Friday, December 31, 2010
It's hard not to get excited about a new year. It seems like a good opportunity for growth and change and to make resolutions, to begin anew. We know we can do this any time but it's nice to have a marker.
Someone posted on their face book, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and it got me thinking. Why is that the question we ask? Why don't we ask "who do you want to be?"
It is perfectly fine to have aspirations to be a pilot or a teacher or a doctor. A worthy occupation is important and should be given some thought but shouldn't more thought be given to what kind of person we want to be when we grow up?
I know myself very well. But many of my positive personality traits, while they existed before, were nurtured and cultivated very carefully. I decided who I wanted to be, how I wanted to love, what my values were and I make a point of trying to walk my path very single day.
But there is always growth to be done, always better. I see time and time again, people repeating the patterns they've always repeated, doing the things they've always done and then standing back and wondering why nothing changes for them. I've been told that doing the same things over and over and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.
Change isn't difficult. But for most people, the "thought" of change is what holds them back. They want to make changes but they've identified themselves in a certain way for so long that their friends expect it of them, their families define them by their old patterns and they come to think that they must continue to operate in the way that makes them and the people around them most comfortable instead of becoming the person they want to be in their hearts.
But the truth is, once you make those changes, you have more fun, become better loved and eventually have such a strong sense of yourself and who you are you become automatically surrounded by people who appreciate who you really are. And it happens quickly. You love big and fully and without condition and life becomes a joy even in the challenging times because you're supported and you're free.
But until you make the changes and become authentic. Until you admit that the way you used to be is not the way you really are and then say "to hell with the rest of you, this is me and you're going to have to deal" you'll be stuck in the same patterns, making the mistakes and getting the same insane results.
I love this quote by Carl Jung
"Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie."
I've always thought it described perfectly ever midlife crisis that ever occurred. There comes a time, and it happened a few years ago for me, when you learn that the important things in life and indeed who you are, isn't even remotely what you once thought it was. Yes you may still be the person who enjoys the same music and the same types of movies but at your core you start to realise that life isn't about what you have and who you impress but who you are at your core.
You discover that you would prefer your tombstone read "was well loved" than "was a great housekeeper."
You discover that while money is nice to have, the desire for the things you can buy with it starts to dwindle and you become someone who uses it to make a difference for others, to make others happy, to help the less fortunate and it's not a dutiful donation type thing, but a heartfelt desire to make a difference in the world.
So who are you going to be this year? Are you going to repeat the patterns that have made you unhappy in the past or break free and become the person you were meant to be. Are you going to set aside your fears or hide inside them waiting for rescue that never comes. Are you going to be a taker this year or are you going to be a giver? Are you going to be happy? This day, as are all days, is your chance to decide.
The above picture is of Ralph Waldo Emerson's gravestone. I leave you with a quote from him, one of my favourites. Perhaps it'll inspire you to be who you are, when you grow up.
"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
A couple of nights ago I had a wonderful dream. In the dream I was in the desert with a friend. It was a hot, desolate place, eerie, sparse and empty. I have never been to the desert but I imagine it's a lot like my dream. My dreams are always vivid and I can still feel the heat on my shoulders from the sun and the presence of my companion as we sat together looking over the sandy expanse.
In that dream I remember remarking that the desert was like life. In the difficult, sparse and lonely moments we often find the greatest beauty. Would an oasis be as beautiful were it not set against the backdrop of the barren and solitary desert? Would the green of the valley be as appreciated were it not a retrieve from the harsh cold crags of the summit?
During the loneliest period of my life I wrote my first novel. The emptiness provided the space I needed to do that work. It filled such a gap that most people wouldn't have been aware of the pain in my life. I was barely aware of it myself, throwing myself into the narcotic that is my writing. It was during that time that I discovered what I was supposed to do with my life and where my focus should be.
It is difficult to understand that one can be in pain and still find the most amazing joy in life. The understanding of the difference between pain and suffering often evades people but if you look around you will see joy in people in even the most dire circumstances and find examples of where people have pain in their lives but somehow manage to move beyond it and avoid the suffering.
There are great gifts in the lows of our lives. First of all there is the joy that comes from overcoming them. Have you've ever been in a situation where it felt like the executioner's axe hung by a thread over your head? Then, while you waited for it to fall, the situation resolved, the axe disappeared and freedom from that stress dissolved. If so, you understand this joy. Most of us can find an example of this in our lives. It puts a new glow on our world, a sense of gratitude we hadn't had before and it gives us the lessons we need to learn to experience growth as humans.
Another advantage to the periods of desert in our lives are the opportunity to discover, without a doubt, who loves us. In any situation, we will have our supporters and our dissenters. We will have those who claim to be our friends when we are at a peak in our lives and who bail on us a the first sign of trouble. We come out the other side of those times with a firm knowledge of those who stood by us and those who let us down. We understand who it is that picked us up and brushed the sand off and said,"I still love you" and those who walked away, or worse yet, those who gave us a kick as we lay in the arid dust. And as painful as it can be to discover these truths, they are invaluable as we grow into the person we are to become in life. It affords us the opportunity to surround ourselves with authentic love only and lessens the likelihood of our suffering alone in our next time of hardship.
In any , even the worse ones, we are given the choice of how to live it. I recently read the autobiography of Theoron Fleury, Playing With Fire , a Canadian hockey player who was abused sexually by a coach and grew to be a hockey superstar plagued by a need to mask his pain behind drugs, alcohol and multiple affairs that ended two marriages. When you get to the part in the book where he stops it's a very cliche quantum moment. He looked at himself in the mirror one night while in a lot of pain. Faced himself instead of running for a bottle. Stared the man he was in the eyes instead of running for the glow of cocaine or the arms of a stranger to help him through. Instead he went to bed.
That next morning he woke up and said, "it's gone." He no longer had the need for the obsessions he had had and now after 10 years he no longer drinks, does drugs and hasn't cheated on his wife again. He said in the book that he decided it was time to look the pain in the eye, face it down, and move on. So he did. Now he is clean, helping other men face their pain from similar situations and even better, he found joy and happiness in the pain he'd lived with his entire life. The pain is still there but he no longer suffers.
Every year at this time we feel we have the opportunity to resolve to change something at the beginning of this man made thing called a new year. It's a silly thing really when the true changes in our lives come with a decision made in the inspired moments of our lives when we learn a lesson that is gifted to us as we sit in the sand.
Perhaps this year I find an oasis. Or, perhaps this year I will spend some time in the desert. We never know these things. What I do resolve to do this year, is to look for the beauty in whatever landscape I'm gifted. To be grateful for those who hold my hand and walk with me and give a drink to those whose thirst is greater than mine. That is the best anyone of us can ever do.
< < <
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Loneliness is the curtain at her bedside
still because the breeze has gone away
Stale air is all her tired lungs inhale
On another stagnant, broken, empty day.
The mask is fastened on to reassure
Those who count upon a constant smile
While the heart beneath the façade of happiness
Would like its beat to stop for just a while
A hand is offered those who need a hand
A hug for those whose burden she now bears
A smile is lit for those who need some light
Meanwhile for her it seems nobody cares
Emptiness soon fills a giving self
when all there is to give has just been gifted
when one who gives the most is quite forgotten
weighed down by all the stones that she has lifted
Loneliness does not evade the happy
As cancer does not pick and choose its host
It often preys upon those less demanding
Who do not ask for much and give the most
Forgotten is the one who asked for nothing
Like a dying rose in a corner garden bed
Where sunlight fails to shine and rain fall land
though her fragrance is the sweetest ever shed.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I know the sun will warm the earth
as it climbs into the horizon
I know the solstice sky will hold
the mystery of the full moon rising
I know the stars will sparkle high
over rocky shores and perfects Isles
I know the beauty of that ocean
will always bring remembering smiles
I know that flowers will bloom in gardens
where those that left us lie in rows
I know the nature of our essence
and I know that spirit never goes
I know the voice that speaks your name
and recognise the words as true
I know I have to wait and listen
for the song that sings of you
I know the joy of being present
and choosing this moment's happiness
I know its all we ever have
and I know eternal thankfulness
I know that all is as it should be
And I feel it deep inside my soul
I know that peace will come to you
and that is everything I know.
Here we are, just days from Christmas. People are shopping, wrapping, baking and stressing. I am not. I have not finished shopping. I haven't wrapped a single item. I haven't baked. I have 4 children and a grandson and a few others that I give to. And yet I am not stressed. I LOVE this time of year. No I don't have a lot of money and no my life isn't perfect, but holy, this is the season for GIVING! How cool is that?
I love giving gifts. I love when I find the perfect thing for someone I love when I know it'll mean something and usually that isn't the gift that costs a great deal of money, it's just some token that represents the relationship and is special to the person you give it to because of that.
As much as I love the idea of giving gifts for Christmas, I get the greatest satisfaction out of just giving for no good reason other than to make another happy. I'm an impulsive giver! I see a need and I check the bank account. I donate randomly, I don't have a particular cause other than my World Vision sponsor child in Senegal. Sometimes it's to a charity, often to a friend I know and occasionally to a stranger.
I have made a habit over the past few years of giving away money I find. Or as I often say, money that finds me. And for some reason, money does find me. If I find $20 or $5 somewhere I tuck it away, looking for the perfect place to donate. I found $20 in an old coat last week and it went to the Salvation Army Kettle at the mall for example.
I have learned a lot from random giving. A few months back I was in Toronto with a friend and I had a $5 bill that I'd found. I decided that I would give it to the first person I saw who needed it. It was well into the weekend and no one was to be seen, no homeless people, no donation boxes anywhere. We were about to enter a little store when a young girl, obviously strung out on drugs(or from the lack of drugs) asked if we had some spare change. Her voice was automatic, monotone, as though she really didn't expect anything but felt she had to ask. I reached into my pocket and handed her the $5. I will never forget the look on her face. It was a mixture of shock and wonder and surprise. She thanked me, stared at the blue paper bill in her hand as though it were a foreign object, and my friend and I went into the store smiling. She continued on, asking others for money. Eventually she came back into the store to plug in and charge her cell phone and I don't think she even recognised us as the ones who gave her the money.
There are those who would think that all I did was contribute to her drug problem. And I likely did, in that moment. I'm pretty sure she took that $5 and bought her next fix. But giving isn't about judging the receiver. It's about giving the gift. That young woman, whoever she is, may eventually clean up her act. Maybe she won't. But one thing is certain. She can always say that at least one person treated her with kindness, generosity and respect. Her validity as a human was never in question in my mind and making her happy in that moment was as important as making anyone on this planet happy in a given moment. I'm not here to judge humanity, I'm here to serve.
I have been given so many gifts in my life. Love, material things, healthy children, my own health and to make giving a habit seems to be a natural thing to do. I want to give everything I can to the ones I'm closest to, of course, particularly those whose Christmas isn't looking all that merry. Sometimes I can't fix things for that person but I find it helps me to deal with that frustration by helping someone else in their hard times. It gives a sense of usefulness and purpose when it's hard to find one.
I don't need presents myself. I have more than most of the world already. But if I could have one wish this Christmas it's that everyone of you who reads this, look around them and see who needs something. Give what you have to give. Perhaps it's a hug. A drive somewhere. A babysitter so they can do their shopping. An invitation to dinner. Some money to help with their financial stress. Anything at all. Give to them and you give to me. Give to them and you give to you as well. And carry the habit into the new year with you as a resolution.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Imagine you are strolling along one day with your soul mate, the person you love more than anyone in the world and an assassin murders him, shoots him in the back, right before your eyes. Imagine you cradle him and weep, your fear and disbelief as real as the blood that pools around you on the cold December sidewalk. Imagine your sorrow, your pain, your anger as the life leaves the body you adore in one fatal and final breath. Your screaming chisels your emotions into that bitter December air etching them on your soul as if they were the epitaph on a marble slab.
I always feel saddened on the anniversary of John Lennon's death. I feel the world was robbed of one of its geniuses and truly great minds but always, on this day, my heart tolls a sad slow rhythm for Yoko Ono, the woman who loved him so.
Their love was rare. Most never find it and some that do, waste it. Yes they were an odd couple, certainly they were unorthodox and imperfect but one thing was certain, they were completely and utterly in love. They spent every moment together. They supported each other, they took care of each other and they walked as one on the path they travelled together for just a few short years on this planet.
I imagine, deep in my soul, her sense of longing for him into the moments, hours, days, months and years that left her without the physical presence of John in her life but I also imagine he was beside her, living in her every thought, breathing in her every breath, his heart beating with her every heartbeat just as it did when he lived with her. I imagine John Lennon stayed nearby when he slipped out of his body, and still holds Yoko's hand as he always did. It's what I would do if I loved a person in life as John did Yoko and had to leave them suddenly.
Yes we miss John today. We always have the wonder of what might of been, the unwritten songs, the unspoken wisdom, the sense of loss on a world level, but my compassionate soul that recognises such transcendent love, aches mostly for Yoko, thirty years from that tragedy in New York City. You may say I'm a romantic(yes I just did that) and I wouldn't argue it at all. But I truly do believe that Yoko and John had one of those connections that was made before either of them were born and will last for all the forevers to come. One that you wouldn't believe in or understand until you found such a love.
Walk in Peace Yoko Ono. John still walks with you, today and always.
And below, my own personal favourite John Lennon song.
As a poet, it's hard to let this day go by. This day when we lost one of our greatest modern day poets, John Lennon, to an assassin's bullet. John Lennon said "Death is like getting out of one car and getting into another."
I imagine he's riding in luxury somewhere. Two of my favourites for you.