When to Hold On, When to Let Go, and When to Dance In Between

As I sit on my new front porch, the soft summer breeze cools my skin and makes me shiver a little bit.  The rain is gently falling and I am safely sitting out of the elements.  How nice it is to simply be free and let my mind wander and dream about life right now.photo

Lately, I’ve been trying to ground myself in my new reality:  a new home that is way bigger than the one I left; a new literature class to teach in less than a month that has me scrambling for materials and research; a plethora of big and small tasks awaiting my attention, and a tight budget that has to stretch enough to pay off two mortgages, two sets of bills, groceries and weird odds and ends that keep popping up unexpectedly.  I have to hold on to this rocking boat and wait it out and wait for everything to settle into a new normal.

Then, there are old feelings, old worries and old fears that keep creeping back into my brain.  They’re mixed in with new feelings, new worries and new fears as well.  It’s been hard discerning which ones are real, which ones are “obstacle illusions,” which ones need my attention and which ones I need to let go of.  Throw in the fact that I have an overactive imagination and a very analytical mind and I sometimes am on the verge of having a slight anxiety attack at any given moment.

To combat this anxiety, I used to busy myself with “piddley-squat” ridiculous tasks and errands that had me running around like a crazed lunatic and feeling physically and mentally exhausted afterwards that I would take a nap and waste away a few hours and not have to confront my day (or my mind).  I graduated from that bad habit to combining it with a burst of wild, creative energy where the end result was either interesting or a bust, and then I would take a nap and escape my day and my mind.  Now, however, I feel a little more grounded (maybe it’s because I’m a bit older and a little bit wiser) and I find myself following “the flow” of my life a little bit more and letting go of any preconceived notions of what I should be doing at any given moment to escape my thoughts, worries, fears and anxieties.

I’m not a depressed person by any means, but I am hard on myself and I’m a perfectionist.  My mind is like this devoted warrior to his quest:  I want something, and I will work so hard to go get it, despite all of the obstacles.  I think I can control every outcome in my life if I just think about it hard enough, work for it hard enough, or follow a specified set of rules and regulations well enough.  But, life really isn’t like that.  I had a crush on a guy a few months back and we had an amazing date and great chemistry leading up to and on the date.  I opened myself up to all the possibilities that could come through this connection only to not have him on the same page as me.  He dropped me.  He walked away with no explanation and he left me confused and with hurt feelings.  I mentally poured over everything I said or did that could have changed how he was feeling about me in less than one day’s time.  I’ve been holding on to the idea of him and wondering when or if I will ever have a similar experience like that again with him or with any other man.  I started worrying that maybe that was my one and only shot at finding love and I blew it for something I said or didn’t say, or that I wasn’t pretty or smart enough for him.  I was using his rejection as a gauge for how every man is going to view me from here on out.  I wasn’t willing to admit that it is his problem not mine and I can’t control his actions or feelings anymore than I can control anyone else’s on the face of the earth.  And, I did start reverting into my bad habits again:  running around setting up fruitless tasks, pouring myself into a creative frenzy and avoiding any form of acceptance of what is really happening in my life and instead let myself create damning thoughts about my life and my future.  I was doing the same thing with money as well except that I was freaking out that I was broke yet still wasting money on fruitless tasks and expenditures and not reaching out or asking for help when the help was offered.  In yoga terms, these negative playbacks are called “samskaras,” and act like the ruts and grooves in a stuck record that keeps repeating the same line over and over and over again.  It’s only when we are willing to acknowledge and search for the truth about ourselves and look at our lives honestly that we can begin to break these samskaras and let the flow move us to our next destination in our lives.

My trusty yoga mat.  Just unrolling it and seeing the beautiful tree reminds me to get rooted and grounded while remaining open to what is in my life and to what will come my way.
My trusty yoga mat. Just unrolling it and seeing the beautiful tree reminds me to get rooted and grounded while remaining open to what is in my life and to what will come my way.

I feel that awakening happened to me when  I was in Ireland for 8 days this summer.  I felt a sense of freedom in my mind.  A complete letting go of the negative thoughts I told myself about myself and everything I perceived of as a failure in my life.  I opened myself up to every moment and expected to be pleasantly surprised at any given time.  And, by going with the flow and being in the moment, I experienced a widening of the mind and an opening of the heart that made me feel joyful and excited about all the possibilities that are awaiting me whenever I am ready to open myself up to them.  I also chose not to fall into other people’s dramas as they were unfolding on the trip.  I met someone on the trip who was on a quest to find her an Irish boyfriend and ease her loneliness and boredom in her life and was therefore acting absurd and desperate and was attracting men who preyed upon that type of desperation.  I walked away from her and wound up meeting interesting Irish men for myself who enjoyed talking to me about literature, politics, culture, writing, music and life in general.  I met another woman who was being bossed around by her friends while on the trip and told me her whole entire sad story while her friends were off on a small excursion apart from the tour.  She tried to latch on to me and escape her experience instead of standing up to her friends.  I listened, spent a lovely morning with her taking her on a walk and asking her questions about her life, and then spent the rest of the trip smiling at her and making pleasantries but avoided getting involved in her double talk about her friends behind their backs.  Instead, I relished in the small amounts of my alone time on the trip and sat at cafes, in parks at pubs and people watched and soaked in the realization that I was in a country that I have dreamed about for a long time.

In those 8 days, I was open, happy and loving my life because I didn’t overanalyze or try to think of ways that past outcomes could have been different nor did I worry and fret about what was going to happen or not happen in the immediate or near future.  Instead, I fully experienced each moment and  held on to my belief and vision that this trip was going to be a fulfilling, meaningful experience for me.  Then I let go of how I thought the trip should pan out in order to get that end result.  All the other perks (and hiccups) of the trip revealed themselves to me when the time was right and for each experience, I was pleasantly surprised and realized I couldn’t have planned any of that out any better than what happened.

That’s when it hit me:  why am I holding on to old habits and routines in my daily life that obviously do not function for me anymore?  Why am I not living more like I did in Ireland?  True, when we are on vacation we give ourselves permission to be more “free” because we consider it a break away from the societal expectation that life’s successes are supposed to be hard won and that we should be bogged down by the day-to-day grind and drama-laden moments of our daily lives.  But, why does life have to be so hard or so melodramatic every single second of every single day we are not on vacation?  Aren’t we inherently meant to be happy than we are to be miserable?  Can’t I have love in my life without having to feel like I have to suffer from someone’s inattention?  Isn’t it Ok to say “thank you” and accept money from your parents when they know you are financially responsible but are in a tight spot right at the moment?  I’m not saying that anything worth having is going to always come easily into our lives or that we’re not supposed to do anything to get it, but we should work with a sense of freedom in our minds and an openness in our hearts.  We should hold on to our visions that will create more happiness in our lives and let go of the minutiae, the melodrama and the “obstacle illusions” we believe need to be present (and to be controlled by us) in order to get what we want.  That’s the dance.  That’s the flow.  And that’s the higher path I choose and I’m going to let my mind and heart lead me there.

For those of you who know about my 100 day creative writing challenge, this post is Day 18 topic:  “Holding”. 

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That’s What Little Boys Are Made Of

This post is one of the series of my “100 Days of Creativity” challenge. (I got this idea from a blogger on her WordPress site:  I Heart Change.  Check it out here:  http://iheartchange.wordpress.com/ ).  Today is Day 8 and the topic is “Soft”.

The words “soft” and “silence” for me go hand in hand.  Living on my own, I sometimes forget how quiet my life is.  Now that my mornings, my days, my evenings, my nights are consumed for a short time with the presence of my 5 year old nephew, Ben (who is staying here for his “mini-vacation”), I crave the soft, cushy, easy, quiet, lazy (yet very early) mornings where I get to drink coffee, read a book, write in my journal all before I get out of my pajamas.  And at night, after turning off the TV or the computer, washing my face and changing into my soft, worn T-Shirt and stretched out yoga pants, I pick up a book or my journal and decompress and reflect on my day.  It’s amazing how much I’ve taken for granted that soft takeoff and soft landing that bookends my entire day.

Me, Ben & his puppy Lucy
Me, Ben & his puppy Lucy

Instead, my days have been filled with trying to entertain a sweet, adorable, head-strong, determined 5 year old.  He wakes up before 7 a.m. and we’re “on the go” before 8 a.m.  Our mornings are whirlwinds filled with feeding the cat and dog, eating breakfast (where I slurp down coffee, barely enjoying the flavor), walking/riding the 2 mile bike trail by my house and looking at and picking up bugs along the way.  Then, we’re out of the house to run errands or do some type of fun activity so as to “shake loose the crazies” (i.e., pent-up energy) of a boy.  “Soft” days are not part of the routine.  Instead, I am cajoling him to do something, telling him it’s not Ok to “punch flies and other things,” throw the frisbee into the thicket behind my house, chase the dog and cat with a toy, nor bring snails and beetles into the house.

As I sit in the evening and watch a 3rd episode of Spongebob Squarepants with him while he eats an ice cream sandwich, I crave a few rerun episodes of “Castle” or “The Mentalist” while I curl up on my couch with my soft blanket draped over me and my dog and cat cuddled next to me.  I smile at him as he follows me around the house while I pick up the tornado path he and I caused earlier in the day.  I sigh and wish I could sit down, take down my hair and brush the course knots out until they relax and feel like a puffy cottonball (and look like it too).  I pass by my room and see the fluffy goose down pillows on my bed and wish to God my head was sinking into them (or that he would even take a nap while I just hug one to me and sit in silence).  Instead, I play “crash ’em up” with the toy dump truck and digger or follow him outside and get bit up by mosquitos when we play kickball or frisbee in my backyard.  I don’t know if my blouse is covered in sweat or if it is from the waterguns we have let loose on one another or if that’s my underarms that are stinking up the couch or his smelly feet (probably a combination of both).

Mailing the bills at the Post Office
Mailing the bills at the Post Office

Now that it’s late at night and he is safely tucked away and in a deep sleep in the spare bedroom, I am reflecting on the little nursery rhyme that goes: “What are little boys made of?  Snips and snails and puppy dog tails – that’s what little boys are made of.”  Nothing in that poem is “soft, sweet or cuddly.”  And though part of that is true, I sometimes think we forget that a boy’s sweetness rests in the unprovoked tenderness of picking up those snails, beetles, and roly-poly bugs out of the street and putting them in flower beds so they can “have a better life.”  Or that his softness resides in his first time standing in line at a post office to mail the bills while you stand in the lobby and watch as he visits, smiles and laughs with other customers, shakes the postman’s hand and smiles and puffs out his chest as he walks away.  His softness reveals itself when you’re finally sitting on the couch and you’re wearing your soft t-shirt and comfy yoga pants, you can’t help but smile as he sings a sweet song while taking a bath.  And, your heart melts when he asks you if you’re “happy in your heart” and you think to yourself, “Yes.  I am,” and you set down your coffee and you put down your book and you throw your hair back in a ponytail and you walk out the door with him and start your day in search of snails, beetles and roly-poly bugs.

Our morning trek begins. . .
Our morning trek begins. . .

To Bring Light into the World

One of the blogs I follow on WordPress is called:  I Heart Change (check it out here:  http://iheartchange.wordpress.com/ ).  The author is a very talented writer, but she also works on practicing her craft regularly.  Her latest post was about a 100 Day Writing Challenge.  I liked her list and took her up on her offer to use her list and follow it in order.  I’m not going to post my writings on my blog every day for 100 days, but I will be posting bits and pieces on occasion.  Or if the mood strikes me, I will scan in my handwritten journal entries as photos to look at.  And once in awhile, I’ll probably stray from the beaten path and sketch/draw the themes instead of write them.  So, I guess you could look at this as a 100 Day Creative Project.  In any case, I’m going to give it a shot!  Thanks for playing along with me.  Here we go. . .

Day 1 Topic:  Birth 

In Spanish, the phrase used for giving birth is “dar la luz” which literally translated means “to give light”.  This is one of my favorite phrases along with the term “duende” which has no literal translation but is used to mean something that is beautiful, magical and intangible.  When thinking about the day’s topic of “birth” I wanted to think about what “duende” I am willing to bring out in the light.  I feel I am at a new and exciting place in my life:  new house, amazing and life changing trip to Ireland for starters.  With all this newness means I have a chance to shed an old layer of myself and bring a new part of me out into the open.  I don’t want to reinvent myself, I want to reveal more of myself to others.  For too many years I’ve gone into hiding in that metaphorical “rabbit hole” and have protected myself from pain of relationships, pain of others’ judgments (real or imagined), fear of inadequacy and fear of failure.  That part of my life is over.  It’s time to live life for the sheer joy of it.  As Walt Whitman once wrote in his poem “A Song of Joys,”  “Joys all thine own undying one, joys worthy thee O soul.”

Yet, when we’re vulnerable to the world is when we need to protect ourselves as well.  But, how can I protect my new home and make it my own?  How can I keep up my exciting travels when money is becoming tight (due to all the moving expenses)?  How can I find love when dates aren’t happening every weekend?  I don’t have all the answers, but I know the biggest answer lies in remaining exposed and open and excited for what is happening right now and what will come to me when the time is right.  When I was younger, I had grandiose ideas of wanting to be super-successful and wanting to “make it” in the world and be recognized for my work.  I am now at a stage where I feel the urge to push out my talent into the world and let it simply be and blossom on its own time and work in its own way.

I used to take art classes in our church’s basement when I was in junior high.  I liked it enough, but I was stunted from fully enjoying it because I wanted every single piece of artwork to be perfect and to be “framable” art.  I guess in my skewed mind I was thinking that each one needed to be a masterpiece in its own right.  To top it off, I didn’t have the best teachers that honed in on my skills, talents and desires and they saw me as another kid that paid her $3 and spent a few hours at their table before going home.  A nice way to spend a Wednesday evening and take some cute pictures home to your parents.  So, I took some of the implied techniques I observed as these teachers were correcting my mistakes or mapping out my picture for me, and I practiced in private mostly.  I was self-taught to a certain degree.  Over the years I have taken art classes and garnered more ideas, skills and observations.  But, I put my drawings on a shelf in a dark closet and literally closed the door.  No more.  I want to bring them into the light and show off their “duende” for  a little bit.  I read a poem by a newfound favorite Irish poet of mine, Patrick Kavanagh.  The poem is simply titled “Birth” and he writes how the past has been destroyed and the future seems overwhelming.   Once we key into the present and harness the will and the merit of our work then “. . .all sorts of beautiful things appear in that place.”

Using my inspiration from Withman and Kavanagh and this new creative challenge, I’m dropping all fear and worry and bringing my joy, my light into the world.  Here are some of my sketches that I’m pulling out of the 13 year old sketch book.  They’re not masterpieces in their own right, but they are a part of me I’m willing to let you see.  Enjoy!

These cranes were from a photo in National Geographic magazine.  One of my favorite magazines.
These cranes were from a photo in National Geographic magazine. One of my favorite magazines.
Mockingbirds are my favorite.  This little guy used to sing in my oak tree all the time.
Mockingbirds are my favorite. This little guy used to sing in my oak tree all the time.
My old oak tree reflected on my neighbor's fence
My old oak tree reflected on my neighbor’s fence

The iris sketch is one I did last night after having written a poem.  The rest are from 2000-2008 (the last time I drew in that sketchbook).  Here’s the poem I composed and wrote on the sketch yesterday as well:

Under the sun

Blossoms my heart –

Closely connected to the earth,

Deeply rooted in the bonds of love.

Under the sun Blossoms my heart
Under the sun Blossoms my heart