Category Archives: change

The Threshold

from Osho Zen Tarot deck

 I remembered the card differently. I had seen it so often long ago when desperate for direction I would search the deck to find my way. Recently I bought the Zen Tarot deck again, not so much for the wishing as for the beautiful symbolism in the cards.

In my mind I saw a child standing at an open door ready to take a step out of the confines of his life. Imagine my surprise in finding the gate padlocked in this card I had seen so many times! It wasn’t a card to signify moving forward but a card signifying the feeling of being trapped, locked out of a life he couldn’t reach. It was the nightmare of those years as I grieved my “failure” to be able to find the way to succeed in the marriage that had ended. The years of trying had all but erased the person I once was, still colouring outside the lines but recognized as having worth in circles of friendship, in my studies, and in my workplace. The torn pieces of hope were roughly bound together in a crooked effigy of living.

Such a contrast between that time of breaking a decade and a half ago and the breaking I have been passing through in the past months! This also began with grief as the words of another with power to do so walled me out of my passionate dream celebrated in the past years, lived in the present and anticipated for the future until retirement.

But each breaking had done its work of cleaning more of the uneven growth that had effected my ability to walk with steadiness through the stormy moments of life. Over a decade has passed since the day a short film allowed me to give myself permission to not be able to communicate with someone who chose not to communicate with me. I began to accept what I would later read in a book by Parker Palmer. My life was speaking who I was meant to be. What I counted as my successes and my failures illuminated the reality of who I was within. Decades of trying began to be unwound as I spoke the “No” in my spirit that was the beginning of a renewed, more vibrant “Yes” to life.

Though each break was a labyrinth in itself, my life has been a labyrinth of searching for that way out of the confines created by my anxious desire to please and the inability to feel good enough for the ones who held power in my life. The card showed me something I had not realized. That short film had been the centre, the revelation which would begin my return journey.

This moment I had interpreted as the beginning of the labyrinth return journey was something more. I had been on a spiralling movement for years, getting caught in the circling yet ever moving outward to a more expansive life. This moment is not a beginning of the return but a wider circle in the spiral drawing me to a place where I could see the threshold, the exit into a fuller living. 

Only, this time, the chains that held the gate shut are missing and the gate has swung open inviting me to take those final steps.

photograph by L.J.A.

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Pentimento

pentimento (pĕnˌtəmĕnˈtō) [key], painter’s term for the evidence in a work that the original composition has been changed. 

Despite my good intentions, there was no beauty in the outer lines. The peace I so longed to paint upon the canvas held the jarring discord of the reality. I did not know how to bring peace within the relationship this mandala represented. I did not feel direction in how to breech that barrier. Imposed hope, unwanted judgments clashed as colours and line created dissonance. Only the centre held promise.

How the urge to flight, to run away from what I couldn’t seem to fix held me! Throw the canvas away! Repaint the background to obscure the creative mess! What good are intentions if the product is flawed?

I was stopped by the centre, the seed and ground of my own heart. Green radiating from the spiral spoke to me. 

I raised my paint brush and began to recolour some lines. As I did, it struck me. This mandala was walking me through the inner labyrinth. This time on the journey was the walk toward the centre, that time of Release, the emptying to make room for the changed. The past could not be undone but colours and lines could be revisioned by letting go of what needed change.

I chose the colours that were darker for the heaviness of their pigments. Spiralling upward as layers obscured the colours and line below. I prepared for what will come by letting go.

It is not finished. Releasing is a spiralling process in time. It will come as I take the steps I can see. Each will draw me to that place of Revelation which will lead me to Return to the place of serving more deeply again. It will not be what was. It will have a new beauty.

I look at the mandala and see raised shadows as the only evidence of what had once been.

Only the centre remains.

 

**Credit to Heather Plett for teaching me the stages of a labyrinth

**Credit to Info Please for the wording in the definition of pentimento.

Facing the Challenge

“I chose being — being present, being open, being malleable. Life is saying, “okay, I will give you the challenges that will help you become grounded in that kind of living.”
(Facebook comment in response to a post about choosing a word for the year)

The first month of the year hasn’t ended and I am already glad I chose a goal instead of an expectation as my focus for the year.

I am floundering. I am struggling with seeing the Promise of being in the moment. I set this acrostic as my goal:

Being – to live out the PROMISE of each moment by being:

Present
Responsibly
Open,
Malleable
In
Situations,
Evolving

My play simplified it into this definition: To make each moment a living POEM:

Present
Open
Engaged
Malleable

The present situation is a magnifying glass showing me all the places my elasticity has been compromised by putting such tight strictures around my life.

But wait. Maybe what is happening is not the problem. Maybe the lack of elasticity comes in a belief that if I am not handling this in such and such a way right now, I am failing, I am falling apart, I am the problem.

That is where friends have come in. They look through a lens that sees a bigger picture. They become mirrors holding up our strengths. They become the balance when we struggle.

So I will be PRESENT even here in this place that feels like a mindfield I don’t know how to cross. I will stay aware, not giving in to the urge to push it away with sleep and white noise distractions.

I will responsibly OPEN myself to way and resources that can help me find a way back to more emotional stability and devise the strategy necessary to face what is. I will open myself to new possibilities.

I will stay ENGAGED. I will write, draw, paint, collage, interact where I need to, seek out the resources to help me take the next steps. walk, play a game of cribbage with my elderly friend once the illness ban is lifted from his home.

I will allow this moisture of tears make the clay of my life MALLEABLE in this situation so that I can find the shape it is to take in the future, even if I need to leave the present, much loved, mold behind.

It is with a mixture of groans and hope that I move out. The past cannot be undone. Well intentioned actions not understood can’t be made what they aren’t. I cannot go back and change schooling options of the past to make me acceptable where I  not accepted. I can only move forward from here. That is what I call EVOLVING. Beginning with where I am, with what I have and know in this moment, I can grow.

BEING

There was no better word I could have chosen as a goal for this year that looks like it will be bringing a lot of change. Now to just live today with that feeling of PROMISE.

Shades and Shadows

Now it is my turn to decide what to do with this black crayon in my hand. It may not be clear right away how best to enhance the art of life with this creative tool, but if I am willing to take the time to step back and look at the whole picture, the answer will come. It will take patience and wisdom and a willingness to look within to the inner artist who sees beyond my limited outer vision. (https://ljandie57.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/the-black-crayon/)

It can never again be the picture it was. Carefully applied colours and points of light are buried beneath the black shadings. Greens and grays blend a mask hiding the carefully placed lines which once was. As incomplete and artificial as it was, the image I had held on to for so long no longer exists as more than a mapping of shapes and a loose rendition of colors chosen long ago. I opened my heart and hand choosing to use the black for change. With inner healing, old options were no longer available.

For too many years I ingested the black anger, eating the black crayon, avoiding the deeper shades, burying the darkness inside when it wouldn’t just go away. Turning it toward myself brought thoughts of death and self harm. It didn’t matter whether I acted it out. I was no different in that interior place where self conception flourished or died then someone who acted on those thoughts. Knowing this inner darkness growing with each new shadow I took inside, my outer world became more pastel, more secretive to hide what I saw beyond my face when I looked in a mirror.

No more. Anger and emotions we label as dark are a part of the hues and shades creating the richness of life. We are not created to ingest and bury those materials holding some of life’s creative potential. Can you imagine a landscape without shadow or shading?

So I took paint brush in hand and let my inner artist undo the paled colour palette which had made my artwork incomplete. The deed has begun. I look at it now and can see potential I had not seen before. There is depth and dimension I had not imagined.

It isn’t finished. I can’t yet see what the new tones will bring into being. The change is too deep to happen in a single setting. It will take time and openness to the inner artist to bring forward the new vision I am only beginning to see.

In life events, it is no different. Moments come when something within says, “No more!” When there is no further to bend without breaking and something has to give. Having been taught by forces in life certain mores of acceptability, and coupling that learning with previous  maladaptive ways of addressing uncomfortable relationships, the tension of choosing to address the problem instead of hiding from it is testing every reserve within me.

For days I held that black crayon in hand not sure how to use it to create art in life instead of destroying what I had. I began reaching for resources, others whose guidance and support can help me make healthy changes within the tension. I am accepting the emotional turmoil and accessing resources to support me as I take these new steps.

I do so without  knowing how the painting or this time in my life will turn out. Will the potential depth be something I can carry out? Will my inner and outer resources be enough to complete what has been begun?

I only have the ability to change myself. I have neither the moral right nor the power to change another.

So I will pick up my brush. Squeeze the tubes of paint and design what is in my power to do. I have heard though that it would be helpful to pick up a tube of Payne’s gray.

Dear Once Upon a Time

finding homeDear Once Upon A Time,

You believed the fairytales of a woman’s ability to be like a god changing the attitudes of another, bringing to life your fairytale perfect home. You believed that you could change enough, be enough to satisfy the desires of those who were the forces of power in the world you had been taught to believe. For you, the Stepford Wife existence would have been a mercy. You would not have had to deal with me.

When among the hoped for fairytales, the nightmare took root you fought with virtual tooth and claw to keep me trapped within the prescriptions of your schedules and I tried to comply, tried to find the line between your ridged expectations and the fluidity of my visions of a world of creative possibility waiting to be explored. It was never enough. He had called me frivolous, an escape. And you did not have the talent set that would have made it all better, that would have finally brought the acceptance you so longed for. The anger and despair in you built, an anger you could not accept. You broke when finally you came to realize things would not change.

Someone saw me in you then. She called me an eagle locked in a cage. Her vision gave you hope that perhaps I was not a chain that held you down but wings waiting inside and tentatively you began to seek me again.

For many more years you would struggle to find a way for both of us to be accepted without breaking the code they  had set you in throughout your life. It was an uneasy alliance for your world had become one that had little room for me. As before, when despair robbed you of the energy to hold me down you let me emerge to write words of hope that you could read or to record a memory you would someday need. In those years, you let me create at times as well, practical crafts, nothing too frivolous.

You even tried to kill me when you realized my presence would never allow your world to have the stability of acceptance in a fairytale romance you had fought for so long. It was easier to blame and discard me then to face your humanness which kept you from being a god with power to effect the choices of another.

Ironically, when you finally accepted the reality of your life and began to heal in the aloneness of distance, you still could not accept my presence in your life. You still blamed me for being. They called it anxiety and depression. I knew that it was your raging grief at not being god enough to meet the expectations of the world of thought you had been raised in. The day you finally came face to face with your freedom not to be responsible for the choices of another, you began to heal.

I had learned to wait, that even within myself I could not impose a vision on the part of me still in the pain of disillusioned dreams. It would be years before I would meet the images of the hurt woman in a way that you could begin to see the painfulness of a life without me. Our uneasy alliance would find more compatibility in our house of disappointing or distant relationships.

You still held a separate face within the mirror. My face aged yet yours remained trapped in the age your dreams stood still. Mine was a face you did not recognize as the lines slowly changed from the rigid prison of your lost dreams. There was an uncomfortableness when you looked in the mirror. You could not accept seeing me so clearly etched into the surface of your life.

A few days ago I looked in the mirror and only saw this face. The specter of your trapped image was gone. It has not returned. I can not feel you anymore. I can feel the legacy you left of finding order to build my life within, but your anxiety and discomfort are gone. There is a quietness within of just being.

Like other trapped pieces met through the years of healing you have faded into memory. I only hope you found that  inner island of healing that was hidden from us years ago when time came to put so much of the past to rest. I hope you are finally happy there feeling the acceptance you IMG_3118longed for.

But I go on, inwardly whole and healthy, living fully in this life that was always mine to live. I can only hope I am wiser now and aware enough to see the changes in direction that are needed when anxiety sends signals of danger ahead.

I have learned from you. Thank you for all you added in my life in the years you did not recognize your worth.

Peace to you,

Myself

 

 

Eddying currents of snow

It has happened. The cold dry snow light enough to form eddying currents powered by the passing of cars has laid is thin sheer sheeting gently across the grass.

My thoughts float in eddies of their own settling lightly in future visions of the coming spring and quiet preparations I will be making throughout the winter to let them grow with the warming sun.

This is one of the years when our concert will be in spring. Our school stays busy with activities so has opted for one big concert each year. That is fine with me. It gives time to develop smaller informal celebrations as the children learn new musical skills that will culminate in that final celebration. Within the cozy comforter of my classroom much will happen to prepare for the budding in the spring.

Life will move on through this time of snow. The tracks of vehicles already wind their paths through the snowy whiteness. There are small birds that will insulate among snarled branches and inside trees. Small animals will take foraging trips for food stored in the warmer months. Home will have a greater welcoming warmth when soon the wind blasts frozen across our faces.

There are some who say they would not live in a climate so cold. Just as my French immersion classes give me the extra challenge as I find resources for teaching and presenting in French, the winter challenges me to stretch beyond easy recreations, delving deep to find those things that bring me joy. I cannot be limited in what I find beauty in. The changing season recolors the world reinventing the landscape of possibilities.

The songs of my childhood in more static season can only be a part of my life. Coming from a place where snow was so rare I didn’t know how to maneuver well on icy roads, I have had to become adept at feeling the stability beneath my car, of recognizing the conditions of the road, of turning to resources like snow tires to help me navigate. I have had to learn the musculature of snow shoveling and high stepping where snow is still deep.

It is the same when I teach in the immersion school. I cannot become complacently reliant on the songs I already know or even what I hear on the radio. I am always needing to keep my attentions to the currents of change in order to keep my music teaching contemporary at the same time that I keep much of its content in French. Coming into the world as an adult, I have to research and take courses to more fully access the language and resources. Moving into this much richer climate of seasons I am stretched by seeking new music and learning to adapt known pieces to bring joy and learning to the children whose musical learning has been entrusted to me.

Changing seasons bring challenge. The coming winter reminds me of that within me which has the power and flexibility to learn and adapt.

Tossed by the inevitability of change

I slowly wake to the rough game of catch silhouetted by street lights against the still dark sky of early morning. The wind tosses the evergreen branches. They try to return to their still calm of summer but the wind knows.

The wind brings the new of changing seasons. Winter rides upon his shirttails. If not today, soon he will furl the branches in white weighting them for the long slow winter.

I will drive with care to work today. The slick of the rain is edged by the sly crystals of ice hiding in their wetness. It is a time of change when the knowns of two very different seasons interplay in a guessing game for wary drivers.

These times in our lives are the ones that test us. Will we get lost in the litany of dangers inherent in each new seasons? Or will we find the anticipation for what is in store? Change is inevitable. It will come. Winter will not hold back because I ask it to or ignore it to retain the status quo.

What am I doing with the changes in my life right now? What am I holding back from doing that is a part of this transition? Where am I letting a litany of dangers keep me from moving forward into growth? We all have the possibility of resistance within us. What are the questions that will help you find you own?

We also have within us the explorer ready to face new mountains, ready to descend into ravines to discover the next turn in the trail ahead. Sometimes expectations stunt the development of this explorer’s dreams. Parents impose their visions. Financial limitations don’t seem to have answers. One we dreamed of sharing the journey with is gone. We failed to be able to do all the things in life we believed were the necessities for making our dreams come true. Life imposes its shape on dreams seeded in our childhood and we shut them up in some inner room and wonder why our lives feel less than whole.

I think of a recent conversation with a friend who is unsure about where he wants to go in life. His dream path is not the one he now follows. In fact, he seems to have lost the map for that dream. He is angry at all the demanding advise to just get going and stop resisting the path that has been determined for him. His only resistance comes in hurting himself by letting his hopes die slowly within.

I have been him. My poetry and writing holding the dreams of my youth once lay in torn shreds on the floor, a testament of trying to kill the dream to keep living the lie.

But I am one of the lucky ones. Somewhere along the way I was taught that the words like “stubborn” and “selfish” are only interpretations when it comes to following the inner explorer inside instead of living in the rigidity of the dreams others impose. Sometimes we need to change our vocabulary. The same attitudes can be named “determination”, “independence” and “nonconformity” the words used to describe my granny. Three years ago I found out that I am much like her. I am just growing into acceptance of those words as definitions for my own life.

A favorite author, Parker Palmer, encourages us to let our lives speak not in trying to be someone else, but in being the sapling in our youth whose genus could be identified by the things that lived out in our childhood choices. In that young sapling is found the identity of who we are meant to be. Who I am matters because the me that comes from within is the one with the best potential for impacting the world for good.

When change comes, that rooted self will have the strength to withstand the winds of changing by being flexible enough to accept the tossing so often accompanying transitions.

Wishing you strong roots and flexible branches.