Hinges and Hindsight

When I shut the door to my garden shed, I noticed two of the four hinges are not firmly screwed into the wood. The seam in the plywood was opened and the screws just kind of float in the space between the sandwiched wood.

 

 

Yard of flowers
I push the door up and into place to close it. Every. Time. I close the door.
I know it is needing to be reseated. I know I need to take all of the screws out and find another place to establish a firm connection. And yet, I get out my screwdriver and simply sink the screws back into the space that is not working, where there is no grip, no security, no future.
This is life. The work-arounds are usually about not solving a problem. The small surrenders to that which is failing are a type of disbelief in self.
If I trace the weakness back to the source I see two statements which my ego uses to keep me in a state of competent dysfunction. There is no time. Right now I do not have the time.

 

chained to thoughts
Isn’t that rich. Isn’t that genius. “Right now I do not have the time.”
There is no time right now. There is only anxiety, pushing ahead, living in the future. Hoping as an antidote to doing.
There is no time right now. The ego is brilliant in its ability to distract me from growth.
The second seduction is the statement: You are too tired to take action.
This one leads me into the hours of entertainment addiction that goes on each night.
Ego says, “It is dark. You are now tired. You need to stop and just lay down.”
And so I walk away from the hinge having only temporarily, partially, incidentally made it functional. Later tonight, when I have finished my time anchored tasks it will be night. And “It is dark. You are now tired. Just lay down.” will start playing in my head.
How do we become unhinged? Because we allow it to happen, slowly, one decision at a time. The ego sings to us. It knows how to Infomercial hard sell to me a life of low grade, barely operating at competence level.
When we turn and look at our past, when we have hindsight, we can see the thousands of things that could have been prevented… if we had only had Time and were not Tired.
Maybe it is time to just reframe our concepts. We have time and we have a beautiful ever flowing energy if we stop dancing to egos tune, we can do a bigger, more effective dance. And maybe sing while we are doing it.

The Dragonfly on the lock

One day recently, I stepped out onto my bubble gum pink front steps and turned automatically in order to push the lock button. It rests at the centre of the keypad. As I distractedly moved my finger into place, I felt something soft and structural against my finger tip.
I looked to see that a dragonfly had rested across the pad.

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It laid and stayed. It’s body was spread diagonally, organically contrasting with the metal plate. Quickly, I pulled my hand away and stopped my mind. I came to. I focused. I zapped into my body. I astral returned from whatever graphic novel scenario I had been sketching taking me out of my life.
In that moment, I was absolute. I stood on the bubble gum pink stairs and felt the bottom of my feet the strength of my legs; my being, my physicality, my existence, my particularly manifested form.

I stood and looked at the dragonfly and it waited for me.
It waited for me to return from my deadened walk, blind eyed, drooling idiocy, color commentary method of seeing life as some kind of game. I stood on the step with my finger lifted in the air and I remembered how the dragonfly felt to my touch.
I have never touched a dragonfly before. I am over 70 and I have never touched a dragonfly before.

 

Relax into life

Relax into life

I wonder how many new experiences I am having each day that I am not having. Because I do not see them, I do not see me.
The dragonfly waited for me. It was patient. And then my mind pulled focus, the 1st camera assistant did her job. How clear. The detail of its structure, its beauty, the iridescent wings were so clear. And for a moment, I forgot to breathe.
So many things have been stuck, broken, inhabited by technological gremlins lately that I have become resigned to the no progress scenario.
I sit meditation, chant, let the darkness of recycling doubt move through me. I have not been insistent. I pray for patience, I pray for guidance, I pray for a sign daily.
Today, a dragon fly laid across my door lock and would not move.
When I looked up the significance I learned it is a sign of mental and emotional maturity.

All of the careful reformation of my mind, my body, my resetting of intention in the world has been guided by something outside of me. I have trusted that I would find a way to live with more grace in the world.

 

signs of love

signs of love

Today, a dragon fly laid across my door lock and it would not move until I received it.
I am grateful. Thank you, beautiful messenger.

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.

 

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.

Paris Attacks: after witnessing terrorism on my street

This is my experience: I grew up when the Korean War was going to destroy the world.
I grew up through the years when the cold war would “end all life on earth”. I was shown films of nuclear bombs and trained to crouch beneath my desk turtled at the word trigger of “flash” which the teacher would randomly yell.

 

Old City Dubrovnik

I sat at the high school lunch room table as the Cuban missile crises occurred and we dry mouthed our sandwiches as nuclear death was 15 minutes away. The enemy missile ships were in place and the missiles lifted on target. Our port city was a major target we had been informed.

To sit at the table and watch people killing others during the Viet Nam war  was my experience. We ate horror with our dinners nightly.

I watched the 9/11 towers collapse and people curl around the TV screens which broadcast the message of end days.

As long as I have been alive there has been a vicious enemy created fear. As long as I have been alive there has been a current of edgy doom energy flowing.

What I can say because of this life is that the real fear we all face is that of our own death. What I know is that the media, the politicians broadcast that we have no hope. The message is and has reoccured that end days are here.

How different is that from the groups of people who have gone to stand on a tall mountain because the Rapture is upon us? How different is that than the belief in Medieval times that others hold the devil’s energy in their hearts?

If we could but just understand that there is no avoiding death, there is no avoiding the knowledge of the fragility of life, we would stop allowing the flow of fear to take us hostage.

In these times the single question is: How do we live?

Do we allow ourselves to be manipulated? Or do we know with certainty that we hold power in life.
We can be the conduit to intensify fear, or we can refuse to grab onto that current. We can ground ourselves knowing that there will be death but right now we are fully alive.

performance

Our job is to be present in our own lives. Our job is to drop the masks, the defence mechanisms, the armour, the need to protect and we must walk into the world meeting others with compassion.

I have lived through the end of so many worlds.

 

And when the cult runs to the mountain top to avoid “the wrath”, I refuse to join.

There is a prayer that says, “I will fear no evil.” At this time in my life, I know there is no evil. There are only people who have had their hearts destroyed.

Let us choose to not be among their number.
Cherie Hanson

Thanksgiving

Warm sun, flocks of moving birds through falling gold maple leaves, the sound of my neighbours’ toddlers and in my house the nine of us together.

attendants
My son with his wife and new born baby; my daughter with her husband and three children gather. It is a small house but there is room for us comfortably. It has been a long time since we were all together. I moved to Kelowna. My daughter attended school in Prince George. My son moved to Edmonton to marry. My daughter and husband moved to Edmonton for work. Marriages failed. People got sick and close to death. Children were born. Life.
On the day of the feast, I cleaned and kept the tiny counter clear. And I love to clean. My daughter and her husband chopped, stirred, planned and created glorious smells of roasting turkey and various foods.
The three girls played outside with the neighbours son and they were running in the leaves, wielding sticks or swords or magic wands while following mysterious maps they had drawn.
The air was clear and the day warm. The colors intensely sharp. We all knew that this gathering had been a long time coming, had been a long time absent.

blue heart
The simple domestic ordinariness of it was spectacular. To watch my son and his wife so deeply in love with their daughter; to watch my dresden skinned blonde curled grand daughters playing happily; to see my daughter married for 25 years and her husband sneak a kiss was a miracle. There were only three of us once upon a time.

 

Natalyia Hanson 7 weeks old

Natalyia Hanson 7 weeks old

The three of us were exiled to a Northern town for my work and had no one we knew around us. I was frightened, in an unsettling environment and not confident I could rise to the challenge.
But somehow they survived me, the North, the operations and hospital stays and we are now nine.
Thanksgiving.

Losing the way. Is it necessary?

I was born into a war zone. The chaos and random, unpredictable violence along with the lack of a sense of protection left me in a world in which I believed that “the work of her hands” would allow me to enter the gate. Only through effort would I ever be free.

 

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I climbed upon the skinny horse of striving and kicked me heels into her sides.
All of my adolescent reading was about real people who had emerged from adversity through the virtues of stoicism, stamina and able strategy. Marie Curie, Sacagawea, Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Maier fascinated me.

 

Golda Meir, Prime Minister, Israel

Golda Meir, Prime Minister, Israel

To be able to create the self triumphant using discipline, focus and momentum was my waking dream.
I earned two degrees, took three minors because a choreographer and a dancer in the three and a half years of undergraduate school.
I was driven, fired up, hungry for knowledge and it carried me. It carried me until it did not.
All systems failed in a spectacular fashion when my body developed cancer then rheumatoid arthritis. I had whipped my self with the stick of my goals.

 

images
I was not at home in the physical connection with myself. And so I failed again and again until I finally knew.
As I lay on the bathroom floor in the hospital with a twisted bowel, I prayed it would just stop. I prayed I would just stop. I had endured enough.

 

all is effort and confusion

all is effort and confusion

Work no longer worked for me. Badges and degrees and certificates and plaques with recognition and accolades no longer worked for me.
None of it could kill the pain.
It was while I was baby curled on that floor that I could feel the c old truth. I knew that I had no clue.
I had done art therapy, group therapy, one on one therapy, dance therapy, journal writing and it left me outside alone.
I had walked like a vampire under the full moon, under partially lit trees, outside the picture life windows of others. I was alone. I was outside my body, outside my spirit, outside of society. I was a vagrant soul.
All doors closed and it was then I knew that I did not know and so I fell into love.
I sat meditation to save myself. I sat with Gabor Mate and with shamans and with mystics. And what I discovered was myself.
What I discovered was that no matter how many assaults I had experienced first from others and then from myself, my super power was that I could love. No matter what, my heart could find a way to love my mother, to love my father and that is why I did not perish.
I could find a way to love like one stepping from rock to rock crossing a wild water river. My love for my brother, my love for my children, my love for my students, my love for my friends. One each of these points of balance I could stand for a while and be safe.
It sustained me so that I did not perish.
And it changed everything. It changed my life in ways I could not anticipate. I began again.

And as I said, “I don’t know,” I fell in love. I fell in love with the silence in my house. I fell in love with a peaceful body not pushing, not striving. I fell in love with the bird choir in my Maple tree.
I got off of the dying, scrawny horse whose ribs were showing and I sat.
I sat in circles, I sat in groups, I sat alone, I sat in not knowing.
Within a year my body begin to trust me. It began to heal.
Five years ago I had Rheumatoid Arthritis and all of my testing showed me to be operating as a fifty year old.
Because my body knows it is safe with me now, it has healed. I have no signs of R.A. I have the bone mass density of a 20 year old and medical tests indicate that I am average for a 30 year old woman.
What I have learned is that no attack, no scar, no broken bone, no onslaught of injury has ever, in truth, touched me.
My spirit is loved and supported. I am here to be a source of love, to see and create beauty and to speak words that heal. I was born into a disaster zone and it has not touched me.
Because I can love.
It is by allowing the not knowing that I have not perished but instead have flourished. I have become curious. What will next arrive?

I don’t know.

Reconciliation

What I am told by those who say they know, is that the first year of a new decade is a bit like a toddler just pushing up off of the floor and into a wobbling stance. The progress is hesitant, lacking confidence and more about adjusting to the new point of view than anything else.
The teachers say the first year of a new decade is a bit like the first pancake in the pan. It is basically a throw away.

 

speaking from the heart
It is in the place of being 41 or 51 or 61 that the individual goes, “Oh so this is how the new decade feels.”

Becoming acclimatized to 70 is, apparently, what last year was about.

That is not to say it was a throw away. I learned new technology; I learned new methods of meditation; I established new habits which serve me well.

 

growing into self

growing into self

However, I clearly see that I am in a period in my life of reconciliation which includes: reunion, fence mending, remedying, harmonizing, balancing and achieving peace.

All of the ferocity of my youthful and adolescent desires are still burning in me. However, my confidence in my abilities is at an all time high.
I know how it is I wish to be in the world. That image has never been more clearly reflecting in the preceding hours of my life.

I organized a family reunion and set the intention of ending the chasms that had grown in the clan. Part of those rifts were from left over stories; from connections that were forged in violence and addiction; from my defence mechanism of running away from the pain of connection.

 

head shot 4

In my 71st year, my remaining family who have not passed are closer to me than ever before. With joy, I watch them discover and connect with one another. Like tribes in a war zone the emotional diaspora sent groups fleeing. There is a stronger tie between us today.

As far as remedying goes, at this stage in my life I have come to understand from my reading; from my experiences; from my patterns that I am nothing more than a bundle of habits. To create another aspect of self, I see with clarity that the remedy is in watchfulness. Like any good author, I sit back and observe. What story will unfold? If “the character” moves forward with these particular sets of behaviors what is the inevitable outcome?

And so, I use mindfulness practice and watch myself. To reconstruct the ending, I need to teach myself new behaviors and new habits. In my 71st year, this will be my main “project.”

The inevitable outcome will be to harmonize my youthful, jagged and unskilled methods of reacting while keeping the goals and the heart felt yearnings in place.

 

fitting in

fitting in

The result for me, in this year of finding my feet is to allow fire. The result for me will be knowing how to rest peacefully at times and how to burn brightly at others. I am finally reconciled to my own nature. And I thank whatever miracle happened to keep me alive to experience this time of acceptance.
“Life teaches you how to live it if you live long enough,” Tony Bennett said.

Picking Threads

I am systematically working on building new habits. Researchers have said that we are nothing more than a bundle of habits.

patterns

 

We believe ourselves to be this face, this body, this story, this history, this actor, this receiver, this age, this cohort, this tapestry of threads woven into our energy field. We believe ourselves to be conscious and operating from the Executive decision function section of the frontal lobe.

All brain studies point to this assumption as flawed.
We are in the thrall of habit mind. If 95% of what we are telling ourselves throughout the day is simply old drama that is recalculating and interpreting current data, then it is no real surprise that the movie, the plot we are enacting is the same story. However,  this time the narrative is in a different setting. We are the same being only this time wearing as a costume a slightly altered body.
Did I mention, I am systematically working on building new habits.

 
I have a notebook. I have set up a grid. I am checking off squares.
What this does is it releases me from the interpretive dance of what is or could or would or should or will or did happen. The Loie Fuller scarf dance of swooping justifications, lyrical rationalizations, slight of eye, feign of hand, performances of inner dialogue music that normally occur.
I either check off the square or I don’t.

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I admire my ego self. It is so stalwart.

I hover my pen over a square saying, “Well I did walk around in the mall. That is exercise.” The creativity is admirable. The translation is not unlike that on Babble Fish. In one field I put the words and in the other a strange, otherworldly version appears. Breathing is exercise. Napping is physical. Sitting and reading about exercise is working toward my goals. Shopping for an exercise outfit is focus on that desired outcome. Right. Right? Right!
How I untangle the threads is with alertness. I have set up my reticular activation system to recognize successes. I have checked off doing weight for three days in a row because I do not have a vague goal of “exercise”. My goals are specific habits which I am entraining: yoga, weight lifting, and walking for no purpose.
Walking for no purpose gets rid of the “automatic out,” that ego tries to create. Mowing the lawn is walking. But it is not walking unleashed from a secondary goal. I cannot ingrain a habit without the recognition of the very habit which I am constructing.
That way lies madness. Or strange babblefish translations of ego talk.
I could be “burning calories” by eating with an incredibly heavy fork that I need to place 500 yards away and run back and forth to take that satisfying chomp of food.
All I have done is entrain eating.
Oh, the ego monster is sooo tricky.
For now, I am happy with my list. I am pleased when I put down a check mark and I stay in a place wherein I know who I will effortlessly be after a three month focus on building those particular habits.
Because, it ain’t magic. It ain’t a tragedy. It ain’t a heroic struggle to climb out of an awakening volcanic cone to the tiny pin light of the surface.
I am just a bundle of habits.
Did you follow my thread?

Negative Space

During my morning meditation, it came to me how so much of my existence has been about “available” space. I fit into the places between, at the edges. When I move through a crowd, it has been my habit to squeeze into openings successfully avoiding touching, or pushing against anyone.

 
As I sat in another absolutely abysmal presentation recently, I felt words building up in my mouth moving from my mind to my throat and clamped so that they fell castrated onto my tongue.

“No, No, No,” my head was saying. There is no content. There is no stimulating new information. Yet all sat quietly as if something were going on. As if there were life in the room.

 
I envisioned a hard shelled bug that stays small in order not to be seen, not to be in danger. Self discipline has been my method of growth.
Occupying negative space, hiding in plain sight, gagging on my own thoughts, apologetically moving through only those corridors of available space creates entropy. My fear of discovery, of chastisement, of punishment, of being found out. Found out in the open. Found.

 
Lady bug
Lady bug
fly to the sky
Your wings are the fire
with the songs of desire.

 
The child in me. The child in me wants to be disruptive,
spectacular. I want to climb all over the boundaries as if they were not restrictions but rather structures for challenging myself.
Perthaps, there is nothing to fear in just making space for everything I am.

july 19 12

Perhaps there is no essential flaw but only space and sky and passion.