Thursday, December 31, 2009

Three Answers


God has three answers to our prayers, yes, maybe, and I have something better for you. There are many paths up the mountain and just as many ways to come into conscious contact with a Divine Source. Some people believe that we should pray in a certain way, that we should not make personal requests or pray for specific outcomes. Any prayer brings us into contact with God, even the prayer for new violet suede boots. Although I admit this might not be the best use of one's time while in the presence of God, it is actually bringing the supplicant into relationship with Her. God can say yes, maybe, or I have something better for you, say health and heating oil. We might not know exactly makes us happy, what is best for us, but like a child making a list for Santa, we will get what we need. When my marriage first started to fall apart I remember asking God for help in repairing the relationship. I didn't receive this; however I did receive a new relationship a few years later that is fulfilling and healthy. I don't always know what I need, because I don't really know how incredible life can be. The gifts that I have received from my Higher Power have been better than I would have been able to imagine. I have so much gratitude for my life today, for my relationships, my education, my apartment, and my sobriety.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winter Gratitude


I am reminding myself, as temperatures dip way below zero, that winter in the Berkshires is an amazing time of year. The snow coats the trees, icicles shimmer in the sun, and bright red berries create art against a backdrop of snow. Winter is the season to look within, to retreat to a warm cozy place, maybe next to a fire, with a cup of cocoa and good book. It is also a time to immerse oneself in silence and the stillness of the mother. Nature slows down and rests up for the arrival of spring, with blossoms bursting and new life emerging. Spring is a time to create, a time to grow, but winter is the season to quiet, to sit and gather energy for the upcoming months. I find myself wanting to get more accomplished, run further, and work harder. Then the bitter cold steps in and brings me indoors to the fireplace, to the curled up cats and warm comforter. I find God in the stillness of the season, when only the sound of chickadees interrupts my reverie. Today I will absorb the strength of my silent oak tree and the beauty of the pristine white snow in the field behind my home. Today I will thank God for a season of rest, of contemplation and stillness.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter Arrives

Snow

If I were to place a frame around joy,
it would be gold gilt, snow piles, fresh, white
and sparkling in the light from the streetlamp.
Snow dogs leaping through the powder, noses buried
into cold blue gloss. A sigh, a snort, another leap,
after fresh rabbit tracks. Now inside beside the fire,
ice melting from boots, forming puddles, they sleep,
content.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Embracing the Inner Brat, oops I Meant Child

I don't know if it is the time of year (likely excuse) but I have been acting like a child. I am not a child so this poses a problem. Toys R Us had a commercial, years ago (maybe still) and the jingle went like this: "I don't want to grow, I'm a Toys R us kid." I feel like that sometimes. I don't want to grow up and be responsible for a household, an education, a child, my animals, and all of the other details (those bill collectors) that go along with being an adult. The semester is coming to an end (I should be writing an essay right now) and I am in desperate need of some sleep and some help. Have I asked Spirit for help yet? No. But as I was in the midst of a temper tantrum, or mental sizzle, I was offered help from a very close friend. I said I was fine, that I didn't need it, I would be ok. That was a lie. I am not ok, I do need help. So why is it so hard to accept it? I watch Christmas shoppers filling carts up with gifts, toys that will be forgotten by next Tuesday, after the garbage collector hauls off the bags of ripped wrapping paper and yet another pair of slippers that have been shoved back under the bed. How is it easier to give than it is to receive? What is it about accepting help, or gifts, that is hard to do? Is it the fact that if I accept help or a gift I will be expected to return the favor? I know that is not true. For me, it could just be that if I accept help I am actually admitting that I am not Wonder Woman, capable of juggling household, fulltime education, single parenthood, check book balancing, grocery shopping, meal preparation and riding a unicycle while drinking a can of soda and reciting the alphabet backwards. Who am I if I am not Wonder Woman? Am I, gasp, human? I think this calls for a little Divine Intervention and a whole lot of humor. I can't do it all. I can't accept help graciously. I could do with that help. Time to give my inner needy child a little compassion, she's not a brat, she is in need of a little TLC, and a big cup of cocoa with mini marshmallows.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Returning to Darkness


As snow settles on the ground in the Berkshires I am reminded that the solstice is right around the corner. Every morning at the same time, after a brief meditation I swing in my hammock chair in front of a picture window and write. Each day when I sit it is a tiny bit darker. The transition from July to December mornings has been gradual, and I no longer see the old oak tree silhouetted in the distance. The sky now appears inky black, with just the faintest hint of light peeking up from the horizon. This is my first time observing this transition in the morning light. This daily shift reminds me of my spiritual growth, which is as gradual as the change of the seasons. I do not notice either my spiritual changes or light changes as they occur. I only see shifts when I sleep in for a few days and return to my writing chair, the days having gotten shorter during my absence. I look forward to the time when I will see my oak tree and hear the songbirds, but for today the dark reminds me to go within, to spend a few extra minutes in the quiet morning nestled in my cozy apartment. Even if I feel that life is not moving at the speed I wish it were, it is still moving, I am still growing up, day by day. This morning ritual has allowed me patience and an understanding that although it may not seem that my life is changing, if I can step back for a bit, the transformation will become apparent.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jumping Through Flaming Hoops

I just had to jump through hoops to receive a little help from our government. These were not merely ordinary hoops, mind you, they were flame encircled ones. I don't ask for help often, but it seems that when I do, it tends to come with a price tag. This is just normal human behavior. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. My intention in the writing of this post is not to blast our government, or the bureaucracy that is part of the package, but to remember that my God doesn't ask for a back scratch. So why is my Higher Power usually my last alternative when seeking answers? Maybe I am just so used to having to work for a return, but with Goddess it is different. I say a prayer and receive guidance. Pretty simple. I don't have to send three months of bank statements, or the blood of my first born. All I have to do is ask for help, and then shut up and listen for the answer. And when it comes (usually as the next step or piece of work I need to do) I just need to follow. If my intuition guides me to email someone, I email them. The next piece of the answer will await me after the email is sent. For me, Grace seems to take place in increments. I see the next step, take that, and only then the next one will materialise. In the Twelve Step model, each of the steps are numbered, and for a reason. Attempting a ninth step before a fourth can lead to disastrous results. One step at a time, with my Source. Maybe I will try to use this model when dealing with my governmental buddies. Jump one flaming hoop at a time. I will eventually get to the human sacrifice, don't worry guys.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gratitude for a Winter's Day

I attempted the drive to school today, but the New England weather forced me back home after twenty minutes of sliding sideways in my little car. My feelings about winter, along with the precipitation are mixed. But right now, nestled under a blanket with a fire blazing and three of my cats curled up at my feet, I am content. Instead of trudging to classes at the only school that doesn't cancel them, I am finishing up an essay on Billy Collins for Verse Writing. My Siberian huskies are both asleep and blessedly quiet on their respective beds, and I feel that I could be transported into a Norman Rockwell painting at any moment. These are the gentle moments of winter, when I am tucked away, napping, reading and catching up with unfinished work. This is the part of winter that gets overlooked and undervalued when I am shoveling my driveway or waiting for my dog to find the most perfect spot to pee when it’s twenty below and the wind is whipping and my feet are cold. The weather here in New England is always a topic of conversation, in the store, walking down the street, or waiting in line at the bank. Most of it is negative, "It's going to snow, again" gasp. We bond in our mutual loathing of all things not mild, sunny and 70 degrees. I am sure the words, "please no more winter," will come out of my mouth at some point in the near future, but for right now I would like to bask in the warmth of all things wintry and cozy, the hot cocoa, the fireplace, and the falling snow which coats the trees, and makes the world sparkle. Today, my personal snow day will be a physical act of gratitude for this season, and the turning within that is a necessary contrast to going out into the world. This quiet time and space will allow me the energy needed to face my day tomorrow, with the papers due, the driveway to be shoveled, and the groceries waiting to be purchased.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Try a New Cheer Please

Whenever folks ask me what I am going to school for (English - Creative Writing) and what I want to do with that degree (write fiction, young adult) they always follow it up with, "And how are you going to support yourself?" Now I am almost 100% sure that these same folk, when speaking with a Pre Med or student in Law School, do not ask them how they will make a living after getting out of college. Now I know that folks mean well, but I had a hard enough time deciding to follow my passion, I don't need the negative reinforcement. I think the best rule of thumb is, don't listen to anyone who isn't successful in your chosen field of study. I am proud of the fact that I am attempting school on the other side of 35. I do have a Business Degree, I have attempted entrepreneurship, but what I really am is a writer. The creative arts seem to get a bad rap. The term "starving artist" tells it all. Don't tell me you have heard "starving CEO" or "starving banker." I do think that if I believe in the futility of my chosen career path, I will fail. I need to head onto my new path with positivity and a desire to succeed. Maybe I should stop telling strangers that I am at school when they ask, or maybe I could start making things up. So if you run into a short curly - haired chick at the dog park and she tells you she is studying to become a burglar, don't believe her. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Are We Really Swooning Over Vampires?

Yes, I saw it. You know of what I speak. I did drool; I did swoon, over a vampire and a werewolf. But it wasn't just the bad boys that I was swooning over, although the lack of attire did help me along a bit, it was the idea of true love. This is a culture where we are looking on the outside for internal gratification. How would capitalism work if we all weren't flawed and unloved enough to need products to fix us? Twilight isn't about the monsters, but about being adored by not one, but two hard to get bad boys. Bella completely breaks down when left by each of these magnificently beautiful creatures. She doesn't have it in her to live without the love of a man. Now why do we leave the theater desperately wanting true love to triumph? It is an old story and one I actually unconsciously wrote into my own short story, feminist that I am. Cinderella has it bad, but then the Prince falls in love and she is happy. Beauty falls in love with the beast, Ariel with the fish guy, and on and on throughout history. Now Bella does fly across the sea to rescue her true love, yes, they had to give us something, but young girls are still raised to fall in love and live happily ever after. Mattel needed to make Ken right? So what does this all mean? I don't know. I left the theater wishing for true love and a happy fairy tale ending. I left the theater feeling somehow inadequate. I left the theater needing something, what, a new sweater or a diet coke? What I left with was a hole that only I can fill, because I do not need a man to make me whole. But, you say, but, Bella is adored and worshipped by two men. Maybe that's what we need, someone who knows how truly fabulous we are and acknowledge it. And may they be shirtless when they do.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Green - Eyed Monsters Coming to Roost

Nothing like a little metaphor mixing to put a gal in a good mood. My attitude today has been less than stellar. It is time for a major shot of gratitude. Thanksgiving is coming up in a week and it is that time of year when we all sit around our cozy tables giving thanks for all of this year's pleasures. The table is decorated with gourds and a cornucopia, overflowing, symbolizing all that we have. Then the day after we scramble to stores to purchase more for loved ones because they do not have enough. Walking through the mall 3 weeks ago I was aghast to see Christmas decorations filling the aisles. Gift ideas were displayed and trees were lit. Today I am looking at the balance in my checking account and I am not feeling grateful, nor in the holiday spirit. I am feeling quite alone, sitting in my apartment while my son is at work. The green - eyed monster has come to roost. This rather ugly creature has three heads and oozes slime from its rather large pores. It sees toddlers laughing as their parents are swooning in marital bliss. It sees women clothes shopping and stashing their goods in brand new shiny SUV's. Not that I want these things mind you, yet the grass is always greener on the other side of the bridge. Maybe, though I could cut myself a little slack. It is tough being a single mom trying to put herself through school, commuting over two hours a day at a challenging school. It is hard to find time to do dishes and pay bills and grocery shop, especially when the money just isn't there. Maybe if I could just hang out with the green - lipped monster for say 10 minutes, have a cup of tea, then politely ask her to hit the yellow brick road, these feelings of jealousy will pass. Then I can sit down, write a gratitude list and call a friend. Maybe then I can reach out to be of service to someone who is worse off, who doesn't have an incredible connection of fabulous friends and a semester of challenging enlightening classes. Maybe just by writing this, the mood will shift and I will realize that I do have so much to be grateful for, my home, my family, my animals, and daily gifts that runneth over. Ok Green - toed demon, take a hike.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Ending Before Midnight, please

Every once in a while I find a series on dvd that I cannot stop watching. For me this is dangerous as I have way too much schoolwork to be indulging in zoning out. But I found one such series that I have been watching online. This has meant many a night with not enough sleep, as I keep hitting the little arrow at the bottom of the screen that whisks me into the next episode. Screen writers are geniuses, as they seem to know that I am waiting for the happy ending and if it doesn't come in this episode, I am on to the next. But we do know, as well as the writers, that once there is a happy ending we stop watching. How many people watched Frazier through to the end of the series after Niles finally "caught" Daphne? As a 27 minute show turns into 4 hours of viewing and a philosophy text tucked safely inside my school bag, I wonder what it is that keeps me hoping for that moment when all will be right in the world. Do I tend to search for that moment, that magic time through the use of alcohol or chemicals or shopping, gambling, or eating? What is that feeling we are trying to reach? What can get us to that point without harming our delicate brains or bodies? Could it be the moment in meditation when I finally let go of thought and am able to follow a complete breath from nose to lungs to nose? Or is it the moment in prayer when I say, "Thy will not mine be done?" Is it the moment when the sun retreats behind the hill and the colors peek for a second? Is it just being present, which many of us are not? I don't know, I do know that Karen just broke up with Hank, and I am waiting for the happy ending. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Glass Words

Flutes of liquid bubbling froth, touch and join
for infinite days.
I love you, they say as
glass touches glass.

Framed photographs hang
in mirrored hallways, tucked
amidst roses and diamonds.
I like you, they say as
eyes reach for solace.

Words break as glass
when thrown against mantle
splinters, shiny pieces on brick.
I hate you, they say as
fists find homes in dust.

Flutes of liquid bubbling
froth, touch and join -
her parent’s first joy.
We love you, they say
as glass touches glass.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

To Change or Not to Change,

That is the question. I sometimes wonder how I can desperately want and not want something at the same time. This is true for me of changing. I look for things to be thrilling, to constantly change, be fresh, and for new exciting adventures to come along. The moment they do, I turn tortoise. I look at relationships that have an even trajectory, just humming along from day to day, predictable and safe, and I get frustrated. But, if I have the opportunity to change these relationships I freeze and revert to old habits. I clam up and not allow others to see what is really going on in my life. Things become fine, life becomes good, and I miss an opportunity to grow closer to another human being. I lose the chance to be vulnerable and allow others to see who I am, all of me, hard shell and all. I stop all forward movement and stagnate. Why is that? Fear of the unknown? After all, just how many people can say they have a clue as to who I am? My dog seems to be leading the pack in this one. It takes courage to open up and allow change, either to oneself or one’s relationships and position in the world. Being a turtle is cool, but gets boring after a while. Maybe today I will peek out and tell someone I am scared. Maybe not. That very thought is a small step.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Princess Inside

I hate to admit this, but I am a Halloween Bah Humbug. I just do not appreciate the holiday. Maybe this stems from the fact that trick-or-treating was not allowed in my sleepy little town after razor blades were found in candy. Maybe it is because I do not understand the pull of being frightened. I do love to watch toddlers being stuffed into sweet potato costumes, and I admit that I am a Butterfinger gal, but when I go running and have a heart attack because a burly man is hiding in someone's bushes, I am not amused. The burly man was stuffed, but did not appear so out of the corner of my eye. Being a lone female running on a less traveled road with decapitated heads hanging from an oak tree is not my idea of a good time. I think day to day existence can sometimes be scary enough. We live in a culture where we are bombarded by horrific news on a daily basis. After reading a story about a man who tried to commit suicide by setting himself on fire, and a car bomb that killed 100 people, I do not need to need to see someone in a bloody mask or stick my hand in a bowl of "eyeballs." Remember I did admit that I was a Halloween Bah Humbug. The holiday originated over 2000 years ago with the Celts, who thought that spirits would rise and walk the earth. The Celts placed bones around their homes to scare of theses spirits. We still decorate our homes and spend hundreds of dollars on candy. We dress up in costumes and become something or someone we are not. So where am I going in this long rant? All I know is that the world is scary enough, obesity is rampant and we really just need to figure out who we really are, and be that person. I do know that I am a Princess deep inside; I don't need the costume in order to be my true self for one night a year. Yes I will hand out candy, but I will not be dressed up. I will not jump out of the bushes, and I will not decorate my home with body parts. Isn't it almost Christmas anyways? Ho ho ho.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cinderella I am not, or am I?

I just spent two days pouring over different versions of Cinderella for a Children's Literature paper. It is a classic tale, and as girls we are all indoctrinated. If we play nice, whistle while we work (is that Snow White) and look pretty, our prince will come and take us as his bride so that we can live happily ever after. I hate to admit that there is a little Cinderella in me. The feminist in me knows that I can rescue myself, I am going to school, raising a teenager, and almost keeping up with the bills. But someplace, deep inside I want to be rescued. Cinderella is not the only one residing in my subconscious. Meet the wicked step sister. She is the part  that wants me to fail, that feels that I should work twice as hard to live. She is the part that kicks my ass, that tells me it is time to quit, and that I cannot rescue myself. Yesterday the wicked sister took over. She did kick my ass, and I did almost quit school. Because in reality, I do not know how to rescue myself. I do not know how to juggle school and living. I do not know how to pay my bills while taking on a full time school schedule which leaves no time for working. There has to be another sister residing in my pea brain. Where is sister number 3? She is the sister that is balanced, that can accept help from her prince or princess, but also get things done on her own. She is the sister that knows she creates her own happiness, that joy is not something that happens to her, but happens because of her. I don't know where she is, I sure would like to find her. So for now I think that I need to accept that little Cindy in me, as well as the cruel sister. Maybe in accepting what I already possess I will make room for other possibilities. Maybe sister 3 has been there all along. Maybe she is the one that kept me from quitting school when I realized that I only had a month's worth of money left. Maybe she is the one that reminded me that I had a mid semester evaluation to do. Maybe...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Five hours alone with myself

I just ran a marathon. And for once I am kind of speechless. I had heard that you don't know until you try it. There is something about spending 26.2 miles alone with oneself. First, you find out what you are made of, that even when you want to quit at mile 18, or maybe even 15, you can push through. But the negative self talk has to stop. I learned a lot about myself today, that I will hopefully remember once the endorphin high is over. I can push through self - imposed limits. An ex - smoker who was placed last in the 900 meter Presiden't Physical Fitness test in high school can run a marathon. I can cut myself a little slack when I do not achieve the time I wanted, and that I can slow down and allow myself to run. I can allow myself to walk. I can allow myself some added rest. These are big deals for me. I am used to cracking the whip, juggling all sorts of things while standing on one foot and reciting poetry (not really, but you get the idea). But the point of all this is, Oh My God, I Just Ran a Marathon.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

One Scoop of Stress, add the whip cream and nuts

The semester has begun, the work load has increased and I find myself reverting to old patterns of behavior. Mainly, I have forgotten to be grateful for all of the gifts that I have. I have failed to notice each phase of the moon and each sunset. I have even lapsed on the writing of this blog. I have skipped the rituals that bring me joy, and have lost the quiet time spent in meditation. My house has become chaotic and the bills are being shoved into a shoe box. Now I do know the drill. This is my second year at this school. I know to expect more work than I can dream of accomplishing. Yet it caught me off guard. I slipped into the stress, ordered more, embellished it, and now sit wondering why life is so hard. The answer lies in my attitude. I have lost the extreme gratitude that I experienced this summer while writing my book and poetry, sipping tea and exploring characters and metaphor. Gratitude is not something I need to squeeze into this schedule. It is like fitting in meals (I do eat while driving, dangerous), it is nourishing, and I finish feeling full and satiated. What I need is to pay attention to savoring and loving my practice of gratitude as much as I do the pint of Ben and Jerry's in the freezer. If I spent as much time in  gratitude as I do with my head in the freezer, my whole outlook on life would change in an instant.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fortune Cookies be Damned

School has started again and so have long days, long commutes and a messy house. This semester I would like to set a goal, to allow myself to have a messy house without it being a reflection of me personally. I am taking five classes and commuting an hour and twenty minutes, each way. The work load is astronomical, and I still expect myself to be able to handle life on the outside perfectly. Maybe the Wonderwoman complex has taken over my life, without the outfit (the thighs aren't there yet). Maybe I enjoy setting myself up, so that in the end I can say, "Yes, I just can't juggle," or "I just can't do this without a partner," or, "This is what happens when you wait to go to school." Excuses stacked up in a neat pile in the back of my brain that allow me an out if I don't do as well as I want. So it will not be really my fault if I fail. But who is talking about failure except the scared girl in the background, who really doesn't know that she can really do this on her own. I want to know that it will all be ok, that I will get my degree and get a great writing job, or sell a book. I want the future to be laid out in front of me. But the future cannot be seen, even fortune cookies say things now like, "Wisdom is the key to a better sex life," and "You are competent, brave and hairy." It comes down to faith, which is something that I would like to cultivate. Now is my chance. When I get down to 11$ in my checking account and I have 4 papers due and no gas, will I really be able to know that I will be taken care of by my God, or will I just use that as excuse #425.6 to give up and apply at Dunkin Donuts. Who knows, I cannot tell the future quite yet, but maybe if I crack open just one more cookie I will know.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ragweed 0, Goldenrod 1

Allergy season is upon us and we begin to point the finger at the culprit, that dastardly Goldenrod. But is it really the culprit, or is it the fall guy for a sneakier, less showy plant that releases its allergens every year at the same time that the golden flowers burst forth in splendor. The villain Ragweed strikes again, and takes none of the blame. Today I am cranky. I did not want to run this morning, or write, all I wanted to do was sleep and eat. I could blame it on not enough sleep, or Pretty Morning Sunshine, or the lack of daylight in the morning. Any of those could be the culprit, but sometimes I need to look deeper. What is my Ragweed? Why am a little off kilter today? Possibly because I haven't connected with God the past few days. My meditation practice gets shoved aside on the weekends, the writing doesn't get done with altered sleep hours. My schedule is altered, then it gets altered again. Maybe my Ragweed is a lack of consistency in my weekly life, constant shifts that have no sense of grounding. I think that I need to make sure that as I weave back and forth between schedules I have a core practice that doesn't alter because of added time at the dog park or country fairs. My morning prayer and meditation practice allows me to ease into the day, creating a smooth transition from night to morning that I don't have between week and weekend, and school and summer. Because I will be the first to ignore what is really going on for the showy excuse. Time to alter the score, Ragweed 1, Goldenrod 1.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Deep Gratitude

I have many thoughts swirling around in my head on the subject of gratitude. The daily practice of gratitude has saved my life, has lifted me out of the pit of despair and negativity, and placed me on solid ground. There is gratitude though, and there is gratitude, or I will call it, deep gratitude. Gratitude, I practice on a daily basis, writing out my list and remembering how much I really have in my life. Gratitude is reflective, an acknowledgement to God, a thank you for all the gifts we receive on a daily basis if we only notice them. The hummingbird at my feeder, the turkeys crossing the road, my family and health and cozy little home. Deep gratitude is experienced when practicing gratitude and allowing God in, experiencing the full feeling of being truly happy and expressing the emotions. Deep gratitude is active, an exchange of feeling and emotion for gifts received. Type a few things that you are grateful for, food, clothing, shelter, loved ones, a promotion maybe, or a box of chocolate covered cherries. That is gratitude. Now feel your face light up as you think of a loved one you are truly thankful for. Thank God over and over for this person, allowing love to build up inside and bubble over in joy. That is deep gratitude. We are all put here on this beautiful planet to live joy filled lives. If we do not notice all that surrounds us that is beautiful, and exactly as it should be, we will not find peace and happiness. Because the gifts of this world far outnumber the sorrows. We just have to be vigilant and keep our eyes peeled for those gifts. Much joy and happiness to you as you venture forth on this day.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stuck in a Box? Just Open the Flap

Everyone must have heard the phrase, "think outside the box." I have a card that I framed written by Edward Monkton, titled, The Butterfly of Freedom. It is a picture of a box filled with butterflies with one flying on the outside. It reads:
"Why do you fly outside the box?"
"I fly outside the box because I can."
"But we KNOW the box. We are SAFE inside the box."
"That my friend, is why I leave it. For you may be SAFE... but I AM FREE!"
How exactly do you think outside the box? Because we are told it is a good thing, but never told how to do it. For years I did stay within a box, staying married and in jobs that didn't fulfill me, but making ends meet, making a living, and surviving in the "real" world. It gets scary when you move outside the box, it is unknown. When I left my husband I had no clue how I would support myself. When I left my job I had no clue how I would support myself. When I enrolled in school I had no clue how I would juggle it all. I still have no clue. The difference today though, is that I have a connection with a God of my understanding. Thinking outside the box takes practice and courage. It takes qualities that I lack at times, but what I lack, my spiritual connection makes up for. It took me at least ten years of living on my own to figure out that I could buy sugar cereal. I grew up on Cheerios and Golden Grahams, always craving Lucky Charms. When I was 28, One day in the grocery store I purchased a box of Lucky Charms. I had crawled out of my first box. Starting small helps. I painted my toenails five shades of purple the other day. I never knew that was an option, because I was stuck in a version of how things are done. Breaking out of that was a mini spiritual awakening. If I was never aware of pedicure options, can you imagine all of the possibilities out there, just waiting for me to discover? God is so much larger that Cheerios and five red toes. God can also be more that making 75$ writing an article for the newspaper. God can be more that staying in an unhappy marriage or job. Scary stuff, but with a little nail polish I think I just might be able to save the world, or at least make a little dent.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A James Taylor Tradition

Every year local folk singer James Taylor plays in his hometown at Tanglewood, the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His shows are always sold out, bringing throngs of people to picnic on the lawn, and listen to music. I have gone to most of his shows, and it has become a sort of tradition for me, or is it a ritual. Picnic blankets are set up, along with citronella candles, bottles of wine, and array of food. Some folks put up buffet tables and families gather together in their little corner of the lawn to spend an evening. This year I purchased tickets in the shed, the indoor space, in case of rain. Usually we would picnic for the first half of the concert and watch inside once the sun goes down and cooler weather descends. I can track my growth, spiritual and otherwise through my memories of these very shows. Age fifteen I am walked into the concert by my boyfriend who directs traffic. We wander the maze on his break and I watch with girlfriends. Age 16, I decide to change my appearance right before a first date with a very cute boy. I decide to go brown instead of blond. It turns out green. We smoke cigarettes and drink Budweiser beer. Age 17, I fill a soda bottle with straight vodka and get really drunk. I lose the car and my boyfriend dumps me. Not a good show. Age 18, I forget, age 21, I bring my 2 year old and husband. We drink wine and have a picnic. Fast forward. The last three years, I bring diet soda, a full picnic, bread with cheese, strawberries and dessert. My boyfriend and I relax into the show, drink our soft drinks, and year after year, grow closer. I can never see how much I have grown until I compare myself against who I used to be. This year's incredible show with Sheryl Crow, I remember. I found the car within moments of entering the parking lot. Next year, James Taylor, hopefully with the same man, beautiful clear night, picnic and music. Thank God I grew up.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Please Don't Should on Me

I have a pair of Siberian huskies, great dogs, but a little naughty at times. One of my angels, we shall call her Jane, to protect her privacy, was very annoying to another dog the other day at play group. She wanted the dog to play, the dog didn't want to, so she decided to torture him until he did, howling incessantly in his face. I tried to stop her. Minutes of frustration later, and unsuccessful attempts at capture, the other dog took a time out. The next day a gentleman said to me, "You really should have had better control of your dog." Ten words and my day spiraled downward. I overreacted, got embarrassed, felt like a failure of a dog owner, and almost left the group and not returned. Out of the ten words said, the one that did the most damage was the word "should." I am sure we are all aware of things we should have done in the past. I am reminded everyday that I should have stayed single, should have gone to college right out of high school, should have left this job then, or taken that road. The thing is, I didn't, and there is nothing I can do to change what happened in the past. All I can change is the present. If that dog owner had come up to me and said, "Hey I see you had a hard time controlling your dog, maybe next time just give a call and I will help you out," things would have been different. Maybe the word is so volatile because I was married to someone who constantly told me how I should have done things differently, or maybe, just maybe, I do it to myself. That is why I reacted strongly to the gentleman, who was really trying to help. I am the one who holds herself up to high expectations. I am the one who shoulds myself to the point where one more utterance of the word throws me for a loop. I am the one who chooses to feel like crap when I pick on myself for making a mistake. I am the one with the complex. Today I am slowly asking for spirit to release the anger that is stuck to those ten words spoken. That irritation is not good for me. He helped to point out an area in my life that I need to work on. I should have more control over my dogs, but I don't. Maybe I can just ask for help next time. Lesson learned? Maybe, or maybe I should just chill out and enjoy the beautiful day.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Go Away Barbie, some of us have thighs.

I recently found an essay in my archives and shared it on Hub Pages: http://hubpages.com/hub/What-do-an-Anorexic-and-Barbie-have-in-Common
A friend and I were in the midst of a ten mile run and the topic of body image came up. Here we were, two healthy fit women, and we were picking apart our bodies. I lamented the fact that I was not at my target weight, whatever that is, and my friend who is gorgeous, was not satisfied with hers. Many women I talk to are not completely satisfied with their appearance. There is an entire medical practice that feeds off this dissatisfaction, plastic surgery. If I had been born at a different time I might have been considered too thin, as women were considered desirable if they had ample heft to bear children. Today I fall out of the cultural ideal, as waif -like models prance down the runaway and anorexia is an actual illness. I filled out a job application over the summer that asked my height and weight. I was honest, and never heard from them. Moving through a particularly scary time in my life, filled with transition and uncertainty, I find myself reaching for something on the outside to fill up an internal hole that is present whenever I live in fear. Today it is the obtainment of a body that may not be attainable. Tomorrow it may be sugar, diet soft drinks, or cigarettes. Addiction rears its ugly head in many different forms. One thing these all have in common is that it is an external solution to an internal problem. Wayne Dyer in one of his talks mentions that human made problems are not solved by human made solutions. The best answers are spiritual answers. The answer to all my problems today is to strengthen my relationship with my God, as I understand that God. I can take care of myself, live in a healthy manner, eat right, exercise and abstain from drugs and alcohol, but the aforementioned practices are only one part of the answer. I need to be content with who I am right now, my weight, my height, my skin color, and my life situation. Running 26.2 may help me to become healthier, and release much stress, but it is not the end all. I need to be content with who I am as a person without the external stuff, and that only comes when I stay connected with Source. Because I sure ain't Barbie.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Conversations with Agnostics

God just happens. That is what I believe. But there are days when I get sucked into fear, and it becomes a drug. The terror of not knowing I will be ok, when I am not connected to God, shoots adrenaline through my veins. I believe that it can become addictive, this living in constant fear, ready to flee at a moments notice. Over the last 24 hours the fear has spiked, being down to my last 50$ until late September, I get pulled in by the fear, forgetting that at every other time in my life when this has happened, a lucrative job comes by my way or unexpected money is found lurking. It is easier to stay in that fear, feel the difference it makes in my physilogical body, than to turn it over to a God that cannot be seen or heard, or proven to exist. It is more challenging knowing that everything is as it should be, and that as long as I keep taking small actions today I will be ok. That sounds like madness when credit card companies start to call. But today, after 24 hours of fear I wrote a poem on the magnetic poetry message board that I share with my teenage son. I wrote:

When grace happens
Then slips away
Silent into
The waking night.

And fear creeps in
With claws of sand
And eyes that withdraw
All delight.

Does one run and hide?
Or show one's face
To return to light
And return to grace.

He replied with a poem from an agnostic's point of view. How could I know God exists if I cannot see or touch her? How could there be a God with so much pain and suffering in the world? The place in me that lives in fear asks that. How do I know that it will all turn out the way it should, that I will land on my feet yet again. I don't, that is where I need to be, practicing faith. For five minutes I can sit with God, and know that I am connected, then for four I can sit with fear and wish to run. Then maybe I will try six with God. Over and over until I make progress. The answer to his agnostic point of view?

I breathe in God
with scent of roses
I feel God in sparkling grass
with dew on summer mornings.

God walks beside me
and brings me pleasure
It is I who choose
to be a conveyor of torture.

For my six minutes right now I choose to be a conveyor of peace. At this very moment I know that everything is as it should be. I am whole, happy, healthy and free.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rainbow Toes

I can feel the cool bite in the morning air now as we near September. When summer arrives, shoes come off and our feet touch the grass and something mystical happens. We connect with earth, toes grip the ground, heels dig into soil. I painted my toes rainbow colors the other day. This small act made me very happy, much more so than 5$ worth of nail polish should have. But there is something about the summer and being part of the surrounding world. We swim in the ocean, walk barefoot in grass, lie on beach sand and stretch out on rocks by raging waterfalls. Autumn comes, socks go on, jackets get zipped up, the days become shorter and we start to spend more time inside. No wonder winter sometimes bring with it depression. Our connections with solid and liquid earth are broken, we are floating free in the breeze, or flying through the air after hitting ice. I kayaked today with my dad, the water cradling both boat and driver. I was in the pond, surrounded by dragonflies and lily pads and Great blue heron. I am beginning to mourn the loss of summer, with its many pleasures and ways to experience the divine. This winter I will continue to paint my toes rainbow colors, so that I may conjure up the feeling of bare feet in smooth grass. Maybe I can even find the mystical in the warmth of spices and apples and warm meals by the fireplace. Or I could go bare foot anyway, my toes are done.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Treading Water

I am an instant gratification gal. I like to learn how to do something and be perfect at it the first time out. If certain things are not going fast enough, I get antsy and wonder if they were flawed to begin with. I despise treading water, staying in one place merely to keep one's head above water. This morning I explored that concept in my writing. What is it about staying in one place that actually scares me? I am still moving, although I am not moving forward. Certain relationships and career moves have been like this. I am frequently looking for the next goal to achieve and miss the fact that when one is treading water, one is able to stay floating in deep water. It doesn't always have to be onward ho, life can present opportunities to slow down and experience things more intimately. Staying in one place allows one to go deeper into relationship and experience, learning the details, and ultimately connecting on a spiritual basis. If I glance at a leaf for a few seconds I miss the details, the veins that run and create beautiful patterns, the bumps and imperfections, the color variations and texture. If I can slow down today I might have a chance to actually see life as it is unfolding, in its simplicity and splendor. But not right now because I have to run, Ciao.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Running Meditation

I am coming up on an anniversary of sorts, and every year at the end of summer I make a spiritual goal for the upcoming year. This past year's goal was to add a regular meditation practice to my day. Finally, over the last month I have set my alarm clock 15 minutes earlier, compensating by setting the actual time ahead a bit so I don't psychologically feel it, and have been starting the day with a ten minute silent meditation. I also found that there are other types of mediation that I can incorporate into my day. I use my time running as meditation, and find that when I return I am a little bit calmer than I was in the beginning. In this running meditation there is cadence (feet hitting pavement), breathing (especially on uphills), and a mantra (I hope I don't die, I hope I don't die). One of my favorite routes takes me from road to trail, running through pine forest, over rocks, and traversing a stream filled with cattails. As soon as I hit the trail my pace picks up, and I seem to receive energy from the woods. It is almost as if I am connecting with ancestors who ran trails through pines, running from saber tooth tiger or traveling to another village. My speed picks up and I experience the total joy of running. At these moments I am fully present and aware. I think that that is a goal of meditation, awareness of the body, the present moment, and the breath. I believe this culture leans toward frantic doing. Meditation brings me to frantic being. I guess that is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

God is Everything, Everything is God

Last night I wandered out into my backyard, for the briefest of moments. As I live in the country I could see millions of stars in the black night. If each of those stars represent a solar system, and I saw only a very small piece of the sky, there must be trillions of stars and planets out there. If so, I was a tiny, minuscule piece of a vast whole. If God or Goddess, or Great Spirit can create the Universe, my tiny prayers are like asking for a penny from Donald Trump. If the Universe is made by God, and I am part of that, I am God's creation and as so, I am a tiny piece of a miracle. Miracles do not sit by while others talk down to them. Miracles do not abuse their bodies. Miracles are filled with abundance and splendor. I have forgotten to look at my life as a miracle filled with unimaginable pleasures, dragonflies and hummingbirds, rose petals and cumulus clouds, pine forests and soft husky noses. The past few days I have been filled with fear, financial fears and fear of survival. I have not considered myself a miracle and part of God. I have forgotten that if I tap into the abundance that surrounds me I become part of that abundance. I can imagine my life as serene and thus look for the serenity in it. Feeling pass, I know that, and they pass quicker when I stay connected. The morning light has changed as the days get shorter, as my attitude changes with each passing experience. Today I pray to stay in serenity, abundance and God's love. Today I pray to be able to give away that serenity.

Afraid Not

I am still trying to figure out fear. Why? Not sure. I have moments during the day when I feel in tune with the Universe, that all is going to be OK, and other times when I lose that connection and feel like a frayed knot dangling in a wind storm. The fear tells me that I suck, that I am alone and will be unhappy. The fear wants me to be unhappy. Why do I keep allowing it into my life? If someone were to come to my door, bearing a pile of dung, saying, "I don't like you, I hope you have a horrible day," would I let them into my home? No. So why do I entertain fear on a daily basis. Everything is as it should be right now. I am taken care of by my higher power every moment of every day. There are just extended moments during the day that I choose to wallow in the unease that comes from being scared out of my mind about some future possibility that I have absolutely no control over yet may not even happen. That is insane. Where I am at today, what bills are paid or not paid, may or may not be where I am tomorrow. And where I am tomorrow, if I wake up in the morning, is just where I need to be for my spiritual growth. So am I afraid because I like the feeling of despair, or am I afraid for absolutely no reason other than that it is a habit? I watched a hummingbird feed at the window the other day. He stuck his long beak at the feeder, then tried to find other openings, flying underneath and poking at the plastic. I watched him, eat, rest, check things out, and eat again for ten minutes. In those ten minutes I was not afraid of anything. I was completely in the moment given to me. Deep breath, feel the fear, and tell it to hit the road. I don't want the gifts it has to give.

Monday, August 17, 2009

To Sleep with Mosquitos

There is a saying, "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito." I am paraphrasing, but you get the idea. This has been one of the rainiest summers in the Berkshires and with the humidity and heat, our mosquito population is flourishing. They will not make it to the endangered species list anytime soon. In fact, they are probably excited about global warming. They are pretty powerful insects when you think about it. For something so small, they take up an aweful lot of our thinking and conversations. Walking in the woods with a friend last week, doused in bug spray, I managed to escape with only 100 or so welts on my legs. They are not deterred by the chemicals we place on our body. They don't succumb to whispers of sweet nothings, flattery or begging. I tried all three on my hike. I finally resorted to running. You can outrun them, but stop and they catch up. There are articles written about them, whole conversations take place with this little creature as the topic. We have become mosquito obsessed. For a good reason, they are eating us alive. But I return to the quote. I could learn a lot from a mosquito, not a lesson in nutrition, but one in persistence. They will try to bite no matter who you are. They are not afraid to fail and go the extra mile, or three, to get their dinner. They are unaware of their size, and have no fear. They take chances, landing on an eyeball or wrist. This morning I was journaling about fear, mainly my fear of failure, but what goes with that is a fear of success. What if I succeeded at my goals? Would everyone like me or would they talk behind my back? Am I freezing up, skipping some work because it just might help me to succeed? Can I break the fear into pieces to examine them closer? What is behind the flight or fight? Am I feeling too small to make a difference? For me the process of writing keeps me sane. I sit and type and immediately feel a sense of serenity. But when I am upset I don't turn to my journal or computer, I turn to ice cream or anger or pity. Today I am holed up in my apartment, spending the day writing. I would like to think I could sit outside, but there is danger lurking. That is power and that is why I should pay attention to the lesson the tiny insects teach. Off to find my Caladryl.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Grace is Sunbathing

Coming home from vacation can be hard. Going from laying on the beach, bobbing in the ocean, eating homemade ice cream and sleeping in, to a quiet house filled with many to-do lists can be very disconcerting. What if every day could be vacation? I know I need to be grateful for the time that I did have, but that time gives me a taste of what I want, a relaxing life without stress. Good luck is what most people might say, you have to win the lottery, get rich in order to have a stress free life. Now I am not about to spout a Pollyanna view off, I know that in three weeks school will start and I will be busy 24 hours a day. But how can I bring in the ease that I felt at the beach to my daily life? Picking apart the time to see what is underneath the surface may be a place to start. While at the shore I allowed myself to sleep in and to nap on the beach. Is there a time during a busy week in which I could allow myself the luxury of a nap? I know that when I slept in those few days I felt a sense of peace, I didn't need to inject caffeine into my veins 24/7. This week, before the onslaught of homework, mine and my teenage son's, I might just see if I can limit myself to a cup of coffee in the morning and switch to green tea. Just because our physical trips do not last, the effects can, if I only allow them to. I don't have to suffer everyday, trudging through my life. I can bring a little relaxation into everyday with just a small shift. That shift could just be grace.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Presto Salto

There has to be something magical about salt air. I go to the beach, filled with stress and I go back home relaxed and renewed. Maybe the salt draws out the negativity that gets stuck in our muscle fibers. Or maybe it is the fact that when we go to the beach we sit out in the sun, watching the waves, reading books, or napping. It seems like Americans need to go someplace meant for relaxing in order to relax. I know when I take a week off and try to relax at home, the dog hair and the dishes and the bills get in the way. I don't usually give myself permission to just lie there, on a blanket, book in hand, rolling over every 20 minutes or so. I see what needs to be done,  feel guilty when it is not done and end up just as stressed as when I was working. You can't do that at the beach. Nothing really needs to be done. The ocean cleans the sand, the post person cannot find you to deliver your credit card statement and sometimes even, there is no cell service or high speed internet to get you working. Today I head to the beach. I  have much to do, magazines to read, a journal to write in, book club book to finish. Here I go again. Maybe I could bring the dirty dishes with me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Noisy Little Things

They are just words.
Allow them to linger on your lips.
Luscious
Cantankerous
Lollipops
Enchanted.
The scratching of pen to paper, the clicking of fingertip to keyboard, the strike of each typewriter key imprinting the letter onto crisp white paper. Words have melody, whether written down or said outloud. Each sound unique; defiant or delighted, savage or serene, irritate or inspire. When I say, "I love you," the L rolls off my lips languidly. When I say, "I hate you," the T bites the air, cuts it sharp. I love the sound of words, love their shapes and curves. When I was a little girl I would enjoy writing in my notebook, looping the L's when I learned cursive. Today I still love the freedom of the pen on notebook paper, my handwriting changing with each mood. But there is definitely something about the soothing sound of words to paper or screen that calms me down after an intense day, or brings me serenity at the beginning of one. Words are not silent, they are just a noisy bunch, looking to spice life up a bit. 

Monday, August 10, 2009

To Live or Not to Live

About five years ago I took a course titled Death and Dying at my Community College. The professor had us write one paper that changed my life. The assignment was to write out an alternate life. We could make up anything we wanted, be an alien living on Pluto, poor Pluto, or a rock star. The purpose of the assignment I believe was to open our minds up to possibility, no matter how absurd. It was a course more on living, because so many people are afraid to die because they are actually afraid to live. In my paper I wrote about my day in my new life, how I woke up, went for a run along the shore with deer and wildlife running beside me. I would get home to find my paramour waiting for me in my studio, which was part of a spiritual retreat center I owned. I was an interior decorator with many clients waiting in line for my work. My paramour, a tall blond man with blue eyes, would run with me in the mornings. Today I see that the assignment pointed me in a direction. I was no longer a gal without a clue of what she wanted to do with her life. I had a goal. A gentle man, a retreat, self employment and animals surrounding me. Taking that down to basics, those are achievable dreams. I have the man described in the paper, the details, the personality are so similar it is almost creepy, and I am working toward writing as a paid career choice. I am surrounded by animals, of whom I am so grateful, and would be even more grateful if I could get the hair out of my esophagus. My apartment sits on acres of land, near a pond and stream, and the deer stand there while you talk with them. They don't understand, "get off the road please," but that is besides the point. What do I want from my time here? A relaxing, joyful, passionate, spiritual, abundant, and sober life. What steps can I take to achieve that life? The first and only step may be, just do it. Nike would love me. Get up, take a run and find joy in each moment. Because when that happens, the fear of dying is replaced with the joy of living. I will say hello to the bears for you.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Spiritual Chaos Theory

My house is a mess. My cats have been redecorating as usual and my Siberian huskies have been shedding non- stop since March. I also have a teenager, enough said. This evening I decided to clean. My goal, the entire house, my finished product, half the kitchen and part of my desk. I am going to put everything into storage containers, papers, shoes, books, everything. The chaos has taken over my life. Every time I put a book on the desk, orange cat #2 comes by and moves it, to the floor. I think it looks better there, something about the pattern in the tile. When my house is chaotic, my mind is chaotic. I focus on all that has to be done, all that the teen has not done, all that the animals keep doing and what has been messed up within 45 minutes. I obsess and I kvetch, if that is the correct Yiddish term. And it is THE perfect excuse for my mind to chatter on, to build up resentments and to ultimately slack in my part of my relationship with God. What does the mess signify, that I am a slob, or that my mind is racing and my life is unmanageable. Probably both. It is also a representation of a mom trying to juggle responsibilities, raise a son, get to meetings and live a healthy active lifestyle, while partaking in a relationship and going to school. Maybe if I simplify a little bit, cut down on the chaos that surrounds me I will be able to slip into serenity. That is why this is a theory, because it is yet unproved. By the time I get the kitchen and bathroom clean and start on the living room, the kitchen will be a mess again. Time for some more experimenting.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Daily Definition of Courage

Today the scariest thing was to stay in the present. I don't like being there sometimes, unless it is a blissful moment. I wanted to hike up to Laura's Tower and fully experience the journey, hear the birds, smell the moss, and feel the air as it gets cooler the further you go. It is a shorter trail, 2/3 mile up, but my goal was terminated as soon as the mosquitoes swarmed. I felt truly loved, thousands of adoring fans surrounding me, just waiting to get a tiny piece. It was then that I realised I didn't have what it took in that moment to remain full present. I wanted out. So I tuned out, still ended up with welts from someone else's feast, but I had a great walk. Guess I'll try again tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It just ain't bragging if it's the truth

I have been working at a children's summer program this week, and it has triggered memories of myself at that age, 6 - 7th grade. One girl in particular I have found fascinating. I don't quite know what to make of her, but I do know that I have to develop skills that she possesses. She is highly intelligent and very skilled at many different things, crafts, gymnastics, and trivia. She was demonstrating one of her strengths the other day, when one of the boys called her a show-off. Now I can see myself at that age, I was a good student, artistic and creative. I did not show off, but it would have been better if I had. I instead yielded to peer pressure, and I started to hide. Smart kids were made fun of, called nerds. My chiropractor can show you where my spine curved as I started to round my shoulders and make myself appear smaller. In middle school showing skills in the classroom and arts is frowned upon by other students, yet showing off in sports, male dominated ones, is perfectly acceptable. I never noticed a baseball player not hit the ball because it would appear as if he were showing off. He gave it his all and got the accolades. Flash forward to today. I am in a highly competitive all female school, where intelligence is applauded and demonstration of skills appreciated. I took a summer course at my community college and instantly regressed, ashamed that I knew many of the answers to questions the teacher asked and forced myself to stay quiet. I feel shame now as I write about my intelligence. Why? The easy thing would be to blame the public school system that I attended, for building athletes up and reinforcing stereotypes by remaining silent. But I cannot, because I had the best education afforded by a public school. Some day I will be able to be like this child, and say, or maybe shout, "Here I am world, look what I can do." Until then maybe I'll just write about it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

But but but but

But what about me? I can be such a child sometimes. I have been watching a group of children this week, and noticing that they are such suckers for attention. They are seeking their very special place in the world, a place no one else can fill. I watch them crave attention, and to compete for an adult's focus. Their voices get louder and I actually start to see them as tiny adults making their way in this big big world. But as an adult myself, I need to realize that I don't have to be the center of attention. It is not all about me. I have carved out my 1000 square feet, and am out there, living life. I don't need the attention. I know that, but the little one inside is always screaming, "but what about me?"As an adult, I try to outdo other adults with tales of woe. I know I am not the only one out there. But my big toe hurts, but my leg hurts, but my whole body hurts, but my city is engulfed in pain, flaming pain. We try to outdo each other in these tales of how horrible life is to us. You don't see adults get attention and concern if they answer you, "I am having the most fabulous day of my life, I just want to sing love songs to all the world." No, that would be a crazy person. We are rewarded for our suffering. We are helped through the jungle when we are sick or suffering. Today I need to consciously make the choice to have a day where I do not need to be the center of attention, or even an object of attention. And that is hard, considering that mean lady just took my parking space and I am too tired and my pinky hurts. So there.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

To Dance Like a Grizzly

The day started out sunny and bright, then quickly changed to downpour. Welcome to the Northeast. The theme song for this year should be "Bright Side," by Monty Python, "Always look on the bright side of life / always look on the light side of life." Today, at the Bronx Zoo, I learned from a Grizzly bear a very valuable lesson. We were caught in a downpour making our way over to the Monkey House. As we passed the Bear exhibit we saw a Grizzly dancing in the rain. He did a full turn followed by a series of small hops, and finishing with a turn. He was splashing in puddles and having a grand ole time while we were covered in rain gear, making our way quickly to the next stop. I want to learn to dance like that bear, to take the rain as the bearer of puddles. I want to be able to always enjoy puddles. I guess I will have many chances to practice this summer!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Fanning the Flames of Fear and other "F" words

I had a few hours last night in which I sat by a fire, very close to it, and actually put my toe in for a second. I found out that I would be responsible for some debt my name was attached to, that had been being paid by the other party. Drama injection coming right up, at least 3cc's of the stuff please. I handled it quite well I believe, only a mild hangover today. I did not feel anger, I actually felt numb. My first response was to head to my God box and place a slip of paper inside with the problem spelled out. I then turned to fear. God hadn't answered my prayer in twelve whole seconds, twelve, seconds. The fear came out in sobs, then I turned to injustice. Everyone is out to get me, he just wants to screw up my life, etc etc etc. I should have probably dressed up in full Shakespearean costume for that performance, although only in my head, it was still drama at its most flamboyant. What I needed though was to feel those emotions, the sense of injustice, the drama of it all, because, like all intense feeling, it passed. It passed through because I didn't reach for the ice cream, or alcohol to stuff it back down inside to then turn into a major resentment. Because it is prime resentment material, it could blow into a bonfire. I might actually start to mix metaphors, while hating half of the Eastern coast for doing me wrong. Today, after a full nights rest and a healthy breakfast and chat with God, I can see that while in fear, I forgot how much I actually have. I have purple sandals. Life doesn't get much better than that. I believe that gratitude snuck in last night while I was asleep. God answered my prayer, it just took longer than twelve seconds, but that answer was a sense of serenity amidst a stressful situation. The old belief that has no purpose; everyone is out to get me, is replaced with a new belief, that I am a whole person, and my life is filled with abundance and love. All I need to do is allow myself to open my hands and receive, minus the injection of drama.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Art of Living Independently

I think I need a remedial life skills class. I went from living in my parents' house to living with a roommate, to my husband of many years. I am now living on my own, out in the big world and sometimes find myself lacking in many skills necessary to living independently. I know how to manage a household as a couple, I watched my parents do this, and while married shared the load of living in a household. Today though I am responsible for the whole shebang, including garbage, bills, mowing, and dishes. The details seem endless and start to pile on top of me while I sleep, along with layers of animal fur. I forgot to call the doctor again to make an appointment for my son. Oops, ran out of butter, and the mac and cheese is all cooked. The registry doesn't inform you anymore that you need to renew your registration every two years? Details, details, details. I have a vision of living my life, everything falling into place like a Monet, yet I forget that I have to learn to use a pencil and draw a straight line first. I need a book titled, "The Art of Living Independently," because this is just not working. Maybe today I will start with a line, take out the garbage and just let everything else go, except for the ticket I need to pay before they snatch my registration away. Oh and butter might make the mac and cheese taste better than rubber. Maybe I'll write that book, because I sure do need it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Big Fat Juicy Resentment, To Go Please

There are just some days when I cannot seem to remember how fabulous my life is and I wake up itching for a fight. Today was one of those days. I had to leave the house I was staying at earlier than usual, which meant that I had to wake up earlier than usual. I ended up running late, and upon entering my door found a ceramic jewelry box smashed on the floor, earrings strewn throughout my house. My cats had invented a new game, one that I was not ever planning on playing with them. I had stumbled upon some extra work this week, so my daily routine; meal, running, writing, and meditation had been disrupted, and I am feeling the difference. I went out into the day with my fists in the air, ready to taste blood, not at all like me, an eggplant eating vegetarian gal who tries not to step on the ants or run over frogs crossing the road. Cars would pass me while I was finally running this evening, going well over the speed limit, and my anger would surge. I looked like a maniac, a sweat covered, muttering, red - faced maniac. What is my part in this day? How had I contributed to the madness? An anonymous writer once said, "We shall want to hold ourselves to the course of admitting the things we had done, meanwhile forgiving the wrongs done us, real or fancied." Most of the wrongs done to me today were fancied. I could have stayed at home last night instead of a friend's house, allowing for added sleep. I could have refused the extra work. I could have made sure to eat enough and hydrate before my run, lessening the irritability that comes from not enough glucose in the bloodstream. I could have put all of my possessions in plastic containers, as it is not the first time my cats, mostly young cats, have decided to redecorate. And I am writing now. Today I forgot my gratitude and craved the energy that comes with a good ole resentment, broiled to perfection and served with fries. I guess its back to tofu.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Of Muscles and Mowing and Music, Oh My

I recently decided, with the help of a very cool friend, to run my first marathon. I have been running sporadically since 2004. I go through phases where I will run my route when it is sleeting or 90 degrees, and when I just cannot get the motivation to stand. I have set this goal though and hopefully, October 10, I will run 26 miles. Since making this decision I have had to up my mileage, and took my first long run on Friday. I had my trusty water pack and sports gel, and was armed with lots of music. And I am pleased to say that I made it, almost 11 miles of road covered, mostly flat and I learned an incredible amount from those 2 hours. First, that I have muscles in my body that I did not know existed. Second, that my lungs have healed from years of smoking a pack a day. Third, that there are so many details that I miss in my day to day existence. I experienced a different perspective while running on the road, instead of driving down it at 50 mph; neighbors that have horses, a house for sale that has a beautiful building behind it, and the different way that people mow their lawns. I contemplated the mowing patterns, vertical, horizontal or diagonal, wondering if it had anything to do with the people themselves or just a fluke. I saw the property lines in grass, one neighbor mowing to a point, the other a week behind. I appreciated the perspective I gained of a world that is so much more than just a blur viewed out the windshield. I am hoping to keep this sense of appreciation for detail as I go into the next two months of training. If nothing else happens I can say that this girl, who almost failed gym class, is giving it a shot. Hello tiny ankle muscles, nice to meet you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Just Laugh Already

My friend laughed last night at a humorous remark I made. He really laughed, not just a fake one to appease me. I love it when people truly laugh. There is a huge difference. In true laughter we let our guard down for just that brief moment and experience joy. I know it sounds mushy, but his eyes light up and his whole face opens when he laughs. When we truly allow ourselves to laugh we let go of a need to control ourselves and our surroundings. I am not so sure that us human folk like to give up control. Look around you, everywhere you will see humans harnessing and controlling the natural environment. We build dams to control water, harness electricity, blow up mountains to build roads, and genetically modify our crops and animals. There are very few people that truly know who I am. I have a mask that I wear in a job, my customer service mask, I have a face I put on when I am at school or with family, or different friends. Rarely do I just open up and say, "Here, this is who I am, I am displeased and anxious right now so leave me alone." I smile and say thank you. Now we need to have manners, and we need to alter our personalities to some point to deal with life, but I think we also have to strike a balance, unclench, lighten up and experience pure joy. Children have it down, watch them. They are in their full glory. They will burst out into gales of laughter if something is funny, and stay quiet at something that is not. An adult will give a polite little laugh at the funny and not so funny. My cats will experience the pure joy and abandon of chasing a flying insect through the house at 2:30 am. I guess maybe we could learn a lot from children and animals about the joy that is all around us, every day. This morning I woke up to songbirds, belting out a tune, just because they were awake and alive and it was morning. Maybe I should try that tomorrow when my alarm goes off, then have a good laugh and appreciate the fact that I didn't die in the middle of the night. Maybe, just maybe I'll try it. Or maybe I'll sleep in.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Early Morning Symphonies

Songbirds first graced our presence in the Miocene age, 25 million years ago, many millions of years before homo sapiens. Every morning when I sit down to write, I hear them singing. Each day holds a new composition, and I have taken to calling them songbird symphonies. They can be broken into movements as new voices start to sing, and the rhythm and speed varies. The concert ends as my teacup becomes empty, and I leave for my day filled with peace. It is amazing how just the sound of birds can help me to ease into my day. A friend of mine was telling me the story of how she had to comfort her daughter as the little girl watched trees being cut down on an adjoining property for a development. The little girl had learned in school that trees provide oxygen and take in carbon dioxide, our waste product. She had seen a pair of deer standing there with no place to go and she started to cry. I imagined how many homes were destroyed as the trees were chopped; songbird, squirrel, and insect. How many nests ended up going through the shaver? As I sit here in my home and listen to the songbird symphonies I realise just how lucky I am to have access to this beautiful music in the morning. Looking back in geological time I see that we haven't really been here that long, and that the Earth has changed drastically in the 4.6 billion years it has been around. We were not here first, and we probably won't be here last. I'll create the music now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Making Friends

I consider myself a technology neophyte. Yes I have been using email for years, but my cell phone is a recent acquisition, a mere three years ago, and I have just discovered Facebook, blogging and Twitter. Unexplored territory still abounds. There is a phone on the market that allows the user to track their hikes, bikes, or runs, the mileage and terrain, and save the route to Google. The communications industry appears to be booming. It seems that we are all desperate to stay connected with each other. I have people following me on Twitter that I do not even know, and I have posted there exactly once. I discover that when I am home alone I tend to check my email numerous times a day, both school and home. That need to connect with someone can sometimes be a little obsessive. Of course I have an opinion on this subject. As a culture we seem to be so busy that there isn't any time left over to really connect with friends, family, and the natural world. If I came to you from the 1800's, I would probably be living with extended family. We would converse face to face, on a daily basis, maybe as we rocked while working on needlepoint. Today, I do not see your face, I text message a note, email, or leave a message on your voice mail. A real person to person connection is not reached very often. And so we use what we have in a desperate attempt to connect in a world that hardly allows for it. But then again we all have access to many more people than we did before we had transportation and a weekly trip to the market and church was our social life. Maybe that is the gift in this communication age, the ability to connect with thousands instead of 10. Or maybe it is the curse.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How to Train a Cat


Sorry, that was a joke. I have four cats. I love my cats. That being said, I must say that they have taught me numerous valuable lessons. Did you know that it is not cool to have possessions anywhere near a flat surface? That includes shelves, tables, desks and counters. Maybe it messes up the feng shui of the house, as mine are constantly rearranging my living space. Maybe I have bad taste, I did think that the ceramic statue of the Buddha looked nice on my writing desk, but alas, it is now in a drawer. It no longer has hands or feet, and a big chunk of his head broke off after my angels made their opinion known. I also now know that meditation is best done in chaos. I cannot complain. For the most part they are quiet all night, unless there are insects milling about. They do like to party when I sit down and close my eyes and try to go to a peaceful space and focus on my breath. Maybe they are placing me on the fast track to enlightenment, if I can stay still while a game of catch is going on at 5:30 am, then I can handle anything. Life is supposed to be fun. Just play in an empty box or bat a milk cap around and you will see just how good it can be. I guess today I need to lighten up, play a little more, lay off the catnip, watch the birds, and take a nap. All that advice for a can of cat food, not bad.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Eviction time

For some reason, this morning I was remembering an incident that took place 15 years ago, and a resentment that has been taking up space in my head and not paying rent. One evening I was waitressing at Red Lobster, and had a table of six. One young man at the table had a Williams College sweatshirt on. At some point during the meal I remarked that Williams was one of my school picks. I was in my early twenties and just getting back on track after a 3 year derailment. The mother at the table remarked that I probably couldn't afford to go there. That one statement, made just as an aside without malice, has stayed with me for years. I seethed with anger after she said it, how dare she say that, just because I was a waitress did not mean that I wasn't smart enough or savvy enough to get into a great school. The thing is, and it just dawned on me this morning, reliving it, was that some part of me must have believed it. There was a part of me that needed someone to make it alright that I had not yet achieved a goal I had set. It did take me many more years before I transferred from my local community college, and maybe she did me a favor. There is a piece of me that sometimes just wants to say, see, I did it, you were so wrong. That piece kept me in school long enough to transfer. That woman has taken up space in my head for fifteen years. But now I am evicting her, because I do believe that I can get into a great school, I did last year, and the school I am in is a much better match. I am, however dating someone who graduated from Williams. I think the track has cleared.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mystic Biology 103

Sometimes driving through a quaint tourist town in the middle of the summer can try even the most patient of people. I would think that even the Dali Lama would grow tense if he drove through my hometown in July. Today I ask, what would he do? This afternoon as anger burbles to the top, I am desperately trying to conjure up the peace and connection I felt just yesterday as I floated on a pond in a kayak with my dad. The only loud sound there was a plop, when a kingfisher dropped into the water for a bite to eat. Today I rush around getting tiny errands done, little significant things like buying food, that seem to take so much time, and I long for the peace and clack of my computer keys. I did not remember that if I can find a shared connection or bond with all the folks that I grumble at, I will cease to grumble and feel better. I will actually cut them some slack. I often see people who share a common interest acknowledging each other, motor cyclists, postal workers, and yes, I have even waved at fellow Toyota Yaris drivers. I see runners and bikers who pass by each other on their daily trip, wave and say hello. Twelve step members sometimes find themselves friends with people who they would have never mixed with had they not had a common life-threatening disease. Political groups or environmental groups, their numbers bursting with different personalities, bond over a shared purpose. I guess I even have something in common with the person who just stopped in the middle of the parking lot without warning, we both evolved from a bacteria cell almost 3 billion years ago. Maybe that is the only connection that I can conjure up today for the parking lot extraordinaire. I kind of like thinking of them as bacteria.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The insects are coming, the insects are coming

Why do moths fly toward light and caterpillars stretch toward darkness? Is it that when we mature we tend to look toward the presence of something rather than its absence? And what happens in between, when the caterpillar decides that it is time to break free of its confines? My claustrophobic caterpillar has been getting antsy off and on for a while. There are many more days that I do look at the light side of life, compared with just a year, or a month, or even a day ago. It seems that the more I start eating my way out of my cocoon and self imposed isolation, the more comfortable I feel in the light of day. For now though my kitten is bounding through the house, climbing the window frames, and falling on bookshelves chasing the many moths assembled outside of my window, trying to get to the light of the lamps, and away from the black of a cloudy summer evening. Instead of marveling at his zest for life and full attention to the present moment I have chosen to grumble at the books that have now fallen back onto the floor. I guess I need to go back to my chrysalis and wait for maturity, or just watch my fearless hunters catch the big game.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Outrageous Serenity

I think that our culture primes us to default at unhappy/miserable/depressed/screwed up. Without continued unhappiness our economy might possibly tank. Who would buy Prozac or sports cars or zillions of dollars worth of weight loss/anti aging potions? If our default was serenity and happiness, why would we need to shop? Besides the obvious, because it's fun. Lately I have been noticing that people get uncomfortable when things are really good. I know I get that way. We say, "I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop," or "It looks like it will rain again today," or "What a Pollyanna." These are ways that we sit in the ooziness of depression. It is then OK to fill up on Ben and Jerry or draw attention to ourselves by relating our latest woes. Happy people who have great lives just don't have people saying to them, "What can I do to make your life easier?" Happy people are shunned. There is nothing wrong with them, they are not partaking in the economy, and they do not need our love and attention. At this very moment my life is fabulous. I am at my laptop writing, which I love to do, my cats are strategically placed around me, my plants are still alive, and yes, I have an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's in the freezer (Haagen Daaz will suffice.) If I were to call up people right now and say, "Hello, I am feeling fantastic," they might think I have gone insane. Well I am fantastic today, and I am on my way to outrageous serenity. I still need a new pair of shoes, but not because my life lacks for anything, but because they are shoes. Come on.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Running Sutra, 168 beats per minute

I downloaded some new music onto my iPod this morning before my run, and noticed that there was a change in my motivation. I made it up the hills just a little bit faster and had a little more spunk as I traversed the AT. This morning's Running Sutra was that music has such a profound impact on my life. My mile time definitely decreased today, even after a sleepy, groggy, start to the day. Maybe some of it was the endorphin level I was experiencing, endorphins that were almost as tasty as the brownie I ate before hand. Tia DeNora conducted a study that was published in 1999 on the effects of music on individuals as well as how we use music to alter our moods. This past Saturday evening I attended a Bebe Newerth concert at The Mahaiwe. The songs that she sang were all in story format. I perked up and listened to the words as well as the music used to portray emotions that went along with the action. At one point she slipped into a rendition of the Beatles, "Blackbird," a song that for some reason grabs my heartstrings and yanks. I always tear up when the song is played. A version of "Garden of Love," sung by a choir has me sobbing on the floor, quite an embarrassment to those that attempt to take me out into public. Now I just need that magical music that will help me memorise DNA replication for my quiz tonight. Maybe, "Duplicate" by White Town?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mystic Biology 102

This morning I was contemplating the difference between isolation and solitude. Last night's biology class helped to shed some light on the former. We were studying cancer cells and their life cycle. One rogue cell would plant itself down for a nice rest and decide to multiply. At first the cells stay in one place, just hanging out. There comes a time though when they start sneaking into different hangout spots, spreading throughout the body. Isolation, for me, acts similarly. I have one thought, usually made from my pity pot (still covered in jewels) that just hangs out for a bit. But left alone it decides to seep throughout my body, sneaking into my thoughts until I believe that no one likes me, everybody hates me and why don't I have any friends. Isolation is sneaky, it moves quietly until it takes over. Isolation keeps me from the truth. Solitude brings me closer to it. There is a difference. Solitude brings me closer to conscious contact with God. Isolation cuts off contact and cuts away the healthy parts of my mind. Solitude allows for silence, for peace, and for conversation with Spirit. I feel the difference today as I sit in my yard, the blue heron has just flown overhead. The only sounds I hear are the brook trickling in the back, the mosquito flying past, the rustle of the oak leaves as a breeze comes. In solitude God is in the sounds, the trees, the grass and even the mosquito. Today I choose solitude instead of isolation. I may not choose the biology class over Milton, but the sun is shining, the clouds are puffy and the grass is tickling my feet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Here comes, oops, goes the Sun

Living in New England I have grown accustomed to frequent weather "issues." Snow, ice, wind and rain are all just what we deal with in the Berkshires. I will take those over earthquakes and tornadoes any day. At the beginning of June I came up with a brilliant goal. I would try to be completely positive about one thing, and it happened to be the weather. The topic of weather always comes up when speaking with strangers, in line at the grocery store, the guy pumping gas next to you at the gas station, and the telemarketer looking to butter you up. "Looks like rain." "Can you stand this heat?" "I heard six inches." My goal preceded a June that saw almost no sun. For eighty percent of the month, drops fell from the sky or threatened to. I have a picture on my cell phone of a patch of white (hail/snow) set against a background of lush green grass, taken in mid June. I do not remember any month as rainy in my home region. Attitudes were declining, and we are a hearty bunch of people. What's a foot of snow? Not enough to keep us home. But by the end of June my goal was not met. I had abandoned it. I was at the point where positivity could just go back to its hole. There is a light at the end of the tunnel however, or at least a partly sunny light. I have seen the sun over the last few days. Today I am not taking it for granted, because it could soon disappear. Like a flower I open up and soak in every minute of sunlight that makes its way through the cloud cover. Every moment is precious. I have watched people become giddy when they see its rays for 30 seconds. Maybe we have learned to appreciate it more after these days of dark. I haven't heard anyone complain about the heat or humidity, I have seen them express gratitude for every moment of sunlight given. I have learned that sometimes the goals that I make that seem to be the easiest are sometimes the most difficult to achieve. Nothing is guaranteed. Maybe this month I have learned a bit of humility as well. No, I cannot do absolutely everything I set my mind to the first time I attempt, but just as the sun peaks out from behind the storm clouds for moments at a time, I can be grateful for all of the goals I have reached, and keep trying to reach the ones I have not. It is now July, today's forecast is partly sunny, with a chance of thunderstorms. I am heading outside now to open my face to the sun, to soak in its beautiful rays, because two minutes from now it could be gone.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chocolate covered fear

Most of the time I am able to skip dessert, well some of the time maybe. Sometimes I just cannot resist that something sweet at the end of the meal. I have already nourished my body, but need that sweet shot to add a little zing to the meal. But what ends up happening, is the sugar rushes into my blood, and my body becomes overwhelmed, unable to process the energy it did not need to begin with. I end up exhausted after the initial rush. They say that life is like a bowl full of cherries. Well I like mine chocolate covered. For the most part, my life is that bowl of cherries, sweet, ripe and juicy. I am on a fabulous journey, filled with sweet friends and just a hint of juicy drama. But every so often I overindulge. I gorge myself on fear. Most mornings I wake up and give thanks for all of the cool presents I receive. Today, however, I was paralyzed by the fear that I will not make it, and that God, who has not dropped me yet, will somehow trip over a pebble and drop me flat on my face. Everything I had planned for the day did not materialise, and what did was a ticket for not having my registration in the car. I forgot to send in the check, oops. Financial insecurity gripped me and started to squeeze, the abundance that surrounds me started to dull. Right now I am acknowledging that fear as an unnecessary sugar rush. It gives me energy, yet leaves me depleted at the end of the day. The calories are empty, it does nothing to nourish my body or spirit. It adds unnecessary drama to the day, a day that was perfect if I look back on it without a self induced sugar coma. My ticket would have been much higher had the officer actually been able to access the Internet from his car. If my morning appointment hadn't been cancelled, I would still be driving around in an unregistered car, oblivious. If it hadn't stormed this evening, I wouldn't have been able to sit and write. Everything is in perfect order. I just need to remember today that no matter what my mind says to me, I do not have to overindulge in fear today. Take one bite, savor it for a few minutes and give the rest of it to God. She can handle the sugar buzz.

Monday, July 6, 2009

F.e.a.r.

I have heard many friends say that fear stands for either; fuck everything and run, or face everything and recover. For some reason I was pondering the word fear on my run today. My route takes me down a highway and eventually I veer off to a portion of the Appalachian Trail. For some strange reason I can run on the road, no problem, even when you can see the driver applying makeup or changing the radio station and coming just a tad too close for comfort. But when I head down the trail, immediately thoughts of saber toothed tigers and grizzly bears invade the serenity of the woods. Each twig snapping is not a squirrel, but a rabid fox, that will take me down with its bloodied fangs. I miss the lush green that shifts to wetlands within a quarter mile, because my brain is on overdrive. I pant to the top of the hill to the road and semi trucks that somehow seem safer than the dark of the forest. I wanted to create a new acronym for fear, and the only positive one that I came up with was, Find Every Abundance Radiantly. Now I do not know if that makes any sense to you, but it does for me. I was in a most beautiful part of the trail, the path was soft with pine needles, I crossed over a brook filled with cattails, and ran through moss covered rocks and ivy. I did not see the abundance that surrounded me, on all sides. I chose to feel fear, fear of mauling by extinct species at that. Today, for the rest of the day I choose to find each and every abundance radiantly. If not radiant then what?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Obstacle or Detour

Someone mentioned the word obstacle this morning and it got me to thinking. Looking back at the obstacles I have faced over the last few years, I find that the each bump has forced me to go in a different direction. That direction cut my travel time down, kind of like hitting a detour that isn't longer than your actual route (I know that's stretching it a bit). Two years ago I was desperately seeking new employment. I applied for numerous jobs that I possessed the skills to be successful at, yet they weren't places where I would find joy. I was in the running for a different position with my current employer, but was passed over. I was depressed, and started to lose faith in my abilities. Thank God I did not find a job at that time, because I would have never applied at the college I am now attending, taking courses that make me smile, and sometimes even skip. It would have taken me longer to get to the place I am today. I am a full time student, and next semester I will be studying children's literature, poetry, philosophy, Italian and short story writing. Compare that to scheduling volunteers and organising fundraisers. I am glad I hit that boulder in the middle of the road. I am taking a road less traveled, but the view is spectacular.