Keeping Quiet

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My life is a big canvas and I continually try to refine the marks I put down.

Today, I apologize to those who hold subscriptions to this blog as my post from yesterday was delivered to you before I came to my senses and deleted it altogether.

In hindsight I felt it self-serving, incendiary and my thoughts poorly articulated. Not my best effort.

A past therapist told me these three guidelines which I try to live by:

1. Try not to judge.
2. Tell the truth as quickly as you can.
3. Don’t try to understand (I take this to suggest we gear ourselves toward witnessing with love).

Many, many times I have ‘crucified’ myself for making mistakes.

But really there are no mistakes.. just opportunities to keep refining ourselves.

Forgive me for presenting you with less than you deserve.

This blog is one way I work toward becoming larger, lighter and more loving toward myself and the worlds at large.

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Empathy Vs. Sympathy

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This is such a slippery distinction for many but makes life far richer when known:

Look here.

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Is Being Alone A Problem?

lying down
“SQUID” 20×4″, ceramic,steel, 2000
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“To become deeply silent is not to become still, but to become tidal.”

David Whyte

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I have what some people crave: the utter luxury of unfettered time.

My life is spare and quite silent.

I live alone with my dog, Livvy though I have a few stellar friends close by.

Isolation can grab me by the scruff sometimes, and it can take me down.

The depths have always held great gifts as well as monsters. I have to be awake to this fact.

I spend time writing, reading, sitting in a big chair I love and just looking out with a diffuse gaze and musing about life, love, creativity, God, my haircut, Ellen DeGeneres and my weird neighbor.

Seldom do I listen to music which I always thought was odd (though I do love The Rolling Stones)

But now I just do what I’m drawn to do and relish the luxury of being able to choose.

Sometimes, I really miss intimate time with a man. Not just sex but the easy exchange of flirt and fiest and fun and folly. I have good male friends as well as women. I need their energy to help me stay balanced and tether me earthward when I fly too high.

What makes me happiest is what I call “BEING IN THE RIVER”. It feels very different than living a life watching the water from the bank.

Standing in the middle of the river one must continually adjust and re-balance to negotiate the shifting current from fast to slow as well as dodging the debris all the while enjoying the coolness and flecks of quartz just out of reach.

Being in the river means allowing ones’ self to be moved. Leaving the heaviness of WILL on the bank with socks and shoes and entering the water as an innocent; willing to be guided, taught, opened.

In the luxury of my contemplative life I can explore territory known to few.

I know this is the thing people used to pay me for when I sold a piece of art; I had done what it took to set my life up with time and space to deep sea dive and return to the surface with gifts of color, form, impressions, ideas they hadn’t the time themselves to conjure.

Now- instead of creating art in form I write, talk or just keep quiet.

So luxurious.

The Accusation of Optimism

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drawing, 1980, 24×30″
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I have used the following personal example of our culture’s predilection toward need = decrepit, victim, hopeless, helpless, anti-beauty, stay away, unkempt and usually angry, in another post

But I’m pulling it out again because it makes a point.

Years ago when I first entered the foreign lands of applying for governmental assistance in the form of Social Security Disability I was coached by a few folks to dress down.

They suggested I actually costume myself like a bag person and not bathe for a number of days

Because-

They said: “If you go in there looking like you do, no one will take your true needs seriously because you don’t LOOK like you need anything.”

I was appalled then.

And now.

There are quite a number of people I know and hear of who are in the CULTURAL WOUNDOLOGY CLUB (I call it).

Unfortunate but true: Having some wound whether it be a divorce, illness, addiction, broken ‘something-or-other’ makes you part of a clan. You belong. There are others like you. It feels almost giddy to share stories and feel the pleasure and alarm (hers is worse, better than mine) of the hierarchy in place, ready to dole out the slimy goodies we get from being somehow broken.

I can speak with authority about this because I know the club well. I have participated, paid dues, broken bread in the sanctity of ‘OH!- Woe-is-me-land’.

Don’t get me wrong here- The very finest medicine I know for a broken heart or soul is to be witnessed by another person in our pain. It makes it possible to feel the realness of it as we are reflected in our friend. We feel less crazy, less crazed by the anxiety of dealing with the cards we were dealt.

My temperment naturally pre-disposes me toward optimism or the high road or the silver lining.

I am blessed this way.

Actually, optimism thankfully interests me much more than other choices and the natural density of ‘poor me’ or: ‘give me attention please- I’m needy’ is not my natural direction.

So- when those people suggested I dress like a bag person to assure I looked needy enough to receive the support I so sorely needed I said a lusty “NO!”

What I did was write a one page description of what a day is like for me. I read it out loud to the intake person. I arrived in clean clothes but
left all gussification behind. I trusted in the truth.

I was approved in three weeks.

There is a part of my optimism many people naturally distrust because it does not go with their experience of what looks to them like a life of suffering.

Yeah… there’s suffering here. You betcha.

A good friend sent me this today:

“I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” – Winston Churchill

Yep.

Archaeology

I am re-posting the following because….well- just because.

indians1
monoprint, 1990, 30×22
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Archaeology

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Yesterday I felt positively radiant.

Today? Well…Let’s say major slippage has taken place.

You know, one of THE most exhausting things about this whole MS challenge is trying to figure out the cause of an effect… Why could I walk yesterday, have a reserve of clear energy and feel great about every darn thing, while today there are tears doing their best to push forward with no let up in sight, my foot curls under itself and my muscles ache and stiffen so I walk like Frankenstein? I am so tired and then I am afraid. Afraid that it will always be this way; that all the gorgeousness of yesterday will never be again…

UNTIL! Until I remember that CHANGE is the only constant! THAT is what I can count on!

So…. I go to work:

I go down the list and ask myself:

1. Do I need to drink more water?
2. Did I eat something that affected me? Or not eat at all?
3. Is there stress I need to handle somewhere?
4. Did I take all the stuff that supports me? (supplements, medication)
5. Was I out in the sun too long?
6. Did I use more energy than I can generate right now?
7. Did I stay too long with people who are too much ‘work’?
8. Did I take time to be silent today?
9. Did Spirit get too far away?
10. Did I forget to protect myself energetically out in the mad, mad world?
11. Did I not ask for help when I had the chance?

Each time this really scary loss of ground happens to me I contract into fear until I grab myself by the scruff of the neck (gently) and ‘re-up’ into life. The time it takes to do this gets less and less as I keep proving to myself that their really ARE causes for the effects and I am smart so I can find them, do what’s needed and carry on in some kind of graceful and radiant way.

When all is said and done, the gratitude I feel in ‘the return’ always brings me to my knees because in the shadowy recesses of my mind, I know it is not a given.

Whatever The Hell Happens

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detail of painting on wool flannel, 1985
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“Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life,the idea came to him of what he called ‘the love of your fate.’ Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, ‘This is what I need.’ It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.

“Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.”

Joseph Campbell, A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.

Two Feet

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In all my wheelings around downtown Santa Fe of late I have noticed my world, located about two feet below an ambulatory person’s, is populated with previously invisible (when I walked) characters and intriguing stuff.

It is so fascinating how perspective shifts of a few inches can put one into what feels like another dimension. Which is exactly the truth when you think about it.

I know street people’s names and greet them as friends. They are low down.

The brickwork on that building is spectacular but hard to see because I am bumping around so much from the potholes I’m not looking at.

Also- there are grape hyacinths in the lowlands. Their fierce purple taunting the last flurries.

The man from another country selling jewelry with his constant companion of a cigarette- he always turns away as I approach his outdoor cart on the way to Starbucks.

I want to like him but I don’t.

My friend DANA sings outside in all sorts of weather. I like him. His singing is ok but his soul is the genuine article and I tried to treat him to coffee one day because his chapped hands got to be but he said: “I’m not a coffee guy.”

I stuck a 5.00 bill in his cup in lieu of caffiene and his playing stopped as he just looked at me and said: “Thank you, Cathy. Thank you. Cathy.”

I rolled away fast because it felt too intimate.

All this was hidden before from me. I was two feet higher.

Do these encounters seem of no consequence to you? Five years ago, if someone tried to tell me these things I may have felt pity. Probably so.

But you should be jealous.

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The Poetry Of Adaptability

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HAIKU-

SOFTENING MY MOUTH
TAKES MOST OF THE HARDNESS OUT
OF AN ARMORED HEART

- CA

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Adaptability means allowing ourselves to be malleable; fluid to the river of life.

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DEFINITION-
make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify.

synonyms: modify, alter, change, adjust, readjust, convert, redesign, restyle, refashion, remodel, reshape, revamp, rework, redo, reconstruct, reorganize;
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We can’t enter new territory all armored up being “right” because then there is no room for any newness to enter.

My best tool these days is what I call THE INNOCENT MOUTH. I have written about this before but feel like mentioning it again because it is so potent.

When I am really sure I am RIGHT my mouth tightens, lips thin, jaw sets, skin loses luster and liveliness, eyes harden and neck pulls in on itself.

Sounds pretty, eh?

(The best way to do this is to just consciously drop your teeth away from each other- lower jaw drops 1/2 inch down and jaw hangs naturally)

I have been paying attention to discarding armor for awhile now so I am sensitized to how these symptoms look and feel on me.

All that energy put in to defense leaves little left over for possibility.

And that is what I want.

I want to know that I have what it takes to move from the “THIS IS TOO HARD!!!!!!”

into:

“Just one little minute here Cath… Breathe, pause, start again.”

This is a micro-example, surely but the point is to keep at it and translate into bigger stuff that comes down the pike.

Soft mouth.

Innocent mouth.

Possible goodness.

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Willingness

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ceramic, approx. 5x3x3″
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WE ARE HERE

We are here essentially to risk ourselves in the world, we are a form of invitation to others and to otherness, we are meant to hazard ourselves for the right thing, for the right woman or the right man, for a son or a daughter, for the right work or for a gift given against all the odds. And in all this continual risking the most profound courage may be found in the simple willingness to allow ourselves to be happy along the way…

©2011 David Whyte
Excerpted from ‘LONGING From the upcoming book of essays CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.
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The Point Is…

beargrass

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“And the point is, to live everything.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke

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