Spring gleaning…

new bud

The urge to sort things out in spring extends beyond closets and cupboards.

It seems a fitting time to organize one’s insights as well, what’s been gleaned from the past few seasons.

Since spring has a way of awakening thoughts about what we want, the notions i’m sorting out today have to do with desires.

You sometimes hear people say you can get anything you want if you want it badly enough and are willing to work toward it.

Nurturing desires makes them more likely to come to fruition, of course. But equanimity in the meantime requires being clear about what’s within our control and what isn’t.

In the spring, i wait for the night chill to soften, to correspond with the warming of the daytimes, and i expect to inhale that special spring smell any day now.

Nature tends to accommodate my desire eventually. I get something i want because i’m aligned with these rhythms.

Some things we simply go after.

Learning a language, for instance, or, well, organizing a closet. They will not happen without taking the initiative, investing some time, doing the work.

Let’s say you’re learning Spanish — and then you decide you’d like to visit Spain. The obstacles get a little bigger, maybe with regard to finances or getting time away from a job.

You may have to think through larger trade-offs involved in the endeavor.

In other circumstances, the longing for something has little to no bearing on getting it.

I may have thought i interviewed well for that job, but the ultimate determinant of whether i land the position is out of my hands.

Especially in the arena of relationships, where we want someone we love to be healthier, or happier, or to love us back, we can only do so much toward fostering that reality.

What we do have some influence over is how we choose to view such situations, how we cope with and compartmentalize them.

Our lives are an amalgam of randomness, consequences, and our ways of seeing and sorting them.

There’s a delicate art to identifying and distinguishing between desires, goals and expectations.

And it’s a balancing act to prioritize and pursue what we want, while simultaneously working on being ok with the possibility of not getting it.

I’ve noticed since last spring that it can be very gratifying to see things go as planned –and that it can be very gratifying to be able to roll with it when they don’t.

Well, i guess that would cover just about everything.

Which suggests another spring gleaning — gratitude, then, is always in order.

Mirth and melancholy…

The turn of the year compels us to look in two directions at once. We encapsulate the closing year as we reflect on the opening one’s possibilities. Our inherent drive to mark time also carries the urge to compare — between today’s thoughts and those at last year’s turn, and to overlay them with a clarity of progress and pattern.

Last year at this time, i considered life’s vagaries here through a musical motif. This time, i offer another wordsmith’s sentiments, using the music of poetry.

I’m moved by how this simple, early 1900s poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox evokes the melancholy behind the mirth:

THE YEAR

What can be said in New-Year rhymes,

That’s not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,

We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,

We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,

We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,

We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,

And that’s the burden of the year.

The poem’s somber nature overtakes the joy — and that may not be where some readers want to land.

I see it as a contemplation whose grave tone dwells on only one aspect of human experience. Other songs and poems bring out the exuberance and optimism of new beginnings. Let us be looking for those as well.

Heraclitus and social media…

river stones

No man ever steps into the same river twice.

The ancient Greek philosopher this quote is ascribed to added that this is because it’s not the same river, and he is not the same man.

[Alternate post title: “Who said this? Wade wade, don’t tell me.” (Forgive me.)]

Though Heraclitus was referring to change being ever present in the universe, i’ve thought of this truism often in the context of virtual re-connections with past friends.

Social media has facilitated getting in touch with folks i most likely would never have crossed paths with again. Folks i have fond and vivid memories of from years and even decades ago.

For a few in particular, when they randomly came to mind before, i always pictured the OMGs and hugs and tears that would flow if i saw them in person again.

Not that such imaginings moved me to try to make it happen.

While i regretted having lost touch, i had no fresh impulse to start up with them again unprompted.

Once social media made reigniting old connections possible, even likely, i relished thoughts of the OMGs, hugs and tears across cyberspace.   Continue reading

Making peace in troubled times…

peace

Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, it’s hard to deny that these are troubled times. Thinking about not accepting injustice also brings to mind the pitfalls of ‘fighting fire with fire.’

I recently came across this stirring quote about peacemaking — and was particularly moved by its vision of actively pushing back and yet breaking out of an escalating cycle of retribution:

“Peacemaking does not mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.”  (Shane Claiborne)

Yes, the real work is in hashing out *how* to enact such lofty principles — but we can and must let inspiration like this at least get us started.

“How did you get through it?”

relax

Most everyone you meet carries a burden you don’t see.

You know this if you think about it because of what you yourself carry inwardly.

Plenty of travails are out in the open — health problems, break-ups, tumults large and small. Not as immediately visible are the scars and anxieties we take with us, the determinations we make in response.

This post has been percolating for a very long time. the result of thinking about how to shape a positive perspective from a buffeting past. I am grateful beyond description for the many wonders, good things and cherished people in my life. These are some momentary musings about the hurts in between. 

More than once in my life, slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have clustered together. Arrows from disparate bows — relational, financial, medical — shot straight into my peace of mind within a brief slot of time.

Early 2012 was one such period. I was let go from the most rewarding position i’d ever had (amicably but unexpectedly, due to funding issues). A long-term couplehood came to an end painfully, requiring me suddenly to set up a new residence. And more distressing than either of those, a person dear to my heart struggled with destructive substance issues — at the edge of the end several times in those few months.

People say you pick up the pieces. And that’s true. I did.

The reason ‘one day at a time’ has become so cliche through repetition is that it’s so useful and true — and in the hardest crises becomes one hour at a time.

I think 90% of getting through hard times is nothing more than just deciding to keep moving. Which is plenty — but not complicated.

Continue reading

A little yarn…

yarn skein

Sometimes the most mundane of experiences has a way of crystallizing a larger thought.

Recently i needed to purchase new contact lenses with an updated prescription.

Bear with me, this does get more interesting than that…

I’d become accustomed to seeing gradually less well with the older prescription, but after a recent eye exam i began to really look forward to seeing better again.

The new contacts arrived in time for me to pop them in on a special day — for an annual family gathering. The moment they were in, however, it was obvious the prescription was wildly off; they were completely unusable.

Checking over the paperwork from both the eye care provider and the online business i’d purchased from, i couldn’t immediately find an explanation. I set it all aside and went to the picnic wearing the old contacts.

Seeing a bit less well that day was insignificant, but the irritability and sense of defeat i felt over the conundrum wasn’t. I usually prefer to confront such problems as they arise — because i usually feel capable of getting it figured out.

Continue reading

Things spring brings…

spring flowers

Tired of being tricked, the spring flowers on this bright and breezy Wisconsin morning seem to be turning toward the sun and asking, “You mean it this time?”

Or maybe that’s me asking.

As is typical in these parts, spring announced itself early with some pleasant warm days, then taunted us with a few chilly snaps before agreeing to stay for good.  

Nature’s spring tantalizing sent me looking for a prior spring-themed post i’d written. I was surprised to find — in the way that the passing of time is nearly always surprising — that it has already been three years since that post (It’s the Thaw That Counts).

I was also startled at the contrast between that spring’s perspective and this one’s. That one had come during a period when i was still dealing with repercussions of a life-altering personal crisis.

As pleasant as today’s gentle breeze is, even more so is this reminder of how far behind me that particular storm is.

As i’ve said in the context of other transitions, for me one of the most important factors of confronting any challenging experience is determining to do so with complete honesty.

Continue reading

Celebrating all relationships…

“A true soulmate is a mirror, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”

(Elizabeth Gilbert)

I would add that any healthy relationship can provide a mirror that reflects as well the best of who we already are. Attention to both — to our underlying dignity, and to areas where we could become our better selves — can arouse in us the desire for personal growth.

heart cat tails

Solo piano concerto for a new year…

I have this mental picture of a concert pianist about to set hands to keys… pin-drop quiet in the hall… adjusting the seat… lightly shaking the arms… digits hovered over the blacks and whites… the momentary pause to focus before the first note… And then flows the masterpiece!

Approaching my writing keyboard is nothing like that, of course. False starts, discordant notes and incomplete thoughts are what the writing process is composed of.

At a time when the calendar bellows at us that it’s time for a fresh start, many of us are reviewing the raw material of our past year, which perhaps is also characterized by false starts and discordant notes, and attempting to summon meaning and renewed purpose from it all.

For me, a repeating motif of this past year has been the occasions for tears. But wait — before you write me off as a downer, allow me to remind that tears flow in both joys and sorrows. Indeed, both are often mixed in the same tears.   Continue reading