Friday’s Focus—Again

It’s been some time since I’ve been here last. Did you miss me? I did! Literally. Things have been so hectic with the selling and moving from our home to not only a new house but a new state,  I feel as though I lost myself in the process. Everything was put on hold that didn’t have to do with the day job, lawyers, bankers, or real estate agents. The only writing I was doing were checks and emails. Subjects of blogs and short stories swirled in my head borne out of people we met and circumstances but there they stayed, behind the wall of my mind and never making it beyond the thought, “Oh, I should write about that.” It’s time to breathe life into those stories and writings again.

Last night, I decided enough was enough and sat down to the keyboard to let my fingers do the walking so my mind can do the talking, and well, here we are. Again. Still feeling my sea legs in the new place, I look for corners and spaces as new homes for my yoga mat and books. Settling into a daily routine of day job mixed in with the new neighborhood sounds will take awhile, but in the meantime, I’m growing accustomed to the sounds of hammers and saws sprinkled with a few swear words from my husband, which has actually been helpful to use as a gauge on how well (?) repairs have been going!

This move is the cap of what has been a fierce 8 months (actually the last 3 years) of continuous major life events. Feeling tense and uptight had become very familiar feelings for me. Sitting within these new four walls, with the dust settling and the boxes slowly being unpacked, I can still feel the anxiety continue to surround me, which is exactly what I had wanted to change. “Maybe it’s too soon,” I tell myself. “I need to give myself time to slow the twitching and unwind from the hectic pace,” I add.

Almost as a ready response, I hear the words “no matter where you go, there you are” echo through my head and immediately recognize the truth in it. No matter where you go—house, hut, country, or planet you move or travel to, if the changes you seek aren’t made within, it won’t matter what zip code you land in.

I knew better than to expect a complete whoosh of having all my problems disappear as I watched the tail lights of the moving truck leave, but I guess to be honest, on some deep level, I must have expected it to happen all the same.

How we experience things all comes from our perspective, and if our perspective, our basic way of seeing something, doesn’t change, our experiences and our views will continue to be more of the same. This week, as I get myself back into my writing, and once again set my sight on the changes I want to make within (and without), I’m consciously refining my perspective of what each day can bring. This is not about seeing the world through rose-colored glasses but rather taking off those glasses to get a clearer and more honest view. One of the simplest and most profound ways of doing this is by intention, which is something we can all do.

Even if you don’t have any plans of moving or traveling any time soon, you can still set your intention and perspective anew each day and welcome yourself home.

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Friday’s Focus—A Note to a Friend

A truly personal “catching the tiger by the tail” moment in which I was simply the medium for the way this poem came through. This has been a week of transitions and moments of movement and movement and movement of people and events, all with a surprising softness in its unfolding. It’s almost as though the blocks and stop-gaps of the past few months’ energy is slowly exhaling her release and like a pebble thrown into the water, the circles are gently lapping outward ever wider. Borne to me early one morning, here is a poem called, A Note to a Friend:

Butterfly kisses and
Ladybug hugs.
Rainy day rainbows,
And fat, garden slugs.

With some tea in our cups,
We sit, you and I.
Two good friends…still…
All these years, by and bye.

We’ll talk of days past
And the hours to come;
Watch dragonflies and sparrows,
And maybe hear honeybees hum.

Neither distance nor years
Can keep us apart as dear friends.
All the magic’s still here,
Seen through a kaleidoscope lens.

Our cups, they’re now empty,
And the church bells, they chime.
This is not a good-bye
But rather, so long… ’till next time.

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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Hyacinths in Bloom

The sounds of the neighborhood waking up with its barking dogs and chirping birds and the ticking of the living room clock keep me company on this rainy morning as I write this. I noticed yesterday that the Hyacinths are starting to come up. They always reminded me of Spring, Easter, and my mom. They were one of her favorite flowers and I always brought her some for Easter. Seeing them start to bloom is bittersweet. It reminds me that it’s been nearly 3 months since she passed away. I don’t know where the time has gone and though I’ve been making peace with her passing there are still some days that are harder than others and I’ve found that a stranger’s condolences and a momentary kindness can still bring me to tears.

The medical bills are arriving and with each one, I’ve needed to make a phone call to verify submission to insurance or to get some clarity on the services charged but not explained. Conversions begin business as usual: name, date of birth, account number, relationship to patient; rote questions coming over the phone from a faceless office worker probably counting the days to Friday like I do.

To help explain why I’m calling about a bill 2 months overdue and that it’s not a shirking of responsibility on our part, I explain that it’s just been forwarded to me from the facilities and that my mom had passed away in December. Suddenly, the numb drone becomes a human being and with a soft intake of breath comes, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Please accept my condolences.” It’s a kind sentiment that’s appreciated and something that still makes me twitch when I hear it, but it’s the personal stories that follow are what brings the feelings of loss fresh all over again.

I can’t begin to say how much it annoys me to have to make these calls to follow-up with doctor offices and agencies, but by the end of the calls, my attitude has completely changed. What starts as a business as usual call ends up with me tearing up listening to sage advice and deep personal experiences that the other person has gone through with the loss of their mother or other loved one.

One woman, now in her late fifties, lost her mother when she was 14. She told me about how she still misses her and the memories they never got a chance to make. She shared with me what she’s learned over time and ended the call with a blessing. I honestly felt that God takes moments and people like this to make direct connections to remind me, all of us, that we are not alone.  

None of us will ever know what can come out of our experiences and how it can help others. There are certain levelers in life that will happen regardless of age, sex, and status, and this is where the human heart comes in if we let it. Those people didn’t have to share their personal stories, but they did, and I was completely changed from each, small conversation. I cried because it was suddenly one grief acknowledging another but I also smiled at the sincerity of the connection. It’s so easy to feel alone because of a death or an illness in the family. 

It’s also easy to feel alone when sometimes the day or recent events have just been difficult, challenging, and going in directions you never imagined. Connecting with a stranger or a friend by one small conversation, one sliver of a share of memory, or genuine good wishes can make the world of difference. It won’t solve our problems or be a miracle cure but when you share your heart, that’s a healing in of itself and a moment you will never forget or regret.

I hope today’s Focus inspires you to keep your eyes open and your heart open wider. You never know what today’s conversations could bring. The birds are still chirping but the rain has stopped. I just looked out the back window and a ray of sun is shining directly on the Hyacinth buds. I think I’m going to go out back and spend some time with the flowers and remember how much she loved them.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Morning Lotus

Throughout history, the question has dogged beggars and philosophers alike—why are we here? What are we here to learn? What is the greatest thing that we can learn while we are on this Earth? In this body?

The answers depend upon what corner of the church we face and what God we ask them of. I am no philosopher nor do I propose to know the answer to one of Life’s greatest questions, and I don’t propose to know more than I’ve learned. Even then, I really know nothing. Not truly.

But then there came this.

One morning, sitting in stillness, the questions, the thoughts, the “what if”’s fell away and for the first time were replaced by a knowing and a feeling of undeniable truth. Surreal and yet sacred in its delivery, the questions and answers came without hesitation. The moment had been waiting and I was ready to finally listen.

What is the most important thing we can learn in our lifetime?

Compassion.

Without compassion, the love we feel for another will still have attachments and conditions.

Without compassion, the forgiveness our lips speak does not match the anger, hurt, and resentment still in our heart.

Without compassion, the understanding we have for the other person will still depend on their skin color and faith.

Without compassion, the peace that we fight for is nothing but murder and an excuse.

So how do we find compassion? Through suffering. Without personal suffering, there is no compassion. Suffering is more than having “bad” things happen to you. Suffering is going through a situation that is negative or unpleasant but it’s also the opportunity to take the situation from cries of “Why me?” to something that will forever deepen our understanding of others and our own reactions.

No one can know how they’ll feel or react in a situation unless they’ve been in it. Anything outside of that is just an opinion. To have compassion for anyone else means walking through your own fires first.

The importance of compassion is one of the key teachings in Buddhism. It is also one of the key teachings in learning to be fully human. No one is above suffering but we don’t need to perpetuate the feelings of suffering from what we are suffering from.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Valentine’s Day 365

Over the course of the past week, I kept hearing about “the holiday weekend.” What holiday weekend? I thought to myself every time. Presidents day? Well, yes on Monday….Superbowl’s over….Then I’d think of the date and remember, oh yeah. Valentine’s Day.

I never thought of Valentines’s Day as an actual holiday. It’s not like a day the country celebrates with fireworks or the banks close or there are school plays about it. To me, it was always just a day that meant flowers, chocolates, and a stuffed animal professing its love to me with big plastic eyes.

I have nothing against the day and have enjoyed my share of its tokens. It’s fun, yeah. Who doesn’t like the extra attention, and from a woman’s perspective, yes, it can be exciting but I just don’t think of it as the kind of (holi)day that we need 6 weeks of plan-ahead shopping for our sweethearts and lovers. I remember seeing cellophane hearts lining store shelves as early as January. Really?

Unless there is a jewelery box with a “K” on it, or dinner reservations that offer more of a choice than a 4 p.m. or 10 p.m. seating (in other words, things that need a little bit of planning), for more of us than we would like to admit, our tokens of affection will usually end up from a last minute trip to Walgreens or CVS for that holy trinity of card, chocolates, and a stuffed animal.

Personally, I don’t want commercialism to dictate when or how I tell my husband I love him. We share that with each other all year long. Of course it’s nice to get flowers. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t, but if I had to choose between waking up to the coffee maker prepped and ready to go, with note taped on it and my husband’s handwritten “Good Morning! It’s almost ready” and a heart drawn underneath;or a clean kitchen after an attempt at playing Master Chef the night before; or getting a text in the middle of the day with a goofy emoticon and the message “Miss you, can’t wait to see you again” on any given day versus getting flowers and chocolates on that one day of the year, I don’t think it will take you too long to figure out which one I’d choose.

Valentines’s Day is nice and sweet but showing the love we share for each other—our sweethearts and spouses and significant others—shouldn’t be capped into that one day of the year. True love, really deep, passionate, throw you on the bed, make your heart sing, and add a bounce to your step kind of love is something you can’t help but share on more than just one calendar day and it would be because you want to, and not just because the commercials tell you to. It doesn’t take much to show how you feel, but boy, does it go a long way.

Enjoy whatever comes your way on February 14 and just keep in mind that showing someone you care for them and love them doesn’t begin or end on that date. Boxes of chocolates and flowers are available all year 🙂

#takingitdeeper

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Now.

Every single one of us.
Has something to say.
It’s not just a story.
It’s their story.
It’s your story.
It’s your time to tell it.
It’s your time to write it.
To draw it.
To sing it.
To be it.
Will you?
Or.
Will you let it remain.
In your mind.
In your soul.
As a thought.
As a desire.
As a dream.
Let’s make it so.
And be.
Who we have been.
Dreaming ourselves to be.

#taingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Our Dash

Changes changes
The planets are aligning
Our stars are falling,
The winter full moon
shines a light for the storm coming home.

Passages and endings make way for new beginnings, yes, but couldn’t there yet, just be one more day? For some, a death is expected while for others, it’s not. Either way, it’s a part of the bigger cycle but who cares about the bigger cycle when all you want is that one more day?

It makes us stop and snaps us out of where we are. I’ve written before about how a death can make us take stock of where we are in our living, and where we think we’ve been, but I’ve found that with each passing, the snap is fresh and the restocking feels brand-new. When my mother passed away, my life shifted in ways I could never have foreseen except by first-hand experience. It’s still so new to me and I keep sifting through my mental attic and basement; shuffling, sorting, tagging, boxing, and working through old habits, memories, thoughts, and baggage that don’t serve me any more and so I don’t want them around. It’s a process, for sure, and one with a capital “P”.

Then came news of the deaths of several musicians and actors. All well-known, all larger than life, suddenly a headline with a new date added to the end of a dash. It was shock after shock for many people. The papers reported most of the causes were from long-term illnesses so it’s safe to say that their passing was more of a surprise for us than for them, but no less devastating. Grief doesn’t care how famous you are.

David Bowie and Glenn Frey’s deaths hit me the hardest. I felt sucker punched. They were the soundtrack to anyone growing up in the Seventies. Pick any song by either of them and guaranteed there is a memory curled and wrapped around it. It was the theme to boyfriends, first loves, summer nights, great friends and days filled with the innocence of blue jeans, long hair and the freedom of a full tank of gas in that first car you bought with your own money. It was about taking the world by the balls and we were innocent and hopeful enough to think we could. No matter what, it was all going to be alright. Their voices, their music was inspired and inspiring.

“People don’t run out of dreams, they just run out of time” sang Frey in “River of Dreams.” It really is all about that dash in the middle and what you do with it. The death of loved ones and creative giants like those we’ve recently lost grabs us and shakes us and challenges us to look at ourselves and our dashes. Their music and movies are a reminder of our younger selves and who we wanted to be, who we could be. Not like them necessarily, but the best of us.

“What will be left of all the fearing and wanting associated with your problematic life situation that every day takes up most of your attention? A dash, one or two inches long, between the date of birth and date of death on your gravestone.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Last night I stood outside under the light of the moon, and stared, in awe, at the alignment of the planets and I couldn’t help but feel the smallness of my humanity under God’s dome.  I will do this again tonight, and then, when the snowflakes begin to fall ushering in this Winter’s first fury, I will come inside, sit by the fire, hug my loved one, and pay attention to my dash.

Will you?

#takingitdeeper
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Friday’s Focus—Taking It Down a Notch

You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please everyone all of the time. —John Lydgate

One day, when I was very young, I went over to a friend’s house after school. We were playing outside when two sisters from the apartment next door came over to play, too. They were more her friends then mine, but when I met them once or twice before, we all got along fine. On this particular day though, I still don’t know what exactly happened, but all of a sudden, there were whispers behind cupped hands, and the sisters were looking me up and down. Pretty soon, words were exchanged and adding to my confusion, the friend I was originally playing with, turned against me and joined them as they made fun of me and now mocked me outright. Confused, shocked, hurt, and in tears, I rode my bicycle home and in between sobs told my mother what happened. I can still remember what she told me: “Honey, it’s not nice, and it’s not fair, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like you.”

Unfortunately, such behavior is not regulated to the whims of children and playgrounds. Even as adults, I’ve seen how you don’t even have to do anything for someone to find a problem with you. It can be the color of your skin, the style of clothes that you wear, even the kind of dog you have. You could be breathing too hard, laughing too loud, scraping the fork too loudly against a plate (yes, I’ve actually heard these).

As a basic tenet of decent humanity, we are asked to hold our fellow beings in love and light. We can all do that on our best days, but can we also do that on our worst days? It’s easy to find the goodness in people and situations when life is going your way, but what happens on those days when things aren’t going so smoothly or there’s always something in the way of you doing what you need to? Suddenly that deep love toward your neighbor has turned into shallow, ego-driven, back-biting judgement:

The cashier yesterday who was so sweet to ask about your sister’s illness, today is a busy body who can’t mind her own business.

The bank teller who was so efficient and succinct is now cold and unfriendly.

The gas station attendant who was full of jokes last week and humorous observations, now just talks too much and doesn’t know when to shut up.

Why does she have to wear that?
Why does he have to walk like that?
Why are they in our neighborhood?
She shouldn’t; he should but no, not them; they shouldn’t be doing…

It’s amazing how we have become a society of tearing apart our own fabric of being by micro-moralizing and pitting our individual preferences and beliefs onto the person or group next to us. I’m afraid that this level of dislike and distrust has become so ingrained in our psyche that our judgements against friends and strangers, alike, is now rooted in our subconscious to the point that we don’t even realize we are doing it anymore.

We criticize and judge groups and organizations for finding fault with everyone that is not of part of them, but what we don’t see are how we are those groups when we judge those in our own circles. We’re becoming numb to the lack of respect in the differences that make up all that we are as individuals and societies. I personally know that there are pockets of people who hold spaces of unconditional love, peace, and grace and are working toward unification and healing rather than tearing apart and destroying each other, and in this, I take great hope and inspiration from them. But it’s not enough. We need more than just pockets.

I also believe that it’s the media’s perpetuation of granting attention to these squeaky wheels that has helped facilitate the hate, disdain, and repugnancy of differences into a level of micro-moralizing that has reached epic proportions. Taking it deeper and looking back through history, there have always been separatists whose actions were, and are, rooted in fear and ego. As long as humans have existed with each other there has always been fighting and warring, but there has also been peace and amiability and fairness. I think that at this time in our history, human beings have tipped the scales of acceptance versus dissension and not in a good way. Everyone is screaming for their right to individuality and there’s nothing wrong with that but I think it’s gone too far.

We need to find ways to bring out the best in each other not the worst. It’s not too late. Yet.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Spinning Tops

The more I have to move the more I want to sit.

The more I get a chance to sit, the more I want to move.

There are days, on the outside I sit still, while inside a storm rages and fireworks explode.

Then there are days, on the outside I move with the frenetic energy of a thousand whirling dervishes while on the inside, there is nothing but silence.

If I allow it, I know that the two energies will merge and become a pulse, creating its own heartbeat, and then, if I surrender, I will have no choice but to move to the beat of the syncopation.

The waves of energies are too strong to withstand, or is it me too weak to stop them?

In the end, there is no other choice but to breathe into my heart, into the center of the storm, and let this new heartbeat lead me to a place.

To live with only one or the other is merely existing. It is half-living to be in either all movement or no movement at all.

Stillness within movement; peace within action.

I can still feel the tension between the ebb and flow
of
tightness and looseness
and
looseness and tightness

and the force of those currents ready to pull me away in either direction.

These are forces within each one of us. You can feel it too, if you give it half a chance.

Nature even knows this. Even when a river is frozen, the water below still flows and the hurricane, destroyer that it is and yet beautiful in its fearsomeness, holds a center of calm.

When you find that moment, when you feel that kiss from God and the bliss of the perfection of balance, let the world wait. Succumb to the flow and sway in the rhythm of what for many of us, seems elusive but is not impossible.

#takingitdeeper

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