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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Another Walk, another Thought

As a child I fell in love with Pollyanna, and wanted to be just like her. I was already a good girl and to 'meet' her was like finding a kindred spirit; okay, maybe I had a little girl crush on her - it was Haley Mills after all. But that 'goodness' developed into something else as I grew older. Even as I pointed out silver linings and saw the good in people and things and situations, I knew that I was acting the devil's advocate and that my comments were sure to prompt a disagreeable view from someone else, along with their praise that I was so generous in my view - thereby making me the better person, one I could feel good about. How sad for me. And in noticing this I also noticed that my smugness begat pride, and wasn't that one of the seven deadly sins? So even knowing I was a good person, I also knew that I wasn't, that I had this dark side to my character - a deadly flaw - which meant I wasn't really a good person, I just knew how to act like one. Which brings me to my grandmother, who apparently saw right through me even as a child.

"The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions"

How often did my grandmother say this to me? For sure every time I spoke about losing weight or not biting my nails. And I resented it, each time I heard it I felt the criticism, and was offended that my dear sweet Mommer would tell me, in essence, that I was going to Hell. Now that I am in my fifties and ready to be a student I see it for the truism that it is. But now I see it through the words of Elizabeth Gilbert (yes, I'm still going on about that) and the tale of her Indonesian Medicine Man who pointed out that Heaven and Hell are the same place, but we choose which way to get there, up or down; and it is in that choosing that we create heaven or hell on earth. Each time a good intention comes along there is also a signpost with our choices pointing in different directions; to act or not to act, to create a paver on our road to hell or a stepping stone towards heaven. So my grandmother was right, and each time I had a good intention, but chose the road where I didn't act, I was paving my way to hell, one choice at a time. How awful! I am so ashamed now of all the opportunities I didn't take advantage of, but in my new frame of mind even that shame is a fleeting notion and I have forgiven myself.

And I do have a big intention in my life right now; to be strong and healthy and prepared at the senior games in August. I've been training for a while, and 'trying' to lose weight, but now I see this in a new light, and I think it's time to test if I can indeed choose the sign pointing up and create a little bit of heaven in my life.

As I tag this entry, I realize that I might need to combine categories, because each time I click on 'dare I say religion' I also click on 'Positive Thinking' and 'Self Discovery'. How many times will I do this before I accept that those are all really the same thing :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Walking & Thinking

<- While my walk starts in the suburbs, in 10 minutes I am out to what I call my Marshlands.

Walking Kaylee this morning I found myself thinking and turned off the audio book that I have been struggling to finish (too droll....) I think it is a great sign of mental health that I am able to do this, that I can let myself think instead of hiding behind the words of another. I was thinking about archery, and the shoot yesterday. Despite the heat it was a wonderful day and we had the pleasure of shooting with a gentleman who admired our prowess and asked lots of questions. How flattering :) Anyway, I was having a particularly good day of shooting, and it was fun to share a little of what I've learned from my partner who is the much better archer. And one of the important facets of 'the shot' is that when you are aiming you can't be doing anything else. You really have to be in the moment, and if you're not it's time to let down and regroup and restart your shot. This speaks to everything I have been learning about life and how we should be living in the moment, and walking this morning I really started to think about it retrospectively. If when I was raising children, the only true thing was that moment, and I was doing the best I could, then that has to be the valid point about that time. I know I spent a lot of time in recent years questioning myself with all of the 'what if' and 'if only I' thoughts that we torture ourselves with, and in my journey through the valley of grief I think those were a little necessary so that I could get to where I am today. Which is understanding that I need to respect the feelings and decisions of the me that was present then. I need to trust that I was doing exactly what I was suppose to be doing then, that the feelings were real and the decisions I made because I trusted my feelings were the right ones for me in that time and place. I don't think I could have gotten here (if I really am) without a thought from - yes, again - Eat Pray Love where she points out that God is not only in us, but living and experiencing life through us as exactly who we are. That 'he' is not interested in us trying be someone else, but only just exactly who we are. Because then he gets one special and unique experience. So here I am now, trusting in me back then, because I do remember trying to 'follow my heart' as I use to say. And that is the advice I give my daughter now that she is a mother too. And I'm hoping that she will understand better and sooner that those feelings, that following of the heart, is everything. It's living in the moment, being true to yourself one small experience at a time, that builds a special and unique life experience. So I think I am done berating myself for not having done a better job raising my son. Yes, hindsight shows me specific mistakes I wish I hadn't made, but I need to expand this new found understanding to all the moments in my life, maybe especially those. From this will come forgiveness, maybe not today, but I know I am on the right path towards that end ... because I am learning to trust my feelings, and I'm following my heart in this moment. Rereading this I realize a hard truth, I wasn't always following my heart, there were times I was 'trying to do the right thing' because I didn't trust myself, and I guess those are the moments I regret. But still - I need to fall back on the part that I trust I was doing the best I could in that moment, that even if I wasn't trusting myself I was trusting someone else. Grrrr, so I prove a point and lose a bit of ground all at the same time. But still on a path forward, and most important - lesson learned! Trust my feelings, trust I am exactly who I am suppose to be, and listen to my heart because that's where God lives.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Brix, St Helena CA

What a lovely afternoon! Friends invited us to meet them for lunch in the Napa Valley, and while still trying to catch up from being away from home so much lately we love the area and have fond memories of wonderful lunches together at the V.Sattui winery where we were to meet them. As it turns out we ended up at the BRIX restaurant instead, our friends wanting a more formal sit down lunch than the deli at V.Sattui offers. The restaurant was picked by a friend of our friends, who had never been there but thought he had heard of the chef. What a wonderful choice! They have raised bed gardens you can see in our view from the table where some of our food was grown, and we were all more than happy with our selections. I had the heirloom bean salad with goat feta & finely julliened carrots tossed with a vinegrette. The taste I had of the mushroom, sunchoke soup with cashew cream was to die for, and the wood oven baked pizza the guys had looked and smelled amazing. I almost ordered the olive bread with hummus, but was so overwhelmed by the choices that I stuck with a salad. There was not much goat cheese, and I did supplement the small portion with some sourdough slices which were also made fresh at the restaurant. They ordered several desserts for us to share, and I had a nibble of peanut brittle and one strawberry bon bon (freshly made ice cream inside dark chocolate - OMG!) So much for no dairy or gluten, but the amounts were small and I have a wonderful minestrone full of spinach, tomatoes & peppers simmering away in the kitchen for dinner later.
One of the nicest surprises of the day was that I can actually see that I am getting smaller in the picture we took this afternoon. I knew from the clothes I was choosing from to wear this morning that I must be losing again, but to see my shoulders thinner was more than I could have hoped for upon waking this morning. Thank heavens in this economy I won't have to shop for summer clothes.

Pancake Parfum

The smell of pancakes comes wafting down the hall from the kitchen, and the sweetness is perfume to my brain. I feel neurons firing and a 'coming awake' as it were. But I analyze it all, find it interesting, and move on. For a moment I regret that I am subjected to this small torment, then I remember the warmth wafting across from under the sheets last night, and I am grateful that the same someone cooking pancakes out of a propellant bottle is also the someone who loves me best in this life and is willing to warm my feet at night. So I choose to enjoy the smell, remember the warmth, and move on, thinking of the yummy blueberries that will go in my smoothie later when I am hungry.

Speaking of later, we are taking a day trip to Napa to meet friends for lunch. This will be my first visit there since ditching dairy and gluten. We are going to the winery with the awesome deli, but what I remember is lean peppered pastrami, pungent cheeses and sourdough baguettes. I am praying for salad & roasted red peppers & Sicilian olives - but no matter what the fare I will choose wisely. I did not like seeing Mr. 200 Monday after five days eating on the road and I am not going to do anything to welcome him back now that he's gone again. ...And now I feel like saying to the universe, "So There!" and sticking my tongue out. Is not it wonderful how a part of us never grows up.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Eat Pray Love

Eat Pray Love is a beautifully written book by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I've spent the last month listening to her melodic voice reading it. I first read the book a year ago last October while house sitting for my sister in Ventura, the nurturing vistas from her deck on the hill overlooking the bay there a perfect counterpoint to the lessons I was finding in the book. I always meant to pick up my own copy, and I will eventually, but for now I have the audio book read by the author loaded on my ipod and I am on my third time through listening to every word with wonder and hope and love. I am so in love with the words, with the way she reads them, with the wonderful things she has to share that you would think they were fresh donuts warm from the fryer and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Now to digress a bit.

It's been a crazy few weeks, first driving with my daughter and granddaughter (5 months old) on a grand tour of visits to Southern California for five days of showing off the baby to family and squeezing in a quick visit with a friend I miss terribly. Then home again and a long weekend traveling down to Fresno for the annual Safari Archery novelty shoot and hiking over boulders where native Americans use to sit and grind acorns, the holes of their work living on to tell their story. Two days home for laundry and repacking and a couple days of 'real' work and then off north to Redding and their annual Trail Shoot. Hiking and shooting and getting drenched and not giving up despite being a drowned rat with numbing fingers and barking dogs (read that as tired, sore feet.) Anyway, I am home again and just back from walking Kaylee (the wee dachshund I missed so much on all those trips) and listening to E. Gilbert's words and wanted to share the feelings of my walk.

We go several blocks north bordering the nearby golf course until we come to a pond, then we wind our way around the water until we turn East to cross over to a strip of protected land that runs along a creek that is fed from the snows in the Sierras. While somewhere I know in the back of my mind that we are on the edge of suburbia, once there I can let the wind blow around and through me, head back (lifting my heart to the world) and fingers spread wide to feel the coolness blowing by and all of a sudden it's just me on this planet as it spins through the universe. Kaylee sits close by my feet, her nose in the air too, and I wonder if she feels the same connection I do to the world at that moment. And I am so grateful for this beautiful earth we live on and the quiet I find at the end of this trail. I am surrounded by the beautiful foot hills covered in spring grasses, the taller mountains to the north dark with scrub pines, and the huge clouds plowing through the blue sky like tug boats on their way to Kansas; their bottoms dark with rain yet to fall and their tops stacked tall and thick and gleaming white in the afternoon sun. At that moment I feel so blessed, so much a part of it all, that I can even think of Joey and stay glad. At that moment I am not just there enjoying the weather, but I am also the observer watching this woman and her little dog and loving them because they are a part of me, and I am a part of them .... lol, 'and we are all together.' (Think Bono singing in Across The Universe.) When I left the house for this walk I really had to talk myself into going, telling myself that Kaylee needed the time & attention, that the exhaustion I was feeling could be ignored for her. Arriving home I am refreshed, and feel like writing for the first time in quite a while.

There is a small, very small, dark corner inside me trying to make a stand now that I am back home and the wind is no longer holding my spirits aloft. But I have a feeling I will never let it grow big again. These words I have been listening to over and over are a blessing, a benediction, a cleansing of spirit like I have never known before, and I send light to this woman for sharing a part of her life and giving me a better way to think about some important things. I am so open now to whatever is going to happen next in my life, and I think somewhere out there walking today I made a decision that it's time to be happy again. Maybe it's just another nudge in the right direction, but it feels more like turning a corner - or to be more exact, it feels like I've opened up a little inside, that I'm no longer clenched tight by grief. This is a good thing, and the freedom is lovely, and I know Joey would approve.

ps Did you figure out I am recommending her book to read?
pps Happy Cinco de Mayo