The Natural Sweetness of Life

Forgiveness is giving up all hope that the past could have been any different.
Either a direct quote from or a paraphrase of something really smart Anne Lamott wrote.

I’ve experienced a lot of disappointment over the past few months.

Hope by hope, I’ve had to let go. Not the hope for the future. But the hope that I could change the past.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow; accepting that the past could not have been any different. I think I finally understand that phrase – it’s a bitter pill to swallow. It doesn’t have anything to do with holding on to bitterness. It’s really about digesting it. Feeling the pain of disappointment at how things were, instead of how they could have been — if only. If only we all knew then what we know now.

But, of course, we didn’t know it then. And the only way that we can truly know it now is to forgive ourselves for not knowing before we could know it.

So I forgave myself for the number of times I strived for acceptance without really owning what I wanted to be accepted for. For being a child who wanted to be loved.

A door closed. And as is the case, another door opened – onto a blank page. And every writer knows how scary that can be – the blank page. In my morning pages I wrote, “What do I do next?”

Then I drew these three cards this morning from the Animal Wise Tarot deck:

Wolf: Intuitive guidance and guardianship

Beaver: Working for our dreams

Bear: Heeding inner voice and cycles

There was the answer to my question. Trust my own guidance and be willing to apply my efforts to what I imagine, not what I imagine someone wants me to do.

And here’s my favorite from today, the Bear card:

All bears have a fondness for honey, a symbol of the natural sweetness of life. When bear wanders in, it is a reminder that our innate potentials are awakening, but only by bringing them out in a new rhythm will we taste the honey of life.”

Here’s to today and the future, the bitter with the sweet.

May the past rest in peace.

Bless You for Your Metamorphosis

I have learned that it is impossible to compete with mediocrity.

I posted that as my status on Facebook yesterday.

It’s amazing the wisdom that comes to you when you let go of all hope that an intractable system can change. The intractable system being one that is based on the assumption that there isn’t enough to go around. Enough love. Enough talent. Enough life.

And when the prevailing belief is that there isn’t enough, mediocrity prevails. It becomes ruthless in its pursuit of survival. You can’t compete with it because it equates winning with survival. Its goal is not to compete, but to win, regardless of its merit.

Mediocrity is the enemy of change, both on a personal level and a cultural one.

Mediocrity is not, in my mind, a natural state of being. To be mediocre, I think, one needs to choose to petrify one’s inherent abilities, talent, and worth in the interest of acceptance by the status quo. A land where nothing changes.

Karen Armstrong writes in A Short History of Myth:

If it is written and read with serious attention, a novel, like a myth or any great work of art, can become an initiation that helps us to make a painful rite of passage from one stage of life, one state of mind, to another.”

To that I say a resounding , Yes!

In this rewrite of my personal story, I think that my biggest epiphany has been about my relationship with mediocrity. I’ve sought it out to try to convince it that it didn’t need to be so afraid.

And when that didn’t work, I told it that it was, in fact, mediocrity disguised as quality. That pissed it off. It had to destroy in order to maintain its status as the status quo.

I think the job of the artist, the writer, the poet is to challenge the status quo. To be willing to go, as a shaman does, into the darkness to gain insights about the darkness. And then to craft those insights into a compelling work of art that portrays the possibility of transformation through change.

Metamorphosis.

The antithesis of mediocrity.

Bless you for your metamorphosis.

Applying our Hearts Unto Wisdom

Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Moses, maybe

When last I blogged, I decided to work on my howl. Howling to find my pack.

Perhaps because of that, a friend who Tom and I last saw years ago (as in over 40), came to dinner. He was in town for a high school reunion. Kelly was a part of the group called Auxiliary Players – a group comprising audacious high school and home-for-the-summer college students – that produced plays and performances during the summer.

Our friend Jim joined us. Tom has known Jim since they were both in the seventh grade. I’ve known him as long probably; his mom was my mom’s best friend. They played bridge together for more than 40 years. Marge sorely misses my mom. They were the only liberals in their bridge group.

The conversation turned to memories of high school and what they have done since. There were no stories of missed field goals, favorite cars, or even girls that got away. Instead they talked about music – and how their experience in high school nourished them as musicians.

At one point, Tom put on the CD recording of Psalm 90, a psalm that he set to music when he was nineteen. The recording was of the 1969 a cappella choir’s performance – a high school a cappella choir.

Tom set Psalm 90 to music after hearing it recited over the graves of four students – eighteen-year old boys – who had been killed in a dorm fire set by a disturbed resident. For Tom, I think the most important verse is the one that reads “ . . . establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”

Let our lives matter.

His mentor, the high school music teacher, asked the choir in September if they were up to the choral piece – a fairly complex piece of music (anyone who knows Tom’s music knows of what I speak). Kelly told us that he thought if Tom wrote it, it would be okay. The choir worked on it through the year and performed it for their Spring concert.

As we listened to the recording, Tom heard the voice of a friend of his who died fifteen years ago of brain cancer. Kelly reminded him that the friend he had visited a day earlier was in the choir as well – a friend who is desperately ill with cancer and is not likely to live much longer. He asked for a copy of it so he could share it with his friend on his next visit, scheduled in two days.

The next time we saw Kelly, he had just returned from visiting his friend. Midway through the recording, Kelly said, his friend broke down in tears.

And I understood that this was my tribe.

People who transform and are transformed. These are not tiny-hearted men. They are men with enormous hearts. Men who had the courage as adolescents to follow the call of their creative souls and now, with the fragility of life staring them in the face, speak with a wisdom of the heart that had its seed in adolescence.

For me, the verse that resonates is the one I quoted at the beginning of this blog, “ . . . teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

For me, that means being willing to experience life through a mortal body. To be willing to own what being alive means to me, and not shrink from either the joy or sorrow that might bring.

To honor my spirit.

To howl.

Note: The verses that precede my favorite one talk a lot about god’s wrath. I’m not big on that. But given who wrote these verses (Moses, maybe, then translated into English during the time of Shakespeare, by people who think monothesitcally) I think that the point is if you really want to piss off god, waste your life by not living it.

And on another note: I’ll see if I can post the recording of Psalm 90. Stay tuned.

Imagining with a Big Heart

DSCN0184I said in my last blog that there would be more.

More about the Wild Woman.

More about giving up all hope that there is room for me in the landscape imagined with a tiny heart.

So now my job is to imagine my own landscape. A landscape imagined with a big heart.

I watched Across the Universe the other night. The Julie Taymor film that uses Beatles songs to tell the story of an era. Boy, does Julie Taymor imagine with a big heart.

One of the most poignant scenes is the one she imagined for the song “Let it Be”. It is sung as a gospel over images of the Detroit riots, the funeral of a soldier (no older than 19) killed in Vietnam, and the funeral of a young boy (no older than 12 or 13) who was killed in the Detroit riots.

There will be an answer. Let it be.

The special features includes the audition of the woman who sings “Let it Be” in the film. Julie tells her to just put all the rage and pain over what happened in that era into the song and let loose.

And she does.

There will be an answer.

Let it be.

She finishes singing. Members of the crew are speechless – no – wordless.

Seeking words of wisdom, let it be.

Julie goes to her, gathers her in her arms, and holds her as she sobs.

Let it be.

So in my landscape imagined with a big heart, hope that things will change is replaced with faith that there will be an answer. It is home for the Wild Woman.

Let it be.

Thriving With a Big Heart

When seeking guidance, don’t ever listen to the tiny-hearted.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés in Women Who Run With the Wolves

“If you’ve ever been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, cunning, insurgent, unruly, rebellious,” writes Clarissa Pinkola Estés in Women Who Run With the Wolves, “you’re on the right track. Wild Woman is close by.”

Phew.

Wild Woman is close by.

I’ve been excavating lately, as part of rewriting my life story, looking in the nooks and crannies of my psyche to find the noxious notions that rob my spirit of its nourishment the way a tumor steals nourishment away from the body.

I’m rewriting my story so that thriving is the theme, not surviving. I’ve been an excellent survivor my whole life. There is definitely a certain kind of toughness you get from surviving, but toughness is just for getting you through the thorns.

DSCN0162Thriving is what happens when you get past the thorns. The place where the Wild Woman dances an ecstatic dance in celebration of being alive.

I mentioned a few blogs back that a tree in our yard had died. At the same time, I noticed that the birds weren’t singing in the morning. I was afraid that birds had abandoned me.

Then this morning, before I headed out to my Writing Shed, the yard was filled with birds, including a kind I don’t think I’d ever seen before. As I watched from the window, they feasted on the grapes hanging from the arbor and bathed in the fountain. DSCN0168

I’ve always thought of Fall as the beginning of the year. I wondered if that’s what this was about. Are the birds returning because it’s the beginning of a new year? Or have they been here and I haven’t noticed them?

Whatever, stopping to watch the birds be birds brought me a much needed sense of calm.

For the past few days, I’ve been making my way through the emotional fallout from an epiphany I woke up to on Monday morning. The epiphany being: I believe there is enough (talent, love, life) to go around; I live in a local culture that is terrified that there isn’t enough – so terrified that even the possibility of there being enough is terrifying.

That’s what keeps a heart tiny. Fear that there isn’t enough. It inhibits grace and generosity and enables solipsism.

That’s why one should not seek advice from the tiny hearted.

What’s the emotional fallout from the epiphany? Letting go of being able to change the landscape. Giving up all hope that I can fit in with a tribe whose bond is based on the agreement to keep the heart tiny.

It’s a bit scary to give up that hope.

Fortunately, Wild Woman is close by.

More to follow . . .
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