Gratitude Friday

1. The colors of fall. I could do without all the gray, but I love the gold and orange and red.

2. Breakfast for dinner. Even better when there are leftovers that you can eat the next morning, breakfast for breakfast.

3. Mostly healthy dogs. In the past week, we were treating Ringo for a suspected ear infection, and Sam banged up his knee and we had to start treating him for the same yeast infection he had on his lips that took so long to diagnose and fix six months ago. Then both dogs started sneezing and I was worried they might have kennel cough. I’m so grateful it was nothing more than a few sneezes, and that they are doing well with all the other stuff too.

my dogs like the rain just about as much as I do -- not much

my dogs like the rain just about as much as I do — which is not much

4. A happy anniversary, although we both had busy work days and then Eric had an evening webinar he had to do, leaving me to binge watch Netflix in my pjs on the couch with the dogs — not the worst date ever.

5. Some space to finally start working on my book. I’d like even more space, but for now I’ll take what I can get.

Bonus joy: texting with my brother, writing and coffee dates with friends, an advance copy of a friend’s new book, a puppy who’s grown up enough to take himself out to go potty in the morning, the Open Heart Project Sangha and the conversations we are having on Facebook.

21 Years

weddingus

October 9, 1993

21 years ago today, Eric and I got married. We sort of eloped, although our parents knew it was happening. We’d called to tell them, and since we were already engaged, they weren’t surprised. In fact, when I called to tell my parents, I said to my dad, “I have something to tell you,” and he immediately said, “you got married!” I said, “no, not yet — this weekend,” and he answered, “I knew you wouldn’t wait.” We dressed in green and expected to be there alone, but our roommate Randy showed up at the last minute with a disposable camera, the only reason we have any pictures of the event at all.

Eric lived in Colorado when we first started dating and I was in Oregon. He was getting his graduate degree in Philosophy, and had left with no plans to come back. However, during his first summer break, he came back to Oregon to stay with his parents so we could date for real, after months of letters and phone calls and one week long visit when I flew out to Colorado to see him, to figure out what this “thing” between us was, if it might have legs — (he told his dad later that as soon as he saw me get off the plane, he knew he wanted to marry me).

We were engaged by the end of the summer and I moved to Colorado. Our original plan was to return to Oregon the next summer, after Eric finished his graduate degree, and have an actual wedding with guests and a cake. But it became clear right away that it was going to be too hard to wait, that we didn’t want to wait — we wanted to be married, now, so we found a place and a person who could do it and we did it.

anniversaryflowers

flowers from Eric

21 years. I’m not even sure how that happened, how living our life together day by day has already added up, amounted to that. In some ways, it feels like this last one was the hardest won. We’ve lived through some really difficult things in the past few years, some I’ve told you about and some I haven’t. We’ve had long talks about what we want the next 20 years to look like and have had to negotiate differences of opinion. One thing we always have to mediate is the nature of two introverts in partnership, how isolating it can be if we aren’t careful, how content we are to be alone, both together and apart. He makes me laugh, he’s my comfort, my soft place to land. He’s my favorite, my family, my best friend, the problem I chose to have, the choice I make over and over, day after day.

Total Eclipse of the Heart

image by Eric

image by Eric

There was a lunar eclipse this morning. I didn’t even know about it until I woke up and saw there was a message from my brother. He’d texted just to say “hi,” said he was going to try and get up at 4 a.m. to see the eclipse. We couldn’t see much of it here because the sky was hazy, but Eric got a fuzzy picture of it on his run with the dogs.

Today would have been Kelly‘s 42nd birthday. It’s also the anniversary of the day a dear friend lost her son. It’s a tender day of remembering, both the love and the loss. It seems appropriate that for just a little bit this morning, the light went out and everything went dark. It also seems right that after the dark, the sun rose again, just like it always does.

Three Truths and One Wish

image by Eric

image by Eric

1. This is my 1111th blog post on A Thousand Shades of Gray. There’s a particular kind of magic in that number. Some people say that it is “an invitation to open your eyes to the miracles all around that were already there that you weren’t seeing; an invitation to discover the infinite power and wisdom within you that is waiting to be tapped…a general invitation to move toward the inner joy and life fulfillment that’s possible for you.” An invitation to wake up, a reminder that you are inherently wise and compassionate, a request that you pay attention, a sign that you are not alone,

2. God is “whatever lifts your face out of the dirt,” (Elizabeth Gilbert). I find this incredibly comforting, so moving. It doesn’t let me entirely off the hook — it’s still up to me to get up, dust myself off, keep going, but in the moment when I am at my lowest, there is God, lifting my face out of the dirt, keeping me from giving up entirely.

3. I am capable of the deepest despair, but there is something in me that refuses to give up. I’ve never quite understood it, don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s always been there. No matter how hard things get, no matter how much I’ve been hurt, no matter how much I think about finding a way to escape for good, I keep going. It’s something stubborn and determined and certain. It believes that if I can just hang on until tomorrow, hold on for just one more moment or even one more breath, something will shift.

One wish: That when we are at our lowest, we experience the miracle of our face being lifted from the dirt, we know we are inherently wise and compassionate, we remember that we are not alone.

Something Good

1. From Brave Girls Club,

Let it go.
Let it fall.
Let it be.

2. Tattoo Stories on The New Yorker.

3. 11 Ways to Let Go and Feel Less Stress from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

4. 9 Mind-Bending Epiphanies That Turned My World Upside-Down.

4. Wisdom from TKV Desikachar, “The more you teach the more you must practice.”

5. Wisdom from Jane Austen, “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”

6. Good stuff from Elephant Journal: The pith teaching of all Buddhadharma, and The 10 Things We’ll Never Tell You in Yoga Teacher Training (But Should), (Thanks for sharing this one, Keri), and How to be Naked in front of Strangers, (Thanks for writing this one, Keri).

7. I Decided to Live My Truth on Rebelle Society.

8. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

It helps to remember that our spiritual practice is not about accomplishing anything—not about winning or losing—but about ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is. That is what we are doing when we sit down to meditate. That attitude spreads into the rest of our lives.

9. Wisdom from Mara Glatzel,

In order to show up, we must “indulge” in the quiet comfort of restoration.

In order to show up, we must fill our reservoir of strength.

In order to show up, we require: quiet, sleep, touch, love, foods that nourish us, and space to acknowledge our own divinity – the places where we belong in the family of things.

Restoration is not passive. Instead it the a mandatory process of filling the well so that you will have the resources that you need to keep moving, keep desiring, and keep showing up.

10. Time folds like an accordion on A Design So Vast.

11. Wisdom in poetry form from Nayyirah Waheed,

“in our own ways we all break. it is okay to hold your heart outside of your body for days. months. years. at a time. – heal

12. What It’s like to Fly the $23,000 Singapore Airlines Suites Class.

13. Depression and Suicide In Animal Care Professions: What Can We Do? (Thanks for sharing, Sarah).

14. More wisdom from Pema Chödrön, “The life force of the path of fearlessness is genuineness, that is to say, to not be afraid of ourselves.” (Thanks for sharing, Susan).

15. I Am a Woman Reclaiming Body Trust on Huffington Post.

16. They Were Friends, But She Was In Love. When She Tells The Crowd What He Said, They Go Silent. on Upworthy.

17. Mary Lambert Does One Mic, One Take Version of “So Far Away.”

18. Comparing Grief: A Useless Endeavor.

19. Erin Moon: Walking The Path Back To Life on the Good Life Project.

20. Your Career Homecoming with Laura Simms. I told her yesterday that “I seriously feel a little sad for myself that [my career] is the one place I have my shit figured out. It’s like being too old for the most awesome summer camp ever.”

21. Wisdom from Dallas Clayton,

You are as beautiful now
as when you were a beautiful child
before anyone told you what everything meant
and your beautiful heart could run wild.

22. True Stories Series: Meet Lisa Sadikman from Laurie Wagner.

23. friday’s confession: I’m not here to save you from Tiffany Han.

24. On Liam and Balloons and Staying Open on Momastery.

25. Practicing Nonviolence Toward Self, an important article from Phillip Moffatt, in which he says,

The Trappist monk and spiritual author Thomas Merton once said, “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times.”

26. I’m Giving Up on My Son, and I’ve never had a more acute feeling of failure on Medium.

27. 10 Reasons You Don’t Want to Be My Friend Now That I Have Kids on Huffington Post.

28. Meredith Woolnough’s Embroideries Mimic Delicate Forms of Nature on Colossal.

29. Good stuff from Laura Pritchett: The Brutal Truth About Writing About a Father’s Alzheimer’s and Soapbox: Discuss Alzheimer’s disease openly. P.S. Her latest novel, Stars Go Blue, is so good, I read it in a single day.

30. Wisdom from Julia Cameron, “The seeds of our creativity require enough solitude and space to grow unhindered,” and “As creative beings, we need silence.”

31. Skillful Service is Born of a Quiet Heart from Jack Kornfield.

32. Wisdom from Mark Wagner, “Who doesn’t have something for which they need to atone, someone with whom they need to reconcile, something for which they need forgiveness, or someone they need to forgive?”

33. Wisdom from Geneen Roth on Facebook.

34. 17 Mom Confessions about F’ed Up Things Their Kids Have Done on Huffington Post. I get an extra giggle from how many of these involve poop.

35. Other lists of good things worth checking out:

Day of Rest

Sometimes on a Sunday morning, you will find me sitting in front of the TV with a notebook and pen, watching Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. Last week her guest was Alanis Morrisette.

There are certain albums that have come out at just the right time, a moment when I needed a particular kind of motivation or comfort, a way to sing my way through something difficult. I listen over and over, and the music becomes the soundtrack to what I’m experiencing — albums like Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes, or Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill was such an album.

Alanis talked a lot with Oprah about healing. As I listened, I realized I don’t even know what that means or exactly how to do it — to heal. I have been hurt, wounded, beat up, broken, but instead of healing, I’ve just kept going, kept moving, stuffed down the pain, numbed it out, self-medicated, figured out ways to work with or around the injury. Especially in the past few years, I’ve just avoided, resisted — kept moving.

Elizabeth Gilbert was on this morning’s episode of Super Soul Sunday. She said at the beginning, “there still is this wide swath of women who never got the memo that their life belongs to them,” that there are so many waiting for permission to live, to be who they are. She talked later about the hero’s journey, one part of which is the battle or the ordeal. Oprah asked Elizabeth what her battle was, and she replied “The real battle for me was the self-abuse, to learn to drop the knife I was holding to my own throat.”

Oh, snap. Do you see it, kind and gentle reader? This is me.

*sigh*

Even though a few years ago my word was “retreat,” there was no rest in it, no peace. Instead it was deep, difficult, spiritual work, and much of the time a struggle. I don’t regret it, don’t regret that I was working so hard and moving so fast, that I’ve continued to do so — there was important stuff to do. But now, there is a real need for rest, for healing, to slow down and process what’s happened, to truly and fully celebrate and grieve, to assimilate all the new information and changes.

Just like at the end of every yoga class there is savasana — a final relaxation pose in which you give your body a chance to assimilate all the movement, the previous poses, to rest and make a gentle transition into what comes next — there needs to be such a pause in our lives. Just like at the end of a work week, there is the sabbath. Just like at the end of every breath, there is a gap between breaths in which we are still. As Jack Kornfield said, “Wise intention and skillful service need to be nourished by periods of quiet and prayer.”

There are two ways I could go right now, two possible paths. In one, I throw myself completely into launching my own business — teaching in person and online, writing shorter pieces and books, blogging, facilitating retreats and workshops, mentoring individuals and smaller groups, collaborating, and building community. I know just what it will look like. The next steps are clear. I know exactly what I have to offer and how to do it. I could start right now.

The other path is to take the time to heal, finally. To contemplate what it would mean to do so, what’s required, what I would need to do and what help there is. To gather the books and the support, enlist the help. It would mean sinking deeply into my practices, in the most gentle and loving way. More than anything it would mean slowing down and making space for myself, allowing my natural rhythm and pace, the innate wisdom and compassion already right there to do its thing.

In truth, the path is both, and the work is the same: to drop the knife I’m holding to my own throat. It’s time.