Wednesday, August 31, 2011

what the mirror doesn't say

Mirror, Mirror by Esther Poyer (Trust 30 Prompt 28)

“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Mirror, mirror on the wall… find the nearest mirror. Look. Keep looking for 3 minutes. Write about what you see.
I couldn't. This was supposed to be the prompt 8 posts ago, and I just keep shoving it back. I just can't do it. I know that what I see in the mirror isn't really what's there. And it's not what anyone else sees when they look at me outside the mirror. 

When I look in the mirror I see tired, worn out, flabby. I look closer to my age than I used to. My wrinkles are less 'smile lines' and more 'stress fissures.' And, even if I worked out every day for the rest of my life, and by some miracle that is enough to counteract genetics and years of neglect and three pregnancies and four abdominal surgeries, and some freak of fortune turned my current pillow into a taut trampoline, it'd still be scarred and stretch marked and ... blah blah blah. 

What I see in the mirror is not me. 

I'm in the middle of a week+ of stay-cation  - today is day 5 of 10. I've been having a great time with STG and DivaMoe and SC2 and BB1. We've got a FANTASTIC weekend planned in Vancouver that includes the PNE and the aquarium and staying in a hotel and no diets and just having fun. STG's kids will be there. BB2 and his Sweetie will be there. We'll laugh and argue about what to do next and spend money on things we'd never usually even look at and crash at the hotel at the end of the day and create memories that will last for all of us. 

And that is me - fun. Adventurous. Committed to my family. Exploring new possibilities. No mirror can show me that. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I contain multitudes

Nothing to Lose by Tanner Christensen (Trust 30 Prompt 27)

“Self-censorship is not just self-betrayal and self-abandonment (which would be bad enough), but soul-betrayal and betrayal of our Muse, our inner voice, our highest self.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Too often we censor ourselves, our actions, and our work in hope or fear of what might happen if we otherwise don’t. What words would you write today, and what actions would you take, if you had nothing to fear, nothing to lose?
I mentioned recently a lovely evening with my friend The Dutchman. He said something that touched and has stuck with me - it was deeply acknowledging and thought provoking. He said, "I like the me I am when I'm with you." 

Perhaps we censor ourselves. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that we show different aspects of ourselves in different circumstances and different company. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing - there are things that are appropriate to say to STG or a girlfriend that I would never say to one of the BBs. And vice versa. It's not dishonest; it's appropriate. It's sensitive to the other person. Yes, there might be some fear behind such variances in 'me-ness' - in my case it's usually fear of offending or hurting someone - and I think that's valid. Then again, maybe I'm just validating being a coward. 

I love my friendships, and my relationships with my family and STG, and the rich variety of experiences of life they give me. I can laugh and snark at reality TV with SC2, meander though adventure and romance with STG, discuss the most complex of philosophies with The Dutchman, and be myself with all of them. Because I am large, I contain multitudes (have I mentioned how much I love Walt Whitman?). And I appreciate that the richness of these relationships contributes to a continually growing sense of who I am. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

summer musings: the countdown is on ...

Fire Up by Ben von Burg (Trust 30 Prompt 26)

“Books are the best of things, well used. What is the right use? What is the one end, which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • As a writer, your only duty is to be original, to inspire, to put something new on paper. Don’t be reasonable – your job is to to fire up people’s imaginations, to give them permission to dream, and to lift their heads up to the incredible sight of the stars. They may forget what you wrote about – but they won’t forget how you made them feel. It’s your turn now. Dream, be unreasonable and write what comes to you for 15 minutes.
My mind is stuck. I am what should be 2 hours and 18 minutes from my summer holidays, I have a number of fairly important things to clean off my desk before I leave this evening, and all I can do is stare out the window at the impossibly blue sky, the green leaves dancing on the nut tree ... there aren't even any clouds out there to entertain me, and yet I am so drawn to be outside right now. 

I thought a 15 minute stream-of-consiousness writing session might be just the thing to get my mind emptied out of distractions so I can finish off this work week with a bang and leave for holidays without anything hanging over my head. That sounds good. 

You know what else sounds good? The children playing in the playground outside my window. A cool cider being cracked open and poured over a tall glass of ice. Music played in a park bandshell. Wildlife settling down for the night when we're snuggled inside a tent. All these sounds of summer ... and so few that I've heard this year. 

I have had a strong strong urge to run away for the past few days. Not from my life, so much, but from the city, from the artificiality of our every-day lives. From deadlines and alarm clocks and phone reminders and appointments. From budgets and not-quite-enough and wanting more. 

I want to drive. And then to stop. And to just be where I am. To sit on the beach, or a rock, or a log, and watch the movement of the sun across the water. I want to buy lunch from a farm stand and eat it without a plate or utensils. I want to nap in the sunshine in STG's arms drunk on fresh air and freedom.

And, starting at whatever time I leave the office today, all of that is actually possible. I live where the beach, the farm stand, the quiet are just short drives away. But I wonder how much of it I'll actually do during my impending 10 days off - will I dispense with alarms and appointments and reminders? Will I step away from my computer and out into the open air? Will I sleep when my body wants sleep, stay asleep until it is rested, and enjoy the lush freshness of the food available in this area? 

I guess we'll see. If some days I want to be online, eat processed food, people watch downtown, and go to a movie I suppose that will be okay too. It's my holiday. I don't know what that means, but I know I'm the one who gets to say. 

Oh, I think I'll borrow a bike for one day and do a little solo ride - not on any hills, but just to get more connected to how the bike responds, and to push my body to go a little further on it. That sounds good too. And there are so many open trails here, who knows where I'll end up! 

I have books to read and girlfriends to hang out with and movies to watch. And at the end of all that rest and relaxation, 3 days of fun and adventure in Vancouver - the PNE, the aquarium. Hotels. Transit. Family fun. Yes, going to the city on Labour Day weekend is insane, but maybe it'll be the fun kind of insane, right? 

Okay, 15 minutes is almost up and I'm not sure that my brain is read to clear more work off the list. Maybe I just need to tough through the next few hours. Focus. 

But oh, that sunshine does look marvelous. And I can't wait to see how it feels on my skin. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

that is all I know, and all I need to know


Ordinary Things by Ana Guardia (Trust 30 Prompt 25)

“Every artist was first an amateur.” Ralph Waldo Emerson 

  • To be an artist one has to find beauty in ordinary things. Find 10 things of great beauty in the landscape that surrounds you. For example, crumple sheets on your bed in the morning, the smell of coffee making its way around a busy office.
I am in my living room - it's an ordinary evening. The TV is showing something ridiculous. I'm on my laptop, as almost always. And outside my window, in the sliver of space between the curtain and the wall, the sky is a swirl of greys and vivid pinks. 

I can see my toenails peeking out just beyond the edge of my laptop, and they match the deepening pinks of the sky. 

In my container garden outside, the tomatoes, despite all of my many years as a tomato plant murderer, are plump, green and so full of that sharp promising 'fresh tomato' smell that I want to bite straight into their juicy goodness, but I settle for crushing a leaf between my fingers so the smell moves with me. 

I taste a spoonful of Krema Greek style strawberry yogourt. It's dense creaminess coats my mouth with a pleasure so deep I can feel the taste of it. It's a decadence that defies it's simpleness. 

My piano stands to the left of me - gleaming warm and brown. More than music it fills the room with memories - some reaching back to a trio of girls singing into a tape recorder microphone. Some as fresh as my dear friend The Dutchman picking out the melody to '100 Years' just last night. Such a beautiful song. 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez' 100 Years of Solitude lays on my bedroom floor, spine cracking from the way it fell last night as I melted into sleep without putting it down. I will do the same tonight - disappearing into the humid poetry in those pages. 

Most beautiful of all, BB1 comes home. And he sits with me. And chats. He teases me and laughs. It's the most beautiful sound in all the world - his low chuckle. It's one of the genes he shares with his baby brother, that awesome laugh. 

My life is full of beauty, and I try to be aware of that every day. I live in a beautiful city full of things that stimulate - in a good way - all of my senses. I walk under spreading oaks. I stop and smell the roses. I sit by the ocean and let it's vastness carry my concerns away. And I know that real beauty is not in things but in the people I love. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

what I know

Deep in Your Soul by Michael McFadden (Trust 30 Prompt 24)


“I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • What message is yearning inside you?  What is something you know deep in your soul?  Don’t look for someone else to describe it. You do it. Write it down. Write it as a poem, a sentence or even just a string of words.  Just make sure you get it to paper.
I love you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

a life well lived; a legacy worth leaving

Legacy by Tim Belber (Trust 30 Prompt 23)

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • One definition of legacy is what someone feels, thinks and says when they hear your name. What are you doing today to build the legacy you want?
I've been thinking a lot about legacy lately. At the Power of Women event I attended earlier this month, Loretta LaRoche mentioned something about how we're all going to die, flat bellied or otherwise, so why don't we spend the time we have here enjoying our lives AND doing something worth being remembered for. 

And then I woke up this morning to the Twitterverse mourning the loss of Jack Layton. It's not an unexpected loss, really, though it was one none of us wanted to see coming. Mr. Layton had fought and won so many fights that despite the evidence of his failing health, despite the cane he carried on the campaign trail and the hint of fatigue behind the twinkle in his blue eyes. Despite his taking a leave of absence to fight a second battle with cancer. We wanted to believe he'd win this one as well. 

I wanted to believe. 

Not because I'm particularly attached to his politics, though since the Liberals slid to the right under Paul Martin the NDP has been my political party of choice (how odd for me to talk politics, but it is a remarkable day). I wanted to believe because of who Jack Layton was. It was Jack Layton personally that stirred millions - including me - to the NDP message. His courage. His integrity. His passion. A political party is just a set of ideologies - Jack Layton was a person with a commitment and the will to see it through. 

In light of all my thoughts about legacy - who do I want to be remembered as? - Mr. Layton's legacy is a shining example. I'm reading the tributes coming in on the news sites - tributes from ordinary Canadians. From party members. From leaders of opposing parties. A surprisingly human tribute from the Prime Minister. And they say the same things over and over - Jack Layton was a man of integrity. Of compassion. That despite his commitment to making a difference in Canada via a political life, his family was of utmost importance to him. He built bridges. He fought brave fights. 

Jack Layton knew he was losing his fight. On Saturday he wrote a loving farewell letter to Canadians - a letter that brims with courage and compassion. He leaves us with this final thought, which I'm sure I won't be alone in wanting to adopt as my own guidepost:

My friends, love is better than anger.
Hope is better than fear. 
Optimism is better than despair. 
So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. 
And we’ll change the world.

Thank you, Mr. Layton. For being the very model - not of a politician or even a Canadian - but of a life well lived and a legacy worth leaving. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

jumping in with both feet

Original Thought by Michael Brajkovich (Trust 30 Prompt 22)

“The arts and inventions of each period are only its costume, and do not invigorate men.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Think of the last time that you thought, said, or did something that was original. What inspired or invigorated this?
Not me - but clearly jumping right in 
Yesterday I took the plunge - I jumped off a cliff in to a deep cool pool of river water. I screamed my way through the admittedly short flight, kept my eyes wide open as the green water churned over my head, and burst back through the surface with a  smile and a gulp. 

Wow. Life is so invigorating when you let go. No, I am not the first person to jump off a cliff into a pool of water. But it was the first time for me. It hasn't even really occurred to me to want to do it before - and then, out of nowhere, the urge was there. And not just the urge, but the promise. I told STG and his son on the drive out - I'm going to jump. We hiked and waded and splashed and picnicked and all the time in the back of my head was this mixture of excitement & dread - I'm going to jump today. They may have been skeptical - they've seen what it took for me to go off the low diving board recently. I'm not afraid of heights - I just don't trust myself to know what I'll do when I hit the water.  

I didn't know how high the cliffs would be. Or if there would be enough water at this time of year. I didn't know how I'd do climbing up the rocks in just my swimsuit - how exposed I would feel. And I didn't know that I'd burst through the surface with 'please sir can I have some more' on my lips. 

It's a great lesson - going for it. You can't sorta kinda cliff jump. You can't ease into it - you check the risks, choose your spot and then push off firmly with both feet. You don't need to be stupid about it, but you do need to give'er. 

Two weekends in a row I've had great new adventures that push my body and free my spirit. And I can't wait, this week, to bring that energy to my writing. 

YEEHAW!!!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

the softer side of truth

(Trust 30 Prompt 21)


Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hard words ... or soft? Does the truth have to hurt? Why is brutal honesty better than compassionate honesty? I see no reason why what is true is not just as true if it's gently delivered. Yes, sometimes a 'strongly worded' message comes across most clearly, but if it is delivered with such force that it's not received, what is the point? And for me, what's most true is love - they strengthen each other, when combined. And fail when they are separated.


I've been thinking a lot recently about an old friend of mine. We were close at one time - he is 10 or 15 years younger than me and when we met he adopted me as proto-big sister. It was great. I helped him settle into adulthood, and we shared some fun and poignant and adventurous times together. 

We spent less and less time together as he adjusted to his new city, made friends his own age, and relied on my friendship less to get by. The affection was there, but something else had crept in - something that fed on distance. One day I noticed that on Facebook I only had limited access to his profile. I didn't say anything, thinking he has every right to show or hide whatever he chooses. That's the point of flexible profiles. It hurt a little, but not enough to mention. 

Time marched on, our life circumstance changed more, and we no longer see each other as a matter of course, though we still share some circles. I recently over-heard a mutual friend describing him as 'this great gay man ...' - I was stunned. Not that he was gay - I'd wondered a time or two, but never really thought that much about it one way or another since it was completely irrelevant to our friendship. No, the realisation that stopped me in my tracks was that this friend wasn't comfortable with my knowing he was gay. He'd never in all the time we spent together mentioned it. He'd known this woman only a month or two and shared with her about his relationship. I looked back and realised that the divide in our friendship had coincided with his increasing time with a male friend, someone this mutual friend assured me is now his partner. 

I wonder what I said, or did, that made it unsafe for my friend to be honest with me. Did some flippant untruth come out of my mouth that convinced him I would love him any less if I knew? I know what's true for me - that love is - period. End of story. But what about me, and my love for this friend, failed to communicate that truth? 

The truth isn't 'out there.' It isn't 'inconvenient.' There isn't just one moment of it. And it isn't hard to find. It just is. And maybe we (I) kill it a little every time I think I'm being funny but I'm really being thoughtless. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

the votes are in - i think i'll just be me

Fault and Change by Carlos Miceli (Trust 30 Prompt 20)

I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Think of all the things that are not working in your life. That job you don’t like, that relationship that’s not working, those friends that annoy you. Now turn them all on you. Imagine that everything that’s not working in your life, is your fault. How would you approach it? What would you work on to change your life to the state that you want it to be?
Wow - this couldn't be a timelier prompt ... after the weekend I just had, I feel like there are very few things in my life that are not working for me. I look at my life and am amazed. And while fault is not a concept I believe in, at least with the connotation of blame attached to it, I do firmly believe that very one of us is responsible for 100% of our lives ... and yet ...  

Yes, we're all 100% responsible for all aspects of our lives. But, given that our lives intersect with other lives, sometimes that 100% gets rubbed up against someone else's 100% with mixed results. In those circumstances, we return to ourselves. To Emerson. To our truth. And sometimes that means making some hard choices. 

I've really been struggling to write this post. There is something I want to talk around rather than just coming right out and saying it, which is completely contrary to the point. So here goes ... a friendship that has been deeply important to me for the past couple of years ended last week. It's been coming for a while, and while it was not the elegant, respectful ending I had hoped for, it was also not as dramatic as it could have been given the people involved *waves.* I've been mostly feeling relief when I think about it, and then feeling guilty for feeling that relief.

I truly love said friend and I miss what we once had. She's an amazing, generous, fun woman. And we've grown apart. Most importantly for me, it has been a long time since I felt it was okay for me to be who I am and to say what I want to say in that friendship. From what I can gather, she feels like I haven't appreciated 'the effort' she's made. Honestly though, I'm not interested in people having to make some sort of heroic effort to spend time with me. There's no need for anyone to martyr themselves here - I'm actually not that hard up for entertainment, or love, or support.

I don't say that lightly - love and support are far too precious to just cast aside. But when they come at the cost of honouring and being myself ... are they really love & support? Ending that friendship - at least for the time being, who knows what the future holds for any of us - has given me the opportunity to look around and see all the other love I have in my life. And to look at where in my life I've not been free to just be my perfectly imperfect self. That's where the amazement comes in - in looking around and seeing the many many people who contribute to my life and - equally importantly - who allow me to contribute to theirs.

I am learning every day of the great and soul-affirming gift it is to get to be me - thanks in no small part to STG, but also to my family and those friends who encourage me to be myself first and foremost. As I do that, I find I'm simultaneously building myself rather than breaking, and re-connecting more and more with the parts of me I'm most proud of. I'm having conversations with other friends about what they mean to me, and trying to learn from this circumstance and to protect those relationships that really matter. 

It kinda reminds me of that oft-quoted supposed Suessism:


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

the help: review

There are a few kisses of death for books in my world. One was being chosen for 'Oprah's book club' when it existed - unless it was a book already on my list, in which case I tried to find an edition without the Oprah stamp of approval - and the second has generally been to be a 'Heather's pick' at Chapters. I try not to shop for books at Chapters, but when I do, if a book is on the 'Heather's pick' shelves I am always left wondering 'who is Heather and why should I care what she likes?' - to clarify, I know that the Heather in question is Heather Reisman, CEO of Chapters/Indigo. What I don't know is why her opinion of a book should matter any more than any one else's. 

View on Amazon
However, that is where I first saw The Help - in a bright yellow stack on a 'Heather's Pick' in the 'movie tie-in' edition. I admit I was drawn in by the crinolined dresses on the cover - I cannot resist a pretty dress - but reading the back cover and finding the promise of a story of race in the South - something that always inexplicably fascinates me - I knew I HAD to read this book. Luckily, there was a healthy stack of first editions at one of my favourite local booksellers, Russell Books.

One of the review quotes on The Help's cover compares it to To Kill a Mockingbird. Despite the similarities though, I consider the comparison an overstatement. Certainly they both illuminate reality in a period of American history that now seems distant. Both authors are Southern women writing about their homes' recent past (Harper Lee wrote in 1960 about Alabama in the 1930's; Kathryn Stockett's book about Jackson Mississippi in the early 1960's was published in 2009).

View on Amazon
The difference, though, is that when Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960 race tension was still a real, present, and immediate threat. The act of publishing that book in and of itself was an act of courage. That To Kill... is still a best-seller, still taught in classrooms from elementary to graduate school, and still moves readers to tears and outrage speaks to its depth.

I am not so naive as to believe that race equality has been achieved in the deep South, or in America, or in Canada, or really anywhere in our world. Part of humanity is that we see others as different at best, and more likely inferior. I'm not so naive as to think that Stockett's novel has nothing to teach us about over-coming the deficiencies in our human state - about treating one another as humans, about gentleness and justice and love and honesty. I am saying, however, that The Help is not the radical statement that was Mockingbird. And the difference is deeper than the culture into which each book was born.

The Help is insightful. The characters are, generally, skillfully drawn and subtly complex. And the plot is tense and compelling. I absolutely enjoyed it. But there's a lack of grit - an inappropriate lightness - that is inconsistent with the reality of the time in which the story is set. Yes, people find a way to be happy, to enjoy life, to find joy in a baby's tottering first steps and peace in the kindness of a stranger no matter what else is happening around them. But somehow Stockett loses the thread of tension in the story when she shows the humour and happiness that exists even in dark times. I'm not a particular fan of deep, dark depressing novels ... but there is a balance necessary.

I whole-heartedly recommend The Help. I believe it will become a genuine & deserved classic - there are moments of real beauty and life in the story. I'm even looking forward to the movie, recognizing the limitations of the change of medium. But it is no To Kill a Mockingbird ... you're best to leave your expectations on the counter of your bookstore.

Monday, August 15, 2011

being present ... moving forward

Alive-est by Sam Davidson (Trust 30 Prompt 19)

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. If we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • When did you feel most alive recently? Where were you? What did you smell? What sights and sounds did you experience? Capture that moment on paper and recall that feeling. Then, when it’s time to create something, read your own words to reclaim a sense of being to motivate you to complete a task at hand.
Interesting. I just had an intensely alive weekend. I'm still processing some of it, grateful for all of it, and wondering what to make of some of it. I knew I wouldn't be able to blog for a few days, and instead took notes, tried to be present and aware, and took advantage of being offline to be with who I was with and where I was at. 

That in itself was enlivening - being with the other riders on the bus and having interesting, odd and funny conversations. Feeling the heat and massaging jets of our hotel soaker tub. Tasting a crisp dry cider in the sunshine. Smelling the fresh green of the corn fields in Delta. Seeing the wear and growth in BB2's eyes as he adjusts to the freedoms and responsibilities of his new life. 

One of the moments that most stands out for me was the small shock and happy recognition that there's been a state change between BB2 and 1 - we've moved up a generation. He tried to help pay for dinner  Friday and I refused - it's a dance my dad and I have done for years, with me always slightly terrified he'd accept my offer. Then when BB2, Sweetie and I got to their new apartment, they slept on the floor and gave me their bed. It all felt so familiar ... and so foreign. A page has turned. 

Sunday STG took me for my first mountain bike ride. OHMYGOSH! OHMYGOSH! OHMYGOSH! It wasn't a long ride. Or a tough one. But it was perfectly appropriate for my utter beginner-state. I felt so free and challenged and so taken care of at the same time. STG is a GREAT teacher - patient and encouraging and fun. And the feeling of flying (at least for me, the brakes might tell a different story) down the couple small hills, the mixture of fear and exhilaration reflective in the combined curse words and smile on my lips. 

I really truly lived this weekend, all in ways that honoured who I am and what I want in my life. It's an amazing feeling. Something I'm looking forward to more and more of. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

leopard hats, mom jeans and other sad cliches

Personal Recipe by Harley Schreiber (Trust 30 Prompt 18)

I do not wish to expiate, but to live. My life is for itself and not for a spectacle. I much prefer that it should be of a lower strain, so it be genuine and equal, than that it should be glittering and unsteady. I wish it to be sound and sweet, and not to need diet and bleeding. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Think about the type of person you’d NEVER want to be 5 years from now. Write out your own personal recipe to prevent this from happening and commit to following it. “Thought is the seed of action.”
In 1999 I took the BBs to Disneyland for a Christmas holiday. As we sat in the departures area in Vancouver International Airport, I watched a wide array of clichés stroll, meander, saunter, strut and shamble past. For the majority of those people, I 'knew' within seconds of seeing them who they were, where they were going, and what their story was. Or, I arrogantly thought I knew. 

I remember most vividly a woman in her 50's or 60's. She was well put together in a classic leopard print coat and hat, smooth black oxfords with a heel, big dark sunglasses (Inside. In Vancouver. In winter), over-dyed black hair and more makeup than I average in a month. I don't know if I heard her speak, but if I had I'm CERTAIN it would have been with a thick New York accent and in loud, brassy tones. 

Looking at her, I thought "I never want to be that woman. I never want to be a cliché that borders on a charicature." Never mind that I was a single mom with two over-stimulated young sons still ooohing and aaaahing over their stockings (which they opened in the airport - it was Christmas morning after all). Never mind my hideous mom jeans and sneakers and Roots hoodie. Or my home hair colour and self-butchered bangs. Never mind my muted threats at anyone who misbehaved before we even got in the air, or the mix of excitement and fatigue straining my face. 

I meant every word of not wanting to become that cliché - any cliché - but it never occured to me that we are ALL a cliché of some type until people get to know us. Without specifics, we only can judge people on generalities. It's the only way we can make sense of each other in a world where the number of true connections is so far fewer than the number of strangers who will cross our paths. 

More importantly, now, I would never again want to be the woman I was then - superior, despite my fears. Judgemental. Ungenerous. Lacking in compassion. She was young, newly single, newly an adult in many ways, and still finding out who she really wanted to be in the world. She was doing her best and, for the most part, having a good time doing it. But she lacked a wisdom and gentleness that life has since tried to teach me. I'm still learning, and rather than thinking of who I DON'T want to be 5 years from now, I'd rather focus on what I do want to be  - humble, generous, gracious, creative and free. And with all the space in the world for people to be however and whoever they need to be. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

it is well ...

Going my own Way (Trust 30 Prompt 17)

Don't waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good. Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • I have a lot on my mind just now, and today's prompt - yet again - didn't seem relevant for me. So I thought I'd find my own Emerson quote and write my own prompt. This is it. :) 
One of the reasons I love this quote so much is that it echos the wild vocabulary of my favourite American Romantic, Walt Whitman. Barking and chanting are so much more fun than whining and speaking. Yay words. :) So much of Emerson's writing comes across as strident and dogmatic, but here I hear softness in a world that seems, at a quickening pace, to be going mad. 

I am struggling to make sense of the ongoing rioting in England. I'm struggling to make sense of Somalians starving to death, and aid being stolen by their own soldiers. I'm struggling to make sense of a civil society that abandons and neglects children, the mentally ill, the lost, the alone. It's very very easy to look at the world - near and far - and think 'there's something terribly wrong. This is NOT okay." 

And yet, like complaining about the weather, those protestations make no difference. They relieve no one's hunger, comfort no loneliness, and eases no one's fear or anger. 

There is another option - choosing peacefulness. It came up in a converation last night, and I have returned to it often throughout the day today. Choosing peacefulness gives me freedom to move, to act, and to see the good around me. 

Last week it was my turn to give the devotional at our management team meeting at work, and as I was thinking about what to say, this old hymn that I used to love hearing my Grandpa sing kept coming back to me ... 


Whatever else is going on around the world, I always have the option to be peaceful. To choose peace - not as a cop out or an excuse not to act, but as an access to the power to act. It is well with my soul, and I hope it is with yours as well. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

oh the humanity of being ordinary

Most Ordinary by Susan Piver (Trust 30 Prompt 16)

Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • We are our most potent at our most ordinary. And yet most of us discount our “ordinary” because it is, well, ordinary. Or so we believe. But my ordinary is not yours. Three things block us from putting down our clever and picking up our ordinary: false comparisons with others (I’m not as good a writer as _____), false expectations of ourselves (I should be on the NYTimes best seller list or not write at all), and false investments in a story (it’s all been written before, I shouldn’t bother). What are your false comparisons? What are your false expectations? What are your false investments in a story? List them. Each keep you from that internal knowing about which Emerson writes. Each keeps you from making your strong offer to the world. Put down your clever, and pick up your ordinary.
Today's theme - over and over, here and elsewhere - was discussions of being ordinary, being extraordinary, the difference, what each really means. The truth is, to be human is to be both a miracle and completely common. There's a reason this song is so poignant (and yes, those are my beautiful BBs). 

video

Yes, I have conversations about myself that keep me from really doing what I know to do - the 'right' that is 'after my constitution.' Conversations about not really having talent. About being too lazy. About having no unique voice and nothing new to say. Yes. I have those conversation. Just like everyone else. 

One of the other conversations I have is that nobody else has the same challenges ... or as many challenges ... or challenges as serious. That's also a completely common conversation, and it stops me from being as compassionate and present for other people as I'd like to be. In many ways that matters a lot more to me than the conversations that stop me from writing. 

Mrs. Lady and I were talking the other day, and I said something about not really having a purpose for this blog, and she said "BS (actually she swore - she's sassy like that) you do it to make a difference." And of course she was right - she often is. When I remember that I write for other people, I move beyond all the conversations about worth, and ability and fairness. That's the sweet spot that sometimes seems so elusive. If I can remember that, I can access that sweet spot more and more. 

There are worse things than being ordinary. In fact, it is in our ordinariness that our humanity lies - when we remember that everyone else is as ordinary a miracle as we are -as I am - we can make the difference we're here to make. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

a pregnant pause

Wholly Strange and New by Bridget Pilloud (Trust 30 Prompt 15)

When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name;—— the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Can you remember a moment in your life when you had life in yourself and it was wholly strange and new? Can you remember the moment when you stopped walking a path of someone else, and started cutting your own? Write about that moment. And if you haven’t experienced it yet, let the miracle play out in your mind’s eye and write about that moment in your future.
I was stymied for a bit here because it seemed like I've already answered this one, but it turns out that prompt authors are not using unique Emerson quotes. Onward, then ...

Honestly - the short answer is no. I'm not sure why - I mean, I've certainly accomplished some things that might not have been expected by other people, and I've done things that even surprised me, and yet they've always been accompanied with a certain sense of 'knowing.' Maybe I'm not understanding what it means 'to have life in me' that is 'wholly strange and new.'

The closest I can approximate is the feeling of being pregnant - the feeling of there being a being who is depending on you for it's life and safety, who lives in your body but is separate from you. But any other undertaking - school, moving, new jobs, writing - has always been connected to who I already know myself to be. 

I don't really get it. And so, I say selah ... in another post, on another day, I will learn what there is to learn that I'm not learning tonight. 

priceless

Swingy dress for dancing in his arms = $30
Sexy shiny heels so I smile right into his eyes = $20
Singing along together at Naturally 7 & Michael Bublé concert = $178
Celebrating 6 months with STG ... you know. :)
I think we might be the cutest couple ever!

I hate to succumb to a terrible cliché, but last night was incredible for so many reasons. STG and I have been excited about the Michael Bublé & Naturally 7 concert ever since it was first announced a few months ago. The tickets have been safely displayed on my dresser mirror since June 18. We sometimes wonder what, beyond loving each other, we have in common, and music is one of those things we share. 

There has been a day or two when I thought we might not make it there - to the six month mark, or the concert, at least not as a couple. So to finally be there, having first shared a lovely dinner, and listening to two of our favourite acts was ... well I don't really have the words for something that feels so special and so natural at the same time - other than priceless. And that all encapsulates what loving STG is for me- special, natural, priceless. And last night was that to a whole new level. 

Every day with STG is easy. And this night - full of romance and great music - had me glowing from the moment we left for dinner. The undeniable highlight for me was this amazingly romantic song borrowed from Van Morrison - incredible to begin with, but heart-achingly poignant when experienced with STG's beautiful baritone softly singing along in my ear, his arms wrapped around me as we sway to the music. Life just doesn't get any better. 


Thank you, STG for six amazing months, and for one amazing night. And just remember, "I promise you kid that I'll give so much more than I get!" and that's really saying something, because what I get is soooooooooo good! 

Friday, August 5, 2011

only connect. and ... maybe ... listen.

Intuition by Susan Piver (Trust 30 Prompt 14)

The secret of fortune is joy in our hands. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • If you could picture your intuition as a person, what would he or she look like? If you sat down together for dinner, what is the first thing he or she would tell you?
My intuition looks like Emma Thompson as Margaret in Howard's End. Stayed. Lovely. Old-fashioned and proper, though she's not a fan of funny hats. She's earnest, long-suffering and generally overlooked until the shit hits the fan. She's of immense value, if only people (I) would listen to her wisdom. 

I'd love to sit down with her - either my intuition or Emma Thompson herself - thought they'd be two very different conversations. Mostly, to my intuition, I'd make some vague apology for pretending not to hear her concerns. I'd makes some even vaguer promise to do better in the future. And I'd thank her for providing almost infallible good guidance when I have listened.

And then she'd tell me to ease up on myself. That I'm doing the best I can every day. And that slowing down a little will go a long way to making her voice clearer for me. And she'd remind me, in her best Margaret tones, to
"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer."

If I sat down with Emma Thompson, on the other hand, I'd say wear fewer hats. Don't let them put you in a fat suit. I'm sorry that Alan Rickman was such a cad in Love Actually. And she'd say not to be a dolt, and that she's not the characters she plays. And she'd chuckle and sing "Hey Nonny Nonny." 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

open to suggestions ... and connections

Courage to Connect by David Spinks (Trust 30 Prompt 13)

Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Who is one person that you’ve been dying to connect with, but just haven’t had the courage to reach out to? First, reflect on why you want to get in touch with them. Then, reach out and set up a meeting.
Me.

In the world of cheesy song lyrics - and lord knows I love me some cheesy song lyrics - the cheesiest has got to be "I've been to paradise but I've never been to me." And yet, even knowing how terrible that song is, sometimes it makes me teary. 

I know it's not really true. I have at various points in my life been very much connected to who I am. I have had ample experiences of being myself. But of late things have slipped a bit, and so when I read a question like 'who is the one person you've been dying to connect with' the answer seems obvious. Me.

Less obvious though (not to repeat last night's post too much) is how one does that - how do you go about reconnecting to who you really are - not as some role or bunch of expectations, but as an actual separate human. If I want to have sushi with Mrs. Lady or margaritas with Diva Moe or watch tv with SC2 I know how to connect with them and make that happen. If I want to connect with Shiney I call her. There are mechanisms for connecting with other people ... connecting with one's self takes a little more thought. Or in my case, more likely, a little less thought. 

Earlier this week I watched this very brief TED talk that has lingered with me: 

I've done 30 day challenges before - I've stopped eating sugar, for a month at a time. I've done multiple 30 day writing challenges. So the concept itself is not all that new. But there was some hook in the presentation. Something that said "go on, try it again." 

My counselor and I have also been talking about my need to refill my tanks, add wind to my sails, and otherwise boost my spirits. He's 'prescribed' a month long course of non-drug anti-depressants of my choosing. It's exciting, but I have to admit I'm drawing a little bit of a blank. I have a few ideas for what I'd like to do, but certainly not 30 days worth..

And so I'm combining all these thoughts into one response - my own perfectly self-indulgent challenge. To do one thing every day for 30 days that restores me to myself and feeds my soul. 

Here are some of my ideas ... most of which I'll come back and share with you about [though some of them are none of your business, thank you very much ;-)]. And, admittedly, some of these were already on the books, but there's no rule here that says I have to ditch existing plans - just that I have to do one thing every day that ... makes me smile, laugh, feel grateful, experience joy and peace, etc. You get the drift. :)
  • attend the Michael Buble concert (squeeeeeeee)
  • go on my first Dirty Girlz mountain bike ride
  • jump off a cliff into a cool pool of water
  • yoga - hot, cold, au plein air, power, flow - whatever
  • read MORE ... slowly, without interruption
  • skinny dip (or chunky dunk, since we're being honest here)
  • go to The Power of Women event in Vancouver
  • attend a fringe show
  • Glee 3D Tweetup
  • take a lesson/course/workshop in something new
  • teach something I know to someone who wants to know it
  • ...
Well. That gets me up to the end of next week or so *sigh* I think I'm going to need some help here. I'm certainly open to suggestions, and I'm also hoping that you will share with me what you're doing to feed your own soul for the next 30 days. Maybe you could even come back & share what that's been like for you.

NOTE: While I was writing this, one of the things I wanted to say was that I know I need to connect more with my girlfriends and that I would really love some support with that. Maybe I'll come back to that later. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

jumping off the hamster wheel

Enthusiasm by Mars Dorian (Trust 30 Prompt 12)

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” is a great line from Emerson. If there’s no enthusiasm in what you do, it won’t be remarkable and certainly won’t connect with people on an emotional basis. But, if you put that magic energy into all of your work, you can create something that touches people on a deeper level. How can you bring MORE enthusiasm into your work? What do you have to think or believe about your work to be totally excited about it? Answer it now.
And so we come back to where we came from a couple months ago - enthusiasm. Passion. Joie de vivre. I had a great evening chatting with Diva Moe, and this was actually one of the things we covered - how can we - as mothers, lovers/partners, employees, bill payers, in short, women with a wide variety of responsibilities and concerns, hope to have anything left at the end of the day for our creative pursuits? And how can we possibly hope to move forward with those pursuits without energy or enthusiasm? 

Let's not kid ourselves - enthusiasm does take energy. When one is totally spent. Exhausted just be the mere act of getting through the day, enthusiasm is a luxury in short supply. It's not available to those in survival mode. 

And so the conversation moved on to what we could do about that. How can we move ourselves out of survival mode so that we start to restore those reserves of energy, vitality and enthusiasm for what we do - and ultimately for who we are? 

I think  my writing is worth doing, and worth doing well. It's disheartening for me when I finally eke out some time and space to dedicate to writing and find myself without the energy to actually undertake the endeavour. Moe was recently at a song-writing workshop and the hosts had some great suggestions for feeding our creative selves, most of which starts with taking some of the pressure off. And as our friend Hamlet would say 'Ay, there's the rub.' 

If the solution to being under too much pressure is to be under less pressure, well you see where that's going. And so we keep on - doing our best. Nurturing the embers of creativity that continue to promise to spark. Testing and trying and learning and growing and never ever ever giving up on those things that let us express who we really are. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

looking forward. looking back. being now.

Invent the Future by Cindy Gallop (Trust 30 Prompt 11) 

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • My favorite quote of all time is Alan Kay: ‘In order to predict the future, you have to invent it.’ I am all about inventing the future. Decide what you want the future to be and make it happen. Because you can. Write about your future now.

Reverb August 2011: "Describe an unexpected moment, activity, sighting or conversation that touched you during July."
____________________

So I'm in the middle of the Trust 30 prompts, and honestly not really feeling them. And, I just got my first Reverb monthly prompt. I'm thinking a lot about STG (and thoroughly enjoying his tweets & notes from Whistler) as tonight it's 6 months since our first date. I have lots else going on in life that's more front of mind when I get here than any writing suggestions coming from the outside.

And, I already blogged today - though I sort of count book reviews as different from a blog post. I know I need to write a real post tonight, but what do I go with? Do I reflect back, project forward, focus on the now - or, do I really have to choose? 

July was quite the month - full of challenges and happiness and fear and learning. I laughed. I explored. I broke down. I got back up again. I celebrated Canada Day with my American love. I had a girls' trip with UberCoach that was 20 years too early, judging by the other ladies on the bus. I celebrated with Miss Lady as she became Mrs. Lady. There are many moments that touched me and many lessons learned. 

What it all comes down to (and something that INFURIATES me when STG tries to suggest it), is that it's time for me to relax. To breathe in the generous support of my friends. To ease back and be held by the love of STG and my family. To trust in my own abilities to take care of myself - to know when I need to act, and when I need to rest. To believe in my own wisdom. To write like I know and love to write. That's what I've learned. And it's what I want - for now and the future.

Tonight is the end of a glorious 5 days off. It's the closest I've come so far this year to holidays (more are coming) and it's been a great balance of love time, family time, and self care. It'll be interesting, as I head back to the office tomorrow, to see if I can keep that balance flowing. 


Self-portrait proof that I CAN relax ...


Her Fearful Symmetry: Review

Yesterday I indulged in one of my favourite forms of luxury - I read (almost) an entire book in one day. It takes a perfect set of circumstances to allow this sort of indulgence - a sunny day off to lay on the patio. A following day off that allows reading late LATE into the night (or early into the morning, depending what you consider 4 am). And a book that pulls you in deeper and deeper until you feel the ghost in the story sliding her cold finger over your spine. 

View on Amazon
I'm not generally a reader of ghost stories, unless you count some of Jane Austen's gentle forays into the Gothic.  But, I found Audrey Niffeneger's The Time Traveler's Wife (which apparently I never reviewed) so completely seductive a couple years back that all I had to do was recognize her name on the title page of Her Fearful Symmetry to pick it up at my favourite used book store. I managed to crack it open this weekend while BB2 and his sweetie were visiting, but didn't dive right in until I yesterday ... and then I couldn't stop.

I was worried at first that I'd get freaked out - the physical description of the younger twins in this novel reminded me of the twin girls in The Shining, and with STG out of town, my nerves in recovery mode, and my imagination unwieldy at the best of times, I wasn't sure I wanted to come play with them 'forever and ever and ever.'

But who can resist? Niffenegger has a seductive prowess that comes through in every aspect of her writing. It's in her word choice. Her character development. Her plot pacing and settings and the sheer lushness of the world she creates. She immerses us fully in the swirling other-world of Valentina and Julia, Elspeth and Edie, and the men surrounding them. Her preternatual imaginings are so compelling because they are blanketed in a level of recognizable reality that is as inescapable as dust on a grand piano, and as irresistable as writing your name in that dust.

This time our Niggenegger exposes us to the unfathomable connection of indentical - and with Valentina & Julia mirror-image - twins. We dive in and swim around the madness of obsessive compulsive disorder. We explore the history and the currency of the grand Victorian cemeteries of London. We ride the underground and feel the gritty, sweaty breath of the heaving masses next to us. We dance with identity. And we play with matters of life and death like the Little Kitten of Death plays with a bobbin.

Often when a book sucks me in this deeply I want to savour it, to slow my reading, to delay the eventual goodbye. Not this book. This book I wanted to devour. To suck it all into me and have it inhabit me. I'll carry it with me today as I go about one more day of holidays. I'll start the next novel in my stack of summer reading knowing it's too soon. And I'll pray that those ghostly twins keep their haunting on the other side of the Atlantic.

Monday, August 1, 2011

truth, truthiness and being enough

You Know by Jen Louden (Trust 30 Prompt 10)

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • We live in a society of advice columns, experts and make-over shows. Without even knowing it, you can begin to believe someone knows better than you how to live your life. Someone might know a particular something better – like how to bake a three-layer molten coconut chocolate cake or how to build a website – but nobody else on the planet knows how to live your life better than you. (Although one or two people may think they do.) For today, trying asking yourself often, especially before you make a choice, “What do I know about this?”
Ah, finally something that truly hits home. A couple months back, UberCoach, in a moment of unintentional irony, said that I need to trust myself - that I know what my body & soul want and need and that I'd do well to listen more to that and look less for the answers elsewhere - or something to that effect. She was right, of course, and so we come back around to those little voices, and clearing out the noise so we can clearly hear the truth.

There are many truthy-things - things we can justify, explain away, create a logic for, and find evidence of. But there are far fewer truths, and I think that no matter what else is going on, we know those truths when we hear them. Beyond all else, we know the truth. Whether or not we listen to it, or honour it, or even acknowledge it when it's happening, we know. When we tell ourselves lies - I'm not worthy, not lovable, not enough, I'll always be alone, I'll never get what I want - we know they are lies, but how often do we take the time to dismantle them? Or just to let them go - no processing required beyond 'that's not true.'

As I'm writing this, a young couple is having an angry fight outside my patio. I can hear that what they are saying to each other is not the truth. But it would make zero difference for me to yell that at them - when it comes right down to it, no one else can tell us our truths - we can only hear them from ourselves when we are ready. And, then, if the truth is not everything we had hoped, we can act. We are all inherently enough for whatever lives we choose. We are all loved. We are all capable. And when we see areas in which we are called to be or do more, we are surrounded by people who want to help us get there.


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