Monday, May 24, 2010

How to Pull Up A Thistle

A lesson from MamaBear, with whom I was weeding yesterday in preparation for planting vegetables in the garden:

If you go in tentatively, uncertain, the prickles on the leaves will stick you in a painful fashion. The thing to do is go for the base, firmly, with confidence, and the prickles don't hurt you. Miraculous, and mataphorical.

Or, as MamaBear then pointed out, some people just wear gloves.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Good (Enough) Life

Today I got up early and took myself to the library as a special treat. On the way, I listened to my hand-picked happyish songs, and mused, as I am wont to do. Some lyrics that stood out, from Natasha Beddingfield's song Happy:

Got my dreams, got my life, got my love
Got my friends got the sunshine above
Why am I making this hard on myself
When there’s so many beautiful reasons I have to be happy

At the library I picked out the book Learning from the Heart, by His Wiseness Dan Gottlieb, Philly's favorite therapist-author-columnist-radio personality-quadriplegic. One section that stood out is about wanting. How we human beans are so good at it - the arrival fallacy, the belief that if we can just bark up the right tree then finally...fill in the blank. Finally we will be OK, be secure, be happy, etc.

And of course, sometimes we get what we want, and sometimes (often) we don't. And even when we do, sneakily, the wanting doesn't go away. It just affixes itself to something new, like a virus settling into a new host.

Dan Gottlieb is very mature and zen-like on this topic, and doesn't come up with a tidy take-home point with respect to our wantyness. He basically just says, yup, we often want things, sometimes really badly. Comes with the territory. And with desire frequently comes disappointment, and you're still there, and then what?

He encourages us to loosen our grasp a little bit. And that's where I'm trying, with reasonable success, today, to be.

It goes deeper than just counting your blessings, although whenever I do get around to it the results are always encouraging. It includes, but is not limited to, appreciation for a roof and regular meals and enough money to live on and loved ones intact for now. It also includes accepting that your life, today, is not different than it is. It's not what it was at some point in the past, and it's not the way it might be if all your wants were satisfied, it just is the way it is right now. These are the materials you have to work with... so let's see what you can create.

So if there is some philosophy of happyish, which I'm not sure there is, I think it includes the good (enough) life. An outlook that acknowledges wanting and wishing and desire that may or may not be vanquished with Siddhartha-like discipline; as well as how much you already have that, if you didn't have it, you would want. You can say thank you, or not; you can appreciate it, or not; you can enjoy it, or not. But if you are at a party, and they're serving hors d'oeuvres that you like reasonably well, why not eat up, instead of hoping for a different kind of party that may or may not materialize and may or may not, in fact, be better or even exist?

And for that matter, why aren't you out there on the dance floor?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Another quote from Oprah:

"You are responsible for the energy you bring."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

To the Progress-Toward

It's graduation season, parents are out in full force, cameras in hand, students are in dresses and collared shirts, the sun is shining, the tents are up.

Here is a link to a commencement address given by Her Wiseness, Oprah. I like the way she lays it out. Basically, her secrets to living are:

1)Follow your feelings. Check your gut. If it doesn't feel right don't do it.

2)The biggest lessons in life come dressed as detours, obstacles, or full-blown crises. Ask every failture, every crisis, every difficult time: what is this here to teach me?

3)To move forward, you have to give back.

I also liked this advice: When you don't know what to do, get still, get very still, until you do know what to do.

And I also really dug this: "Difficulties come when you don't listen to life's whisper. If you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you'll get a scream."

That pretty much sums up a good half of my troubles of the year 2009.

A year ago I was in a place that didn't feel right, working with people who, contrary to Oprah's advice, did not trust or cherish or treasure me, or vice versa. And I was about to take a job that felt not right at all, (ignored the whisper) and I took it and I was right, it wasn't right, and I got the scream. (It came out my butthole in the form of ulcerative colitis.) It screamed, "Girlfriend, your life ain't right!"

So maybe, just maybe the lesson I can learn is to listen to myself better, and do what I know to do. This year for "graduation" I want to move closer to where I'm supposed to be. I want to get my life right. And I want to be BFFS with Oprah.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quotes of the Day: Uncertainty

Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.
The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.
--Agnes De Mille

When we are not sure, we are alive.
--Graham Greene

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Life I Imagine

Every now and again, usually by accident, I have a day in the life of the kind of life I would like to have every day. Today was one such:

-First, on a rather momentous note, Spangles and I signed our lease!!! We are now contractually obligated to move into our beautiful new place come July!

-I made good headway on some work on a beautiful day while sitting in a coffee shop watching the world go by. It's always nice to feel like an effective human being in a pleasant location.

-The Twin called me and we caught up a little, which was lovely (although some lily-livered cur stole her bike wheel today)

-I poked around in the thrift store and purchased a couple celebratory knickknacks for cheap.

-Spangles and I went and got tofu hoagies and then ate them in Clark Park, when we randomly ran into two of my favorite people, let's call them Smiley and Squeak.

-Smiley, in addition to being an all-round good guy, also had just the info I needed relating to a project I've been whimsying about in my head for a while. A most fortuitous coincidence.

-We sat there and chatted and joked throughout the golden hours, watching the dogs jump and the kids play soccer and the tree leaves flutter. What a day.

The unexpected gift of a lovely day. To whom it may concern: thank you!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Lost or just wandering?

Yesterday, I achieved a milestone along my personal pursuit of well, something, that was a long time coming: I graduated from the Celebrant Institute. This was two years in the making, involving some falling off course and climbing back on, the churning out of last minute papers, the application of small, steady effort over the course of many weeks.

I feel proud, grateful, and uncertain. Proud that I managed to finish what I started, come back from behind, get back on the horse. Grateful to my family who came to the graduation to support what I've done and who have supported me through everything I've ever attempted in life. And I don't just mean support like, clap as the parade goes by. Support like showing up with construction supplies and snacks and getting in there to help build the float.

And I also feel uncertain. There are still more legal and organizational challenges to surmount. Without the structure of a weekly class, I feel less secure, less confident about my abilities to make incremental progress. Without my routine of which days I do my reading and homework, which days I go to online "class," suddenly my week has a whole lot more amorphous time. The goal I had been looking forward to accomplishing has arrived and passed. And now where am I? Still more goals, more future moments to be arrived at.

And I feel uncertainty about the whole endeavor. At times I think, what an odd thing to have tried to do. I think, maybe I would be better off doing something "normal" and traditional, keeping my head down, going unnoticed. I want to retreat and hide, pass through the back staircases like a servant, behind the scenes.

This is probably just all part of it, these wacky ocean waves we ride as we try to chart our course.

The student speaker at graduation spoke of deciding to be celebrant in terms of a small voice, a whisper that said "celebrant!" and that's something I can relate too. I think what I have to do at a time, like now, when I start to fret about the Big Picture, is just to pay attention to the small voice. Trust that she knows what she's talking about, and that she'll not lead me astray.