With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Success

We had a wind-whipped, awe-inspiring trip to the Sand Dunes National Park outside of Alamosa over the long weekend.Everyone made it to the top of the highest dune in North America; the 750 foot Star Dune. Stellar views, family bonding, lots of dirt, and even a scenic waterfall - can't ask for more than that in a weekend! More photos and poetry to follow.

Our trip was successful, certainly, and almost miraculously so after 18 months of illness and knee surgery / recovery. On the journey I was pondering a new definition of success that a friend of mine gave to me last week. She heard it third-hand from a motivational speaker whose name has been forgotten, but whose words live on here:

Success is:
1. Having someone to love
2. Having something to do
3. Having something to hope for

Lots of scope for modification and extrapolation in this formula but stripped down to this essence success looks pretty simple. As I was reviewing my notes for today I saw that my daughter had added one more factor:

4. Being Appreciated

Think she might be right on with that addition. My biggest caveat with this formula is the "having something to do" piece. I have a lot to do, but are the tasks meaningful? Or, assuming that food, clothing, car service are meaningful to my kids, are they meaningful to me?  I suppose some sage would say that we can imbue any task with meaning, but I'm still looking for a consistent, out-of-home task that gives me great satisfaction.

Wishing you success today!








Thursday, May 23, 2013

Imagine Jesus Dancing

My first rather joyful poem since I don't know when: enjoy!


Imagine Jesus Dancing
Imagine Jesus dancing on the shores of Galilee,
His beard and robes swirling as disciples stomp with glee.
Laughter fills the dusty air warmed by sun above,
Its golden rays no stronger than his enduring love.

Imagine Jesus dancing at a Cana wedding feast,
Red wine flows abundantly, the last that’s served not least.
Did he waltz with Mother Mary, who bade him do this deed?
Or trade steps with the blushing bride as stewards took good heed.

Imagine Jesus dancing with the Buddha big and round,
Their jolly promenade can rock the world with happy sound.
What joy at life’s fulfillment, what inside jokes they share,
As they  bow and circle, they make a perfect pair.

Imagine Jesus dancing  - today with one of us.
We could get down in the city street, no need to make a fuss.
Just limbo down the sidewalk, inviting all we meet,
Everybody grooving,’ hearts synced to one great beat.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Closer to Fine

"I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
The best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously, it's only life after all
Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I'm crawling on your shore.
 

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain
There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.
 "
- Closer to Fine, Songwriters: RAY, AMY ELIZABETH / SALIERS, EMILY ANN
Last night I glimpsed a photo on our eternally shifting photo frame. It was of me on the floor with the kids, smiling. The thought flashed through my mind "I was close to fine then."  About to dip into the bath of guilt for at least the millionth time for my role in sliding into illness, I was brought up short by the phrase "close to fine." Talk about damning with faint praise!  I see clearly now that although I was healthy in the last four or five years, I was not exactly fine. Maybe not even close. 
Of course this song by the Indigo Girls was a quick association. I understand the lyrics in a new way now. When I was in college listening to this tune I couldn't understand why anyone needed to be closer to "fine"? How about fantastic? Way  above average? Tripping out? I've always liked the song, but didn't get it.  Now I know that fine can be great. Fine can be peaceful, content, happy, rolling on the floor with your kids or having tea with friends. Because truly darkness does have a hunger that is insatiable, and lightness a call that's hard to hear. I've wrapped fear around me like a big old blanket many times in the last year, and sank my own ship with the weight of my own darkness, even as I tried to out-sail it.
I've been to countless doctors, read countless books and internet sites, ingested meds and supplements and changed diets. I've been on my knees over and over, and that is the only thing that has the potential to move me. There are many answers to lie's big questions and no definitive source for the answers except in whatever we understand to be our higher power. I'm trying to take myself less seriously, to feel the oneness between all of us, to fine the creative, playful, energy that can unite us with all living things. The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine. And that is good.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

All There Is

"Ask Amy" published a letter recently that set my blood boiling. The letter-writer said she was happily married, happily childless, and both she and her spouse have good jobs. Yet, she writes, "I recently wondered, What do I have to look forward to? I couldn't think of anything."  Really?!  She is not ill, has no pain, has a loving spouse and support network Then I read on to find that there mortgage is too steep, she is trapped in the job (which is now described as unfulfilling and not so good) and has lost any free time to do hobbies or things she loves.

Then the letter fell into place for  me. The eternal dilemma of "what else is there' seems to hit everyone at some point (usually in the second half of life).  Rob Bell writes in Drop Like Stars that people get bored: "If we aren't careful, our success and security and abundance can lead to a certain sort of boredom, a numbing predictability, a paralyzing indifference that comes from being too comfortable." Before I got ill, I used running and exercise to help me feel alive, and Bell quotes long distance runner and writer Haruki Murakami on this process, "It's precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get a feeling, through this process, of really being alive."

I would hate to think that suffering is required to help us appreciate the moments of beauty, love, and laughter that can charm our everyday lives. When I am pain free I can only imagine the great joy, the freedom, the lightness of being that will accompany that moment and every moment thereafter - until I possibly forget, or encounter other difficult situations. Thich Nhat Hahn writes that it is a naive idea to want to eliminate suffering. He says (in Your True Home) "without suffering, we do not have the ability to cultivate compassion and understanding; and without understanding, there can be no true love." Love is the fuel for our engines, for the engine of the universe, but I like to think we can understand that and feel it in each moment of our daily lives.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Road Out of Suffering


Out of the swirling muck
A lithe spring stem unbows.
I ask, which way to the light?
In reply pale petals open,
Reveal a glistening center, 'hope'.

That golden heart reaches skyward as
I turn maggots, rocks, manure with every
Sodden step, but her message
Catches me in a fragrant trace
Of breezy whisper, 'hope'.

My road splits decisively now,
Leaves no middle ground, no ease.
I seek firmer tread, climb uphill path
Toward fading rays in tractor beams that
Draw me to last gasp, or understanding.

Steep lies the way. Near the crest
I stumble and reach for balance,
Hand falls on outstretched hand, my
Flower's Sculptor here for ballast, strength.
We leave the valley behind, together.

The summit allows vistas of grace
As twilight bends the knee to
Shady cool of moonlight blessing.
Mind and body slow, becalmed, as
Spirit breath transfers peace, communion.





Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Creativity and Suffering

Over lunch and lemonade last week, I learned a great deal about suffering, creativity, and being in the flow from our associate pastor,  Rev Dale Fredrickson. Meeting with a family who had been through unspeakable tragedy, he was asked to create and read a poem for the memorial service. He spent time with all family members and poured his heart and soul into the creation and reading of the poem, which was eventually heard by more than 4,000 people. Out of this passionate reading came a book of poetry, a spoken word album, and many requests for additional poems. The most incredible thing to me is that Dale (www.dalefredrickson.com) was not aiming for success and achievement, books and blog readers, he was aiming to heal hearts.

As we talked and I shared my hope that I could create something beautiful out of my suffering over the past 18 months, he referred me to the book Drops Like Stars: A Few Thoughts on Creativity and Suffering by Rob Bell (www.robbell.com). I've already shared with you how much I enjoyed Rob Bell's presentation on "What We Talk About When We Talk About God" and I am enjoying that book, as well. So I bought Drops Like Stars today and started reading. In the first chapter there is a passage about a young man who lost his entire family in Nazi-occupied Poland. His anguish is described like this:

"Ripped out of the soil of his background, his life could no longer be what it used to be. He now began a journey to deeper communion with God. But it didn't come without tears, and it didn't come without what seems to have been a certain existential horror."   Rob Bell adds this aside, "Suffering can do that to us, we're jolted, kicked, prodded and shoved into new realities we never would have brought about on our own. We're forced to imagine a new future because the one we were planning on is gone."

That young man later became Pope John Paul II. I hope that through grace and honesty I can also move into a new future where I can write for joy and healing, not only for myself but of others. If the spirit moves, perhaps I will find a wider audience, but perhaps not. Even one life touched would be enough.

***Post script: In the first few pages Bell describes suffering in this way, "Lots of parties are missing somebody." I was missing at my father's 70th birthday / my brother's 40th birthday / my nephew's first communion. I missed you all very much; I know you had a great time and I am so happy that everything went well, but please get in touch soon and tell me all the good stories :).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Veritas II


Veritas

Sibilant whispers tease
Stirrings of unease from
Viscera near-strangled by Ivy.
Spider fingertips tap, suck life essence
Crumble red brick foundation
Shatter glass vase pane
Threaten to deconstruct
Wholeness of innocent simplicity.
Reveal the fa├žade and cracks beneath
Until time’s gardener rips vines and veneer,
Unveils truth.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Veritas

"For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
Plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you
A future with hope."
- Jeremiah 29:11

Twenty years ago this month I left Harvard University carrying the slight weight of a framed diploma and the gargantuan weight of expectations. A minnow in the pond with great white sharks, I had struggled with identity for the entire four years of my education, having lost a sense of innocence and wholeness the day I stepped through the gates to the Yard and found myself marooned in a sea of busy humanity, whose brains and ambitions and schedules hardly paused for social interaction.

Despite the crazy pace of life I had found amazing friends whose hearts were as open as their intelligence was broad. I cried to leave them but felt free when I thought of pursuing life away from the University, away from the smog of power, influence and money that clouded my sight. Moving to San Francisco may have freed me geographically but my choice to pursue a business career shows the influence of classmates, professors and advisors. Little did I know that I was not escaping the expectations and ideals of my college campus, but merely circling them in slightly wider circumference as the years went on, tethered to a pivot point of "should."

I should make a good salary; I should pursue a title, I should go to graduate school, I should publish a book (or two, or five!) - the list of shoulds was endless. And yet, I felt no inner drive to accomplish any of these things. My life goals, had I admitted them to myself, were the same as they were when I was a child of eleven - to be a teacher, to write for fun, and to have children. I realized this week, for the first time, that I am still tethered to the shoulds of my undergraduate years. They are reinforced whenever I receive the alumni magazine, or hear through the grapevine of classmates' magnificent accomplishments. But I know now that I am the one holding the string. Harvard is not holding onto me - it has absolutely forgotten my existence. I am the one with shoulds in my grasp. All I have to do in order to follow my own unique and perfect path, is to open my fist, stretch out my fingers, and just . . .let . . . go.