Thursday, January 19, 2012

the fibreglass cradle

“The cure for anything is salt water….sweat, tears or the sea.”~ Isak Dinesen* 
The Fiberglass Cradle

I’m reminded again, laying on this hard slab, of why I love the sea. Yesterday for moments it had seemed my mortal enemy as I hung on the board and kicked with all I had yet was pulled further and further from shore. I could hear the fear in STG’s voice as he yelled “let go of your board and swim – NOW.” I could see it in JRock’s eyes as he mentally debated whether to abandon his board and help me pull mine. But mostly I tasted it – metal and bitter – in the back of my throat.

I could swim for my life. Or I could float away. Maybe someone would rescue me – those more experienced surfers further out perhaps? But it wasn’t their job. And it wasn’t really that far to safety. So I swam. I let go of the board, and kicked and paddled and swam and suddenly was spat upon the shore on my knees, the board perilously loose but tied to my ankle slamming across my hips.

But today, just a mile from yesterday’s battleground, the same sea rocks me. I love its playfulness and its predictability – every fourth wave scooping me up on my fibreglass cradle – up up up ... and then down laughing onto the sand. Mostly I love its paradox – that it is both the source of all life, and so easily the end of it. I lie on the hard board and let it rock me. It washes away a year of mayhem. It holds me and plays with me and reminds me why I love it. It reminds me I’m okay.

We begin in salt water - it is what we breath for the first 9 months of our lives. Is it any wonder it calls to us forever after?

*This is ABSOLUTELY one of my favourite quotes by one of my favourite authors ... I was thrilled to receive this prompt in my inbox]

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

title & tagline

I haven't done a Write on Edge prompt for a bit since I've had a lot else to say. I like this one though:
"... come up with a title and tagline that captures your life, or a moment from your life. That’s it. Looking forward to reading your life distilled to its essence."
Small Pond Blues
She couldn't see the wide world from her remote corner, and yet she knew it was out there just waiting for her. 

Chetywnd BC - A place you get over rather than simply leave

Friday, January 13, 2012

dear 16 year old me

There's a video making the rounds on Facebook right now, and after avoiding it for a few days, the right person posted it and I clicked to view. It was not what I expected - titled 'Dear 16 year old me,' I expected the message to be universal things we all wish we knew when we were young and invincible and maybe not so wise as we'd like to have been. 

The message that is delivered is a powerful and important one - melanoma is a killer of children, teens and young adults. Like all cancers, it's ruthless and devastating. And like many cancers, there are many things we can do to protect ourselves, especially in our teen years. My heart goes out to the people whose lives have been touched by melanoma. 

And yet, there are dozens of other messages I wish I could deliver to 16 year old me. And to so many of the 16 year olds I meet:
  1. "It gets better / this too shall pass / it came to pass, it didn't come to stay" - they are cliches now, but I wish I'd known when I was 16 that the things that hurt me the most would one day be things I have to work at to remember. 
  2. "Forgive them for they know not what they do" - I heard this at least once a year at church, cried out as Jesus hung on the cross, but it never occurred to me that this was a model of behaviour and not just a something only God himself could do. Little tiny hurts lingered and festered and drained me of connection. In a small town, there was no room to nurse all those supposed slights, and I'd have had a much fuller social life then if I'd let go a little more. 
  3. "You're gorgeous and healthy - don't let them tell you different" - when I was 16 a doctor told me I was obese. I was 5' 9" and 170 pounds, and a doctor told me I was obese. Oh, and depressed. Those two labels have haunted me. They cling to me like the stickiest of dime store price tags. It doesn't matter that the doctor was eventually charged with ... malpractice? fraud? ... it doesn't matter. Some expert told me I was those things. And I've remained those things through all of life and weights highs and lows. 
  4. "That chocolate-bar-a-day habit you can get away with now is going to bite you in the ass in 20 years. You're young - you walk to school. You play basketball and ride your bike. Someday you will have a desk job and a sedentary life style and will have to break that habit. It's easier if you just don't start it." 
  5. "You are not your label. You are not JUST your label. You are smart, yes. But you are also creative. And athletic. And so many things you don't know you are yet. You will travel. You will be a mom. You will do things you can't imagine. And you will be up to all of it."
I suppose there is something in the ignorance of youth that is an important part of the growing experience. We need our lack of knowing in order to work our muscles. Birds and reptiles have to fight their way out of their eggs to gain strength. Butterflies have to emerge from their cocoons to be fully developed. Maybe being an unknowing teen is the human way of experiencing that process. But still ... I wish I'd known that what happened in a miniscule backwoods town meant more about that town than it did about me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

cookies + feelings + huffpo

It's amazing how quickly an agreement with myself goes out the window. For over a month, give or take, I've been following a food plan that is designed to heal some of the damage to my digestive system. I won't go into any details, but suffice it to say that my love of all things sugar had taken its toll and I was suffering in ways I hadn't experienced since going gluten-free six years ago. I held FAST to the precepts for the first 10 days - going so far as to stop myself from licking a single beater/spoon/bowl/finger when doing my Christmas baking. 

In agreement with my health practitioner, I put the plan on hold over Christmas - three days with the family is no time to avoid sugar, dairy, etc, etc. When I came home, the idea was to get right back on track. And I have, sort of, kind of, partly. Okay fine - the truth is, I've 'cheated' almost every day. Only a little bit. Only a bit of this, or a little of that. A couple cookies in the midst of all those legumes and lean meats and vegetables can't be that bad, right? 

I want it to be somebody else's fault. I want to say that it's because I am doing this on my own. But really, on my own is pretty much how I do everything, and the truth is that I've been holding my commitment to get healthy cheap and my promises to myself lightly. Because, more often than not, I hold myself cheap. We've been here before. This is not a new revelation. 

This evening was an interesting experience though. I'd done well today, for the most part. And even better yesterday. I felt like I was going to finish strong as there's only a few days left of this stage of the program. And then ... out of the silence ... a hurt feeling. And behind that hurt feeling, a story about who I am - not worth it. Easily ignored. Stupid for thinking I matter. 

And suddenly an entire package of gluten free caramel chocolate dessert treats is gone. Too be clear, the 'entire package' contained 5 pieces. But still. After the first one I thought "my body doesn't want this much sugar - I'm not even enjoying it" but ... my mind wanted. Or if not my mind, whatever part of me believes those stories - I mean, since I'm so worthless that I sit here being ignored all night, why not eat everything in the house? Who is going to know or care? 

I do. I know. And I care. 

A really interesting shift though is that I'm not beating myself up and hating myself for it - for the cookies or the thoughts. I ate cookies. I didn't murder a kitten. And, I did my best today. And yesterday. And on the weekend when I had hash for brunch. And every day before, during and after the plan. 

Every day we do our best for that day. Some days our best is better; some days it's worse. But it's always our best. 

And just when I was wondering what to do about all of that, I saw this article from the Huffington Post called 'Healing with Hurt Feelings.' It's a good one ... you should go read it. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

the glass castle: review

It seems my ability to suspend disbelief took a break last month. First there was my struggle to get really into The Book of Negroes and then Jeanette Walls The Glass Castle, which is supposedly non-fiction biography, also tested the limits of believability.

I know there are all kinds of families in the world. And I don't deny that many children slip through the cracks and are raised by loving but incompetent or somehow disabled parents. In the case of Ms. Walls, it would seem one or both of her parents had one or more mental illnesses. But the degree of neglect - allowing a three year old to cook hot dogs on a propane stove for instance - is baffling to the point of distraction.

I will say though, these neglected urchins are a charming lot. Plucky Jeanette and her energy and wit. Her strong, quiet, separate artistic big sister Lori. Charming adventurous brother Brian who's always up for whatever scheme for survival and fun Jeanette dreams up. And tragic baby sister Maureen, largely forgotten until too late. 

For all my misgivings, I quite enjoyed the read because of the charm of the family. Even the clearly insane parents have their charms. You can see why children love even the worst of parents, and these ones come close. Shifting from town to town. Refusing to provide for their children. Self-indulgent, indolent, and border-line insane. And charming. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

good air in

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
Henry David Throreau

The team at Write on Edge, the writing community I joined in 2011, sent out their New Years resolutions this week, and while they all sounded good, Nichole's really stood out for me: "My resolution is to walk away from the computer and find inspiration from life more. I plan to live by Thoreau’s quote ... ."

I to have been feeling like it's time to push my chair back, fling open the curtains, and go forth into the big wide world. Monday night -after my first bike ride of the year and finally getting some fresh air in my lungs - STG and I spent the evening planning our summer vacation ... and it's going to be a good one! I am absolutely buzzing with anticipation of the sunshine, the sea air, the hiking and biking and wine training and sight-seeing we have planned. 

I'm finding more and more lately I just want to step away from the electronic life and get out. Our trip is all about being out and about in the world, but I have 7 months before then to practice. And yet, even as I write this I have the TV on, my computer on my lap, and my iPhone sitting beside me. It's too much. It's a bad habit that creeps in further and further and makes me think I'm connecting with people when really I'm just hiding behind my computer screen, popping out as a persona instead of being a person. And instead of some times just being on my own. 

So, I'm scaling back. Facebook has lost its lustre for me. Twitter is following suit. I enjoy my blog, but find drafts are sitting in draft mode longer and longer. And the TV ... well, I'm very much leaning towards cancelling cable altogether, though I would miss the cooking shows.  

Miss Lady gave me a yoga pass for Christmas, so I'll be re-visiting that practice soon and am very much looking forward to it. It's time to stretch my wings again, move my body, reconnect my body and my brain - to stop surviving and hiding and get back to my very beautiful life. 

My mom sent me the lyrics to this song a few days ago, with the suggestion that I find the video. And so I did. It's a good one, timely, and oh so true. And everyday I feel a little more alive again.

Sara Groves \ Less Like Scars

It's been a hard year 
But I'm climbing out of the rubble 
These lessons are hard 
Healing changes are subtle 
But every day it's

Less like tearing, more like building 
Less like captive, more like willing 
Less like breakdown, more like surrender 
Less like haunting, more like remember

And I feel you here 
And you're picking up the pieces 
Forever faithful 
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation 
But you are able 
And in your hands the pain and hurt 
Look less like scars and more like 

Less like a prison, more like my room 
It's less like a casket, more like a womb 
Less like dying, more like transcending 
Less like fear, less like an ending

And I feel you here 
And you're picking up the pieces 
Forever faithful 
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation 
But you are able 
And in your hands the pain and hurt 
Look less like scars

Just a little while ago 
I couldn't feel the power or the hope 
I couldn't cope, I couldn't feel a thing 
Just a little while back 
I was desperate, broken, laid out, hoping 
You would come

And I need you 
And I want you here 
And I feel you

And I know you're here 
And you're picking up the pieces 
Forever faithful 
It seemed out of my hands, a bad, bad situation 
But you are able

And in your hands the pain and hurt 
Look less like scars 

And more like 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

saying, asking, laughing, loving

Long ago and far away, I read Don Miguel Ruiz' The Four Agreements on a flight from Prince George to Chicago. Never has a flight gone faster, or a small book seemed written just for me. As I pondered New Years' resolutions the last couple days - not something I've ever really felt strongly about - all that came to me was 'do better.' Over and over - do better. Be better. Stop giving up so easily. Stop being such a whiner. Work harder. Stop blaming other people for your life. Stop hiding out. Mind your money. Eat better. Exercise more. It felt more like a relentless whipping than an inspiring resolution. 

And then late last night, as I was checking into Facebook just to wish all & sundry a Happy 2012, UberCoach shared this - a condensation of the four agreements, and I realised I didn't need a new resolution - I just needed to be reminded that I've already agreed to these. In fact, for many years and through various jobs, I had this posted above my desk but had somehow lost the thread: 
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.  
2. Don't Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.  
3. Don't Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. 
4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
There are things here that I think I come close to - I'm pretty careful to say what I mean - but more often say nothing at all. It's taken some practice over the past few years, but I've learned that honesty is easy. But, I still love to gossip - and I'm at least as hard on myself with what I say as I am with other people.

That's not the agreement that most worries me though ... I hesitate to even say I'll agree not to take things personally - it feels like cutting off a piece of who I am.

Some days I take absolutely EVERYTHING personally - what's said. What isn't said. Actions. Looks. The absence of action and looks. It's crazy making, for more people than just me. And, behind that is a series of wrong assumptions - they go hand in hand. Communicating clearly and fully would, I think, as Ruiz promises, transform my life.

I have big hopes for this year. It's a bit disappointing to sit at the edge of a new year and feel like I've devolved from where I was at this time last year. But I suppose maybe as part of those agreements I could ease up on myself and have a little fun too. Maybe doing my best doesn't have to mean wearing myself out. Maybe my best is communicating, relaxing, enjoying, being present, letting go and loosening up ... there's a year I can look forward to.
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