Monday, October 31, 2011

Very Encouraging Experience

Dad left this message on my voicemail this morning. 

"Hi Bets! Just had a bracing walk outside, very bracing, very encouraging experience, breathing the air. Okay, call when you can. I love you. I love being alive!"

followed by peals of laughter...

Happy Halloween.

Happy Being Alive.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Empty And Quiet

A Sunday Thought...

Keep your mind as empty and quiet as possible, free of worry and irritation. Rather than struggling or trying to force answers, see if you can relax instead, as situations come up. Instead of being reactive, be patient and know that a solution, answer, or idea will present itself when needed and when you allow it to emerge.

- Richard Carlson

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tucked Between Us

The earth has circled the sun twelve times since I went into labor with Claire. She didn't arrive on October 28th. She waited until the wee hours of the 29th, 1:10 am, to be exact. 

I called Jesse straight away, you have a sister. 
Yes! she said. 
Go back to sleep, I whispered.

Michael and I squeezed onto the hospital bed with Claire tucked between us, swaddled tight with a cap on her round head. The three of us slept deeply until the morning light. 

I offer up these little stories, on this, Claire's Labor Day, filled with gratitude for the miracle of life in all its parts. 

And with gratitude for you, dear reader.


She stands sideways looking at herself in the glass of the front door.  Her stomach is slightly rounded.  She strokes it in small circles, willing it to be full and large so that her hands can cup it, cradle it. He comes to the door and grins at her, pressing his face into the glass, blue eyes wide open.  She lifts her shirt, exposing the small bowl belly, the upside down bowl.  On her tiptoes she puts her lips to the glass.  They kiss.

The tugging in her belly started at noon. They stopped for a bite to eat at the Yankee Doodle Diner, newly renovated.  It was crowded with old people.  He ordered coffee, toast, eggs over easy, juice.  She had pancakes and orange juice.  She was hungry, starving.  She was afraid to eat too much. After the last baby she’d thrown up halfway into her labor, dry heaves that wouldn’t stop. She reached across to his plate and wiped up some egg with a piece of brown toast.  Reaching across the table her husband ran his long fingers through her hair.
You want my juice? he asked.
She nodded, picked up his glass and swallowed it in one gulp.

We are under the covers watching the rain pour down.  The backyard is lit in green light, darkness tops the trees. The light is yellow now. It is the afternoon in the middle of the week. I imagine people in their cars speeding down the highway, people working in tall office buildings paneled in clear glass.  I move my feet around under the sheet, feeling the cool cloth against my skin.  Books are piled up at the end of the bed.  We watch the rain.  Claire pushes down on my eyelids, pressing them shut with her small fingers. Close your eyes, Mama. Take a nap.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Offer No Resistance

To offer no resistance to life 
is to be in a state of grace, 
ease, and lightness.

-Echart Tolle

There's much I could write about resistance. I've twisted myself into tight, hard knots perfecting my resistance practice. This is an extremely painful way to live. 

Sleep helps. 
Any kind of therapy. 
Yoga, most definitely. 
Talking to a friend, reading, walking, bed. 

Lately I've been watching the wrestling I do with my resistance. I imagine holding back a very large falling-down brick wall, or a tsunami wave, or taking on one of those freaky wrestlers in blue tights and long blonde hair, falsely believing that if I would only push back a little more or squeeze tighter, or sink my teeth into its arm... I will win.

I never win. 

I just feel worse, more confused, exhausted, sore.

To offer no resistance seems impossible. 

And, dare I say, completely dangerous for a girl who has made an art out of fight or flight. So, I've been experimenting. 

Using my kindest voice, I say to myself...

It's okay. 
Try it.
Let go. 
A little more. 
You didn't die.
Doesn't that feel better?

The tiniest shift happens. It may be subtle,  

but... I feel lighter. 

Note: it's not a thought thing. It's a faith thing.

Monday, October 24, 2011

At Your Own Pace

Two years ago, Jesse couldn't run a mile. Yesterday she ran 13.1 miles; her first, (and according to her) probably her last half marathon.

She did great! "I ran every step of the way, Mom," she said.

I, on the other hand, was a wreck. I don't know why I was so nervous. It's not like she was hanging off the edge of a cliff. She was running. And she's thirty, not three. Still, I was holding my breath until we spotted her coming down the trail; tired but smiling. It's a Mom-thing...

Life is one foot in front of the other. Sometimes we're running, or even leaping, but usually it's one foot, then the other and often includes circling, backtracking, spiraling. It's definitely not a clear, straight line. It's not a race to the finish line, even though some days it takes on that strange quality of hurry up and get where you're supposed to be going. 

Last week I was in a meeting where a woman said, 

"I just gotta say that this is not a marathon. Everyone is on their own path. We all get to do life at our own pace. So, give yourself a break. That's all I wanted to say."

Here's to doing life at your own pace. 

And to Jesse...

always my inspiration.

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's OK

It's late on this Friday and I don't know what to write. 

I don't know what to write. 
I don't know what to write. 

I think, 
share the short story that bubbled out the other day, the one about a character named Miriam...

write about the walk through the old cemetery where you found this headstone with the words, 

It's OK 

That was a low day for me, even with the bright sun and the soft, warm air. Wandering among worn stones reminded me of my mother, a Modern Miss Marple, a super sleuth who loved history, genealogy, and strolling through graveyards. 

Deep missing pangs settled into my chest until I saw, 

It's OK

Ah, a message from the other side, I thought. 

From Paulette.

It's OK isn't something I've seen on a grave stone and I've done plenty of walking through graveyards, being my mother's daughter And father's too. His childhood playground was the cemetery behind my grandfather's church where George Washington's soldier boy is buried in Germantown, Philadelphia.

Since I don't know what to write, It's OK is my Friday message. Even if part of me doubts this, that feels things, life? the world? have become too complicated for my thin-skinned, sensitive self, I will take Paulette's word for it. And imagine my mother whispering, it's ok, over my shoulder. I'll save Miriam's story for another day and wish you a fine weekend with It's OK. 

This Being Alive
will be off for the weekend
to rake leaves 
keep my eyes open for the mother turkey and her two children
and root my Jesse on as she runs her first half-marathon.

go gently, dear reader.

xo b

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hand Of Friendship

A Thursday thought...
The greatest changes come when you stop trying to change yourself and instead extend the hand of friendship to yourself, exactly as you are right now. 
-Susan Piver

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In the End

Driving home from visiting Dad the other day, Claire and I got to talking about what it means to have lived a good life. Actually, I was saying how I felt like there were many things I still wanted to do and was feeling worried about getting to all of them. There must've been something underneath my words, some longing to be recognized, to make a greater impact, 

to be thought of as important? 

because then Claire said...

"Well, Mom," she said, "it's not so much about being important. Some really important people aren't very nice at all. I think it's way better to be remembered for being a kind person who helped people. I don't know, in the end that just seems like how I'd want to be remembered."

out of the mouths of babes...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Times Of Change

Times of change are holy. We may not know where we're going. It may not feel like our feet are on solid ground. They aren't. We're crossing a bridge to another part of our lives. Sometimes we may find ourselves at this bridge unwittingly, not certain how we got there, not certain we want to cross. Other times, we may have sought, prayed for, hoped for, longed for this time of change.

Drive across the bridge. You don't have to understand it all right now. Information and understanding come later. You'll get to the other side. For now, trust and experience what you're going through. Know that this time of change is sacred too.

 - from Journey To The Heart by Melody Beattie

This passage spoke to me this morning, after dropping Claire off at the bus in the dark, moon still up. Every time she gets on the bus, backpack slung over her shoulder, face forward, I feel an ache.

I want to call her back
go home
snuggle on the couch
watch Sesame Street. 

I can't remember feeling this upside-down since my twenties, in the midst of a difficult first marriage with my young daughter, Jesse, by my side. This time is different, but there's that familiar uncertainty, not knowing exactly where to take my next step. Feeling like I've lost my bearings, not sure where the bridge I'm crossing or have yet to cross, will take me.  I've always been someone who wants to figure things out but this often isn't the answer and usually doesn't work. 

I get it's the mystery I'm being asked to embrace. 

The delightful uncertainty, as Dad likes to say. 

My embracing skills feel off. Maybe yours are too?

Just for today...

Open to the idea that times of change are holy.

And leave the figuring out for another day.

This Being Alive is taking the weekend off.
Go gently.
Peace be with you.

xo b

Thursday, October 13, 2011

When I Grow Up #5

When I Grow Up

When I grow up I want to use a knife and 
ride a motorcycle. It will be a Kowasaki 
and it will have a green seat with blue handlebars. 
I'll go to college with my friends and for work 
I'll play Ice Hockey and make money 
playing Ice Hockey. I'll go surfing in Charlotte. 
I'll dress in baggy pants with a hat and 
really cool shoes. I'll travel all over. 
I'll live in a house. I will have a log cabin 
by my college and have a boat and go to the sea 
and I'll go rollerblading in the biggest mall 
ever built in the world. I'll have an earring too.

By Jordan Schreffler

...from my past life as a second grade teacher. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Two Things

Doris said two things that stuck with me:

1. Stay with today.

2. Look at the past, don't stare at the past.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Trust The Longing

It was a three-day weekend of light. All I wanted was to wander around the yard, following the strips of yellow, stand in them, face to the sun. Michael raked out tangled garden beds. I scooped up the tangles and pushed the wheelbarrow to the compost at the edge of the yard. 

Yard work is good for musing about things. Lately, I've been musing about work, my work. The world of work. It's been twelve years since I've had a full time job. Where the hell did the time go? When I got pregnant with Claire and decided to leave my teaching career to be home, it felt incredibly right. And it was. 

But it hasn't always been easy.

Through the years, I've cobbled together different work gigs; writing and staging plays, artist-residencies and teacher in-services, writing workshops in my home, teaching yoga...and being a mom.

All work that I love and believe in. 

Cobbling's okay, but it doesn't pay all the bills. It's sporadic; it doesn't get me out into the world enough to share my work. I've been rooting around for openings for quite awhile. I know what it feels like to do what I love. I want to get paid for it. More often. 

It strikes me that the conventional world asks us to choose one thing. What if you don't fit in one slot? Where do you look? Who do you call? What color is my parachute?

Is there a job hot-line for cobbling artists? 

I'm taking action on my behalf. 
I am seeking a work family. 
A work tribe. 
A place with people like me?  

Lately my mantra is, what is truly meant for thee, will gravitate to thee. Some days this is a hard sell. This is where faith enters stage left, trusting the right door is about to open. 

“Ask yourself what you love. Without fear of consequences, without force or shame or guilt. What motivates you to be kind, to take care of your body, your spirit, others, the Earth? Trust the longing, trust the love that can be translated into action without the threat of punishment. Trust that you will not destroy what matters most. Give yourself that much.”

-Geneen Roth

trust the longing.

*If you know of a place for a quirky girl like me, drop me a note. 
I'll write back.
xo b

Friday, October 7, 2011

The New Religion

On the phone with Dad this frosty morning. We were talking about getting the plumber to go up to his little house on the mountain and drain the pipes, shut things down, tuck the place in for the winter. 

"Okay, so we covered that!" he says, immediately laughing.
"So, how are you, Dad?"
"I can't hear you. It sounds like you're in the middle of a field. I can't hear you!"
I moved around the kitchen trying to find a spot.
"Can you hear me now?"
"Yes, yes. There you are."
"Now you're fading again. Fading away."
"Can you hear me now, Dad?"
"Yes. Good. So, I was telling my table mates at breakfast a couple of thoughts I've been having. The first is, still crazy after all these years."
"I can relate to that."
"And the second, and this one made my friend, Ed, wince. Love death."
"Oh. There's a thought for a Friday."
"Love death! Not that I want to go tomorrow, mind you, but love death! It's the great releaser."
More laughter through the phone. 
"And one more thing," Dad said, "This one's from Tony DeMello, the Jesuit priest who lived in India. Very wonderful man, very funny man. He said, The new religion is freedom."

This Being Alive 
is taking the three-day weekend to
work in the yard
go to the river with Chewy
play Clue (I'm Mrs. Peacock)
practice my new religion: freedom.

peace be with you.

xo b

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Or Something Else

A thought for this Wednesday with the sun streaming through the trees. Feeling lately that I am suspended in air, not quite here, not quite there. Suspended between two worlds? I could choose to look at things differently, go down the unmapped road and trust that...well, just trust. 

My beloved brother, Rob, sent me this quote yesterday. In the subject line it said; made me think of you. 

The blessing of a big brother.

I share it with you, certain that some of you feel this way, traveling without a clear road map. Then again, maybe it's that way for each and everyone of us. I don't know.

"Considering that you might have a special calling. That maybe you're destined to head down an unmapped road with landmarks and speed bumps and destinations that no one has named yet. This could mean a weird job that unites surprising disciplines and skills, a late-in-life career change, a unique lifestyle choice, or something else."

- Matt Atkinson

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Without The Fence

Friday was the end of the month reward for the sixth graders at Claire's school. I think that's what she called it. The idea is, you behaved yourselves so we're giving you a break. 

"So, this is weird, Mom," she said.
"What's that, Claire?"
"For the end of the month reward, they took us out to the soccer field with five hula hoops and a couple of balls. I'm not sure what they expected us to do with them. I mean, there were a hundred of us. The teachers were off to the side, talking. We really didn't know what to do so we ended up walking around in a circle, you know how you see prisoners at the jail? How they walk around, two by two? It felt kinda like that, just without the fence and barbed wire."
"Then we sat on the bleachers."
"Well, at least you got to be outside in the air."

It was the first time they'd been outside in a month.

"Still, it was a weird reward,"Claire said.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Some Kind Of Portal

Ann said, 

Find something small, some kind of portal you can slip through where the excitement and joy is. 

Find it.