wave that bubble wand

the other day i was driving around my sleeping daughter feeling rather grumbly about life. i was tired, i was triggered, i was not wanting to drive for hours just to keep my baby sleeping (yet also needed her to nap).

in the past i would’ve enjoyed the chance to explore, to look around at houses and see parts of town (including private roads!) that i normally don’t get to see. but not this day. it was just one of those days when life was getting to me.

until i turned the corner and saw exactly what i needed to see:

a man, at least in his mid-seventies, standing in his open garage doorway wearing nothing but a pair of shorts waving around a bubble wand.

yes!

immediately i smiled and relaxed, remembering that life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. when i’m tired and triggered and just grumbly, life is way too serious. but this man waving around his bubble wand was the antidote to my pessimism. what made it better was that he was all by himself, not caring what others thought (this was on a fairly busy street), and it was the middle of the afternoon.

how random, yes?

play can be such a healing medicine. go wave that bubble wand.

the slow decent into darkness, the return of light

Here in the northern hemisphere, we’re tilting back toward darkness. We’ve reached the apex of light, and now it’s time to return to the cave.

the opposite will be true for those of you in the southern hemisphere. You’ll have reached the peak of darkness, and more and more light will slowly be making its way into your days.

How are you feeling as more darkness or light enter your world?  It’s not that either are new; we go through these shifts year after year, month after month, day after day, and sometimes, it seems, one moment from the next is fraught with fluctuation that leaves us feeling chaotic and out of control inside.

when our souls are calling us into the cave, notice how easily you welcome the invitation or how strongly you resist it.

When our souls want to rush out into the world in leaps of celebration, notice if there’s anything inside nipping at your heels or, like usually is the case for me, grabbing you by the ankles trying to keep you stuck and ‘comfortable.’

Wherever you find yourself right now, you’ll be finding yourself in transition if you open to it. It’s true we’re always in transition, yet there’s something different during the months of anticipation as summer turns to autumn and winter into spring. Death and life looms in the distance, visible now on the horizon. We can see the storm and sense its impending waters and thunderclaps. We can smell the sweetness of the roses making their way through the solid, frozen, thawing ground.

what’s happening inside you right now? What wants to come out? What wants to stay in? We need time to incubate our selves, time to marinate on images and metaphors, insights and wonderings. We also need room for expression, clearing space for new life to grow. All of this involves some kind of stillness, of sitting in the in-between spaces that might feel a little, or a lot, uncomfortable. But sit we must, until what’s next makes itself known.

The daffodils are dying OR Perennial Love

the daffodils are dying and i don’t want them to go. i don’t want the newness of spring to be wearing off, and i don’t want to leave the infatuation i have with this time of year. it feels like ‘falling out of love,’ that fall from fantasy, back to reality after the high and buzz wear off.

for as long as i can remember, when spring came around i’d put my focus on the trees. i’d check them for buds and leaves, and when i didn’t see any it came with such a sense of relief, a reminder of how much spring there still was left to experience. now, there are fully grown leaves on the tress, and, as i said earlier, the daffodils are dying and spring is happening. it’s here, and that means it’s passing.

of course i made a metaphor out of it (what good is anything if it can’t be made a metaphor?). where i landed was on relationships, and how i feel when spring begins is so much like the infatuation in those early stages of a relationship (which isn’t a requirement for a healthy relationship) or even the calm waters settling in after a rough (sometimes very rough) patch. in the beginning, there’s so much hope. when the storm passes, there’s so much relief. “When spring comes I’ll feel so happy,” i’ll think. “I’m going to do so much and really get organized,” i’ll say to myself. there’s so much promise of something different. until i realize that time passes and i’m still the same, with the same habits, the same tendencies, the same stuck points. i do make progress, yes. but not the kind of whimsical, magical, frollicking kind of progress. not the “i’m a new person” kind of progress. in short, i’m not rescued by spring.

and that’s because spring doesn’t last. tiny buds turn into blooms. the daffodils die. spring loses its newness, it’s sense of promise to make everything right in the world. i fall back into despair at moments, beating my head against the wall as i try to figure out how the hell to be better at time management and organization. every year i think spring will make me feel whole again. and even more than that – i actually do feel whole again, but it’s fleeting, a mirage of permanence that still continues to feel like a hard fall from grace every time i learn this lesson of impermanence.

i want to make it so crystal clear that this is what we do with people, too. we think we’ll be saved by them. we think their budding love for us will take us from the winter freeze that hardened our hearts and melt the ice into a pool of easy, warm comfort. and for a time, it might actually be that way. just like with the budding daffodils, there’s so much to look forward to (unless there isn’t; relationships are deeply triggering and i don’t want to make this sound like the beginning should be all, well, rainbows and flowers). it’s easy to be blinded by the future growth we see emerging all around us. the fantasies seem as real as the scent of the flowers.

but, the point is to remember that the scent doesn’t last. flowers can actually turn quite ugly when they’re dying and recharging. the leaves turning yellow has to happen in order for the bulb to gain energy. isn’t that interesting – the plant gives itself the fuel it needs a year in advance to make it through the long, hard winter. this process is necessary if they’re to come back again next spring. we must go through the hard times in order to come alive again. death is necessary for rebirth.

this reality sometimes feels nothing short of impossible to take in and believe, let alone accept. we have years of stored pain around relationships, likely from our own families of origin as well as in the collective. we probably have more experiences of pain when things get hard than of repair, so our trust in it all is meek and tenuous. to do something new and different is an act of bravery, because it can feel as though we’re going to be annihilated if we step out of a familiar pattern. when we step into the unknown.

so, as i conclude this somewhat random, twisty post, i want to assure you that the rough patches in your relationship are going to settle back down into a place of more ease. it might not be quick or happen tomorrow, and things might have to turn ugly first before there can be beauty again. but if we allow ourselves to learn from these moments, we actually get something from them. there are deep lessons here: about ourselves, our partners, our relationships. we can take these times and use it for our advantage. our love can be like the perennial: blooming year after year no matter how long, cold, and dark the winter might have been.

when the road curves into the woods and we can’t see what’s next…

not long ago, someone asked me to write a post about career paths that don’t happen as planned. when they’re twisty and curvy and nonlinear. when it doesn’t go from A to B to C in a simple, planned fashion.

our world likes to move in a straight line, and when the path ends up being a little more unclear it’s unsettling. we’re told that if we go to college and get the degree there will be a job waiting for us like a pot of gold. we’re led to believe that life just falls into place in this way, and it’s even more frustrating to see that it does, indeed, happen for some just so. we’re left feeling agitated, comparing ourselves to others and sifting through our psyche to find what the heck the problem could be. we determine that something, indeed, must be wrong.

fret not. there’s nothing wrong with you, and in fact, this time in your life might be just the lesson you’re needing to learn. of course, in the midst of a job search and potential financial stress, it doesn’t feel like an ‘opportunity.’ no. it feels like a setback, a punishment from the universe. but really, it is a good thing.

why? because you’re learning that life isn’t pretty. you’re learning that the path moves differently for different people. to experience hardship can shape you in ways that getting things easily just don’t. i know it’s frustrating when you just want to get on with life and it seems to have chosen stagnation instead. thats’s the ego getting caught in the trap of constant movement, in the belief that if things aren’t happening then…well, things aren’t happening.

but, try to shift your focus and view this situation from a different lens. where’s the window? do you have some more time to yourself before having to be at a job right now? this can be a great time to get to know yourself better. to see where your mind goes when it doesn’t get what it wants (which will happen repeatedly as you continue to grow, i can promise you that) can be quite illuminating. and to learn to work with that now is truly a gift.

one of the best realizations i’ve ever had is this:

there aren’t any rules.

no rules! yes, there are the standards of human decency and laws we must follow. but, it’s not a law that you must be in your career fresh out of school. it’s not a law that you must be married with a kid by 30. these ‘rules’ were created by a society and it preys on our need to belong. to break the ‘rules’ triggers our fear of not being accepted. it challenges our self worth, but that’s mainly because we’ve made our self worth dependent on our accomplishments.

so, with that, i will remind you: there aren’t any rules. consider what you’re learning right now as life unfolds in ways you hadn’t predicted. you might want to throw a chair through the window you’re that frustrated, but once that rage and impatience and fear subsides, consider the lesson. because these lessons comprise the foundation of adulthood. and a solid foundation, while hard to come by at times, is the ground upon which your life is built.

the ice cream date

oh, ice cream. this week i took my daughter, Willow, to get some ice cream and it was quite magical. there’s a sort of specialty ice cream parlor here in Ann Arbor (called Blank Slate; check it out if you’re ever around, and be sure to let me know so we can meet!) and it opened back up recently for the season. i was having a craving for ice cream, so we went.

this trip was magical for several different reasons:

1. before my daughter and i left the house i asked her if she liked ice cream. she said, rather seriously and quietly and after a brief pause to let my words sink in, ‘yeah’ while gently nodding her head (meaning, nearly her entire upper body; so cute). this is fairly new for her and anytime she does something new it’s worthy of a fireworks display. or, ice cream. this was confirmation that we had to go.

2. i was having ice cream with my daughter. my daughter. the weirdness of having a child has yet to fully pass. i don’t think it ever will, as i think life is just generally weird. all of it all the time. i describe everything as weird, so this likely won’t change. anyway, i was having ice cream with my child. or, should i say children? because my inner child was the one fully immersed in the pleasure of it all (or at least the consumption of the ice cream).

3. there were very few people in the store. this was heaven for my introverted, highly sensitive self. my daughter had enough people to stare at while i could just sit and indulge myself and just be.

but there’s something deeper to this experience, what i’m now referring to as ‘ice cream date’ experiences. it was a rather spontaneous trip, one born of craving and desire. i allowed myself to lean in, fully, without guilt or shame or resistance (and i’m usually resistant to most things, on some level). the deeper part was allowing myself to experience pleasure. period.

time slowed down for a bit during this visit at the ice cream store. Willow sat in her high chair, looking around and scooping herself a little more ice when she wanted it. it was raining outside. it was quiet inside. we were having fun, just being together. i was having fun, just being with myself.

it’s in these little moments when my heart breaks open and i’m flooded by life and the beauty and pain it holds. the awareness that these moments with my girl will be so short-lived is heartbreaking. that i wasn’t able to hold on to her babyhood, and won’t be able to hold on to her toddlerhood either. most memories will be eventually pushed out by new ones over time. it’s both wonderful to know there’s more goodness to come, and devastating to know there’s so much slipping through my hands without any say on my part.

so, i suppose the work of integration is to fully allow the despair to settle so my heart can open wide enough to let these memories leave a mark on my psyche, soul, heart, and mind. to let myself love these moments means i also have to let them pass. because love is what’s here now, in this moment. tapping into anything else is resistance or fear, creating the illusion of control or certainty, and keeps me from being fully awake to my experience.

this is new for me. i typically disconnect from many experiences because every time i open wide i cry. i cry about birds flying in the sky getting food for their babies, about fish swimming with plastic, about the hate in the world, about time passing. what happens when you allow yourself to open? what touches you in those soft places? what holds you back from going there?

as my final note (instruction?) here – allow yourself to enjoy the littlest of moments. when you’re waiting in line for your coffee, smile at someone and share in your humanity the need for love and to be treated with kindness. when you’re on the subway, get to know your neighbor. or, just breathe deeply for 5 minutes and be glad you can be carried home rather than driving your own car. there’s beauty everywhere.

everywhere.
even in the ugly.
even in the dark.

and if you don’t see it around you, look within. consider that YOU are the beauty in the situation. own the beauty you bring to the world.

do nothing

too much of our culture is about             
doing something:
be different.
grow.
change.
enlighten.

how about:
stop.
be.
relax.
listen.

we’re wired to grow and evolve,
and yet we believe it’s something
we have to make happen. that we have to fight
and create.
instead, can we clear the space
necessary for the changes to
take place on their own?
yes, some work from us is necessary and helpful,
but what’s even better is
allowing the work to work itself out on
us,
through us,
within us.

this is why i believe
doing nothing is the first step to doing anything.
we need to land in our lives
first.
we need to know where we’re at so
we can make informed decisions
about where we’d like to go next
so we’re not left at the mercy of the wind
to carry us on it invisible
strings and tendrils.

to do nothing is to come home.
to be with what is instead
of run from what we wish wasn’t.

everything in our world
tells us to do differently.
to go for it,
to work hard at becoming the
person we want to be.

to do nothing, though,
can mean we open to the reality
of who we already are.
we can see we’re enough,
and okay, without needing to change
anything.
because changing anything from a place
of fear only reinforces our lack.
our damage.
our brokenness.

do nothing and become everything.
or simply be okay.

the season of transition

here in michigan, we’ve lately had some “unseasonably” warm days sprinkled throughout the blistery cold. it’s been much welcomed, and it’s stirring in me the rumblings of spring. it’s letting me know that there’s a transition on the horizon. soon, in the near future, the scales will tip and the warmer days will be more frequent. the cold won’t seem quite as cold. and the snow will melt shortly after falling. we’re not there yet, but it’s coming.

being in this place is tricky, and i find myself longing for the change of seasons to happen much quicker than my logical mind knows it’ll take. rationally, i know that i can’t make the sun shine any brighter than what nature will allow. i can’t turn up the thermostat on the weather. i can’t melt the snow, grow the flowers, extend our daylight hours. but boy do i want to.

a couple years ago i prided myself on not complaining with the masses about how sick and tired i was about the weather. i thought, ‘there’s nothing i can do to change this, so there’s no point in complaining.” instead, i consciously chose to embrace what was and shift my focus to get cranky about a culture that doesn’t honor the natural rhythms of life. and while that’s still generally true for me, i’m desperate for the weather to break. i’m craving open windows and bare feet and being able to go out the door without having to take 20 minutes to get myself and daughter ready. i want to plead with the seasons – won’t you hurry up and change already?!?

and then i’m humbled as i think about how we do this to ourselves when deep changes are taking place within, whether that transition involves a clear life change or not. something inside senses a transformation before we ever really see it on the surface, and yet we want it to come to fruition now, this minute, damnit. maybe we feel restless, or bored, or easily distracted. perhaps we are more irritable than usual, quicker to cry or pick a fight with a partner. these are the signs, psyche sending signals that something is shifting inside. and yet we must sit and be patient, for it doesn’t do us any good to yell at ourselves about something that simply needs more time.

so, the work is to stay with it all. maybe you’re getting glimpses of the spring making its way into winter, or summer to autumn. notice how you grasp and cling and crave the change, yet can’t live it quite yet. can you trust that it’s happening, even without you having to do too much? can you create the space it needs to shift on its own? can you trust that your inner seasons will naturally change, just as winter always, eventually, turns to spring?

growing up is hard

it seems that when we reach a certain age in life we expect, and people expect of us, to just know what to do with ourselves. we go to school, get the degree, get the job, move out into the world and then…what? we checked all the boxes, so why are we struggling so much?

what our culture doesn’t talk about, nearly at all it seems, is that most people have no idea what they’re doing most of the time. i’ve fallen prey to the belief that i’m supposed to just know what to do, which is breeding ground for shame and keeps us lost in the silence of our hearts, afraid to reach out for support and guidance as we grow more fully into adults.

we all need guidance throughout our twenties, thirties, forties, and on and on. we need elders to tell us what we can expect, people who can reassure us that what we’re feeling (namely, the experience of being utterly clueless about how to get on with life) is completely normal. one of my aunts, now in her seventies, said to me many years back as i was really struggling with this very topic something along the lines of, “it’s not that you know more when you get older. it’s just that you get used to not knowing.”

and isn’t that the heart of the struggle? the fight against what’s normal and natural: the inherent uncertainty that comes with being human. our inability to tell the future pushes up against the illusion that such a picture exists. when we’re younger, it’s easy to buy into the belief that all these older people just somehow get something we don’t: they’ve managed to figure life out to a certain degree. they’ve managed to find peace in the chaos. they’ve managed to cross the threshold and have remained intact psychologically, spiritually, emotionally.

this is an illusion. the people who seem so grounded in life are probably those that struggled severely at least once along the way. they’re the folks that have met their demons and befriended them. there’s some kind of magic that happens when we’re not afraid of ourselves. but how do we get there? where’s the map? why isn’t anyone pointing the way? why isn’t anyone even talking about this?

and that brings me back to my original thought: we need guidance as we grow up. the invitation comes when there’s an inner agitation that isn’t easily explained. when we’re cranky for no apparent reason. when we picks fights with our loved ones because arguing feels good. when we fantasize about breaking furniture with an unspeakable rage or throw away everything we own and live in an empty room for a period of time. THIS IS NORMAL. when i speak about growing up, what i refer to mostly is to detach from our ego and live from a place of self acceptance, self love, and mostly, self responsibility. we make it our job to care for ourselves, just like a parent makes it her or his job to take care of her or his child(ren). yes, there’s support involved, but ultimately the parents carries the brunt of the job.

but to get there, we need to tell people we don’t know what we’re doing so we can remove the veil of inadequacy and allow ourselves to flounder. i long to live in a tribal culture where the guidance is handed down in an almost annoying fashion; at least then there wouldn’t be the shame of being clueless that prevents so many people from asking, the silence resulting in anxiety, depression, stagnation, addiction.

i’m not entirely sure what i’m getting at with all of this. i suppose, more than anything, i want those of you struggling with ‘growing up’ (which, really, is a rather vague and loaded phrase) to know you’re okay. this period of darkness or confusion or stuckness won’t last forever. sometimes there’s nothing you have to do other than create space for whatever it is that’s shifting inside you. there’s nothing to figure out or know. as Rilke says, the answers will come as we live the questions.

gathering the lost parts

go out into the wind
and look up into the sky.
watch the trees
sway
endlessly as the gusts
churn like sea waves.
remember that there was a time when you
were whole.
when all of you sat at one table,
each part welcome because there
was a deep knowing that the parts
comprise the whole.

it hasn’t always been true
that there are parts of you unwanted.
parts that shouldn’t be here.
this is something learned,
the teachings coming in their various forms:
relationships and media specifically.
we learn to shut off what others couldn’t,
wouldn’t,
learn to be with. it’s truly a brilliant design,
until it becomes more entrapping than helpful.

this is when we muster up the courage
to gather the lost parts.
this isn’t always easy,
as it involves feeling the
original pain that led to the severance
of our selves.

each part carries with it a story.
perhaps one of betrayal or abuse,
longing or loneliness.
each part wants its rightful place at the table.
that place where there is safety in numbers.
where it can find solace in simply being
accepted.

each part makes contact
with the others.
a conversation begins that slowly
builds to a soft, rhythmic melody of the
parts working together as a whole.