Wednesday, December 18, 2013

To the Next 40

I'm turning 40 next week.
I've been kind of down about it.
I'm sagging. Everywhere.
There is a copious amount of gray hair on my head.
My knees hurt almost all the time.
I groan when I get up of the floor.
I can no longer sleep on my right side because the muscles in my back seize up after five minutes.
I get up to pee like three times a night because I have the prostate of an 80 year old man.
And after I wake up, I can't go back to sleep.

I'm freaked out about turning 40.
I've been feeling a little down.

Or, at least, I was until this afternoon.

I was finishing up the last of my Christmas shopping this afternoon and a woman stared at me with the strangest look. I caught her eye as she said, "You hair. It's so...gray. Why don't you color it?"

My gray hair elicits very strong reactions in women. Take for instance, my friend Tina who used to do my hair before we moved: Tina wholeheartedly supported my grayness and looked for ways to enhance the thick brillo mane that I was born with.

On the other hand, the woman who now does my hair has a strong disapproval of my hair color. She spends the first ten minutes of every appointment quizzing me on why I chose to go gray. It's not personal, she's just reacting to a lifetime of fiction she's been fed about what a woman is "supposed to" look like. (If you've been under a rock for the last few decades, here's the short version according to the amazing Tina Fey: "Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”)

Anyway, for whatever reason, women tend to have very strong reactions to my hair. It's either, "Oh my gosh! I looooooove your hair!" or the opposite--like my "friend" in the store this afternoon.

First of all, let's be honest here: I DO color my hair. All the dark parts on top? Yeah, totally fake. A few years ago I looked over at Mountain Man's thick dark head-o-hair and thought, "He is never going to catch up with me." Every month or so, I get a mohawk of thick blackish pieces painted through my gray. When it grows out I touch up the pieces with mascara until I can get to the salon. Come to think of it, I kind of look like the Bride of Frankenstein but in reverse.

My point of this post is this: I was playing into the idea that 40 signifies my steady decline into old age and infirmity until this afternoon. Instantly, the creaky knees, hurting back and wobbly bits just melted away. Indignation rose up from my toes: I refuse to feel bad about aging.

I refuse to apologize about sagging breasts that fed two HUMAN BEINGS for a year--each.

I refuse to feel bad about my aching back that can lift heavy things, the crows feet that frame my eyes with a perfect record of every laugh, and I REFUSE to apologize for my gray hair, no matter how uncomfortable it makes some people feel.

But all I really want to say to that lady in the store this afternoon is this:
Thank you.
Thank you for igniting my fire again. Thank you for helping me see what a waste of time it is to focus on a number.
I am not a number, and neither are you.

Here's to the next 40.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Filling In the Cracks

I totally messed up. It wasn't on purpose, and I didn't wake up yesterday morning and say, "Ya know, today, I think I will forget to put my emergency brake on so my car will roll into someone else's car in a parking garage."


I actually did that.

I was in a hurry.
I forgot.
I feel totally embarrassed and ashamed.
And now I'm telling the whole world about it. 

After feelings of mortification washed over me for being forgetful and in a hurry (and creating a mess for someone I don't even know), I realized (yet again) that being human is just downright hard. Most of the time, we do our best, and sometimes, we epically fail at keeping our ducks in row (or our car in park) and our actions hurt others (and their bumpers).

The universal truth is this:

We are human. Synonyms for the word, "human" include, "vulnerable, fallible, forgivable" To say that we are fallible implies that we are human. Being human means that we are messy and chaotic. We screw up. We forget one another. We forget ourselves and we forget that we are human and when we finally DO realize it, it's too late. We've already forgotten to engage the emergency brake; the car has rolled away and we are left with nothing but shame.

Our humanness sometimes creeps up on us like the sneaky bastard that it is. Our humanness ambushes us in moments that will take our breath away. Our vulnerability surprises us. Our imperfections leap from our mouths like daggers.
And we are surprised.
Every. Single Time.
These moments of imperfection crack our confidence, expose our most hidden shame and damage our souls.

However, the damage can be healed. The Japanese have a tradition that when they find cracks in their pottery, they fill the cracks with gold filled resin. It's called Kintsukuroi. The belief is that the object is more beautiful and valuable with its history revealed for all to see. On an intuitive/spiritual level I think most of us know this--it's our cracks that make us whole.

Society, however, has another story. We are taught to keep our humanness a secret. We guard our shameful moments like a warden. We don't speak of our imperfections. We cover them with addiction, anger, gossip or lies. We lie to ourselves and to others and we try to keep the shame at bay in a vain attempt to deny our vulnerability, the very thing that will deliver us to a path of authenticity and joy.

If we can embrace our vulnerability, give a nod at our shame and honor our experiences and feelings, we will slowly, yet surely, fill in our cracks with gold and reveal our true self. Amidst the brokenness there is a beautiful soul; it is flawless and overflowing with golden light. It is whole and full of grace for all. Filling in our figurative cracks means we extend love, compassion, kindness and understanding to others. Filling in the cracks means we first must break. (Don't worry about this step, living assures it.) Then we must have the courage to pick ourselves up, gather the pieces and gently put ourselves back together. 

Feeling the sharp sting of my inadequacy made me feel extra vulnerable today. I couldn't separate myself from my mistake. I immediately leaped to, "I'm such an idiot!" I was embarrassed and ashamed. Brene Brown says, “Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling." The lens could not have been any more zoomed in today. The crack was formed.

But, "[Our] Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we are all in this together."  We are all in this together. We are all wonderfully, beautifully, divinely human. We are all cracked. Here's to helping each other fill in our cracks and carry bear our burdens together because living is heavy, and my back hurts like hell.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Giving Thanks, Breathing Into It

I started out this month with the intention to give thanks every day for some small thing in my life--but here's the deal: As I fall exhausted onto the couch each night, I feel like I'm just scrawling some things out to "giving thanks" just so I can hit the publish button on my blog and go to bed. The meaning behind the action has lost its savor to me.

So, I may post for the rest of November...and I may not. But the important thing is, is that I will be breathing into my gratitude and putting meaning behind the posts instead of just trying to catch up. Sound good?

In no particular order--here are some of my grateful moments over the last week or so:

  • Mountain Man used his mad McGyver skills and illegally cut a hole in a fence that is leads to the adjacent neighborhood. A-hem. I meant to say, Mountain Man and I legally made our way through the woods to a nearby neighborhood for a lovely walk. I can now walk to the library and the store without being hit by a truck. 
  • Dear friends came to stay for the weekend. We laughed and talked and just enjoyed one another's company. It's good to have friends. 
  • A wonderful friend checks in with me almost every night via Facebook. We don't live near one another at all, but she sends her love via cables and cords and the mystery that is the interwebs, she's kind of a Roxxstarr. 
  • It occurred to me that the "littles" are so little anymore. Straight Face will soon be 15 and Master A is 10. We have two children both in the double digits. I find myself wanting the break out into "Sunrise, Sunset" more frequently than is appropriate. 
  • I almost fell down today--but didn't. Win!! 

How about you? How's your week going so far?
Is there anything that's bringing gratitude to your door? 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Giving Thanks Days 4-7, Catching Up

It's raining here today in Portland. No shocker there, right? It's gorgeous outside and I'm sitting here staring out the window and reflecting on the last few days. Here's to having good intentions, dropping the ball then catching up.

November 4: I'm grateful for Mondays. After a long and hectic weekend, it feels good to catch up in a quiet house.

November 5: I painted all day today. I'm grateful for a garage to get messy in. It felt good to stretch those creative muscles.

November 6: Mountain Man took today off. We went to the DMV, yeah, we really know how to have a good time. I'm grateful we finally got licenses and car registrations changed--it's only been nine months--A-HEM, I mean thirty days since we moved here.

November 7: I'm grateful for skipping school. We all got up at the usual time this morning to rush off to school--but instead, I flexed my dictatorial parent skills and made the executive decision to take a mental health day. We are watching "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" and marveling at it's train wreck-like drama--I just. Can't. Turn. Away. This was a long paragraph to say, I'm grateful for mental health days.

What are you grateful for today?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Giving Thanks, Day 2: Chocolate & Rain

When I was a kid, my mom used to make chocolate chip cookies and when we heard the mixer whirring away, we all kind of gravitated to the kitchen. Impatient with waiting the seven minutes for the dough to cook, we armed ourselves with the biggest spoons we could find and filled them with raw cookie dough. Not once did any of us get food poisoning from the raw eggs--and according to my memories (which at best are cracked lenses to my past) chocolate chip cookies were always the byproduct of a rainy day.

It's raining tonight and the rain always reminds me of my mom and her chocolate chip cookies.
Rainy days are the best days.

I'm grateful tonight for chocolate and rain.

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, November 1, 2013

November 1, Day One of Giving Thanks

It's November, happy Thanksgiving season! Each November for the last couple of years, I've posted 30 Days of Giving Thanks. Sometimes, I get pretty down. Sometimes I get r e a l l y down. Often, my emotions vacilate between ecstatic joy and hysterical indifference. When this happens, gratitude tethers me to the present moment, which quite frankly, is something I need help with every single day of my life.

So, day one, here goes:

Now that the autumn season is fully upon us here, the leaves are falling from the trees and just beyond the wildness behind our house, the crest of not too distant mountain can be spied through the trees. While the picture quality is poor (because I had to take it through a window) in person, the view is stunning. I am grateful for the wildness, the view and the gift of fallen leaves that reveals such beauty.

"Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you." ~Lao Tzu

  What are you grateful for today?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sporadic Ambivalence of Indecision

I can't seem to make up my mind.

Let me set the stage:
It's chilly outside--not cold--but chilly.
I put up Halloween decorations today (I'm not one of those people who keep them up long.) The house smells like cinnamon and cloves and other festive fall scents.
The bowl of Halloween candy is sitting next to the front door, because I like trick-or-treaters.
The bowl is only half full because Mountain Man and the kids keep swiping hand fulls as they walk out the door.
There is a skeleton sitting on the wreath outside my front door.

All is pointed to that most delectable and dastardly night of the year, All Hallows eve.
The only exception is the resounding chorus of  "Angels We Have Heard On High."

Welcome to our house.

What's your Halloween tradition? 

Friday, October 11, 2013

On the mess in my head, wandering, and what's inspiring you?

My head is a mess.

I just can't seem to settle it down.
I toss and turn all night.
I dream of strange things.
I keep forgetting to breathe, and sometimes it feels like I'm never going to be able to quiet it down again.

I wander.
And I wonder.
I find myself straining to listen during simple conversation. I'm longing to feel that quiet space within my center.

It may be the change of seasons.
It may not.
And I'm also finding inspiration is the strangest of places.

U2 lyrics are making my brain launch into wonderful fantasies of world peace and understanding.
Autumn leaves falling remind me that I can think thoughts and then let them be swept away in the wind.
My heart feels like it's cracking open with deeper appreciation for the differences of humanity.
This girl inspires me:

What's inspiring you this week?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

What's Your Favorite Space?

I've been spending a lot of time in my house lately. The kids are back in school and I'm FINALLY moved in all the way. Well, that may be an outright lie--what I really mean is, is that I can find my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night without running into a wall.

Anyway, all this box unpacking has made me reflect on my favorite spaces. I'm still getting to acquaint myself with all this newness, so I'm not sure I can define a "favorite" space in my home yet, but I will say that I really love not sharing a bathroom with my kids anymore. I'm also a fan of my office--even though I can't locate anything in that wonderfully chaotic room. It's thick with books and stories and projects just waiting to be attempted. I walk in and feel the possibilities of creation.

Tall bookshelves line one long wall. My desk faces the window. Baskets filled with office supplies fill more than a few shelves. Behind me, sits my piano. When I get frustrated or hit a block, I play for a while and maintain that playing the piano is way cheaper than therapy. My daughter's harps, which sit next to the piano, sometimes reverberate with echos when I play too loud. I often imagine an angel (or two) playing a duet with me.

The walls are a deep deep grey; the color of the sky in Montreal just before it rains on a Spring morning. When I work in that room I imagine myself soaking up all of the energy of that dark sky and funneling it into my head and out my heart.
I love that room.

What's your favorite space?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Best Advice I've Ever Received

Yes, yes, I'm still in September's blog challenge--although you wouldn't know it from the few posts I've written this month. Most of my blogging, as of late, is happening in my head, which makes it difficult for you to read.

Today's blog challenge prompt is, "What is the best advice you've ever received?"

The best advice I've ever received was from my friend, Jackie Gibson. Her daughter is one of my near and dears. Clover and I went to college together, but didn't room together our first year. It was one of my big regrets. I was standing in Jackie's kitchen one night, lamenting that, "I really wished Clover and I had been roommates our first year." Jackie replied with, "If you two had been roommates, you wouldn't be standing in my kitchen now (20 years later). Regret is a waste of time. Life is too short for regret."

Life is too short for regret.
All the mistakes I've made are past and they've shaped my life as it is today, for good or ill. I can either dwell in my regrets, or I can bow deeply to the lessons that my mistakes have taught me and develop compassion for myself (and then by extension) to others. I feel that when we are most compassionate and merciful with ourselves, that that compassion overflows into everything else that we do. It behooves us choose interpretations of the past that empower us instead of overwhelm us in hopelessness.

Before you ask, "What do you mean by choosing interpretations of the past?" Let me tell ya: We all choose interpretations of the past ALL the time. Remember that son-of-a-gun who cut you off in traffic? The boss who wronged you? That time you did the dumbest thing ever?? That mean girl in high school? Yep, me too. We've each chosen the "stories" that fit our version of events with those who we come into contact with. The trick is choosing interpretations of situations that, at first, seem to dis empower us, and surround them in compassion, so that they ultimately empower us instead.

Let me show you what I mean: Remember that mean girl?

Interpretation 1: "SHE IS SUCH A WITCH. I hate her, I mean, I can't believe she called me that name, and stole my boyfriend. I hate her! I hope she gets spat on by a demonic baby who pukes acid."

Interpretation 2: "Wow. Those words that she called me really hurt. I feel really bad. She must have some self hatred of her own to call someone else something so mean. I still feel really awful, but I don't think it was personal. I can protect myself from her meanness by steering clear of her in the future, and if I choose, perhaps (sometime down the road) extend her some kindness because it appears she may need some."

Here's another example:

Remember that time you got angry/drunk/made a stupid choice?

Interpretation 1: "I am SO stupid. I can't BELIEVE I did that. I am such an IDIOT. Why am I even alive? I can't believe someone so stupid is allowed to walk around. I feel so much shame."

Interpretation 2: "Whoa. That was dumb. What was I thinking? Well, clearly that wasn't the best choice I could have made, but there it is. But it was a bad choice, I'm not a bad person. I'm just a person who made a mistake and I can begin again."

By choosing your own interpretations about choices you've made or things that have happened to you, you get to walk the path of compassion instead of anger. Anger is easy, but compassion liberating. By letting go of regrets and exercising compassion with our dear, sweet selves, we honor that beautiful spirit that makes us who we are.

And the truth is, we all are worthy of compassion.
So live without regret and choose well.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Stuff I Learned in High School that I Probably Shouldn't Have

I was invited (I invited myself) to join a blogging challenge from a couple of my real life friends who are both FANTASTIC bloggers. Sherilee, over at Sweet Tea & Sunshine, and Jen, over at Stuff Jen Says both write amazing blogs that lift my spirit and fill my soul. They are writing every day in September to get back in the swing of things, so, like any annoying person who wants to hang with the cool kids, I totally invited myself along for the ride. Thanks, ladies!!

With all these children heading off to school this week, and my own child beginning high school this year, the topic of today's post was supposed to be, "Stuff School Didn't Teach Me"...but THAT post would be the length of a Bible, so I'm going to tweak the topic a little to: Stuff I Learned in High School that I Probably Shouldn't Have Learned, But Did Anyway.

Here are a few things I learned in high school that I probably shouldn't have, but I did anyway:

1. I learned how to forge my mother's signature.
I skipped class a lot. (Like so much, I'm not really sure how I actually graduated.) I did this with a complicit father who was a chronic school skipper in his day, and with a signature EXACTLY like my mother's. You may think that at 39 that there would be no need to sign my mom's name, but you'd be gravely mistaken. Now I benefit from running to the store with her credit card when I'm visiting home and signing her name to perfection.

Don't ask to see my I.D. though, we don't look anything alike.

2. I learned how to sneak out.
Ok, I'm going to be honest, I didn't really sneak out in high school--but that's not for lack of trying. There was just no need. I also didn't have a curfew. None. Nada. Our only rule growing up was to, "Watch out for cars" and "Check in when you get home." This never got us into trouble. My parents trusted us implicitly and, well, we were perfect angels.

3. I learned how to lie.
"We were perfect angels." See?

And yes, my pants are on fire.

What did you learn in high school that you really shouldn't have?

Monday, September 2, 2013

To the Journey Ahead

Marriage is hard.

Don't you think it is amazing so many people commit to relationships to begin with?
Doe-eyed hope, is all I can figure.
Sometimes couples make the journey together, sometimes their roads lead them in different paths.

The best quote I ever heard on marriage was this: "In all our years of marriage, I never once considered divorce. Murder, yes. Divorce, never."

That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?

I chose pretty well in the life partner department, I will admit it. But even the last three or so years have wrung us dry.

You see, we got married ever so young. We were just children at 23 and 24 years old. We jumped head first into love, and marriage and then baby carriages. And marriage has been fun--and wonderful--and full of joy.

         ....just as darkness exposes light, we've had our portioned share of disappointments along the path. Deaths, career changes, family responsibilities, transitions, depression, addiction, repeated moves, and just life have taken it's fierce and often unkind toll on us as the years have passed.

I recently had a dear friend tell me that she wished she had a marriage like mine. And then she wisely corrected her statement, "Well, but I guess what I see is the blogger version of your marriage, huh?"

Yes, my friend. My marriage (and yours) has some blog worthy stories. Stories that will make you laugh and maybe even cry with their sweetness, but real married life is full of heavenly highs and the darkest of lows. We are real people, who are messy and chaotic and, therefore, produce messy and chaotic relationships. If we're lucky, we lay our vulnerable selves out on the altar, in full view of our partner to be received and appreciated and just loved.  For the most part, this has been our path together--and even though this has been our path, it doesn't mean that we haven't known our own kind of heartache.

And so we approached a crossroads.

The young, bright eyed children who married sixteen years ago are gone. Grayish haired (some more than others, a-hem) seasoned, middle aged adults remain to make a choice as to where our path leads next.

Three days ago Mountain Man and I stood on the beach of the Pacific Ocean as sunrise to recommit to the journey we started as children. As the sun rose, we ushered in the the dawn dressed in white and told one another the secret promises of our hearts.
A seagull was our witness.

And while the road may still be rough in places through the coming years, we've recommitted to traveling it together.

My face is all puffy because I had a cold. And I'd been crying. Stop judging me. ;)

This seagull did NOT try to peck out my eye, make a rude toast at our reception
or interrrupt. He was the perfect witness.

Picturesque, n'est pas?

I like waves.

Let's be honest, I'm vain and the only reason this picture made the
cut is because the damn humidity hadn't flattened my hair out yet and
it still looks good. OH, what I mean is--how did THIS picture get in here?!?

There's no enjoyment without a wicked sense of humor.
 Also, ear plugs and separate sinks don't hurt.

What's the best piece of advice you ever received, or gave to a newly married couple? 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Let's Catch Up, Shall We? was your summer? Not much different than any other day of the year? A complete break from the routine? Were you able to carve out some sunshine and lemonade for yourself?

I certainly hope so.

My summer was spent moving. Again. But without complaint.
We are getting settled.

Getting settled after moving always makes me think, "How long does it take for someone to feel at home?"

I still have no idea.
All I know is that once the boxes are unpacked and the pictures hung on the wall, and I can stumble my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night without running into a wall, I'm set.

What about you? What makes you feel settled? And more importantly, what have you all been up to this summer??

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Newness & Familiarity

I am sitting in a completely unfamiliar room. If the lights were off, I wouldn't be able to find may way out of it--unless there was a fire, then I'd just (wisely) follow the blaze before me, then stop, drop and roll.

It smells weird here.
Like drywall and newness.

But it's unfamiliar smell and look is troublesome to me at the oddest of moments. Like when I'm listening for the whine of a siren, or polka music at 3 a.m.

Instead, there is silence. Space. Empty drawers. Trees. Room to grow, to change, to heal, to be and to become.
Days will give way to more familiarity. Time is a healer like that.

I am grateful we have landed safely.

Our house is finished and we just moved in, what's new with you?

Friday, June 7, 2013

My, How Things Have Changed

Do you remember when you were newly in love and all fluttery and dramatic and longing?

Yeah, me too.

It was good.

And now is good too. Today is our anniversary. Mountain Man and I have been married for sixteen years. Like a fine wine, we just get better with age. However, there are some draw backs to being married and getting along so well with one's significant other.

On our first anniversary we went on a backpacking trip to Arches and Canyon Lands National Parks in Utah. We spent a week camping and hiking and (*insert romantic fluttery music here) frolicking through the red rocks, stealing kisses underneath the arches, and getting chased by wanted criminals. (But that's another blog post.)

Anyway, things were all sepia toned and beautiful and not unlike a Jane Austen novel--except completely different--because Janey never wrote about the wild west or married couples that weren't totally annoying (aka Mr. & Mrs. Bennet), unless you think that Mountain Man is annoying, then he will probably stare you down with the same gaze he uses to lure unsuspecting deer to out front yard so he can feed us for the winter. On the other hand, if you think I'm the annoying one, then you're right because you're as crazy as I am if you read this blog or can even follow what the hell's going on with this post.

Annnnnnnnyway, all was ethereal and lovely year one. And now, while things are still good, there is a marked difference in our celebration. It used to be, we'd plan out the big day and make a hullabaloo about it and send each others cards and blah blah blah--but now, we're sixteen years in. If we even remember the day, it's a small miracle. If we plan something, we're freakin' geniuses.

Gift giving has changed too. Our first year of marriage, Mountain Man saved his quarters and bought me a brilliant turquoise necklace that he placed in a copper box he made himself. Yep, he made the box out of copper--because he's super handy like that and not unlike MacGyver in many ways--except he doesn't sport a mullet.

To make it short: It was thoughtful and touching, and I still treasure it.

Tonight was a little different story.
After a long and hectic week for both of us, we decided to steal away to our favorite Thai restaurant. After dinner we went for a walk in a nearby park (which was gorgeous) and then we took the long road home. As we passed a drug store we both yelled, "STOP!"

We ran in, grabbed what we needed and met at the counter.
We both put our items down at the same time--our gifts (you could say) to one another, on this, our sixteenth wedding anniversary: A bottle of Tums and a box of Gas-X.

Happy anniversary, Mountain Man, you are the butter to my bread and the breath to my life, here's to the next sixteen years!

Mountain Man & SquareToothed Girl, happy, married and apparently gas free.

What about you? How have your anniversaries changed over time?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Here and Now

Last week I had a meltdown.
A big one.
It was the kind where you can breathe and you're crying and nashing your teeth and shaking your fists and the sky and everything is wrong and nothing will ever get better and all you want to do is dissapear or punch a baby (no babies were punched) and all you can think is, "Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop."

It was like I was standing on the edge of a back hole and it didn't care if it swallowed me whole. I didn't care if it swallowed me whole. Nothing was right, and nothing ever would be again.

And then...

Quietly, and lightly, the tears stopped.

Peacefully and fully, I could breathe again.

Gently, there was a little light.
And I slept.
And I breathed.

And I haven't figured it all out.

But it's o.k.
It's o.k. because hope is on it's way.

Good things are just around the bend and all I need to do is breathe, let go and find appreciation here and now.

How's your journey going lately? Are good things on the way to you?

“When we are forced to attend to the places where we are most stuck, such as when faced with our anger and fear, we have the perfect opportunity to go to the roots of our attachments. This is why we repeatedly emphasise the need to welcome such experiences, to invite them in, to see them as our path. Normally we may only feel welcoming towards our pleasant experiences, but Buddhist practice asks us to welcome whatever comes up, including the unpleasant and the unwanted, because we understand that only by facing these experiences directly can we become free of their domination. In this way, they no longer dictate who we are.” ~Ezra Bayda, from Beyond Happiness

Monday, May 27, 2013

How Benedict Cumberbatch and J.J. Abrams Just Saved My Marriage

Are you a hard-core Sherlock fan?
Do you swoon a little when you see those cheekbones?
What about his voice?
Does it get any more sensual than that voice?
Did you see the new Star Trek?

(Can you believe the words Star Trek came out of my mouth, or in this case, fingers?)
Why am I asking so many questions? Am I still in high school??

Never in a million years did I think that I'd become a Star Trek/Wars/Gate fan. Then I got married and Mountain Man is a fan of all things fantastical and sci-fi-ific, so it was easier for me to hop on the band wagon of his movie tastes rather than him mine. After all, isn't the love story between Uhura and Spock just as epic as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy?

Yeah, I'm not buying it either.

Then today happened. After 16 years of sci-fi/fantasy indoctrination our two worlds finally collided.
Thank the heavens.
I thought I was going to die.

So Benedict, J.J. Abrams, my thanks to you. You just saved my marriage.
Oh, and Chris Pine, you're just downright delicious.

Did you see it? Do you love him too?

via Google

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Strange Case of the Missing Umbrellas

We've lived in Portlandia just a little over three months. It feels like an eternity. I drive--a lot. Back and forth and back and forth, and even though I spend a great portion of my mornings and afternoons in the car, I really kind of enjoy it. I like to people watch--even if it's while traveling at a whopping 20 mph as I make my way down the road in all this traffic.

One thing baffles me completely about this place: No one in Portland uses an umbrella.
It's not uncommon to see several people walking about in the rain with no coat, hood, or parasol to shield themselves against the elements. I think this has something to do with the fact that most Portlanders are just such bad-asses. It's like they want to prove to the world how cool they are. Except they're so cool they don't need to prove it to the human race, they're proving it to Mother Nature, and we ALL know that the only person who's ever proved anything to her was Chuck Norris. But these Portlanders just keep trying. They can't help it. The cool factor of a native Portlander is so high that they actually LEAP from the womb with a pair of Doc Martens already on their feet--and incidentally, with no umbrella, even though amneotic fluid has been proven, without a doubt, to be very wet.

On the other hand, I live in the suburbs. My neighborhood is rife with Middle aged somethings sporting the EXACT same rain coat from R.E.I. We hold discreet black micro umbrellas that can be stashed away quickly should that coven of hipsters that live on Hawthorne suddenly find itself wandering a little too south and we would be mocked for our middle aged-ness. Nevermind the fact that we middle agers think that hipsters look like 3rd graders dressed up in their parents clothes, we still don't want them to make fun of our obvious lack of cool. By the way hipsters, what's with the sudden interest in sporting eye wear reminiscent of Sally Jesse Raphael anyway?

But now I'm just showing you my age. (Which,in case you didn't get it, is middle, thank you very much.)

I digress, back to the umbrella--or lack thereof--as it may be. One of the first things I was told by a friend of mine when we first moved here was that, "No one in Portland carries an umbrella."

I've pondered the umbrella dilemma for a few months now and I've come up with a few possible reasons why they've gone missing.

Portlanders might:

A) feel that they need to prove they are as hip as they think they are. To be honest, they really are cool. Every person I've met so far has been like one of the mysterious chi-chi kids from high school--the kind that you just can't approach, let alone hang out with. To be fair, I don't really know that many people, so I'm really just talking about the handyman at our apartment--oh, and that lady who says "hi" to me every day after school. She's so cool I'm surprised each time I see her that she's not dancing in a pair of M.C Hammer pants humming "Can't Touch This."

(Now you're humming "Can't Touch This." )
You're welcome.

Or perhaps Portlanders are...

B) the unwilling victims of a secret international umbrella shortage

C) really lazy

D) a race of people akin to Kevin Costner's character in Water World. I can't see any one's webbed toes because of all the Doc Marten covered feet here, but I've been looking for gills and haven't spotted any yet.

I know I'm mocked every time I break out my GINORMOUS rainbow umbrella that can comfortably accommodate our Amazonian family of four. But I don't care.

Did you hear me, Portland???!!


I'm too middle age-ed to shun my trusty umbrella. I'm also too middle age-ed to write the word "aged" I had to write it with the extra syllable just to PROVE to you just how middle age-ed and stodgy I am.

There were good men and women who lost their lives in the pursuit of finding solutions to protect us from the elements. (Ever heard of the great umbrella collapse of 1622? I thought not. There wasn't a single survivor to tell that tale of woe.) I will not let their sacrifice be in vain. I will use my umbrella, protect my frizzy hair, mom uniform and Doc Martens (c'mon, I'm not that old) from the rain every chance I get. Which apparently, is a lot, because today, I actually thought I might drown.

Simply put: People of Portland, you are cra-zay. Pull out your umbrellas, or if you can't find yours, you are welcome to come under mine...unless you're a hipster, then, move along, friend.
Nothing to be mocked here...move along.

What cultural phenomena do you experience where you live?


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sunshine & Inspiration!

Brandy, over at Brandy's Bustlings, has so very kindly awarded me with the Very Aspiring Blogger Award! Thank you Brandy!!

The rules of the Very Inspiring Blogger Award as as follows:
1. Display the award logo. 2. Link it back to the person that gave it to you. 3. State seven things about yourself. 4. Nominate 15 bloggers and include their links in your blog

And if that wasn't awesome, Murees, over at Daily Drama of an Aspiring Writer awarded me with the lively Sunshine Award! Thank you Murees!!

The Sunshine Award's rules are as follows:

You have to feature a picture of this award in a post or on your blog.
You have to answer 10 random questions about yourself.
You have to nominate 10 other bloggers to receive this award and then you have to link to their blogs and let them know about receiving it.
And we all know that I am fundamentally LAZY. So I'm going to combine these awards and make up my own rules. Life is more fun that way!
Here are some random fun facts about me:

* I am a mostly full time vegetarian, unless I don't feel like it, then I eat meat.
* I have an unnatural addiction to Diet Coke. Every day I think, "Today I will quit." Then I never do.
* We just moved. It was hard.
* I like people, but I never answer the front door. Too many variables.
* If I could have any pet, it would be a parrot named Pooter. It's just so I can be like Mrs. Jenning's from Ang Lee's Sense & Sensibility, where she comes back to London and upon entering the house says, "Ah Pooter, still alive I see."
* I like to read, play the guitar, sing, play the piano and carry on commentary as I'm watching strangers in the park/airport/on street corners. I once carried on a half hour docu-drama while leaning out the window of a hotel room off Broadway in NYC. I was two stories up and didn't even fall out the window. Score one for the clumsy girl!
* I give people nicknames. They usually stick.

And I'm going to pass BOTH of these awards on to the following bloggers:

Susanna at Behind My Eyes
Julia at A Day in the Life
The Islander at And the Livin' is Easy
Lissa at The Rain Girl
Ghadeer at Spill Beans

These wonderful bloggers make me think, and bring great joy with their authenticity!
I hope you enjoy reading them too!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

I've Had Enough of Not Being Enough

Today I went to the most beautiful place, the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, The Grotto. The Grotto is filled with love, light and peace. In the upper garden, there is a labyrinth pattered after the one in Chartres Cathredral. I walked the one in Chartres when I was 19 years old. Today, almost twenty years to the day, I walked its twin at the Grotto.

Here's a picture of Chartres' labyrinth:

via google

A labyrinth is a path that one walks to mediate and find focus. Labyrinths are not mazes, but a path that one walks to clear the mind and enlighten the soul. I walked my walk on the labyrinth with a specific intention: Self acceptance.

I'm 39 years old. Not a day has passed since I was eight years old that I haven't looked in the mirror and thought something derogatory about my body. Too tall, too gangly, too clumsy, too freckled, weird speaking voice, too fat, too knock kneed--my list of perceived physical shortcomings could fill the O.E.D.  I inherited this attitude from my parents, who inherited it from their parents. The self hatred goes so deep that it colors every joyful experience of my life. I often catch myself thinking during life's sweetest experiences, "If only I were thinner I'd be even happier." Each time I think this, a little joy is chipped away from the moment because I am reminded that I'm not enough.

I have never felt comfortable in my own skin. I can tell you with exactness what I weighed on each important day in my life. My physical self loathing has colored each day of my life as long as I can remember. I carry it with me like a great stone around my neck. It drowns out the full breadth and depth of joy that I could experience and well, I'm sick of it.

I've talked to a lot of women--and at some point each has mentioned this feeling of not being enough. We are taught our physical lack at our mother's knee, in locker rooms, at school dances, on the playing field, and in dressing rooms, under fluorescent lights which show our every flaw in life sized high definition. We lament our lack of not being enough as teenagers with phrases like "I'm sooooo fat!!" at the same time swinging our gorgeous hair and silently begging for compliments and validation from other girls who feel the emptiness of not being enough as painfully as we do.

Some of us eat to fill up the hole of not being enough. Some of us have doctors remove excess fat with a sterile vacuum hose, not unlike the one you use to clean your car. Some of us develop eating disorders, get plastic surgery, take drugs, drink excessively, cut ourselves, and even inject toxic chemicals into our lines and wrinkles in a vain attempt to fill the bottomless pit of not being enough.

I'm standing on the crest of the big 4-0. Forty. Middle aged. Over the my almost four decades in this body I've been ogled, groped, leered at, felt up, patted down, and generally objectified in a variety of situations. Every gaze I've encountered since I was 13 (when those pesky boobs appeared like aliens on my chest) has left me completely confused. Is my cup size the measure of my worth? My dress size? What must I look like to be enough?

I've had several different bodies in my life, and I'm only half way through this journey. There was the tiny baby body, the awkward child body, the teenage explosion, the early twenties goddess (which of course, I didn't appreciate at the time.) Now, scarred, stretch-marked and flabby, I still carry the 35 extra pounds from my last baby--and he's nine.
I see his sweet face and am reminded that I still can't fit into those pre-baby jeans.  People use words like "robust", "healthy", "big boned", and the phrase "at least you have a pretty face", to describe me. People say things like:

"Have you lost weight?"
"Why don't you join a gym?"
"What size are your jeans?"
"Your boobs are huge!"

And with every question or comment, I am reminded, with crystal clarity, that I am not enough.

Not enough.
Not enough.

In our society, body image is the litmus test we use for being enough. Both women and men feel the sharp sting of the desire to be enough. But we've all been duped over and over (and again and again) into thinking that our worth, our sense of being "enough" is directly dependent on what we look like.

I've never met a woman who hasn't been able to paste a smile on her face and pretend that she is enough. I do it every damn day. We dye our hair, constrict our bodies in spandex and elastic that raise our boobs, and slim our waists. We don the torture of high heeled shoes and fake fingernails then slather our bodies in creams (that cost more than my first car) just to prove that we are enough.

But I know.
I can feel the gap within people, the ache of wanting to be pretty, attractive, thin, and young. There is a yawning chasm that resides in each of us and attempts to swallow us whole. We are reminded of our "ideal" image every time we turn on the television, open a magazine or walk out the door. Vast and unending, dark and deep, the chasm swallows us a little more each day with the negative thoughts we feed it. Every time I think, "I'm so fat" the gap opens a little wider and I sink a little deeper. I fear one day I may disappear altogether into the abyss; the abyss of not being "enough".

And here is the real, personal tragedy of my thinking: My body rocks. For loathing it so completely, I take really good care of it. I exercise it every day. I walk, run, swim, and climb. I eat right. My health is amazing. I haven't needed to see a doctor--except to have babies--in my entire adult life. I rarely catch the common cold. I've got fabulous skin and no wrinkles (fat chicks don't get 'em). I've got thick wonderful hair. I have fabulous hands that can play the piano, cook a meal, communicate to a jerky driver, and comfort a soul.

And beyond my physical characteristics: I've got a kind heart. I enjoy people. I can engage in conversation on a variety of subjects. I have great empathy. I would give you the shirt off my back if you needed it--but on second thought, then someone would inevtiably make a remark about my chest, so, I take that  back--no shirt for you.

But sexy personalities don't sell. You can't bottle "witty", "funny", or "clever". Instead, we focus on the exterior shell, the changing husk. We ask ourselves and others, "Are you losing weight? What have you been doing? You look fabulous!" We make snide comments about people who are shaped differently than us in order to prove to ourselves that we are enough. We think, "At least I don't look like that." To keep the chasm at bay, we compare our bodies to others over and over and we willingly believe the biggest lie ever told: The lie that we are not enough.

So, I am finished.

You see, I've got a daughter. I refuse to have her sit at my knee and learn in the dressing rooms that she is not enough. I refuse to allow her to be swallowed whole into the abyss. I want her (and me, and you too) to find the tools to close the gap. I am taking my tools in hand to climb, inch by inch, into the belief that I am enough. I may have set backs. The odd remark about my ample chest, or my squishy arms may push me back into the darkness, but I will hang on.
am hanging on.

Are you hanging on too?

Today, right now, I am closing the gap. Hanging on is no longer enough for me. I want to sprout wings and fly away into drunk love for this amazing machine that houses my soul.
I am enough.
This lovely body is just right as it is. It changes every day but I am armed with the tools to help me gain ground to close the gap. My tools are good, merciful, kind, and loving thoughts about this body I've been blessed with. It is mine and it's an amazing opportunity to have one that works pretty well. I gain ground by focusing on the amazing things that my body can do.

So today, as I walked the labyrinth, I walked to be blessed with the tools necessary to make the journey.  I walked for self acceptance, but not self acceptance coupled with resignation; not the disappointment of "I really loathe my body, but I'll accept it anyway." I walked my labyrinth today for sublime self acceptance; self acceptance coupled with unconditional true love for this body I've got, cellulite, knobby knees, squeaky voice, kind heart and all.

The sum total of my being is not contained in the exterior shell that is my body. The most important parts of me, and you, are written on the walls of our very souls. This means that I am not my body and neither are you.

And we are enough.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Liebster Squeak!

Are you all rested up after the last month of A to Z blogging madness?
No, me neither.

I got the notice today that two lovely bloggers nominated me for the Liebster award! Rachel over at When a Lion Sleeps, Let it Sleep, and Sherilee over at Sweet Tea & Sunshine have generously shared the Liebster with me! Thank you, ladies!!

The Liebster award is for blogs under 200 followers, and since I am barely squeaking by, I am especially grateful.
The rules of the Liebster is to answer questions from the award giver then pass it along. Here are Rachel's questions for me:

1. What is your favorite band or artist?
I love the Indigo Girls, the Lumineers, the Decemberists, Mumford & Sons and I love a variety of classical music, musicals, jazz and folk.

2. What moral code do you live by?
I like to say, "Enjoy to the end." And enjoying life means that I do no harm to others and try and bring joy gently and lovingly.

3. If I could meet any person, dead or alive, who would it be?
You know, I can think of about FORTY MILLION people! So it's difficult to narrow it down to one. I would have to say it would be lovely to take tea with Queen Victoria and get her to say, "I am not amused."

4. List three things you like about yourself.
I have great feet. No, seriously, they are awesome. In another life I could have been a foot model or at least a Birkenstock salesperson.
I really enjoy people.
I love to learn and by extension, I love to read.

5. If you were on a crime show would  you rather play the killer or the victim? 
Neither. I don't watch crime shows. Mountain Man said I couldn't because I'm such a drama queen and after one episode of CSI, I was convinced that I was going to be murdered with a high heeled shoe. It led to too many sleepless nights so I decided to swear off crime shows all together.

6.What is one piece of advice you want everyone of the younger generation to have?
If there was one thing I could relate to everyone I meet it is that they are worthy, lovely and whole, just as they are. They should own their beautiful selves and rejoice in their unique gifts that they bring to the world. Stop trying to be like everyone else and spend your time thinking thoughts that elevate you, not tear you (or others) down. Life is short, think wisely.

7. What is the stupidest thing you have ever done? 
Once, when I was 14, I was out running around the neighborhood with some friends making mischief by toilet papering some people's houses. We were running by a little strip mall and there were these idiots in a truck who I "just happened" to flip off. They came screeching around and chased us down. As most of you know, I don't run unless a zombie is chasing me. I have a signature move called the "limp noodle" that I employ should a kidnapper ever decide to pick me up and run away. Unless you're Thor, it's almost impossible to move me when in the limp noodle state.

So, since running was out (on moral grounds) and the limp noodle would just make me an easier target for them to run me over, I turned around and started chatting it up with these offended young men. By the time we were done, I'd made two new friends, no longer intent on killing me with their gigantic truck. In hindsight, things could have gone A LOT differently, so it was a pretty stupid move to begin with, but it all worked out in the end.

8. What is your most embarrassing moment? 
Oh, this question! Let me just say, if I told you, I'd have to kill you.

9. Is that your actual most embarrassing moment or are you keeping the real one a secret?
I have no idea what you're referring to. *shifts uncomfortably in chair and looks away.

10. What is your favorite book?
To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

11. Do you have any pets?

And here are Sher's questions for me: 

1. If you could have any exotic animal as a pet, what would it be and what would you name it?
If I had a pet, it would be a parrot and I would name him Pooter. 'Cause that's just cool, oh, and Mrs. Jennings in Sense & Sensibility had a parrot named Pooter too. And while I'm not as fat as Mrs. Jennings, or British, or live in the 18th century, I still think a parrot named Pooter would ROCK.

2. What company would you love to be the CEO of and why?
That's an easy one: my husbands company. Because he's had one day off in the last month. I'd make weekends mandatory! 

3. What is one of your favorite lines from a movie?
Obviously, it's from Ang Lee's Sense & Sensibility, where Mrs, Jennings says, "Ah, Pooter, still alive I see?" Seriously, if I had that parrot THAT is what I would say to her every day. 

4. What is one piece of advice you wish you could share with the whole world?
Same advice that I gave above from Rachel's question. You are worthy, you are lovely, you are whole. Think good thoughts about yourself and others. Your life is the very reflection of the things you think.

5. What is the first thing you think when you see someone walking down the street talking to themselves?
"Cheaper than therapy."

6. Where in your life do you value complexity?
I value complexity in almost every aspect of my life. I like layers of meaning and subtleties. I especially like it when I figure out what makes a person tick. I like complexity in relationships. 

7. What is your favorite sound?
Mountain Man's laughter. 

8. If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
"Watch for sharp turns." 

9. What did you invent that you thought would be a great invention until you found out it was already invented? The mechanical Parrot named Pooter. Seriously, I really want a parrot--or a bulldog named Henri. But a mechanical one, because real bulldogs poop...and so do parrots. Dang.

10. What item has been on your to-do list the longest?
To mail a copy of my will to my brother. I feel like it's tempting fate if I send it. So, here it remains. 

11. What song title best describes your relationship with your neighbors? 
"One Man's Ceiling is Another Man's Floor" The people who live above us walk like elephants. I just don't know why people walk around so much in their house or why they feel the need to walk to heavily. They sound angry. Come to think of it, they might be angry because they don't have a parrot named which case, they are completely justified. 

I would like to pass on this lovely award to the following bloggers: 
Anjali at Akoustik
Joy at It's a Joy!
Rob-Bear at  Bears Noting

These are fabulous bloggers! I hope you check them out. And for your questions, my they are: 

1.Why do you blog?
2. What is your advice to someone overcoming adversity?
3. If a movie was made of your life, who would play you?
4. If you could have high tea with anyone living or dead, what kind of tea would you drink? (Caught you off guard with that one, didn't I?? ;)
5. In one word, describe your feelings at this instant.
6. If you and I found ourselves in jail, what would we be "in" for?
7. What is your favorite kind of donut?
8. Mine is an apple fritter. Will you bring me one?
9. If you could be any kind of athletic ball, what kind would you be? Why?
10. What's your favorite form of exercise?
11. I (apparently) want a parrot named Pooter as a pet, what kind of pet do you have/want?

Here's the rules: Pass this award along to five other bloggers with under 200 followers. Ask them eleven personal/random questions. Enjoy. 

Thank you Sherilee and Rachel!!! Happy Liebster!!! 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Zest

I believe in taking the characteristics of people's lives that work for me and incorporating them into mine. I'm a shameless imitator.

A long time ago, I met a woman who exuded zest for life. She greeted each person with love, warmth and enthusiasm. Being on the receiving end of such zest for life was intoxicating and I immediately tried to emulate her behavior, trying to make it my own.

Over the years, the zest for living that I copied as a teenager has become mine. "Fake it until you make it" has become my motto--and did you know there's even an actual word for that phrase? The word is praxes, or the habitual or established practice of something.

Living with zest means that, before I get out of bed in the morning, I choose to live with happiness, enthusiasm and curiosity--and just like adding the zest of a lemon to a recipe, it doesn't take a lot to live a zestful life. Smiling at a stranger, greeting people with joy, being a kind driver, these are just a few ways I try to incorporate zest into my life.

This isn't to say that I get it right all the time--because I fall short every day. However, I get to start fresh each morning and enjoy the wonder that comes with living zestfully, energetically and enthusiastically. No matter my frame of mind, time will pass. I would rather greet the day with gladness instead of gloom.

The courageous act of savoring daily life is the key to living fully and fearlessly right now. Life isn't made up of vacations or magnificent vistas. It is in the small things that happiness roots itself and takes bloom. Choosing to live with zest is a vital part of living deeply.

Living zestfully brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

Thank you to our amazing hosts of April's A to Z Challenge! And thank YOU for stopping by, commenting and bringing great joy to me this month!!  We made it!! (Whew!)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Joyride A to Z: You

Long, long ago, (about 10 years) in a galaxy far, far away (called Montana), I was walking on a local bike path when I came across this message:

These simple words gave me pause that day. They were a gift that made me happy. Those words made me believe that I was just what they said: beautiful. Those words were written by a well meaning stranger on a public bike path, and even though hundreds of people must have seen them, that day, those words were just for me.

I’ve thought about those words a lot since then, and about what those words mean. This 'beauty' I'm referring to doesn't concern the buckets we walk around in. The beauty I’m referring to is regarding the content of our spirits. Today, I want to give you what a stranger gave me and tell you a simple truth about yourself:

You are beautiful.

You are extraordinary.

You are unique in the world.

You are whole, just as you are. Right now.

You bring something to this planet that no one else can bring: yourself.
You are amazing.
You have a kind heart and a marvelous mind, even if you feel that your heart is broken or that your mind is filled with dark thoughts about yourself and others.
Most of the unhappiness on this planet is caused by unhappy people. We women, especially, feel terrified that we ‘aren’t enough’. And when we are terrified, we feel like we need to be in control of everything. And when we try to control everything, (as if that's actually possible) our control mutates into an unhealthy, and soul wrecking competition with others.

Today, you can let all that negativity go.

Today, instead of condemning yourself and those around you, you have the opportunity to exonerate those you influence with your undeniable beauty. You can cease to belittle yourself and others, and instead, delight in all the success you see. Today, you can take pause and feel the peace that comes with this beauty and then you can share it. You can let all the pain that you have been carrying about this and that go, because you can choose to. You can believe in yourself and get out of your own way, and be happy, because you are a spark of the Divine.

Today, you can believe that you are beautiful.

Because today, you are fearless.

The time for resignation is past. You are beautiful. When you let that beauty and all its attendant joy cascade from you, you give others the permission to do the same. Today, don’t shine less. Shine more.

Shine more, because,
You are beautiful.

You bring me joy. Thank you for being here. What brings you joy today?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Joyride A to Z: E "x" pectations

Ok, I totally cheated with my X word.

Don't judge me, it was hard to think of something that had to do with "X" that had to do with joy--although, to be honest, playing the Xylophone really is quite joyous...but that's another post.


Let 'em go.

Not ALL expectations, just OTHER people's expectations of you.
Your personal expectations are the birthplace of your dreams.
Hang on to those, because they rock.

I experience the most unhappiness when I'm trying to fulfill the expectations dictated to me by others.
I have two problems with the expectations of other people hoisted upon me:
1. I hate to be bossed around, and...
2. The stuff that people expect of me I usually don't want to do.

A few years ago, I came across a profound book. You can read about that here.
When I finally figured out I could say, "no" to other peoples expectations of me, it was like a huge light turned on in my soul. I found myself with free time to fill with anything of my choosing. I felt like I was shaking off the shackles of a lifetime of guilt. I didn't have to say "yes" all the time. Instead, I gave myself permission to ask myself, when presented with another's expectation, "Is this a hell yes, or a hell no?"

If it's a hell no, I usually say, "I'm sorry, I'm unavailable." And I move on.
No guilt, and no worries, because I'm tending the garden of my integrity and standing guard at the gate of my soul and no one else is going to do that except me. I am responsible for my own happiness.

And if someone comes along with expectations that align with my inner desires, talents and interests? Then it's a hell yes, and I'm all in.

Living with the "hell yes/ hell no" concept takes a lot of the angst out of daily living--and I've gotta say that saying "hell no" to other's expectations of me and "hell yes" to living with authenticity and integrity has given me more freedom and joy than I ever expected.

Living free from expectations brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

"To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves, there lies the great, singular power of self respect." ~Joan Didion

Friday, April 26, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Wonder

Deepening the Wonder
Death is a favor to us,
But our scales have lost their balance.

The impermanence of the body
Should give us great clarity,
Deepening the wonder in our senses and eyes
Of this mysterious existence we share
And are surely just traveling through.
If I were in the Tavern tonight,
Hafiz would call for drinks
And as the Master poured, I would be reminded
That all I know of life and myself is that
We are just a midair flight of golden wine
Between His Pitcher and His Cup.
If I were in the Tavern tonight,
I would buy freely for everyone in this world
Because our marriage with the Cruel Beauty
Of time and space cannot endure very long.

Death is a favor to us,
But our minds have lost their balance.
The miraculous existence and impermanence of
Always makes the illumined ones
Laugh and sing.
The wonder of life brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Joyride A to Z: Vulnerability

Vulnerability. Anything I could write on the subject would be directly sourced from Brene Brown. If you haven't seen her TED talk, take a minute and listen. 

Vulnerability is the birth place of joy.
And it's completely terrifying.

*(clinks glasses) Here's to taking a leap and exercising our vulnerability in order to experience more joy and living with our whole hearts.

Vulnerability is terrifying and rewarding...and ultimately brings me joy.
What brings you joy today?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Understanding

One of my favorite quotes reads, "I speak out of my experience, and you listen out of yours, and THAT is why communication is difficult."

At the base of our communications is the desire to be understood.

Each of us want to be understood, and on some level, to understand others as well. Even if we say, "I don't care about them! I don't know why they do what they do!" The reason we are so bothered by another's behavior is that we want to understand what is causing the behavior--and often we even want to "fix" people's ideas to align with our view of the world.

But true understanding of another will lead us to allowing others to be exactly what they are--themselves. Desiring to "fix" someone else, or sway them to the "right" kind of thinking will only result in more misunderstanding and then frustration.

Our spirits are constantly seeking peace. When we feel negatively about another, our negative feelings are communicating to us that there is a gap in our connection to our Source.

Some may call this source, God, some the Universe--there's a million different names. I don't feel like the name we call God is all that important, but the importance of feeling understood and understanding our Source and then one another is something that our spirits long for.

We often think that this elusive peace will only come when ALL THE WORLD *(twirls mustache here) agrees with our line of thinking--but there is nothing further from the truth than that idea.

Contrast is an interesting concept. Contrast in artwork gives depth to a piece--darkness illuminates light. Now before you go thinking that, "Of course, MY world view is the light and all others are darkness!!" Ask yourself this question instead: Why are there so many different kinds of people here? 

Contrast in humans gives life meaning and depth. We are not all the same--and this is a cause for celebration and joy. Understanding the contrast that people bring in all their great variety, is the true path to peace. When we aren't so busy trying to tolerate others, (meaning that we don't really approve of someone else's choices, but we put up with it anyway) but instead, allow them to be themselves in all their uniqueness, then we will find understanding and the love, that we so long for, rushing in like a great tide into our lives.

Understanding brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Joyide, A to Z: Today

I like to use a lot of water/boating metaphors. I'm not sure why this is, except water analogies fit a lot of life experiences and I really like to swim.

Today is like a boat. The time that comprised yesterday can be described as the wake behind the boat--it's behind us.

I love that. Just me, in my boat (it's a canoe, by the way) just paddling along, today comprised of my current thoughts, feelings and interactions. I gently and sweetly paddle along and allow the current to take me down stream. The wake behind me is nothing more than memories. Although, sometimes, our enjoyment of today is hedged up by the baggage we are always trying to fit into our canoes.

How many of us drag around past events, memories, or emotions that are o-so-over?
I know I do.

But I've learned a trick to be able to actually enjoy today a little bit more:
I choose my own interpretation of events that cause me any distress.

You may be thinking: That's cheating. After all, choosing your own interpretations? Really?? Can you do that???

Yes. Yes you can.

If you think about it, reality itself is just our perceptions. Your reality is based on your perceptions and my reality is based on mine. We could even both be at the same event and interpret it in very different ways--and both interpretations would be "reality". Instead of attaching myself to someone else's version of events, I prefer to choose interpretations that empower me.

Let me give you an example: "Something" happens. Let's say...oh....I run into the driver in front of me. Not fast, just a little tap. I automatically assign meaning to it by saying, "Oh man, this sucks. My day is ruined! I am so dumb!!"
By assigning a meaning to the event (in this case, a negative one) we choose to either empower of dis-empower of the inevitable internal narrative that's going to follow.

I leave the scene of the accident and I say to myself, "I can't believe I did that. I'm such a screw up. It's going to cost money that I don't have when my insurance goes up."
(I stew and stew until I'm feeling pretty rotten about most things in my life.)

In that example, I chose a dis-empowering thought that lead to a negative internal narrative that defined my experience as "bad". I don't know about you--but I don't really enjoy feeling like crap.

So, let's try another one: I run into the guy in front of me. I automatically assign meaning to it by saying, "Oh man, this sucks....well, at least I didn't hit him terribly hard and it looks like there's no major damage, so that's good. No one was hurt either, so there's something else to be grateful for."
In this example, the event still happened, but I chose a different interpretation of the events. It changed from dis-empowered (I'm so dumb) to empowered (It wasn't that bad, and at least no one was hurt) which eventually changes how I relate to the world around me (my behavior).

If I'm feeling good, then the way I feel has a direct effect with everyone I meet after the accident. The positive feelings that I feel are a lot like tossing a stones into a lake. My good feelings create ripples that come right back to me on the shore. Likewise, if I'm tossing out stones of negativity, all that's going to ripple back to me will be more negativity.

Life is hard enough without re-living traumatic events, re-focusing on old grudges, and chewing on past dramas that zap our energy and leave us feeling powerless. I base my joy on how I feel. As I'm sitting in my canoe, I want to feel good as I make my way down the stream. If I need to think about past actions or relationships, I want good feelings of past events in my boat with me.

And here's where choosing your own interpretations come in handy: You get to choose how you feel about moving down the stream. You get to choose, right now, today how you are going to feel.

Now, that doesn't mean that you have to live in denial.
Absolutely not.
Painting a rosy face on something that is downright ugly will not help you heal or feel better; but choosing not to allow that event to define your life is power. Empowering yourself by choosing your interpretations just makes good sense--while happiness is a very personal decision, it is also decision that has consequences beyond our personal stories. Unhappiness is caused by unhappy people. So it's therefore our responsibility to learn how to navigate our way down the stream, by being gentle with ourselves during the journey and enjoying our lives today.

It sounds a lot like the song, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" don't you think?
I hope that you enjoy your boat ride today, whether it's in a yacht, raft or cruise ship.

But most importantly, may you breathe in the perfume of today...merrily, merrily, merrily.

Today brings me joy. What brings you joy?

"The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present." ~Alice Morse Earle