Category Archives: letting go of fear

And So I Pray

In every life, a little rain must fall so flowers can grow and hearts can learn to weather the storms and break open in Love. Pgs 28 – 29. Sheltered Wonder art journal

When I started this Sheltered Wonder art journal project, I wrote out the Wonder Rules to guide me. The reason for the journal is clear – to identify, acknowledge and celebrate the things I’ve learned, experienced, grown through, been challenged by and challenged during the sequestered solitude of Covid.

There have been so many moments where fear rose up, threatening to consume my peace of mind. It was through spending time in nature and in my studio that I was able to grapple with my fear so that I could find my calm even in its presence.

There have also been moments that absolutely took my breath away. Moments where the beauty of the world around me outweighed the sorrow and grief.

And, there have been moments where I felt like I was drowning in sorrow and grief. It has been here, in my studio, creating and writing, that I have found comfort, insight, healing, grace.

In this bubble in which I live, life flows as effortlessly as the river outside my window.

I struggle some days to align my world with what is going on in the world around me. And right now, that means how do I Share Grace, the fifth Wonder Rule, with my neighbours to the south where violence and death tolls continue to mount as the unrest boils over and Covid ravages lives daily.

There is little I can do in the physical world to change the course of events outside my own sphere of influence.

There is lots I can do in the metaphysical world, and also in this ‘cyber world’ where we meet up and share and learn and grow.

And that is, to practice every minute of every day, the art of sharing grace.

The issues that are impacting our US neighbours are deep and profound. Sitting here, north of the 49th parallel, it can tempting to sit in judgement. To cast aspersions upon those in leadership roles, those in power and control, those breaking the laws, those upholding them.

Grace means, I don’t do that. I cannot share darkness. I must share only light.

Light comes in many forms. For me, to add value (which is part of the fourth Wonder Rule – Find Value ) – my light must come in the form of my prayers. I must use my prayers to override any commentary I might want to make so that it is only my prayers that ripple out into the world for peace, understanding, compassion and healing for my neighbours to the south and all the world.

Just as the girl in the painting is carrying a bouquet of flowers to the tree surrounded by a field of wildflowers, I can only add my prayers to the millions of prayers going out to our US neighbours and to the world.

And so, I pray. In rain and sun, under grey skies or blue, I pray.

And I send my prayers out to the sky, the trees, the air, to the river of love flowing to those whose hearts are breaking, those whose lives are ending, those who are carrying burdens that feel too heavy and are falling under the weight. Those who are fighting for and against the turmoil of these times.

Those who are standing in confusion, fear, worry, sadness, sorrow, grief. Those crying in the darkness of their grief, those crying out for mercy, those calling out for the violence to stop, those calling out for change to happen now.

I pray and in my prayers grace finds me and hope embraces me. Hope for our neighbours to the south. For the world still struggling to come out from under the yoke of Covid. Those still struggling to come to grips with the loss of those they love, the life they had, the life they knew as normal. Those praying for peace. For change. For relief. For life.

I pray and send my prayers and my Love out into the world. It is the only way I can Share Grace.

May we all know peace. May we all know Love. May we all find the courage to heal what separates and divides us. May we all embrace our differences and celebrate our humanity as one people, one world, one human race.

And so I pray.

Namaste.

The Joy Of Letting Go

Have you ever laid in bed, late at night, listening to a faucet drip? Remember that moment in between each drop? You hope it stops. You fear it won’t and then… the next drip sounds and you wait again.

One part of your mind says, ‘get up and do something about that drip’.

The other part, it wants to believe it will just happen naturally. The drop will stop dripping all on its own.

And so, you lay there wavering between the hope it will stop, and the fear it won’t.

Like the child learning to feed the wolf of kindness and grace, or the nasty harbinger of grief and misery, we go through each day making decisions between drips and drops of time passing. Between choosing hope over despair. Possibility over holding on. Love over fear. The known over the unknown.

In our quest to hold on to what we know, we are blinded by our fear of losing what we already have. Trapped in the fear we will lose it all if we let go, we cannot see that letting go is the initiation rite of passage we must pass through to discover the joy of flying.

Yesterday, on a bi-weekly call with two beautiful women friends, I shared how I fear letting go of ‘this space’ to create a new, exciting platform from which to launch my ‘next phase’.

I know. I know. Who says I need a next phase anyway? Heck! I’ve paid my dues. Done my service to humanity. After almost 20 years working in the homeless serving sector, I ‘deserve’ to ‘go quietly into the sunset’ or some such trite apothegm.

Fact is, I say I need, no wait, want a next phase. I want my life to have meaning that is purposeful and of service to humanity. Not because it feeds my ego. It’s not my ego that yearns for sustenance. It is my soul, my heart, my ‘person’.

I don’t want to go back. I want to go forward to explore a different terrain than the not for profit world I embraced so whole-heartedly in the past. A world that gave me great joy and fulfillment.

And see, there’s the thing, right there. It ‘gave me’. Past tense. It is not of the present.

What brings me joy today?

The peace and tranquility of my life is lovely. But as I told my friends yesterday, I miss the feeling of being busy. Of juggling many things. Of making purposeful decisions about big ideas.

Ahhh yes. I miss big ideas and big thinking. I miss feeling like I am part of making change happen.

I don’t want to go back and I cannot go forward without letting go of this space between the drip and the drop.

The end of this month will mark my one year anniversary of freedom from the 9 to 5, which as my daughters remind me was more my 24/7.

It has been a year of challenges. Of gut-twisting growth and heart-wrenching breakthroughs. Of soul-defying deep dives and fear-inspired pushing back.

I am ready.

And that’s the exciting part. “I don’t know” is a beautiful place to start my exploration.

I crave depth. Substance. Meaning.

Always have.

I crave growth. Creative expression. Connection. Belonging.

The question is: Am I willing to let go of holding on to what is, to fall into the unknown that is calling out for me to soar and discover all that is possible beyond what I already know? Am I courageous enough to live the questions with grace?

As Rilke so beautifully said,

Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainier Maria Rilke

The question is: Am I courageous enough to live the questions knowing the answers can only be lived through letting go of holding on to what I know?

Am I willing to let go of holding on to what is, to fall into the unknown that is calling out for me to soar and discover all that is possible beyond the edges of all I know?

Ooohhhh…. What heady, exciting, life giving questions to live everything now!

 

This small, succulent, juicy moment

 

The day begins here
at the edge of the horizon
where earth and sky embrace
with sun sweetened kisses
breaking morning open.

A stranger writes to tell me how much my words meant to them, and tears well up in my eyes.

I watch a man in a bright yellow jacket standing on the bridge watching the water flow, and tears well up.

A chickadee lands in the naked branches of the bush below my window. She hops from branch to branch, a fragment of a song slips through my mind. The Sunshine Band. “Do a little dance. Make a little love. Get down tonight….” A smile raises the corners of my lips slightly. Tears well up in my eyes.

A squirrel poses against a tree trunk, tail straight up pointing towards the sky, his body pointed towards the ground, head lifted as if looking straight at me. I smile again and again, the tears well up.

I sit and watch the river flow past. A chunk of ice floats. A duck balances its body on its surface, bobbing up and down as the ice moves along. Smiles and tears again.

There is so much beauty in the small moments.

My heart aches for the small moments. For the moments devoid of virus counts and mass shootings where innocents are slain, not by a glob of proteins attacking their lungs but by a man with a gun intent on taking lives and destroying the peace and beauty of an entire community.

My heart aches and I feel the tears and I feel the sadness and sorrow and I let them flow.

Like the river, they move on, flowing ever onward toward a distant sea.

I sit and breathe and pause. My eyes take in the ineffable beauty of the moment. I fill my senses with the wonder of it all.

So much beauty. So much ugliness. So much darkness. So much light. So much life and death entwined in the eternal dance of being present within the gravitational pull of this planet that sustains us, grounds us and holds us up every moment of every day.

I feel the tears pushing at my eyelids again. Tears swollen and bruised with the sadness of these days of deaths by a virus and manmade destruction.

And then, two geese rise up off the river. Honking loudly, they fly up into the sky, up towards the sun rising in the eastern sky.  I run outside onto the deck to capture their wild, carefree flight and feel the cool gentle kiss of morning against my face.

The wildness within me stirs. My senses awaken to this beautiful dance of life in all its complex beauty. Love and joy, sadness and sorrow flow and mingle, forever entwined within the inexplicable beauty of this moment in which I stand, outside in the rising sun, feeling the freshness of spring air against my skin, listening to the honks of two geese flying towards the sun.

And I breathe again, relax the tightness in my shoulders, close my eyes and stand in the cool, crisp air of this spring morning.

No matter the source of these tears, I tell myself, let them flow free. In their passing, you will find yourself rising again into the beauty of this sun-kissed morning where the most precious thing of all is this moment in which you stand, exposed, wild of heart, grateful for the gift of the inexpressible beauty of this world in all its light and darkness.

And so I breathe into this small, succulent and juicy moment and count my blessings. They are many.

Namaste

 

 

Sheltering-in-place

Saturday morning. I think. The days no longer marked off on a calendar of events, appointments, coffee dates and meetings. Their normal ebb and flow blurred in the wash of life lived sheltering-in-place.

I know they say it’s best to keep to a schedule. To set your alarm. To rise and go to bed at the normal times.

Normal feels so strange in these days of isolation. Normal feels abnormal, unnatural.

Saturday morning. I sit at my desk at the large picture window that overlooks the winter parched strip of grass that separates our yard from the wild space along the banks of the river. The space where trees and bushes and tall grasses wait, bare-limbed, for spring’s warming kisses.

Beyond the trees the river flows its normal flow. Effortlessly. Easily. Its surface unmarred by ice jammed up against the bridge abutments.

There is nothing normal about this time. Yet, in the ordinary moments the extraordinary appears. A slab of ice floating down the river, a fleeting reminder of winter’s presence drifting off to a faraway sea. Between here and there it will thaw and melt, break up to join the river water running wild.

More ordinary appearing as extraordinary. A squirrel leaps from tree limb to tree limb with the grace of an acrobat flying from trapeze to trapeze without a safety net below, only the invisible nature of gravity.

It is in the moments of letting go and reaching out to hold on that the extraordinary waits. It is in the moments where we hang suspended in the ineffable grace between each moment, supported only by gravity, that all things are possible. Even flight.

Two geese skim the river’s surface in preparation for flight, their giant outstretched wings never touching the water. Their bodies lift off. Their wings extend even further and they are flying. Up. Up and away. Held up by gravity and air. In harmony. Wing to wing connection.

I want to know the feeling of flight. To feel my wings stretching as wide as wide can be. To feel my body outstretched, reaching for the sky.

I want to fly free.

Free of this grounded reality where staying at home is the safety net I fall into day after day after day.

I want to unhook the newsfeeds carrying stories of death and rid my home of talking heads and pundits gathered together yet apart, sharing their predictions of a future they cannot see but do not hesitate to prophesize.

I want to be like the river otter that sometimes pops his head up out of the river where he lives on the banks at the edge of a calm deep pool. It lies just around the bend where the dogs run on a gravel beach and children play in summer at the water’s edge. Floating carefree like the otter, I would look up at the sun and sky and bear witness to its extraordinary beauty in every ordinary moment.

And here I sit. Grounded. In place. Safe.

Carefree. Careless. Couldn’t care less… about the news. The statistics.

But it’s not true. The not caring part.

I do care.

Deeply. About the people. The lives lost. The lives falling ill. The lives of those fighting to live and those fighting to save lives. About those who go out every day to create the possibility of my staying at home, sheltering-in-place in safety.

I care.

And so, I do not turn off the news. I do not shut out the talking heads and block my ears to pundits’ prophecies of what is to come. I cannot live in the moment isolated from reality. I cannot contribute to creating a better future separated from the here and now.

Instead, I teach myself to consume it all in palatable bites. Bites that do not feel too big to chew or swallow. Bites that keep me aware of, but not consumed by, the deaths of my fellow members of our human race, real people whose lives have been ended by a tiny invisible-to-the-naked-eye microbe about whom books shall be written, movies made, stories told for generations to come.

I am teaching myself to be present in it all, like the otter in the pond, like the geese taking off, like the squirrel flying from tree limb to tree limb. Suspended. Held up. Letting go. Holding on. Trusting. In gravity. Grace. Time and space.

I release my need for surety and hold onto only that which sustains me in this moment. The beauty. The wonder. The awe. The extraordinary grace of being alive. It is not a lot but it is everything I need in this moment to feel peace, calm, grace flowing in and all around me.

It is not a lot but it is all I can do to remain present to the ordinary magic of this extraordinary time in which the whole world is waiting, sheltering-in-place, for a new day to begin.

When fear beckons. Dance.

I awaken to the ruckus of a Magpie squawking outside our bedroom window. Weak dawn light seeps through the blinds.

Beside me, my husband sleeps. His rhythmic breathing a hushed whisper barely discernible beneath the Magpie’s cacophony. I watch his chest move up and down with each breath. His breathing is measured, easy this morning. I push the first ‘what if’ of the day out of my mind. The alternatives to his easy breathing are too scary to contemplate.

I rollover. Check the time on my phone where it sits on my night table. 5:30 am. Is it too early to get up?

I lay in place, sheltering under the blankets, breathing. Thoughts of the day ahead infiltrate the quiet in a swoosh of choppy waves frothing at the edges of my ease of mind. They are filled with distress-riddled words. Pandemic. Covid. Self-isolation. Social distance. Shelter-in-place.

The last vestiges of sleep are ruthlessly washed out of my mind with the tide of emotions stirred up by my thoughts. I get up.

Restless, I walk into the kitchen, turn on the lights above the island to brighten the tepid morning light. I press the on button for the cappuccino maker. It gurgles its familiar greeting.

Beaumont the Sheepadoodle lifts his head from where he sleeps on the chaise by my desk. He raises his back haunches, puts his front paws on the floor, stretches and lowers his back end off the chaise to join his front paws on the floor. He paddles over to where I stand on the far side of the kitchen island. I scratch behind his ears, he leans his warm body into my leg. We stand like that for a few moments. Breathing into the quiet. The morning. The noises and words that disturbed my sleep slip away with his warm, familiar comfort against my body. I say nothing about lying on the chaise where he’s not supposed to be.

I take him out for his morning walk. Long coat covering my pajamas.  The Magpie is gone. The sound of distant traffic ripples through the air in concert with the river flowing past. The streets are empty.

Inside again, Beau wanders off to sleep away the morning on the bed, curled up in the curve of my husband’s legs. I close the bedroom door. Shut in. They won’t arise for a few more hours.

I walk back into the kitchen. Make my latte. Think about cleaning the oven. It’s a self-cleaning oven. Doesn’t take much to get the job done. The job feels too much for me today. I let the thought pass.

I wander through the room. I pick up some papers from one spot and move them to another. I fluff a pillow on the sofa. Fold the blanket I used last night to keep me warm while I lost myself in some forgettable movie on Netflix. I carefully place the blanket at the end of the sofa. Just so. Order amidst chaos.

My head keeps running through the litany of things I should be adding to my To Do list. I need to write them down. I decide its too much effort. I’ll think about the To Do’s later.

I check in with my feelings. Restless. Uneasy. Weary. And my old friend, fear, is there, lurking in the back corner of my mind, seeking disruptive entry.

And I haven’t even checked the news yet. I haven’t read the statistics.

And already I’m weary.

I am weary of the mounting losses. Weary of the constant reminders to wash my hands. Keep my distance. Stay home.

I am weary.

I take a breath.

Weary or not, here I come.

I turn on some music. Not my normal gentle morning sounds of piano and cello.

This is music to stir my soul. Raise my heartbeat. Get me moving. Chase the worries away.

Andra Day. Rise Up.

Aretha Franklin. Respect.

Eurythmics. Sweet Dreams.

Survivor. Eye of the Tiger.

Gnarls Barkley. Crazy.

Gloria Gaynor. I Will Survive.

Journey. Don’t Stop Believin’

Lee Ann Womack. I Hope You Dance.

The voices rise. I rise up to greet them. I start to move. My body. My arms. My legs. My feet. I start to move. Back and forth. Side to side. I find the rhythm beneath the words. I let my body have its way to the beat.

And I am dancing.

Dancing in the morning light. Dancing to greet the day. Dancing to raise me up.

I am dancing away my fear. My anxiety. My weariness.

I am dancing.

I hope you dance. Too.

_______________

Thank you Brian Webb for your ‘Shelter-in-Place Playlist’ and for your inspiration.  I’ve only included a few of your songs here — but the whole list is amazing! Thank you for your inspiration which inspired me to ‘Dance Away the Blues‘ this morning. 

When Will The Future Begin?

Dawn rises quickly here above the 51st parallel. It graces the sky with hurried rosy hues like a prima donna blowing kisses to adoring fans before exiting stage left as the curtain falls and the audience rises to continue on with their lives.

Night has fallen asleep. Day has risen. Daily life begins.

For citizens around the world, especially those of us who have the luxury to take care of ourselves at home in these days of Covid, daily life has taken on a new rhythm. For many of us it is slower. Calmer. Perhaps even less stressful and pressure-driven.

Yet, for the majority of us, there is a constant concern rippling through our minds. Concern for our health and wellbeing and for the health and well-being of those we love. Anxiety about ‘what will happen next?’ Anxiety for what the world will look like when all of this is over.

In a world of information at the press of a key on our laptops, we worry about which sources to trust. Which politicians to believe. Which pundit to heed. We worry about whether we have enough information or the right information to weather this storm. We worry about what the unseeable future will look like.

We worry about whether our children will fall too far behind in school. We wonder how they’ll ever catch up, forgetting the disruptions we are experiencing are universal, including for our children.  In their disruptive nature, possibilities for change, for different, for better arise. Yet, we worry we will not be able to trust what might happen in the future.

For some, the worry of no job and fast depleting resources disrupts their sleep, keeping them from the gift of rest and the relative ease that comes with being at home.

For others, the fear a loved one will die and that it could happen without a loving family member at their side causes an ache in their heart that cannot be eased by positive affirmations.

And for others, this long, drawn-out good-bye to the lives we knew clouds our minds like fog shrouding our view of the road ahead. Lost in its misty, impenetrable greyness, we crave a certainty we cannot see.

We want to know. When will all of this be over? When will the future begin?

No one knows.

Sure, there are graphs and charts mapping out what the timeline could look like. There are projections of illness counts and death tolls.

But there is no concrete, marked on the calendar with a giant X date to say, This is what the future looks like. This is when the future begins.

The future is now.

We are the future.

This future we are living now demands we let go of old ways of living that do not work for us, nor the world. It demands we embrace new ways of being on this planet, ways that do no harm for our fellow human beings and the delicate ecological fabric of our universe. And, it demands we see the world as what it is: One planet. One ozone layer. One gravitational pull. One global environment. One animal kingdom. One humanity. Connected in all ways through all things and beings.

We are living on the practice field of our future. This stay-at-home condition which so many of us are living right now is our ground zero. Our place where we get to choose to make it a sacred, safe environment where we can learn new ways of being with one another, together and apart. To explore creative ways of being at peace staying at home without racing out into the world to find habitual distractions that momentarily ease our angst but cause disruptions throughout our lives and the world around us.

And, it is a time to build our gratitude muscles and practices. To be thankful for all we have, especially those who make our lives rich and meaningful. Those who make what we have possible while taking care to say thanks to those who risk their own well-being in order that we can stay at home during this time of Covid.

We are mapping out our future by sheltering in place. As we go through each day, we are being invited to breathe deeply into what is present in our lives right now. To trust we are doing the right things to take care of ourselves and others. To let go of fear so that we can breathe easily together as one planet, one humanity, one human condition.

Our fear clouds the present. It builds pathways to tomorrow that are not built on trust, but rather, anxiety.

Anxiety does not make a good bed companion, nor a good road builder.

Trust in yourself. Trust in this precious planet we call home. And trust that in doing the right thing today, whatever tomorrow brings, your courage, strength and Love will rise up to guide you in handling whatever comes your way with grace.

Trust that you gave your best to every moment today. You gave your all to create a world of peace, hope, love and joy.

No one can tell us when the future begins. But we each know when tomorrow comes. Right after today.

Let’s live today for all we’re worth so that every tomorrow is built on the beauty and love we bestowed on every minute of today.

 

Namaste

 

A Tale of Two Pie Crusts

My mother made amazing pie crusts. In fact, because it was so good, and because she taught my eldest sister how to replicate her goodness, and for many years she gave me packets of uncooked piecrust for my freezer, I never bothered to master the art.

Until Covid.

Like millions of people across the country and around the world, I’ve decided it’s time to stretch my culinary muscles.

I mean seriously, I can whip up a four-course gourmet dinner with unpronounceable delicacies and intricate sauces. What on earth is keeping me from adding a perfect pie crust to my repertoire? It can’t be that difficult. Right?

Ha!

Over the years, I have ventured into what I hoped would be pie crust heaven only to find myself in a hell of a mess. Dry crust. Too moist crust. Unrollable crust. Heavy, tough crust. I’ve made all the mistakes. Which probably accounts for the reason I generally opt for crusts I can pat into the plate without any need to roll the beastly thing out!

No more I told myself! It’s time to conquer my fear of pie crust hell.

On Saturday my odyssey began. I watched some videos. Checked out recipes and then got to work on making a crust for Chicken Pot Pie. Let me just say, the filling was excellent. The crust? Well… that’s a whole other story of woe.

I’m sure if my mother is watching from on high, she is rolling her eyes and cautioning me to follow the directions, treat it all with loving care and slow down. Be patient. Be kind. Be gentle.

It’s all your fault mom. The fact I don’t like following directions. The fact I tend to speed through things I don’t know how to do. The fact, I don’t like doing things I don’t know how to do!

Remember. You used to always get so upset with my need to ‘Do it my way’. As a teenager I enjoyed the tension that brought into our relationship a lot. In fact, I’d often do everything the way you didn’t just to make my point. I wasn’t you and didn’t want to be!

I mean seriously! I didn’t want to be you, but it’s all your fault I’m me. Hmmm… Now that made lots of sense.

Fact is, for many years, my litany of your faults made my life one big messy pie for which, albeit not true, I like to believe you were to blame. Things like, my inability to follow directions. My lack of being able to tell left from right. North from south. My poor discipline when it comes to weight loss. My untidy bedroom, even my unmade bed.

All of that was your fault. And don’t get me started on the big things… My failed relationships. My need for perfection. My fear of failure. Ooooh… that’s a biggy!

Yesterday, I decided to dive into my fear of failure by taking a second foray into blending flour, water and shortening into pie crust.

My second attempt is not perfect – rolling it out was still an anxiety-riddled adventure that resulted in a few patches here and there. But all in all, it isn’t too bad.

And that’s where I have to thank my mother. To get it all to roll together, I had to incorporate many lessons she taught me throughout my life.

To be patient in the face of my fears.
To incorporate kindness into everything I do.
And, to be gentle with the world around me.

My pie crust yesterday didn’t turn out as perfectly as I wanted, but then, life seldom turns out to be the perfect road we want it to be (just as our mothers could never be the maternal goddesses of our dreams). But life is always the road we need to travel to find ourselves right where we are and our mothers are always the perfect teachers of what we need to learn so that we can become the person we want to be.

Thanks mom. I know it’s not your fault my pastry crusts haven’t had the flaky tenderness of yours. Just as I know you’re not to blame for the challenges (and misadventures) I’ve encountered on my road.

To be clear, though, I give you full credit for the lessons you taught me on how to weather life’s challenges with patience and humility. And, I am forever grateful for the gift of love you gave me always. The gift that enriches my life every moment, because, no matter how challenging I was in our relationship or how many challenges I faced in my life, you taught me how to turn up in the world with kindness, grace and a heart full of love. Always.

Namaste.