Jealousy crept in this weekend but a little gratitude, awareness, and Lau-Tzu reminded me I am exactly where I need to be.
I felt a little jealous this weekend. It seemed everyone was off doing all the fun things I used to love to do without me. I didn’t want to do them. I had things of my own to do right here, but nostalgia set in, and I began to imagine what life would be like if things were different, if I had made different choices.
Screw that! I took a long look around me: my books, my craft room of supplies, and my open desert sky. I asked for a long hug from my husband. Yeah…I’m right where I need to be.
“Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realizing he is one with the whole universe.” LAU-TZU, Tao-te-Ching
My sons texted me a picture of the concert they were at. A friend texted me some pictures of the Star Wars convention. I logged into Facebook and found other friends at various events and at home, sharing the joy they are experiencing around them. And I experienced that joy right along side them.
I may be alone, not completely in the physical sense, as my husband is always nearby, but spiritually, I’m not either. I am the whole universe at once. Thanks to technology, I can not only feel it, but I can also see it.
Short post this morning, as I’m heading into the city early for a breakfast date, and then a lunch date, maybe even visit with another friend on the way home. Maximizing the efficiency of the gas milage! You know that means I may have some words about podcasts to share with you tomorrow, right?
As to books, I haven’t started a new one yet. I’m reading my issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction right now. I’m enjoying the short stories, but I’m not sure I’ll subscribe. More words on that later.
Even the smallest pause between moments can serve as a way to cement an event in your mind, save it for future processing, and help transition yourself to the next.
I’m sorry to leave the world of books in my posts this week, but I’m not reading nearly as much as I usually do. The world has come into my home, and in a very nice way. Isn’t that why we read, study, and practice? To use the skills we learn in the physical world?
But I do still have thoughts I want to share, so here I am. Continuing from where I was yesterday in At A Loss for Words…
A few days ago, I wrote something interesting (to me) in my journal.
“What are you afraid of? What keeps you on your toes, alert, and grasping?”
“I’m afraid that if I let go of anything, I’ll lose it.”
I was referring to the ever-constant vigil I hold over my phone and …sadly still… social media, not to mention all the projects I want to get done. If I “stop to smell the roses,” that means slow down, and slow down means I’m not being as productive as I could be.
If I don’t answer that person that texted me, will they be there later? What if they forget about me?
And then there is the world news that keeps filtering into my world. When I say to friends and family, “That’s sad, tragic, etc., but there’s nothing I can do?” I feel like a bad person, but I don’t see what I can do other than be upset about it and being upset doesn’t help anyone.
I’m struggling this week, with words, with emotions, with the world outside my home. Can you tell? Like I said, it’s happened before but this time something has changed. I don’t feel so overwhelmed. I mean, I do, but I notice it and take steps to recenter. I don’t feel like I’m drowning. I’m experiencing, reflecting, and taking notes for a time in the future I can process it all.
Earlier this week, my mom and I took some of my sons’ things down to their new apartment together. As we got in the truck to head home, I stopped to take a breath.
We’re always rushing from one thing to the next, always getting on the freeway, packing up, answering a message, calling a friend, getting lunch…on and on and on. I wanted to sit and take the moment in, but I wish I had taken a bit longer.
Maybe that’s why I’m writing it here. To move my mind back to that quiet moment and take it all in again.
That moment yesterday? I can’t get it back. Those circumstances will never occur again. My mom and I had a great conversation on the way there. Seeing my sons so excited, moving into their new place, settled for a year, so close to home this time, made my heart happy. We walked around the corner to a café and had an amazing lunch together, laughing and telling jokes, sharing stories.
It just felt so good.
I needed that moment in the truck to soak it all in and remember it. I sat there, ready to make the three-hour drive home (which turned into a four- and half-hour drive because I “made a wrong turn in Albuquerque”), wanting to make it last just a few minutes longer. I took a breath, looked around, saw the street, the buildings, the flowers and the sunlight. I remember the apartment, my older son’s extra hugs, my younger looks a little stressed, probably about school. The look on their faces when they realized they’d have time to go surfing after we left. My mom’s look of love for her grandkids. I wanted more time. I wanted to cry and scream like a kid leaving Disneyland…but I can’t. I’m a grownup.
The small pause I was able to take worked. Here I am, a few days later, going back to that moment and reliving it, relating it to what I’m reading, what I’ve learned, putting it all into context. That day is now saved to my hard drive and shared with you here.
At a loss for words this morning. Don’t laugh. It happens, even to me. So, I thought I’d search through my old blog and see where I’ve been.
The following post was entitled “Involvement” and was posted back in January 2017. It’s one of those posts or journal entries that makes me wonder if anything ever really changes.
Sometimes I feel as if the world is running around me in madness. If I “stop to smell the roses”, if I turn my focus inward, if I live to make my family’s life more pleasant, am I neglecting the good I could be doing outside my home? Is there something else I could be offering? In my heart, I know the answer is no. But sometimes the pace and frantic call of the world around me unsettles my soul. And to them, I only want to say, “Stop. Read. Write. Reflect.”
We should take care of ourselves and the people around us. Be kind and spread that love to others. Peace will spread even though we do not actually attempt to “end evil”. To pursue that is futile.
I don’t need to be directly involved with “them”, “him”, or “others”. My influence is felt through my kindness to those nearest me and continues to spread when others do the same.
Some things change and some don’t. I know why I’m at a loss for words today, I’m feeling rushed. I’ve written a long crazy rant that I want to share with you but it needs more time. For now, I’ll leave you here with this:
This moment where we are right now will never return. We will never be here again. Take a breath, really see it, take it all in.
What does “selfing” mean? In the book he says, “there is not absolute separate “self” in the first place, just the process of continual self-construction or “selfing.”
“If we could only recognize the process of selfing as an ingrained habit and then give ourselves permission to take the day off, to stop trying so hard to be “somebody” and instead just experience being, perhaps we would be a lot happier and more relaxed.”From Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Continual self-construction. This is who am, not this. That is who am. I don’t know about you, but I have struggled with that most of my life. My awareness of it started in high school when I wasn’t part of any social group. I had a few friends in the theater, in band, in sports, and in classes. But who were my people? A remember a girl, one in the 90’s we called “goth,” telling me the reason why she liked me. I didn’t dress like them or act like them, I simply hung out with them at lunch sometimes, talking about the darker side of life. I didn’t seem to need to blend in and become them.
That was a rare moment that I felt accepted just as I was. And strange, I can’t remember her name, just her words and that feeling.
It was the same at university, at work, and then once I was married with children, it happened again. Moms have cliques. Did you know that? Stay-at-home moms, working moms, single moms, attachment parents, cry-it-out parents, vegan, organic, eat whatever you want please just leave me alone for a moment moms. The list goes on and on. They separate out into smaller and smaller playgroups, and I was a little bit of all of them.
When we decided to homeschool…oh man. The separating into those like me and not like me exploded. There I was again, not exactly like any one group. On the outside again.
Religion, politics, health, etc. I don’t seem to fit into any group completely. Does anyone?
It’s all based on this continual self-construction idea. We let words and ideas define who we are and how we should react to the world around us. We separate into camps and put up barriers between them.
What if we didn’t? What if we took a break from being “somebody” and just experienced being right in this very moment, with these very people? If we did it successfully for several days in a row, we’d probably never go back.
That’s what I’m doing today. I’m nobody. Each experience that comes across my path today, I will greet and embrace with curiosity and a smile. It does not add or subtract from my being. It only exists, as I do. It feels incredibly freeing to let go of labels and titles.
Story telling isn’t just for entertainment and gaining attention. And it comes in so many forms. What medium do you use to tell your story?
“Stories are a way to preserve one’s self. To be remembered. And to forget. Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books. Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives – to find strength in a very long one.”
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab
What drew me to this book in the first place was the reference to stories and a bookstore, so it makes sense that the first quote I share from it would be this. There’s a lot here, though, so I’m going to try to pull it apart a little.
“Stories are way to preserve one’s self.”
I’ve always been chided and teased for story telling in every conversation and not just because I’m getting old(er). Even when I was in my early 20’s, I’d be at work telling someone the story about the time I went water skiing and got so sunburned or the time my brother jumped off the roof. As I got older, married, had kids, etc., the stories just kept coming.
I take pride in knowing that I will be that old lady in the corner of the livingroom spinning my yarns, “I remember the time…” and all my great-grandkids will want to listen but everyone else will roll their eyes. “We’ve heard this one!”
Why do we tell stories about our past?
“To be remembered. And to forget”
I want my friends and family to remember the things that have happened to me and the things we experienced together. I can write them down for posterity, and I frequently do, but telling them is my favorite. Something about sitting and remembering together is so comforting. It’s like reaching out to touch your partner in the night, a reminder that we are all still here.
When we’re together telling stories, some of us add details or their own perspective, things each of us might have missed. We solidify the story each time we tell it, a verbal family history. It’s the ultimate “family bonding” time.
We also tell stories “to forget.”
In that moment, when we are together with friends and family, swapping stories about our past, sharing tales of our childhood, embarrassing our teenagers with their cute baby stories, we put the current time with all its stress way into the background. For those moments, we don’t worry about bills that need to be paid or that meeting we need to attend at work.
Hearing each other’s stories like this also puts today into perspective. We may be currently stressing over work, home, business, and the state of union, but when we hear all our stories, we can see that nothing has changed that much. Our parents and grandparents worried about the same things. Life just keeps on going, kids do crazy things, adventures are had, no matter what is happening in the world.
What form can stories take? Like she said, “in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books.” Most of our stories come in the form of words told over the dinner table or sitting around the livingroom, but some come in the form of a quilt my aunt made, a ceramic figure my grandmother crafted, or painting by my mother and her friends. It can also be the song my sons play, the robot they tried to make with their dad, and the video my stepdaughter made and posted on youtube. They are all connected to memories, things that help each of us be remembered and live longer in other people’s memories.
And this, “Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives…”
That’s why I read, but it’s also why I tell my stories. I am not just my life. I’m all the lives that came before me, all the lives and portions of lives that I’ve lived and heard of. My children and my grandchildren will have my life a part of theirs. Hopefully, my great-grandchildren will live a part of my life as well, even if they never meet me.
The quilt I made, the blog post I write, the pine tree I tended and got to grow tall, as well as the stories I told while we walked in the desert, are all part of the story that pass into the future.
Addie’s curse didn’t allow her to do that. She could live forever, be a part of the world forever, but no one will remember her. Her curse allowed me to see the beauty of what I have. And that’s why I love reading books.
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!
That guy! Teaching me how to be a better human from 80 years away. What better way to promote social progress!
Through his book there we are, James Thurber and I hanging out, being cool. How awesome is that?! I read that bit about writing his magazine articles and smiled…ahh yes, we don’t all have to be in the middle of the battle taking notes.
“So it came about that when other reporters were out wearing themselves down in quest of the clangorous and complicated fact, I could be observed wandering the quiet shore above the noisy torrent of contemporary history, examining the little miracles and grotesqueries of the time.”
Memoirs of a Drudge by James Thurber
I’ll admit, there are times when I wonder what in the living hell I’m doing here. Does any of this even matter? There’s so much going on in the world and I sit here disconnected from it and write about 80-year-old books, walks in the desert, and bird sightings. And don’t forget my feelings and how I cope with them. That must be important. Right?
Of course, it is! And do you know why?
Why, Michelle? Please tell us!
You know I will. Just shush a bit.
Because being human never changes. Being human is what we always will be. And being a better one helps the future more than any political movement.
I could sit and research what the best economic system is, the best parenting choices, the best political stance on government, state, national, and world-wide. I could spend my whole life doing that and there are many people far smarter than me doing it. You should listen to them.
But do you know what I think will have a much more lasting effect in this world? If I spend my time making myself a better person, a nicer, more calm, healthy, and loving person. And, because I love to think, and talk, and share, I think spending my time putting how I’m growing up into understandable words is a wonderful exercise.
I enjoy focusing on what makes me happy and healthy. And I think that makes me nicer to be around, nicer for my family and friends, and nicer for you, and nicer for the world to see and hear.
I’ve found same amazingly wonderful quotes in this book. Some are fun, hilarious, and even offensive. The times have changed, that’s for sure, but it’s still full of gems!
Oh, my gourd, I see the words “find yourself” and cringe. What does it even mean? Is there a better term? Maybe…discover my own depths? Learn more about who I really am, what I want, clarify my thoughts and feelings and use them to my advantage, instead of running blindly through life?
“It is the very process of writing allowed the writer to tap unguessed levels of his own self, to achieve a kind of nonvolitional heightening of ordinary insight, as, analogously, the process of free association in psychoanalysis is supposed to do.”
The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age by Robert Alter
That is exactly why I write, here and in my personal journals. My process with almost everything I write is to start and see where it goes. With books, I read and make notes, then go back later and pull out the quotes that trigger to me think a little. Most of things I made note of at the time I was reading, usually mean nothing to me a few weeks later. But those that do still trigger me get marked and brought here for further use.
I write out the quote in a word document and start musing. Sometimes I wander far from the author’s original intent. Sometimes I wander far from my own! And sometimes the trail goes nowhere. That’s when I file it away and begin again.
The same goes for my “New Read” and “Why I Get Up” posts. There’s a trigger and then some meandering down the path of thought through words. My personal journals go the same direction, but they are never censored or edited for content. They are mine only and lead me to more ah-ha moments that I use in my daily life. I apologize to anyone that reads those. They are circular and quite profane at times. I’m sure they look the ravings of a mad person.
“Nonvolitional” is the perfect word. They all just go where they go, a free association of thoughts followed by new ideas, and thoughts on those ideas, in the hopes that some conclusion can be found.
Once I get a bit down the path and feel like I’m close to a discovery of sorts, I close the document and open the previous day’s work for editing. That’s when I try to put a bit more order and polish on my work. I didn’t use to. I used to post right after I wrote. I’d say it was some noble attempt to “be real” but honestly it was just laziness.
The past few months I’ve tried to be more consistent and deliberate with my work. I start in the same way, but spend more time editing and rearranging things so that they get across better the idea I’m attempting to convey. Hopefully, I’m starting to get better at it.
What I do know is that I’m enjoying writing more, I’m getting much more out of the books I’ve read, and I’m learning a lot more than I used to. I’m able to quote from and use the information and helps that I’ve written on, in my own life. It brings me happiness, a sort of personal purpose.
My Monday morning “Gratitude” post was going to be about waking up before dawn every morning, snuggling down into my corner of the couch, wrapped in a blanket. I’m the happiest girl in the world with a cup of coffee and my toes sticking out from under the blanket like a heat regulator.
The hours before the sun comes up are my most productive, reading-wise. I’m obsessed about it. I have my book, my journal, my glasses, and a pencil ready and waiting on my desk every morning so I don’t have to hunt for them. I regularly wake up thinking, “I could go back to sleep for thirty more minutes but…my book!”
This morning was the same until I looked out the window into the dark desert and saw a glint of white.
It DID snow! The weather report said there was a chance, but I’ve learned not to get my hopes up when it comes to weather predictions in the desert. A 20% chance of rain means nothing around here. Partly cloudy = one cloud drifting across the sky. But this morning, there it was, a fine layer of snow on the dirt everywhere I looked.
I snuggled down into my corner of the couch as usual and then, predictably, as the sun started to come up, the power went out.
That’s the fun of a more rural life. I’m not being sarcastic. It really is. We live just far enough outside the city to make things a bit fun but not too crazy. Dirt roads and driveways lend themselves to the rustic atmosphere but become interesting when it rains more than one day. Snow melting into the dirt and sand is different than snow pushed to the side of paved roads.
Last night’s snow wasn’t much but when it does snow more than an inch or two the whole town shuts down for the day. It doesn’t happen every year, so we all sit back and enjoy it. The sun will come out and melt most of it away in a few hours. A few days later the wet will evaporate into the air or sink down into the sand. A week later green shoots of grass will show up everywhere and then dry out over the following month. Then we get to watch the rabbits come out to munch.
As I type, the sun is out, the sky is clear and blue, and there’s a beautiful light blanket of snow everywhere. My husband had begun to brew beer early this morning so when the power went out, he had to drag the generator out of the garage to continue. The wood burning fireplace still burns, but without the electric fan to move the heat around the room the dog and cat have parked themselves in front of it. My laptop works for now. My couch was in the recline position when the power failed and I had just finished brewing a pot of coffee, so I’m good for the morning at least.
The power is never out for long, so there’s no need to stress. It’s just a nice excuse to sit with one more cup of coffee…and my book!
Click over to “Why I Get Up in the Morning – Episode One” and read my first gratitude post. Six months and only fourteen posts? I thought this was going to be a weekly thing! I know…I’m working on consistency in many things. Remember?
These posts were inspired last year by Sagittarius Viking‘s Weekend Coffee Share posts. How did I find her? I don’t remember, but I am also a Sagittarius AND a Viking and I love her posts! Coincidence?!
“Carmel wasn’t wearing a body. It was so wonderful and relaxing not wearing a body. No thighs. No stomach. No bum. She was just Carmel, without her body.”
Nine Perfect Strangers by liane Moriarty
This book was one of those stories where the whole picture was beautiful. It has been difficult to pull out a quote and riff on it because it wasn’t the line that triggered my thinking, it was the whole chapter.
This quote is a perfect example. Just reading that line without the context probably wouldn’t have given me any of the feels whatsoever. I’ll elaborate on this one anyway and see if I can’t convey the idea through my own lens.
Who are you? Are you a collection of traits and attributes?
I think we are far more than that.
With a bit of encouragement, we can easily wrap our minds around the idea that we are not the car we drive or the house we live in. But when we look in the mirror and see our strangely shaped nose, over-curly hair, or much too wide middle, we immediately thing, “I am hideous!”
And it’s not just a female thing. Men have a rough time when they feel like they don’t measure up or they’re getting older and feel less attractive.
But how we look is not who we are.
Who we are is much more elusive. The concept of “soul” or “spirit” is closer to who you are. Need proof that we are not our bodies? Identical twins look exactly the same, but are they not different people? I wonder…if we could clone an adult human, replicate one sci-fi style, would they not be different people? What would it be like to talk to that person?
We put on a physical body and use it.
We’re all born as that “person”, whole and complete the moment we enter the world. We put on a physical body, use it (wisely if possible), decorate it like a high school pee-chee folder, and when we die we leave it behind and move on to…who knows where.
That person that feels, makes decisions, considers, and stores up information…that’s YOU. What would it be like to just be you without the body, without the stuff? Hard to wrap my brain around, that’s for sure.
“It wasn’t that she’d found any solutions or experienced any earth-shattering revelations, but the act of observing her looping thoughts seemed to slow them down, until at last they came to a complete stop, and she’d found that for moments of time she thought…nothing.”
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Meditation. When my sons were pre-school age, I started seeing a therapist and she urged me to give it a try. I fought against it for years. I wish I hadn’t.
About five years ago, I finally succumbed to peer-pressure, or Facebook advertising, and tried the 7-day free trial of a meditation app called Calm. It changed me. Delighted, I rolled right into the next 30-day trial and have been buying it every year since then.
Making Time for Meditation and Re-Focus
Lately, I’ve fallen away from daily mediation instead of increasing my sit time and I keep getting reminders like this one about why I should re-focus and make time for it.
Meditation brings me a few minutes of peace from my looping, anxious thoughts. The instructions that the Calm app gave me were different than any other in that they didn’t ask me to clear my mind or stop thinking. They said focus on something simple, like my breath coming in and out of my chest. Every time I lost my focus, I’d take a deep breath and start again. I hadn’t failed. I had built up a practice. The point was to recognize that my mind had shifted focus and bring it back. The bringing it back was the practice. And I was getting good at it.
I’m a classic “over-thinker.”
It’s actually a sore spot for me. People that point out that I’m overthinking something usually get the nastier of reactions in my repertoire. My thoughts usually run immediately to, “Maybe if more people did SOME thinking, I wouldn’t have so much on my plate to consider!” It bugs me that most people shun any type of thinking, as if those that put time into considering options and the consequences of their actions are just crazy and need help.
I want to do a little justifying myself for a moment. One reason that I overthink some things is that I hate miscommunication. I tend to fly off the handle with people. I’m reactionary. But I don’t want people to think badly of me, so now I try to consider everyone’s point of view and ask a lot of questions. I’m trying to understand. Then people get offended, as if my quest to understand is questioning their choices. I get angry and defensive and then spend more time in my head wondering what I could have done better. How can I do that without asking more questions?! Anxiety builds.
Enter meditation. Like the quote says, I don’t have any blinding revelations while I meditate. What I gain is time.
Meditation has taught me to think in one direction, realize when I’ve stopped, and refocus.
It puts time between my impressions of people and my reaction to the things they do or bring up in me. It has created a space for me to think before I act.