“To become deeply silent is not to become still, but to become tidal.”
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.
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”
It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!
“A healthy relationship is where 2 people just make a deal that they will help make that person the best version of themselves.”
I feel more beautiful today than ever in my life; even while limping around and wrinkling my brow in the frustrations inherent in the small moments of my day no one sees but me.
Can’t cut vegetables? I grimace to get more muscle into it and it still doesn’t work.
Then- compassion comes.
Compassion for my self.. my complicated girl-self on her hero’s journey.
My face becomes softer and my eyes too. I like how I look and the vegetables are still there.. uncut.
I keep getting the gift of one more step forward
And I am never alone anymore as I have felt so often in my life. I have my tribe around me.
I aspire to the sublimity and Grace of THIS
No matter how many grimaces or how much surrendering She takes.
I have 2 power chairs- One is quite small and also quite old. I use it in the house and it loads into my car. The larger of the two chairs I use for tooling around town adventuring.
The aged one was gifted to me by a friend. I hated it. It did not feel like a gift at the time.
It was big and black and obtrusively disturbing to my persnickety aesthetic (I like white).
After awhile I was grateful for the support, it’s diminutive size (turning radius in small apartments) and the freedom it afforded me as my physical self lost ground.
The other day it just quit on me. Dead. Dead in it’s tracks.
It was an inopportune spot- seductively near the bathroom and tight quarters made it dangerous for me to attempt trying to rescue myself.
I sat there for awhile and thought:
I could grab hold of walls and doors and hobble my way to my other chair but if I fell I’d take the chance of hurting myself which I can’t afford.
(Livvy the wonder dog comes to check on me)
I try wiggling the levers to release the power steering so the chair can be pushed manually and can’t do it.
What’s a girl to do?
What if I have to pee?
God- Cathy- don’t even entertain the thought.
Where is my walker? Let’s see.. can I get to it? No.
The answer is no.
I hang my head.
NO! CATHY YOU WILL NOT COLLAPSE!
I have my phone and call my caregiver who by all rights should be here at 9:00am (it is 7:00 now).
I pull myself together, call her and see if she can come now. No- she has her family to see off but she will be there as soon as she can.
She has forgotten her house key.
I call the apartment office and she goes over to get the key.
I am rescued. (10:00am)
I am humbled to the innermost layer of myself. Again.
I am not in control on so many fronts.
I hate that reality.
Most people know this fact intellectually.
I know it very viscerally, soulfully, emotionally.
Because I know this at my core I have the gift of being able to segue quite readily into the other point-of-view which illuminates the fact we create our own reality.
This is such an over-used and tired phrase.
What it means is this: Life is a theater, a play, the Divine Comedy if you can get there.
If you don’t like the scene- change it (for me stuck in the chair it was the choice between being a victim to it or laughing at the absurdity of me trying so hard to avoid the whole mess).
MESSY! MESSY! MESSY!
Life is so messy.
And then it’s not.
And we carry on…..
Over this past year I have really been trying to be a solid but permeable container for my own emotional shortfalls, confusions, resentment, sadness, worry, chaos and general inner violence.
For it surely is mine; generated by me, affecting me most, fueled by my very own fire.
I am inviting Peace.
Dealing with such health challenges as I do allows large swaths of musing time to decipher and de-code what works, what doesn’t, what I need and don’t.
What I end up with is the truth of desiring a peaceful and soft heart, standing at the ready to be affected, moved, used and effectively used up before my time is done.
From the Buddha-
One day the Buddha was walking through a village. A very angry and rude young man came up and began insulting him. “You have no right teaching others,” he shouted. “You are as stupid as everyone else. You are nothing but a fake!”
The Buddha was not upset by these insults. Instead he asked the young man, “Tell me, if you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, to whom does the gift belong?”
The young man was surprised to be asked such a strange question and answered, “It would belong to me, because I bought the gift.”
The Buddha smiled and said, “That is correct. And it is exactly the same with your anger. If you become angry with me and I do not get insulted, then the anger falls back on you. You are then the only one who becomes unhappy, not me. All you have done is hurt yourself.”
“In illness, you’re suddenly not yourself anymore. The question is: Are you going to cling in panic to some idealized self that no longer exists? Or are you going to cross the threshold and acknowledge that you’re on a journey, though you don’t know to where? You haven’t chosen it, but now you’re different in some way. This is one reason physical illness shows up as a turning point in so many spiritual biographies or as the catalyst of shamanic initiation. It’s a profound shock to the system. It dislodges you. You look in the mirror, and one of the unfortunate ill stares back. But in a way, you could say that disease also abrades away, painfully, all of these superficial ways in which we judge our worthiness, even life’s worthiness. Our worthiness, as in: “Am I strong, beautiful, competent, undamaged goods?” Or life’s worthiness, as in: “Life is good only when it makes me happy, or aggrandizes me, or favors my enterprise.” But who’s bigger, you or life? There’s a Rilke poem Robert Bly has translated: “This is how he grows – by being defeated, decisively, by ever greater beings.” by Marc Ian Barasch
My amazingly supportive sister and a very good friend gave me the gift of choice for Christmas.
Inside a tiny box wrapped with a perfect red bow was a gift card from AMAZON.
My sister said in the card she was giving me the “gift of choice.”
I had not realized that choice about so many things falls away with the onset of illness, disability or any kind of ‘emergency’ living..
For me- the choices to move the way I desire, eat what I want, dress in the clothes I’d choose with buttons or zippers, work out hard in a yoga class, drink wine, get bodywork, spend longer than an hour with friends, give dinner parties, travel, buy things that lift my spirit and keep me healthy (flowers, candles, nice clothes, expensive supplements, girly potions, books and magazines, go on road trips, wear cowboy boots while driving my truck) have fallen to the wayside one by one.
Life is jammed with a good deal of “I can’t” due to financial, physical, emotional and over-taxed nervous system reasons
So CHOICE is a luxury which softens the iron gates and lets me cross the bridge into self-nurture.
Most of the world is pinned into the cage of survival with no psychic energy left over to even think about such things so make no mistake- I know my privilege.
Beauty is essential to me but not nearly as accessible as it once was.
But my deep need to live a life of beauty forces me to find it elsewhere.
Which I am very good at, thankfully.
I can find beauty anywhere. And do.
But given the gift of choice, a fine smelling face moisturizer that actually works
Feels like treasure… (this I bought with my gift card!).
These seemingly little things help me stay out of despair
And give me strength to engage with the world in service, pleasure and purpose.
Perhaps to add a bit of beauty as I am able.
NEW YEAR’S POEM
This new year I wish to tread softly on my path
And learn the grounded power and acute attention of a wild cat.
I have the desire to disturb as few blades of grass as a lithe snake
Purposefully carving her organic road;
Enjoying micro-movements of muscles
All working together in Grace.
Speaking of Grace- the trusting, innocent eyes of my dog are those I strive to see my world with.
I want to care for my clan with the fathoms deep depth of an African elephant.
My voice wants to carve sweet somethings through heavy airs.
My skin begs to exude a perfume as yet unknown
Instead of the intermittent metallic notes of judgement and impatience.
My heart imagines itself lying there, quite open and pink;
Oozing nectar ready as food for those who have none.
I want to tread softly through this magnificent forest;
My attention missing nothing…
Not the horror nor the Grace.
I will use my wild cat eyes and ears to try my best to take it all.
-Cathy Aten 2014
I am decorating an outdoor and very bare tree
With cut out ornaments
From disposable (read: recycle-able) aluminum cookie tins.
Circles, moons, stars in honor of solstice.
This crafty activity reminds me of my thrift store-haunting mother.
There is an undercurrent of mixed feelings about it.
But it had to be done, it seems…
It will be great.
I will post a photo when it is complete.
For now: THIS makes me happy.
I want to be able to make the sounds the black guy makes.. I really want this, Santa.