Where are we going again?
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Breathe 3 comments

It was 1988. I was two years out of undergrad, after majoring in a field of study (theatre) that I realized I couldn’t “major” in for real. (At least the other major, English, has been profoundly useful.) There I was, in my first job out of school – a management job. I had a lot to learn, and yet I seemed to have a knack for some of the basics.

For reasons out of my control, and ultimately out of my employer’s* control, the job ended. Abruptly, it felt, but I know now that this was a most gentle release back out into the work force, compared to some of what I’ve witnessed in the meantime.

I remember feeling really distraught over this job coming to a close – what would I do? What did I want to do? How would I pay the rent? Do I have ANY marketable skills? The world stretched before me, more like a gaping maw than a smorgasbord of opportunity. I was 25 and completely clueless about how to proceed. I felt paralyzed with options, none of which appealed particularly.

We had a few weeks notice to wind things down in this office. We sublet office space from a commerical real estate specialist, Bob, whom I’d gotten to know reasonably well over the course of time sharing space. He became a sort of “big brother” figure, listening and gruffing/lovingly asking me the pointed questions I needed to consider. Still, I felt like I was twisting in the wind, and time, she was a-tickin’.

One day when I was in a particular twist, Bob sat me down, looked me in the eye and said the following. “Ultimately, all you have to do is breathe. That is all you have to do to sustain your life. Nothing else matters. Just breathe. That is it. That is all you *have* to do.”

I had been all caught up in my perceptions of my life’s requirements (“I *have* to pay the rent”), my expectations of myself and success (“I *have* to get onto a career track that brings money and prestige”) … and all of the other “have to” inner monologues. They were all MY monologues. I could shut them off entirely, if I so chose. All I had to do, my only requirement, was breathing.

I could do that. It was a brilliant starting point, like throwing all the “have tos” out the window and starting from scratch. Once I’d landed, emotionally, in that beautifully expansive spartan place where only breathing is required, I could add back in the pieces that I felt I could handle, one-by-one. The decisions I was prepared to make, I made, one at a time. Any decisions I didn’t feel ready for, I deferred. One step at a time. Everything slowed down to the pace of my rising and falling chest. All I really had to do, after all, was breathe.

I don’t always remember this lesson as quickly as I should. I’ve had other times when circumstances have left me similarly paralyzed. But, at some point, after twisting around in my discomfort for a while, I remember – all that is really truly required of me is breathing. Everything else is gravy. And, truthfully, the fact that I have choices beyond breathing makes me a very very lucky girl. I live my life in an abundance of nourishment, both of my soul and my body. Opportunities. Choices. Amazing Friends. Health. Music. Love. Activity. Good Food. Coffee :-). When I need to slow things down to the pace of my breathing, I can. All of the richness of my life will remain, even if I slow down to appreciate and understand it more.

*Gosh, this was 21 years ago, now. And I haven’t written the long overdue post about this job and one of my life’s most important mentors, this very special employer. Do stay tuned … it’s a good one. 🙂

All We Have Here Is Sky 1 comment

“is it lasting?”
and in asking
the sphere becomes a line
a dotted line
and to follow it
you must make a jump each time

I’ve been quite effusive on Facebook of late about feeling “blessed”, almost to the point of absurdity. Sometimes I stumble through my day-to-day life, taking everything from my own footfalls to the air in my lungs to the structure of my life for granted. Then, I will be overcome by the enormity of the privilege I’ve been granted, through whatever miracles of DNA or circumstance or training or sheer shit luck, to live this life.

Here are some things that have struck me recently:

A Normal Day: I wake up.  All my limbs, organs and muscles work. My brain gets active. My emotional life stirs. I am hungry. I am thirsty. There is food and there is water. See? I open a tap, and clean – if somewhat bleachy – water appears in endless amounts.

Doesn’t that just knock you out when that happens? If it doesn’t, it should because there are more places than I’d care to mention – including right here in Canada – where access to clean, potable water is not taken for granted, at all. No, I’m not on LSD and no I’m not going to wax poetic about the beauty of water. But, seriously, consider that the majority of the population of the world cannot do this simple thing we take for granted, many times a day. It is a humbling and precious thing, our access to water.

My normal day includes coffee and most of the time it tastes exactly as I want it to.

There is always music in my normal day, sometimes background. Sometimes foreground. Always present.

There are people to talk with, laugh with and work with. I have things to do, things to be accountable for. I’m connected in that karmic web of offering of myself and receiving, integrating and synthesizing what others offer.

There are students to learn from.

I have my own home to return to at the end of the day, providing that I left it at all. Sometimes I don’t. Both circumstances, either leaving or staying, are precious. They suggest I have purpose out in the world, and purpose within my own world.

Health, food, water, shelter, people, connection, purpose. How lucky am I?

a dotted page
a dotted hillside
a blast of dots
a blind reader
a flock of sheep
a blast of trumpet shots

here – all we have here is sky
all the sky is is blue
all that blue is is one
more colour now

My Jobs: I have many jobs, it seems. A main one and a bunch of smaller projects on the go at any one time. All stretch me creatively, organizationally. Sometimes they stretch me emotionally.

It is true, I admit it, that I have not always been grateful for my main job. I take it back. 😉 It can be stimulating, allows huge amounts of latitude and freedom, and stretches me in often unexpected ways. It offers an unusual amount of security, which is a rare thing these days.

I’m grateful for my ever-growing network that seems to answer most needs, even quite unusual ones, with the flick of a few e-mails. Some days, I feel like I only need ask and whatever it is I’m trying to generate appears. Amazing.

Each day represents new opportunity in so many ways. How lucky am I?

a basket of apples
by the back door
beneath the sweater pegs
the autumn leaves
lift along the street
a pair of dancing legs

same as the vendor
who likes to sing
as loudly as he can
and all he says is
it suits me fine
that’s the way I am

Full Weekends: I flash back to a time when I was newly single in the Big City. Tough times. The break-up caused a schism in my normally dynamic social fabric. Many of the friends I had remaining were coupled themselves – weekends were their “couple” time. I could place activity in the weekday evenings, but the weekends often yawned before me, cavernous and terrifying in the depths of loneliness they could foster.

Now, my weekends need to be managed. So much to do that is self-care (groceries, errands, meal prep for the week, domestic chores), social (hockey, market, special occasions, casual get-togethers, home-cooked meals with friends, parties) and the occasional out-of-town guest. Sometimes, I need a weekend to recover from my weekend! How lucky am I?

here – all we have here is sky
all the sky is is blue
all that blue is is one
more colour now

I’ve seen this THING
you won’t believe
why it’s big – bigger
than the biggest trees
high as the mountains
wide as the widest skies
(and that’s both sides)
well – at least as big as me

Creativity & Communication: When I was in Grade 12, I was literally forced – by my best friend and my drama teacher simultaneously – to audition for the school play. I had taken a couple years of drama classes yet really didn’t feel very confident that I had anything to offer as a performer. Being hornswoggled into this role in a production of Shaw’s Arms and the Man was a turning point.

As it turns out, I’m less than adequate as a stage actor. But something about this experience started me on an increasingly conscious journey. Becoming more and more conscious of creativity and communication as powerful forces in my life, within me and around me. Both textual and subtextual. Dermis, not epidermis.

Here is what I’m really getting at: I could dig ditches for a living, or work as a short-order cook, or drive a bus. I could do those things and they are all useful and honourable ways to earn one’s keep. But, by some miracle, at some point, my creative output-generating brain kicked into gear and I can use it instead. How lucky am I?

speak a little softer
work a little louder
shoot less with more care
sing a little sweeter
and love a little longer
and soon you will be there

here – all we have here is sky
all the sky is is blue
all that blue is is one
more colour now

Today: It is January 20, 2009 and, along with millions and millions of others, I am so grateful a new steward is in place in the United States. Someone of integrity, vision, and with the ability to inspire and mobilize a willing public. His very existence breaks countless barriers. I am alive and conscious on this day, able to have at least a glimmer of understanding of how momenteous this shift is in America. How lucky am I?

these are some reasons
and same as the seasons
they hold and then they fly
the goatless ledge
‘neath the honkless geese
in the speckless sky
the speckless sky
I hear you
I hear you
I hear you

Giving Thanks 2 comments

Years ago, I envisioned a particular type of life and somehow, by more hooks than crooks, I seem to have gotten there. At least I'm at that place until the vision changes, and then I'm off on the quest again. Nonetheless, sometimes I forget to notice that I am, in fact, in a good place.

Those several years ago, I wanted to live alone in an open, airy space that was truly "mine". I wanted a wide variety of work and "leisure" activities. I hoped for an assortment of interesting friends who bring richness to my life. I needed a certain level of income to maintain my life in some comfort. Perhaps the best way for me to describe my life is to look at a 24 hour snippet …

Monday – early evening – played in a really fun hockey game
Monday – late evening – dinner and catching up with a good friend whom I'll convert to blogging someday because she is an outstanding writer and a deeply interesting person with an interesting life and I wanna read about it! 🙂
Tuesday – morning – teach a class
Tuesday – early afternoon – meet with students about their project work
Tuesday – late afternoon – massage appointment!
Tuesday – early evening – jam session at a friend's house

When I look at this, I shake my head at the life I lead. Given how I was raised and what the expectations were, it is almost too good to be true. Recently, I've been providing some help to a friend deciding whether to leap from a corporate, high-stress yet high-income life to something more like my teacherly existance. I really can't recommend it highly enough.

In a few weeks, the major assignments, exams and projects will arrive and I'll feel swamped and overwhelmed. This will be at the same time as some of my client work will become more demanding. I will lose sleep wondering how I will manage all of it.

But … not today … 🙂

My American friends are celebrating their Thanksgiving this week. I guess I'm feelin' it too. Happy Thanksgiving to those marking the occasion.

Oh … orange juice, poached eggs on whole wheat bagel, coffee, multi-vitamin … for those who have missed this part. 🙂

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