The last day

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Another month comes to a close. With the craze of summer in full swing, I nearly missed writing a post for August. These past few weeks of songwriting, singing, and performance have taken the full depth of my attention.

It has also been a month of making choices and plans for the future.

My practice has increasingly become that of mindfulness and awareness: paying attention to the details of the world around me, of my own inner scape, and the unending dance between the two.

I find that the more aware I become of these realms, the more sensitive I am to the influence of harmful gestures by human hands.

This morning I read a moving article about the fate of the passenger pigeon and was reminded once more of the rippling effect our choices impose on the planet at large.

I began reflecting on my own choices, the ones that seem small but may be deceptively so.

I am an immediate being. I notice the immediate effects of my choices when the results are right in front of me, visible and real. I can easily be lulled into a false sense of the true impact of my actions, imagining the repercussions are more positive than they may be in actuality or not taking a moment to imagine at all.

My meditation for today and every day is to take notice; to make choices out of love, kindness, and respect for all beings; to honor the spirit of those beings who are no longer with us; and to help preserve the presence of those whose breath still cycles through each and every one of us.

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Wounded soul, I am sad for you

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I started my day with songwriting. For me, this is one of the most uplifting ways to begin a new day.

 

I woke up on the earlier side and met with a few folks downtown to begin discussing a new songwriting project. I left the meeting elated and filled with hope.

 

I floated my way down Merrimack Street on my home.

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As I walked by the Subway shop on the corner of Merrimack and Shattuck, I noticed several large pieces of metal and iron resting in a row on the edge of the sidewalk.

 

Intrigued, I slowed my step and gently touched a few of the minutes as I walked by.

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I set my bag and ukulele down, took out my camera, and took a picture.

 

A person sitting at the table spoke to be in a gruff voice. I would not specifically call him a man, for he was masculine in gender but neither noble or mature in action. A small black and tan chihuaha, who sat on the black, iron grated table beside him, behaved with more calm and poise than he.

 

Ma’am, what are you doing?

 

I am taking a picture.

 

I’m gonna ask you to stop taking pictures.

 

Why?

 

Because I asked you to.

 

I’m sorry. I am not sure why it is a problem for me to take photographs of these pipes.

 

Ma’am, just move on and get out of here.

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I am fairly certain this is a free country and as such, I am free to take photographs of whatever I want.

 

At this point, a young staff member came outside, smiled at me, and explained that they were redoing their A/C unit. This explained all of the strange metal piping.

 

Cool! I responded.

 

I proceeded to take a couple of photographs.

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The wounded soul at the table grew more defensive and aggressive.

 

He reminded me that I was to cease my activity and get the (*&^ out of there.

 

I refused to respond with anger or fear. Though I felt a slight, involuntary tremor running through my hands, I did not return his aggression. I felt an acute awareness of his energy and my own.

 

I told him that I recommended therapy for anger management. I really believe that therapy with a skilled therapist who fits your personality and needs is an incredible gift.

 

He told me to go do something constructive with my life.

 

I suggested the same to him, and I told him that I wished him well in as a pleasant a voice as I could muster.

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I really felt no anger toward him.

 

The entire interaction was quite strange and surprising.

 

From where did his defensive, aggressive behavior derive? What kind of hurt had he suffered from someone he trusted?

 

How could someone as diminutive and unassuming in stature cause him to feel threatened? Where did he learn that anger and verbal abuse was a reasonable response to an action that made him uncomfortable?

 

And why would anyone be counter to such a harmless act?

 

I will never know, but I do hope that he is able to find peace for his poor, wounded soul.

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Slow and steady

I shared a meal with a dear friend tonight, a belated birthday dinner with wonderful food and company. We just talked and ate good food. Since moving back to the United States from France, it is rare to just sit and talk at the table as a way to spend an evening or an afternoon. I recommend it. It is both soothing and calming with the right food and company.

Late in the evening, I drove home. I headed south of Route 3, took the exit for 495 toward Lawrence, stayed in the right lane to turn onto the Lowell Connector (weirdest intersecting of highways and byways of any place I have lived), and drove around the Welcome to Lowell sign etched in plants to Thorndike.

Every time I turn onto Thorndike, I am faced with a decision. Stay in the right lane temporarily or move as quickly as possible into the left lane, which is the lane I will eventually need to get to in order to turn left onto Broadway.

Typically, I rush to get into the left lane. Perhaps, somewhere in my subconscious mind I imagine this will hasten my arrival time.

Lately, I have been staying in the right lane. There is less risk of getting stuck behind someone turning left into the train station, and I have time to ease into the transition from highway to home. Plus, everyone else seems to make the rush to get to the left lane, so the right lane is often less occupied.

Tonight, I stayed in my right lane. I thought about shifting left, but there were two cars in the left as the light turned red. I didn’t want to lengthen my return trip by a few precious seconds, so I stayed to the right.

As I moved through the next set of lights, the car ahead of me sped forward. I noticed the car to my left moving faster as well. I could feel a desire to speed up enough to pass the car to my left and get into the left lane ahead of them.

I thought to myself, slow and steady wins the race was all about.

Then, I started wondering what the race really was. What would I gain by winning? And what was it we were racing toward? Did I even want to be a part of the race? If life was a race, why would I want to get to the end any faster?

I rarely make the green arrow signal to turn left onto Broadway, so I have started to relax into the expectation that I will sit. It gives me a few minutes to calm that desire for competition with the other drivers on the road.

Tonight, as I sat at the light, I wondered if it was worth it for the speediest of the cars to make that green light. In truth, the light was actually red by the time they flew around the corner.

I recalled times in traffic when it had felt very important to get around people driving too slow, only to wind up right next to them further down the road.

Why was I competing with them?

Keep in mind that I was returning from hours spent musing on how to find or create happiness in life. Much of my own search has been spent unlearning the cultural lessons of my childhood, where happiness could be attained—or at least contrived—by living in a certain part of town, owning the right clothing, and creating a specific version of oneself to show the world.

I have learned that participating in the life events that my culture has defined as the way to a happy, successful life do not necessarily in fact lead to a state of permanent bliss.

I have learned that permanent bliss is not real nor what I seek.

I wish to be present and aware of my own state of being through each moment of my life and to make choices that are not based on competition, a sense of entitlement, a need to prove my self worth.

By the time I reached middle school, I had figured out that the race was not working for me. It took the next couple of decades to begin to sift through the layers of cultural pressures and expectations for me to discover my own requisites for a healthy, balanced existence. I try every day to adhere to these tenets with mixed results.

I can be slow and steady, but I do not need to win any race.

I would like to be as far as possible from the energy that can draw me in to this way of being.

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Tomorrow, I will be perfect

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Almost perfect.

The digits of my age, when added together, become a perfect number 6.

The other night, I was talking with my dad over dinner.

“You realize that soon you will be a number that is close to perfect ,” he told me.

“I nodded,” as if this was exactly what I, too, had been thinking.

He went on to explain that in the traditional human lifespan we each have two opportunities in our lives to be a perfect number—6 and 28. The next perfect number year is not until 496. While I would like to believe that I am of the fairy kin, I think I should be present as much as possible.

Thus, tomorrow marks the beginning of my third and possibly final somewhat perfect number year, as previously described. So, I guess I better make the most of it.

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The final days of 32 have not been easy. When is life easy?

Soul searching; heart pain; much deep sighing.

I remember when I was in high school, and my AP Psychology teacher talked to us about mid-life crises. In hindsight, I think he was likely experiencing one.

He told us that when you are young, you imagine your whole life ahead of you. The world is full of possibility. As you get older, doors close. Suddenly, you are 30 and you have not done all those things you thought you would by this point in your life.

Dark stuff to tell a 16 year old, not that I think many of us paid especially close attention to him. We adored him, but we were invincible at the time.

Here it is. I have past 30. I have been through crises. I am still standing. My heart is still open.

I am only perfect in that I accept my imperfections.

I hope for this to be a year that is perfect in its own imperfections.

I will be thankful if there were no crises.

Whatever may come, I will do my best to keep breathing, to keep my heart and mind open, and my feet and body connected with the earth.

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Life is limbo

Yesterday, I wrote a piece titled “Life in limbo.”

I am often reminded of wise words from a dear friend in the Pacific Northwest. He told me many years ago, “Marieke, it is fine to make plans; however, be prepared for things to work out differently than you anticipate.” He told me that more often than not, things end up working out for the better even if it was not what you were envisioning.

I know that some of you worry that I share too much of my self in my writing.

I write as a way to reflect and process, to better understand myself and my reactions to the universe and change, and to practice acceptance of the unknown.

I write to feel less alone and in the hope that expressing my own struggles may help create empathy and solidarity.

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In the past, I have with drawn into myself during times of transition and uncertainty. From experience, I know that while this may be my first inclination, it is far healthier for me to reach out to friends and family. They offer support and love, as well as words of wisdom.

I have been trying to listen to wisdom on this most recent bout of ambiguity.

I am breathing, sharing my intention with the universe, and practicing having faith and trust.

I have come up with several mantras that feel true to me. I have been repeating different phrases as I need them:

I am loved.

I will be ok.

I will trust the universe.

I will dance with the universe.

It is ok to feel uncomfortable with the unknown.

I cannot tell you how very grateful I am for each of you. Special thanks to those who have commented with words of encouragement and love.

This morning, a friend told me that whatever happens in my life to do the best I can, keep my heart open, keep my faith and love, and I will be ok.

In this moment, I feel truth in these words.

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Life is limbo.

All the world is in flux, a perpetual state of change.

Things happen. Things change. Change is not good or bad. It just is, and it is for each of us to choose how we respond.

I may think back on times in my life that seemed stable and static, but I imagine that they were more likely periods of time when change may have been happening so gradually that I either did not notice or was reticent to pay attention for fear of what that change might mean.

Another friend told me I had courage.

Still another friend told me I am loved and shared a beautiful poem that I would like to include here.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweet your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

Rumi

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Life in limbo

For days now, I have been struggling with a restless, unsettled feeling. I go to sleep worried that a future I have been imagining may no longer exist.

I feel emptiness from my lungs down into my stomach, a hollow space that I cannot fill. It is just empty. A void. Somewhere in the middle, my heart, right on the edge of communicating the emptiness through tears.

photo 1Since leaving the upper Skagit Valley of Washington state several years ago, I have been living in a perpetual state of limbo. Each time I think I am putting down roots, I tear them out of the ground just as they are attempting to cling onto the soil.

Within a state of limbo, I still manage to create some semblance of stability through actions that provide me with the feeling that I have control over some things.

I can clean my apartment, which I do with frequency.

I can shed burdensome layers of material possessions.

I can sing. I can write. I can create.

I can experience periods of days, weeks, even months where I fool myself into thinking I have control over the unknown when really all that I control is how I respond to people, place, and that which I cannot predict.

This morning, I woke up feeling like my roots were shallow, their will to cling all dried up. I wanted to hide in a dark corner, away from the world.

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I know from experience that hiding does not bring balance or happiness. I am an introvert who needs constant reminders from the social realm that I am loved and not alone.

I also know that hiding from what I am feeling will not help me find peace. I need to sit with it. What does it feel like? Where do I feel it? What does it look like? Does it have a name, shape, or texture?

I am presented with the challenge of determining if what feels real for me is a construct of my own inner demons and deepest fears.

Am I needlessly creating a reality that causes me pain? From where does this fear and distrust stem?

If I can trace the feeling back to its source, perhaps I can come to accept it for what it is and not allow it to rule my heart and mind.

I am learning about meditation, Buddhism, chakras, energy, and how to understand my higher self.

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I am lucky to have many dear friends who have become family. They live near and far but are always close to my heart.

They remind me that I am loved, that I can learn from these experiences, that I am not alone in what I feel and worry about, and that many people who have walked this earth before me struggled with similar demons.

I often find myself living in limbo, waiting for a future event that I have pinned all of my energy and hope on. This future time will be my salvation, a time when I will be free and my life will become easier.

A dear friend of mine told me the other day that the challenge is living one’s own life and ceasing to live in waiting mode. The only certainty there is in life is that you have you and you have today. And you have a chance to do things that contribute to civilization and beauty.

He reminds me that the pain I experience will also help me to sing blues songs with greater authority and authenticity. I laugh in response and try to take comfort in this seemingly small benefit.

Another person tells me that they say a mantra of something know to be true during times of unknown. I imagine mantra but am not sure I believe it in my heart. Thinking about breathing and repeating the words makes me fear that I will lose the tenuous grasp of balance I maintain by taking shallow breaths. If I breathe deeply, I risk falling into the abyss. I will not let myself go.

I am learning about acceptance of what is and how to dance with the universe. If one path I have been envisioning is not materializing, it may be time to open my awareness to what is possible and pursue a different path.

I am continuing to breath, to sit with the darkness and the light I feel in my heart.

I honor my spirit by honoring what I am feeling. It is real as I am.

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Oh, brave new world

Last Wednesday, I went for a walk after a long drive. The air around me seemed restless. It fit with my own feeling of restlessness and uncertainty. The sky was full of billowing clouds, dark and light and billowy. Gusts of wind came from different directions.

When I walk around my neighborhood in Lowell, I can see and feel change and uncertainty. I cross Dutton Street and the Merrimack Canal and pass a single Willow tree, standing tall but with a tired look.

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I walk past a no trespassing sign, guardrails, and cement walls with messages from graffiti and street artists; by a vacant lot with grass and cement blocks, one of the few fields where people can take their dogs to play. I listen for killdeer overhead. They fly between lots. I wonder where they will go when building begins anew in these spaces.

It is just a matter of time.

Growing attached to flora and fauna in a city means imminent heartache. Gravel and cement blocks have taken the place of trees which once lined the Hamilton Canal. When I walk by their former home, I wonder if I am the sole person in this city to witness the Orioles hidden in their foliage, their “che che che che” the only evidence of a fleeting presence.

Northern rough-winged swallows flit in and out of small cracks in the pour cement canal wall by the Appleton Mill. I watch them preen from the wires run from one the Appleton to the Jackson across the way.

I walk to a small gym with a tiny pool in the basement. In the water, I let loose my restless soul. Eyes closed, I move through the water and try not to think but only feel my body touching the coolness of a world where I am only a visitor.

It is my weekly meditation, moving through this water, a time when I can move my arms and legs, feel my body, and glide. For a few minutes, I close my eyes and my mind as best I can, and I do not always succeed.

Outside again, I walk along a gravel path beside a canal. The wind is ripping, and my wet hair is flying around my head. I look down to see a tiny creature, impossibly fragile, hanging onto a pebble for dear life.

I cannot imagine how this creature can survive in a world that would seem to tear it apart without the slightest sense of remorse. I feel fragile in my small, human body but am humbled by the sight of another being moving through its own path in the only way it knows how.

Other souls are less lucky…or maybe more so, to fall victim to the the course of the universe and life in an urban setting.

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I seem to move along my path by making mistakes, pushing the limits of people I love, and reflecting on how I can respond in healthy ways to the rush of energy I feel coming at me every day from all directions.

The more I look within, the more self-aware I become with regard to my own sensitivities. The more aware of my own self I become, the more sensitive I am to the pain I sense in other creatures, to hurtful behavior aimed by those with power to those with fewer defenses, and the more difficult I find it to protect myself from all of this energy.

As the saying goes, my skin is not very thick. I do not wish to become less sensitive, but I am finding that I need to learn ways to be witness to all of this activity without being completely overwhelmed by it.

For now, I will remember the winged one and hope it is safe, wherever it may be.

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