life of m

Sustaining the Self and Beyond


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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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My American Dream

IMG_3940Babies have been on my mind. The other day, I noticed a photograph of a friend with a brand new baby. Something hit me when I saw that picture. I live alone and spend too much time in a vicarious, virtual world of social media.

It was not disappointment that I have not experienced the miracle of childbirth. It was not a sense of mortality.

It was a feeling that I was not a part of a family and that I was not fulfilling my American dream.

This feeling sweeps over me every now and again, when I feel a particular inundation of images from procreating friends.

When the feeling takes root, I sit with it.

I sit with it to try to better understand my own self. Where did the feeling originate?

Was it from a deep desire to be procreating?

I just did not think so. I have been feeling the ticking of biology with far less intensity this past year and ever before. It seemed to lessen as I gave myself permission to envision a different path, one where I was free to fulfill my own kind of dream for my life.

But cultural training does not die easily. I cannot help but feel somewhat of a failure with each infant that appears as a facebook profile photo. I cannot help but feel guilty that I have not given my parents any grandchildren that are not of the canine persuasion.

My entire life, I just assumed that I would get married, have children, and live happily ever after.

When I sit with my self, I ponder my own path.

I am divorced and unmarried.

I am purging my material possessions and moving into ever smaller living spaces.

When I sit with my self and really look within, I do not feel emptiness.

I feel full.

I am happy.

I have dear friends who tell me that one may lead several lives, each time embodying a different physical body and working through different challenges.

In this life, I am beginning to believe that my work is to learn to love myself, to be patient with the universe, and to accept the gifts I am given without requiring more. My work is to learn the language of music. My practice is to learn to deeply listen and thus to hear my own voice and those of so many people as yet unheard.

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Non-attachment isn’t easy

I am feeling sad this morning. On my way to work, I carried with me three, large garbage bags full of cherished stuffed animals from my childhood.

 

I told myself not to look in the bags, to just set them aside until I could meet up with a friend who runs a therapy practice downtown and lets her younger clients pick out a book or toy to bring home with them.

 

It is a wonderful way to part with possessions that have meaning. What use do they have sitting on a shelf? Stuffed animals need to be loved and to bring love. That is their destiny, and I am denying them said destiny by keeping them in my life.

 

I remember a friend of mine telling me that one will always experience seller’s remorse after parting with something meaningful. I should be able to live with this. The lightness I feel each time I part with material things makes the parting of value, despite the bittersweet end to an oft-lifelong relationship.

 

I broke my tenuous promise not to look in the bags. Each time I do this, memories wash over me with each stuffed animal I pick up and hold in my arms. My favorite black lab puppy stuffed animal that I wanted to name Blackie (my parents would not allow me to do this but never explained why….it took me a decade or so to figure it out on my own) and settled on Penny. My Snoopy with the purple ballerina costume and curious George with eyes missing. The pink rabbit that my sister gave me with a skirt she made herself.

 

These animals, who I thought of as very real when I was a child, have gathered dust for several years. They deserve to be the center of a child’s world once more.

 

What worries me is what will happen when the next child is done with them? Will they be cast aside or sent to a landfill? I relinquish control when I let them go.

 

I am going to go out on a limb here and entertain the notion that my difficulty in letting go of these stuffed animals may be a projection of my own desire for stability and control in my adult life.

 

I do not have a background in psychology, but I am well versed in my own inner scape and inner demons. Loss of control is something I have grappled with for years. The ways I created a tenuous sense of control was to take control of tangible things—cleaning, biting my fingernails, the food I ate on a daily basis. All of these components reveal measurable results, however fleeting they may be.

I intermittently experience a similar sadness (call it seller’s remorse) over the loss of my black cat Izzy. Even though I know I gave him a better life by giving him up, I feel sad for myself without his presence in my life. my partner reminds me that it is ok to feel this sadness but to know that my own life is simpler by having fewer animals in it and Izzy is happier because he is with a family who can give him more attention than I could.

So what to do? I have moved seven times in the past two years. I am trying to simplify my life. I have an opportunity to part with material possessions so that my next move may be lighter in spirit and physical weight. I may also bring joy to many children in the Lowell community. And there are some pretty amazing kids here.

 

Do I let go of my desire for control and allow the universe to lend a hand in the destiny of my childhood stuffed animals?

 

Do I hold onto a few? Will that make me feel better initially but heavier in the long-term?

 

I already know the answer; I just have trouble letting go and feel a deep sadness in my heart.

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Sing from your heart

IMG_1918No jokes. No fooling. Spring has arrived in Lowell.

I know this in part because my desire to clean and purge has taken on new force from within. In addition, I feel a deep desire to bring new life into the world. No, I am not talking about that kind of seed. I am talking about plants! I now have many house plants with fresh soil who are much happier (I hope).

My inner scape tells me spring is here and also the cityscape that surrounds me.

The past two afternoons, I have heard a northern cardinal singing his heart out from a tree somewhere in the vicinity of my concrete yard.

On my way back from the gym earlier today, I heard the familiar tones of a killdeer. “Kill-deer, Kill-deer.” An aptly named bird, if you are going for the literal.

And just moments before sitting down to write, a black-capped chickadee joined the cardinal, starling, and house sparrow chorus.

What more could I ask for? An early birthday gift, perhaps?

For the curious, there are a few things I have been thinking about, though to be fair they may be difficult to gift.

My partner often speaks of the power of stating our intention with the universe. This past winter, with palms open wide, we spoke of a shared intention to bring our lives together while holding deep, red Sedona rock.

I have experienced synchronicity with shared energy and desire, and I believe that I can gently try to nudge the universe. The ripple that returns to me may be different than my hope, but I am certain it will be far from dull.

So, with a new season just beginning to walk on wobbly legs, here I state my intention for the present and future months to come:

I will care for my health and wellbeing while continuing to grow my songwriting business.

I will continue to try to be less sensitive to other people’s negativity, even when directed at me.

I will write music and stories.

I will sing from my heart.

I will find a way to be as physically close as I am spiritually with the love of my life.

What are your intentions for today, tomorrow, and the next day? May they be as beautiful and amazing as you!

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