A Whole Lot of Nothing

The first three months of this year have been action packed.  We continued renovating our house which involved a lot of necessary intrusion.  People coming and going to work their respective magic on the place.  And it does seem magical, the changes around here.  I am so grateful for these changes: the warm and inviting feeling one gets as you walk through the front door, down the wood floor hallway and up into the heart of our home, our new kitchen.  We chose an off white shaker style cabinet door and it so perfectly works with the style of our home.  I call it my cottage in the city because that’s the feel I get from it and the new kitchen matches the vibe perfectly. So all of that to say that it’s been very busy around here with not a lot of down time.

Until I got sick a couple of weeks ago with your garden variety cold and flu-like symptoms. It felt good to sit in the same chair for a few hours and rest!  Rest and retreat have been on my mind for a long time.  I crave it and frankly get pretty cranky (or maybe it’s loopy!) when I can’t get some.

But, today, finally, I have some time and just as importantly, am giving myself permission to do a whole lot of nothing. Maybe sit in the family room with a cup of coffee and stare out the window at the trees, or maybe look at a cookbook to get some ideas for new dishes to make, or write a few words of inspiration I’ve gleaned from a book into my journal for future reference.  This is the kind of nothing I like to do.  Above all, to just sit in the quiet.   As they say, to stop being a human doing and just “be” for a while.  It has such a restorative effect on me….  And wouldn’t you know it, the weather has conspired with me. We are in the midst of another snow storm, hopefully the last of the season, please!  All the more reason to sit indoors and do nothing!

Anatomy of a Metamorphosis

This is a quote from Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life by Phileena Heuertz (Intervarsity Press, 2010).

Transformation, which essentially involves healing, is a slow process.  It is rarely full and complete in an instant.  It takes time.  And during that time, it demands cycles of awakening, longing, darkness, and yes, even death.  All are crucial to this most sacred work in us.  Being healed of that which shackled me and prevented me from being fully me took time and space for solitude, silence, and stillness.  You might enter a sabbatical expecting a kind of convalescence, but it wound up being more like rehab for me – lots of stumbling and frustration and even anguish.  This is how we feel when we emerge from our cocoon as we begin to live into our true self – the person loved for whom he is alone and not for what he can do or be for others.  During seasons of transformation, we have to find our footing and let our wings harden so we can make the flight of our life.  An intentional Sabbath season made it possible for me to enter my chrysalis and submit to a metamorphosis of my soul.

I have this quote pasted into my journal and wanted to share it with you. It reminds me that doing soul work takes time, patience, self-empathy, and just allowing a process to unfold. That’s what I often forget; that I can’t make things happen quicker than they are maybe meant to.  What I have learned is that you can ask for what you want, accept that it is available to you and then (while still going through the process of whatever is going on in your life and being Open to It), wait for it to manifest…..and have the courage to accept it when it does!

Let Your Life Speak

I’ve been listening to a book on CD by Parker J. Palmer called, Let Your Life Speak. Listening for the Voice of Vocation.  This is what the back cover says:

“Finding one’s calling is not just about finding something we can do – it is about finding what we can’t not do.  “Let your life speak” is a time-honored Quaker admonition to live one’s life as witness to the deepest truths one knows. But as Parker Palmer explains, those words can also mean, “listen to your life, and let it tell you what your truth is.”  Vocation, he writes, comes not from external demands but from listening to the true self, a listening that will always call us into some form of service to others.”

Something Palmer said that has stayed with me is that burn out occurs when you give what is not in you to give. That you are going against your true nature in giving or doing that which is now burning you out.  I definitely feel burnt out.  And now I know why.

In my contemplative walk through the woods today, I realized that my true nature seeks  harmony and peace, not discord and competition.  I realized that the work I do as a municipal prosecutor inherently goes against my true nature (duh!).  I think I’ve been feeling it for a long time but haven’t fully understood it intellectually until now.  It’s clear that I can put on the clothes and the face to do the job,and do it well, I think, but that doesn’t mean that I should be doing it, that it’s what I’m called to do, or in my best interests or best life to do.

Wow!  It’s so deeply rewarding when the light of clarity dawns on you. I feel somehow liberated by that realization; like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  It’s just not me at the core of my being and the reason I’m so drained is that I’ve been forcing myself to do it, because, let’s face it, I need a pay cheque, it’s a “good job” and one that many strive for.

But in addition to all of that, the reason I’ve done this work as long as I have is that there are aspects to it that make it bearable: the independence, the words, written and oral, and dealing with the occasional person who needs what I personally bring to the table:  my ability to be deeply empathetic and help people who are struggling.  Maybe that makes me in the business of bringing Grace into people’s lives?

Finding my vocation has been a long standing question mark for me and Palmer’s book together with Danielle LaPorte‘s The Fire Starter Sessions, are helping me to home in on what my core values and innate nature want me to do with my life.

In the next post, I will share some of the things I’ve learned from LaPorte’s book. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Being the Calm

Today I had a taste of myself “being the calm”. I got up before everyone and read some of Danielle Laporte’s The Fire Starter Sessions (which is so inspiring!), enjoyed my coffee and wrote in my journal.  Heaven.  Then I bundled up and took the dog for a walk on this wintry day.  By the time I got back i was so mellow and filled up.  It was a good morning.

Be the Calm

I was having a quiet moment a couple of weeks ago, sitting in an easy chair in what I call our “Muskoka room”.  It has a big picture window and looks out onto the back yard and the trees beyond.  It is probably my favorite room in the house for this reason and for the sunshine that streams in.  Sitting there on a day off from work, surrounded by nothing but quiet, I heard the phrase, “Be the Calm for yourself and for your children.  They need that from you.”

I wrote it down in my journal and found it again today.  I love that phrase:  “Be the Calm.”  It reminds of “Be the change you wish to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi.

On a daily basis, I am reminded how much patience, unconditional love, perseverance and  taking of deep breaths before responding, is required in raising children.  When I can “Be the Calm” in the midst of the madness, it feels so good.  The opposite, which happens sometimes in varying degrees (i.e. losing my patience, raising my voice, shaking my head wondering how much longer before the kids can move out, feeling exasperated etc. etc.) leaves me feeling tense, frustrated, angry and let’s face it, like I’m failing at this most important of jobs.

But those occasions, when you say just the right thing to quiet a child’s worry, or make it o.k. to share the worry in the first place, are golden. And listening to a child’s laughter is bliss.

So I thought about what it means or what it would take to Be the Calm for myself and others in my life.  I think it means coming at life from a strong, healthy centre so that you can “hold” the space for others to be who they are. It means being able to respond from a place of patience and wisdom rather than reacting from a place of turmoil.

How do we do that?  For me, I know that having quiet time alone to sit, read, rest and write are crucial to how “filled up” I am.  This is so basic to my health really and yet such an occasional luxury.  I think that it also involves doing whatever gives you a sense of being connected to the mystical, the essence of All That Is, God or whatever you want to call it. Re-connecting with nature, meditation, or whatever gives one a sense of spirituality and the true essence of who one is, are things we can do to refuel our souls.  I find that sometimes cooking on the weekend, when I’m not rushing, can do this for me too.  It is in creating something that we often find the bliss we’re  looking for.

So, I think what I’m trying to say is that looking after my needs is a priority if I want to Be the Calm for others.  I guess I have to Be the Calm for myself first.  I need to prioritize myself back into my daily life.  Writing that makes me laugh at how pathetic it sounds! I realize that I’ve got it backwards and yet it seems so hard to right the ship because there are only so many hours in the day and so much of most days are already accounted for.

The small voice inside me right now is telling me to quit my job, or take a leave of absence, so that I can re-invent my life, wipe the slate clean and put back what really matters to me and what I really want to do with my time. I’ve been thinking of this for quite some time and I know something has to change.  And I recognize that it’s a process and  I’m opening up to how it might unfold.  That’s the first step, I think.

Right now, it’s the little steps that I need to take.  Like including something small in my daily life that’s just for me and that pays me big dividends in terms of replenishment and joy.  Maybe for now, I can start each day with 10 – 15 minutes of sitting in the quiet when all are still asleep, to just breathe or read or write.  This can be, for now, my daily vitamin for my soul.

Do you do anything purposeful in your daily life to replenish your soul?  I’d love to hear what works for you!

To labour on th…

To labour on this journey until I know myself to be strong and whole and true.

– Cheryl Strayed

The world break…

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.

– Ernest Hemingway

Resurfacing

It’s been a while since I was here.  There has been a lot of change and adjusting over these months due to our move to another house.  A lot of work to make the place our own and settle in.  I’m not complaining.  It’s a work in progress and it’s o.k. because there’s the vision of what we would like this place to be and the environment we want to create for ourselves and our kids.  I call it our cottage in the city. I love coming into the kitchen in the morning with the sunshine streaming in. I love sitting in our family room which I’ve dubbed the “Muskoka room” because of the wood floors, wood burning fireplace and the large picture window with a view of the trees.  Simply divine it is to sit in this room and read, or just be.

I find I want to be here at home more than I want to be anywhere else.  Going to work each day takes me away from all the nourishing things I could be doing here.  Like writing, reading, walking, cleaning and organizing, cooking, knitting or crocheting, enjoying the Fall colours and the glorious weather we’ve been having.  This has become more and more apparent to me in the last few months.  And that the way I feel about all of this requires a change.  So, I’m opening myself up to the possibilities that I know are around the corner.  I’m going to spend some time quietly envisioning what I want my life to look like and how I want to feel.

I also wanted to say how grateful I am for all that I have in my life, even those things that often stress me out.  I know that it’s all here for my learning and evolution. That those things are here to bring me to the next level.

Happy Thanksgiving fellow Canadians!

 

Heart Swell

I was walking along the trail this morning with my dog Farley, a Standard Poodle who is a Joy to be with, the rain gently falling on me.  Walking along, admiring the gardens springing up on the properties adjoining the trail.  Beautiful flowers that I can’t identify and the leaves on trees filling in and the butterfly bushes with grape like clumps and just the bright colours after a long winter.  And my heart swelled with gratitude in those moments of quiet, peace and natural beauty.  Also with gratitude for how things seem to be lining up now in my life after a long while of uncertainty. Gratitude for the decisions we’ve made and our move to another house, to start anew in a smaller place with nature outside our back door.

My son went to an outdoor school for a number of Fridays last Fall and the property had a wooded area and nearby river.  I remember my first time there, surrounded by the trees. It felt amazing and I thought how great it would be to live like that, so close to nature.  How it could change your life.  How it could change my life and my kids’ lives…..

It made me think that at some point you have to stop and take your dreams seriously.  You can put them off and put them off, but at some point, you have to decide.  Are you going to do it or not?  So often we dream about things without believing we can make them happen.  Like it’s too far out there, too expensive to attain, don’t have the time to pursue, those things only happen to other people, what would my parents, kids, neighbours, co-workers etc. think?  Thoughts like that. That hold us back.

So I decided that this was the dream I wanted to pursue right now.  And guess what? It’s lining up.  I set it in motion, it appeared and I accepted.  And my heart swells with gratitude for how it is working out one step at a time.

What are you grateful for right now? I’d love for you to share.

Continual Surrender

Years ago I was seeing a naturopath in Burlington, Ontario and she said to me one day that what I needed to do was “Surrender”.  I remember looking at her as if she was speaking a foreign language, and I actually said, “What do you mean, surrender?”  To me, that sounded like just giving up and didn’t sound like a viable solution when you’re talking about challenges involving, your kids, for example.

I finally figured it out about two years ago, when I threw my arms in the air and said to whomever might be within earshot, but to God specifically, “I don’t know what else to do here; I’m giving it over to you to handle.  Please just guide me along my journey and bring me to whatever is in my highest good.”

There was and is a sense of peace that comes from that – knowing that it’s not all up to you.  Which is how I’d been operating for a very long time.  The “if it was meant to be, it’s up to me” mentality, which I don’t think is a bad thing intrinsically.  For me, however, that personal edict translated into putting myself in overdrive mode in caring for my daughter with special needs, wanting to do all I could to give her a good start in life.  And then trying to just keep it all going when my son came along and I was perpetually exhausted from lack of sleep and caregiving.

Recently, a couple of months ago, I had another surrender moment.  Again, I was facing a situation that I was really torn over.  Finally, after months of malaise, coming to a decision that I didn’t really want to make.  Again, I just said that I was surrendering it all over to God or the Universe to make it what it would be.  And, much to my surprise, something outside of my control happened and changed my course again.

During this recent period in my life, I finally learned why I kept repeating a certain way of being…I realized it was because I was operating (again) under the impression that I was the one that had to make it happen…rather than just TRUSTING that the right thing for me would happen.  That it would be delivered to me, if I just let go and let it happen.

So, here I am reminding myself as much as is necessary, that it’s all good, and to trust that it will all work out for the best (even if it’s not clear to me in this lifetime).

For you too. I’m sure of that now.