To the Young Woman I Met

P1080957When I first met you, your smile sparkled as you sought a way to show of the teeshirt advertising the show you just saw. Your enthusiasm and uninhibited willingness to try something new was a brightness in the day. You left me with a smile on my face as you walked away. How I longed for the days when, like you, conversational patter had come so easily. But then I went on enjoying the memory of that moment as I shared my own smile with others.

The day we sat down to talk you surprised me by revealing that the beautiful young woman I see does not see herself as beautiful and special. Sharing a bit of our stories, you asked me how I had made peace with my life even though it is not the status quo of everything a life should be in society’s expectations. I did not pretend to have it all together, but I can’t pretend to regret my life either. I am at peace. I am still growing. I still have moments of unrest. There is still healing that is in process in my life, but I am at peace with where my life is at.

P1070676So I told you I would write you this letter to tell you what I can articulate about how I have made peace with my life.

1) I don’t expect anyone or anything to save me or to do the hard work for me of healing. When you wait for others to do it for you, then you resent what is not done. You feel let down and alone. If you can look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are enough, that you can heal, that you are willing to have the patience with time, the honesty of self-acceptance and the strength to face the things that hurt, healing begins. When I take the responsibility for my own joy in life then whatever I receive from others can be seen as a gift instead of a requirement.

2.) I am thankful for what others bring to my life. It is hard for me to let down the control of my outcomes enough to let others in and to let others help me. It is not easy to release my independence or to accept the word of others that they might come through with the things the DSC09388boffer to do. I have to raise the mirror to my own humanity and face how my own desires to do for others sometimes outstrip my own ability to carry through in order to accept that others may want to support me in ways as well. I will read the signals wrong. We will all make mistakes. But in it all, through giving the benefit of the doubt and through recognizing that a kindness shown is a gift for both giver and recipient, I connect with others. Each connection in turn opens me to the next one.

3.) I accept that the past influences me. I let myself dream toward the future, but I am learning to live in the moment I am in. I am learning to let this be enough just as it is. I am learning to accept and own my feelings as my own and to know that no matter how uncomfortable the feelings of a moment might be, they will not stay that way forever. Yet, I am learning not to take the responsibility to change my feelings. I am learning to take the responsibility to listen to them so that they can teach me what I need to know in that moment of time. It is only in owning my moments that I will live beyond what is past into what is to come. What I do with the moment I live counts.

P10801004.) I am learning that I am what I need to be to live my life. I don’t have to wait for some magical moment or some planet-aligned sequence of events. I don’t have to wait until I have achieved some level of fame, the perfect body ratio, the circle of friends I do long to have. All the things that can be someday are possibility. But their presence or their lack does not decide my life. I am free to make my life what it can be because I am everything I need to be in this moment to move into the next one.

No, it does not fit the social expectations of all that life “should” be, but a life based on should is a life that is waiting, not a life that is being lived. I have chosen to live, to grow, to be the person that I am. I have chosen to accept myself as a person in transition without expecting to arrive at some predesignated destination where everything will finally be happy ever P1080429after. I have chosen to live in my todays.

And because I have, I was privileged to have those moments of sharing with you, those moments of seeing beyond the mask you have learned to wear to hide the ache you have within. I only hope that the moments we shared enriched your life in some way.

I know you have enriched mine.

It’s No Surprise

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She is living a dream from childhood. Today is the final show for this year’s theatre festival. Her play has been nominated for an award honoring the best 10294452_10152346439310091_4593152265505484908_nnew play shown at the festival.

I remember when she shared with me the first edit of the script. In the months that followed, the content remained the same but the timeline morphed to create the experience viewed in the past two weeks. Four characters, a director, a stage manager, light technician and assistant manager brought the story to life. Many of the faces were familiar — people who have become connections through the years she had begun to realize a dream that was such a part of her she almost didn’t recognize it for what it was.

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Friends on stage and in life

From early in life, she loved stories, people and drama in an ever shifting order of priorities. She blames some of it on me. Her brother had the kind of active curiosity that would get him into scrapes before he could even walk. When she joined our family just short of his second birthday, nursing time would also be the time I would read him stories. Where some people find comfort in food, she has told me, she finds comfort in books and ties it to that time before she was even fully aware of her history.

didn’t stop there. At one and a half when I helped with the script work on a children’s musical, she came along with me since her older brother would be in the choir and needed to know the songs as well as a 3 and a half year old could. Megan played quietly behind the piano until P1090231cthe practices got under way. Then she decided a game of peek-a-boo with the choir was in order. A few giggle spurred her on and soon she had the whole group laughing. Figuring out the cause I picked her up and took her to the back of the room where I was watching. She happily played with a hat under the table for about 5 minutes. Then, with the hat jauntily posed on her head she made a dash for the front of the choir where she began to dance around. Needless to say, her dad got elected for babysitting duty during the rest of the practices.

P1090236cMegan loved dress up of any form. Perhaps the first year role as doll to her cousins on their visits helped there. My trunk of clothes played multiple duty as the girls would come and make their plays including Megan and Ian in the drama. When later we moved away from them bringing the trunk came along, the plays continued with Megan including her brother, her friends and her little sister in her scripts. The life size rag dolls had roles as well in the dramas that formed the play at home complete with mimicking cadences from familiar voices. I know I cringed more that once when I would hear my own tones a bit too realistically for comfort.

P1090237cShe brimmed with stories and songs. When given a tape and taught to press the buttons on the machines, the merry sound of stories and songs filled the air. When she would run out of material she would continue in rhythmic gibberish until she found her next idea. During those times, our main conversation was “Mom, turn the tape! I’m done!”

Halloween was a favorite time of year. For that day she could become whatever she dreamed of being. With sewing machine and second hand clothing or a piece of bargain material, I would create the costumes, Sometime in elementary school she also took over her own costume design starting with the year she was the secretary with the typewriter box for the treats.

HowhardisittostandontwofeetcShe participated in choreography books in middle years, used her classmates as the stones in a presentation about Stonehenge, was a part of drama in high school. Yet when beginning university her dreams focused elsewhere. The theatre company at her university brought her back to her dreams. In the end, her major became her minor and Megan graduated in theatre arts.

The Fringe and her group of friends found their center in those days. She has never looked back.

Tonight she will find out whether or not the award will come to her. I chose to write before that moment because this is not about the award it is about the girl, a woman now, who is finding her dreams and, in so doing, bringing pleasure and thoughtfulness to others.

It’s no surprise. She has always seen life as a treasure to unwrap — and a story to tell.

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* To give credit where credit is due, since most of my involvement in her theatre life is from the audience seat, the adult pictures of her are from her cache of pictures taken by others.

 

Okay, That does it!

I couldn’t believe it. The rumbling sound of the garbage truck roused me from my revery. My first garbage pickup to be responsible to have my bins out for and I had missed it, and on a hot summer day. I groaned as I leaped up to see if just maybe it was the larger truck for the nearby apartment. It wasn’t.

I ran outside to look. How could someone have done this to me? I had only been in my home a little over a month. The first weeks I had still had the garbage bin at my apartment building. The past weeks I had been on a vacation. Now, I was finally really settling in here and I had the time wrong for when to put out my bins!

But there they were, set in place. One of the neighbors I am just starting to know must have understood. Without a word or an expectation they did this mundane job for me.

I think I know who would have done this. They are the same people who picked up my mail for me while I was gone. Our schedules have so far differed enough that we have hardly talked but they have still given small kindnesses.

Even though after 4 months of getting to stretch out over the parking spaces, they now have to clear two of the spaces for me, both families that share my lot and the building our homes reside in have been friendly.

Now this.

Small kindnesses go a long way to making others feel welcomed and valued. Without that sense of caring, space is simply space.

That does it! I think this townhouse is starting to feel like home. I only hope I can find ways to return small kindnesses to my neighbours.

It feels like home

I didn’t know what to expect. After having only lived here two weeks while finishing the school year and unpacking boxes, I left for a trip. For 19 days I would travel to Northern Manitoba, across country to Edmonton Alberta, fly to Victoria, B.C., ferry across to Vancouver, fly back to Edmonton and drive back to northern Manitoba where I would collect my car and come back home.

Leaving my vacation behind I felt unsettled driving back to my city. How would it feel coming back to this place that hasn’t yet developed the familiar lines of my space/?

I found myself worrying about what bills might have come in while I was away. Would I have late fees to start my time in my new place? Would the incessant rains that have fallen while I was away flooding areas just west of my city have caused any havoc in the basement? Worries tried to whirl in my brain until I reminded myself of mindfulness and the reality that all I would find when I got back wouldn’t be anything I could deal with until I got back.

For the time being, the sun was shining but it wasn’t so hot that I was roasting in my non-air conditioned car. Yes, I had to roll up the windows when I would slow neat the side of the road. The dark shadowy “bull dogs” swirled around my car like a tornado of hunger. I had heard they bite and I didn’t want first hand experience with that.

Then there was the construction that slowed down my return. All well in good. The drive gave me time to transition forward. Leaving my friend behind in his home up north and not having that surety of familiarity when I got here made it easy to take it slow.

I needn’t have worried. My hyper vigilance had left a credit in one bill for my apartment that was transferred forward to my new address. The other  ended up being due today so with a quick strike of a pen I was up-to-date. Things were in place ready to move forward when I got here.

It’s quiet though. The sound of the vehicles rushing by is my city stream. I don’t really hear it as more than the sound of life around me. There are no other voices to listen for, no conversations in this space. The silence pillows my mind in peace.

Yes, I loved the time with others in the past weeks. I look forward to the busyness of my volunteer shifts at the local Fringe Festival in the coming weeks. I hope not long will pass before I see my children and grandchildren again and for visits with friends to fill the days ahead. I look forward to Dave coming for a few days. His room stands ready.

But for these moments, my body sinks back in my chair while my fingers dance their familiar steps on the keyboard. I have yet to sort out all the corners of the town house that now holds my possessions and my hopes of what I  can make of it. That is okay. I have many tomorrows to figure that all out.

For now, it is a time for resting and reflecting. It is easy here. It feels like home.

Okay, so I didn’t do so well

DSC03670cToday the cleaner I hired worked in my one bedroom apartment pulling out appliances, cleaning walls and carpets, all the things I am limited in my knowledge or physical strength in how to do. I am surprised how much less apologetic I am then I would have been in the past about such things. I think my ability to handle letting someone into the corners I missed comes from the timing of this move.

In January I began seeing someone again to deal with some of the last residual dregs left behind by those dark spaces in my life. Cleaning out the corners of my psyche, I have room to accept the need to clean out the corners of my physical space.

This move is a chance to begin again with more understanding and awareness then I had at the time of my last move. It is a challenge though, too. Starting fresh, in any form, is a new chance to make decisions about where you will go from here.

This is where I am glad I have learned about mindful living in the past years. I get to begin in this moment I am in. I am able to acknowledge that this is where my life has brought me. This is who I am. I have the power to grow from this now because I accept this self as my identity in this moment.

There is something that feels strong in accepting yourself right at the place you are. The feelings of stress that come by striving to be something else aren’t there to take energy away from living what is. Within each moment there is a recognition that choices matter. I am not longer waiting for something out there to start me living. I get to choose to live right where I am.

DSC03672cI am thankful that I began finding this out before my home changed to something more spacious (to me) and more freeing. If this inner freeing is tied to things or others than if they are lost, it can be lost. By learning to center myself no matter what, I give myself freedom to live no matter what is gained or lost in my life.

I have not arrived in some place of peaceful bliss. I still have fears. I still have my “if only” lists that play through my mind. Yes, I would have like to have not felt a bit of humiliation of having someone come to clean the places I didn’t know how to reach in a space too small to move large things. These are all a part of this me where I am right now. By not trying to pretend those things aren’t there, I free energy to move forward.

Yes, I think I am going to like this new stage in my life.

 

Lesson Learned in Moving

No this isn’t my first move. There is a part of me that has never really settled anywhere. Growing up I attended 11 schools by the time I graduated from high school. That was after having lived in at least 5 other homes before I started school. Post high school I still never settled. In over 55 years of life only twice have I lived in the same dwelling for over 5 years, one being in the apartment I just moved from. You would think I wouldn’t have anything new to learn from moving. Yet, there always seems to be that one more place to grow.

P1070735Moving to my new home in the past few weeks, I had an opportunity to see what I have kept as important all these years. There were so many replicas of things that had been buried and forgotten as my interests changed or as I needed something and couldn’t find what I had. Things has replaced really living as I treated my home as a stasis chamber or a bed in the corner of an office — simply a place to exist in between work and the rare times when I spent time with others. I am not sure I would call myself a hoarder but there was enough to give me a window into understanding to some degree.

The move uncovered supplies for crafts I didn’t have the room to complete before. I would dream dreams bigger than the space I had to carry them out in. I would sometimes begin until work intervened with some task that required me to put them away to clear space.  Now they reside on shelves in the basement next to a room where I can get them out and work. All I have to do is get some kind of support for the table top I have.

There were clothes and items stored for a someday out there when I would get back to my old shape or restart some past activity — tems that could be used meaningfully by others if unburied from my past. Moving unburied the need to let go in order to move on. Even after moving to my new place there were things that could still be let go of. Like working clay and smoothing rough edges I mold the new place I will be calling home until I move on.

The room to breath and think I find where I am now opens my eyes to the nonliving that had become so much the norm of my life. My world had been so much reduced to a chair with a table on one side and a desk on the other. My communications had become computerized. The introverted part of my nature lost balance as space became storage instead of living. The home I had wanted to bring people into is possible now.

Moving here feels a bit like waking up from a long sleep. From here, I have choices to make to decide what this home will be. There are those who have indicated interest in being in my world. I have to open the door to let them in. That is the wonder of living. By letting go, we receive. By stepping out, we make room within. Each ending begins something new.

Perhaps this is my focus as this month heads toward its end — moving forward, moving on. The first steps have been taken. Where will this new path lead me from here?

 

A New Crossroad

I stand at a crossroad of change, a potential hectic place where stopping and looking at what I have gained from this stage in the journey is my next step. Mindfulness tells me to look at my thoughts of what all I need to do as just what they are — thoughts. They are not prescriptions. They don’t come with a premade time line though they do come with deadlines. They are thoughts. Rushing in to them empowers them to create stress. Stopping and weighing them as thoughts allows me to determine priorities for completing what needs to be done.

I had a plan for Saturday. I was going to get my keys to my new place and then work on my report card comments. It was a good plan but was not based on learned information. I would be allowed to get in the place. My neighbor would come by and ask how early I want them to come to help me load boxes in their van tomorrow. This weekend, the resources are in place for me to do much of the moving I had planned to spread out through the week. My thoughts shifted toward the move and focus elsewhere was compromised.

In the old model of coping, this is where anxiety would leap in empowered by guilt at what I “need” to get done. Having practiced mindfulness in a form throughout May, I have learned the power that comes from stopping and looking at thoughts.

When I am at school during the week, the focus is on school. I have the ability to stay after hours and work there where I am not distracted by the scatter that is a part of moving. Why was my other plan so much better anyway? I was viewing the comments as a stop gap, waiting measure for moving much of my stuff in tomorrow. They would have not had the attention they deserve. Staying and working that extra time each afternoon this week is a more rational expectation of my attention.

So mindfulness reminds me that I can stop and refocus. I can reprioritize today in light of the knowledge of potential. As such, my work becomes more productive because my mind is not scattered and fighting guilt while stressing over wanting to have everything done now.

Today, I only took one load and reloaded my car for an early run in the morning. I started organizing a few things in the kitchen helping me to assess where I want things to go to save steps of others that will be helping me. I even got my flowers in the front garden to cheer my heart with colour.

journey treasureIt is a new beginning as I draw this mindful journey of posting to a close. Will I make this journey again next May? Learning mindfulness teaches me to make my commitment to live my moments. I have also learned this month that mindful gifts can be found in any circumstance so, posted or not, I will be seeking the mindful gifts in each experience, each day.

The mindful gift I chose to celebrate today is this moment of time. It is the only one I have to live. In living it, I live toward whatever is to come.

**** To those reading my posts, for the first two weeks of June I will be reevaluating my writing as well as using my words to keep in touch with friends and write report card comments. I will be back to posting by the third week in June. Will try to keep an eye on your posts until then. If there is something mindful you would like to share with me, just leave me a note on here. Peace to all as you make choices on your own journeys.