Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Gift of Presence

Fall has come for real in my neck of the woods.  I spent an enchanting 30 minutes or so the other day watching the leaves fall from the neighbor's ash tree.  They were a beautiful golden color back lit by the sun and very difficult to look away from.

It's a part of my annual 'slowing down.'  It happens every autumn to some degree.  The winds begin to sharpen and change direction, the leaves turn color and fall and I take a breath after the hustle and bustle of summertime to slow the passing of time and drink in the last bits of sun and warmth.  Of course time doesn't really slow down, it only seems that way when you are 'present.'

That's what I've been working on the last few weeks.  Following my epiphany about my inner guide, I've been looking at  the way I have been spending the time I've been given.  And, probably predictably, I had another epiphany.

It doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter how I spend the time I've been given as long as I'm present in that time. When I take a free moment and just be still, it's easy to get lost in the laundry list of things that need doing or should be done.  Letting go of the should haves and living breath to breath is calming.

I've even found it to be useful at my workplace and it's lead me to learn something new about myself.  The pace gets hectic on a regular basis with two or three or more people all wanting something from me at the same time.  There are people in this world who can multi-task. I am not one of them.

This is not the end of the world.

Actually, once I figured this out about myself, my work day got a little easier to manage.

I was recently put in charge of organizing and executing the on-the-job training for a new hire on my team.  Because of a lot of factors that I won't enumerate here, this became an overwhelming ordeal for me.  It was too much to do this and my regular work at the same time.  I was pretty much at the end of my rope.  I asked my co-workers for help; but, other factors made that difficult to come by.  Feeling frantic, I did what lots of women do when they feel overwhelmed at work.

I went to the ladies room to bawl my eyes out.  It helped a little and in the tiny moment of clarity that only soul-rending tears of frustration can bring, I made a decision.

I decided to just do my best.  I decided to apply the gift of presence to every moment of my day.  From getting out of bed in the morning, to driving, to doing my job and driving home again, I want to give my full attention to what is in front of me.  To be present and do my best.

That's all anyone can ask of me.  It suddenly occurred to me that it is also all I can ask of myself.  I am, after all, my worst critic.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


I've been sort of MIA lately.  Things have been cooking along in the garden and the recent overnight freeze should effectively end the gardening season for this year.  Now I face the daunting task of pulling out and hauling away a lot of dead garden plants.

This makes me sad but I've come to understand the need for the period of rest nature takes every winter.  I've been having my own period of rest.

Demon Arm Twister
I messed up my shoulder last winter playing with my dog, Dotti-dog.  She's an English Pointer/Crackhead cross with more energy than 10 Jack Russel Terriers.  Anyway, long story short, after a summer of heavy garden work, I found myself with a nasty case of frozen shoulder.  Not to worry though, it's getting better with some professional help, some time on 'the rack' and an appropriate amount of swearing.

Back to that period of rest.

I've been sort of down and out about my condition at times. I've spent a lot of time sitting in quiet contemplation mostly in my garden until a couple days ago.  Brrr...

When you slow down and be still for a time, you begin to listen to things more carefully.  The chirping birds and the wind in the trees will speak if you listen to them.  So will your heart. 

Mine had been talking to me for some time.  Not in the immediate, in-your-face way that a heart attack speaks but in the gentle, listen-to-me way that a patient friend will use when they are trying to tell you something important and maybe difficult.

What my heart was telling me is this: "Yer not getting any younger, sweetie."

Things that I once did without a second thought had become at best difficult and at worst impossible.  Like mowing the yard or carrying in the groceries from the car or reaching into the backseat of said car for a tissue.

It makes you think.  It made me think anyway.

So, I used this respite to think and come to some decisions about my life.  Yeah, yeah, the retirement thing is still on and I love where I live and my garden and all the things that go with it.  But I came up with a list of things that I think we all can relate to and benefit from.  I'm sure your Mom told you all these things at one time or another.  I think we could all use a reminder so I'm going to tell you again:

  1. Sleep more.  As a nation, we are sleep deprived.  My plan is for 7 hours a night.
  2. Exercise more.  As a nation, we are getting fatter and more unhealthy.  My therapist has sparked a renewed interest in weight training and I plan to pursue that interest with enthusiasm.
  3. Laugh more.  Life is already so serious!  And worrying about it doesn't make it better or go away.  So laugh already.  Enjoy life!
  4. Love more.  How can that be bad?  I'm not talking about sex.  I'm talking about love.  Love more beginning with yourself.  I get that now.  It's kind of a trite but true saying: You can't really love anyone or anything without first loving yourself.  So get on with it already!  Treat yourself with the same sort of care you would lavish upon someone you really love.
This is what happens when I have spare time on my hands.  Maybe I'll plan a regular respite and see what else happens.


Friday, October 5, 2012

The Unveiling

Do you ever wonder how many times you have to learn a lesson before it sticks?

When I was young, and I was young once, I used to think that once you got to be a certain age, you figured everything out, bought a house and planned for retirement.

I was right about everything except the part where I figure everything out.  I haven't figured out a damn thing.  That fact is obvious everywhere I look.

Take Lisa, for example.  Lisa is a dear, precious soul who has been a brilliant light in my life.  She has listened to my complaints and troubles.  She has hugged me and smiled and reassured me.  She has told me to eat seasonally and listen to my body.  Over and over again.

One time, Lisa told me that my most important and best guru is my inner teacher.  My inner guide.  I almost laughed.  My analytical mind immediately dismissed that as ludicrous.  After all, I haven't figured everything out yet so the answer must be out there somewhere.  I just need to 'friend' the right person or make the right google search to find it.

Not too long ago, I was reading Lisa's blog.  She was talking about the chakras and what they mean.  She shared an assignment she had finished.  The assignment was to discover a song that resonated with you and a particular chakra.  She listed out her songs and it was an impressive list.  Lisa did her homework and a carefully crafted list of the perfect songs was the result.  Or so I thought.

I took this assignment on for myself.  Since then, I've listened carefully to hundreds of songs looking for clues as to which particular chakra they could represent.

Nothing.  Not a single song worked for me.  I decided this was an impossible task and gave up without having chosen even one song as a starting place.  What happened next is probably predictable.

This morning as I was driving to work, I was listening to the radio.  It was an ordinary morning with the usual drive to work and the same DJ on the same old radio station I've listened to for years.  Today he played a song I hadn't heard in a long time.  As the familiar melody began, it happened.  I felt as though my true voice had been freed.  My throat opened and I sang at the top of my lungs. I carried the tune with confidence and satisfaction.  Every word rang solid and true in my ears.

I was speaking my truth using the words of a long dead musician.

On the heels of that realization, the floodgates opened and song after song came to mind for me.  Long after I'd gotten to work and started my day, I would hear a new song in my head and know it was the right one.  I came home from work with Post-it notes in my pockets with snippets of songs written down.

But the crazy part isn't the songs or the list.  The crazy part is I think I may have figured it out.  Maybe not everything, but the most important thing.  The sad part is that Lisa told me several times and I didn't hear her.  I was listening with my head and not hearing with my heart.

She said (using words to this effect), "The best guru is your inner teacher.  If you listen to her and follow your heart, she will never steer you wrong."

I still have a lot to learn and a lot of listening to do.  But today I felt a fundamental shift inside myself.  It was a sense of things clicking into place.  It felt...right.  And you know what the thing that feels 'rightest' about it is?

It's okay.  Well and truly okay.  It doesn't matter what other people think.  Not of me or my list or this blog.  None of it matters.  What matters is what comes from inside...from that inner teacher.

So.  Now, for Lisa and her wisdom, here is my list:

Thus endeth the lesson.