move out of my (their?) comfort zone?  And how about all those expectations of others I’ve carried all this while….how they should be, what they should say, think, feel, etc.?  All of those things I can toss.

Then there are a lot of other things I’ve held onto over the years…..physical things that no longer serve me and could perhaps be of use or just plain bring joy to others?  There is a two year old Christmas gift I never sent that will now go  when the intended recipient felt I had changed too much to know anymore- holding onto that is holding on to an old laid to rest hurt;  and there is the birthday gift intended to touch the heart of a man who decided he wanted to continue on his journey alone- holding onto that is just holding on to pain, and there are clothes I bought for ‘special occasions’ that never materialized or did and served their purpose, and books that I don’t REALLY love but have held onto because they belonged to my dear late brother, and pictures that could be hanging on someone else’s walls, and recipe books…..oh, LORD, recipe books that I buy because I love them and then mostly make the same damned things over and over (but because I love those things and so do others!).   There are just so many things I don’t need to be dragging along behind me anymore….physical things, mental things, emotional things.

So I’m clearing out the clutter, getting ready to go on this journey…..even though at the beginning I called it a ‘place’…..it is really a journey.

Love is a journey.  It’s not a place I’m going to arrive …..even if I find it, it will still be a journey and it will be fluid and moving and ever changing….that’s how I imagine love to be and how it is when I am deserving and open  enough to experience it….it changes and must because not only do we change but the the people we love change too.   It’s like the ocean, it may stay between the same two hemispheres but it is ever-changing, never the same, vast, infinite and self-renewing.  We can sail on it and swim in it (sometimes to our peril), but we can never really control it, nor should we ever try.

So, I’ve already taken the first few tentative steps….and like any journey if I get lost or lose the path I’ll make adjustments along the way, reset my course, maybe decide some of the things I’ve brought along no longer serve.

And I must be crazy because amazingly I’m not scared but still I’m scared as hell.

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