Posted in A Day In the Life

Living Out This Idea of Love

It seems to me that the universe is bound together by dancing molecules of love.

I’ve had a couple of rough weeks.  Free floating anxiety. Restless sleep. Self doubt.  It was as if my psyche developed little cracks and all of that seeped in. I didn’t immediately recognize that I was in distress.  Then, this morning, I was awake at 4:00am, swimming in worry and anxiety that wasn’t attached to anything real: would I lose my wallet in the airport when I travel next week?  Is my book any good? Am I any good? Such moments of suffering are wake up calls. There’s no outside solace to heal one’s heart; I have to begin at the core. What do I need?  What do I want? How can I help myself?

From time to time, we all feel like imposters in the world.  We stumble and fall into a hole of despair and then wonder how we got there.  Visiting the wounds of childhood past doesn’t seem to provide anything but an excuse. Finding ways to psychologically and spiritually hug myself, does.  A lifetime of dealing with depression and anxiety has taught me that if I get too angry or too afraid of too many things, I’m bound to fall.

All love must begin with the act of self-love. That’s easy to state and more difficult to do.  What does it mean to love your self? I know that I’m not alone in wondering this. Here are some steps toward self-love that I used this morning. May they be helpful to others. Self-love is like going to the gym.  The best results come from continued and consistent practice. 

Step One: Meditation is a practice that can relax, comfort and soothe the beast of anxiety.  It seems surprising that such a practice can be so easily forgotten in the face of emails, texts, social media, deadlines, and the seduction of creating self-importance through our digital life.  Liberation lies in deliberate breath, deliberate mindfulness, deliberate letting go and surrendering into the vastness and awe of the miracle that we are.

Step Two:  Tears. Holding back the tears of life creates anxiety and strife.  Right now, our world seems likes its come off the rails.  In witnessing the fallout from gun violence, the suffering of children, the divisions that have turned into an “us and them” mentality, then surely there are tears waiting to be set free.  I cried this morning.  I cried for our country. I cried for myself.  I cried for the people I know who are facing struggles.  The act of tears, softened my heart and brought me home to myself a little bit.  The list of too angry and too afraid began to dissolve.

Step Three: I’m a sixty-seven year old woman and one might think that all things from childhood have certainly been worked out and healed forever by now. But the wisdom of age has taught me that the wounds of childhood inform throughout one’s life.  They are part of our spiritual and psychological work.  This morning, I closed my eyes and remembered the child I’d been.  In my imagination, I got down on one knee so that I could meet her face to face, and then I wrapped my arms around her and said, “You are so precious to me. I love you so much.”  More tears and a sweet feeling of release begins to set me free.

Step Four:  Listing the things I’m grateful for. I take a walk every day.  My dog and I went up to the park and along the way, I counted the things that I’m grateful for: legs strong enough to carry me a couple of miles, neighbors that wave hello and call out greetings, a belly that’s full, and cooling temperatures that made today’s walk in the middle of Texas very pleasant.  Practicing gratitude helps me to shift my mind-set and ease the torments of self-doubt.

Step Five:  Give this reclaimed love away.  Wave back at the neighbors.  Call out my own greetings of good morning.  Silently bless the gaggle of teenagers waiting for the school bus — they’re our future. They deserve my goodwill.  Plan to cook a special breakfast for my husband.

Step Six:  Bow my head and say thank you. Thank you for my life. Thank you for this day.  Thank you for jogging my memory and helping me make it to the toolbox, thus bringing relief and a way home. Thank you.

In a perfect world, I would wake up every day and practice all of this. However, I’ve come to see that the imperfection of slipping into the darkness is the invitation and the opportunity to re-engage with my heart. The imperfection and errors that come with being human is the path to humility, appreciation and thankfulness. Today was a reminder to stay the course even though I know that I will stumble and fall again. My heart is all about practice and imperfection. This is the work of living out this idea of love.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Is Age Just A Number?

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The impervious feeling of youth is a delicious drunk of newness and firsts: first apartment, first true love, first heartbreak; the delight of garage sales and thrift shops, that furnish the backdrop upon which one begins to build a life, blissfully unaware of the baggage of childhood that follows them into independence and self-sufficiency. In my twenties, I surfed in the mornings with Bernie, napped in the afternoons and then waited cocktails at night to pay for a life style that was both joyous and fraught with uncertainty as well as longing and idealism. All that created its own kind of pain and regret. No one escapes the wrong turns, but instead we seem to spend our lifetime burrowing into the core of what ails us before we find the gifts within the inevitable ruin.

At twenty something, I swung my long, gangly legs over the precipice of the 1970’s, watching Viet Nam unwind. The grainy television images of so much human destruction were soon to be replaced by Nixon and the exposure of con and corruption that would define the word “sensational” for decades to come. And as twenty marched ahead into thirty, I realized one day how difficult it was to pay the rent, and repair the car and I had new empathy and understanding for my mother, who worked at a time when the cartoon character of a wolf chasing a nubile secretary around the desk wasn’t that far off the mark.

While the twenties, for many of us underscored a time of adventure and ideals, the thirties was of time of finding a comfortable position within the grip of unrelenting responsibility. Overtime at my work place became a way of life, a badge of proof that I was committed and in the game for the long haul. I bought my first “new” couch and read T.S. Eliot, Yeats and May Sarton for leisure. I wrote in dozens of spiral bound notebooks– an attempt to discover who I was and who I was becoming, and whether or not I had just put on the costume of adulthood without really checking out what I was wearing. Thirty gnawed the bones of idealism and free-spiritedness, replacing the hunger for those things with “want.” Want is a thorn in the foot of human condition, a lusting and longing for those things or people just out of our reach; a strange coming to grips with a shadow of greed, that if we are honest, dogs us until we wrestle it to the ground and learn to balance it with a generous heart.

When I turned 40, I had a realization that life was just a series of stories and somehow we were all connected by those stories. By then I was married, with a choice to remain childless, but with a passion for creating business and a raw and reckless spirit, still wild from my surfing days that allowed me to take the risks necessary to be an entrepreneur. And having a partner with which to play that out remains one of the great satisfactions of my journey. The time of work and creation was marked by this decade and the joke of “over the hill” was really more about the pinnacle of the hill and the overview provided from the vantage point of focus and determination.

Fifty saw the departure of my mother and though I felt beyond independent and accomplished when she left, her absence was piercing in a way I could not have anticipated. She lingers still, her hands seeming like they are mine, veined with age. I catch glimpses of her in the mirror, a face layered over my own as I brush my hair. Life is shorter than you think.

So in my sixties now, the question of age as a number and whether that means anything or not? It means everything. Age is a marker, the signs that dot the highway that tell you how far you have come. Age is a container for the experiences that push us forward and challenge us to unfold. Age is a reminder that physical strength lessens with the years and beauty fades. Whether or not we like it or want it, age is what pulls us to our knees while it knights us with the sword of humility and hard-won wisdom. What lies beyond? In my twenties, I could not sit still in the morning hours, knowing that the surf was up. Forty years later finds me on my deck, holding a cup of tea and easing into the day as I marvel at how the apples on the tree in my yard have gone from green to red and are becoming larger in the summer sun. The cycle of beginnings and endings are everywhere around me in nature. In my heart I let go of memories that are stitched with pain and discomfort. They drop like apples from the tree. I like to recall instead the touchstones of surfing and careers and a life education that was beyond divine. I revel in the partnership of a marriage, now tender and softened with grey.

I embrace the years, each decade a lamp unto the soul, lighting the way into becoming human. The striving for some sense of self-honesty and awareness, for a sensuous breeze in which to throw back my head and close my eyes as life takes me; this has made the journey purposeful. To paraphrase Mr. Yeats: “I am an old woman with a dry mouth, waiting for the rain.”

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Musings on Living Fully

iStock_000015408259XSmallI’ve read that if there is a question when you die, it’s probably this: Did you live fully and love well? In my sixties, I am more taken than ever by what really should be for me, a daily inquiry. There is an arc to life that I feel I have crested, but not yet completed. Is the trajectory down hill as potentially invigorating and vitalizing as the strong trajectory up? Today, I would have to answer yes, but it is a different yes than the one I might have given twenty-five years ago.

Twenty-five years ago, tennis was my game. I loved the feeling of getting up early and hitting for an hour before work. I loved the cute little tennis outfits. It was a vibrant game and it made me feel vital. But as nature sometimes compels, that particular sport was finite in my life. A scoliotic back and disc degeneration saw to it. Those two physical messengers had their way with me. Eventually I would stop playing tennis, downhill skiing, or any type of aerobics where my feet hit the ground and my back took a pounding. So, what was left? Walking.

Walking is an activity that nurtures aliveness. I have learned to walk all year-long and in all conditions. I walk in the spring and marvel at the wild flowers that fill the meadows and mountainsides. I walk in the summer and stop to take sips of cool water and breath in the offerings of the panorama. In the fall, I delight in the changing of leaves. And of course, the great winter snow hike has become one of my favorites, because in my way of seeing, there is nothing quite as joyful as watching my dog romp through snow, and nothing quite as exquisite as the lone grey heron standing on the ice, keeping watch over the frozen water.

Being in my sixties has given me a perspective of the grace contained within the conflict and challenges of life. Cocky thirties made me think I could do life without such things, but I realize now that I would not have wanted to. There is a comfort in knowing that your marriage is so solid and committed that in spite of disagreements, snarls and frustrations, there was never an instance where you didn’t eventually sit down and work it out, thereby strengthening the union.

As for failure, you can put up all the posters of “Failure is Not an Option” that you want, and good luck with that! I have failed many times. Sometimes I have beat myself up for those moments, wrapping the failure around me like a scarlet letter. Failures though, have propelled me forward in business, friendships and making peace with the limited, finite human being that I am, albeit with an infinite and loving soul. Failure has taught me that God loves me in every moment. Failure is, as Billie Jean King once said, “only research.”

There was a time in my fifties that I mourned the loss of youth and its beauty. I don’t know a woman (if they’re honest) who hasn’t stood in front of a mirror and gently pulled the skin of her face back to remind her of a time that her face was not headed south…and then entertained for a moment some magic surgery that would restore it all, if only for a while longer.   In the blink of an eye, the world seems as though it is no longer yours, but belongs to women who still wear high-heels and know their way around an i-phone. But the grief of that passing, was kind and swift and I have started to grow comfortable with the sags of my face. The important things are that I stand tall and straight and that I walk. I am learning that the geese that fly overhead sing their songs for me. I have begun to understand that the fox that trots across the open field and stops to look at me with curiosity can fill me with wonder. In short, I have slowed down enough to take in the sights and sounds of the natural world, letting it fill my heart and speak to me, and that makes me feel as though I am living fully. I know that I can and will walk until the end. When Dylan Thomas wrote “Do not go gentle into that good night,” I believe that he was talking about living until you squeeze out the last drop from it.

I still stress too easily. I give in to the sorrows. But even those things, when observed with clear eyes and distance show me that they have added texture to a journey that keeps edging me toward the meaning and purpose of being human. Stress is just a wake up call to stop and breath deeply, go read People Magazine and take a hot bath. Stop and realize that nothing is so important that it should disturb your health or your peace of mind. That’s the tough one—we all make things too important and over identify with that importance. It’s a killer. As for sorrows, a little sorrow in life can break open the heart to the suffering of a world that needs you to reach out. Too much sorrow is like indulging a seductress that will take you somewhere you don’t really want to go.

Cycles of the season, cycles of age, all of it meant to be. The sixties are not so bad. In a way, I feel like I am doing my best work. I finally have some perspective on life and am now looking forward to what my seventies might bring. I love to write my thoughts and then go walk in the early hours of the day.  And as Irenaeus said; “The Glory of God is man fully alive.” Did you live fully? Did you love well? Is it ever to late to take those questions to heart and count the blessings and the joys of waking up and doing the day one more time–fully alive?

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Doing the Leibster

liebster

 

Some mornings, most mornings, I wake up with the committee  blaring in my head. There is the usual to-do list, then a tremendous amount of junk-copy enticing me to grab and chew on it. I have to sit for a while with my tea and stare into space before everything calms down enough to prioritize the chatter.  Some mornings I read something inspirational.  Right now that would be Brother David Steindle-Rast–“Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer.”  I like the focus of the book. I find that gratitude practice is a useful tool if the large committee in your head is sometimes harsh or unkind.  In other words, counting blessings can heal a lot.

 

This morning, I was going to read, maybe sit on the back deck for a bit and ponder writing.  With so much going on in my head, it’s hard to believe that I feel I don’t have anything to say, but I often hold that thought.  My friend Jennifer is teaching me to let things percolate, sit with them for a time before you start pouring them out onto a page.  That’s hard for someone who lives life honoring the most immediate of tendencies.  Still, I learn…some days just sit with what is going on.  Ponder before you dive for the laptop.

 

I read my emails in the morning and today there was a post from “Finding Amy.”  Her post read:

 

Hi there,
 I nominated your blog for the Liebster Award! Congratulations! If you hate me for that just ignore this. It means I enjoy reading your blog and you have under 200 followers and someone nominated me so I’m paying it forward! So now the request is that you do the same – answer the following 11 questions, nominate 11 (I only had 6) blogs under 200 followers you like, and relish in the glow of the Liebster.

 

Thanks for this.  We all like to be acknowledged. I had received another of these awhile back, and wasn’t sure what it meant or what to do with it…and I certainly don’t know how to grab the little badge thingy and paste it on the sidebar, like I see on other sites…however if anyone feels that they can teach me that trick, this old dog would be happy to learn something new about cyber space.  So now, I will answer the questions…which get me to shift my focus from the committee (oh just shut up, will you?) and do the Leibster.

 

1)What was the last thing you said?–Do you want a cup of tea? I asked my husband that at 6:20.  He’s down for the count with a nasty flu.  I think that tea cures everything.

2) What are you doing after 5pm today?–Running a hot bath and soaking away the day.

3) What would you do for a profession (anything) if you knew you would succeed?–I wouldn’t give up.  Even when things looked bad or were tough.  I would keep my vision close by and I wouldn’t give up.

4) Favorite quote?–I don’t know where this came from, but I love it–“Living is like licking honey off a thorn.”

5) Do you search forever to find a close parking spot or just park and walk?–I sing a silly little song “My right and perfect parking place is coming to me now, my right and perfect parking place—” you get the idea.  It annoys my husbands and my dog, but I usually get a place near where I am going.

6) How do you deal with anger?–Sometimes I stuff it in the  eff-it closet.  Sometimes I peel it back and wait for the tears.  Sometimes I just stew in it until it speaks and I understand it’s purpose.  Then I let it go.  I never hold a grudge for more than a couple of years…;-)

7) Have you ever had shark?–Never had a shark, but swam with the dolphins once.

8) Gold or silver?–I prefer silver and that’s mostly what I wear.  Gold was never my thing.

9) What is your primary responsibility?–Running a couple of different companies.  They are small, but mighty. Taking care of hubby, home and dog.  Everybody needs a walk, including me.

10) What’s one thing you want to know about me (not that I’ll answer)?–Describe to me when you knew that you had to write, just as much as you had to breath?

11) Pet peeve?–People who talk on their cell-phones when someone is trying to help them at the bank or a store–it’s just rude.

 

Well, I guess that I have now done the Leibster.  Below are a list of links that I encourage you to visit for a little inspiration, hope and thoughtfulness:

 

kathelliott50.wordpress.com

 

poetryoflight.wordpress.com

 

geneticfractals.wordpress.com

 

ajaytao2010.wordpress.com

 

peachyteachy.wordpress.com

 

hotsouthernmess.wordpress.com

 

bwharold.wordpress.com

 

hrmunlimited-com.webs.com

 

donhartness.wordpress.com

 

meandtheboss2013.wordpress.com

 

gratitudeequation.wordpress.com

Thanks again for the Leibster thing.  I appreciate that anyone takes notice.

 

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

The Story You Are In

iStock_000006392253XSmallThe train whistle slices through the edge of the night, a low rumble of metal on metal, weight on weight making its way across miles that are pulled tight against horizon and sky. I lay unmoving on my bed, slouched into pillows and quilts, playing the scenes of the day through my head, stirred by the sound. Suddenly I am back someplace I know but have never been: my mother told a story of being a child at the convent, swinging on a swing, hearing the sound of the train and trying to pump higher and higher so that she could see over the convent wall, all the while wondering where the train was going and wanting to go there too. Now I am in her story, a piece of history shared from when I was a little girl, a piece of story that I remember when the train goes by, pulling the twilight into dark.

Sometimes it seems so clear; where I am and who I am and what story is unfolding. I had grandparents that slept in separate bedrooms; that spat and grunted communications that were interlaced with whiskey bottles and wooden rosary beads. I vowed to never be like them. My husband and I dance a different dance. We will not, cannot sleep apart. I love this story. It is punctuated by small acts of tenderness that reach out like vines into shared cups of warm ginger tea, someone to fetch the mail; “oh, wait, I’ll get that for you…” check the oil in your car, drive with you to a doctor’s appointment so that you will not have to sit alone. This is my story of the ever after that happened after youth rode into the sunset.

Remember the Catholic schoolgirl who smoked pot behind the high school gym, who wanted to help the poor, but also enjoyed a good make-out session? Can’t you be it all? Can’t you do it all? That was me. I remember feeling forced to choose, and as a result began to see life in a small and shrinking way, squeezing myself into something I thought I was supposed to be, but never really could be. Then one day I woke up with a dry mouth, symptoms and sorrow for what might have been.

I wish I could gather all of my nieces and nephews into one place. I would bring us around a large fire, where we would sit late into the night. I would tell them stories among the crackle and hiss of leaping flames. Stories about Viet Nam and how Brent came back with only part of a hand and couldn’t sit with his back to any door, anywhere, ever again; stories of how I learned to grow impatience and ferns in a shaded flower bed and would sit there for hours reading; stories of walking in snow under a full moon. I would tell them stories, because it feels like that is what I am meant to do now. Instead, we text—we call—we make dinner plans in lives that are over scheduled and tired.

I reflect upon what has been as I lean forward into age, that for this time affords me strong legs and the desire to keep walking and filling my lungs with fresh air and my heart with the beauty of the natural world; learning that the stories themselves are like thick, wonderful murals, layered with paint that portrays the laughter and the wounds, the celebrations and grief. But the files in which I place those stories in my mind… the labels that I write onto each one, those are dangerous. Those make the story less important than how they are categorized. I am too organized for my own good sometimes.–alphabetizing spices and filing memories. You cannot continue to do that. It’s really just one big story and we are all connected by it. I should go mess up that spice drawer just to take in the aroma of each dish they have inspired in my kitchen. What was that wonderful quote I read somewhere, that now seems so appropriate? “Life is like licking honey off of a thorn.”

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

A Smith Corona and Wild Weeds

iStock_000019937285XSmallA small, blue Smith Corona typewriter in it’s own case and a box of typing paper—that is what was under the tree the Christmas when I was fifteen. It was an invitation, a longing, a magical box that would coax out of me all of the things in my head and my heart that struggled to be felt. I wrote poetry and hid it from my mother. I wrote letters to my father, who wrote back in long, swirling penmanship. I left home with it a few years later and then lost is somewhere along the way. I probably abandon it in one of the love-hate battles that I have had with myself and writing my whole life, but it never left me. Instead it hung around my neck–sometime like a shiny, beautiful pendant and sometimes like a dead bird. I knew that it was mine forever.

Spiral journals came after that, more poetry and lyrics to songs, short stories about my parents divorce. I swooned over Anis Nin and May Sarton; fell in love with T.S. Eliot and Yeats. Discovered Margaret Atwood and imitated all of it in notebook after notebook. I signed up for classes at the Adult Learning Center and got to be the best one. I sat around writer’s tables and dove into short stories, had lengthy conversations with a man old enough to be my father who gave me books and encouragement while I dreamed of sleeping with him. These were my touchstones– The Smith-Corona tumbleweed that blew across the landscape in my head.

In classes at UCLA, I sat in the back. I didn’t want to be seen or heard. The professionals around me who held degrees and were important intimidated me. At my job the writers all had masters degrees from writing programs. My job was to type for them, to read and summarize for them, but I wasn’t one of them. They were well-groomed flowerbeds, the kind that people slow down to look at when they are driving through expensive neighborhoods. I was the bright, yellow mustard seed that grew in vacant lots next to old tires and beer cans. I was the wild weed between concrete sidewalk slabs. You can yank it out by its roots, but it always comes back.

A minister told me, inspired me to go to college for real, not just extension classes here and there. I did. I followed that old blue Smith Corona to community college then to a Buddhist College where I sat and then wrote then sat some more. I was never a good meditator, but I did it anyway. I never found peace or enlightenment, but I did develop a sense of humor and I did come to understand that I was meant to write.

I am in my sixties now. Sometimes I teach creative writing. I teach in jails and halfway houses. I teach in senior centers where the stories are rich and ripe. I teach because it’s a way to give away the gifts that I learned from the Smith Corona that opened me and made my life richer. It may be too late for me to write a book, to gain public favor with what I have shared of this heart and mind in reams of journals and Word documents. I am the president of my own company. I have a good, long marriage… but no matter what I do or where I am, I write. I would say to any young writer, write because you have to, be true to the Smith Corona or whatever it was that threw water in your face and told you to wake up to the world and write. Don’t be afraid to be the wild weeds in sidewalk cracks. Sometimes those weeds are the only things beautiful in dry, ugly lots…sometimes they inspire hope in someone who may be walking by.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Blogging Practice

Women's Voices - Natalie Goldberg (55)
Women’s Voices – Natalie Goldberg

The new Natalie Goldberg book arrived from Amazon yesterday. Before the sun came up, I made a cup of tea and crawled back into bed to begin reading. An excerpt from a letter appears early on in the book: a man was sitting with his Zen teacher and the teacher says “you know what’s wrong with you?” The ultimate question from the teacher, thought the man edging forward to catch the answer. “You need to write.”

That was it, “you need to write.” I learned that recently, the way that I learn so many things—the hard way. I had returned to writing practice a couple of years ago when I began teaching creative writing to women in jail. I returned to writing practice because teaching is a lot like being a minister. If you are going to minister to someone it’s helpful to have a prayer practice. If you are going to teach creative writing, it’s helpful to have a writing practice. So I began to keep journals of free hand, timed writing and that led to my purchase of a lap top where I could write faster, longer and that in turn, led to my first blog.

I do not write everyday. I write most days. Some mornings, I wake up a little too late to organize my day and head to the office. But the days that I get up early and make that cup of sweet, black tea and come back to bed with books and laptop—those are the best days. Recently, one of my businesses got an infusion of investment capital. With that came obligations, demands and responsibilities that pulled and tugged at me in such a way that I thought, I would need to give up everything to make this business work. I stopped teaching at the jail. I stopped doing my newsletter. I stopped doing my blog and I fell into a deep sorrow, tinged with the exhaustion of regret.

You know what’s wrong with you? You need to write! It took a couple of months and several false starts to realize that what I had been teaching my students, what I had been studying was mine to learn. Writing practice for me is dropping into silence to look into a mirror; a place where in my notebooks I can say it all; where the idea is to go deeper into a self that I am always discovering. By giving that up to make a business work, I created a spiritual aridity that was suffocating.

One of my last blog posts before I took down the site and shuttered myself into business mode was a sad piece about a sad moment. It was raw and real and in retrospect, embarrassing. It was an epiphany for me to realize that I was embarrassed by the sorrows of my life, and yet I know that creativity springs from darkness, from suffering, from the acceptance of all those things– and that brings forth expression. How do you know the light if you do not know what the darkness is?  Coming face to face with what is in the shadows is not always an easy process and yet it seems to be the ghosts lurking there that are tied to ones liberation.

A couple false starts and some determination to find balance through the tears, led me back to writing practice and a new blog. I write because it is my way. Like other writers, I dream of writing a book or two.  Each of us in each day are writing the book of our life, whether we put it down on a page or not.  I am blessed with the literacy to do so and I think most writers feel that way–that the love of reading and writing is a powerful blessing to which we pay homage.  And there is something wonderful about blogging, because it is its own strange little cyber community—like having a writing group where you share your stuff all the time and you know that somebody is listening. But mostly I write because it is a doorway into what Plato called “the examined life.”  It is the place where I sort out who I am and how I feel about and experience the world.  Oh and by the way, the business is doing fine.  Not one of my investors has told me to stop writing and focus more on the business.  It’s funny that I thought I would have to give up so much…by keeping a writing practice I actually feel more equipped to meet the demands of my growing company, and the bottom line is, it makes me happy.

So my question to the fellow bloggers is this:  How is it that you came to write? Why do you keep hitting the publish button and putting it out there?

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

More of the “Sad” Same

spirituality

New Pope. It was the big world news yesterday. For me, it was curious and sad. Even though I was raised a Catholic, I want nothing to do with institutions that exclude women, or anyone for that matter. An all male church that worships an all male God cannot ever be in balance. Period. And the argument that Jesus didn’t have any women disciples is not necessarily accurate or true. But supposing for a minute that he didn’t, do we really take the message of love and twist it into a “no girls allowed” story? Shouldn’t the spiritual path be one of growth and evolution that serves all of humanity?

I like to read the mystics– St John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart. They speak to a connection with the Divine, devoid of ritual and dogma. They speak to the potential of a personal experience and direct connection to the Divine in all human beings — not just the chosen, the straight, or the exclusively male. This is where I feel comfortable—in the inclusion of human diversity, not the exclusion of it. This is where the Christ consciousness resonates for me, in a sense of oneness. It’s the “oneness” that I view as “holy.”

It is difficult to believe in this time and age that we still have such a big list of who God likes and who he doesn’t. It reminds me more of life in Junior high school than it does something spiritual. Separating out people who the church is afraid of or judging of, just perpetuates a mean message…and no one is as mean as someone who is mean in the name of Jesus.  Once again, it reminds me of Junior High.

There’s an old joke that has something to do with the hard-of-hearing priest kneeling in prayer while God tries to emphasize the message of “celebrate” and the priest hears it as “celibate.”  It’s a good joke–we should be celebrating life!  The exclusion of different groups and the secretive and ritual abuse of children is hardly celebration though, is it?

The exclusion of women in the Catholic Church has led to an infection of perversion that has wrought unspeakable harm to children. Until that mess is cleaned up and the source of it addressed, the problem will perpetuate itself as it has for centuries. With the  albatross of child molestation around its neck, how is this church in a position to condemn anyone?

For me, I don’t believe that Jesus would have excluded anyone from the table. I believe that the message of Divine love is so large and encompassing, that all are welcome. There is a big difference between the politics of church-ianity and the message of the Christ—a big difference between the message of unconditional love and  self-righteous exclusion. So, this new Pope is a big disappointment for me, just more of the same. And more of the same lost step a long time ago.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

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SNOW GEESE

Why should it matter that wet, March snow makes your boots create a squeaking sound when you walk around the lake in the early morning hours? Why should the carrion of geese make you lift your gaze to the sky and smile? It is the observance of the small details that fill my heart with appreciation. I love this. I belong to this and it belongs to me. We are each other sings the sound of snow boots and wintering geese, muddy paths from the quick melt, promising spring.

 

 

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

For the Love of Sunday and Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Sunday is the best day of the week. It stretches before me without schedule or obligation. It makes no demands. I pour a mug of hot black tea with honey and return to bed, sitting among pillows and comforter with my books and my laptop, the accessories of Sunday morning.

A spring snow fell most of the day yesterday, a heavy grey shawl that wrapped itself around the house and closed us in, leaving my husband to work at his desk and me to finish the chores of a weekend; laundry that filled the kitchen with the sound of churning machines and the clean smell of soap; groceries—my only outside venture of the day—that were organized in fridge and pantry; a prayer of gratitude for such things. Clean laundry and food in the fridge always make me feel secure and happy.

This morning, the sky is a brilliant blue, the way that only a Colorado sky can be, stretching infinitely beyond snow-capped mountains to places wild, beckoning me from this reprieve of leisure to get out and walk before the trails get slushy and muddy. Church happens for me walking in nature, the wide vision of wonderment filling the empty places in my heart and healing the wounds of exhaustion that the workweek wrought with her incessancy.

I read the next chapter in Brother Steindl-Rast’s book, “Gratefulness the Heart of Prayer,” and then read a few pages from “Letters to a Young Poet,” by Rainer Maria Rilke. From Steindl-Rast’s book, I came away with thoughts that I will allow to pecolate during my upcoming hike; thoughts of purpose and meaning, vision and action and contemplation as an entering into the temple of one’s own heart in order to sit in the light of praise, thanksgiving and gratitude. It is precisely this grateful attitude that Rilke writes about to the young poet, pointing out that gratitude can inform a life and strengthen its wholeness; can make the moments of darkness more fruitful in their contribution—the gift within the gift.

Rilke has helped me to see the value of such life-passages without judgment. A decision made long ago influences me now—a vow to live the examined life has remained a constant, sometimes throwing me into chaos when those around me were having a party. I have remained faithful to that, uncomfortable or not. The examined life retreats to its depths and is born again. Retreating and birth again and again, opening and closing to itself ,all to become more aware, to see with a keener eye, to expand in heart and mind to a greater understanding of self and its place in the story of the human condition.

Sundays are the best day; ripe for contemplations and ponderings; for time in nature; for play and leisure that balance out a life so tightly woven with responsibility. A hike and back into the jammies—not a moment of Sunday given to anything but the quiet appreciation and rest that allows the heart to fill and the journey to continue.