Tag Archives: hope

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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Waiting for the Light

 “May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring    

Last night I was thankful for the reasonableness of most drivers in our area. We had a power outage that covered my area of town. I realized in my move I had lost track of where any light sources were in my home.

Since even Internet was unavailable, I didn’t know how far the blackout had reached but had to go through about 4 unlit corners before I reached lit roads again. Almost all drivers reasonably and responsibly treated them as 4 way stops so I was able to get safely across to an area of town where I could purchase alternate light sources.

On the way home the news said a few thousand home had their power back but a few thousand others would need to wait until at least 1 am. I didn’t know whether I was returning to power in my home or not.

I was thankful for the inside light in my car to help me read the instructions and get the batteries in place for my light sources since I arrived to no power.

I was thankful for the sleeping bag I had bought for cold temperatures, for the fact that we are dealing with the milder possibilities of winter weather and that my light sources were strong enough to let me read until the loud sound of something being worked on across the street could finish and I could drift off.

I was thankful for medications to help me get what sleep I could.

I awoke to light.

That I see the things to be thankful for gives me the relief of knowing this other condition I am dealing with is not depression. That I can hear the positives adds to that relief.

Finding peace in the darkness gives hope that I will be able to gain the resources I need to face this other thing causing me to need help right now. It will come. Peace will return. Stability will be found. Light will return.

Retelling the Story

Question your feelings and stories. Once you’ve identified what you’re feeling, you have to stop and ask, given the circumstances, is it the right feeling? Meaning, of course, are you telling the right story? After all, feelings come from stories, an stories are our own invention.    Crucial conversations, Patterson, Grenny, McMilan and Switzler

There is no question that the story fueling this situation I face is incomplete. I have no illusion that I have the full facts of what is going on. I have been playing the guessing game for months, trying to gather information to still the uneasiness continuing to build in a significant relationship. When an occasion came which presented questions beyond my ability to find the answers without the aid I couldn’t seem to get, my inner reserves “let me down” and my coping abilities deflated.

I have been taught many labels and phrases for times like this in life: ‘too weak’, ‘falling apart’, ‘not good enough’, ‘this is tearing me up’, ‘I’m letting everyone down’, the list goes on and on. Old voices of accusation scream to be heard in the quiet of this needed isolation from certain high stressors in life. My life alternates between trying to move forward and a mind freezing emotional overload that stops me in my tracks. I am not coping as well as I would want to. My inner judge works hard to assign me the verdict of guilty beyond redemption as it did so much more easily once upon a time.

The difference is the voices of others who have gotten to know me over time in a deeper way then many of us take the chance to be known. These voices listen to my stories about myself and challenge them. The same happens from new appropriately chosen voices whose help was requested in this situation.

“I would like to question the idea of you ‘falling apart'”, began one such support. Then in evidence she listed the steps I am taking and the choices I am making to try to bring a positive resolution to what is going on. “Does that sound like someone who is falling apart?” She did not deny the high anxiety that is affecting my ability to function at the best of my capacity in daily life. She did not pretend that wasn’t there. She simply looked at the actions of my life to change this place. She held up a mirror of growth even in the midst of feelings of weakness.

Colleagues have given affirmations on my work. Those who are working with me through this process continue to be present and supportive. Others, such as those on a thread in a social media site, have done so simply by accepting my stated need for the support of thought and prayer as I seek to use respect and grace in this. They honor that, without asking me to explain the situation for them to judge.

Each of these resources helps me to edit the story I write about my ability to see this through to the best ending I can find, whatever that will be. They fill the margins with hope to counteract the turmoil of discouragement and fears I have not yet overcome. Without denying the residual weakness from the past that is affecting me, they mirror back to me where I am acting forward in a way that exhibits strength.

There are many ways to come alongside in situations of stress.  The support of those who don’t need to know the details in order to be supportive in thought and action is as important, maybe even more important, then the resources on the inside who are working with me to solve the situation.  Those who can help reinterpret the facts into a story of growth and strength are powerful agents of healing and hope in times a person does not measure up to their own societally sanctioned expectations.

Is there a story your encouragement and insights have the potential of changing into one of greater strength and possibility?

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.

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

 

 

Laughter: A flickering of light in the dark

Once more the death of a celebrity brings to the surface the needed dialogue on how to help people who struggle from the fear of living fully that characterizes many mood disorders. We have been taught to fear the dark, to push it way and try to insulate our lives from pain. We are afraid our joy will be discounted if people also see the sorrow. When a writing friend brought the article Why the Suicide of Robin Williams Matters by Seth Adam Smith to my attention, I responded like this:

“In our world of positive messages, often the person with mood disorders hears the message that what is good and positive about them will be diminished in the eyes of others if they are honest in admitting and seeking help for the part that aches. In our world, we need to look at the positivity messages we send out and make sure it is clear that they are ideals we may seek but that we understand the multi dimensional reality of life. As my own psychologist tells me when I get discouraged with my own inability to defeat the anxiety no matter how much I work to live out positivity, the goal of not being anxious may be an unrealistic one for me. I should celebrate the things I am able to do and the growth in my life without condemning that part of me that still is tied in knots and sinks below the horizon. I need to celebrate and live my life as a whole. I say this not to talk only of me, but to share what I have heard from many others as well who live in this world of balancing the darker feelings with the light we would like to reflect into the world. My heart aches for Robin and for those who hold him close.”

Though we want to see the three dimensional nature of characters in the dramas we watch, too often we seek a more two-dimensional character from those we allow in the edges of our lives and sometimes even in our inner circles. As you read above, we, or at least I, even expect this limited dimensionality from ourselves. When the person is able to laugh and show joy we discount their experiences of darkness. When a person is honest about their darkness, we stop hearing the joy. Life’s reality is that both reside in us all to varying degrees.

When my children were young my struggle with depression inhibited my ability to be all that I would have wanted to be. As I mourned this darkness within a facility to protect me from myself until I could choose to live again, I created a collage from old magazines to help me find the focus of what mattered to me in life. It was not something assigned to me. It was a need that came from within. The quote from it that I remember most in one that prayed that despite whatever else came in life, I wanted my children to remember my laughter. Your family asked that for you, Robin.

So, Robin.  I remember laughter as I think of you. I see your fumbling coming to terms with having been the boy Peter Pan. I watch you transform into Mrs. Doubtfire in the journey to overcome a distancing built in that characters life. I remember how you bumbled into our life as the alien, Mork, learning to live in this world that had different mores than the one you knew. I remember your laughter, but I let that memory also help me remember my own.

In that place I had entered to help me keep living so that I could be there for my children, it was a moment of spontaneous levity, an under-the-breath “smart answer to stupid questions” kind of comment, that showed others and myself that I was beginning to open to life again. It was in moments of levity that we found connections that went beyond the commonalities of our pain.

But moments of laughter go on. I still grin at the laughter of my family when I straightened the discard pile in a game with friends of theirs. They had told their friends about my angst at having the pile messy and so the laughter was spontaneous. I chuckle as I hear one of my young adult children express in shock, “Your my mom and mom’s don’t talk like that!” when some somewhat raunchy quip or observation flies from my mouth. As much as I want the cards to be neat, I love that there is within me that which will not conform to expectations but loves to just be.

The presence of a light does not mean there isn’t darkness. Teaching others and ourselves that we have to deny the darkness just causes it to press deeper around us. But looking at the light, no matter how small, changes the texture of the dark. Our eyes adjust to the smallest radiances and we begin to see the lines and forms that surround us. Laughter is a spark of that light. That can be enough to hold us until the sun rises again.

 

 

 

 

Why the Suicide of Robin Williams Matters by Seth Adam Smith – http://sethadamsmith.com/2014/08/11/robin-williams-suicide/

My Quiet Place

P1090323cIt is a place that quiets my soul and awakens creativity. Over the years my friend has had a cottage along the shores of Rocky Lake I have looked forward to my opportunities to go up and breath in the beauty of the surroundings.

After a long days journey north I often race the sun as it falls toward the horizon hoping to see its red globe before it falls beyond the far shore of that watery expanse. Watching the ever changing surface of the water or the vibrant reds, yellows and oranges, the softer pinks and violets lighting the sky as the sun finds the horizon can still the loudest inner dialogues. For those moments my heart leaps into the sky and flies toward the sweep of colours.

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My friend clears away the wood he stores in the sunroom for those jobs he is doing to work on his place. He shakes out a tarp draping it across the light would floors so that I have a place to paint while looking out into the birch and pine with the snarled ground cover filling my vision with curves and lines that inspire my senses. Even when I come back to the city I still find that inspiration affecting my thoughts when I free paint.

Then there are the seasons.

DSC09945Even the mosquitoes can’t hold us in in the summer. In summers like this where the mosquitoes make it difficult to enjoy time on shore, riding out in a canoe gives the respite and opens up a new landscape of reeds and water flowers floating up from a bed of waving water plants inhabited by skittering schools of tiny fish or the flashing bubbles of water insects. Bass, pickerel and jack undulate below the quiet tinted glass of the water’s surface. The ever changing inukshuks, the beaver house and the rarity of an eagle siting as it drinks a few paddle strides from where we pass colour each trip in memories. It is worth the moments of anxiety I haven’t gotten past as I step from solid ground making sure I stay low and keep my feet to the center of the canoe.

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Other years, I have traipsed among the trees and stones, studied the natural plants and the waves lapping against the shore, exhilarated when the winds crashed the water against the rocks or high tides created underground gardens along the shore.

 

 

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I have enjoyed the autumns oranges and golds or the hazy horizon muting the midnight blues of twilight with an edge of mystery. My friend has a fire pit out front where we can sit on the bench and roast hodogs or smokies for supper and just sit enjoying the fading light as the flames crackle among the charring wood.

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In winter the snow cloaks the lake leaving us free to walk out on the ice and view the frozen waves left high on the shore. Gathering around the drill cut holes neighbours visit as they wait for the nibble on their lines. One year we walked out to the break in the ice where the depth and pressure had been so great that it folded up on itself in chunky waves of shimmering blue.

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In spring, the chill holds the insects at bay as snow crackles and fades leaving patches for the birds coming home for summer. I have only one memory of that season as the snow changed formation along the shore and the birds took up residence. Winter’s hold end in a way I have never experienced in the city.

 

 

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As in so much of my life, there is a need of balance. I am a city girl. I love the availability of places to go and activities to be involved with. Rocky Lake balances, for me, the inner need for quiet and contemplation. Each time I go there, I carry a part of it home in my memories to refresh me and give analogies to the streams of traffics and the rising shapes that form a part of my day to day life until once more I can find my way to that quiet space and the friend who makes space for me to feel at home when I am there.

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