Friday, June 24, 2005

Pulling Weeds

Sometimes the simplest activities bring the most joy. Lately I view chores around the yard and house as quiet meditations -- joyful work. It wasn't always so.

When I worked in an office everyday, housework and yard work were obligations on my busy schedule that crowded out or threatened more pleasurable activities, like shopping or sitting at the laptop surfing the web. Even playing with the dogs seemed to try my ever short supply of patience, because I was focused entirely on decompressing from the stress of working.

Like many of my friends, I fed off the adrenalin created by believing that my work was so remarkably essential that it absolutely positively should take precedence over every other aspect of life. I bought into the corporate myth that every insane assignment borne of the crisis du jour or the latest palace intrigue was a life or death responsibility upon which the success or failure of the Washington region hinged.

The truth is that everyone is expendable, bar none, and that is a natural law of business. It is healthy to understand that, because otherwise you make lousy, ridiculous choices for yourself and your family. And the best companies understand that and do not require fealty at the expense of family.

I've been my own master now for nearly 60 days, and I think I've worked harder and longer than I have in years, and enjoyed it more. The secret for me is that the rewards are tangible and immediate, and as a result, my priorities have shifted back into a more normal biological balance. I have also come to realize that tomorrow was created for anything that couldn't get done today.

Today's priorities include activities I rarely if ever considered before a year or so ago...
  1. watching after and praying for friends and family who are troubled or aged or just in need of a little care;
  2. giving thanks to God early and often for the many blessings He has bestowed on me and my family;
  3. paying attention to the natural world around me, and doing my part to improve or safeguard it;
  4. taking time to notice and truly enjoy the many wonders that are all around me, like a luscious full moon nestled brilliantly among a Universe of stars twinkling and flickering into eternity;
  5. surrendering to the urge to feel sand and surf between my toes, whenever I am in need of spiritual counsel, solace, wisdom, relief or cleansing;
  6. writing. writing. writing. writing. writing.
  7. pulling weeds and planting flowers and watering the sparce lawn while patiently (NOT) waiting for grass seeds to take hold;
  8. checking in via email or phone with friends who keep me abreast of life in the BIG CITY and update me on what's important that day in their life so that I can enjoy vicariously the joys and accomplishments of my friends and family and also console them in their worries or sorrows;
  9. developing a sustaining faith that will comfort me when the clouds roll in and sun seems gone for good, because I know that life turns on a dime and dimes pop up when least expected;
  10. thanking Jesus for continuing to watch over me and bring Angels to my rescue whenever I ask (or they sense) I am in need of guidance or friendship or generosity or assistance or fellowship or counsel.

Perhaps the biggest weed I have pulled lately is the one that entangled my heart.

I feel like I am finally emerging after more than 12 years of emotional pain and loss from a place that too often was riddled with loneliness and the fear of being permanently alone and lonely. "HeartSleeve" rose from the mists created by the slings and arrows of hearts broken and loves lost, and a wall was subconsciously erected after the heart-numbing agony of losing my dear, wonderful, irrascible Mother to a horrible and too early death. These deep psychic wounds paralyzed me emotionally and left me with a deep-seated feeling of emotional and spiritual malaise. I do not hold myself apart here... each of us has known breathtaking heartache and gut-wrenching disappointment.

I needed assistance in that bit of spiritual yard work and I am relieved and overjoyed to admit I got the help I needed and life seems sunnier, even on dark days.

The human condition is such that I will always have days plagued with self-doubt and nights when my monkey-mind runs amok in my hot brain, but I have the tools to deal, now, where I didn't before.

I can usually make those moments pass by asking for God's intercession followed by several concerted deep breaths and some focus on what's going right in my life.

It isn't hubris that brings me to the page these days, but a willingness to share the good and the bad, the awful and the awesome, with anyone who is willing to join me here. Truly, you help me in my daily weed pulling exercises and sustain me when storms might otherwise buffet and blow me to the ground.

A tip of my gardener's cap to you all, and may we enjoy a summer ripe with bounty -- weed-free!


-- HeartSleeve

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Life Turns on a Dime

Life Turns on a Dime -- That's a firmly held belief of mine, so I shouldn't be so surprised when it happens, even when I least expect it.

I was revelling in being retired, spending my days and nights doing anything that caught my fancy and starting one project after another to fill my leisure time. I felt like I was in summer camp.

But I'm not totally unaware of life outside my little Universe: I am still very concerned for and supportive of friends who are dealing with their own demons, whether it is disease, heart-ache, depression or frustration, but basically, my little corner of the planet was spinning along fairly trouble-free.

But then -- SHAZAMMMMM!

An off-hand and woefully uninformed posting I made on a BB earlier in the week caught my family by the throat and still threatens to cause an irreparable rift, and I am scared and worried that I have brought us to this uncertain brink. I am also terribly saddened that my motives or intentions were so bizarrely misunderstood.

A fairly minor health issue suddenly on Friday became "an adnexal mass" that needs an MRI to determine its size and scope. A beautiful Friday wrecked suddenly by disaster and uncertainty and misunderstanding, and it has left my head spinning and my heart very heavy.

And while my mind is reeling, my body continues it new-found daily routines and tasks, keeping my hands and arms and legs busy with yard work so my soul is not tempted into a dark corner that would ultimately make all matters worse.

I tried to find some solace today at Mass, and the homilies and gospels seemed to be talking right at me.

But Psalm 69 went straight to the heart of the matter...

Save me, God,for the waters have reached my neck.
I have sunk into the mire of the deep,where there is no foothold.
I have gone down to the watery depths; the flood overwhelms me.
I am weary with crying out; my throat is parched.
My eyes have failed, looking for my God.
More numerous than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause.
Too many for my strength are my enemies.
Must I now restorewhat I did not steal?
The priest compared life to a mobile that adorns a child's crib... when all the items are in balance, everyone is amused and entertained by the fanciful dancing symmetry. But let someone tug on a cord or tangle a string, and suddenly no one is amused and it takes time and concentration and forgiveness to untangle the mess and repair the damage.
That is the metaphor for my life right now. First I must forgive myself for my part in creating the mess that exists. Then I must allow time for others to make their way through the thicket of their own emotions. And I must also continue to believe that God will never bring me to a place without giving me the tools to find my way clear.
I cannot see around corners to know what the coming week's challenges will bring, but I will have faith and follow the trail of dimes.
-- HeartSleeve

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Monumental Blunders

This week a very casual action that I took quickly, without thinking about beforehand, hurt members of my family more than I can even fathom. Even now, a few days later, I am still stupefied by the fall-out from the seemingly simple act of throwing my uninformed opinion around on an issue I truly know next to nothing about.

I still do not yet know the extent of the hurt or the damage I may have caused. My apologies are falling on deaf ears and I can understand why my anguish and regret over the incident have no currency at the moment.

I can only fall back on my truth as I know it in my heart, and hope that in time, my family will remember this truth as well: that I would never knowingly hurt any one of them, all of whom have supported and loved and helped me all my life. That would be more than just biting the hand that feeds me... it is would be like cutting out my own heart.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

My fav from Botanic adventure! Posted by Hello

Took this wandering thru Botanic Gardens in DC Posted by Hello

Friday, June 10, 2005

One Good Hour

Summer has finally arrived at the beach, after a wet and cooler than normal Spring. So this morning, I was glad for one good hour to lay flagstone before it got too hot and humid to work outdoors.

Earlier in the week, without paying close attention, I got the backs of my legs and the tops of my feet badly sunburned just watering my trees and shrubs for about an hour, and with my track record with skin cancer, that's not a practice I want to continue.

And since doing yard work has become my new employment, and one that totally lights me up, I want to make sure I get maximum enjoyment but minimum risk for skin damage.

The flagstone I am laying was an after-thought once the landscapers had come and gone, leaving me with a nicely sculpted perimeter of flower beds around 3/4 of the house. The beds are mulched with pine needles, which provide a wonderful almost Christmas-sy scent, but leave a bushy, unfinished look to the beds.

And since the beds are quite generous in size and there's ample space between plantings, they cried out for a finished edge. Flagstone is my favorite natural element in a walkway or garden, so I stopped by the local rock-meister and picked out a pallet of "Green River" which suits perfectly because green in my color and the house has lots of dark green trim!

This morning, I set about early hoisting flagstones out of the wire pallet and placing them just inside the sculpted edge of the beds atop the mulch, hoping that my $250 investment in rock wouldn't give my newly landscaped gardens a cheesy "Coney Island" look (with apologies to any New Yorkers who might take offense). I hoisted and placed and hoisted and placed and spaced and placed for about an hour, getting about a third of the way done before the heat, humidity and my lack of fitness overtook me. But what I saw, I liked. So did my neighbors Beverly and Byron, who have the prettiest yard in the neighborhood, so I'm feeling pretty good about the early fruits of my labor.

I'm not sure what amazes me more: the fact that - in retirement - I am relishing my new role as manual laborer, after 30 years of being a desk jockey married to a computer keyboard - or that I seem to have a good eye or a good feel for the design elements of landscaping. Probably doesn't matter.

What matters is that these new morning rituals are like morning meditations, done joyfully in service to nature. One good hour to get centered and ready to greet the day!



Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Gifts from the Sea (and other lesser known places...)

Over the last two days, I have been given many gifts 'from the sea,' to steal a line from Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Actually, let's start with her, because she was an original point of inspiration for me 'dreaming big' and believing that a kid who grew up in Capitol Heights (what is now refered to as 'the hood' in more ways than one) could one day through luck and pluck, have her very own place by the sea.

Having read many years ago AML's BIG little tome, Gift from the Sea, I ached to have a place of my own some day where I could truly let go and drink in the tonic dispensed at the ocean's edge. As a Pisces, water is my 'element,' and I am never more calm, cleansed, comforted or healed than when I am can hear the pounding surf, taste and smell the salt and sea scents of the ocean, feel the coolness of the wet sand between my toes and the warmth of sunbleached wood on my bare feet.

The ocean has also been my teacher, my confessor, my therapist and my direct line to God. Many times have I have prostrated myself face down and cried an ocean of tears into the sand when heartbroken, gazed upward and puzzled over life's mysteries, and let the fierce sound of the waves erase the monkey-mind of worries in my hot brain.

So I am embarrassed to admit that although I have been living now two weeks here at the shore, it took the invite of a friend who also has a place on the beach to actually get me to water's edge! If you lead this horse to water, I will drink! That was gift number ONE this week!

What has stolen my time thusfar from my rendezvous with the sea, you might ask? Hey, I been busy settling in and unpacking and managing a major lawn landscaping and deck laying operation. What a load of crappo! As my friend Alice might have said, "Get thee to the beach, CrazyLady!"

Speaking of Alice, she is directly responsible for the second gift I received this week. ALice is a BIGTRAINDC specialty beverage Queen, managing outfits all over the eastern seaboard and midatlantic region who sell and distribute their line of upscale chai and cocoa and coffee and other yuppy frothy caffeine drinks. And they are all scrumptious. I know this because yesterday, she gifted me WITH A HUGE PERSONAL ASSORTMENT gift basket teeming with tempting tea-like tasty tantalizing tummy warmers. And I've never laid eyes (or anything else!) on Alice! She's a dame of the highest ilk!

Gift #3 came with a knock on my back door yesterday, when Bev, my neighbor and new friend, surprised me with a quart of 'just picked' local strawberries, still warm from the sun and smelling like a tiny slice of Heaven! Bev and her delightful husband Byron have pretty much adopted me since I arrived for good here in Hunters Run, my new 'hood! They have extended every act of kindness and generosity and warm friendship imaginable, which reinforces my firm belief that I am truly living in a state of grace these days.

And the gifts just kept on coming. Craig, the hunky local handyman good looking enough to be a regular on 'Desperate Housewives,' arrived yesterday to install the walkway off my back deck that will allow me to proceed from the house, even on the wettest days, without submerging my feet or the dogs' into soggy wet grass and mud to take our daily constitutionals. Terry Hatcher I'm not, but oh, if I were!

I also traded emails and phone calls with many new friends and old friends and angels yesterday whose very existence enriches my life every day.

The lessons I learned this week that I would invite anyone to share, are these:

  • take at least an hour today or tomorrow and do something for yourself that inspires, enriches, comforts and fills you.
  • take at least an hour today or tomorrow and do a kindness or service UNASKED for someone who needs a lift.
  • spread the wealth by asking someone in your circle to join you in these joyous works.
  • take a moment today and give thanks that you can do these things effortlessly.

These are gifts we can share.


-- HeartSleeve

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Be Grateful for 'Normal.'

Today I am grateful that I am healthy pretty much. An infection earlier in the week seems to have run its course, thanks to Docs and the magic of "chemistry." I worry about friends who have much more serious health issues and how they cope so well, or at all, when I was layed low by something as ridiculous as a bladder infection.

And I am amazed at how quickly "normal" felt so wonderful, because usually, I operate on the edge... always pushing higher, longer, farther, bigger, better; stretching and straining for the impossible... I lose sight of how comfy and cozy normal can be, until it abruptly departs and something nastier or more depressing appears.

I am counting my blessings today, because my life generally percolates along fairly predictably, largely along lines I define, except for those periods of true grace when something quite marvelous or unexpected occurs.

I read somewhere yesterday that
JUSTICE is getting what we deserve...
MERCY is not getting what we deserve... and
GRACE is getting what we don't deserve.

By that definition, I think I spend alot of time in a state of grace. And I'm not alone.

I think sometimes it's hard for us to accept that we are truly blessed. We cogitate on what ails us, individually and collectively, and not on the incredible blessings that grace our everyday lives. The parking space that opens up just as we drive in, the breeze that refreshes us after a little outdoor manual labor, the absolute blessing of being healthy that most of us take for granted because it is as effortless as air or breathing.

I watched my Mom struggle for every breath she took, as emphysema was destroying her lungs and ultimately her life, but I didnt truly "get it" until I came down with pneumonia a few years after she was gone, and I struggled to breathe with the help of the same breathalizers that gave her momentary peace. So today, I try not to take for granted "the air that we breathe" just because it comes easy.

Many of my friends right now are suffering - breast cancer, depression, anxiety, addiction - and I marvel at how well they cope with just doing the everyday things, nevermind the new regimens and routines they endure on the road to recovery. I call on God through the infinite power of prayer to aid and comfort them, and I am not ashamed to ask for the prayers of others on their behalf, because I have seen how quickly or unmistakably God intervenes when we ask. And I am very grateful for that faith.

Having just retired with what I hope is a good - and I mean GOOD - 30 years ahead of me, I am grateful to Metro for having given me a good job that did much more than just pay the bills for more than 20 years and provide the ability to retire at a still young 55.

Working at Metro gave me the opportunity to meet so many good people who work tirelessly to provide, support and promote very meaningful public transit service. While my days were not always punctuated with exclamation points, I marvel and give grateful thanks when I recall those occasions where the impact of my words provided absolute clarity of purpose as to our collective mission and direction. And those moments are both points of gratitude and pride. So my heart goes out to those who feel mangled and misunderstood in their jobs, or who struggle to keep jobs for whatever reason. Or those who do their job well, even though their heart or passion is elsewhere.

Mostly, I am grateful for a network of friends, some known by face and many known only by their screen names or online monikers. I sense a crazy quilt of personalities, interests, talents, fears, dreams, quirks and eccentricities and I embrace that cornucopeia with relish. I rely on finding a friendly greeting when I drop in, and I am rarely disappointed.

And for all of this, and the great state of normalcy, I am so very grateful today.