Spring, #DemocracySpring, Spring into action

After days in the garden digging up the encroaching weeds and grass, pruning back terrifying thorny roses, holding the vibrating weed eater steady in my hands, I can stand back and view the newly cleaned out beds. Perhaps it is the farmer’s DNA in me from both sides of my family that sends me bolting out of the door barefoot and armed with shovel or rake. My mother’s people from West Yorkshire knew things about the land that I could only squint at. My grandmother and grandfather raised things, had many different types of honey labelled and stacked in the honey shed. The jars of preserves were in the cold cellar. And making do was something prideful.

 

Daffodil line up

Daffodil line up

My father’s people were Serbian. Even when my grandfather moved to a farm in Portland, Oregon which backed onto a rail line, Emile Covitch kept chickens, rabbits and a cow. His yard had trees that were spliced to maximize the variety given the space. One of the only pictures that was passed down to me of him, shows a stout, square man proudly holding a rope tied to his cow.

 

out the door

out the door

I have other projects, like the book about my trip to Europe which are waiting. But I can’t force myself to stay inside writing. I want to be painting new shining surfaces on my deck, on my fences. I want to be crouching over rearranging bricks into another sitting area.
My nails are broken off and perpetually rimmed in dirt. My feet are getting callouses because I garden mostly barefoot.

new hope

new hope

But I feel such a release of hope when I plant a garden.
It is exactly how I feel about Bernie Sander’s run for president and about the action of #DemocracySpring. There is a sense of escaping from out of the enclosure of sadness and futility that has surrounded so many for so long. I spend anywhere from 3 to 5 hours a day sharing good news about Bernie. Because I am of farmer stock. And I believe that seeds planted with care and optimism lead to a beautiful garden.

New hope

New hope

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Sisters at the Well

In 1997 when I visited Rome, I had a transformative, informative experience. In the center of one section of town there was a stone well. It was at the heart of the neighbourhood. And it was here that the women came together to work the stains, dust and dirt out of their family’s garments. It was here that women used the narrative woven by wagging tongues which maintained civil order. Women warned one another what would happen should the undisciplined urges be followed. A tongue lashing was not trivial.
Gossip is a powerful manner of structuring mores and habits which are the foundation of any society. The cultural threads that make the fabric of society were woven, mended and attended while the women worked together on their laundry.
Side by side, they rewarded or castigated certain forms of behavior. While a woman repeatedly rinsed, and twisted her husband’s clothes, she could hear what would happen if she dared to indulge the secret flirtation she felt toward another man.

The heart of the sisterhood, the public laundry.

The heart of the sisterhood, the public laundry.

Alliances were formed. Problems were worked out. Questions could be asked and answered by those with more life experience. The repetitive actions of the hands, arms and backs were strenuous and soothing. There was a place where connection was customary and expected.
Today, we have lost the power of the women at the well. All too frequently the closest we get to one another is via text or sitting without speaking next to another in a coffee shop.
Or it is an artificially arranged, special occasion when women plan a networking meeting for some pre determined goal. But the habit of the women meeting at the river or at the public laundry allowed for the comfort of contact in a way we no longer experience today.

 

women meeting at the river

women meeting at the river

Women do better in all aspects of their lives when they are in contact with other women. The terms ‘connectivity’ and ‘social capital’ are used in sociological studies which show the benefit of women having frequent, anticipated interaction with other women. These women are healthier. They live longer. They are more cheerful. They are more likely to discover alternative methods of solving problems and thus thrive more easily. They meet challenges with a more relaxed, creative mind because they know they can seek advice.
And last of all, they are more light spirited. Because who doesn’t like to tell outrageous stories while doing repetitive, necessary daily drudgery!!

And, lasty, when society is mirrored back to us from advertising and media, women feel overwhelmed with choices, confused about the very manner of being a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend and a sister. The background anxiety is like the sound of violins in a scary movie.

How do I fit in? Where is my place in the world? Who am I as a woman?

The old, restricted cultural choices are rapidly disappearing; however, women still need their sisters to mirror back to them who they are to be in the changing world. We need to work it out at the well, or the river. We need support and advice.
I think society is much the poorer since the central meeting place for women is no longer a feature of daily life. But thank goodness, we no longer have to do laundry by hand. In addition, we have made progress by allowing greater choice and freedom in discovering what it means to move into the world as a woman. And for that I am deeply appreciative.

I just wish there were some middle ground upon which women could meet face to face in order to bond and prosper. Meeting at the well is no longer for the purpose of restricting our choices and locking us into a place in society. Now it would be an occasion to discuss and expand our individual version of who we wish to be. The companionship, advice, feedback and habitual contact is still necessary, however the world changes.

 

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If Wishes were Horses….

Being in life, being in a body and standing on some floor or ground in wide bare feet, toes splayed or wearing shoes with toes strapped together, is puzzling.
To find a place to stand has been the journey for me. Wearing a body with the inherited stories chiseled into my DNA is confusing. I question where I begin. I question which decisions are done from intention and which from distraction. I question my questions.
There have been so many times in my journey that I liken to driving alone in a low-down to the road car in a where the hell did the world go blizzard. Is the road under me? Have I veered into some one else’s lane? Do I know how far I have come?
Even looking for the signposts, milestones, markers is hopeless because of the “obstructions”. The ego voice is chatting away, the memories replaying hijacking me into the past so the present just spins under my wheels unheeded, flattened out.

 

And the passenger was so frequently Anxiety nagging away in the seat next to mine.
With the massive amount of reading and study I have undertaken about inheritance, imprinting, brain formation, it becomes clear that everything is about habit. Forming a new habit is the ultimate act of faith. It is driving the road blindly knowing that the very effort of staying on that road will eventually lead to a clearing.

 

April workshop

April workshop

One day it will be easier. Up ahead will be a calming, a slight hill side which allows for a clear view.
At the present time, I am seeking to build out habits that will make me more fit, more deeply committed to my meditation practice and a better friend.
I found a site on line that lays out a fitness program and I am happily into day four. My arms and back are warm with the fresh awakening of those muscles. I am super feeding and every three hours I am eating a high protein meal. I make contact with my sweet sister/friends continually. These are the new aspects of my life that I have plotted on my GPS and as they appear I welcome in.
It is a life upgrade, new software, faster connection, better quality existence.
I am continuing to draw to me people who are in crisis with the feeling that there is no purpose in the life he or she is leading. I am continuing to run my week end workshops to teach others the science of how they became so blinded to what and who they actually are in the world.

maybe angels
My journey makes sense now. All of the broken bones, violence, chaotic turmoil of my childhood were for a reason. When I speak, people know I am not speaking down to them. I get it. I get it.
It is the struggle that makes us heroic. It is the continuing to drive blind with the hope that soon the weather will shift. Belief that we are on a road that leads somewhere, is enough to sustain our focus.
I am living on purpose. But it is not a magical fairy land. It is not a sparkling meadow of fresh singing streams and the lion snuggled up to the lamb.

Relax into life

Relax into life

This life takes courage and stamina and most of all someone who is further down the road who can call back to us the encouragement that it gets better. Keep going and soon you will be able to see where you are, what you have left behind you and it is easier to create a future. Just stay on the road, keep your hands relaxed on the wheel, tell the Anxiety passenger join you in singing a silly song.

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Birds singing in Snow

I have been dealing with the pervasive, invasive panting existence of the “real” world. Getting the old, stained, stuck, peeling of paint, putty loosening windows to continue functioning reached the end of the story recently.
“How much longer can you live with this frustrating, compromising scare-city mindset situation?”
Well, for the windows, basically 24 years. I re-puttied the panes of glass with a kitchen knife, cleaned as far up the glass as my hand would reach, and struggled the warped inner layer open during the 41 Celsius heat summers for 24 years.

 

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I kept waiting for more money to come in; for just the right time; for my struggle scenario to stop because that would be the time to put an end to it.

In my Firestarter’s women’s group I asked my friends, “Should I get new windows. Is it time?”

They said,” yes” and so I did.

The grimy, chipped, leaking air windows with caught spiders between the inner and outer layers are now gone.

The Home Hardware crew put in a new fan over the stove and ended up having to pay additional money to get electricity to it. The extra cost triggered the old ‘dying in the alleyway of exposure and hunger’ fear.

Thinking about spring and getting the car out for longer trips, sent me to the mechanic for an oil change. It ended up being $1,400. The battery was gone and the steering thing a ma jiggy was mal functioning.

Then I broke a front tooth on soft toast.

Three weeks ago my furnace stopped starting or started stopping. I tried to plug in an electric heater and an entire wall of plug ins stopped working. I spend days flipping switches on the panels.

My internet began habitually dropping out. So I went on Youtube to watch what for me is someone speaking Urdu. You go here, you click this, then you go here, and set this up.

12321228_10153919055328615_8806434728994839976_n

“Stop,” I want to yell. I could feel myself like Alice in Wonderland shrinking after taking the smallerizing pill. I literally felt like a confused child unable to reach the doorknob.

It was time to seek help. I got the window replaced by a Home Hardware crew. A new actually functioning fan went over the stove. My car can now travel without the steering suddenly becoming possessed. I have a newly constructed front tooth.

I called my neighbour who is a certified furnace magician. He came over, looked at the metal sculpture with surgical concentration. He then removed the front panels which always causes me to gasp in wonder. And did something to make it come on again.

So now after almost three weeks I have heat.

The physical world, keeps butting up against my urge to be a floating mote creature.

In a few minutes, another friend is coming by to see what entities have possessed my internet.

Today, I am feeling more optimistic. But it has been a land of torpor alternating with turmoil lately.

So maintaining those things around me: the car, the furnace, the windows, the internet is vital. The problem I now sit here facing is that I do not know what else needs on going preventative care? It does not even register in my field.

 

Becoming an adult

Becoming an adult

But that is a good place to be, right? Coming to a point of wanting to know what I have not known is growth.

Sitting in a house with heat is like taking an anti-depressant.

A life has so many moving parts. And there is so much to learn. I am grateful for those who have skills that I lack and help me to keep my racing car on the road. The pit crew is so necessary.

I did my receipts and took them to the accountant. I told her that I could see exactly where I had messed up in my choices.

I was so proud.

“I think I am becoming an adult,” I told her.

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Vicious Toast and Weak Sunshine

I am turning a corner; shifting gears; flipping a leaf, a finger; snarling at my own snarling; stepping up; pushing the inertia; daring to hope; planting the seeds; tired of the tired; yearning for change. It is the cusp, the edge, the definitive line dot dot dot tear along here, the boundary of a new country, reality, dimension, brane of existence.

Weak sun whispers promises

Weak sun whispers promises

The breath in for so many days has not connected to vibrancy. It has been about clearing, clearing, clearing. It is like an existential Japanese movie wherein the sand just keeps flooding in. The sand of gritty thoughts. The best I could hope for was stillness.
Every day I would begin again and the wind would rise around 10 am and bring more sand. Clogging up the works. Obscuring the vision. Choking off the fresh air expanding sweep of possibilities.
But today, there is weak sun outside. It teases and seduces. It touches the black trees and if one looks closely cups the budding baby leaves.
I have done well are refusing to walk down the alleyway’s dark back of thought structured buildings and stayed on the sunny side of the street. I walked there even in the rain, the atmospheric gray down to the ankles of winter. I stayed there knowing that there would be sun on my back eventually.

 

where am I
On Thursday I broke a front tooth on a piece of toast. My first thought was it isn’t even darkly baked toast. I removed the fragment and looked at it in my hand.
Because of my training, I took my thoughts immediately to the sunny side and said, “You have all of your teeth. You can still chew. It isn’t big. It isn’t painful.” I continued on with the plotting of possibly disastrous alternatives. But a piece of me had fallen off.
The drama queen voice played its dialogue. “What do you expect. You have lived a long time. You will fall apart. Things will fail.” I could feel the ego witch searching around for other things to add to the list. This would be a great time to list every single fall from the perfection of a new born body. Oh, she wanted to go there. She was pulling hard at me the ego witch.

Reaching

Reaching

And then I decided. “It is fine. The dentist will repair your tooth. You will continue to write your book. You will continue to eat well, sleep well, draw opportunities to you. And one thing I can damn well guarantee you, you will grow. Because, “my beautiful Empress parent said to me, “because I got this.”
And then I just looked out the window at the weak first attempts at Spring and shut up.

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February Feeble

The software on my computer isn’t working. Loading up is not loading up. You Tube videos are apparently not a reference to ‘me’ as the you. The front door lock is gitching. The construction crew finished and walked away when the newly installed fan was put in over the stove and it looked great. It just would not work. Somebody is going to call me about that. Yes, uh huh.

I woke up feeling like a horse had kicked me in the head and I had stupidly kicked it back.

I keep sitting meditation and resetting intention. But inevitably February feels like scuba diving in mud, or clay or quick sand or fresh mountains of dinosaur dung.

The tree heavy with snow.

The tree heavy with snow.

I keep hoping if I get strong enough, when I get strong enough mentally and spiritually, it will just be another season. la la la la.

Using various tactics always alleviates the sense of gulag gray no sky deadended barely hearing a pulse beat season. I am (1) not in a tidal wave (2) not in a hurricane or cyclone (3) not partially down an alligator’s maw (4) not breaking out in pustules that each have an alien baby spawn wriggling out (5) not sitting in a dentist’s chair having a root canal or four.

Okay, I tried that tactic and I am still not sitting elevated in the emotional parkhouse suite with a view of all the lower energy below me.

I was briefly amused by the twitter storm over Scalia’s death because, well, you don’t mess with liberal, educated, intellectuals without expecting a beautifully crafted celtic designed sword in your back. The posts were witty, nuanced, and full of the joy of new hope for a more humane society.

But then I wake up after spending time in some dream world barn where in a horse kicked me in the head.

The road

The road

The difficulty is that my putting off solutions does not seem to be, ultimately, that effective. I have been carefully filling a teaspoon with cod liver oil then moving up to a tablespoon full and finally in this last desperate week just picking the jar up and swigging it until I feel coated in slimy optimism all down my throat.

The kitchen was to be renovated on January 6th, the crew showed up February 8th worked a bit and then disappeared with no call or notice. Now with the job “done” except the fan does not work, I sit here no longer expectant. They did say 2016 so I know that part of the agreement will be fulfilled.

I took my car into get the oil changed and the guy at the counter came out and sat next to me.

I said,” Oh No! Just tell me the amount not the story.”

He looked at me kindly and suggested some three step process so that I would not have too much out lay at a time.

I just looked him in the eyes and said, “I am paying for a kitchen renovation with not real money so go ahead and do the entire operation to save ‘her’ with not real money. Makes no difference at this point.”

And then I came to understand where I can find a perverted sense of joy and a lighter heart. I will embrace victim mode during the month of February. I will sigh and moan and bitch and compare myself to every other person who, of course, has a better life than I do. If a branch falls from my Maple tree during a storm I will heighten the drama.

I will think to myself, “Even the tree is failing to hold up to its contract to stand against the sky in February. I can’t depend on anything.”

 

Just be a whiney bitch and get it over with

Just be a whiney bitch and get it over with

The problem lies in the tension between what I feel I should be experiencing and what the emotional reality of February is for me. I walk celibate, repeating patterns of responsibility, my life churning like the spinning wheel thing on my computer which isn’t even really turning but just trying to make me think it is turning but the colors all stay in the same damned place lying to me.

Maybe, I should just give in and go out the door with the broken twigs from my tree stuck in my hair; the partially painted fingernails flaking off garishly celebratory color; wearing two different I can’t be bothered socks poking up out of my unpolished ankle boots and drive myself everywhere so I don’t have to expend an ounce of my precious energy for WHAT!

Nevermind. I will take some more acidopholus, gulp down an untold amount of cod liver oil and order a S.A.D. light and delude myself that next February I will have learned something, or grown, or become less human. And I don’t have leprosy, so that is pretty wonderful.

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Can Confusion Be Delightful?

I like a paper map. I like holding it in my hands. I like folding it up and putting it away when I have achieved the arrival. When it is open and I admit I am lost, I can get my bearings from all possible surrounding landforms, highways, rivers and adjacent topographies.

When I travel, I am frequently lost and it is challenging. To a person who decided in grade 9 what career she would pursue the fluky unforseen is a source of anxiety.

On Monday I sit and create my weekly calendar. I lay out what I think are necessary social interactions because I take them like my cod liver oil, as a preventative measure. I assess what days are best for working out with my weights. Walking is penciled in for aerobics. I establish what the major project is that I need to focus upon and carefully allot time for that goal.

At the present time, it is the book I am writing about my Alternate Reality trip to Europe. I am thinking of calling it Blood on the Street. Walking in my ancestor’s steps and experiencing the death of 90 people in Paris was not a vacation.

The difficulty I experience when things seem chaotic is that I sink down into a sense that I am, somehow, not up to the challenge. I know it is an old story. I know it is a left over narrative.

My new life since I have grown up, does not include being late, shuffling along in an unprepared state, showing up with no idea of what I am meant to do.

However, I sabotage my intentions. The walk never happens. It is too cold, or too wet, or too hot, or too gray or without purpose. I have learned that simply to walk somewhere without a purpose is as unlikely to happen as me suddenly liking sports. That is just a giant fail.

The concept of using up my resources keeps me in a tight little spinning circle. I become a spinning top… around and around.

My intention this week was to work on my book and I did well for four days and then…. I got sick.

Now my focus shifted to the battle between blame/resistance and selfcare/ submission. My mind always goes to the same questions. “Why did you get sick? When did you lower your energy and allow viruses to get in? What is wrong with your body, your spirit, your immune system, your habits?”

It is an interrogation but does not shift from good cop to bad cop. It is all bad cop.

A weak voice will be saying as background to the sound track , “You are building immunity to a new virus. That is good. You are working with your immune system to grow stronger.”

But it is a hardly discernible voice.

The project that I agreed to do entailed learning software and a new site. I spend over twelve hours trying to to navigate various software tools without success. I attempted for over 10 hours to load a video onto a new site without success. I was clenched. The failures piled upon one another as the deadline got closer. But I kept at it.

It is as if I am sailing along in a boat and think it is fine… then the wind shifts and I see there are gigantic tears in the sail.

And so I became frustrated and bent over and focused on all of the areas that I had no skill. My time line fell apart. My good intention calendar dropped its pages like a 1930’s movie graphic.

Godzilla had walked through my beautifully architected city and flattened it. And then I got sick.

I am confused as to why so many things did not work. I am confused as to why I can set up a beautifully designed calendar map unfolded to plot out the road of my week and yet I end up somewhere else.

There is so much destruction and reformation in life.

 

Growth: Keep Page Open

Growth: Keep Page Open

But one gift that has been brought to me after what I interpret as an abysmally unsuccessful week, is that I see exactly which signs I was not reading. I understand where I am going off the road. And that what my confusion is about.

Setting intention is only partially effective. Sometimes going up the wrong road all the way to the flat landing place that shows you the entire stretch of the landscape means chaos and acknowledging that you were on or took the wrong road.

The delight in the confusion is the light in the chaos. The seduction of side projects, working to pick up small checks, moving my focus from one thing to another is not working for me now nor has it ever worked. What is it I am passionately headed toward?

That is all that needs to happen now. Leave the flirtations behind.

There is so much that I hide from myself. Perhaps, this week of chaos is just an opportunity to truly get the party started. That is my story and I am sticking to it.

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David Bowie: Why does he move us?

As I watch the out pouring of grief, shock and mythologizing that has filled social media, I was filled with wonder. I wondered why this particular artist caused such a reaction across such a wide swath of the society.

 

David Bowie nee David Robert Jones

David Bowie nee David Robert Jones

The most evident reason is his body of work. He created a Protean persona. He was gay; he was bisexual; he was orgiastic; he was a devoted family man; he was heterosexual. His image was a costume which he wore for a while and then bored him. He would throw off styles of music as if it were an old jump suit that no longer fit him.

With each new self discovery, he took with him his brilliant intellectual understanding of the structure of culture. He read. He was visually literate. He met diverse individuals as he explored cultural relativism and diversity. He remained curious. He had a drive to learn. His hunger for knowledge never failed him.

He gave those who followed his transformations the ability to hold a more gentle grasp on their own perceived place in the world. If David could move through genres of music and yet remain relevant and admired, then perhaps I can explore beyond the rigid boundaries of what I was told I am ‘supposed’ to be.

 

He was first and foremost a musician with talent and a work ethic.

He was first and foremost a musician with talent and a work ethic.

Finally, with the last album Black Star, Bowie created two videos that shed light on the last great obscenity, the final secret shame that North Americans in particular never speak of: death. He had experienced six heart attacks recently and was ravaged for 18 months by cancer.

People viewed Lazarus and Black Star in a state of admiration filled shock. This is what it looks like to stand and openly face your own death. This is what it looks like to stand before your own relinquishing of the body you were given for a while. You walked around in it only for your allotted time.

We each of us stand with him before his end trembling, shaking. We see through his eyes that the rituals hold more connection to truth than the frivolities of ego. The spell of delusions falls away. He tells us, “You are finally left with only that which you have invested in your spirit”.

Just as Bowie explored choices in life, he explores the lack of choice at death. We die. We will cease to be. The great mystery is all that waits for us, finally.

Bowie spent his early years making explorations of his sexuality, and his addictions. Wendy Leigh’s new biographical book is based on interviews with those who knew him through out various periods of his life. She describes a man with an omnivorous, voracious, indiscriminate sexual appetite that created an orgiastic life style. His use of drugs and alcohol depleted his body. David Bowie was no paragon.

 

Protean explorations

Protean explorations

Very few others of the famous who have run howling beyond the boundaries in social behaviours which are considered correct or safe, manage to find their way to a healthier connection to self. He found his way out of addictions. He found that he could love in a coherent and intimate manner. He found that he could live his life for others: for Iman and for his daughter.

But he never lost his deep connection to self expression.

I think, finally, what has elevated him to a mythical height is that he remained true to who he was at the time. His music, his lyrics, his power was about digging deeply into the seeming, the role playing, the artifice and finding something authentic beneath it all.
We admire his talent. We admire his intelligence. We admire his truth telling from the place of chicanery. He was just so damned good at what he did. So we look at his chameleon costumed depictions of a person living a life and we see truth shining out.

Perhaps, for me the greatest testimonial to the man is that now as all of the stories are coming out of debauchery, addiction, self abuse we see how amazingly one individual can self correct.

As all of the stories come out, we see a man who was kind to others. The interviews with interviewers, with long term friends shine a light on someone who treated others with respect. The self confidence it takes to stand on stage can often lead to arrogance. David Bowie stayed focus on his mission: How do I use my talent to tell the story of a person trying to find his way in the world?

At the end, he shows us ourselves, each of us, facing death. And it moves us. It helps us, everyone of us, to prepare to leave this earth with grace and truth.

David Bowie was not a star, he was a constellation.

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January: Stop Dicking Around

The snow fell. Fat fluffy flakes like a kid’s Gif. The trees were outlined white against a white/gray sky. The hills were draped in tulle clouds. It was quiet. The world was insulated against sound.

For three days a “snow on eyelashes” kind of magic surrounded us. And then it began to melt.

Because I lived in the North for nine years, I felt the urgency of changing the armature. I knew the melt and freeze was inevitable. I did not want to have an ice fort blocking in my car. I did not want to have a slide trough of ice leading to my front door.

So for every day I shovelled for an hour.

It is such an opening up when it snows. Like having a wet cloth on the face, the colder temperatures. And the neighbours reappear from their hot air caves. As I cleared the sidewalk, my neighbour came over and helped me. I went on to clear the next sidewalk where the couple is busy managing four children and, frankly, life.

The tree heavy with snow.

The tree heavy with snow.

The guy next door and I then went on to clear the walkway of my sister/friend (24 years and counting) who had put something out in the backish, hippish, thighish region. Usually she is so alert that she shovels the snow while it is still in the air.

Usually she is so thorough that not one patch of ice is ever found on her sidewalk.

And so I waved at the woman across the street with a little boy. I saw them getting out of the car and he is bigger. Since this summer he has entered another stage with another name to it: Baby to Toddler.

The pressure cooker of expectations and demands that we call a celebration has passed. Christmas is over. The snow comes almost as a “letting down” of tension, of the weather of gray pasty skies.

And the mind asks, “What now?”

Now is shovelling snow. Now is watching squirrels run along the tree branch highway. Now is seeing the stark outlines of the nest the crows built this summer in my 50 year old Maple tree.

It is time to establish new habits. It is time to align with new intentions. It is time to stop distracting, soothing, repeating unsuccessful habits.

As I stand in my front yard with my daffodil yellow snow shovel in my hand I say to myself, “It is time to stop dicking around at life.”

 

Stop Dicking Around

Stop Dicking Around

What is now is whatever you did in the past to bring it in.
Breathe and create. Clear the path. Make sure your vehicle can move. Don’t allow yourself to be blocked in, captured by the past.
Keep asking, “What now.”

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Dealing with Stress at Christmas

Since November 6th my life has held many changes and surprises for me. So often we walk along a clearly marked path. There is a rhythm, a predictability to the days. It can become boring, comfortable, unchallenging. Sleep walking through the routine, one feels less than human.

I left Kelowna on November 6th to fly to Calgary and from there to the Netherlands. The clouds were layered over Amsterdam like puffy cartoon crop fields of whiteness. The consistent distance, size and even distribution made the vista outside the plane window appear as a cartoon depiction of a fantasy land.

netherlands skyAfter a brief stop, I was on the plane hop to Leeds.

The journey to Leeds left me puzzled standing on a sidewalk trying to find where I could find a bus to York and discover the whereabouts of my airbnb “home”. I did not understand the UK money so when I bought something, I simply put my money on the shelf of my flattened hand. I was frequently lost and disorientated. Having stumbled about York for two days, the next step was to go by train to London across recumbent open land that at times looked remarkably like Washington State except for the structures of the heritage stone buildings.

Stone city of York my mother's relatives.

Stone city of York my mother’s relatives.

 

Wandering around London for two days gave way to hopping the Train to Paris. Again, I did not understand the money. And by now I was used to the feeling of being lost and disoriented. The Paris Attacks occurred on the very street where my apartment was. I saw wounded. I heard death and machine guns. I walked next to pools of blood the next day. I used all of the skill I had as a meditator to keep myself centered.

From Paris, I hopped a plane to Zagreb and then to Dubrovnik where I was again unfamiliar with currency, the lay of the land and in addition, I was surrounded by people who did not speak English. When I arrived in Dubrovnik it was the day of lighting lanterns along the streets to commemorate the victims from Vukovar and Škabrnja on 18 November…

Lanterns to remember those killed. War. Remembrance. Grief.

Lanterns to remember those killed. War. Remembrance. Grief.

The ancient city of Dubrovnik, Croatia

The ancient city of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Once I returned home, I was tired and my body allowed the entry of  a virus. Lowered resistence lead to ten days in bed, miserable nights and dizziness from an inner ear infection.

As soon as I began to feel better, I got a call to report to the hospital for my colonoscopy  with laproscopic surgery. Every five years I must drink 4 liters of what I think is one of the most foul liquids I have ever experienced, go without food and go through the cutting out of suspicious bits. It is what has prevented a recurrence and kept me alive for 18 years after a very established cancer.

I crawled home, lay in bed and thought about all of the changes, challenges, instances of loss of control, the shifting time zones, the lack of sleep that had flashed through my life in the last 47 days.

Sometimes it makes me think of a kaleidoscope. There is a clear, reflected pattern that the eye grows accustomed to. One is accustomed to the sharp definition of shape. The comforting selections of colors mirrored back at one another.

And then, you want to shake it up. You are bored and feel stuck. I set out to walk in my ancestors footsteps in York and in Dubrovnik and I learned about war and invasions. I learned about slaughter, resistance, bodies stacked blocking the gates of towns.

My family’s roots were in war torn stone built fortresses. And then in Paris, I saw the modern war being waged based on ideology and religion and wounded hearts.

Blood on the Paris street of the murdered.

Blood on the Paris street of the murdered.

 

I watched myself rise to challenges that I had set and anticipated and also to even greater challenges I could never expect. When I returned home, I was irritated with myself for allowing myself to fall ill. I was disappointed with myself for once again becoming depressed over Christmas. I was curious about my fearful approach to the cancer screening and the surgeon told me it is PSTD. The body that has gone through a long illness with cancer reacts. She said it is basically imprinted trauma.

And I thought about the imprinted trauma of war that has passed through my DNA from York and from the Balkans.

My dreams and goals are to get beyond the programming. But, I am only human. And sometimes the explosions of too many challenges in a short period of time will just cause grief, sadness, and shutting down.

I can see that I have a long way to go before I can forgive myself for simply being human.

There is always more to learn. When I get greater distance, I will see more clearly what the lessons were over the last 47 days. It will be like stepping back and looking at a mural. Oh! I will say. That is what was being drawn for me.

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