Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: book quotes Page 1 of 7

Zen Habits and This How ’bout Heat, Man?!

Surprise! It’s hot! Damn hot! Can Zen Habits help me here?

Zen habits quote on a desert sunrise.

The heat stresses me out and no matter where I go, I can’t seem to escape summer temperatures. Yes, I know I live in the desert. That is what makes the heat tolerable. Because do you know what’s worse than heat? Humidity. By living here, I avoid that almost completely.

Yesterday, I started to panic. It was day two of a heat wave that is supposed to last a whole week. When it’s hot like this, I’m stuck indoors and there is nowhere to drive to get out of it. The mountains aren’t cool enough, the movies are closed during the day now. What else can I do?

And then something I’m reading came to mind.

Thich Nhat Hanh, simplified the rules in just a few words: “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” It doesn’t get any better than that.

I’m still reading “Returning to Silence” by Dainin Katagiri, but it’s getting a tad tedious. I want to scream, “Get to the point, man!” Everything is and isn’t at the same time. Everything is good and bad, wrong and right. I keep finding small bits floating around in that resonate with me, but it’s like fishing a piece of eggshell out of the egg you broke into the already hot frying pan. It scoots away as you reach for it, and the pan is hot, the egg is cooking, you’re running out of time.

But here’s one thing that captured my attention this morning.

“So I went to school to try to learn Buddhism and end my suffering, but the complete opposite happened. The teacher gave me many books on Buddhism to read, which I did. Finally, he gave me a book on the Buddhist philosophy of emptiness. It is a collection of many simple sentences, but if you read it, it is really strange and hard to understand. Finally I thought, “Why did I become a monk?” It made me suffer more.”

That’s exactly where I am with this book. He keeps saying, “Don’t try so hard.” “We’re already enlightened, we just need to realize it.” “Don’t use the practice to get somewhere.” It’s irritating.

Yesterday, as I was reading, I did find a few of those, “Yes! That makes sense!” pieces, but I kept thinking, “How can I remember and practice some of these ideas when I’m out in the world?” I tend to run high on anxiety and at full speed. I react more often than I respond and tend to get myself into trouble. Then I withdraw. Maybe I’m just not built to be in this world.

That makes no sense. What’s the point of being alive at all if all you do is sit at home and never experience the world around you?

Then I came across this article at Zen Habits called, “12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk” and it shifted my thinking.

Which brings me back to the heat. As I watered my plants and trees today, the early morning sun beating down on me (it was already 90), I started to grumble. It was 115 degrees yesterday and today’s weather report said it would a little hotter, peaking on Friday and Saturday. How was I going to survive?! Why do I live here?! Who lives like this?!

Yeah, I have been known to be a little dramatic. So?

Then I remembered Zen Habits, “Smile. Breathe. Slow down.”

I smiled. Yes, it’s hot. It’s always hot like this mid-June. It’s like the solstice has to announce that it has arrived. “Hello! I am the sun and I am here all damn day! Enjoy my brilliance!” It gets blazing hot for a week as a result. I smiled at the thought of the sun being so obnoxious.

Then I took a breath. The birds don’t seem to mind. They just continue. And there are lots of them. The plants survive. The rabbits, squirrels, and coyotes, too. I made sure the water dish near the bushes was full of cool water. I made a little oasis for them.

I slowed down. I moved my potted plants into the shade, so they only get morning sun, watered the trees nice and deep and was thankful for those big wide leaves. What if I change my thinking and wonder how hot it will get? Will we break a record at the house this year? Since we moved here, I’ve had an electronic thermometer in the yard. It keeps a record of highs and lows. The record high is 117 and it was made two Junes ago. Will we get to 118? Let’s find out.

Next week, the weather will cool again. The high 90’s are not bad at all when the humidity is so low. It usually hovers around 10%. I will go back to talking a long walk in the morning, just before the sun comes up. Besides, the changes are what make life interesting. The hot summer breaks into a cool fall and the cold winters warm into a beautiful spring. I stood there watching a dove on its nest wondering if we’ll get any rain later this summer.

Zen habits win! Nothing changed but my thinking, my realization that all is as it should be, as it always has been. Katagiri says that we are all buddha already, we are born “enlightened,” we just need to accept it. For a moment, I caught a glimpse of that and there was peace.

Does Our Conscience or Comrades Guide Our Actions?

Is it our internal conscience or external comrades that goad us in one direction or another? Our moral compass or our constant associates? Our upbringing or our society?

“I am willing to believe each of us has a guardian angel, if you fellows will concede to me that each of us has a familiar devil as well.”

Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
Donald's conscience guiding him.
Photo from IMDb

Remember this one? Donald Duck with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.

I’ve always considered it a representation of our conscience, the impulse to do good or evil, to consider ourselves or others, Jiminy Cricket imploring us to do what’s right. Yeah, I watched a lot of cartoons and movies growing up. But could it be more?

In this story, I believe Marlowe is asking us to consider the company we keep and how it could influence our actions. Humans are greatly influenced by the people that surround them. We are driven to fit in and belong. No matter what our personal feelings are, if we’re surrounded by evil, we all tend to succumb to the “When in Rome…” idea.

There are so many sayings that put forward this idea. They keep popping up in my head! Didn’t your mom ask you, “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you?” Of course, you would! That’s what humans do.

We have evolved to live in groups. It’s safer and far more productive than living alone. We band together in families, clans, communities, states, and nations. We share resources. We emotionally bond with others. We are stronger in groups. Even a Bible verse comes to mind, “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

Maybe we should consider the company that we keep. And, when considering the guilt of another, that person’s company as well. Sometimes we fall into the wrong crowd. Sometimes we get swept along with the current. And sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to just to stay alive.

This is the first of my posts on this book. If you want to read more, you’ll find a list of posts at the bottom of my first post, “Joseph Conrad is my Next Read: Lord Jim”

Listening Skills to Practice

This post is what magically happens when you don’t think you have anything to say, but write anyway because you told yourself you would. It looks like I’m learning more listening skills to practice than I initially thought!

Practicing listening skills.
Photo by Bewakoof.com Official on Unsplash

This one is going to be short and sweet for two reasons. First, I’m writing to sum up one chapter simply to sum up the chapter, not because I found anything profound to share. Second, it’s Wednesday and that’s the day of the week that I spend galivanting around Southern California, so I don’t have all morning to think about this.

Chapter 4 – Clarify Your Role – From Listen Like You Mean It by Ximena Vengoechea

We all have our default listening modes. It’s usually based on your personality, your upbringing, and culture. Mine is “Identifier.” When I’m listening to you, I automatically think of ways that I am similar, how I can relate to your story, and show you by telling you a story of my own. It isn’t always what people want or need to hear and can be the spot where our relationship weakens and breaks down.

There are others and we all know them: the problem-solver, the validator, the interrupter, the diffuser, ect. Reading the descriptions reminded me of a sit-com cast. Gather together 4 to 7 stereotypical listening personalities and set them in a situation…see what happens!

With a little practice we can get closer to people and communicate better if we learn to identify the needs in a conversation and practice stepping into other listening modes from time to time. It starts with asking questions.

What?! I know!

Next time I’m in a conversation with a friend, I think I’ll listen more and talk a little less, ask a few questions, and see if I can’t determine what it is they need at the moment. I’ve already learned to step into other listening modes with close family members in the past, sometimes begrudgingly. As in, “This person can’t handle the REAL me, so I’ll pretend I’m someone else and make life easier for them. They can’t handle the truth!”

Yeah, I can be like that.

It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? There’s nothing wrong with attempting to be what another human needs because you care about them and want them to be happy. Setting aside what I need or what I feel for a bit and focusing on someone else doesn’t come naturally for me. I do it, but my initial reaction is to resent it. With time, I do start to see the benefits and change my mind, but in a face-to-face conversation, where everything is immediate, I have much harder time.

That feeling is what makes it hard for me to feel connected to other people. And it’s why I’m reading this book. So far, I think I’m really learning some new tricks.

Hmm…looks like I had more to say than I thought! Now, I’m off to head out into the world and practice some of these new listening skills. Wednesday is my weekly “going out” day. I spend it having breakfast with one friend, lunch with another, and dinner with a third. I drive from one town to another, talking on the phone or listening to podcasts. One goal I have this week is to take a few minutes between conversations to download my thoughts in my journal, meditate and relax, a way to clear my palate so to speak before I move on.

I’ll get home tonight socially satisfied and happily exhausted. “See” you all tomorrow!

Pop back to my post “Listen Like You Mean It” – Another New Read, to start at the beginning of my journey and find other posts about this book.

Attachment Thoughts from “Returning to Silence”

“Returning to Silence” is giving me some new thoughts on the idea of attachment, but it’s coming at a high cost. I’m not sure if it’s the ideas or the writing that is making this so complicated. It could be both.

“Everything through which we try to satisfy our desires becomes a toy.”

Returning to silence by dainin katagiri

Even meditation. It becomes a toy when we expect to get something from it, instead of … what? I’m not sure. What’s the point of meditation if we don’t get anything from it?

I’m being honest. A lot of this doesn’t make much sense to me. There’s a glimmer of meaning in it, but I sure would like to hear someone explain it in terms or analogies that I can relate to. It feels a lot like reading the Old Testament in the Bible.  

I am starting to get the idea of attachment in new ways though. When we thirst for pleasure, to stay alive or known, or for power and prosperity, we become attached to this world. And, it says here that we can’t NOT have that thirst. It can’t be extinguished, only acknowledged, and used for good purposes.

I’m not sure what that really means either. What’s a “good” purpose? He used the example of planting a tree because it is pretty and because it will shade people in the future. That is thirsting for pleasure (beauty) and to remain known (the tree will remind people of you when you’re gone). But you can acknowledge that thirst and mitigate it by not becoming attached to the outcome. If the tree dies for some reason, or is removed in the future, you should not throw a fit about it, just accept it.

Here’s another bit of something priceless that I found this morning:

“We don’t know when life will fade away. We should remember this.”

RETURNING TO SILENCE BY DAININ KATAGIRI

We are all marching toward the grave. It is our purpose on this planet to be born, to live, and to die. Every one of us, without exception. And we can’t know when that day will come. It is coming though, closer every day. We fade with every passing moment.

Attachment ideas. Flowers fade.

And that doesn’t mean fill your every waking moment with bullshit. It means be aware of the experience of life. A flower grows, buds, blooms, fades, and dies. That’s all it does. The only difference between the flower and us is sentience. A flower has no attachment to its life here. We are aware of what tomorrow brings, but we can use those big brains, not to set that information aside and ignore it, but to accept it as part of existence and keep living.

Go back to my first post about this book, New Read: Returning to Silence. You’ll find more links at the bottom of that post to other thoughts inspired by the book.

Wrap Up Notes from Surely You’re Joking – Part 2 of 2

And here it is! (drum roll) The much anticipated Part 2 of 2. It’s for your own protection really. I had posted it all at once yesterday, the lord only knows what would have happened. As you may recall, I posted about “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman” back at the beginning of March when I started reading it and posted my immediate thoughts about the book on my Goodreads account and in my (now weekly) newsletter. I hope you’ll go read those!

Surely You're Joking book cover on the couch.

Don’t forget to go back and read Wrap Up Notes from Surely You’re Joking – Part 1 of 2!

“In any thinking process there are moments when everything is going good and you’ve got wonderful ideas. Teaching is an interruption, so it’s the greatest pain in the neck in the world. And then there are the longer periods of time when not much is coming to you. You’re not getting any ideas, and if you’re doing nothing at all, it drives you nuts! You can’t even say ‘I’m teach my class.’”

This reminded me of all the things that writers (or any artist really) do all their lives. We always tell ourselves, “If I had no distractions, I’d get so much more done!” But we wouldn’t. Sometimes the distractions are just the time filler between bursts of brilliance. They can also be excuses to the masses why you haven’t produced anything lately.

“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

Words to live by.

“…they could pass the examinations, and “learn” all this stuff, and not know anything at all, except what they had memorized.”

Speaking of engineering school in Brazil. I could write a whole post on this from an “unschoolers” perspective. This is what K-12 schools in the U.S. have perfected these days. They can pass a test, regurgitate facts, but have no solid knowledge of what they are studying. They don’t understand how history, literature, religion, and science are all related. That’s how I graduated high school with honors, standing on the stage thinking, “We’re screwed if I’m one of the smarter people here because I have no idea what I’m doing. I just followed the directions and got an A on the test.”

“That night when he came home from work, he was depressed. She finally got it out of him: He thought it would be nice to buy her that picture (at a museum they had visited earlier), but when he went back to the exhibit, he was told that the picture had already been sold. So she had it to surprise him with on his birthday.

What I got out of that story was something still very new to me: I understood at last what art is really for, at least in certain respects. It gives somebody, individually, pleasure. You can make something that somebody likes so much that they’re depressed, or they’re happy, on account of that damn thing you made! In science, it’s sort of general and large: You don’t know the individuals who have appreciated it directly.”

Reminds me of something Sheldon would say on the Big Bang Theory!

“…pompous fools drive me up the wall. Ordinary fools are all right; you can talk to them, and try to help them out. But pompous fools – guys who are fools and are covering it all over and impressing peoples as to how wonderful they are with all this hocus pocus – THAT, I CANNOT STAND”

Also sounds like a Sheldon quote, but I agree.

“But then I began to think, what else is there that we believe? (And I thought then about the witch doctors, and how easy it would have been to check on them by noticing that nothing really worked.) So I found things that even more people believe, such as that we have some knowledge of how to educate. There are big schools of reading methods and mathematics methods, and so forth, but if you notice, you’ll see the reading scores keep going down – hardly going up – in spite of the fact that we continually use these same people to improve the methods. There’s a witch doctor remedy that doesn’t work. It ought to be looked into; how do they know that their method should work? Another example is how to treat criminals. We obviously have made no progress – lots of theory, but no progress – in decreasing the amount of crime by the method that we use to handle criminals.”

I have no commentary on this other than, “Yeah, dammit.”

“If you’re representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you’re doing – and if they don’t want to support you under those circumstances, then that’s their decision.”

What a concept! What if we lived in a world where you couldn’t vote to force people to do or pay for things you believe are beneficial? Instead, you had to present them with the facts in ways they can grasp and use, and then step back and allow people to make their own decisions…like say…vaccinations, health habits, and social issues.

The end and NEXT!

If you’d like to get a copy of “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” and read it for yourself, check out Thriftbooks.com. Used books, free shipping, and points to redeem toward free books?! Yes, please! It’s a wonderful book, highly entertaining and left met thinking a little better about these weird physicists types.

Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World? Part 2 of 2

When last we met, I was spiraling into the depths of a natural world filled with violence and chaos. If you haven’t read it yet, pop back to “Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World?” and take a look.

Shall we continue?

“What does a kingdom pretend to do? Save the values of the community – regulate compromise – improve the quality of the commonwealth! In other words, protect the power of the people in power and keep the others down. By common agreement of course, so the fiction goes. And they do that pretty well. We’ll give them that.”

That is exactly what your kingdom, I mean, our nation’s government is doing right now. It’s also very much why I am leaning towards peaceful and non-violent anarchy. Live and let live.

“Rewards to people who fit the System best, you know. King’s immediate thanes, the thanes’ top servants, and so on till you come to the people who don’t fit at all. No problem. Drive them to the darkest corners of the kingdom, starve them, throw them in jail or put them out to war.”

This reminds me of my social media feed and tv news. Comply with what those in power wish or suffer the consequences.

“What is the state in a time of domestic or foreign crisis? What is the state when the chips are down? The answer is obvious and clear! Oh yes! If a few men quit work, the police move in. If the borders are threatened, the army rolls out. Public force is the life and soul of every state: not merely army and police but prisons, judges, tax collectors, every conceivable trick of coercive repression. The state is an organization of violence. Revolution, my dear prince, is not the substitution of immoral for moral, or of illegitimate for legitimate violence; it is simply the pitting of power against power, where the issue is freedom for the winners and enslavement of the rest.”

Public force and coercive repression, the cornerstone of any central government. When you pass a law by vote, you’re asking a separate group of people to use deadly force against those who do not comply. You may think it is best, but when people get held down, beat up, and shot by police for not stopping to receive the punishment for breaking that law, are you ok with that? When the police stop a teenage boy for not wearing a seatbelt, and for whatever reason they feel threatened and shoot him, that is the result of your law. When someone doesn’t pay the appropriate taxes and the government comes and takes everything they have, puts their family on the street, and takes that person to jail, that is a result of your law. When someone buys a drug and sits in their own livingroom alone to use it and relax, and the cops bust in to drag him to a box…I could go on and on but I’m digressing.

Bottom line is that when you vote for a law to be put in the books, you are authorizing violence on another in your name.

“Who says I have to defend myself? I am a machine, like you. Like all of you. Blood-lust and rage are my character. Why does the lion not wisely settle down and be a horse?”

Stop hating! Stop doing drugs! Stop … whatever. Geez! Let people be who they are and choose whether or not you want to associate with them. You know a lion by his look. You allow him to live his own way, in his own space. And you avoid running into him as prey. How about we do the same with other humans?

“Tedium is the worst pain. The mind lays out the world in blocks, and the hushed blood waits for revenge. All order, I’ve come to understand, is theoretical, unreal – a harmless, sensible, smiling mask men slide between the two great, dark realities, the self and the world – two snake-pits.”

I know, it’s all pretty dark and I had a bit of fun wallowing around in it today. I hope I didn’t terrify you. I do get a tad worked up though, especially lately. I’m feeling frustrated and lonely in this world. It seems everyone around me wants so desperately to live inside a fantasy world.

Nature’s reality can be terrifying and cruel, but we humans have a special gift, creativity. We can use it to recognize the world around us and attempt to do better for ourselves, or we can create a little bubble in our minds and live there as long as we can. That is until the bubble is burst and the world’s violence comes flooding in.

Me? I prefer to be aware of the real danger in this world and adjust my own behavior, take my own calculated risks based on my own experience (and the advice from trusted professionals), and allow everyone else to do the same.

I like Grendel. He’s a mean, nasty, violent dude. He has no remorse for who he is. He makes it very clear what he is and what he’ll do. It’s on you to be bigger and stronger than him or respect his boundaries and let him be.

Here’s something interesting I just found; this book is on the Banned Library site. Over the years it has been banned at several schools for being “anti-christian, anti-moral, and violent” and “profane.” Makes you want to read it even more, doesn’t it?

Looking For Inspiration for Writing Your Story?

If you’re in need of some inspiration for writing your story, this is the book you need to get. You can’t have my copy though because it’s riddled with notes, from pieces underlined to exclamations of joy. From the very start I felt a connection with the author, like a fantasy story where the book knows whose hands it needs to be in and finds its way there.

Inspiration for Writing in the form of a book. Wild Mind cover on a pile of blankets.

It’s been a month since I finished reading it and as I flipped through the pages looking for a good quote to riff off of, I realized that the magic I felt while reading it had already begun to fade from my memory. How can that be?! I remember thinking that I should go back and do many of the “Try this!” sections of the book, but never did. I had begun to incorporate them into my daily writing routine. And then life, I suppose.

No worries though. I plan on keeping this one out on my desk, not hidden in the bookshelf, to flip through when I need encouragement and inspiration.

The following are a few of my favorite quotes and some words of my own in response.

“Over and over, we have to go back to the beginning. We should not be ashamed of this. It is good. It’s like drinking water; we don’t drink a glass once and never have to drink one again. Over and over, we begin. This is good. This is kindness. We don’t forget our roots.”

As the Mandalorian says, “This is the way.” Writing, like most of life, is a long series of restarts. Each time through, if we’re paying attention, we learn something new and build on it. It’s a slow spiral up and then then we die. Hopefully we get the chance to share what we’ve learned with others before we go.

“When you write a memory, it isn’t in the past anyway. It’s alive right now.”

I have found this to be especially true when I was writing the memoir of my arrest, among other stories. It’s like I’m there, reliving it all in my mind. It hurt and it was terrifying at time, but the wonderous thing is that, as I write, I’m separate from the event while I’m reliving it. This time I get the chance to slow down and speed up the moment. That’s when I get to process and reflect on it, makes sense of it or choose to let it be. Then the pain of reliving it has a meaning and purpose.

“Katagiri Roshi said in his book Returning to Silence (Shambhala, 1988) that it is not important whether a spiritual teacher has reached the peak or not; what is important is how he has digested the truth he has experienced and how much this truth is manifested in the teacher’s life moment by moment. This is true in writing, too.”

And now I need THAT book (clicks over to Thriftbooks and adds it to the wishlist). The feeling behind imposter syndrome is just this. We don’t need to have all the answers. We don’t need to be completely with it and composed. We only need to have the beginnings of knowing ourselves and the drive and courage to be open and honest. We’re not leaders or gurus. We’re just people sharing our experiences with others.

“It is the nature of a human being, like having a heartbeat and a breath. Thoughts really happen involuntarily. …the brain continues to have thoughts whether we will them or not.”

Oh, those pesky thoughts. Reminds me of how detestable the idea of a “thought crime” in Orwell’s 1984 is. Contrary to popular belief, thoughts, like feelings, are involuntary. Once we are aware of that, we can hold them and examine them to see if they are correct or useful. First we hold a thought out in the light, put our glasses on, then we can decide what we want to do with it.

“Writing is elemental. Once you have tasted its essential life, you cannot turn from it without some deep denial and depression. It would be like turning from water. Water is in your blood. You can’t go without it.”

I’ve tried giving this up, really. Even when I’m at my lowest, laying on the floor in my livingroom, crying to my husband that “No one in the whole world is reading this! And even if there is, they are probably only reading it as an example of mediocrity!” I still get up the next day and start typing…or scribbling in my notebook. I’ll set it aside for a few days, but then I get hungry and begin again. I have to breathe.

“Writing is the act of discovery. If I knew everything ahead of time, why bother writing?”

It’s lines like this that made me smile. I’m not alone. I just start typing and sometimes she comes out to play.

“I am my own mind. I claim my thoughts. My mouth and the words I say with it are mine and no one can take that away. I can’t write like Dostoyevski or Henry Miller. I write like myself.”

If you sat with me over a cup of coffee, you’d hear the same words you read here. Maybe if you heard me talking with people at a party, you’d recognize me.

“You have to let writing eat your life and follow it where it takes you. You fit into it; it doesn’t fit neatly into your life. It makes you wild.”

I’m not a “let it go and see what happens” kind of girl, but the older I get, the more I allow it, and the more I wish I had started earlier.

“My writing self is braver than the rest of me. I follower her, trust her, but I know my human self, the part of me that is not a warrior of truth and words, lags behind me.”

Have you ever been in a conversation and then hours afterwards thought, “Dammit! I wish I had thought of that to say!”? That is her. She hides from view, taking notes, thinking of all the witty, clever, and brilliant things to say, but she’s too shy to make herself known face to face. She’ll save those words for later and write them instead. She also comes out of hiding when triggered to respond to social media posts and the sincerely regrets she has fingers to type with.

“You’ll lose your reader if you are vague, not clear, and not present. We love details, personal connections, stories.”

You can probably tell when I’m hiding behind euphemisms and creating characters to say what I want to say. There are things I want to reveal, pieces of me that I’d love to set free, but fear gets in the way. Who will it hurt if I do? What if I’m ridiculed for my beliefs? What if I’m wrong?! Our need to get along and fit in is strong, but we can be stronger..

“We are great warriors facing the barriers of truth. We are digesting experience for society.”

That’s the beauty of creative nonfiction. For what it’s worth, we write our experience so that everyone around us can share in it. It’s why I enjoy reading it, as well. Your story is now part of my experience.

“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath.

Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.

All writers have a natural bent toward laziness. That is good. Utilize it. The couch is a good place. Lie there for a whole day in the middle of everything. It is like waiting for vinegar to settle after you shake it up with oil.”

The perfect ending. An excuse for why I spend just about every morning reading and writing, looking out the window, going for a walk, quietly cleaning my house. I’ve only begun to completely relax into it, to let it roll by while I watch. Little by little, I’ve realized that if I run from one thing to the next, if I fill up my days with activities, I miss the joy of life.

And there it is. There was so much more in this little book, but I’ve already shared too much. If you’d like to read my first thoughts on this book, you can find them at my original post, Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.

My Empty Nest is not the End of the Word, But I Could Use a Hug

Every parent experiences the empty nest at some point, I know this. But what if we didn’t have to tuck it all down and experience it alone? Vulnerability in the midst of struggle is not my specialty, but sometimes I feel that my saying something might be just what someone else needs.

The perfect quote for an empty nest on a winter sunrise background.

“And this, he decides, is what a good-by should be.
Not a period, but an ellipsis, a statement trailing off, until someone is there to pick it up.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Goodbyes are so hard. The end of a chapter, the turning of the page. I loved this ellipsis analogy. I often use those, and my son tries to tell me I’m doing it wrong. “It’s not a pause, Mom!” I know but…I like it that way! Think about it.

“Goodbye.”
Door shut. Time’s up. It’s over.

“Goodbye…”
Turns slowly. Starts walking. What’s next?

It’s different and it feels so much better.

And then this one.

“That time always ends a second before you’re ready.
That life is the minutes you want minus one.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

Yes, it does. I’m going through a big one of these right now. My youngest child has gone off to University in another state. I’m officially retired from everyday Mom-ing.

I have an empty nest.

Everyone knows that once you’re a mom, you’re always a mom. We have an amazingly close relationship. I never experienced that “teenage” stuff, where they shut themselves off from me. I know they’ll always be texting, sending me pictures, and coming back to visit as often as they can.

But… (I did it again)

I’m alone here all day now. And when my husband is done working, we’re alone all evening and all night. And when I get up in the morning, there’s no reason to keep quiet. I can do what I want at any time of day. The TV isn’t on unless I’m watching it. No one is playing music in the middle of the night. No one interrupts what I’m doing. It’s so damn boring.

I’ll admit that I was excited to retire. We have three kids. When the first one left, we relaxed. There was a bit more space in the house. When the second one left, we were happy. There he goes! Two down, one to go! We looked forward to the youngest taking off. If all three of our kids were out in the world taking care of themselves, we were off the hook. We did it. Done! Children are a huge, long-term commitment. It’s incredibly stressful.

But… (he he he)

It’s so quiet. And then…I’m choking up again as I write…can’t we have one more day? One more drive into the city? One more dinner? One more, “Guys! WTF? Can you not?!”

I wasn’t ready.
I seriously underestimated how hard an empty nest would be.

But…

Are we ever ready? I don’t think so. We just have to dive in and keep flailing around until we notice we’re swimming.

I’ve hesitated to write about this for several reasons. It’s so fresh. I’m still working through it. I don’t need other people’s crap right now. But it keeps coming back up. A scratch in the record that needs to be dealt with, not ignored. You’ll only keep hearing it every time you get to that part of the music.

The first is, as usual, I don’t want to make my kids feel bad. They are doing nothing wrong by growing up and going out into the world. Pursuing our own path is what we all do. That’s normal and good. While I’d certainly have no problem with them living here forever, I want them to chase their own dreams without worrying that the mother they love so much is having a nervous breakdown. It would defeat the purpose of raising children into adults if they were so afraid to hurt my feelings that they never left home.

The second is that I’m not good at being this vulnerable. While I’m good at telling others what I’ve already been through and worked on, I cringe at the thought of asking for sympathy and help as I need it. I’ve recently come to notice that my culture fosters independence over just about anything else and I’m not sure it’s all that healthy. Stand on your own two feet. Buck up. Don’t be such a baby about it. From childhood and adolescence, into adulthood, marriage, children, and on until we die, we’re encouraged to keep our feelings to ourselves, to deal with our own shit alone.

I’m starting to question the wisdom in that. The times that I have reached out to talk to someone about something I’m going through, I’ve always found that I’m not alone. Life’s stages are common. We all move through them. Amazingly enough, no matter what you’re going through, there are others that have been there, felt that. The key is finding those people, and they’re usually very close by, remaining silent, believing they are alone in the world too.

And the third reason is people’s reaction. I don’t find support when I express my pain, I generally find platitudes, dismissal, or worse…help or sympathy. We’re not trained in supporting others through something difficult. Have you ever felt something so strongly, a feeling you just don’t want to feel and can’t get away from? Have you ever told someone about it and they said, “That’s just life. It’ll be better tomorrow.” Yeah…not helpful. Or worse, “Everyone feels that. You’re being ridiculous.” And “I told you this was coming.”

What do I want? To be completely honest, I’m not sure. Maybe I simply want to be heard and to get a hug. I’d like to hear an affirmation. “This must suck.” Or “I feel that from you.” Maybe even questions like, “What are you going to do?” I also really enjoy hearing other people’s painful stories. “There was a time I felt that way.” Or “I remember when…” I hear that and I think, “Yes. I’m not alone. I’m just one of the humans here. Life does go on.” And then I consider what’s next or cry some more. It depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to wallow in my sadness awhile.

Ultimately, the story continues no matter what happens to any of us. It isn’t a period, end of line, close the book. It’s just…what’s next?

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

What is the The Key to Understanding Love?

Love is complicated. We can’t possess people like we possess things. We can’t turn a key and make people love us the way we love them. The key to understanding love starts with loving yourself as a complete individual.

Understanding love is not possession quote on a desert background.

“It’s because I love you that I won’t. Love is hungry. Love is selfish.”
“You’re thinking of possession.”
He shrugs. “Are they so different? I have seen what humans do to things they love.”
“People are not things,” she says. “And you will never understand them.”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab

I’m reminded of one my favorite stories here, The Phantom of the Opera. I always cry for the Phantom. He loves her, but she refuses him. Why? It’s not the ugly she can’t get around, it’s that he misunderstands love. He’s twisted and tortured into thinking possession is love. He twists and tortures her world in order to turn her toward him, to make her love him.

I always wondered what would happen if she decided to love him, despite his evil ways. Would it end up one of those “unconditional love changes people” stories?

That’s what Addie is trying to express here. The Darkness is so removed from humanity, (because he isn’t human), that he is incapable of understanding love.

Writing that I just thought this same thing could be said about the Lucifer character in the TV show. It’s part of why I loved it so much. There he was on earth with humans, learning about them in every conceivable way but love. Lucifer learns to experience love, what it means to be human.

Addie is right. He has confused love with possession, as most people do. That’s why he hasn’t been able to learn the difference. Examples of real love are few and far between. We should know and be able to practice the difference, but we rarely do. It’s easier to possess another than to love them.

Relationships are complicated and there’s so much to do. To experience real love (and not possession), we need to start with ourselves. And loving ourselves is no picnic.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

Ultimately, Most Life Choices are Just Best Guesses

There’s no way of knowing which life choices will end up getting us where we want to go in the long run. We’re working from a moving platform that is time, and aiming at a moving target that is satisfaction.

“…paralyzed by the idea that whatever you choose to do, it means choosing not to do a hundred other things…”

The invisible life of Addie Larue by v.e. Schwab

There is one thing that limits every human on this planet and that is time. We only have so much time in a day, a week, a lifetime. When you choose to watch an hour of TV, you choose not to do other things. If you choose to make a delicious dinner at home, you choose not to go out to a restaurant. It’s a fact of life that cannot be changed no matter how clever, rich, or powerful you are.

We all come to that realization at some point in our lives. Some of us have a very hard time accepting that fact and it makes us completely crazy. We stand there in distress, attempting to decide which is the better choice. What is the thing that make us the happiest? Which choice will lead us further down the “right” path? It’s enough to make any thinking person neurotic.

Ultimately, I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter. Once I accepted the fact that I can’t do everything, that I had to live with the choices I make, it started to become easier. The next step was to enjoy the choice I made. That’s where it got complicated.

At one point, you’re looking over the choices you have. You puzzle over it awhile and eventually make your choice. Then, while you’re happily cruising along, you start to wonder, “Would the other choice have been better?” And now you’re not enjoying what you have.

Now what do you do? Invent a time machine so that you can explore alternate realities where you didn’t tell that partner to leave, you didn’t take that job or go to that school, or you decided to apply for a job in another state and moved. Wouldn’t that be nice?

What if we had a machine that let you play out exactly what would happen after each choice you made, and then you could choose which would ultimately work out best? Oh! And it took no extra time! A perfect world.

It’s not possible, outside of sci-fi movies. What can we do instead? Make the choice that makes you most happy right now, and not worry so much or so far into the future.

Photo by Bhargava Marripati on Unsplash

I’m imagining back when my sons were taking an interest in indoor rock climbing. The woman helping them learn told them, “Your only goal is to find the top your own way. Hold on and look for your own next step. Make it. Steady yourself. And the look for the next one you can reach. You may need to go sideways or back down a bit, but you’ll get there.”

That’s life.

I blogged about “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” when I started reading it back in January. It certainly didn’t take me long to read it all. I couldn’t put it down! Have you read it? You can find it on Thriftbooks.com if you don’t have it. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments when you read it!

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