Thursday, September 25, 2014

August Moon Day 6: That fiery feeling

What are the signs that you are on fire? does it feel in your body when something really gets you going? Think about the last time you felt really turned on by something. Sink into the feelings and capture them as accurately as you can.
What is the catalyst for this feeling? What is it that you love about feeling this way? 

Ah.  And there lies the problem right now. I am not on fire about anything, not really. And I wish I were (ah, but read on....perhaps in introspection there is also fire!)

Right now all my attention is focused on me, my health, and getting stronger and continuing to feel good. That's where it belongs, too. I am my most important priority.

The reiki level 1 classes that I recently took were right on the mark, but in a different way than I've experienced before. The benefit was for me, not for a group or a cause. I learned new things and techniques, I was able to share that with a group of committed women who also were interested in learning and in sharing with each other, and I got to practice the techniques both on myself and on others in our class. It was a wonderful three days. It was a bonding time as well for some new friendships.

It was calmer, though, not fiery. Very intensely focused, totally present in the moment, and so much of it was internal. It was not a 'Save the World' moment, not even a passionate cause moment as I've experienced them in the past. It was quieter, very intense, draining even, and immensely joyful.

So maybe I actually WAS on fire, but differently. Huh. Hadn't thought of it like that.

I am committed to practicing reiki on myself and extending it to others, and to learning more about how it works and encouraging my intuition and the presence of Spirit in my life.  I want to grow the friendships I've begun (and deepen those already established): a community centered around Spirit has been one of the things I've felt lacking in my life for some time.'

I've believed for a long time that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. That's happening. Go, me!

Monday, September 22, 2014

August Moon 14: Day 5: The perfect (work) day

What would your perfect work day be like?

Whatever scenario that you have conjured, how does it make you feel when you picture yourself in it?

Not here any more. Not for a few years now. Won't be again, not in this lifetime.

I can tell you that working for myself was the perfect work day, however. I loved the flexibility to set my own schedule -- when my daughter was in school, I could attend after-school soccer games or track meets or assemblies without taking 'personal time.' If I had appointments, I could adjust my own time to accommodate them. I got to get out and meet and talk with people enough to keep me from being a total hermit, but there were plenty of home days in sweats and no makeup as I wrote stories or fanned the creative muse. Nobody but me was responsible for my meeting deadlines and completing projects, or pitching projects and making them happen. I was harder on myself than nearly any manager I ever had.

I found this out by working in other areas for much of my career although I did a lot of freelance work too. I liked my nonprofit work too, although working with a diverse board of directors can be a challenge especially if there are political landmines to both identify and avoid stepping on. But I enjoyed promoting a 'product' or service that benefited the public. I liked selling intangible benefits and I was pretty good at coming up with ways to do that. The stuff I didn't like was the office games and power politics and snarkiness.

But when it came to lining some big honcho's pockets with corporate dollars, I didn't do so well. Oh, I made some good money at it, and tried hard to believe that the products we were selling really would improve lives and make a far better difference than those of our competitors, but it was the politics that eventually got me. The jockeying for position within the company and department. The gossip. The backbiting and clock-watching. (Funny how everyone noticed what time you arrived but nobody saw when you left...) The lack of good people managers -- maybe they were smart enough in their field, but TERRIBLE at taking care of their direct reports. The reorganizations. The hockey-stick sales projections that MUST be met. The lack of interest in anything remotely personal or humanitarian or service-oriented.

Not for me, that life. I am no good at being political. I am lousy at gossip. I expect people to be truthful and loyal and decent to each other. And they weren't.

I am happy to be retired from working. My toughest critic is still me. My schedule is still flexible. And the benefits are great.

August Moon 14 Day 4: In my closet

What's hiding in your closet?

What, in your wardrobe, feels most like you?

 Eclectic applies here too. Although there are a very few items leftover from my more corporate work wardrobe -- a 'funeral' or Sunday church dress or two, some dress slacks, one lonely blazer -- most hangers hold decidedly casual clothes. Summer things include linen and cotton tops and capris -- it's too hot here to wear anything with a polyester vibe. Winter clothing features several pairs of jeans, some colored, most dark wash. Basic tees; a few boho tops and kurtas. A lot of long scarves. Fleece vests. Some cardigans, hooded and not. 

Lots of white and beige for summer since it just feels cooler. Lots of black for winter since it goes with everything. A few brightly colored or patterned tops in each season's offerings.

My winter favorites are two very boho, multicolored cotton knit hoodies; one in patchworky and slashed colors with black background, the other in a beautiful turquoise with embroidery and patchwork applique.

My summer favorites  -- right now I am so sick of hot weather that I no longer like any of them.

But my shoes are what I love most: Alegrias in chunky Mary Jane styles with fun patterns -- a Midnight Garden in black with twining flowers and leaves; a black pair covered in colorful cats; fun, funky daisies in primary shades; Aztec Tile with intricate, colorful half-inch squares; a silver and black zebra print; a more sedate black pair, but crinkled with icy etchings; athletic shoes with an unexpected purple paisley accent. They are comfortable, best of all, and work with my funky feet. 

No heels anymore. Nothing that hurts anything. I am all about comfort and fun these days.

The bohemian tops feel most like me anymore: a bit quirky, comfortable, sometimes colorful, perhaps a little retro. Maybe it's my inner hippie finally coming out? And while I admire the neatly put-together jackets and scarves and dark-wash jeans and boots that I often see on Pinterest (and rarely on the street, at least these streets), it's just not 'me' any longer. I want flowing and soft and loose and comfortable and a little unusual, either in the fabric or in the cut. I want scarves and long pendants and lots of bracelets and hoop earrings. All with my fun shoes. 

Mama Earth meets inner hippie with an occasional dash of grown-up. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

August Moon 14: Day 3 -- Loving what?

Day 3:
What do you love?
Today we’re going to delve a little deeper. We’ve had a think about what it is that we do. Now let’s make some space for what we love.
Say someone found all of this evidence many years after you’d gone: what conclusions would they draw about the things/ideas/people you loved?

Angels watch over us in our great room, perched on the high ledge over the wood stove. Most are my mother's collection; a few are ours -- one from a grateful client. Angel chimes sit near them atop the built-in bookshelves. They make me feel connected to the Universe and to those we cherish. 

A bouquet of mostly floral teacups surround a pretty floral teapot in our china cabinet, and sad to say, they are all mostly unused. The teapot was a wedding gift to my parents and has a few mended cracks visible, casualties from my childhood. The cups are from my grandmother's, great-aunt's, and my mother's collection, plus a few from my former mother-in-law, and I love them all. 

That cabinet also holds white curved twin Red Wing Pottery vases -- another inherited wedding gift that somehow escaped breakage. We rarely have flowers because our two kitties like to nibble on them, but the connection to the past and my parents is strong there.

Books are everywhere: old ones, oft-read childhood ones, the brown leather and gilt Shakespeare from my childhood displayed in the great room shelves along with a few china knickknacks and some handmade birdhouses. In the salsa-colored den on the white woodshelves that cover one whole wall -- the bulk of the collection, arranged by non-fiction subject and fiction alphabetical author, at least mostly. Colorful covers pop at us -- trade paperbacks mixed unashamedly with  jacketed hardcovers and somber Bibles and hymnals. It's our personalities in there, a pretty accurate representation of what we love to do, love to read, and who we are -- or at least were at some point. Our newer interests rest sedately in the Kindle cloud, unseen by eyes other than ours. And that, I think, is a loss of sorts, although I love my Kindle.

Magazines too, in stacks waiting for periodical files; on end tables waiting to be read or finished; in baskets by the bed and my favorite reading chair. 

Cookbooks are crammed into a built-in kitchen niche -- worn church and service club collections next to the ubiquitous red-and-white Better Homes and Gardens, A much-taped-up recipe file is stuffed with computer-printed samplings and long-ago hand-written recipe cards. My mother's and grandmother's recipe files rest in a cabinet nearby, and when I pull one out, the handwriting always brings them into the kitchen with me: Jule Kage and fruitcake cookies and pecan shorts every year at Christmas, especially.  

Two paintings, one from each daughter, are almost the only non-photographic art on our walls, although our bedroom also holds the Holstee Manifesto which reminds us every morning as we get up about what is really important  Otherwise we are surrounded in every room  by photographic memories of events, trips, scenic vistas, and a few taken to illustrate my freelance articles that are particularly interesting. 

There is no planned decorating in our house, other than coordinated, rather vivid, wall colors of red-dirt clay (although my brother snarkily referred to it as 'dead salmon'), muted oak-tree-leaf green, salsa red, and a few lighter peachy tones -- colors that reflect the outdoor landscape where we live, so visible in the big windows that are everywhere. But a theme? No. Each collectible, each knickknack has a history and is something we enjoy seeing daily. Kindly put, our style is eclectic.( And probably not helped much by the 6-foot-plus cat tree and numerous scratching posts in varying degrees of shredded sisal that sit next to the scratched-patina leather chairs and mostly intact cloth upholstery and quilts and afghans and pillows. We like comfort. So do the kitties.)

While we have many music CDs, we like the country quiet and seldom think to play music in the house. It's a broad mix: Grateful Dead, Loreena McKennitt, John Rutter, Vaughan Williams, Traveling Wilburys, Johnny Cash, Mark Knopfler, the Beatles, Broadway shows.  Our preference in television series and movies swings to drama, but often with a twist, and yet we enjoy the Pixar movies too. 

We are both generalists -- we enjoy a broad range of styles, of subject matter, of content, of delivery.  We like things around us that mean something to us, although we are slower to eliminate things that no longer reflect who we are or serve our needs, probably mostly out of habit. We like comfort and warmth. We love the outdoors and the ocean -- there are many ocean photos on our walls. We enjoy the feeling of being connected to our past and to those we loved, and also to the greater Universe. We are hodgepodge,diverse, a bit unorganized. Eclectic.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

August Moon 14: Day 2 -- Right now


Day 2: right now

What is it that you do now?
Tell us what fills your weeks, days and hours. What sorts of themes are emerging from your list? What is missing?

I am almost embarrassed to contemplate this one these days. I fear that I take so much of my time for granted, and spend it doing unimportant, even frivolous things.

I spend a fair bit of time online: reading blogs, catching up on emails (which are a big mix of inspirational, shopping announcements, and miscellaneous stuff that somewhere in time I signed up to receive and which I periodically go through and take myself off the lists), following links, reading news, and yes, playing a few games (although I don't do the big time-suckers anymore). And yes, Facebook, although I certainly don't post something even daily, but I do browse through my friends list every few days, check out who's liking or commenting on what, and reading posts in the groups to which I subscribe. And putzing: Checking Amazon for the latest in Kindle books, or the price of a gadget that has caught my fancy, or reading about afib, or glaucoma, or whatever health issue it is that I am interested in at that moment. Or searching for recipes and bookmarking them -- diabetic ones, healthy ones, ones that use the veggies I have on hand, and so on.

Let me say that the Internet to me is like a huge, at-my-fingertips library, and I relish that I can immediately find little facts or information any time I happen to think about them. As a child I spent a lot of time in libraries, sometimes just reading my way through a subject or an author, not for any purpose other than my own enjoyment. That's how I feel now about spending as much time online as I do.

I prepare two meals a day, mostly from scratch -- Tony does breakfasts -- and there are always household bits to attend to -- making the bed, picking up clutter, sorting through mail or newspapers or magazines, laundry, folding, ironing, rearranging, cleaning.

I read two newspapers most days, and usually manage a few magazine articles, but most of my reading is done once I'm in bed at night, on my Kindle, with whatever book I'm engrossed in at the moment until I can't keep my eyes open any longer.

I shop mostly weekly for groceries and household necessities, and usually meander through the stores whether or not I have a list in hand.Yes, I'm one of those people who go into a store for six items and come out with six bags.

Periodically I have doctor's appointments, or blood draws (at least monthly, lately it's been weekly or more often because we've been regulating the blood thinner following my ablation). A hair appointment every six weeks. Bunco monthly. Lunch with a friend every so often. Television at night. Petting and playing with kitties, including distributing treats and attention most nights to our outside boys.  Plays, when they are running. We've joined a concert association this year and also have tickets to a couple of other concerts and fun events this fall. My monthly reiki group.

And spending days with my husband. Soaking in that joy and the simplicity of our lives right now. Being retired is a true privilege when you can decide how and where you spend your days. We've traveled a good bit this summer, and that has been great fun to see new places and old favorites together.

My days go by quickly. And I get stuff done -- although there are still closets and corner that need tackling. But I don't know that they are structured very well or efficiently, or that they hold as much quality as I'd like them to have.

I don't know how on earth I handled a fulltime job, school-age child, household chores, church activities and choir and committee work. But I did, once upon a time. It seems quite daunting to me now, however.

What's lacking?
** A regular exercise habit. I haven't been to yoga in months, mostly because I felt fairly lousy and fragile and anxious. I still feel somewhat fragile and very, very out of shape, and I hate that.
** Any sort of volunteer activity. I am simply uninspired and not feeling the volunteer love for anything right now, and haven't for some time. And I am keeping my eyes and mind open, too.
**  A challenge....growth opportunities and fun time. Maybe a class (loved my reiki classes last week!) A workshop. I don't know.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

August Moon 14 Day 1 -- Setting an Intention

 I am late to this party, Kat McNally's lovely prompts for the 2014 August Moon. I knew I'd be writing them later because when they began, I was preparing for my cardiac ablation for atrial fibrillation, and that took most of my conscious energy.

I am happy to report that all went well, that so far I am in normal sinus rhythm and minus one heart medication. This process, not visible externally, takes at least three months for the doctors to pronounce it successful, and can take up to a year to heal. The heart has been violated, burned inside it, and there is no salve, no healing dressings that can speed recovery. Time is the great healer.

As soon as I read her outline for this series of writing prompts, I knew how very appropriate it would be for me this year, considering the ablation recovery process. So here is Day 1's prompt:

Set an intention.

On this first day together, in the light of the beautiful full moon, I invite you to share what is it that you want to explore over the next two weeks. In particular, I invite you to consider the crossroads at which you find yourself, in any aspect of your life.

Indeed, I do find myself at a crossroads: my atrial fibrillation is potentially eliminated (and my doctor found and burned three separate areas that were causing that rapid, irregular beat). And for much of the last three years I have slacked off on physical exercise, first because my left foot was so painful, then because I was recovering from surgery to fuse that ankle, and later because the afib became more frequent and those symptoms pretty much wiped me out.

So here I am: foot is as healed as it is likely to get (and doesn't hurt like it did), and my heart is beating quietly and unobtrusively away in a normal sinus rhythm. I have another chance at improving my physical stamina and overall health.

My intention, then, is to grab this second chance, this new beginning, and live better, happier, wiser, and more deeply. That means kicking up the level of physical exercise. That means being more conscious of what  and how much I am putting into my body. That means exploring the spirit that has so surrounded me during this ablation process and before, and actively seeking learning opportunities. That means eliminating as much stress as I can, be that caused by people, situations, activities, or thoughts. Up with meditation and calm; down with being with people who I don't especially enjoy or doing things that I am not passionate about. Up with saying NO when the little gut feeling hits; down with feeling 'obligated' to do something.

This quote, inaccurately attributed to Meryl Streep, sums it up so well for me:

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.”--author/life coach José Micard Teixeira

Monday, September 01, 2014

Never 'less than' anyone -- I am enough

I am finally ready to begin the lovely and introspective writing prompts for August Moon 14, thanks to Kat McNally and her ever-fertile mind and brave writings.I am late to this party since she began emailing the two weeks' worth of prompts Aug. 10. Fortunately, neither she nor I care when they get done: what is important is that I examine where I am.

But first, let me say what is foremost on my mind today, largely because of a dream early this morning and also an innocent question asked about my recent surgical procedure.

I am not 'less than' anyone. I have never been 'less than' anyone. I am fully, wonderfully, bravely flawed and wholly exactly who I am. And that is enough.

The dream was fairly interesting, involved various electronic and film equipment set up in tight quarters perched somehow on the balcony of what appeared to be either an old church or an old school, with trailing wires everywhere. There was a gathering of people who I know, not well, from various parts and times of my life sitting below at tables and chairs, and there had been some interaction with a few of them, not unpleasant but not remarkable either. Somehow one of them was moving a film screen on the balcony, and I grabbed at the end of the bottom roll, telling him I'd help and to be careful, and with that, he pitched completely off the balcony, much to my horror and dismay! I don't believe he was injured, but it was clear the rest of the group was judging me, whispering disapprovingly, as they moved to help the person who had fallen. I was, as I have been many times before in my life, left outside, and feeling very much 'less than,' shamed, worried, and awkward.

I woke abruptly from this, and the thought "I am not 'less than' anyone. I am fully who I am supposed to be. That is enough" was clear and completely formed in my always-fuzzy morning brain.

 This week a lovely friend asked what caused the atrial fibrillation for which I had, exactly a week ago, a radio-frequency catheter ablation. It was an innocent, well-meaning question that anyone unfamiliar with the disease might ask. But it, too, momentarily made me feel 'less than,' as if somehow I had brought on this condition through some action or behavioral folly. As if somehow, if I had taken better care of my body, always maintained a healthy diet and good exercise, lived a blameless, shameless life, done something -- anything -- smarter-better-faster-healthier -- that I would not now be recovering from this procedure, or from any other health issue for that matter.

Oh, I so understand the fallacy in that.

But the feeling of 'less than' is insidious and pervasive. It does not respect celebrity nor money nor career nor lifestyle. It grabs a toehold where it can and hangs on, waiting patiently if need be, to feed. In my case, I know it has been there most of my life.

And I believe that even those we imagine to be 'more than' we ourselves are -- healthier, wealthier, slimmer, prettier, more successful -- suffer from the 'less than' feelings at least sometimes.

The person who makes me feel 'less than' is me. Nobody else has access to my thoughts, to my emotions. That responsibility rests squarely and completely at my own soul's door. 

I am not at fault for anyone's actions but my own. I am not responsible for anyone's thoughts or feelings but my own. Nobody has the power to make me feel 'less than' except me.

And I am declaring that I am enough, just as I am. I am not 'less than' anyone, no matter whether I am fat, skinny, healthy, unhealthy, whether I do yoga every day or once a month, whether I eat kale or candy, whether I am part of the wine-drinking, stylish, party group or prefer to sit watching television in my comfy yoga pants with my husband. What I do with my life is MINE to decide.

My choices are my responsibility too. I get to choose my lifestyle, my health habits, my foods, my friends, what I do in my spare time. Nobody else gets a say in that either.

 I realize that sometimes the shit hits the fan, and we get atrial fibrillation, or cancer, or name-your-disease, or god-help-us-all Lou Gehrig's Disease. It is not our fault. We do not get this because we are 'less than.'

(Okay, I will concede that there are things we can do-- choices we can make -- that lessen our odds of some disease or condition developing, like quitting smoking, not doing drugs or alcohol, exercising regularly, etc. LESSEN, mind you, not prevent. And then again, they are choices we get to make for our own lives -- and having made the choice, it also is wholly ours to accept. We are not victims when we choose our course of action. )

So this is where I am today: I am enough, exactly who I am, flaws and all. How I live going forward is completely up to me.  I will not accept anyone else's judgment of me as 'less than' -- or, for that matter, 'more than.'  It is my own thoughts that are important here, my actions, my choices. I am all that I need to be, right here.