Saturday, December 31, 2011
Lily, our border collie puppy, is as energetic as they come. She shares the cute trait many other dogs have - loving to play fetch. We throw her a toy, ball, or frisbee, and she runs like a bat out of hell to get it, then brings it back. Then we usually have a problem. She doesn't drop it. She prances and dances and wants to play tug-of-war with it - anything but drop it. Little does she know that we can't continue playing until she gives the toy back to us. We've tried saying things like "Hand it over!" or "Drop it!" or "Put it Down!" and even "That'll Do!" and nothing works. Trying to snatch it out of her hand just gets her excited and may even get us an accidental laceration.
After reading several books on border collies, the term we finally settled on was "Release." So that's what we're teaching her as an instruction to drop the toy.
I've always liked the word "release." I've heard at funerals that the deceased had suffered terribly from cancer or whatnot and had finally been "released" from his pain. Release is the at the core of the AA mantra, "Let Go and Let God." When I picture the word "release" in my mind, it's always accompanied by a big, deep sigh and a little smile, as if in releasing a heavy burden after walking with it for a long, long time.
But it's not just pain and guilt and heavy burdens we need to release. It can be good memories, too, that we are carrying - memories that are so good, in fact, that we still live in the past, clinging to the good ol' days of when we were young or attractive or talented or popular, tightly gripping in our teeth the perspective that that time was so extraordinary that life ever since has somehow been deficient and will never ever bring us happiness again. Sometimes it's something else - we might have a chokehold on our worldview, our paradigm for what we believe (segregation, anyone?), and no matter how wisdom has shown us otherwise, we refuse to change.
The thing that we can't get Lily to understand is that until she releases the toy, the play comes to a halt. Her fun is in limbo because of her stubbornness. But she will learn eventually. She will come to comprehend that the very thing she is avoiding at all costs - putting the toy down - is the very thing which will bring her more excitement, joy, and companionship with her human family when the play resumes. Once she lets go, she can open her mouth for the next catch - and as we do the same, we can open our hearts for the next blessing just around the corner.
My hope for 2012 is that we can all learn to release what is necessary to let go of - so we can receive again.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
One of my favorite Christmas movies is Christmas in Connecticut. In it, Uncle Felix, a rotund Hungarian chef, steals the show. He is part of the plot to make his friend, played by Barbara Stanwyck, appear to be a Martha Stewart type character to keep her job as a magazine columnist when in real life she can't cook or do anything even loosely connected with housekeeping. When her wedding is about to take place, Felix, who is a good friend of the bride, is asked by the judge if he will give the bride away. Felix, who is frequently confused by American/English idioms, replies, "I don't give nobody avay. Alvays I keep my mouth shut."
Sometimes people ask me why I bother blogging. I'm not specialized enough to have a bunch of people interested in what I say (e.g., don't write about sewing or cooking or specialized hobbies), yet I still write every week or two. My answer is that I mainly write for introspection, because it is only when I put things down that I realize what my priorities are and what problems I need to work on. The only other reason is my grandkids. I won't be on this earth forever, and I certainly can't assume I will still be here when my grandchildren are grown with the their own families (a situation my Mom enjoys), so I hope this blog serves as a window for my grandkids into their Grammy's mind and heart. Maybe they can learn some life lessons from my mistakes and successes.
So here's my life lesson for this Christmas Eve: "Don't give nobody avay. Alvays keep your mouth shut."
Knowing when to just keep your mouth shut has to be one of the hardest lessons in life to learn. Kids today grow up with rewind buttons everywhere, and the sooner they realize there is no rewind button for life, the better. You'd think folks my age, born in the '50s without rewind buttons, would have easily assimilated that fact, but no. I can speak from personal experience. I speak, then I think. Unfortunately, that's backwards, but hey, sometimes I'm a stubborn student.
There's an old story about a spiritual teacher who had his students roll all sizes of stones around a big area. Then he asked then to go gather every stone and bring each one back. It took a little time, but they did this with no problem. Then he gave them feathers, and asked them to scatter the feathers and bring them back. As you can imagine, the wind carried those feathers miles and miles all over the place. They came back to the teacher in frustration, saying, "Master - the feathers have dispersed over miles; there is no way we can gather every one of them and bring them back to you." The wise teacher said, "And that is how it is with words. Once you say them, they are scattered forever and you can never take them back."
Throughout my life, I've said hurtful things on purpose. I've said hurtful things by accident. I've talked about people in a negative way to others. I've said things that should have been left unsaid. When I felt accused, I've talked back defensively by reminding others that they're as sloppy/hurtful/inept/forgetful as I am. I've offended, wounded, and distressed both people I am only acquainted with and people I dearly love. It breaks my heart at times and fills me with awful regret.
Of course, my husband Ed has this fault, too. I'm constantly berating him, "Why did you SAY that?!!" and many times he will reply, "I know. As soon as it left my mouth I asked myself the same question." Ed also has taught me that the bad habits/transgressions that irritate us about others are a mirror into what we hate about ourselves. I know when I get upset with him that down deep I am just upset with myself for harboring the same problem.
It only takes a moment to filter words in your brain before they are said out loud. One of my New Year's resolutions is to be careful with words - once they are gone, I can't bring them back.
I wish everyone the blessings of Christmas and the New Year. Live life in 2012 with the assurance that you don't need a rewind button, and watch those feathers. They're light and buoyant and can be gone in an instant.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Due to the generosity of a co-worker who gave me a gift certificate as a belated birthday present, I bought a new purse last month. It looks similar to the photo above.
Now, I've always had a difficult and frustrating time when I buy a purse. I usually only have one purse at a time, so it has to be multifunctional. That day, I stood around Penney's for a good hour examining purses. In the first place, although it didn't have to be gorgeous, I certainly didn't want to wince when I looked at it every day. It had to go with my wardrobe. And as superficial as it sounds, it had to reflect a little bit of my personality, as a visible expression to the world of what kind of person I am (as most wardrobe items tend to do). Most importantly, it had to hold the important things, and it had to have a few pockets that were necessary for me - specific pockets designated for specific things - a pocket for my keys, a pocket for my cell phone, and a pocket for my work ID badge. These pockets had to be secure, because I throw my purse around a lot and don't want anything important falling out. And then to top it off, the whole purse had to fasten securely so nothing could fall out the top. It couldn't be too small or too big, and it couldn't be too heavy. There is only limited room in a purse, so one has to be picky about what goes inside and where everything goes. If I decide to carry a calendar book, I might not have room for my bulky coupon holder. I have to make choices, as I can't carry everything. All this makes purse shopping a very frustrating and time-consuming experience for me.
As the year comes to a close, I thought about this in relation to my life. I only have 24 hours in a day - my time is limited just like my purse space. All the emotions that I carry, some justly, some out of habit, some for no discernible reason, have to be carried by me at once. All the negative things that eat away at my psyche - guilt, shame, regret, anxiety, envy, feelings of revenge, anger - take up space where I could be carrying love, compassion, forgiveness and patience. Every part of my brain that harbors the negative emotions just pushes out the positive emotions. Every minute of the day I spend in worry is a minute I don't spend in contentment.
I've heard in simplicity circles that one of the best ways to embrace simplicity is to limit what you buy: For everything you bring into the house (or closet, etc.), you should get rid of something you currently own. I've also been told that the key to organizational contentment is "a place for everything, and everything in its place."
I think for 2012, my goal is to walk as many negative emotions out the door as I can and usher in the positive ones. Just like how I get picky about choosing a purse, I want to be more selective about the feelings that I choose to carry with me day in and day out. I do believe in a place for everything and everything in its place - and the place for those corrosive, energy-draining feelings is certainly not in my vision of what I want for my life. They are not how I would choose to represent myself to the world, and their presence crowds my mind and heart so that I lose sight of what makes life meaningful.
In the end, my purse is just a red pocketed container - a functional accessory to enable me to carry around other physical items in a convenient way. I can find one I like, and use it until it no longer serves my needs, then I can replace it. But this one life is all I've got, and I want to use it to carry ideals that are important to me, ideals that will sustain me, nourish me, and get me through the hard times. If that means clearing some damaging things out to make room for some new healing ones, then so be it. I think we all deserve no less.