Category Archives: Living

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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Housewarming

It is an interesting phenomena that official housewarmings seem to go with buying a new place, not with renting one so nothing formal marked my move from an apartment to this townhouse where I have room to set aside a space for my art, to have an extra bed or two for my grandchildren and to sit at a table with someone to share a coffee or tea. The warming comes, instead, each time someone comes to share the space with me.

P1070757cThe first housewarming occurred the day I moved in. My special friend, David came down from his home up north. My son drove over from Alberta. My son-in-law and daughter helped move boxes and my other daughter met us after work to share a visit and a meal in a local Chinese restaurant where I am on friendly terms with the staff. Having them around me made the house a home even before the boxes were unpacked.

In the next weeks, boxes were emptied and things began to find their home in the space. The rush of finishing school and a two week trip out of province kept me from having others in for a time. David came to share a play and help pick out a piece of furniture, but other than that I shared the space only with myself. It was a time of my own settling in and finding the space my own.

P1090044cThis past weekend my house was warmed once more as my grandchildren had their first visit. Toys scattered across the space, kiddie couches sprawled out in the living room, a new mattress in the office waiting for the love seal fold-out frame that would give that special bed for the little ones. My rickety chairs were reinforced with new child friendly seats welcoming for the many visits I hope they share with me here.

P1090272cDuring my granddaughter’s nap, her big brother put his mark on the place by helping me build a two drawer IKEA dresser so each of them can have their own drawer here. It is not a fashion home, but instead has games and toys shelved and stored, ready for the visits of little ones who are important to my world.

Wednesday they joined me again. In the afternoon my other daughter and her special other came by as well. Watching her fellow sprawled out on the floor playing cars with my grandson was a special sight. Having those moments to visit with her was a joy.

It doesn’t take much to warm a place. The presence of loved ones, room to explore the arts and other interests that make life vibrant, neighbours who show an understanding of shared space by helping each other. This is my celebration. The joy of it is, it does not have a time frame. It is something that I can celebrate over and over with each new guest who enters this space.

 The laughter of children
warms the heart and home.
P1090092c P1090087c

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 into 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?

 

Celebrating Connection

mirth n laughterThis post will come out on my birthday. Born in 1957, I am 57 this year. I call it my golden birthday but I have no plans for the day. It has been that way for years. My birthday is a quiet day to reflect on the year that is past. It is always a celebration because it is a day I think of those who have touched my life in the year past. It is a day I look back and intentionally notice the growth in the year.

This past year, in January, I had another bout of anxiety that took me down a bit. And yet, it was nothing like what I have dealt with in the past. 2 years ago when I had a stronger break after the death of my dad and a major surgery of my closest friend, learning about mindfulness was a part of the healing process. This time around, mindfulness was something like the exercise I learn in physio if I get an injury. Though my mindfulness muscles weren’t getting as much training as they needed, the knowledge of it was there to support me before the anxiety took me down further.

The anxiety was not as bad a thing as it sounds. It was a wake up call. I had allowed myself to isolate in become unbalanced in my self care in order to put my energy into my full time teaching job. I had allowed myself to put my blinders firmly in place so that I was ignoring the warning signs along the way. I was putting on my deity hat again, trying to take care of all the things in my life. It wasn’t a conscious choice to do this. It was more a choice made by not making choices to move beyond my safe walls.

Mindfulness had taught me to listen and accept my feelings. Joining a writing challenge helped me to articulate them rather than bury them deeper. This blog began for that challenge in January. It was my last ditch effort to break out of the growing isolation that was becoming my life. It has become a joy as it calls me to write and share the mindful gifts in my life.

becomes your teacherSo today, my mindful gift is people —

– Those who wrote with me in the 31 day challenges that has now continued for nearly six months

– The people who welcomed me back into the community of faith I have been in and out of in the past three years because of past history

–  The other teachers in my school who have been encouraging even when anxiety was so much on the surface

– My students who give me joy each day I am with them, sharing with me their enthusiasm and efforts as well as hugs, high fives, and special art.

– My children who keep touch with mom and make sure I am remembered on Mother’s Day earlier in the month

– My grandchildren who fill me up with hugs and stories and let me play with their toys

– And my closest friend who teaches me what it is to be accepting by his acceptance

Tomorrow is a day of celebrating life. I have everything I need to make this day special — connections to people I care about.

“Shade for a man
And shelter for animals,
Planted in your name,
May you be the same
for those around you,
Every year the same.”
― Nancy J. Cavanaugh

 

 

 

A – Abstraction

ab·strac·tion
noun
1. an abstract or general idea or term.
2. the act of considering something as a general quality or characteristic, apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances.
3. an impractical idea; something visionary and unrealistic.
4. the act of taking away or separating; withdrawal: The sensation of cold is due to the abstraction of heat from our bodies.
5. secret removal, especially theft.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/abstraction

9781408319468It is the new societal norm as old as history – take away the characteristics, the feeling states, the experiences that don’t resonate with the guidelines in any given society and you can arrive at the abstraction of what it means to be an acceptable member of that society. Slated, By Teri Terry, is a book for youth that takes that concept to its cutting edge.

It is a society where the ability to alter the personality of an individual has reached its highest level passing an edge of ethical practice. Those younger than 16 that are deemed as deviants in society are “slated”, thoughts and memories within the upper cortexes of her brain have been, supposedly, wiped clean. For a number of weeks and months they are held in the hospital where they are retrained from infancy up. They progress at a rate faster than in the early years but often are still far below their peers in skills and knowledge when reintroduced to society. Given a monitoring system to help them stay in accepted parameters of emotions these young people are permanently marked as different even as they are being trained to fit a norm.

The story is viewed through the experiences of Kyla. With no real experiential memories, she has been re-nurtured to an age where she can now be adopted into her new family – a mother, a father, and another sister, clearly not their natural offspring. A microchip in her brain wired a bracelet on her arm helps record and alert her to levels of stimulus outside of the accepted parameters. If her levels of sadness or anger cause the number to drop too low she is expected to first go unconscious and even reach a point of death. Part of the training she receives is methods to stabilize her “happiness” level into the acceptable parameters. The changes in this status are recorded in the chip to help others monitor her adjustments to society.

It is soon shown that Kyla is different from most of the slated. An artist, she finds her motor memory in one hand is inconsistent to what she has been told is true about herself. She also finds inconsistencies in her emotions and the reading on her Levo. Within the novel we walk with her as she faces these new questions. We are drawn in to a relationship with a three dimensional character. We are caused to care for her and yet question the past that could have brought her to this state. We are led to question the morals of the society which has the power to subjugate difference into non-existence.

As I read this story I could not help but compare the society to some of the favored inspirational quotes in the social media. Are there ways that we, as a society, are already adopting some of those beliefs that label and ostracize those who don’t fit our social norms? Are we perpetuating conditions that drive those whose level of pain is outside of our accepted levels into hiding by shaming them simply through a regurgitation of clichés about what it means to be positive people? Do we drive those whose stories might help others underground by distancing ourselves from their “negativity” if they dare to question those systems that we treat as sacred icons of rightness?

I see the posts and stories where people ask the why after a tragedy comes to light. What would happen if we dared open up those places of our own brokenness not as topics in books but as parts of real conversations as real people? Is there a chance we might alleviate one more tragedy by helping one more person feel less alone?

Yes, there are those who have been taught to be dependent, and so drain those who try to be present for them. I know that siren’s call. I am a person who struggles and the reality is, I find that being willing to seek help for myself but having struggles is not a popular position to take. By choosing not to be dependent, I choose to not be of interest to those who get their validation by reaching down to the needy. However, by choosing to be open about the reality of my struggle to heal, I also close myself off from those who have the positive people view of relationships.

Like Kyla, I find myself searching faces and conversations for those who will simply walk alongside me in this journey as we encourage each other to find wholeness. Like Kyla, something inside me is not willing to just fade into external expectations. At the end of the book, I find myself willing to journey further with her.

*Terry, Teri; Slated; Scholastic Inc.; 2012