Posted tagged ‘community’

eventide

September 6, 2011

“Sometimes, if you’re too strong, you can’t be stretchy and if you’re too stretchy, you can’t be strong” –a wise yogi said this today as she prompted me to forget the shape of my body and just breathe. She was talking about my physical self, but I actually laughed when I realized she’d articulated a truth I’d been dancing around for a while.

I’m raw. Tired, vulnerable, a bit wounded of late. I’m baffled; relationships aren’t what they seem, people I love are hurtful, I stay connected long beyond the point of loving or healthy or safe. I’m fearful of the force of unknowns in an uncertain time. I’m depleted by the constant effort of being my own best friend. Vigilance against the impulse to shut down wears me down.

I’m determined. Intention and effort combine to manifest new roles which serve an authentic identity. I’ve been working toward this place for four years– learning who I am beyond and because of loss, yes, but also a discovery. There is a core beauty, intuition, gratitude and faith which sustains me. Laughing with my children, lying on the hammock, savoring the kiss of a man I could love, swimming in the cold ocean, the hug of a lifelong friend– Grace reminds me every day how abundant and precious and fortunate my life is and creates the desire to fling my heart open wide.

As in my yoga practice, I struggle in life to find the sweet spot between strong and stretchy. I get glimpses of it. On retreat in Mexico, yoga and love brought me out of the shadows of cynicism, fear, defeat. Challenged gently to keep my heart open, by meditation and conversation and kindness, I went into my yoga practice vulnerable yet mindful of every sensation. The sound of the ocean just beyond the studio doors, the grit on my mat from days walking barefoot, the tenderness in my body from challenging it over the course of a week to stretch and bend and twist, the breath of my community practicing in unison; all vivid yet secondary to the quiet within as I moved without any thought beyond breathing in and breathing out. Toward the end of my practice, my teacher came and wordlessly shifted my body out of the modified version of my forward bend. I focused on her deliberate breathing in time with me. As she lay along my back, she whispered, “it’s about trust” and moved my head to the floor into a full expression of this asana; which I’d never experienced. In that moment, the essence of me existed in eventide. Peace: my mind, body and spirit met the split second homeostasis which would draw me toward eternity. I know it is possible.

And so, I’m realizing that there is nothing to do. The compulsion to draw inward, to protect myself, to flee, can exist alongside the impulse to acknowledge everyday blessing, to follow love, to rejoice. I’ve been trying to choose. I’ve been simultaneously compelled to hold tight and resist or to let go and allow: swinging the pendulum between too strong and too stretchy. The lesson is this: breathe. Forget trying to manifest some outcome. Forget trying to modify or create or coerce or discern. Breathe. Stay focused. Trust the steps I’m taking toward my dreams. Meditate, pray, practice yoga. Savor friendship and my boys and chocolate. Write down the things which make me sad or scared and then burn them in a ritual of release. Write down the things which make me smile or say ‘thank you’ to the universe and read them every day. Be a wise trout. And in that stillness, trust. Love, community and circumstances will collide with intuition, identity and grace; resulting in that moment when all is in perfect balance. It is enough.

Advertisements

celebration

January 5, 2011

The other day, I had an overwhelming urge to call a girlfriend that very moment. I obeyed my intuition. When she answered, she shared some of her troubles. Valid, heartbreaking, heavy; she’s struggling for clarity and worn out. She doesn’t want to set another intention, make a list of goals, reflect on her vision.

Understand: this is a woman who sets standards for competence and generosity. A mentor, a leader, an inspiration; her intelligence, wit, ambition, creativity and awareness and kindness make her as beautiful inside as she is outside. With an incredible list of accomplishments proving her power and worth, I’m a little bit in awe of her. She sets her mind to something and makes it happen, but she does so while also raising up everyone around her. She nurtures friends, business partners, clients, family–she finds a way to connect which is genuine and so positive–which, it seems, is a common thread among my friends. I am blessed.

I look at other friends: balancing personal goals and career; raising incredible children, negotiating marriages and relationships, finding the humor in each day. They carry dreams for themselves in pockets filled with tissue, receipts from the grocery store, worn out lipstick tubes, stray crayons or legos and a to-do list bigger than Obama’s. They bring casseroles to friends with new babies on their way to one more PTO meeting/kids practice/appointment/meeting. They host holiday dinner parties and end the night loading the dishwasher while a sulking partner surfs the net. They face their demons with courage and honesty, humor and some therapy. They endure illness without complaint, except to say that it’s difficult sometimes to ask for help. They run marathons and teach yoga and coach and sing and play in the band.  They get advanced degrees while working full-time and raising a family and still manage to put a hot meal on the table each night. They get on another airplane to another gig in another city and leave each place better than it was before they got there. They take on a second job or stay home for a week straight because the kids are sick, or whatever else is required, because it’s just what you do. They take the high road more often than not, encouraging and expressing gratitude. They love their friends and family with passion and loyalty. I am amazed by what these friends accomplish. I am amazed by how generous and loving and spirited they are.

I want to throw every one of them a party. A moment for each to see each accomplishment and blessing as it is. A moment to let go of things undone. A moment to forget the negative and focus on the ripples of light and love from each positive they’ve inspired or created. A moment to shut off the chatter in their heads which criticizes or holds their feet to the fire relentlessly. I want to create a ritual for each one of them, to acknowledge their power and strength. I want to grant a wish which would bring them true satisfaction and contentment and a sense of pride in a life well lived. I want to sing them a love song of verses meant to encourage, comfort, thank each one for her gifts to the world. I want to whisper to each that it’s okay to celebrate. Take a deep breath, sit a minute in the glow of your beauty. Shower yourself with the affection you give so freely to others. Give yourself permission to gloat, brag, accept some well-deserved praise for your wonderful-ness. Go ahead, revel in the wonder of life in this moment, it is too soon gone.

 

unexpected

November 11, 2010

It’s raining

Years of drought: ending

I’m afraid of the floods

Packed, unyielding earth

Not yet ready to accept

The blessings

Water flows; forms rivers

Pathways, puddles

Which soothe and cleanse

Create space

Where the earth was

Cracked

Fissures now floodgates, relenting

In the rain

Softening. Suddenly,

Fear gives way to

YES

and here I am

Dancing instead of

Drowning

a year of live music

October 18, 2010

Big Head Todd and the Monsters brought me back to life.

It wasn’t that I was without music.  My house was full of music: songs on the radio, kids singing in the backseat, lullabies while rocking the baby and my own voice, full of song and sound.  It had just been ages since I’d seen a show live.  I didn’t even realize how much I was missing it until that February night at the Paradise in Boston.

The Paradise is a funky, intimate club.  In my memory, everything has an aura of red: the stage lights, the carpet, the chair cushions.  We found a spot along the rail to the left of the stage, crowded, dark, loud.  Big Head Todd and the Monsters have been playing live together for a long time; they are tight onstage.  The man I was with had been doing his best for months to hold me together with kisses while things within me fell apart.  He stood behind me, arms around me.  We danced with the crowd as lyric, melody, bass combined to create that mystery of energy we call music. I closed my eyes. Connected for a moment to these strangers; Big Head Todd the thread tying us together, having fun and grateful for it.  There, in that moment, I came fully into myself for the first time in far too long for memory.

Thus began the year of live music.

Next was Leo Kottke; phenomenally talented on the guitar. A pleasure in itself.  It is his storytelling, though, which blows my mind.  His guitar becomes an extension of his words and wit as he plays and sings and weaves tales I don’t want to end.

Then came Alison Krauss and Robert Plant with T. Bone Burnett, supporting their incredible collaboration. I’d gotten tickets for my son for his eleventh birthday. I love Alison Krauss and live, she is brilliant. It was Robert Plant, though, who made me giddy.  Both Zeppelin fans, my son and I, struck speechless by his version of “When the Levy Breaks”. Well, we just stood dumbfounded throughout the show, disbelieving the chemistry and joy of the whole affair.  After the show my son told me “until my own children are born, seeing Robert Plant will be the highlight of my life”.  The man has still got “it”–that charisma and voice.  Combined with T. Bone and Alison Krauss, “it” was magic, indeed!

I spent that summer going to local shows in Gloucester.  I was in love with a bassist and those shows were less about the music and more about friendship and romance.  We had an awesome party full of music when the guys from Brian Wilson’s band came to visit overnight.  We played a game trying to stump one very talented encyclopedia of music named Probyn and gave up when he busted out a perfect version of “My Pal Foot Foot” by the Shaggs.

I took my best friend to see George Michael that summer.  It was a birthday gift for her, which was really just a gift to myself!  One of my guilty pleasures, George Micheal, creating the backdrop to time spent with one of my favorite people.  George Michael holds nothing back: enormous light show, video, sixteen piece band with six back up singers.  He’s all fun and light.  We danced in our seats and screamed like teenagers.

Then there was Weezer and every moment was nostalgia and present thrill all in one.  Not long after, I spent a fortune for floor seats to the Killers. That was just a party I’d attend every day if I could.

I reconnected with a dear friend who is an incredible singer and songwriter and spent lots of time at local pubs and venues drinking Guinness and singing along. Mercuryhat is the soundtrack to memories of girls’ night out with some of my favorite people; laughter and connection and a platform for loving and being loved exactly as we are.

And I realize that as much as I love creating and hearing and seeing and participating in music, as much as I would wither without it, it is just this which truly brings me to life: the connection. Music as a pathway to time and place, memory and emotion, yes. But also, music itself creating the energy which draws me in with my eyes closed and my heart open; having fun and grateful, tied to the moment, loving and being loved.

10 things

October 7, 2010

10 Things Which Make Me Happy

1. My children. Deeply happy in that “I can’t believe how blessed I am that I get to parent these incredible beings” kind of indescribable way. That “this is love in its purest form for me” way.

2. M&Ms. How can I go from #1 above to candy coated little chocolates? Easy. It’s pure pleasure, an m&m. The little clinky noise they make when poured into a bowl. The little rush of chocolate after a tiny snap of crunch. The bright colors. The way they are fantastic on their own but also amazing mixed with cookie dough or ice cream or peanut butter. Oh, yes. M&Ms.

3. Music. The way it invades the soul without asking, creating connection to memory, time, place, present. The way it evokes emotion or carries lyric as though musician and listener are sharing an intimate secret. The way it can prompt action: laugh, party, shake it, shake it, shake it, let go and belt it out off-key if you must.

4. Gardens. More specifically, my hands in the soil. No– any gardens, because even looking at photographs of gardens zones me out. Color, texture, scent, taste. The task of planting a seed, saying a blessing over it and watching as it transforms: joy divine. The task of weeding or digging or hauling rocks taps into some internal bliss akin to religious rapture. Hallelujah.

5. Friends. I have the best collection of inspiring, creative, accomplished, devoted, loyal, loving, fun and funny friends. They nurture me. They heal me. They bless me with their presence, true presence in my life. They honor me with their trust. They crack me up. They remind me what is beautiful and right about connection and love.

6. Words. Serendipity, Avocado, Scootch. Sounds and symbols together creating meaning, which we then convey with voice or pen or keyboard. Conversation and connection and lyric and poetry and understanding.

7. Food. The way it can be central to the experience of connection. Yes, it literally nourishes. The act of preparing and sharing becomes nourishing. “Let me feed you” moves into a metaphor for giving of self. Levels of satisfaction from the genuine pleasure of tasting a perfect strawberry to the craft of creating flavors and textures to the delight of hearing “oh my gosh, this is amazing” when a friend bites into a lovingly prepared meal.

8. Laughter. Yes, of course, if I’m laughing it must be because I’m happy, right? But I’m talking about hearing others laugh, especially about sharing a laugh. The kind of satisfaction that comes from creating a laugh response from someone else “oh yeah, you get it”. It’s validating, “I’m funny!” It’s genuine pleasure. It tickles.

9. Water. Being near the ocean calms me like nothing else, even when the ocean shows its power. It’s like instant savasana. Primal. Lakes, rivers, puddles, even rainfall–pleasure within. The liberation of swimming underwater: quiet, dark, cool, a little mysterious and complete joy.

10. Clean sheets. Oh my gosh! Sliding into a well-made bed. Cool sheets (line dried and smelling of sunshine?!), letting go of the cares of the day surrounded by comfort and pleasure, a hug shepherding me into sleep. Bliss!

A Glimpse Within

July 28, 2009

My child is filthy.  His clothes hang disheveled, covered with mud and soot.  I can smell him from several feet away.  His face and hands are nearly black.  His shins are covered with blood from bug bites and brambles, sweat drips from under his baseball hat.  He’s smiling as I walk toward him. 

I ask him about his day.  I expect to hear about building camp in the woods, about making a fire without matches, about whittling a bowl from a log.  He is a Forest Scout and this is his first day of Earth Skills camp.  On other such days, he’s talked of juniper tea and eating roadkill.  He has built himself a shelter of branches and snow and spent a February night there.  He has talked of hiking to the middle of the Maine woods with only a compass and some cryptic directions back to the path: left at the big mossy rock, straight through the blueberry patch…The stories of his adventures in the woods tumble out, his words almost faster than his mind as he races from highlight to highlight. 

These are not the stories I hear now. Instead, he tells me he was annoyed all day.  He struggled with his group and isn’t sure how he’ll participate with them the rest of this week.  Though the activities were fun, there were kids in his group who “put a damper on the day”.  I ask him to begin at the beginning.

One boy came to camp wearing a fedora.  My son inquired about his choice of head wear and this boy responded that he’s Jewish and that all of the great rabbis wear a fedora.  This satisfied my child’s curiosity.  Throughout the day, however, other boys in the group would make comments to this boy such as “you can’t play this with us, you’re Jewish” or “we’ll fight you, you’re Jewish”.  The boy would laugh along with these others but my son was deeply offended.  He asked the boys to stop speaking this way.  He told them their words, while not aimed at him, were hurtful and offensive.  Once in a while, the counselor would also ask the boys to rein in their comments, though it didn’t last for long. 

My son and I consider the options.  He can deal with it as he did today.  He can ask to switch groups. He can try to find remedy through dialogue.  He decides to speak to the assistant program director since his counselor has already left for the day.  He tells her he’s uncomfortable in his group with this kind of atmosphere.  She agrees that it is unacceptable and assures him that she will speak to the counselor and help him to resolve the issue.  My son feels better and begins in earnest now to describe the ember he created to hollow out the center of his cedar-log bowl.  For a moment, all else is forgotten.

This boy, my first child, is a student of history.  He knows World War II the way other boys his age know baseball statistics.  He can rattle off campaigns, dates, military leaders and strategies, weapons, outcomes.  He is fascinated with Nazi propaganda.  Sometimes it is disturbing, this knowledge.  I try to encourage him to fill his mind with peace- as balance.  I required he read “Talking Peace” by Jimmy Carter last school year.  I banned war books for the summer.  I limit the amount of conversation focused on the military.  It is my own discomfort.  It is my own hope that my child not absorb the terror, hatred, brutality of history.  It is my dream that he be an instument for peace in the world. 

I see now that I need not worry.    The program director meets the kids in the woods.  He speaks to them of tolerance and awareness.  There are fewer remarks and the kids respect my son’s request that they refrain from anti-Semitism, even when “joking”.  Are these boys truly anti-Semites?  Probably not.  Is the boy who is Jewish offended?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that my child  has demonstrated strength of character.  He has proven his integrity.  He is sensitive to inherent wrong.  He has shown leadership in his intolerance of the language and actions of his peers.  He has been proactive in seeking resolution.  I know he can use a compass to navigate the woods and now I realize he has tapped an internal compass as well.  I am so proud of him.  I am so grateful he is in this world, as he is.  He is all boy: filthy and disheveled, bruised, smelly and physical.  Yet he is more and I have caught a glimpse of him in truth: strong, principled, peaceful.  Amen!  I am a lucky momma, indeed.

Community

July 6, 2009

It’s eight o’clock on a Sunday morning.  It’s the first truly warm, sunny day after almost an entire month of gray, cold, rain.  I’m sitting on metal bleachers, eating a bagel and drinking too-sweet iced tea.  I imagine myself as a solar battery, absorbing the sun and feeling my energy restored. 

Somewhere in the dugout to my left, my 12 year old is waiting for his turn to play.  I cannot see him from where I am.  His teammates are on the field, looking worn out after a weekend of tournament play.  They aren’t chatty and look a bit rumpled this morning.  It’s a different story on the bleachers!  I am surrounded by smiles, friendly greetings, mutual appreciation for the turn in the weather.  There are moms and dads, siblings and grandparents surrounding me.  A dad in the front row yells to the left fielder to move in a couple of steps.  Another dad is assessing the position of the scoreboard and whether or not the fence should have been extended beyond the bleachers where we are sitting.  Moms sip coffee and spray their kids with sunscreen and bug spray.  As the game gets started, the kids on the field begin to perk up.  They banter.  They chatter.  They sing “G-O-O-D- E-Y-E: good eye, good eye, good eye” as a teammate waits for that perfect pitch.  The teams are well matched today and despite an out-of-the-park home-run by their star player, the kids have to work hard to earn their 5-3 victory.

I stand to walk to the concession booth for some water.  I can’t walk more than a few feet without stopping to chat.  Hi Chip, Hi Sara, Hi Dana…The conversation doesn’t matter.  I know these people only in the context of these moments; parents sitting together, cheering “our” team, waiting through yet another inning.  We talk of plans to find last-minute lodging in the middle of July near Sebago Lake for the State tournament.  We talk of double elimination and double plays.  We talk of ways to get the damp, locker room smell out of cleats.  We talk of the weeks of sacrifices–plans rearranged in order to have our children here on the first sunny day of summer.  We understand the meaning of this time in our kids’ lives; how All-Star baseball shapes this present into future nostalgia. 

I smile all the way to the concession stand.  It is one of those moments of recognition of the perfection of life.  My child, loving the game.  Me, loving my child–bringing us into this community, in this moment.  It is joy.