Paradoxically, we achieve true wholeness only by embracing our fragility and sometimes, our brokenness. Wholeness is a natural radiance of Love, and Love demands that we allow the destruction of our old self for the sake of the new.
I'm writing this an hour after returning from an intimate concert with the incomparable Tony Bennett. I'm still reveling in the afterglow. Sure would like to bottle a little of the joy and romance Tony spreads around. We could surely all use more.
Most of us know that Tony is 81, has a great head of hair, and still sings pitch perfect. We also know that he has won innumerable musical awards, sold a gazillion albums, and has bridged the generation gap.
But did you know that he is an accomplished painter, with exhibitions in New York, and the Smithsonian? Here's the amazing part. Tony continues to paint every day, even while touring internationally. He finds the time for his two great passions - painting and music. There's a lesson in there for me, and maybe for you too. Make the time to do what I love.
Okay, maybe you are not a Tony Bennett fan. Neither is my husband. But keep reading. I'm leading up to the main point.
Throughout his career Tony has also raised millions of dollars for humanitarian causes closest to his heart. This is not the main point, but goes to show that these activities flow from the person Tony is, which is the whole point of this post.
This one line in the concert program stands out: "But perhaps more important is his ability to convey a sense of joy, of utter satisfaction, in what he is doing."
Tony strikes me as a man fully engaged with his heart and spirit. He lives out his passions in full play. He exudes joy. As I sat in the audience, I felt my own heart stirring, and felt close to tears. What a powerful example of one whose spirit is truly in gear.
My wish for myself, and for you, dear reader, is that we may spend more of our lives with our spirits in gear. Va-va-voom!
As much I may pride myself on being conscious and aware, I discover I am not. Not always. In fact I engage in denial without recognizing it for what it is - tuning out the truth.
Barbara DeAngelis turned the volume up for me in her chapter, "Playing Hide and Seek With the Truth," in her book, How Did I Get Here? She identifies 4 common ways of tuning out reality, calling them the "Four Denials." She says that unwelcome realities, unexpected wake-up calls, difficult turning points, and confusing crossroads trigger these denials.
Preoccupied Denial After reading over this section, I can see that this form of denial runs rampant in American culture of extreme busyness, over-volunteering, and over-achieving. I can see how I slip into this form of tuning out when I allow myself to become over-extended. And then I tell myself I don't have time to deal with what I really want/value/need because I am so busy over here. In other words, I don't heed my heart. (I'd really like to blog more consistently, but I am so BUSY with my real estate investing business and dealing with my life!)
Here are specific examples from 15 that DeAngelis listed under this form of denial: - "I know I need to work on controlling my anger, but we're remodeling the house." - "I know I need to stop smoking, but I'm recovering from my father's death." - "I know I need to quit my job, but my mother just moved in with us." - "I know I need to start an exercise program, but Christmas is coming up."
What strikes me most about this form of denial is how impressive our excuses can be. They sound so reasonable and logical. As DeAngelis points out, however, it is always inconvenient and disruptive to face the truth and mess up our "to do" list.
This past Sunday, Oct. 21st, I sat in front of my computer and read the posts of other bloggers for 2-3 hours. I loved catching up on my reading, leaving comments, reconnecting. What didn't cross my mind was that Oct. 21st was also my blog's 2nd birthday.
A couple of days after I read that Liz Strauss was celebrating her 2nd blog birthday, my memory was triggered. Didn't I start my blog in October of '05? When was that again? So I looked up my debut post - Oct. 21st. My 2nd blog birthday had slipped by quietly without my awareness. On a positive note, I unconsciously celebrated it by blog surfing that day. On a less positive note, I have not made blogging much of a priority in my schedule.
Since then what has come into my awareness wakes me up. I'm not making time for what I say I cherish - writing. Creative ideas for my blog hover around my head like lightening bugs. When I don't create the structure to capture them, or even just one, they disappear, like the night darkness that merges into daylight.
Peeling the next layer, I realize that I still operate out of an unconscious rule. I put the things I love to do at the end of the list of things I "HAVE TO DO." I tell myself that after I finish this work, I can . . . read something I love; or after I finish all my tasks I can . . . write. And guess what happens . . .that "have to" list either never ends, or I'm too tired after I complete it to do what I love to do. That old Puritan work ethic dies hard.
The Dec. issue of Writers Digest arrived this week with an impressive array of articles/tools that address how creativity "dances" between the logical and the intuitive sides of our brain. FYI, you can pick this magazine up at a bookstore or order it at the link above.
One of these articles, Meeting of the Minds, by Michael Vaughn, describes how the two sides of our brain (logical/intuitive) develop. He discusses several tools or games we can use to move into the right brain for our writing. One of these tools is the "cluster technique" developed by Dr. Gabriele Rico in her book Writing the Natural Way. You can view this technique at her website.
I had the joy of working with Dr. Rico at a 5-day writer's retreat during the summer of 1999. We practiced the cluster technique during the entire workshop. I found it powerful, especially because she gave us a time limit for each cluster exercise. That time constraint had the effect of limiting the damage from my inner critic!
You can also read some examples of what I wrote back in 1999 from some of those cluster exercises, if you'd like additional illustration of this technique.
So many outstanding bloggers to read out there. Here are a few whose posts struck that chord within me that made me think, feel, or go "Ah-Ha."
Tracy Boatright's post, What's My Motive, gives succinct advice on how to make good decisions by discerning the real motive driving our decision-making. Good post for those decisions that are less clear-cut, or feel emotional.
Yesterday, while driving back home to South Carolina from Ohio, I ruminate on the last several days helping my parents set up home care assistance and other elder care services. I find the experience of helping my parents to be rewarding, yet intense emotionally, for all the obvious reasons of seeing one's parents age.
Driving by myself, I stop by the rest area just inside the North Carolina border off of I-40. The backdrop of nature's scenery always makes this my favorite rest area, as you can see for yourself in this picture:
I grab pen and paper to sit out in the sun and jot down some notes for this post. I mentally review the cost of the services, purchases, and experiences of this past week. Some cost money. Some don't. As I tally up this week's ledger, here is my take-off on the MasterCard commercials.
- Round-trip gasoline costs Price: $123.89 Gain: No security checkpoints and I get to take on all the liquids I want
- In home consultation with home care agency Price: Free
- Finding Mom each morning in the kitchen fixing coffee, with the table already set for breakfast Price: Free Gain: Indescribable poignancy. (Way to go Mom! Keep on defying the doctor's damn diagnosis that you won't remember how to do anything in 3-4 months)
- Wheelchair Rental for 1-month (So Dad can take Mom out on excursions) Price: $72.31 Gain: Watching Mom smile as she gets into the wheelchair and maneuvers it herself.
- Taking Mom and Dad out to lunch at Steak & Shake Price: $25.00 Gain: Watching Mom's glee in deciding what flavor shake to get (over a dozen to choose from!)
- Driving in town, past the police car pointing a radar gun at me while I am exceeding the posted limits. Price: $0 (But I did have to redeem my "You are lucky/Get off Free Today" card).
- Solo visit to an assisted living care facility Price: Free (but offset by the emotional distress it creates in me as I contemplate this as a future option for one or both of my parents)
- Visit to the Eldercare Attorney with my parents Price: $5,000 to provide asset protection and provide for future long-term care Gain: Peace of mind (but is sure doesn't come cheap these days)
- Drinking one and a half bottles of wine with my dad and sister Price: (1) Ibuprofen (Thanks for bringing over the wine, sis!) Gain: Laughter and lightness
- Pulling out of the driveway, with a lump in my throat and tears pooling in my eyes, as I watch Mom and Dad stand outside and wave goodbye to me - Priceless! I love you Mom and Dad.
Phil at Make It Great gets the credit for the idea of this post through a comment he left. He asked for tips on how I learned to cut myself some slack.
If they say that necessity is the mother of all inventions, know that I am improvising as I go along this path! I willingly share what I am learning, with the proviso that you jump in and share what works for you in the slack-cutting department.
First, I don't have answers - only awareness (when I am actually "aware" of my awareness). Sometimes it comes from a trigger - such as the reminder I received from Rick Cockrum of Shards of Consciousness. His response to my comment about my blog-related guilt provided much needed perspective. He makes the essential distinction - that blogging is done “within the context of our lives, not as our lives.”
This perspective made me aware of the unexamined rules I operated by. This time I acknowledged that my rule about blogging didn't make sense and wasn't helpful. Having awareness of the rule allowed me to adjust it to take into account the stressors and time constraints of my reality. I decided to blog when I was able and wanted to.
Cultivating compassion for myself also helps. A couple of months ago I attended a 5-day intensive. I found the first day or two tough because of my self-imposed rules about performing at my best. What I learned instead was to accept myself, period, no matter where I fell on the scale of perfection. Having compassion for myself, as I am always quick to have for others, makes a big difference.
I recall an exercise I did years ago at a retreat. We were asked to hold up a mirror, and look into our own eyes, to see into our hearts. I recall that feeling of compassion being stirred as I looked at this woman staring at me.
This morning I asked for guidance on a passage to read and this page fell open. Here is an excerpt:
"Go to your bathroom or bedroom and look in the mirror. Really. Go and do it now. Maybe the light in your eye is there or not; it doesn't matter. Your 'original face' - the one in front of you right now - is the one God always sees. When you see it too, you and God will both be in heaven - and we will get the benefit of you being who you are, here on earth."
Jason Shulman, The Instruction Manual for Receiving God
What would happen if we scheduled, on our to-do list, a line that said we would cut ourselves some slack two times today. What if we decided to break one of our own rules that doesn't matter? What if we chose to act with compassion towards ourselves on this day - what might that look like?
What can you suggest, by way of tip or experience, that helps you let up that rein a bit?