Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Meet Them At The Door Laughing

This morning Chewy ran into the neighbor's yard to chase a squirrel and didn't come when I called. The sky was gray. It started to rain. Claire and I went to the bus stop where the boys shoot each other with sticks and throw pine cone grenades. I knew she didn't want to go to school. I didn't want to send her. I felt like crying.
"I want to travel," she said, "and walk by the river with Chewy."

Back at the house, I sat on the sofa and cried. 
"Michael, I don't know what to do! Where do I fit?"
"Right here," he said, putting his arms around me.
"I feel like a lost teenager, a slacker, a loser, a big crybaby! I'm a grown-up, for God's sake. Shouldn't I know what I'm doing?"
"You have to remember, honey, this stuff isn't always easy."
This made me cry more, that deep heaving cry that says, give it up already, dammit! I wasn't even sure what I was crying about so I gave him a whole list: kids, work, dogs, money, old parents, the world.

"I saw a show the other night," I said, "CNN Heroes. All these people, doing remarkable things against the odds. A man making lamps for children in Kenya. And the tiny woman who runs a home for women and girls who've been sex slaves, girls Claire's age! She won the award. She got up and quietly said, 'Namaste'. She asked the audience to close their eyes and imagine a girl they love, a daughter. Then she said, 'We must do something. We must stand up!' We should be doing something!" I said. 

I cried for a half-hour straight. Then Michael went to work and I went upstairs to sift through a box of papers. When I found this poem, I cried some more. 

This being alive/This being human...

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond.


Monday, November 29, 2010

When In Doubt

The shadow contains a wealth of knowledge about ourselves. As writers, we're seeking to live without self-deception or self-delusion. We're seeking a way through the mysteries of the world. We're seeking to make meaning from the chaos we see all around us. Don't be afraid of or oppose that which is within your own flesh. Awareness allows you to work with it without causing harm to yourself or others. Awareness opens; fear closes. When in doubt, choose opening.

- Laraine Herring (Writing Begins With The Breath)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Inside Stuff

Staring out the window is a little like watching a movie. There's the outside stuff: squirrels, sunbeams, leaves, falling snow.

Then there's the inside stuff, a slide show of random images passing through the mind, click click click, on a Sunday morning while I'm curled up on the couch...

The December night Mom died ~

Square dancing with Jeffrey Wheeler in 5th grade ~

Eating three slices of pepperoni pizza like a she-wolf after 24 hours of laboring Jesse into the world ~

Warm hugs, soft kisses kind of thoughts about my husband, then out of the blue, a squealing sharp left turn. Suddenly I feel disconnected and out of sorts with him. Yank the wheel back to love ~

The complete soundtrack to the King and I ~

Such a busy busy mind for a quiet morning. Eventually after enough staring at squirrels and blowing leaves, the heart softens and the mind rests in the present moment, however briefly.

Chewy is a quick study. Two weeks of hanging out with me and he is so down with staring out the window. I haven't a clue what's running through his doggy head but it sure is comforting having another full-time daydreamer in the house.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

It Doesn't Matter

This is Carys Jackson, my beautiful, straight-talking, dog-loving, deaf niece. My sister-in-law, Elaine, told me a story about coming up the stairs and hearing Carys talking to herself in her bedroom. This is what she heard Carys say:

"It doesn't matter what you look like. It doesn't matter what you sound like. It doesn't matter if you can't hear. What matters is how you treat people in the world."

Elaine said, "The kid is my moral compass, hands down."


Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Love Toast Too!

Yesterday's front page was all about filling up today, (gorging), so you'd have enough energy to hit Walmart at midnight to tackle someone over a 46 inch plasma television for $499.99. The whole thing made me queasy.

Today's front page, on the other hand, is a sea of faces, young and old, black and white, rich and poor, answering the question...

What are you thankful for?

Surviving the sixties and having done a full spectrum of things in my life. - John, 61

Family, friends, and my lovely boyfriend. - Ashley, 16

I'm thankful for growth in my life. - Reginald, 36

Fave of the day goes to Alex, a five year old who said, School, teachers, my friends, and toast.

I love toast too! 

And you, dear readers, and a million other things.

I am filled with gratitude for This Being Alive and for our small, but thriving tribe. Peace and blessings to you and your families and this sweet, old earth.

xo b

ps. oh my! it's snowing!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You Know The Kind

Team Sister (Jesse & Claire) did it again, running their second YMCA 5K. The morning was chilly and clear; perfect running weather. This is a post-race shot with Chewy squeezing in...

It was Chewy's first race, a major socialization experience, hanging on Main Street in a crowd of strangers on a Sunday morning. I'm happy to report he passed with flying colors, calmly sniffing shoes and butts and the occasional friendly hand as we walked him through the crowd. People murmured and smiled over his big ears, but Chewy didn't notice. He was way too busy sticking his nose into a number of dog crotches, tail a-wag-wag-wagging. 

When the church bells rang, precisely at nine, I felt washed in happiness. Something about standing on the curb of Main Street as the runners took off. The crowd cheering, cameras clicking, bells ringing. Shouting to my daughters as they ran by. GO! You can do it! The morning sun on my face, Chewy leaning into my leg. 

It was one of those pure moments. 

You know the kind.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Waiting To Speak

I ran into my friend, S. when I picked Claire up from a Saturday cooking class. We leaned against the wall in the small classroom and waited for our girls to finish up. 

"How's the writing going?" I asked.
S. looked at me. Tired eyes.
"Well, I've had this character sitting at a kitchen table for the last ten years," she said. 
"Ten years?" I say.
"I can see her at the table. The window's behind her. Her fingers are wrapped around a cup of coffee. She's been sitting there so long the coffee's turned cold. Her fingers are numb and she doesn't even realize it. There's a man there too. He is coming down the stairs. He's about to walk through the doorway to the kitchen. You know how you can feel when something's about to happen? The man knows something's about to happen."
"What's about to happen?" I ask.
"I don't know. She hasn't told me yet." 
"Does she have a name?" 
"Nope. She hasn't spoken yet. I'm waiting for her to speak."
"Wow. Ten years? I wonder what she's going to say?"
"I don't know. Ten years is a long time." S. says.

The girls came over with tupperware containers full of cake and apple crumbly. We hugged goodbye. 

I keep thinking about the woman in the kitchen.

Ten years is a long time not to speak.

What have you wanted to say for ten years?

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Just A Bone

Claire and I sat in the car at at the bus stop, watching the boys swinging sticks and hitting the tree.
Claire said, "I feel nervous about middle school. Sid seems to have it figured out, she seems to have settled in. But I'm worried about changing classes, what if I get lost. I hope everything's on the first floor."

It's only November. She won't have to deal with the reality of that new life change until next fall. But see? We all do this. We run ahead of ourselves, believing if we ruminate long enough, our worries and trepidation will be swept away. We'll have solved the perceived problem. Whatever ails us will be gone, ruminated to death. 

It doesn't work like that. I know this well. I speak from years of experience as an Olympic-ranked ruminator. Give me anything: work, children, marriage, parents, wrinkles, and I will chew that thing like a dirty old bone found half-buried in the yard. It may be coated in grass and leaves, clumps of mud, some bugs. This only adds to the deliciousness of the ruminating, the terrible, gnawing taste of it. I will work it over. And over.

But the thing is, when I finally let myself drop the bone, I'm exhausted. Bone-weary. There's no relief, not anymore clarity than when I started. Exhausted and agitated, I have lost the game.

Clarity comes when I drop the bone. When I stand still and see it on the ground at my feet, touching the tip of my black boot. 
"It's just a bone," I say.
That's all.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Live Your Gratitude

November 18

Kindness is gratitude in action.

Living Your Yoga: 

What one person, circumstance, or thing are you grateful for today? Express your gratitude quietly to yourself, and then live your gratitude by offering kindness to those you meet throughout your day.

- A Year Of Living Your Yoga 
   by Judith Hanson Lasater

(on the mat with Chewy)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Very Foreign Language

...be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign language. 
                           - Ranier Maria Rilke

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Count Backwards

My brother, Rob, was having lunch with a woman named Debbie whose boyfriend had left her after 15 years of being together. Debbie was devastated. That’s what she told Rob. 
"I'm devastated," she said.
And then she said, “Want some good advice?”

Maybe he nodded or said yes, or maybe she plunged right in. 
She said, “Stop talking about it. Just stop talking about what happened to you or how sad you feel or how you cannot believe you had to move out...This is what I do,” she told him. “I count backwards by seven. Let’s say you start at 357, you can pick any number, really. but let’s say you start there. So, you start... 357, 350, 343, 336...and just keep counting. Stop talking about it. That doesn’t help at all. Count backwards.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Really Good Thing

Elizabeth was a spotted dog for Halloween. Maybe that tipped us towards getting *Chewy. Hard to say. But I was up and out throwing tennis balls at 7:15 this morning in the sprinkling rain and cool fresh air. When the dog was running back to me, green ball in his mouth, tail wagging, I thought, this is a good thing.

Dogs get you up and moving. Babies do too. And other things like writing and walking. And work. Everyone has something that gets them up and moving. So, what gets you? A hot shower, a class full of kids, a saxophone, a cat, a calling? 

I've been reflecting lately on the timing of things, how they show up; a dog, a baby, a Dad, right when I seem to be on the verge of independence, whatever that means...a studio apartment with plant cuttings in jelly jars lined up on the window sill? My own bed? Traveling the world (without flying)?

Things to love keep showing up. This is a good thing. 

Before the bus stop, Claire and I walked Chewy for the third time. Walking and talking with my kid in the cool air is a good thing. 

The This Being Alive tribe definitely gets me up and moving. 

You're a really good thing too.

*Read Chewy 11/9/10

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Without A Map

I've been thinking about writing and how every day I come back to it. Good days, bad days, no matter. Not just to This Being Alive, but other pieces that I'm working on as well. I write not knowing what the pieces are about, or where they're taking me. The stories tell themselves when I get out of the way. And the veil lifts more readily when I'm willing to jump in with both feet. This seems true for anything that I have a passion for...

Writing, yoga, parenting, marriage, love, ice cream...

This is the creative process; mysterious, spiraling, often shadowy. I'm dropping the doubt. Or shaking hands with it. Either way, I'm happy to report that after all these years of showing up, I'm finally allowing myself to enjoy the walk without a map. 

Of course, reading informs my writing. It connects the dots. This small piece is from Mom's *meditation book. Some days the words land right where I need them, a raindrop between the eyes. Perhaps these will land for you as well:

   Our inspiration to master any art, to attain any goal, to tackle any project comes from within - the center of all knowledge. All of us are gifted with knowledge. When the desire to pursue a particular avenue keeps presenting itself, we should pay heed, trusting that we will be shown the way to succeed. This desire is our invitation to develop our talents in ways that may be foreign to our conscious minds.
   The decision to trust the desire is only the first step in tackling a new project. What comes after is effort and daily recommitment to completion of the goals or project. It is much easier to switch goals or projects than to see them to their end, but it's in their doing that we develop our talents to the fullest.

*The Promise of a New Day

Saturday, November 13, 2010

That Kind Of Day/Part Two

Yesterday was that kind of day. 

Took Claire to the bus stop. Paula, college friend, comes for a visit. Chewy (rescue dog) and Paula meet. It turns out hunky-dory, in spite of my new dog nervousness.

Paula and I meet Michael at his office to walk at the river. First time they've met. We walk. Blue sky, bare trees, leaves crunching underfoot, happy running puppy. Michael climbs on fallen tree jutting out from riverbank. Hear branch snap, turn to see him plunge six feet into cold, shallow water. One of those slow-mo moments. Michael pops up spewing water, face dripping blood, I'm okay, honey, I swear, I'm okay. I take undershirt off to give Michael something for his gushing eye. Paula says, she never could keep her clothes on. Run to get car, Michael strips down to his underwear, he and Paula get acquainted. Chewy sleeps on wet pile of clothes. Michael takes quick shower at home. Drop him off at emergency room.

Paula hits the road. Pick up Claire at bus stop. Bad day at school. She lost special beads that belonged to her Aunt Pamela. Add interaction with not so friendly girls on bus. Quietly mention that Daddy is in the ER. Suggest we get him a helmet for Christmas. 

Went to Claire's school to teach yoga to teachers. Had a hunch I might find her lost beads if I look in the classroom. Ask Steve, the janitor, for help. Find lost beads under teacher's desk. Feel like things are turning around. Hug Steve. Teach yoga class. Lots of deep breathing teachers on yoga mats as sun goes down.

Meanwhile, Teri picks Michael up at hospital. 
"What did she say when she saw you?" I ask him later.
" Oh my God!" he says.

Home to stitched up husband who has veggies and shrimp prepped for his signature shrimp dish. 

Note to self: love a man who cooks. 

6:00 pm. Let Chewy (new dog) meet Owen (old cat) at back door for a sniff. Part of our cat meets dog program. Chewy gets a little excited and chases Owen up a pine tree. Claire and I are crying.

Claire has birthday party @ 6:30. Haven't bought gift yet. Michael climbs ladder to help cat. Cat climbs higher. Holding breath. Insist that Michael get down from there. Exhale when his feet touch the ground. Contemplate calling fire department. Decide against it.

Take Claire to party. Chant, All is well and all is well and all manner of things shall be well, under my breath all the way home from party drop-off.  

Owen is down from tree when I pull in driveway. Weep on front porch while he laps up bowl of contraband milk. Michael cooks. We eat in front of crackling fire. 

In bed by 9:00. Chewy is sleeping. Owen slips in to bedroom and hops on my chest. I am forgiven for the butt-sniffing incident.

Review the day. Mom would've said, just a rough patch.

All is well, and all is well and all manner of things shall be well.

(ps. Michael's new nickname: Rocky Balboa)