Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A tattooed name

Sunday's worship was extremely intense, rich, deep, sorrowful, anxious, caring and totally unexpected.

It began with our minister tossing her written message out and speaking from the heart, as testimony. That was a clue to pay attention: this WOULD be good. She spilled deeply, uncovering old wounds, I suspect, touching my heart and many others as confessions of tears rolling abounded afterward. She described a father who tattooed his arm with his child's name so that child would know, some day, they were never far from his heart or memory. Then, the minister suggested that real-life application was much like how God holds us.

Coupled with a Desmond Tutu passage in our bulletin about how God's unconditional love is there, not earned, I was driven to my metaphorical knees.

"... God does not love us because we are lovable. We are lovable precisely because God loves us ... We strive and we strain to earn what is already ours. And it wears us out ... for people who burn out, the work is also driven by a demon. The demon hidden behind the sense of purpose is a fear of not being good enough. It is the fear of not doing enough. That demon dread of not measuring up drains the joy from the work and saps the energy of the worker ..." [Desmond Tutu, Made for Goodness]

 If that were not enough, a very dear Friend (church member) experienced heart palpatations in the midst of worship. What transpired unfolded as if some nuanced and practiced role-play. Several with medical backgrounds gently made their way to him, checked him, stroked him, cared for his wife and called the life squad. The rest of us stayed worshipful and in prayer. Though a tense time, it was so beautiful and such an expression of how a community can translate a message -- on the spot.

God's arms were around this person in pain, yet also around the entire congregation. God's lips whispered to each our job. Miraculously, we seemed to listen.

Even after the medics evacuated our Friend, we remained in prayer, seemingly not wanting to interrupt this Divine flow.

I feel as if I have been a part of that flow all week as I struggle to come to terms with our summer family dynamic and one who, in particular, is so lost and in that isolation pushes the rest of us as far away as possible. It is often difficult to see the pushing for what it masks rather than what it appears.

Early yesterday morning after a very sleepless night, I took haven in my art studio, wrangling with myself and, finally, surrendering to God.

All I wanted
was to sit by 
the candle light,
yet none had a
wick long enough

I couldn't get it
lit for very long

When the flame
of the match
was burning,
I flirted with
just burning
the garage down
and my misery
with it 

The I figured
I was such
a screwup
that even that
I could not

So I
my body moving
my knees
to the floor
and my hands to the stool,
eyes closed, but

My heart spoke

And the response has
been flowing
ever since

I know for sure my name is tatooed on God's heart.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sewer leaks, cold showers & God

Amazing what you relish – even respect – when it's removed or non-functioning. Often it's the simplest things taken for granted. A hot shower, for example.

I let mine today – the first in almost a week – wash away the anxiety of all those days. Enjoying the penetrating warmth as it swirled over my body, rejuvenating and reinvigorating ... as if a new or first experience. The living water. The unheated pool shower served its purpose, but nothing more. No nurturing or lingering. Quick in, quick out, quick clean and very cold.

We became adept at using the facilities wherever we happened to be.

When the first plumber arrived in a flurry of panic Sunday, the anxiousness began in earnest, mounting when he advised we dig and replace with all new pipes to the tune of mega bucks. Shocking, to say the least. So we waited ... without laundry, dishwasher and only minimal toilet or shower ... for other opinions that trickled in.

The solution was much simpler and way less expensive than first proposed. And now we're getting back to life as normal. But there was something about that break, about being more intentional with hygiene and not taking it for granted that added some depth, even spirituality, to the experience. Possibly it's my altered perspective and more-acute awareness that has made a difference. I am living with more ease, flowing more through life and not getting hung up on issues or events that crop up. Trying not to fight myself so. I can only control my reaction and whatever it is that happens will occur anyway. So why not embrace change? It's a lesson I have been struggling to master for years and, likely, always will.

I just read a jarring idea about being a pilgrim rather than a tourist in this life, this journey. I know that it speaks to something about this recent no-water experience. That we can unthinkingly flit from incident to incident in life, sometimes mindlessly taking in the negative, stockpiling just to show off our accumulated stash or we can choose to look deeper into each for the lesson. I suppose, however, you have to own some awareness each time and I believe grace plays a role.

"Tourists leave their footprints as monuments," Quaker Brent Bill writes in Sacred Compass, "while a pilgrim's footprints are a marker ... Seeing ourselves as pilgrims and our lives as a pilgrimage changes us. To be pilgrims means that we are people who spend our lives going somewhere – in our case, going to God."

Learning to live without was a stripping away that, ironically, added more purposefulness and mindfulness, bringing me closer to my beloved.

• Has an experience made me I more mindful by living without?
• If so, what was the lesson?
• How has that changed me? How I react?
• Can I recall a time when something so seemingly unconnected to the Divine brought me closer?
• How/why is that? 

of living

the pain
of the
to correct

the block
of time



so that
the shock
the pain
and the

become a gift,
new insight

a marker
on my

in the

than the
usual comfort

to my

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mother of the world

Ahhh mindless summer. An endless stream of propelling from one activity to the next event, camp drop-off, wedding or graduation. Navigating sibling disputes, enforcing summer rules and chores and foregoing a regular spiritual practice in between.

I used to jokingly ask: "Who died and crowned me the mother of the world." Sadly, at times, it doesn't seem like a jest. I enjoy raising my girls and the unexpected gifts of getting to be a kid again, seeing growing up through different eyes, loving in a new and unconditional way, sometimes being an authority on something and the contentment of when we're all together.

I wouldn't change a thing. Except, maybe myself. And that blasted responsibility function stuck in the on position in my brain. I do have my moments of relaxing it. You'd think summer was one of them. However, it's the season in which I have the least time and space to re-charge as we introverts need to alone. ALONE.

That concept intimidates some. Not me. I live for those stolen moments in summer. And when I am anxious and salivating until the opportunity comes along, I remind myself that I have the choice of aloneness. One I can create. While I live with constant companionship,  I can take a periodic or regular leave almost anytime. If I lived alone, it would be different. Aloneness would be the rule, not the exception.

That's a concept I first encountered a little over a year ago when I spent a week solo in Italy. At midnight on day 3 in Florence – God knows what time it was at home – I texted my best friend "And why did I think I was an introvert?" It had been a grueling few days with only fleeting conversation as my Italian was limited. And I like to connect deeply. "One bus ticket please, Thank you, Hello" and "Where do I get off?" don't exactly cultivate friendships no matter how fleeting. I managed to befriend two German women, dusting off the six years of Deutsch I'd taken long, long ago. And, the morning I was leaving, encountered a German male at my breakfast table (finally the jetlag subsided and I awoke early enough to actually meet a few more people ... funny that early it was ALL men in the convent dining room -- if I'd have known ...), who, it happened, roomed next to me and asked if I wanted to meet him at a church concert that afternoon. He said he hadn't met anyone all week. The window next to mine and the door beside mine contained another lonely soul. If only I'd have knocked when I thought about it.

As I was journaling on some of those isolated Italian nights, I wondered what relevance an experience has if not shared. An odd thought, but one that won't leave me.

So as I shuttle kids, schedule camps, attempt to remedy boredness, put my work on pseudo hold and ache for studio time, I remember that I can leave anytime. And practice gratitude for the company.

I can refrain from the duty of all-doing matriarch, just be mom and remember to mother my inner self. Life would be less rich, dull and lifeless without the permanent companionship. Yet I long for that occasionally.

• When is my busy season?
• How do I recharge then?
• How can I navigate any inclination to take on responsibility that is not mine?
• What's it felt like to be lonely?
• How has that shaped my perspective on being with others?

I'm bored.
What's around to eat?
What is there to do?
It's her fault!
Mom, stop her.
Can you take me to the ...?

endless requests
out of
little mouths

at least that's
what I have
to remind

do not
intend to
steal my

the space
I need
to decompress

it is
who can

can walk
the hubbub

and also


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Saying the wrong prayer

Often, the things I dread or stress about the most proffer a gift.

For example, two back-to-back and very important birthdays just happened. One, a 40th and the other, an 85th. On the same weekend, one right after another and I had been asked (though would have gladly volunteered) to plan and execute decor/set-up for 50 and cook for both events. The next day I would have one of my favorite kids with me for a week. It all came on the heels of a whirlwind, dizzying end of the school year and all that entails. And, to be honest, I was grieving the evaporation of time to myself.

Naturally, I worried about how I would get it ALL done, let alone enjoy any of it.

The night before the BIG party we had decided to collectively decorate, but plans changed minute to minute about who could help and when. I fretted and wasted too much energy when it all flowed flawlessly and so naturally that each of us showed up at exactly the right time and worked beautifully as a team to transform the house and yard into our theme: flowy (hum, just like the preparations and parties moved) goddess. Theme choice is probably another blog in itself. The birthday girl arrived from an out-of-town conference just as we finished and swept us all up and out for dinner. Tired and happy, we unwound over the meal.

That party went off without a hitch, though I retired a bit early, awoke early, squeaked in an hour of silent worship and then headed off to the next party of picnicking, eating and celebrating.

It's now midweek with an extra child in the house who's has been a blessing. He's worked himself into the fold and we've even managed to have fun. Today, we stopped for ice cream and giggled as the behemoth mounds melted and dribbled down their chins.

I have actually managed to stay more present and enjoy each activity instead of obsessing on all that is before me. As I write this, it seems so petty to have internally panicked and complained about cooking, decorating, celebrating and embracing an extra person. But in that moment, in that mode, I was considering how it would make me feel and assuming the answer would be tired.

Yeah, maybe I was a little weary, but with the fibromyalgia I experience that even when I am well rested with little to do.

This time I applied what I am learning through the Alexander Technique: to know where I am now, not necessarily in 10 minutes or two days (although I will eventually direct myself there). But in this moment, I can choose to relax. STOP as my teacher says. Stop my old habits of worry and stress. Take my foot of the brake and coast into joy. I recently read that worrying is a prayer for disaster.

I think, at times, I have been saying the wrong prayer.

• How do I react when faced with challenges?
• Is there I mode to which I automatically revert?
• What happens when I relax into that moment?
• How am I able to be joyful?
• How can I transform my prayer for disaster into one for love and joy?






I remember
be present


my mind,
my body
my heart

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Putting the brakes on

I am learning how to walk again, really.

With the help of the Alexander Technique and a gifted teacher, I am re-learning my body's natural way of moving. I wondered if I were crazy when I quietly observed that I don't know how to hold my body anymore. And, yet that thought lingered. Low and behold, a process and a teacher appeared.

I have been examining the idea, even dreaming, about what holds me up and how I respond to that. I envision a cord or string as if I am a puppet and moving at the puppeteer's whim, not mine. And how gliding through the water is such a very different experience. One that seems more natural and freeing for me. In the pool, there's a palpable balance between being buffered by the water (relaxing into it) and in control enough not so sink. The yin/yang of trust and being. Bridging the spiritual and physical. Living in two worlds. I identified it once in my journals as the place between being the vigilant mother and the innocent child. Again, one of those liminal spaces.

I am attempting to be like a toddler again, physically. Moving in my natural patterns and rhythms. Before I modeled others and felt so "pushed" in this culture.

At the beginning of a recent lesson, Jennifer asked me: "Where are you right now?" You can't imagine how I struggled to answer. I began to talk about how I felt, what I had left behind to attend the session, everything but where I was. She patiently would ask again until I answered very simply. I kept looking to give her the answer I thought she wanted (yes, I am a pleaser who seeks approval). This was an eye opener, revealing that I am usually more concerned about where I have been or my next destination, mentally or physically. I have rarely considered my literal placement – except when practicing yoga, swimming, meditating or worshiping in silence "How can you know how to get where you want to go if you don't know where you are?" she gently asked.

What a significant and profound concept. How can I know where I want to go if I don't know where I am right now even just physically? Or in the bigger questions of life.

We have also talked about taking the brakes off, another concept that really speaks to me. Specifically, freeing the joints to move without a metaphorical foot on the brake pedal. No wonder I get frustrated thinking I am getting nowhere. The brakes are the puppeteer's string I mentioned earlier and they are hard to unencumber, yet I am learning how to disengage by thinking/being rather than doing.

Wow, imagine where I could be by taking the brakes off and knowing where I am. Nothing more, nothing less.

• How present am I physically?
• Would I describe my movement as intentional, natural or free?
• Do I even remember what that feels like?
• Are my brakes on?
• If I could relax them, where would I be?

I tend

its there

I often

the root
of how
I move

I cast
of me
and below
the mental,

it's almost
too obvious

do I
and wholeness 
all of

Friday, June 4, 2010

Dirty little secrets

I have a lot of dirty little secrets that I've admitting to myself lately. When I do, they really aren't that dirty, it's only in the muck of submerged darkness that they are sullied. The light – as is its tendency – unshrouds, demystifies and shows truth, which often these mysterious nuggets are not.

But buried and unexamined, they rule me in a not-so-gracious way. Exposing them means owning them, looking at them head on and examining them. Further exploration usually brings truth as if the secret were the irritation that creates the pearl within the oyster.

I had not realized how well I have been sleeping until I had a five-night jag of very-interrupted slumber. A 4 a.m. on one such night/morning, I picked up the book, The Fifth Agreement, and read a sliver that spoke to the anxiety and stress I had been feeling – even when I was resting.  In the chapter on not taking anything personally, the authors ask you to suppose you're in a multiplex cinema  and as you enter one, you are stunned that it is the story of your life. Even more stunned when you walk into the next theater to sit next to a woman you know as your mother and watch her movie. You do not recognize your portrayal nor that of anyone else although the faces are familiar. You eventually progress to the movies of your spouse, children and siblings to realize that no one sees you or anyone else as you do.

That illustration loops through my mind, reminding me of the elaborate and intricate web of stories and perceptions I have created about myself and others ... and that no one shares them. Almost like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, does it mean these are fictional? Constructions of my mind to feed something. What? My ego? My sense of myself?

I am also understanding just how warped and far from reality they are.

Lest you think this all sounds awful and hopeless, I find it the reverse. I have let too much settle into my being as truth about who I am that my soul has rebelled against because it is false. Yet, I've held onto these notions and patterns for so long, they become rote. They cripple me. I found that passage in an old journal entry and it startled me, but it was factual.

I am hopeful with this awareness to remember who I am again. To feel and be free again. How I was as a child, in college or the time before I took on what is not me.

Sometimes I am me, sometimes I am not. Mostly, I just want to be me.

• What in internal secrets can I expose?
• What is the truth behind those secrets?
• What source of conflict do those secrets, when kept that way, cause in me?
• How to they warp my perceptions or perspective?
• When exposed to the light, how can they be freeing?


locked up
a drum

I have

I don't
or how

I am
for the
real gem

the truth