Wednesday, February 28, 2007
my plans for this are already in motion. i should be there by the end of March, 2007. but am i in good enough shape to do the trek?? gotta push myself more with the jogging!!
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
That is such a difficult question, isn't it?
It reminds me of the difficulty I had with the concept that I wasn't responsible for other people's feelings. After a long while, struggling with that concept with the help of a therapist, I realized that I was usurping power I didn't own from others and from God. By believing that I could control others' reactions, perceptions, behavior or even the outcome, by saying or doing the right thing, as Carole said: "who do you think you are, God?"
Much simpler to humbly say and live my own personal truth as best I know how and let others and God take care of their own business.
It's easy to see how that works in the less emotionally fraught environment of the work-place for example, as opposed to the duty I often feel to family or loved ones. For others, that pull of duty is to a religion, a social or tribal group, an idealogy, politics -- take your pick. In the hierarchy of our development and growth as individuals, that tribal energy is what gave us our being, the sense of coming from "somewhere", belonging. It is important to have that sense of belonging to the tribal mind, if it's not out of balance. Most of us probably are too susceptible to the tribal mind, but we can point to examples of people born into, or thrown into the world, without any opportunity for family or social ties, not belonging, not wanted. Neither is balanced.
A new supervisor once called a staff meeting in which she proceeded to announce that our department had a reputation for being "difficult". When asked for specifics, she refused to provide them. I suggested that without specifics, we could not #1: assess if we had actually done something that deserved that label and #2: decide what if any changes we should make to what we were doing.
Later, this supervisor cornered me and reprimanded me for "not caring what other people think of me". In that circumstance, it was very easy for me to explain that I could try and stand on my head and people could choose to think what they want anyway. Even if specifics had been supplied as to what actions had caused the "difficult" reputation our department supposedly had, and if we should have been able turn ourselves inside-out to change those behaviors and do something differently, that was no guarantee that the judgment would also change. The responsibility for the judgment lay with those who made it.
The most professional course of action for us within our department was, my peers and I decided, to work hard to maintain the professional and personal standards of excellence as we had already defined them, as best we could, treating our clients and professional peers with respect and courtesy, without making impossible promises to deliver what we cannot; to ask for the tools, resources and assistance of the corporation and other professionals and departments, as appropriate, to improve our ability to deliver professional care.
But how can you not care what other people think? the supervisor insisted. I can't. I can only evaluate their response, their concrete & specific complaints, and change my actions if I believe it's warranted. Just because someone is unhappy with me, doesn't mean I should necessarily change. Maybe they are just unhappy, period. Maybe they are way off base. Maybe something else entirely is making them unhappy, something I might be able to help with or maybe not. I can't care if that takes me off course and I get pushed and pulled all over the place trying to make this or that person "happy".
How often, in my very first encounter with a client, do I get the "it's all your fault" stare, and I haven't even had a chance to say "hello"!! It would be totally silly of me to feel responsible, wouldn't it? I can check to see if I can help resolve any existing issues, but how could I possibly feel any of that would be my fault?
OK. That was relatively easy for me. Family and loved ones are more difficult. Of course I care how what I say or do affects them. Of course I am tied to their happiness or unhappiness, as the case may be. But even there, I have come to realize that in so far as I have done my best, I am still not responsible for their feelings, their choices, their lives.
But, it makes me very unhappy when they are not happy, successful, thriving, healthy (you may fill in the blanks with all sorts of calamities, imagined or real, that I can find the time to fret over.) I worry. I try to imagine ways that I might solve their problems, help them out, make them happy. Oddly enough, quite often, what I, in my pushy way offer, is not what they need. They often really resist my help! Imagine! And I'm trying to help! The ingrates! Or they accept or ask for help, help and more help that I don't have the ability to give, but I try anyway and fail miserably, making both of us angry. I can give you all sorts of examples of this out-of-balance dance that I think many people will recognize.
The task for me has been to Trust. No matter what I think I'm afraid of, I need to trust that I can't take care of another person. The power is within that person to take care of themselves. When they ask for help they truly need that I can truly give, there is a smooth flow to it. It's true care for another person, unconditional. There is no score-keeping, no resentment, no negativity. It's a free gift of love. When they ask for something inappropriate to themselves or me, there is resistance, resentment, fear, anger, regret, all sorts of emotions that I am slowly learning to recognize. Still struggling with my personal, little god/control issues, I am learning to trust that the people I love don't need me as much as I'd like them to need me.
That may make no sense at all to many people, but that is where I am in my own, personal journey.
I can point to two examples of a daughter who put off marriage, a career, and never actually left home, to care for an invalid parent. In the case of each of these women, the parent eventually died after many years of being very dependent on the daughter. By that time, each daughter was well past middle age herself. Marriage and a career no longer seemed possible for either of them. One woman was happy, rich with memories, embracing a new chapter in her life, one that no longer required the devotion to the work of caring for an ill, beloved parent. The other woman bitterly regretted never leaving home, never having married, the wasted years spent caring for a demanding and difficult parent.
T. Harv Ecker tells a story of identical twin girls who had a terribly abusive father. He indiscriminately was incredibly cruel to both of them. One grew up to be very sweet tempered, unfailingly kind and considerate. The other was cruel, angry and abusive. When each woman was asked why she behaved as she did, the reply was "How could I be otherwise? Look how my father was!" So, what was the truth?
Everybody has people in their lives who will be affected by whatever choices you make in your own life. There will be people who will unconsciously or deliberately sabotage your efforts to live an authentic, purpose-full, joyful life, out of fear. Often, I hear someone trashing a successful person and I am stunned to recognize an ugly streak of ...you know: you've seen people do that yourself. And we can easily identify all the sources of fear that person perceives and to which that person is reacting defensively or jealously or angrily.
But how much easier is it to respond with joy to another's joy than it is to fight against the negative in our family or social history and decide to life a life of peace, hope and joy in spite of it? The ripple effect of our own lives lived "on purpose" with joy, will have a proportionally greater beneficial effect than lives that are cramped and diminished to fit into unhealthy definitions of "duty". A sincere smile elicits our responsive smile, almost effortlessly!
We all know those rare people people who are truly happy. While their lives are most certainly not without challenges, they love their life, they love what they have done or are doing, they love where they are, they love how they spend their days and they love who they are with. By connecting to what their deepest passion is, they have found enjoyment in living on purpose. And the people in their lives? For the most part, they are grateful for the gift of love that person is, just by being, however and wherever that passionate life is expressed.
Although I had some inkling already, perhaps only on an instinctual level, that life was supposed to be fun, it was through sharing this house with Ann for a while, that that concept became even more clearly crystallised in my mind. She exposed me to more writers and thinkers in that synchronous way life has of doing these things, that deepened my understanding even more.
But I often forget what I have learned, and am chagrined to admit that I have to re-learn it again and again.
Years ago I read this quote from Marianne Williamson, from her A Return to Love, Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3 (Pg. 190-191). It is often mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela, who used the quote in his inaugural speech, 1994, especially the last sentence of that quote, “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
(For reference, here are links to two official African government sites with Nelson Mandela's 1994 Inauguration Speech:
Mandela: Inauguration Address - Cape Town, 09 May 1994, via South Africa Government Online Official Web site.
Statement Of The President Of The African National Congress Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela At His Inauguration As President Of The Democratic Republic Of South Africa Union Buildings - Pretoria, 10 May 1994, via ANC's (African National Congress) Official Web site.)
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are
powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens
us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does
not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children
do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not
just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we
unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated
from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
It sometimes shocks me how often I hear lots about the unhappiness of the people I meet. Listen to the talk around you at work, for example. How much negativity do you hear? What is the general tone? Is everybody complaining, angry, blaming? At the store, on your errands, how often do you encounter people who are having fun with what they do, who are filled with enthusiasm, happily absorbed in their work? And notice that if you suggest that life should be fun, you probably really, really piss them off. "Life is hard...and then you die", is an old aphorism my ex often quoted.
However, I believe that when we spend our energy focusing on what is "wrong" with our lives, more of that has a way of showing up. What? But I don't want it! But it's true, isn't it, that you know people who spend so much time focusing on the bad stuff that keeps showing up, again and again, that even if something good happened to them, their response would be," yeah, BUT..."? They hardly notice the good stuff. And well, it just makes sense to me that if we live in a responsive universe where our energy can affect our environment, that energetic vibration of the hoped-for good stuff is hardly going to grow stronger. That constant vibration of a song "in a minor key", as my Dad often said, can only find a corresponding vibration of negativity in the universe.
So, I'm busy making a list of fun things that ignite my passion, playing with the ideas that sound like FUN! I asked my friend Irene recently what might be on her list. She said that since #1 on her list would have been to sleep with Elvis and since that's not possible, #1 is to hold a baby gorilla. I could so picture that, the thrill that would be, that I have borrowed that and added it to my own list.
By the way, Irene inspires people to find and give her all sorts of Elvis memorabilia because people love to help other people achieve their passions. Isn't that interesting?
Irene did go Memphis and visited Graceland, a couple of years ago. Not able to sleep with Elvis, as she has dreamt of, she did the next best thing and stepping over the barrier-rope during her tour of Elvis' mansion, she sat her butt on the edge of his bed. That promptly set off security alarms, of course. And Irene delights us all with her unrepentant exultation in that experience.
By being a little more brave, admitting to the things that I dream to be or do, "brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous", some of the things that my conditioned mind is all too ready to slap down as rather too grand, I hope to line up better with the positive energies of the universe.
What might be on your list?
Errands took me to the city yesterday and it was a lot quieter than I expected. The impending storm that was forecast, probably scared a lot of people and those that did not have to go downtown, didn't. They were getting snow down there that we did not get up here in the Kawarthas, wet sticky stuff that thankfully melted almost right away as it hit the pavement, but as you can see, made the trees in the Don River Valley very pretty. Anyway, leaving the city during rush hour wasn't even half as bad as it can usually be.
There are some very pretty neighborhoods in the city where I could easily picture myself living. I wish I had taken pictures of some of those areas that I did visit on my errands yesterday, but the idea occurred only in hindsight.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
It seems that the icons of self-actualized people that we admire, the Ghandis, the Mother Theresas, seem to step out to the very edge of society, religion, family and communities, sometimes going right off the edge.
When one steps off the edge, as a Van Gogh might, one is often seen as "crazy". But is that individual really crazy or simply not supported by the society and community of their era? Is that individual just crazy or are they on the leading edge of a universal mind expanding into new insights, new experiences, new wisdom?
Recently, I have been presented with a business opportunity that is not suitable to me and my personal philosophy. However, the jargon of the business has adopted much of the language that I use in my own self-talk every day and the recruitment feels almost like an attempt to convert me to a religion. I as so familiar with "evangelism", I am feeling anger towards the recruiters for this business. And I know that's not fair.
While the recruiters mean well and believe in this business opportunity, it is not for me. It does not line up with my passions. And putting aside any other reservations I might have about the business structure and integrity, the passion for me is the bottom line. Why take on another "paying job" that I cannot support 100%? This business opportunity does not feed my passion. It's only a possible source of money. Like the paying job I already have.
The sun is so warm. The bitterly cold weather has softened. The snow is losing its lightness, the sharpness, also softening as the weather has, and settling. The snow is much harder to move now. It can't be swept away easily and much more effort goes into shoveling it off the deck and paths.
I realize that the warmth of my own passions can be counted on to soften me too. I am less movable. I am more sure, settled. To the logic of some other people, it may seem like I'm going off the edge. Who goes to Ethiopia on a holiday on some crazy mission of research for their writing? Me. I do.
Friday, February 23, 2007
I started to wonder if that is what living out here in my lovely rural home is for me, my own edge, my own frontier.
And I started to wonder if Ethiopia will be another "edge" for me and how it will be to be the "edge" for the Ethiopians I meet. Hmmnnn. And here I thought I was going for reasons of nostalgia, to revive forgotten childhood memories.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Within a few days, I should have my tickets in my hot little hands, the plans for my trip to Ethiopia finally confirmed. At least that's what I'm hoping. There have been so many weird misunderstandings and confusions about this for months now, I am having trouble believing that I am really going. I probably won't believe it until I'm on the plane lifting off from the airport in Toronto, on my way via Amsterdam and Khartoum to Addis Ababa.
I had hoped my son would be going with me on this trip -- I hope he'll be with me on my next trip.
Yesterday, I did my afternoon run in spring-like sunshine. It was warm. There was no wind. The snow was heavy with melt, great packing snow, great for snow fort construction and snow man building. Will that be an image of great contrast to the heat of Ethiopia or will it be a precurser to the cool mountain nights on the trekking portion of my trip?
Today, it's still pretty mild, relatively speaking, maybe 1-2 degrees Celsius, on the plus side of 0. It's snowing, sometimes so thick that I can't see the trees across the cornfield to the south of my house. Chickadees, juncos, bluejays, nuthatches and downy woodpeckers are visiting my feeders. The squirrels foiled at last, have to content themselves with what falls to the ground under the feeders.
I had a sleepless night, my mind hopping with imaginings, worrying about details and arrangements, trying to remember all the plans and precautions I might need, hoping for opportunities and experiences that this trip might offer.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
variations on white
Sunday, February 18, 2007
driving on snowy roads
Returning very late from the city on the night of Feb 14, I encountered fire trucks, police cars and flooded icy streets in the middle of Fenelon Falls. The Seniors Centre had burned down. The picture above was taken the next day when clean-up operations were already in motion.
It certainly looks far less dramatic in the light of day than it did at night. I think the fire was out by the time I came along that night, but the lights of so many emergency response vehicles blinking and reflecting off the black ice increased my heart rate a bit!
Saturday, February 17, 2007
But recently, Mike saw Pan's Labyrinth and thought that would be a movie I'd like. I was thrilled by it. It's a must see, in my opinion. And as rarely as I go to the movies, that is saying something. A fairy tale for adults, it's as full of fantasy and darkness as any traditional fairy or folk tale. Faithful to the form of classical fairy tales, the fantasy unfolded in layers of archetypal symbols, which were a relief and a guide to truth, set in sharp contrast to the real madness of the fascist Franco era.
Labyrinths have fascinated me for a long time. Long time readers who know I've mentioned labyrinths here before, please bear with me. It has been a structure that I've wanted to include in my garden someday, somewhere, and just haven't had the opportunity to do as yet.
Labyrinths are a very ancient design that are enjoying a revival of sorts, as we seek out ways to find answers to our stressful lives.
One of the earliest mentions of labyrinths is in reference to the palace of Minos, the Cretan "Moon King". Other early references to the design can be found on coins, caves, and tombs. For more pictures of various ancient occurrences of the labyrinthine design, here's a quick look.
Most authorities seem to agree that unlike a maze, which involves a lot of different paths and choices, a journey in which one can get lost, a labyrinth has only one path along which one travels through all parts of the design, often arriving at a "centre", then returns outward from the labyrinth, symbolically returning to the world of linear time and the 5 senses. It is thought that walking the labyrinth was a ceremonial or meditative act, the design often found at the entrance to a cave or holy site. Many people think it symbolically takes one on the journey into the other- or under-world and out again, similar to the pagan sacred kings' journeys into death and rebirth, a cyclic reference to the rhythms of the seasons and the earth-womb.
One of the most famous and beautiful labyrinth design can be found at Chartres, with the six-lobed device of Aphrodite at its centre. It may be an example of pagan designs insinuated into Christian architecture, either with intent by the church fathers who tried to adapt pagan rituals when they proved impossible to eradicate, or unconsciously or secretly by the masonic brotherhoods of builders and craftsmen who worked for many generations to build this breathtaking structure.
A nice modern example of a labyrinth is located west of the Eaton Centre at Yonge and Dundas streets in Toronto in Trinity Square Park. Two beautiful labyrinths are located at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I tried to capture the drifting snow blowing across Hwy 35, making driving a sort of slow-and-go affair last week. The sunshine was brilliant. Then where the wind had free access across open fields, white-outs obliterated everything, and deep drifts of snow grabbed and pulled at the wheels of the car.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Above, the newer portion I dug up last summer, at the west end of the vegetable garden. I see changes already that I will make to the beds on the south side of this garden to try to adapt to the shade cast by the trees along the boundary of the yard.
I am chuckling a bit now, looking at all the snow we finally received, to recall hauling home the Christmas tree and evergreen boughs I had cut in the woods north of the house, fighting my way home in the gathering dusk against a wet, rainy, cold wind from the west. No snow then; I was miserably cold, but stubborn. I was under a time-crunch and determined to get that tree and the boughs home...
Well, it's not news anymore, but we've had a fair bit of lovely snow fall over the last week or two. Most gardeners I know are glad for it. I picture the snow gently insulating the plants, like a blanket tucked in to keep out the bitter winter winds. Like many gardeners, I'm also wondering how the plants will be affected by the prolongation of a warm, wet fall, or if the length of daylight hours is the more influential trigger.
Some people have commented to me in some amazement that their tulips, daffodils, or some other spring flowering bulbs put on several inches of growth last fall, worrying that the warm fall had mixed up the bulbs' internal clocks in some way. In my experience, many bulbs do start putting up some green again in the fall. After the leaves brown up and die back in the spring or early summer, the bulbs seem to have a little snooze through the heat of summer. Leaves often reappear in the fall and don't seem to be hurt one bit by the snow and cold. I imagine if the growth is very extensive, and the leaves get no protection from the cold, they may get some frost damage. I've just never seen it happen, is all.
Sometimes, I have managed to lay a bit of mulch around the gardens and I know that helps keep the bulbs from being heaved out of the ground during the erratic weather of spring: thaw/freeze/thaw. Most times, my bulbs fend for themselves pretty well.
Meanwhile, there is hype, anxiety and more hype on the news about a big winter storm coming our way,the warm air coming up the Ohio valley meeting the cold Arctic air over our heads here. This is perhaps because most of my news comes from Toronto where they have thus far escaped most of the snow we have already had up here in the Kawarthas. This storm is expected to hit the Toronto area this time. Those of use who don't live in Toronto like to joke that Torontonians are a pretty helpless bunch -- if they get a bit of snow, they call in the Canadian armed forces to dig them out!
Monday, February 12, 2007
I'm so stuck that I feel like I am glued to this chair. I'll just continue to sit here, maybe connected intravenously to the coffee pot, munching on the most grossly artery-plugging junk food I can find, slowly swelling up, growing bigger and bigger, bulging out of the chair, until finally I just leak out onto the floor, on and on...like some giant, disgusting fungus-like science-fiction monster.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Had a terrible time waking up this morning. Picked Misty up from the vets. She is only slightly less bouncy than her usual self. But she was pretty eager to find her cushions on the couch and settle down for another snooze.
I'm watching the bluejays taking turns at the feeders. There are also juncos, chickadees, nuthatches and downy woodpeckers.
As I look at the changing play of sun and shadow across the snow, I'm struck by a feeling of great love for this world.
What a sick mind Freud had. It's too bad he was such a brilliant and persuasive word-smith. Imagine where the impulse to say this might come from:
Love cannot be much stronger than the lust to kill.
To touch is the beginning of every act of possession, of every attempt
to make use of a person or thing.
Friday, February 09, 2007
ice & snow
Misty is spending the night at the veterinarian's. She got some pretty rotten teeth extracted today, as well as finally getting spayed. She's doing fine, I'm told. I get to bring her home tomorrow. I'm guessing she'll be on some antibiotics for a while.
Unlike other dogs I've had, Misty never was a big fan of chew toys or bones, no matter what kind I tried. In the last two or three weeks, I've noticed that her doggie-breath had become pretty gruesome. So it was off to the vets.
It is wonderful! I love this time of year, when a decent blanket of snow is finally deep enough to protect the plants in the garden. There must be at least 20 cm, deeper where the wind has piled it into drifts.
It is comical too. This time of year, perhaps the most wonderful part of winter, many Canadians are planning escapes to warmer climates. In fact, the rush is so bad for passports, what with the new regulations re air-travel to the US, that the usual 15 business days wait is now 8 weeks...too late for some who might be planning trips for the March break coming up soon.
Oldest daughter, son-in-law and my Granddaughter just returned from a week in Orlando. I know they had fun. Hard for me to fathom that Disney World is the #1 honeymoon destination in the whole world. Not hardly my cup of tea -- all that commercial sweetness and stuff. Although I have heard rumours that the gardens are pretty good...Nah. Still not my cup of tea. Granddaughter assures me she saw nearly all of the Princesses that matter, though!
I've been reworking my vege-garden plans, trying to adjust for the large amount of shade cast by the trees and saplings along the south edge of the yard. Hopefully, I'll be able to post the new plans soon.