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Archive for August, 2012

Getting through the dark days

Most of my days I find myself in a place of peaceful joy, going with the flow of life and enjoying the adventure. But every so often I feel the aura around me start to darken, becoming heavy, and my energy level plummets as I try to find one small speck of enjoyment here and wonder whatever possessed me to come to this overly challenging earthly life.

And I always seem to sense when I am about to descend into the sadness, feeling the swirl of negativity as I become so much more in tune with my emotions. For so long I denied myself the privilege of feeling anything other than a positive emotion; I bottled up all the anger and resentment. I never allowed myself to show anger in front of anyone, or disagree with them, or allow myself to just have a bad day. If I did that it would shatter the false facade I had built of my perfectly happy self. But now, when I feel that aura around me, just as someone can sense a migraine headache coming on, I let it work its way through me. A very wise person once told me, “When you open to fear, you are becoming fearless.”

So I spent most of a day just wanting to disconnect from everything; emotions ran from bitterness and cynicism to anger and sadness. And I’ve learned to just allow myself to have these emotions, to ride out the huge waves of the dark days, knowing that the fervent prayers I pray for healing will reach my heart and heal it.

Now I come back to my natural state of being, that of peace and love; the place I reach for like a drowning person, hoping for someone to pull me of the dark water. The healing that I receive as I reach out to God or Source or whatever name you choose never fails to fill me with a sense of awe. I can actually feel my heart heal, as the hurt is gently smoothed over and taken from me. It is like being a warrior sometimes, fighting a battle through these dark days that come. But I am learning of the power of my soul, and I always find that the power of love is so much greater than any fear that comes my way.

I happened upon some words I wrote in a journal, three years ago, when I was in the throes of the “dark night of the soul”. I still find them relevant, even now; I am an ever changing soul.

  I have experienced many episodes of emptiness, such a deep dark sadness, an abyss of nothingness.

But God lifts me out. I learn and grow from each occurrence.

Now I feel total love and peace in me, knowing that I am never alone.

 I hold onto this blissful feeling, knowing that it may be brief.

But always thankful to be growing.

Blogging, just because…

It’s time again to revisit the reason I started a blog in the first place, as I find myself pouting recently over the minute number of responses to my blogs – oh, get over it! is what I keep telling my overactive ego. I have fallen into the self-gratifying habit of checking and rechecking my site stats, poring over the numbers like a statistician and trying to figure out how to attract more readers. Maybe I should only publish posts during the week and not the weekends; seems like that’s when more people view my posts, during the week, and early on in the day, not later in the evening. Then I start to ponder, what do the people want? Obviously it isn’t always what I think is interesting or entertaining or enlightening. Otherwise I would have surely been on Freshly Pressed by now – and by the way, what does it take to earn that featured status? Oh, the sad manipulation, all to try and gain attention – just like a child.

I ask myself the most important question of all, why do I write in the first place? Is it to try and get somewhere, to an exalted place in the world of writing or blogging? Or maybe, just maybe, it is the real reason that I started writing – because I love to write! When I rediscovered the joy of playing with words, with having thoughts come to me in a poem or a musing or a short story, I found a part in me that had been hidden for so long. I found that I am creative! And I found the most enjoyable outlet for my creative juices, the art of writing.

And really, I do this thing, writing, because it is a kick to create something. I often find myself reading my poems and stories over and over, and I love them! And I have to know that even if I only connect with one solitary soul as I write my blog posts, then I have done a great thing in reaching that soul. We don’t have to do such grandiose acts of connecting with one another to affect joy and inspiration in our fellow human beings. Sometimes we can touch others in ways that we may never know. My words are out there, the energy behind them is out there, and that is the key to why I blog. Holding back what I have to give in lieu of attention getting defeats the whole purpose. Reaching in and letting myself create, and then sharing that creativity is what this blog is all about, no matter if one person reads it or no one at all.

A rhumba of rattlesnakes? The idiosyncratic world of animal & bird group names

Because I love to write, I love words. I love putting words together to form thoughts or a story, but sometimes I love words in and of themselves, just enjoying how they look and sound. Words like cacophony, plethora and gallivant have a quaint look and rhythm all their own, making them fun to say as well as making me appear well spoken when I can actually use them in the proper context. That may be a bit pretentious though, don’t you think? Do I want to be one of those people trying to impress others with my extensive and unique vocabulary? Well, obviously I am not the only one who wishes to be noticed by using interesting words. I recently discovered a list of group names of various animals & birds, and I’d have to say that the biologists or ornithologists or whoever appointed themselves to the task of naming these groups must have been either drunk or trying to impress fellow colleagues as they came up with some rather peculiar pairings.

As I read through the list, I realized how clever some of the names are. I could certainly attest to a prickle of porcupines, a shiver of sharks (and they do make me shiver!), a quiver of cobras (another creature that yes, makes me quiver!), and a tower of giraffes. There are some group names that imply a character trait: an implausibility of gnus, a mischief of mice (and isn’t that one so very true?), a wisdom of wombats (who knew they were wise?), and a pitying of turtle doves. I found that some groups were named on the basis of their actions: a leap of leopards, a lounge of lizards, a romp of otters, a cackle of hyenas, and a crash of rhinoceroses. But the ones I enjoyed the most were the totally off the wall labels that had to have been chosen by those in a mind-altered state, or perhaps on a dare, or maybe just for the hell of it, because they could! : a kettle of vultures, a consortium of octopuses, a charm of hummingbirds, a bloat of hippopotamuses, and my personal favorite, a murder of crows.

I am envious of those who were given permission to label the creatures of the earth and their groups with such creative license.  So the next time you go to the zoo, remember the zeal of zebras, the streak of tigers, and the coalition of cheetahs, and say “thank you” to those who sprinkled a bit of levity into the animal kingdom.

A flamboyance of flamingos

A barrel of monkeys

A flock of seagulls
(also the name of a popular 80’s musical group)

Accepting my body, with grace

I knew this day was approaching, the day when I finally had to face the truth. The truth being that I am so very uncomfortable trying to pour my 53 year old body into my cute little denim shorts. Oh, there was a time when it was acceptable to “jump out of an airplane” to fit into my jeans, and then do a series of squats to be able to breathe – but I was young and single and did not possess such a high percentage of body fat. No, it was time – time to fold them up, find a plastic bag to carry them in, and head to Goodwill where hopefully some cute young girl in her 20’s will love them like I did. And look much better in them to boot.

But how could this have happened? And it is such a slow, insidious process, this accumulation of fat in such imaginative places – knees, back, arms (lovingly called “Grandma arms”, even when one is not a Grandma) and of course the ever popular midsection bulges that we so preciously call “love handles”. I thought I had it all under control! Since moving to Portland I have started eating much healthier. I cut out soft drinks and only drink water, and I haven’t eaten ground beef for what must be years now, sticking to mostly fish or chicken. And with the great farmers markets here, my intake of fresh fruits and vegetables has increased considerably. And talk about exercise – I sold my car, for crying out loud! That means I walk just about everywhere, only taking public transportation if absolutely necessary. So what gives?

The answer is due to three important factors – I am a woman, in my 50’s, and in the throes of menopause. That is the exact combination needed to slow one’s metabolism to a grinding halt. Yes, maybe I could become a vegan, like so many Portlanders are. But I will not give up my dairy products, in lieu of some kind of fake milk or cheese – my Midwestern roots will not hear of it! As it is I feel like my caloric intake some days is only in the triple digits, low enough to keep the weight off, one would think. And I refuse to become a prisoner to some overly exhausting exercise routine, all in the name of fashion.

No, I am happy and healthy and damn it, I think I look pretty good! So what if I have some extra rolls of fat in places that it wasn’t 30 years ago? I want to be able to dress fun and feel good about my appearance, but I am in a new era in my life, one where I don’t want to be one of those women that can’t glide gracefully into the aging process. We place too much emphasis in our society on appearance, especially for women. I have decided to place my emphasis now on how I feel; glowing with health and radiating joy.

And what did I learn this time?

Life can be a breeze here, when the dominoes fall in perfect succession. I have had that pristine line -up of  all things clicking into place, as they did when I made my plans to move here to Portland, when everything did come together as it should and the dominoes fell in a perfect wave of all I needed, all I wanted.

But now I am cleaning up all the dominoes of a recent experience, where they seemed to connect at first, but there was a piece or two out of sync that caused everything to scatter. I have found myself needing to secure a job here in the near future, so I do not blow through my retirement money and end up having to live with one of my children – not the scenario I have for my “golden years”, and not one I’m sure my children have either! So I started the job hunt a couple weeks ago, perusing Craigslist, and came upon what seemed to be the perfect job for me in so many ways. I started to line up the pieces, so sure they would all be in order.

Oh yes, this job seemed to be made just for me! A short 15 minute walk from my home, part – time hours in the morning which would leave my afternoons free, and located in a small holistic health clinic – the type of medicine that is near and dear to my heart, no longer wanting to be back in the world of Western, corporate medicine. And after my first interview with the clinic manager, I walked out of there cocky and confident, thinking about what kind of clothes I needed to buy for what I was sure was my new job.

But wait, not so fast. I was asked to come in for a second interview with one of the physicians. Well of course I was more than happy to meet with one of them and show what a great catch I was for their clinic; this was just a formality and then I could get started earning some much needed income.

But I started to realize as the interview progressed that I must have failed to line up one of those damn pieces just right, and things started to scatter everywhere. I went from a belief in myself that I could do this front desk job with ease to jumping into a defensive mode, as the physician interviewing me started asking his probing questions. I felt the energy shift palpably as he questioned my ability to handle stress; citing my reason for retiring from lab after 30 years of burnout and stress as a red flag to him, not confident that I could handle the stress of their front desk. Fair enough; I patiently explained the differences I saw between front desk stress in a clinic setting versus the stress of working in a hospital laboratory, literally dealing with life and death situations.  But when he asked me if I could handle the fact that some of their patients die, I almost had to laugh! After 30 years in healthcare, I unfortunately saw my fair share of patients die, but that did not discourage me from working in my field. I think that was when I knew my chances were oh so slim.

And then I received the response that I knew all along was coming – they hired another candidate. What have I learned? This is what I come to ask myself these days, with all experiences, good or bad. I’ve learned that there are times we think we know what is best, in our limited egocentric ways. But I know in my heart that for some very good reason, God and the Universe knew this was not my best place to work, and arranged it as such. So in that way, I learn trust, letting go of the bitterness my ego wants me to feel. I learned how to speak my truth, not making up a more pleasant reason for retirement, even though “burnout” to some may paint me as one who can’t handle the stress of work. And lastly, I learned honesty, especially with myself. Because deep inside, I knew this really wasn’t the place for me, but all the parts seemed to fit – except the part that was missing, and that was a genuine excitement to work there. And I learn that my soul really wants that, enthusiasm and joy when I do go back to work. So I patiently wait until I come upon the workplace that genuinely lights up my soul.

Inspired by stories of love

Because I no longer watch TV I find myself reading voraciously. The written word is often where I discover stories of life and love, be they real or imagined. And in these stories I see how love can be between two people, love that is strong enough to withstand the ups and downs of life. Words like partner, soul mate and true love are reflected in these relationships. Yet I also come across such lovely pairings in my connections with others. My daughter and her fiance glow with this deep love; a true partnership where they are so involved in building a life together, conferring with each other on all matters, large or small. With those who love this way there is a degree of support in each other that is incredible, as they fit together like puzzle pieces and create the picture of their life.

Interlocking

 

The pieces are strewn out

All over Creation

And our Creator sorts all of us out

To fit us together

Setting aside possibilities of pieces

That just might join together perfectly

 

You appear in His hand

With your cut – out pattern

Of you

God gently sets you aside

As He picks up the jig – saw piece

Of me

And tenderly places us side by side

 

We are different shapes

And uniquely colorful patterns

But when God joins us together

Our puzzle pieces fit

Perfectly interlocked

Because of our love

 

We are part of a glorious picture

Of all that life and love is

I need to connect with you

To help complete that picture

You are my puzzle piece

The one who fits me

So perfectly

My daughter and her fiance, so in love…

Home and community – It’s all a matter of perspective

Home is where the heart is -Yes, it is a common, kitschy phrase often seen on pieces of arts and crafts that we display in our homes, where our hearts are. But moving past the overused phrase that it is, and really thinking about it, the place we call “home” and the place that brings a sense of community are just that – places on this earth that we resonate with and come to see with the eyes of our heart and soul.

I have often heard the lament of those who live in a small town that city dwellers live in a cold atmosphere of indifference; we pass each other on the street, strangers with our heads down,  lacking acknowledgment of one another. But I beg to differ. This morning I bypassed my usual routine of tea at home in my pajamas, and headed out in the cool morning air to one of my favorite coffeehouse haunts, the Fehrenbacher Hof, located in a delightful neighborhood of Portland called Goose Hollow. Just the fact that Portland is comprised of delightful neighborhoods like Goose Hollow within the confines of a big city tells me that a sense of community can be established anywhere, not just in a small town or less populated city.

As I sat on the porch outside “The Hof”, as it is affectionately called, I felt such a sense of belonging, even with the cacophony of the city sounds; cars, trains and a helicopter flying incredibly low overhead. And that small event, the helicopter buzzing the treetops, spurred on a conversation with a stranger and others around us, as we wondered what that was all about. Sitting there as I sipped my coffee, I began to feel like a greeter at Wal-Mart, saying “good morning” to just about every person who came in and out. We do make friendly connections in this urban setting!

Even my apartment building fosters a sense of community; a lovely circle of interactions and connections with the other tenants, pride taken in our building and even the apartment management. One of the tenants took it upon herself to thoroughly clean up the laundry room one day, lending a helping hand to our overworked manager/building maintenance man, taking pride in this place we call home. Another tenant has been so kind as to leave a bucket full of cut flowers in the foyer; leftovers from her job at a flower shop, as she shares with her fellow neighbors. And one morning we were treated to boxes of doughnuts in the foyer; a gift from the management company, to show appreciation for having such lovely tenants.

For many years the place I called home was a place I found myself in because of family ties, friends and familiarity. But life can be changeable and malleable, and we may find that home is a place that has been buried but now is ready to be uncovered. For me I unearthed my love of the city, and that city for me is Portland. Now I fully understand what the word home means, and it is here that I truly feel as if I am part of a community.

Home sweet home

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