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Category: Personal Essays

The Guest House

The Guest House

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

 

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

 

I like to think of myself as perennially optimistic. I try my best to see the positive in all things, the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if doubts persist, I rarely speak them. My long held belief is that by speaking positively, words will become a reality. The woe is me attitude is not welcome in my home and I try my very best to lead by example. It is for all of these reasons and more that when I do have days with shades of sadness, I have trouble knowing how to process these feelings.

 

Be it the celestial activity of the past month with a lunar eclipse, mercury retrograde and a solar eclipse, the change in my living situation or that pesky perimenopause that makes every day an experience, I am left slighty off balance.  Coupled with my constant ongoing struggle with MS, this multitude of occurrences has me tired. I am frustrated by the way my body defies me even after treating it with the utmost of care. I eat better than most people, exercise regularly, sleep eight hours a night and do my level best to manage stress. It is always a complete shock after having done all of this work, waking up day after day to a body that is tired.

 

It is on days such as these that I ponder why I have been given this lot in life. I work hard and give my job and family my best. Why am I constantly being taught the lesson of grace, humility and acceptance? Haven’t I been through enough already to have earned some collateral in the wisdom bank? Realizing the whininess of my internal dialogue, I chastise myself for complaining and am constantly disappointed in my frustration, wondering why I entertain such thoughts rather than getting on with my day, head held high.

 

Looking for solace,  I often turn to the written word for inspiration. I look for a way to find compassion, patience in my shortcomings and a space to allow moments of sadness and grief. The truth is that it is hard having a chronic illness. Sure, I can buck up and do my best to forget, except for when I can’t. Some days I just want to curl up into a ball and be sad. I want to acknowledge how difficult it is to live with an illness that makes every single task a challenge, even one as simple as getting out of bed. I try to never take ownership over these emotions but choose to gently observe until they move along. In the morning I may be feeling deep saddness and by the afternoon it has passed and I am optimistic once again. This does not make me overly sensitive or unstable, this makes me human.

 

As Rumi speaks to with The Guest House, I too am thankful for the ability to experience a rainbow of emotions. He says, “Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent, as a guide from beyond”.  My days of sadness, weakness or quiet reflection teach me more about myself than a constant state of  perennial optimism. I freely swim in the dark depths of self making it that much more beautiful upon returning to the light. I appreciate my family, friends, my ability to walk, read, listen and love; all things that are never guaranteed. Never be afraid of appearing human, it is in these very human moments that strength, courage and acceptance is won.

 

Changing Tides and Mothers and Daughters

Changing Tides and Mothers and Daughters

I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.

I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.

I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task

I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.

I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.

I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.

I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.

I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.

I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.

I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.

I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.

I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.

Mary Anne Perrone

 

I write this post on the eve of change. I understand that life is nothing but a constant flow of change. Somehow, even with this knowing, I am constantly caught off guard in moments such as these, as if the air has been knocked out of me and I can’t catch my breathe. I understand change is my teacher and one that I continue to struggle with. Resistance is futile. Change will stampede in when least expected and demanded attention. Every ounce of denial I throw at it is rejected. I am powerless in its throes and dislike this feeling immensely.

 

Where do I begin? If you have read a few of my previous posts, you know that my daughter and her boyfriend live with me at present. My daughter has lived with me for the past few years beginning during a time of great distress and upheaval in her life. It was a difficult transition at first. She headstrong and secretive not exposing her coming and goings, me newly divorced and just beginning to flex my independence muscle. Suddenly and without premonition, we were thrown into a partnership that was anything but comfortable. In fact, for the first full year, she slept on my living room floor of my small one bedroom apartment that represented my first foray into independent living.

 

I struggled to find my new normal. Faced with a constant assault of chitter chatter, facetime conversations and late night arrivals I was unsettled. I would often find hair dye on the bathroom cabinets and bad food in the refrigerator. Forget my no shoes in the house rule, that went out the door as soon as she moved in with her high heels and sneaker collection that screamed style next to my clogs and sandals. My living room had become a hostel with pillows and blankets strewn about. At the same time, she was traveling periodically for work, the side effect being a permanent piece of luggage lying about and used as a dresser in between jobs. Her schedule was the complete opposite of mine. I woke up at 5:00am and went to bed by 8:00pm. She was up by 10:00am and often went to bed just as I was getting up.

 

I worried about her late at night as I had never done when she lived alone. Having her under my roof somehow increased my responsibility and I demanded that she text me if she was not coming home so that at least I knew she was okay and not on the side of the road. It was an uneasy relationship but one founded in love. We had all the right reasons for “putting up” with each other and our love for one another was the glue that kept us from screaming in frustration.

 

Over time, the waters began to calm. We learned to speak our mind without crying and had meaningful conversation instead of arguments. I learned to loosen the rope and only voice my opinion in matters of practicality such as finances and cleanliness. I reminded myself that her personal life was just that, hers. I even managed to sleep some nights and not lie restless in my room waiting to hear the door open, breathing a sigh of relief that she had made it back to our sanctuary safely. She had moments of manic cleaning in which she vowed to “get her life together” and was a whirlwind of activity inside our little apartment. The blankets folded, clothes tucked neatly away organized. These would often be fleeting, but progress is progress no matter how small.

 

The good life starts only when you stop

wanting a better one.

—Bertrand Russell

 

We made the joint decision to move closer to my work and into a bigger space. She began paying rent and was a roommate in every sense of the word. What had once been passing moments of adulting now became more regular and we eased into a more mature relationship of equals. She began dating a wonderful young man and he too moved in with us as he struggled with the time between college and medical school. I dove into my work and strived to find some sense of balance with my health needs and desire to forge my way in a new field. At the same time she signed me up, despite my great reluctance, for online dating. A moment that will forever be a point of humorous recall between the two of us. In just a few seconds she was chatting with men online as if she was me as I stood back appalled. The tables were turning in the most interesting of ways.

 

As I took tentative steps with a heart in recovery, she was by my side encouraging me to just try. No expectations and no promises. I on the other hand, encouraged her to look forward to a career transition and a more permanent work situation. In many ways, there were times our roles saw a complete reversal and we established a sisterhood of togetherness as two adult women. We talked about many things that I never spoke about with my mother. Sometimes uncomfortable, but freeing in the letting go of what had been held inside far too long. No more shame about past experiences, just love.

 

With my daughter moving out into a sanctuary of her own, I cannot help but reflect on the time we had together. As women, we push our daughters to leave the home and experience the world, yet we do not provide avenues for them to celebrate their womanhood soon enough. The power and beauty of a strong woman resides in her acceptance and love of her feminine power. I like to think that our time together was an opportunity for both of us to reclaim this power. We will forever be as different as oil and water, but it is in spite of these differences that we have found the perennial common ground. We see each other as beautiful souls and respect the journey we have taken thus far. I have no illusions that life will be easy moving forward, but I am sure that I have a kindred spirit in my daughter. We can talk about the things that concern us and the prospects for the future. Our love for each other has survived the heat of unrest and will continue to persist no matter what life has in store.

 

Becoming Alike in Our Differences

Becoming Alike in Our Differences

Sometimes hidden from me

in daily custom and in trust,

so that I live by you unaware

as by the beating of my heart,

Suddenly you flare in my sight,

a wild rose looming at the edge

of thicket, grace and light

where yesterday was only shade,

and once again I am blessed, choosing

again what I chose before.

-Wendell Berry    

 

Speaking with some of my student employees, I found myself in a philosophical conversation that was familiar ground. Always slightly out of step with my peers, it was refreshing to tread the fertile ground of the “why” question with younger minds. I should preface this by saying the school I work for is an experimental art school and both faculty and students tend to walk the edge of what is considered fringe in thought and practice.

The conversation turned to the idea that people in close proximity become inadvertently like-minded.  Is it human nature to form tribes and alliances with other like-minded people?  My question for the students was, “In your differences, are you not becoming more alike?” This caused some head scratching and much debate back and forth. Is it in societies push to diversify that we have stepped beyond embracing uniqueness into siloed tribes of like? Uncomfortable question to be sure.

People like to feel a sense of belonging. Even in fringe communities, the casts of characters often dress the same, eat the same and think the same. I am baffled when I see this happening even at an institution of creative and exploratory practice. Look closely and you may notice the similarities of people in these groups. Yes, they exist outside the social norms of the day, but in their own tribe, they are alike.

As one the wanders from one group to the next, I find it more challenging to be separate. By choosing this lifestyle, I am often alienated from the most unique groups of people. Maybe it is because I am a free spirit yet do not buy into every crystal and aura reading ideology, maybe it is because I am a hippie yet will not run around in a tie dyed shirt barefoot in the woods. These sensibilities do not speak to me in totality. Parts of the lifestyle do, but never everything. This may also be why I find organized religion difficult. I enjoy pieces of most practices, but tire of the all or nothing mentality that is required to call myself Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. I prefer the beautiful flow of mysticism that encompasses many different views but asks the same questions. In the realm of politics, I am an independent. Politics has a pack mentality that sickens me. I am allowed to have my own ideas separate and apart from a party. God forbid I am a conservative that believes in abortion rights or a liberal that believes in lower taxes.

 

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu

Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East

or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not

composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,

did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace

of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two

worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that

breath breathing human being.

-Jelaluddin Rumi

 

Reading Wendell Berry, his “wild rose” speaks most specifically to me as one that hides under the radar but blooms nonetheless. Each group of people that I interact with has something to teach and that is what is so fascinating to me. Whether I borrow some of the ideas or not is completely up to me. Being different requires strength in standing alone. Solidarity with self can be difficult in practice. It is saying no when everyone around you is saying yes; it is being comfortable being the only voice for your point of view. Maybe the answer is not to continually seek out people more like us; maybe it is to flourish among others that are different. In this way we can celebrate our differences with no expectation to conform to a specific type of rebellion.

We are all members of the human race. In this way we are all the same. Given the freedom to explore our personalities we flourish into a gorgeous field of wildflowers, each different but as beautiful as the one before. A daisy does not try to be a rose or any other flower for that matter, the daisy just blooms. Each flower, standing alone and blooming creates the togetherness of the field, breathtaking in totality only because of these differences. The next time you are in a group of people, find those most different from yourself and spend some time with them. You may discover a few things that interest or speak to you, even if just to observe, listen and learn.

Kipling and The Metaphorical Shoebox

Kipling and The Metaphorical Shoebox

‘Brother Square-Toes’

If you can keep your head when all about you   

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;   

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;   

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling

 

Rudyard Kipling has managed to weave together everything that I aspire to be in one poem. In reading his writing, I am reminded that I spend many days listening to others who for one reason or another have chosen me as their confidant. In this listening, I am often left wondering why some are left so broken from life while others continue to move forward with hope regardless of circumstance. What is it that separates these two very different approaches to life?

 

My first thought is that this separateness is created by a gap in faith, but I believe that does not fully explain the dichotomy. The fact that some are left struggling with darker emotions while others rise above is both fascinating and terrifying. Terrifying in realizing these lost souls could easily be me. We are all only a few thoughts and decisions away from being stuck in a dark place . We all have the potential to embrace the darkness rather than the light.

 

One possible answer is in the weaving together of our stories while not clinging to this narrative as if a baby to a beloved blanket. It is in feeling the scars but rising above the pain. It is in leaving those behind that have treated us as less than while not lingering or looking back. It is in not hanging on to a metaphorical shoebox of wrongs hidden deep away in the shadows of our psyche.

 

Kipling say it perfectly with, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same;If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken, Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.”  We have all flirted with this shoebox of wrongs at one time and stayed in this space far longer than expected. It is a dangerous place filled with a bitterness that is frightening if allowed to fester. Triumph and disaster are just that, two pivotal life moments each having a place in the tapestry of life. Without sadness, there is no joy; without anger there is no love and without failure there is no gain. One requires a concrete measure of where to begin in order to set goals and achieve tangible change.

 

It is only in lingering in this shoebox that one can get stuck. You will find those in this place proclaiming how life has mistreated them, committed great wrongs and where the blame lies. Remaining the victim allows the pain to completely dictate a life. Overcome by the shadows of the shoebox, one can only see darkness, missing out on all of the many beautiful things that life offers. Kipling speaks to this with, “If you can make one heap of all your winnings, And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings, And never breathe a word about your loss”. Heeding Kipling’s words, I make every possible effort to avoid this shoebox filled with bitterness. I no longer feel jaded, spending precious life energy pointing fingers at those that have peppered my life in unforgiving ways. I simply look at these same people as knots in a beautiful and colorful tapestry of my life, nothing more.

 

Empty your shoebox let it all go. Don’t carry around things that no longer serve, even if those that we love refuse to let the story go. The rehashing of the past does nothing but reaffirm harm. It has no value in the present. Everyone has something that they struggle with, tucked deeply away. Work each and everyday to write new stories that do not need to be buried in a box, stories that uplift and serve a greater purpose. Occasionally you may still tuck away a few morsels of regret, but do not linger. The journey is happening now and the road is just ahead.

 

Look to the Sky

Look to the Sky

 

“I was wedded to all the stars of the sky.There was not a single star left, and I married every one of them with great spiritual pleasure. Then I married the moon.”

― Ibn Arabi

 

I have so many questions. I dwell in the space of the unknown and reside there comfortably, most of the time. I rarely become frustrated and make a conscience decision to quiet the voice of uncertainty daily. It is only when I am tired or experiencing change that my resolve weakens and I begin to question more fervently. Thankfully, I now recognize this as a symptom of stress and find that by gazing at the sky, I am able to calm myself. The immediate connection I sense with the universe feels like a warm blanket enveloping me with an all knowing wisdom. My brain stops the constant repeat of anxious questioning and for a few moments, I am at peace.

 

How does looking at the sky have such a profound effect on well being? I  suspect that frequent sky gazing creates cords of connection to the universe and the energy that is our life force. This life force, one single and universal heartbeat, encompasses all life as we know it. Taking some deep and measured breathes, I feel this life force enter my body, permeate every cell and take up residence. All anxiety is immediately lifted and a calming sensation settles in. Any lingering questions become less important in the vortex of this energy.

 

Dwell as near as possible to the channel

in which your life flows.

Henry David Thoreau

 

My frequent desire is to bottle this energy and carry it around with me every day. I make every attempt to memorize the peaceful feeling and return to this place in times of unrest. It requires a letting go that is difficult to master when overcome with the many distractions of daily life. I actively practice by visualizing the expansive feel of the universe whenever I find myself in the company of anyone that may be struggling. I make a herculean effort not to take on the heaviness or darkness of their energy.  I have my own dark corners to work on and have no interest in taking on the soul work of others.

 

The minute I heard my first love story,

I started looking for you, not knowing

how blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere,

they’re in each other all along.

Rumi

 

Finally, looking to the sky evokes the astounding beauty of creation. We are all so fortunate to inhabit this magnificent and forgiving planet.  By focusing on this miracle, I find some immediate perspective of my place in relation to all else. If I do not show up with love in my heart each day,  I will have lost a valuable opportunity to embrace the beauty of this life fully. Rather than worry about riches and professional acclaim, I worry about not having loved enough even when given this one precious life to do so.  Looking at the sky reminds me in the most intimate of ways that this journey will in fact end. Everything has a season, including me. Looking to the sky reminds me of what is important and what is not. It is all very simple even within an exterior of complexity and uncertainty.  On this day, look to the sky, breathe deeply and let the life force of the universe take the wheel for awhile. Don’t worry, it can handle it.

 

Be Yourself. Everyone Else is Taken.

Be Yourself. Everyone Else is Taken.

“You deserve a lover who wants you disheveled, with everything and all the reasons that wake you up in a haste and the demons that won’t let you sleep. You deserve a lover who makes you feel safe, who can consume this world whole if he walks hand in hand with you; someone who believes that his embraces are a perfect match with your skin. You deserve a lover who wants to dance with you, who goes to paradise every time he looks into your eyes and never gets tired of studying your expressions. You deserve a lover who listens when you sing, who supports you when you feel shame and respects your freedom; who flies with you and isn’t afraid to fall.You deserve a lover who takes away the lies and brings you hope, coffee, and poetry.”

*Frida Kahlo*

 

Loving self is one of the hardest things we all must learn. The internal nitpicking and focus on faults rather than strengths can become incessant. While I have worked on self-acceptance for many years, it still eludes me to some degree. I suspect I fake it better than most, putting on an air of self-confidence. The truth behind this grand deception is that I, like so many others, am still faced with many moments of defeat, self-loathing and dissatisfaction.

 

As a teenager,  the idea of loving self could not have been more foreign. It was ingrained in me not to think too highly of myself by embracing humility fully and completely.  If I felt my confidence rise, I worried that my ego was out of control. The only way I knew to rectify this imaginary ego feast was by putting myself down. I began to constantly think I was not as smart, beautiful or capable as I believed myself to be. Being a dancer did not do much to challenge this negative internal dialogue. Dancers thrive on self criticism. We are never good enough and perfection is something that is always an unattainable goal. What horrible voices to have on repeat in one’s head during formative years.

 

Shortly after discovering the concept of self-love, I began the process of unraveling years of conditioning.  I practiced self-affirmations and still do to this day. Frida Kahlo’s poem is one such affirmation speaking to what she and all women deserve in regards to love. I find these words have a specific purity thereby quieting the negative voices if only for a moment. In no other way are we more vulnerable than when loving another.  Sharing our heart completely without hiding the jagged pieces of our soul, is scary and requires some degree of self-confidence.  One needs to feel deserving of the type of love that is both healthy and good. If one does not feel deserving, it is quite possible to fall into an unhealthy relationship.  One that is dictated by faults and fears rather than loving acceptance.

Reading the following line by Kahlo settled in my bones like an old and familiar wisdom longing to be brought to light.

 

“You deserve a lover who makes you feel safe, who can consume this world whole if he walks hand in hand with you; someone who believes that his embraces are a perfect match with your skin.”

 

We all deserve the intensity of this type of connection. Why settle when the possibility exists for an otherworldly love? I say, never settle into a relationship that does not honor who you authentically are: mind, body and spirit. Settling, while providing some comfort, will have long term consequences. It is never enough to be with someone that does not “see” you and value you for all that you are and all that you are not. Know your worth and be unabashedly who you are. Celebrate all of the unique and beautiful qualities that make you…you. Be open and receive, you deserve it.

 

There is a Pleasure in the Pathless Woods

There is a Pleasure in the Pathless Woods

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
  There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
  There is society where none intrudes,
  By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
  I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
  From these our interviews, in which I steal
  From all I may be, or have been before,
  To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal

― George Gordon Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

 

Reading George Byron’s piece, I was immediately struck by the opening line, “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods…” Byron was certainly a poet after my own heart. Life events can feel so contrived at times that one begins to forget what it means to experience things in a natural state. To walk in the woods without a path to guide the way, sit on a “lonely shore” and feel the breeze of the morning tide coming in.  Everything does not need to be analyzed, planned and accounted for. Nature is as it is, unpredictable.

 

Upon reflection, I see these words demonstrate the ebb and flow of parenting in many ways. As a young mother, having my daughter at 20 and my son at 24, I fought to provide a steady and stable environment for them. My every intention and action was made with their well being in mind. Sadly, being in a volatile relationship that was less than loving, I often over compensated for this lack by creating an “all is well” mentality. The problem was…all was not well and they knew it.

 

“Think for a minute, darling: in fairy tales it’s always the children who have the fine adventures. The mothers have to stay at home and wait for the children to fly in the window.”

― Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

 

You see, children are smart, much smarter than given credit for. They see, hear and absorb their world more acutely than adults. They are sponges and while nothing need be said, they are observing and learning. I became racked with guilt and worried about my children’s development. At times I heard them share childhood memories and while most were idyllic, I heard a sprinkle of cringe worthy moments that gave me pause.  I began to ask myself, had I done enough? Had I given them everything that they required to move forward and be well functioning adults? I spent so much time during the children’s rocky teens and early adulthood questioning and wondering if I had really missed the mark as a parent.

 

“Having kids—the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings—is the biggest job anyone can embark on.”

– Maria Shriver

 

Thankfully, having the benefit of time to reflect always puts things into greater perspective. The kids have had their foibles, as most will during painful periods of growth, but they are doing well. More importantly, they are two of the most loving and generous people I know. Character has always mattered to me and I am exceptionally proud that they possess strength of character and a genuine love for life. With many dark woods and rough seas left to encounter, this will serve them well.

 

As Byron states so well, parenting is inherently a “pathless wood” of uncertainty and trepidation, but one in which a parent must strive to continually find the beauty and grace in this uncertainty.  It never gets easier; a parent will always worry for their child. One never really knows how to raise another human being. It is more a stumbling along, a rocky ride begun with the best of intentions to guide young and impressionable minds. I have only ever wanted to “mingle with the Universe” to seek out the greater truths. As a parent, I make every attempt to share this wonder with my children by being the best example I can be. In the end this has to be enough.

 

“I believe the choice to become a mother is the choice to become one of the greatest spiritual teachers there is.”

– Oprah

 

Parenting is synonymous with nature: nurturing, protecting, and wildly unpredictable. Reading this poem on the eve of Mother’s Day I am moved to be kinder to myself. I can only be who I am, no more and no less. The rest is and has always been up to my children. They must broach the “pathless wood” with fear yet resolve. They must continue to weather the rough seas and seek the answers to the larger questions. I cannot do this for them or take ownership over the result. I can only love unconditionally and will continue to do so. I strive to be the lighthouse in the storm, the light shining through the trees of the dense forest. They will find their way forward and when they do I will be there, as always, with arms wide open.

 

The Importance of Solitude

The Importance of Solitude

My emotions move like the tides of the ocean and in any given day I feel these undulations manifesting in an often turbulent emotional landscape. Thankfully, I recognize that what I am usually feeling is an energy shift outside of myself. The uneasy feelings that follow me are not really of my own doing and may be a product of others worries, fears and anxiety.  It has taken many years to understand this by becoming more aware of the emotional temperature of my surroundings. One way in which I have learned to calm this energetic storm is by being quiet, retreating into that internal and private space that is mine and mine alone. When the energy is coming from external sources, this is the only way to find balance once again.

 

“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”

~ Jean-Paul Sartre

 

To those around me, it may appear that I am a bit more quiet than usual.  This retreat does not mean hiding out in a room with the lights dimmed, but moving about my day in a more reserved fashion. I suspect if another is keyed into energy, they can sense that I am not my usual open and inviting self. As one going through this process, I often feel foggy and muted. I see the world happening around me, with little interest in the circumstance. It all seems very dreamlike and in this state my mind is sorting and analyzing many pieces of information while resting from all of the emotional static. I never know how long I will be in this place, and am just as surprised as the next when I suddenly shift back into the welcoming and friendly self that is my status quo.

 

“Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.”

~ Franz Kafka

 

Sitting quietly and finding some semblance of tranquility, going on a hike in nature, reading a good book or sitting on my back porch speeds up this process. I breathe deeply, let my body relax and let go.  I let go of what is not mine, the problems, the worries and the misgivings. I remind myself that they are not for me and I focus my intention on this letting go. Once I have done this, I feel much better, refreshed and somehow brighter.

 

“A little while alone in your room will prove more valuable than anything else that could ever be given you.”

~ Rumi

 

If I am with someone that does not understand my need for space, things can get dicey. When I require time to recharge and am not afforded it, I can sadly become moody or withdrawn, having have no way to release all of the external energy that I have been carrying. For this reason and many others, the importance of solitude for an introspective person cannot be stressed enough. If you have people in your life that require this time, give it to them. Don’t add additional stress to their life by setting limitations on this time. You will also find that by carving out some space for introspection, you may become more balanced and open as well. Not a bad tradeoff for some time alone.

 

Finding Purpose in Life

Finding Purpose in Life

Early today while stretching at the gym, I was suddenly struck by a feeling of inexplicable loneliness. Strange place to have this sensation surrounded by so many others, but not completely unheard of. I have always felt a tinge of loneliness even amongst good company. As an observer I am still surprised that I experience life from an outsider’s perspective so often, watching events unfold from an arm’s length away. Not quite close enough to be immersed in a tangible way, but close enough to play a role as if an actor in a play. It is in this state of separateness that I do my most intense thinking.  It creates space for an unaffected view, devoid of emotions that are my constant companion. In this state I am standing outside of myself, watching, thinking and interpreting all that comes my way. This disassociation can be strange and in truth, unsettling.  Without all of the usual distractions of participation, I am forced to see things as they really are. One cannot hide from the truth very long; it will always find its way forward.

 

We shall not cease from exploration.

And the end of all our exploring,

Will be to arrive where we started,

And know the place for the first time.

T.S. Elliot

 

Today my mind wandered to things I view as unfulfilled in my life, the “why me” dialogue that many of us are so familiar with. Why did I stay in a damaging relationship for so long, why do I have to deal with this awful disease, why, why, why. After hearing this and gently letting the thoughts go, I was struck with the idea of my life really being a vessel for compassion. Maybe my life is really not about my personal journey at all. Maybe it is about every single person I encounter, who I chose to love, listen and learn from. Maybe a good life can only be measured in the moments of connection, when I am able to bring some comfort to another even if only for an instant. If this should be the case, all of the little details of my life become so trivial. Where I work, what I like to do, etc. Maybe it is these very details in which one can get bogged down and lost, going astray and losing sight of the bigger picture while focusing on the minutia of an obligation or goal. Maybe I am completely off the mark by dwelling on the specifics of my life.

 

I tore myself away

from the safe comfort of certainties

through my love of truth;

and truth rewarded me

—Simone de Beauvoir

 

I understand this may sound foreign to others, but as I see it, this exploration is the most important task that I have. If my life only becomes purposeful in the moments in which I have made an effort to help others, any other use of energy is a distraction from this end. Living by this definition, I may not “feel” my own life experiences in the way others do.  I absolutely feel things and very intensely, but am never more at peace than when I have opened up to another and have created some semblance of connection. My feelings of separateness dissipate and for just a bit I am alive and no longer just an actor in my own life. It may be that because I internalize what others are feeling, my perception of any particular moment is clouded by the others feelings.  At times it is even difficult to discern which emotions are my own given the crossover between myself and another.

 
Reflecting on these thoughts, I came to the conclusion that there are far worst things to be said about a life than aiming to put others at ease.  I may not have the high powered job or the big house on the hill, but I can offer comfort and love to another. Letting go of pathways that lead me away from this end becomes the challenge. It is so easy to be swept up in the “need to succeed” mentality. When all is said and done, all I can do is follow my heart. If there is anything that I know to be true, it is that the heart speaks in mysterious ways. If I choose to listen for this direction, I will find my way forward in due time.

The Invitation

The Invitation

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

 

As poems go, this one strikes a chord. As one drawn by the heart and soul of another, I find societies emphasis on all else tiring. I am not deceived by this costume or covering worn in an attempt to appear familiar to many and foreign to few.  I can be in the same space with another and see they are putting on errs, hiding pain, sadness, frustration. Oriah speaks to this with “if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without, moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.” It makes people so uncomfortable to be face to face with another’s pain let alone their own.  We are taught that we must tough it out, be strong, never let anyone see us in a state of weakness. My initial inclination is always fixing the problem. I try to fight this urge by using deep listening as my response instead.

 

I am also deeply touched by the lines, “I want to know if you can, disappoint another, to be true to yourself. If you can bear, the accusation of betrayal, and not betray your own Soul.” Coming from a very traditional home in which being highly goal oriented was valued, I found myself lost between expectations I thought my parents held and my own desires and creative urges. I was academic and could have been a doctor, lawyer or CEO. Instead I was draw to the arts, the ethereal and aesthetic qualities of movement and writing. It has taken me much reflection to be at ease with this contradiction. I know my family loves me, but my passions are not viewed as a contribution in quite the same way as more traditional work.

 

Finally, I see myself in the last stanza. “I want to know, if you can be alone, with yourself, and if you truly like, the company you keep, in the empty moments.” My best friend is myself. Strange as it may sound, I enjoy my own company. I like to be lost in thought, listening to music with no distraction. I am definitely not a recluse, but I do pull energy from moments of solitude. When I find that same quality in another, knowing we can be alone together sitting in the same room while deeply immersed in something that speaks to me, I am overjoyed. It is this type of person that I am drawn to; a person that knows when to provide space for quiet and when to meet me at the gates of my solitude, drawing me out into the world to play and explore once again.