Poems wisdom transfer

In an age if sound bit spoonfeeding
is it fair to require so much work?

interpretation through experience
(and dictionary consultations)
to unlock
the hidden meaning in your prose
or pride?

without accessibility, what is it but idle
fodder for the trained elite
to be discovered and dismissed?

yet answers gotten freely
through no effort of your own
blow off quickly in idle winds as well
so what is the poet and the philosopher to do
but embrace the unraveled paradox
as truth

with me, the bride of cleverness,
(overlooking it’s divisive powers)
seeking unity.

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Saving

I tried to save you from yourself, to no avail
as the possibility of me saving you was naught.
I saved the brochures of my travels through Europe
when without you I did not rot.

I saved bits and pieces of the sea from our trips to Hawaii
which you condemned and said to look for bugs.
I saved namaste bookmarks and anusara invocations
you frowned seeing them upon the rug.

I saved a piece of my soul for you
you turned and looked away,
I saved a piece of my soul for you
and that’s why I still have it today.

earned vs. given

So many drafts, so few published posts… Here’s one just to skew that balance a bit…

I’ve been thinking lately about my kids’ views of my life and our family life.  I think it’s easy for my kids to look at me and think that I’ve got it pretty easy, and in many senses I do.  I work in a part-time, flexible, well-paying job. I have a great husband who provides well for our family. I am home with my kids and play a large role in their lives, which is important to me.   In recent years, I  have found time to pursue some of my personal interests (including writing this blog) and do meaningful volunteer work.  What my kids don’t seem to have a sense of, and I what I feel that I need to impart more to them, is how hard I’ve worked and the sacrifices that I have made to get to where I am.  There were many years of harder times: the long hours worked, the studying for professional exams, the sadness of having my kids in childcare while they were young, the paying off of  student loans over many years, exhaustion when the kids were young, and the personal and professional sacrifices my husband and I both made to have our family be our priority.   A lot of this happened before our kids were born or while they were too young to really remember.   I want my children to have an awareness of this, not to change their view of me, rather to give them a sense that getting to where I am now is not a given, that it requires hard work and sacrifice and  I don’t want them to be resentful if they don’t get to an ‘easy life.’  I also want them to have a sense that there are no guarantees that my ‘easy life’ will last forever.  There are many things that could derail my current path, some of which are within my control, but many of which are outside of my control.

Which brings me to earned vs. given.   Most things in my life have been earned by me as opposed to being given to me.  Earning something is ‘harder’ in many senses than being given something. But for me, the things that I’ve earned mean much more to me than the things that were just given to me.  While included in my general definition of ‘things’ is the material stuff, it also means job promotions, respect, wisdom and a vast array of other intangible things.

I’ve noticed that, broadly speaking, this generation of kids, more so than my generation and the ones that came before, has been given a lot of things.  And it seems to have bred a culture of entitlement in some areas- a false expectation that the world owes them more than it should.  There seems to be a belief that “If my parents have ________, then I should too.”  That blank can be filled in by many things: the latest smartphone, designer clothes, a luxury car, fancy vacations, an easy life, power and prestige, a flexible schedule, choice to do as I please, etc.  and the kids aren’t entirely to blame for having this mentality, as many parents have (knowingly or unknowingly) promoted it.  The missing piece that is being forgotten is that, for the most part, the parents have earned these things, while the child has not.    Most kids on the surface love being given all sorts of things (and will even demand them) and parents can feel good about all they are providing for their kids, especially if they were lacking the equivalent of most of these things in their own childhood. The short-term effects can seem positive.  Though in the long run, I think this mentality and the expectations that go with it, will bring all sorts of discontent and meaninglessness into the lives of our children, especially as they journey into adulthood.

What if this generation of kids can’t ever earn for themselves all these things that they’ve been given freely?  As a parent I do not plan to continue to support my children financially into adulthood, nor do I plan to allow them to live off my coattails-professionally or personally.  I want them to have a sense of earning things for themselves, and the pride of accomplishment, and the experience of living short-term sacrifices in order to attain  longer term gains.  But it’s hard to go backwards, it’s hard to downgrade and downsize from where they’ve been.  It’s also hard to work for something that you were just given before.

I think we are misguided as parents to try to make our kids’ lives ‘easy’ and to try to save them from life’s disappointments and pain; I think we have to have lived through the harder parts of life to truly appreciate the easier parts of life.  I think that many things that we are given have a hollowness to them and can’t be fully appreciated for what they are.  Truly, I think we all need to have meaning in our lives, to know that the things we’re doing matter and that our lives have purpose.   I believe that things that are given to us can eat away at our own fulfillment, while things that we’ve earned can enhance our sense of meaning  and purpose in our lives.

I’m curious to know how others feel about all of this.

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the value of surrender

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For almost two years, I have been a regular practictioner of Bikram Yoga.   That’s the hot, sweaty, hold your balancing and strength poses for what feels like a very long time, yoga.  The instructors call it “a 90 minute moving meditation.”  Every day of practice teaches me many valuable lessons.

One of the biggest lessons from my practice has been the value of surrender.  I am not a come by surrender naturally type of girl.    I generally feel the need to meet force with opposing force.  One of the yoga instructors emphasizes “effort with ease.”  This is not my usual M.O.  My mindset has tended to be if you meet resistance, will yourself to push harder; if you feel like quitting, suck it up; if you’re tired, tell yourself that you’re not… you get the picture.  This is the mindset that got me through running a marathon, several half marathons and a crazy 10K mudrun.  I can almost believe that this mindset served me well in those moments.  However, it becomes annoyingly difficult to operate in this mindset in a 110 degree humid room full of hot, sweaty bodies, where you’re sweating like you’ve never sweated before and pushing yourself to your mental and physical edge repeatedly, all at someone else’s prompts.  In that room, at some point, it’s all too much- all of the feedback from my mind and body- and it is in those moments that I just surrender, because there is nothing else I can do.  That is not to say that I leave the yoga room.  Instead, I stop thinking about how hot it is, how hard the poses are, how inflexible my body is, what tasks I have waiting for me after class, how this class compares to the last one that I did, etc. and I give in to the yoga.  I do not will my body to do the yoga, rather I accept that it can.  The chatter and feedback that are generally ever-present in my mind fade away.   In those moments I am fully present in my mind and body, but also fully accepting of the limitations and strengths of both.  And oddly enough, there is a certain, dare I say, bliss, in that surrender.  Because I just don’t care anymore, and with that lack of care comes an almost exhilarating freedom,  and that is perhaps why I keep going back for more.

the truth in typos

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I seem to make many typos when composing email and texts on my iphone.  Some of them are funny and non-sensical while others actually speak the truth in ironic and prophetic (and sometimes pathetic) ways.

Today I was sending a text to thank a friend for a 21 day online mantra meditation that she turned me on to.  I was trying to send a text saying “thanks for the info on the meditation, I’m loving it.”  But instead it ended up being “thanks for the info on the meditation, I’m living it.”

This mantra journey is all about self-love, wholeness, and our oneness with the Divine and the Universe.  It’s one thing to sit down and do or listen to a specific 15 minute mantra meditation each day, it’s quite another to actually live that meditation each day, incorporating it wholly into how you relate to yourself and others.   And while I truly am loving these daily meditations, I can’t honestly say that I am fully living them; rather they feel more like one compartmentalized aspect of my day, which may or may not impact other compartmentalized aspects of my day.

Thinking about it, many times if we love something we should be living it, or living in our love for it.   For me, loving something can have a sort of passivity to it, almost like an admiration from afar; while living something requires action and intention. I can see how I’m much better at loving than living.  I’ll need to sit with that for a bit and decide what that means for me…

If you’re interested in the mantra meditation journey, here’s the link.

http://www.mentorschannel.com/DevaPremal/21-DayMantraMeditationJourney/LandingPage/

What did I do today? (and confusing the Davids)

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When I have the time, I spend my day like a gatherer, a gatherer of information-some of which will hopefully ferment with enough experience to become actual wisdom.  Since I can not totally neglect my mother, homeowner, wife, volunteer and paid work duties for too long, my knowledge gathering days are also interspersed with other more (immediately) practical task days as well.  I find that at the end of either of these types of days, I can’t really list of what I have done in detail.  It all becomes part of some vague balancing of doing and being that is my life, but to try to retell it makes it seem dull and meaningless.  To me, that is far from the truth of it.  It’s kind of like why I feel like I am not a good story-teller or joke teller.  I can usually remember the beginning and the end/punchline/lesson, but the details in between get lost, and those are generally the meat, the buildup, of the story or joke.

I’ve talked to other mothers about the peculiar insignificance of our daily tasks.  Many days are primarily composed of what approximates 40, five-minute tasks.   Each task, while requiring completion, in and of itself is insignificant and should not be committed to memory.  None of the tasks requires rocket-science brain power,  just time.  But the math is clear, 200 minutes (5X40), or 3.3 hours of stuff that can only be described as… stuff.  Stuff:  put a few dishes in dishwasher, pick dirty socks up off couch, make a pediatrician appt., follow-up on school book fair info, pay club fees for soccer season, follow-up on confusing email about trip to the museum that I’m chaperoning, look for recipe for dinner tonight, send work related email, confirm carpool arrangements for tomorrow… you get the gist.  These are interspersed with a few other more time-consuming and significant tasks (that sometimes come from a hastily scratched, ever running, daily to-do list), and the bulk of my “kids are at school” hours are filled.

Looking at the “task days” as compared to my “information gathering days,” some ironic similarities and discrepancies surface.  Info gathering generally starts out with a specific purpose, something I have happened upon or thought about prior, that I want to follow-up or do more research on.  Today as an example.  Recently I listened to a “This American Life”  episode on NPR with Ira Glass.  While I’ve probably listened to the show before, it hadn’t really been notable to me until this recent listen.  Now of course I can’t remember what that specific episode was about (here’s the part where I’ve forgotten some relevant details which would make my story a good one), but it led me to look up the show online and listen to many of the excerpts from past shows that were played during the 500th show review highlights.  As part of that, I happened upon one of Ira’s highlights, which was an episode about Americans living in Paris and included Ira touring around with David Sedaris.  Except for some reason, as I was starting the episode, I got it into my head that it was David Foster Wallace that Ira was talking with.  And this led to a huge “does not compute” warning in my brain.  I have read works from both DS and DFW and liked them for entirely different reasons, combine this with having listened to DFW’s Kenyon College commencement speech a few years back, and I was thoroughly and utterly confused.  Here’s what’s running through my head… “DFW’s voice is much higher than I remember it and he’s much gayer than I would have thought…he’s much more odd too…his persona does not match his writing at all, I would have expected more of a quieter, intellectual type person.”   And then I had to go to bed, as it was too late for me to be up anyway.

Over several days I kept trying to reconcile the gap between who I thought DFW was, and who he seemed to be in this interview.  Today I vowed to look into it, as something just wasn’t right.  And sure enough, after a few google searches, the mystery was solved. I’d had the wrong David in my head.  This process then rekindled my admiration of all things DFW, and I watched several interviews that were done with him before his untimely death in 2008.  Somehow in that process (again, not sure of the details here) I ended up on a tangent of reading things about and from Leo Tolstoy, quotes from his “Calendar of Wisdom,” and vowed to myself that once I finish slogging through his “The Kingdom of God is Within You”  (and it is a slog, while there are some gems in the text, you have to get through a lot of other less interesting, more preachy stuff, to find them), I will read his “War and Peace” once and for all.  (I’m not sure how I got through high school and college without ever having that book as required reading.)   Which then somehow led me to looking at some excerpts from Susan Sontag’s published diaries “As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh.”

Through some mystical process, much of this fabulous knowledge then somehow osmosisly (not a real word) disperses into what is already in my consciousness and congeals itself into my broad philosophies of life.  However, to go back and try to pick out individual quotes, philosophies, beliefs to share with others is next to impossible.  It’s there, but just not as a separate, identifiable entity.  I could not tell you specific sources for individual threads of knowledge and belief, rather I could (only in writing) give you the bibliography of all that’s contributed to my philosophy of life.   However, this bibliography does not actually exist, so perhaps I should add to to my running to do list, to be completed on a task day.

Which then would actually bring this blog post full circle.

Something to write

Photo on 2013-09-17 at 22.05I feel like I have to write something, anything. I have no idea where I am going with this post (which is unusual for me) but I can only hide from the fact that I have a neglected blog for so long.  I can only pretend that all of the ideas that keep materializing out of seemingly nowhere in my mind do not deserve to be voiced in print for so long.  So,  begrudgingly and ironically I am sitting down to write, today, now.  I could keep making excuses about how an unplanned 4 day hiatus from school (just a small natural disaster to blame) has left me with my 3 children at home and no time to write, but hey, this is my life and much of what happens in it, for better and worse, is unplanned.  The irony comes from the fact that in the not so recent past, I finished reading the book The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield.  While the gems that come from this book are too numerous to mention, one piece stuck with me, and I have been trying my hardest to deny it.  “There’s a secret that real writer’s know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard.  What’s hard is sitting down to write.  What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”   I could write the book on resistance (no pun intended).  Resistance is a good friend of mine, we go way, way back.  But what keeps playing over in my head, for months now, is that if you want to be a writer, you have to actually write.  Not a novel concept (wow I am funny today).  Yet some part of me, apparently the part of me that doesn’t think that I can/should/am good enough etc. to be a “real” writer, keeps winning out over the part of me that desperately wants to and needs to write.

For all of us that is the easier road, at least in the short run, to let the resistance win.  It has all the rational arguments, it has all the ammunition of why you will fail at what you want to do, it will not hesitate to tell you how childish and silly you are to think that you can be something or someone different than who you are today.  But if you’re lucky, that meek little voice inside you that’s telling you to be different, to start something new (or restart something from your past) will be persistent, will bounce back from the continual bullying blows of resistance, and one day will force you to be who you were meant to be. Having at least written something today, I’m starting a path towards evening the score with my own resistance.

 

Looking back fifteen years

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Fifteen years ago today, my life’s path was forever altered when our first daughter was born.  She came into the world in an unexpected manner -breech, via a C-section- and has been doing unexpected things ever since!

I can remember exactly where I was in my life then.  My husband and I were six months into the ownership of our first home in the suburbs of Boston. I was in my late 20’s, on the fast track in my career, yet still tentative and unsure of my abilities in so many areas of life. Somehow, having a baby then seemed like a good idea.

And she arrived.  I remember the first nights home with her.  Due to my C-section, we were sleeping in our extra bedroom that was on the ground level of our house, so that I could avoid the stairs.  I remember her waking up every few hours to breastfeed and rocking in my glider, feeling totally inept and unable to protect her from the dark, scary forces that I was sure were lurking in the black darkness outside the bedroom window.

We had the summer to settle in and the world of being a parent started to feel a little less scary.  I joined a new moms group to remind myself that I wasn’t crazy and not be alone in my struggles.  I took long stroller walks with my new baby.   At times I would walk through a small cemetery that was near our neighborhood.  I remember one day, near the end of my maternity leave, noticing a headstone that I hadn’t read before.  Based on the dates of birth and death, it was for a baby that had died several months before its first birthday.   I stood there, frozen still, in my denim shorts overalls, red t-shirt and white canvas sneakers.  I couldn’t even begin to imagine the pain and grief that that family must have experienced.  I looked down at my own several month old baby and cried, trying to imagine how I would cope if I ever lost her.  I made a silent promise to myself that day to not forget.  To not forget this family and baby that I had not known, by reminding myself to hold and cherish every day that I had with my own baby.

And now a lifetime (hers so far) has passed.  In some ways it feels like so much has filled those years, and in some ways they’ve flown by inexplicably fast.  Looking forward, we’ve got a driver’s permit and a sophomore year of high school in our very near future.  But for now, I will say a prayer of remembrance and gratitude for the blessing that all my children are still here on this earth with me.

Adopting KSPP

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This snowy May Day seems like a good day to begin my KSPP program.  I think I’ll pronounce KSPP like a lispy “kiss” with a “p” on the end of it.  I developed (I’m using this term loosely) the program myself in the past few days and here’s why…

I’ve been doing a lot reading of general self-help topics, as well as philosophy, brain science and psychology.   I also frequently discuss with other people what their “tricks” are to living better, more satisfying lives.  This has resulted in the gathering of a lot of great information and ideas. It has also resulted in a lot of overwhelm for me as I keep trying to incorporate many of these newly gathered principles into my own life.  I keep remembering, and then forgetting, these many ideas while trying to “live” them daily.  And this is frustrating, as I keep asking myself “what is it I am trying to do here?” It’s all too much to remember; they are too many disparate, complex ideas for any one person to try to amalgamate in their life at one point in time.  So, in an effort to be kinder to myself, and make this process more manageable, I am attempting to vastly reduce and simplify all this “self-improvement” into an acronym mnemonic.  Which is a wonderful segue into the “K” of my KSPP program,  Kindness.

Kindness is an interesting topic for me.  I’ve spent much of my life efforting to be kind to others, while not being very kind to myself.  The internal voice that I carry around with me had a lot to say about me, and much it wasn’t very nice.  So adopting kindness in my life has started with how I talk to myself, but also includes a mindful effort to bring kindness into the small interactions in my daily life- with my family and friends, and with strangers.  I find that when go out of my way to be kind to myself and others, I am more at peace.  I think that as a society we tend to underestimate (or perhaps overlook) the impact of kindness.

Smile is my “S”.  Smiling seems like a simple enough thing.  I am trying to smile more often and for no reason.  Just smile for smiling’s sake.  There is a double purpose in this.  I know that smiling brings happiness to others, but the act of smiling can also bring happiness to ourselves.  We tend to think of being happy and then smiling as a result of that happiness, but it can be turned around as well.  Smiling when you’re not happy, can make you happy. I have tried this recently.  I’ve been trying to smile in some of the hardest yoga poses, the ones where I really struggle.  And even in the midst of all that struggle, I find that if I smile, I do feel happy.

Next comes Posture, the first “P”.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I have been working on my posture for a long time, and anticipate that I will for a long time to come.  At first, the awareness of my posture started with noticing that I was hunched over a lot, that my back hurt regularly and I did want to be one of those old ladies who couldn’t unhunch herself after years of not standing erect.  My husband and my grandfather were all to happy to point out when I needed to “stand up straight.”  My posture has gotten better, and I attribute this to having more awareness of it and to doing yoga on a regular basis.  Still, when it’s not in my awareness, I oftentimes find myself not sitting or standing up straight.  I’ve also noticed that when I do change my posture to be more erect, I immediately feel better, my outlook immediately changes, and adding a full deep breath to open myself even more is the icing on the cake. This one has both internal and external benefits for me.

Finally, we get to the 2nd “P”, which is Pause.  Inherently tied into pause, is patience, which also is part of my “K” of kindness.  While I don’t generally consider myself to be impatient, I do value efficiency.  Add to this the fact that we live in a world of constant motion, connection and feedback, and we end up lacking pause in our lives.  Pause for me is taking a moment to respond, stopping and looking around and taking everything in, taking a breath to sort my thoughts and feelings, etc.  It  so far has shown itself to have tremendous value in my relationships with my kids.  Before I jump in to react to something that they have or have not said or done, I am trying to pause.  I am finding that in many instances they self-correct, meaning that my kids do what I was going to ask them to do, they change what they originally said, they stop doing what I was going to ask them to stop, etc.  I’m also finding times when I’ve initially misinterpreted a situation, been about to respond to the situation based on that misinterpretation, but instead paused, and more information or clarification has been revealed, allowing me to see that my initial response was going to be off-base, irrelevant or just wrong.  I find I am enjoying my resulting lack of unnecessary commentary as much as I am sure my kids are.

Now that I’ve defined my current “mantra,” I will be working to figure out how/when/where to gently remind myself of it.  I’ll need frequent reminders, as I know from experience, it’s all to easy to unconsciously fall back into habituated modes of being.