Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetA little while ago a friend posed this question: How do you want to feel in life? 

She’d just answered it for herself and came up with an acronym as a reminder of the distinct qualities that would provide her joy and satisfaction in her daily actions.  I admired her practice and felt compelled to do the same. In times where life shifts for you or you do the shifting, it’s a great question to visit.

My acronym is IFCA (it’s the best I could do with those letters).

In life, I want to feel…

INSPIRED: by nature, people, art, beauty, compassion, words. I want to see something around me, have my spirit lifted, and be moved to act.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

FREEDOM: as if my heart and soul have wings, encouraged to take flight to wherever I am guided. I want feel free to explore, free to love, free to share, free to show myself.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

CREATIVE: to be the source of original manifestation of human experience through art whatever that may be.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

ABUNDANT: to stop living in fear of scarcity, asking will there be enough love, health, money, time? No more asking “am I enough?” These thought patterns are paralyzing and inhibit all of the above.

carrots

How do you want to feel?

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

My wedding dress and shoes sat waiting for me on my porch today. I’d asked my mother-in-law to send them since they’ve been in her closet in Canada for years. Wrapped in brown paper with her handwritten letters on the front, a familiar knot rose up to my throat.

This stuff is hard.

For months, there’s been a tug-of-war going on inside. On one side: strong pulling of nostalgia and sentiment that leave blisters on the palms, the grip is so tight. On the other side: new found strength stemming from time, self-acceptance, and loving support.

No side has slipped over the line. No side has won.

With the exception of moments that offer a little give, the tension across these sides is pretty constant.

To add to matters, during this time, the words have gone into hiding. I yell for them to come back, to emerge from the shadows, only to hear my echoing plea. Aside from feebly comparing a marriage separation to the pulling of a taut rope, similes escape me. There is little to liken this experience to and no former lesson to draw from. This is the hard stuff. The life altering stuff.

I used to write quite regularly here, back when there seemed to be a new experience every new day I opened my eyes. After all, this blog was inspired by the decision to make a large life change. It stemmed from the curiosity of chronicling the events that led us to Laos where we departed from the comfortable teaching lives we knew. In a way, it was intentional impermanence. And, in that brief chapter of life, I had a lot to say about the matter.

Thing is, the impermanence maintained even after the experiment. These months of being back in the states has proven to be of the  Year of the Unexpected. Even with such experiences, I fall short of expression.

How does one define the empty space left from 11 years of partnership? What words are used to share the process of re defining the self? How are the heights and depths told in a way that makes sense?

That brown wrapped box has been tucked away in a hidden corner of my closet. I am not ready to open it yet.

That rope connecting confusing sides of emotion is still pulled pretty tightly. I have not released my grip yet.

The time will come though, I know it, when letting go is the experience, when resistance no longer serves and release feels so much better.  I suspect, when that happens, the words will rush in.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

In life, there is always pain. But, you don’t have to suffer.

A woman walked into the shop the other day. Only, she wasn’t just a woman. She was an oracle, a messenger, an angel. She was Light walking around in a 70 year old body, Wisdom wearing a sweet hat and smile.

I don’t know what nudged me to ask if the elephant earrings she was admiring were something more. But I did, and this resulted in the gift of surprising openness and vulnerability. Her stories trailed one another in a long ribbon of knots, each distinct in their impact on her life’s direction and purpose, all colorfully connected indicating the distance she had gone. And, although some parts touched on sad moments and disappointments, there was a grace in her delivery, gentle instruction in her voice.

It was in all this sharing that the words came:
“You know, because in life, there will always be pain. But, you don’t have to suffer.”

Emotion rose to my eyes. She saw it and smiled knowingly. I needed to hear that.

It’s the most simple concept, isn’t it?

One thing we can count on in life is that we will experience pain. Even the tiniest of creatures do. But, like everything, it comes and goes. If only that could be embraced more…not just acknowledged but hugged tight.

The difference seems subtle, yet it’s incredibly large.

To be refused the job you wanted is pain. To tell yourself you weren’t good enough for it is suffering.
To experience illness that shifts your daily habits is pain. To close off to all beauty because of the illness is suffering.
To have a relationship end is pain. To hold onto the past while asking why is suffering.

Time gauges which is which. Pain prolonged is suffering. Sometimes the length of the experience is out of our control. Sometimes it’s not, and we have the chance to answer the question a good friend recently posed:

Are you living YOUR life or just surviving the pain of your struggle?

Could be just me…
… but there’s no way I’m here to just survive.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I’ve always been afraid of earthquakes. This is a rational fear. As a Californian, the experience is inevitable. No matter how well you prepare, even with so many childhood school drills…you never feel quite ready.

Likely because earthquakes are largely unpredictable.

Sure, there are studies showing patterns and trends that give some level of predictability… like looking at the history of movement in a region, detecting where pressure is building along fault lines.

But we never really KNOW when the ground beneath us will decide to shake.

I guess my biggest fear is that it will happen while I am alone. Currently living on my own for the first time in my life, the chances of this fear realizing have increased. There are moments at night in between dreams that it grips me. What would I do if “The Big One” hit? What would be my route of escape? Would I have enough food/water? If trapped, would I have the courage and strength that survivor stories are made of?

Panicked, the scenario continues to expand beyond my walls:

When will it be enough? How will I pay all these bills? Where is home really? Will I ever be a mom? How can I take care of my parents later?  Are soul-mates found or created? Am I doing any of this right?

Tremors build into quakes, full-on quakes. Rolling and rumbling, uprooting some things and bringing others down… to pieces.

There may be some indicators. Perhaps with more mindfulness, the climbing pressure could be sensed, diffused in some way. The ground could remain steadied for some time longer.

But, with time, the floor beneath our feet will do what it needs to. And, when it does, what is there to do?

Nothing more than this: find sturdy support for protection, have a small prayer on the lips, and just ride it out.

[image: Caltech, Pasadena]

Christine40thBirthday_0067This was written to present to my guests at my recent 40th. Such a memorable occasion this party was, that I had to share it here:

My 30s started much like this. Theme party. A mix of 80s music and salsa. Contagious positive energy.

Throughout the decade, life shared it’s sense of fun and mystery, wonder and risk, gasps and cheers. Pulled in from the audience, I was no longer a spectator, watching safely from my seat, sipping on soda whispering opinionated comments to companions. I was an animated participant , taking on varying roles when called to.

The tight rope walker steadies herself in intention. The rules are simple. 1. Make it across to point B. 2. Do not stop for too long. 3. Do NOT look down. There’s no other course of action, really. No other choice. It’s a matter of focus and determination to get an end result. If doubt enters, she feels it in the rope. Slight trembles can shift into rapid shakes. This can make for a graceless performance. People will hold their breath. People will stare. It’s ok. She takes a moment to fix her gaze, to relax into her path. She will get there.

Upon first glance, no one knows the extreme pliability of the contortionist. Just like everyone, she stands in line, maneuvers through crowded streets, sits in cafes with friends. It is in moments of tough choice, moments of compromise and negotiation that she twists herself, one limb at a time until the upright body distorts into something unrecognizable. Only while maintaining the form of her soul, is her flexible nature beautiful.

The magician is a master of illusion and surprise. In playful spirit, she keeps people guessing ; wondering what else can be pulled out of that hat. At times, the enchantment disguises other things: self-doubt, loneliness, fear. At times, there is nothing left up her sleeves. Standing there vulnerably, palms open, the tricks disappear. What you see is what you get.

Possibly the most valiant performer is the lion tamer. Poised and commanding, she looks at the beast in the eye. Sure, there are traces of fear in her as she walks forward; it growling, intimidating. In a last ditch attempt to put her in her place, it bares it’s sharp teeth wide. The struggle is inward and for a moment, she stops to take a deep breath. Then, with new found conviction, she raises her voice above its noise that sharply quiets into a softened purr.

The clown is the comic relief. She’s a reminder that throughout this string of acts there’s humor to release suspense, to tame fears. She embraces the ridiuclous and encourages belly laughter. While juggling many things, she maintains a smile, knowing all too well that this thing can’t be taken too seriously. She is the wild color that brightens the show.

I suppose the inspiration for this party was a mix of things: the artsy venue, an excuse to dress up, my love of Natalie Merchant…
It all just made sense to me. That, while these last couple of years, in particular have been topsy-turvy, unexpectected, and a bit of a spectacle…life is strangely wonderful. I expect my 40s to be no less of the greatest show on earth.

IMG_0988-300x300

_____________________________________________________________________________________

“Phantom pain is pain that feels like it’s coming from a body part that’s no longer there.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Nights ago, a sudden movement caused from a dream I can no longer remember stirred me. My right hand hit the side of the sofa bed against the wall and I heard myself mutter in a groggy voice, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

I’d shed off enough slumber to realize that no, there was no one beside me and yes, I’d just given my bed an apology.

I sunk into a soft sadness.

It had been months, nearly a year since I’d shared my space with Craig. There were countless times an unintentional kick or quick flapping movement of the body had us whisper “sorries” in the night. It’s part of sharing a space, a bed, sleep. While sometimes irritating, there is something of a comfort in knowing that someone you love is to your right, curled on his side, breathing in rhythm. An added warmth on cold nights, there is an assurance that as your eyes weigh down in rest, they will lift to see that person, familiar and constant.

When gone, it is a strange sensation.

That morning as I stared at the ceiling, I felt like something was missing, a part of me, an appendage even. And it stung in pain. It hurt.

What do you do when eleven years of familiarity seem to disappear? How do you cope with such a shift in life? Where does that energy of work, hope, love go to?

_______________________________________________________________________________________

“For some people, phantom pain gets better over time without treatment.”

                                        _______________________________________________________________________________________

There are a number of things people do to manage large life change. Dive into work. Exaggerate exercise. Dance. Meditate. Breathe. Engage socially. Challenge a fear. Anchor onto the words of sages. Over-indulge. Experiment with new surroundings.

Sleep.

Sob.

Scream.

Scribble feelings.

It’s all ok. No one has the right treatment. Nothing uniformly works…except maybe…time.

Because whether it’s the sting after ripping off a band-aid or the twinging pulsations felt in a new scar, the pain is there to inform us of this: that there was something big enough to feel, and as with all wounding things, time is really the ultimate healer.

[image]

letgo

My 2.5 year old niece recently taught me a lesson. It’s not the first time this has happened; little people have taught me before.

The lesson came in the form of song. Not just any song. The trending song of little girls everywhere, Frozen’s “Let It Go”. Naya’s rendition, however, lacks resemblance to the actual song. Why? Because she picked it up at daycare, mimicking all the other little girls who sing the song on repeat, who sing it like their very own anthem.

It took a while to figure out what she was singing. But, one thing is certain; you can’t mistake her belief in what she’s singing. Even Joey, the dog (hiding under blankets in her bed) is audience to her passionate plea.

(please excuse the poor quality)

Everyone I’ve shared the video with has fallen apart laughing. It’s endearing. How many times have we sung our own versions of popular songs only to later find out we were a bit off?

Yet, Naya’s performance offers so much. A glimpse at unadulterated joy in doing something creative. An admonishment to just “put the phone down (already) and dance”. A reminder to LET IT GO….AND MOOOORE.

So what should we let go of?

The frustration when obstacles seem to get in our way. The disappointment when we fail to receive the good news we’ve been hoping for. The fear that prevents us from trying something new.

Naya’s song not only inspires us to relinquish our need to have things be “just so”, it also gives us permission to grab that mic or plastic megaphone and sing our hearts out following our own tune.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,053 other followers

%d bloggers like this: