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I heard a recording from a talk that Danna gave at Kripalu and it was perfect.  She’s thoughtful and grounded and her poetry is amazing.  I really need to get her books, but until then I’ll  share a single poem.

Allow

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado.  Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel.  Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground.  The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

Danna Faulds

I read this blog post today about bouncing back.  The writer talks about a group of young MBA students he was working with who were developing a presentation and working and working on it – basically they were going to iterate it to death.  He discovered that they were afraid of failure.  They wanted to make it perfect so they didn’t have to deal with any potential “bad stuff”.  Even if it meant not delivering it.

And it struck me because my niece said a while back something about, what’s the point of getting a university education, you graduate with $50k in debt and no guarantee of the decent job you might need to pay the debt off.

And I get that, it’s a tough decision to make.  I was the first person to get a degree in my family, there was absolutely no assumption that I was going to take that road, it was all my choice.  And while it’s worked out ok for me, I know it’s not simple.  I have kids and understand that there will be some tough decisions ahead, mostly theirs with plenty of my unwanted advice thrown in.

I’m reading The Outliers and although i’m only on Chapter 4, I can see that he chips away at our belief that successful people are just naturally good at stuff.  He points out the importance of people’s birthdays and 10,00 hours of practice to get good at things.  He looks at the timing of trends and the backgrounds people had and their good people skills or social intelligence.  All things that help us down the road to success, or make us become janitors.  But I think his point is that we do have innate abilities or interests.

That’s why the challenge is to know ourselves.  Sure you can look at occupations and decide you want to be a tax auditor or a welder.  But it’s kind of ass backwards.   

It’s a better start to know things like whether we like a structured or loose environment.  Whether we want to work with our hands or our heads.  Whether we want to work with people or put our head down and git ‘er done.  And if you want to work with people, is it as equals on a team or as an authority figure like a teacher? 

We need to know if we are Type A or B.  Do we prefer to work with Words or Numbers or Things? What are we motivated by – things like money or time off?  We should know if our career is a means to an end (pay the bills, get a retirement plan), or an end in itself (you love it enough that the pay is almost secondary, almost).

Once you know that kind of stuff, then you can look at an occupation and understand the “fit”.  Or talk to someone who does the job and at least ask the right questions.

Because a university education can go beyond giving you the potential qualifications for the job you think you want.  For me, I took five years to do a degree.  That’s because I took a semester off to work at the CBC, I also worked at the student paper and had a boyfriend and multiple part-time jobs.  I was too busy to ever take a full course load. But the university experience gave me the time to grow up and learn some skills around organizations, people and getting the work done.

I also learned to write, the skill that got me my first real job.  I was temping to make money before a trip to Europe.  I was at a software company and the woman I worked with couldn’t write her way out of a paper bag (2 year certificate from college) and when my boss (Masters in Creative Writing) found out that I could, he made me an offer and I took the job.

But it was more than that.  High tech companies tend to be a bit more free-wheeling, forward thinking and less conservative and that fits my personality.  Often they’re meritocracies and that fits my “get it done” mentality and my single university degree.  They also move fast and I like that, I never get bored, I surf on the changes with the best of them.  So it was a “fit” in ways that I would never have known before I got into one. 

It helps to see your path as more than just book learning.  You have so many more options in life if you develop more savvy than just regurgitating stuff you’ve read.  And when you can expand your view and see the process more creatively (ie, try stuff and see if it fits) it can help reduce the fear of failure that kept the MBAs from actually delivering their presentation.  You can take the stance that “I’m just trying stuff”.  And then your skills go beyond getting a good mark on a test.  At least that’s what I’ll tell my kids when it comes time to make the hard, and expensive decision.

Read an article on happiness today, here’s a good bit:

In fact, happiness is the single greatest competitive advantage in the modern economy. Only 25% of your job successes are predicted based upon intelligence and technical skills, though we spend most of our education and most companies hire based upon this category. The “silent 75%” of long-term job success is based upon your ability to positively adapt to the world: optimism, social support creation, and viewing stress as a challenge instead of as a threat…. when we are negative, our brains resort to “fight or flight” thinking about the world. But when we are positive, our brains “broaden and build” allowing us to create new patterns of success and widen the amount of possibilities our brains can process.

 I love the “How To Be Alone” video.  It’s shot by local filmaker Andrea Dorfman here in Halifax. I love the shots of Gus’ pub and her getting into the face of the Winston Churchill statue.  I also love her handmade slippers, my Grandmother used to make those too and I was much to cool to wear them.  The poet is Tanya Davis and it’s a nice quiet feel-good peice.

Previously I did a lot of things alone.  I’ve travelled alone a lot and am totally OK with that.  I love the peace and quiet of reading on a place with no where to go. At some point I stopped living with boyfriends and got a place of my own when I was in Toronto. It was the upper floor of a narrow house where you could grab a fork while sitting at the table. 

I’d spend Saturdays walking blocks and blocks from one end of Queen Street to another, meandering in and out of places.  I can also go to movies by myself and know lots of people who can’t. I’ve been mostly OK with being alone.  But sometimes I’ve had to remind myself I want to be 100% OK with it because I wasn’t quite there.

Now with two children and a husband in the house I’m not alone very often.  Some days I crave it.  Some days I just have to stop at a coffee shop and sit by myself, reading, or just sitting.  Some days when I have the house to myself I stop and wonder what’s wrong and then notice, oh yeah, it’s dead quiet in here and it’s just me.  Those days are so rare. 

And what’s crazy is that while I look forward to the quieter times when the kids grow up,  I know from hearing other people say it,  I’ll also miss them.  But right now when the chaotic moments are so, well, daily,  I just can’t imagine not enjoying being alone.

Our source of suffering is always related to our resistance to what is.  The soul doesn’t try to control life, the ego does.  When your ego is wrapped firmly around a desire, your peace of mind and happiness are held hostage by an obsessive need to control the outcome.  After enough pain and suffering, you’ll eventually get the message: If you don’t learn to surrender your will, you will surrender your peace.

It takes a leap of faith ot abandon your way for the right way.  It means letting go of how you think things should be and accepting them as they are.  When we surrender, it doesn’tmean that we throw our hands in the air and do nothing at all, it means that we pay close attention to the messages we get from our Divine partner so we can act on this wisdom.  Then, once we’ve done what we can, we let go and allow the Divine to take over to bring about the result that will serve our spiritual development.

Cheryl Richardson

 I finished reading Karen Connelly’s book Burmese Lessons, about her time in Burma in the mid-90s.  She’s a writer from here in Canada, a country that offers us the luxury of national politics as bland as tapioca pudding.  She goes from here to a country run by generals that is being abandoned by millions of people fleeing as refugees.  Her observations are sometimes really hard to read, a sad reminder of the kind of things people can do to one another.  She also has a keen eye for the basics of what it is to be human in the experiences she’s had.  Here are a couple excerpts:

I used to find the word homemaking vaguely embarassing.  As an occupation, it was an uninspiring potential fate.  But being among Burmese refugees and exiles in Thailand has taught me that it’s no small act to make a home.  Making a home safe enough for a child is the ordinary miracle.  How many refugees on this earth can only dream of it?  The tendency- perhaps from television images, the news clips – is to envision the displaced as herds, flocks, haunted masses carrying children and possessions on their backs, walking away, arriving at makeshift camps only to leave again.  And they are that.  But they are also individual men and women and children with the old human longing: to be held safely in their world.  Each one of them as a name.

 

People usually try to feed me, so that I now show up to the offices or safe houses with bags of curry or grilled chicken or mangoes, adding to the communcal meal or extended snacks that i know will be offered.  This food giving and food taking is so familiar that I sometimes forget its meaning.  We are taking care.  To take care is the great human act.  It is part of the answer to the brutality that may not touch people here directly but affects them deeply.  On the physical and metaphorical border these people inhabit, it is a daily challenge to take care of themselves, let alone others, but that is what they all do…..each one has done more than survive.  They have remained or they have become tender, alive to their own suffereing and the suffering of their people.  While I try to control my personal longings and berate myself for being too soft, they remind me that my yearnings are as basic as cooked rice.

I know a book about a marriage and family breaking up shouldn’t be on one’s holiday reading list but Happens Every Day  isn’t maudlin and self-pitying at all.  Here’s a bit I liked about finding happiness and good pancakes:

You start to look at the tiniest things to make you feel better, alive.  Anything to give you a moment of happiness.  My friend Eve told me to look at the fallen leaf on the road and try to see even the smallest glimpse of beautiy….One Sunday morning the four of us were at brunch.  It was painful.  We were faking being a family…The place where we were having brunch was actually the town bar, but on Sundays a renegade brunch cook took over the kitchen that usually slung out frozen bar food.  He produced world-class eggs and pancakes.  His specialty was savory pancakes.  I ordered pancakes with asparagus, Gruyere, and ham.  They were served with maple syrup and two eggs on top.  It was a leap of culninary faith to order them…..I did what the waiter told me to and poured the syrup over the dish.  It was sublime.  Somthing about the sweet and savory and the sharp cheese and the runny yolks.  I called out, “Sweet lord these are incredible!”  And I started to laugh.  It was as if I was eating dulce de leche ice cream for the first time.  A bomb of involuntary happiness went off in my mouth.  Josiah didn’t seem to appreciate my enthusiasm, and the boys continued to throw hash browns on the floor and dump the salt on the table, but at that very moment my life was being saved.

I just finished reading The Gargoyle and loved it.  It has stories within a story – good stories too.  And it has a supernatural bend but never takes that part too seriously.  The main character is a cynical old cuss right ’til the end, and I respect that in a main character.   The plot, in broad brush strokes, is about him spending time in a burn ward after a car accident and this chick, Marianne, shows up and starts telling him stories about their “history” together.  

So he’s trying to figure out which particular mental illness she has but is also starting to develop a connection and feelings for her.  On Christmas Day, right before he’s set to get out of the hospital, she brings in a huge feast for everyone to enjoy and he says this about love:

I once knew a woman who liked to imagine Love in the guise of a sturdy dog, one that would always chase down the stick after it was thrown and return with his ears flopping around happily.  Completely loyal, completely unconditional.  And I laughed at her, because even I knew that love is not like that.  Love is a delicate thing that needs to be cosseted and protected.  Love is not robust and love is not unyielding.  Love can crumble under a few harsh words, or be tossed away with a handful of careless actions.  Love isn’t a steadfast dog at all; love is more like a pygmy mouse lemur.

Yes, that’s exactly what love is: a tiny, jittery primate with eyes that are permanently peeled open in fear.  For those of you who cannot quite picture a pygmy mouse lemur, imagine a miniature Don Knotts or Steve Buscemi wearing a fur coat.  Imagine the cutest animal that you can, after it has been squeezed so hard that all its stuffing has been pushed up into an oversized head and its eyes are now popping out in overflow.  The lemur looks so vulnerable that one cannot help but worry that a predator might swoop in at any instant to snatch it away.

Marianne Engel’s love for me seemed built on so flimsy a premise that I assumed it would come apart the moment we stepped through the hospital doors…..but this Christmas Day had shown me that Marianne Engle’s love was not feeble.  It was strapping.  it was muscular, it was massive.  I thought it could fill only my room in the burn ward, but it filled the entire hospital.  More important, her love was not reserved only for me; it was shared generously with strangers….

I used to live above the Trident Bookstore when it was on Argyle street and often when I came home from work I’d feel a Book Urge and I’d go in and browse.  They sell used and off-price new books so it’s like book shopping and bargain hunting all in one, two of my favourite shopping pursuits. 

There must be a reviewer or book blurb writer in town who sells all theiur manuscripts to Trident.  Either they’re padding a measley income, or trying not to get overrun by books with plain paper covers.  I picked up an ‘uncorrected proof for limited distribution’ of Heart Steps: Prayers and Declarations for a Creative Life by Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way fame and it’s been a fave. 

It’s one of those books that I dip into when I need it.  It offers short bits, some God-oriented, some not.  Some on specific issues, some general.   I’ve folded over page corners of ones that grab me because when I’m feeling like crap, it’s those same ones that speak to me every time.  

It’s not about trying to go from wallowing in my pathetic-ness to skipping down the street full of pollyanna-ish platitudes.  Even if I thought that was a good idea, good luck.  My goal is more about allowing the bits in the book to remind me that there *might* be meaning in what’s happening in my life.  That I *might* have what it takes to survive whatever’s going on.   That I *might* be able to trust that things will work out. 

And then if I can find that scrap of hope then maybe I’ll stop doing dumb self-sabotaging things that make life worse, and maybe even make things a little better.  Even if the tiny shift is just in my head, in my outlook, in my perspective -  that’s the best place to start.

Here’s the one I liked this a.m.:

The Universe Funds Me With Strength

In times of adversity, I remember I am strong enough to meet the challenges of my life.  I am equal to every situation, a match for every difficulty.  Sourced in the power of the Universe, I allow that power to work through me.  I meet calamity with strength.  I have stamina.  Rather than draw on limited resources, I draw on the infinite power within me that moves through me to accomplish its good.  I am fueled by all the love, all the strength there is.  Loving strength melts mountains.  I am ever partnered and supplied by universal flow.  Knowing this, I do not doubt my strength.  I am strong and secure.

I read an article on Bif Naked’s fight with breast cancer and her new album.  How do people who are going through chemo do things like record an album?  I’m sure I’d be lying in bed watching soaps all day feeling entitled.  But maybe not. 

I love her ‘tude about the whole thing.  There must be so much pressure to fit your illness into a little box so people can cope with it, most of us are just so uncomfortable with it.  Like it’s catchy or something.

I like how she says that everyone expects you to have an epiphany when you have cancer, but you are who you are, cancer or not.

She mentions on her blog that one advantage of losing your hair is the money you save on brazilians.  She also says it’s a good thing her husband is an ass man :-)

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