"Where is balance in your life?" the question is our homework assignment from the circus lessons coach. I've considered my answer and I'm happy with it.
I am seen, known, and loved for who I am. I dwell in my close relationships with my husband, son, and besties. I enjoy my home. My daily routine generates only a minimum of stress for me. My life is safe, secure, and stable.
Rooted in this place of comfort and warmth, I'm reaching out, stretching, and challenging myself. The vital tension between comfort and growth is how I'm balanced.
At 45 years old, my heaviest weight, and lowest level of physical fitness, I'm enrolled in circus lessons and enjoying them. I just received my A1C (blood sugar) test results - my highest/worst numbers to date. So, J and I have embarked on a focused and intentional diet to bring my blood sugar back within healthy boundaries and maybe shed some pounds in the process. I'm walking in the evenings, inconsistently but persistently. I'm tending to my body, my physical self care and presence, in new and supported ways.
I've planned a solo adventure. In October, I'm attending the Evolving Faith conference in Denver. The ideas, experiences, and emotions of how one's spirituality and/or religion may change over time is one of my passionate interests. Ultimately, I'll be traveling alone to meet and engage with strangers, pushing through the membranes of my introversion.
It's been almost a year since I created and hosted my first retreat. It went smoothly yet it left me exhausted and sensitive to all the areas for improving the event. It also reminded me of how much I value and enjoy small gatherings of women talking together about substantive, real-life, heartfelt topics. This year I'll host more of these group conversations in my home, starting with one this month. And, I'm revising the retreat for a new participants.
There are more ideas for stretching still percolating through my mind, but this is where I'm balancing, today. It's a vibrant, creative, growing space between the comforts of home and the unknown out there.
In a joyful ceremony, with friends and family, J and I were married.
We gave special attention to including young N in the ceremony. J made a commitment to N to love and support him as step-father and friend, with care not to replace L. We made promises as a family, in addition to our vows as a couple.
N also received a simple silver band as a symbol of the family the three of us make together.
Then the party! A picnic reception with plenty of food and cake for all.
Now is a good time and place for me.
Here are a few things that make Now so good:
Some people surround themselves with things that are pleasing to the eye. People like my mother prefer matching colors and complete sets. Furniture. Window dressings. Appliances and silverware. I appreciate that life when i visit but it doesn’t feel like home to me. My biota is much more a random collage of select things that inspire and move me, planted in the practical stuff of getting through each day. I’d like to call it an authentic life but really it’s me clinging to any meaning and vitality I can find.
My bedroom houses a collection of books, stacked on narrow shelves and teetering along the edges of rare flat surfaces. Not because I’ve read all the books but because the books tell me, just by being there, that someone has made some sense of some particular topic that means something to me. They hold the promise of meaning. They offer a glimmer of inspiration
Today, i sit in doldrums. Winter in seattle is a palette of grey-sky days and early deep dark nights. Daily life is a trudge through obligations and responsibilities. Structures that I must abide like rent and bills, grocery shopping, social etiquette and deference to authority. My office job is mundane and riddled with “powers that be” who must be pleased and satisfied. My body is fat and sedentary. The little time that is mine is so often lost to sleep. Recover from the work-week. Not because it engaged me but because i endured it.
Is it me? Is there something wrong with me? That my daily life, and thus the span of my days alive, is so… meh. Where do other people find the spark of life?
I think that’s why we hear so much about gratitude and the “little things.” i think that’s why so much emphasis is placed on family, in this culture. To the point of declaring “friends are family,” as if friends weren’t precious enough on their own. These things are where we, as a culture, have assigned meaning. Are they not meaningful to me? Are they not enough?
I think it’s also the contrast of “Zowie! Pow! Kazaam! I’ve figured out some big things!,” in my twenties versus “I’ve got to figure out how to make ends meet and parent my son,” in my forties. Those twenty-something big things are barely relevant to my daily life now. And they were big significant things like feminism and social justice and life-giving theology. But how to build a daily life, that pays the rent and raises the child, and embodies those big things, today?
So I look for inspiration, capture it in a word or image, tack it up on the wall, return to it, again and again, like worship. Photos of my son. Images cut from magazines. Poems and quotes. Cards from friends. All stuck onto the wall together.
This collection of artifacts tells a story. Once upon a time there was a woman who felt her life didn’t matter. So she drew close to herself things that signified mattering. She stood before them, imagining they made a mirror, reflecting what mattered in her life. Rather, they were a projection, like movies cast from film and light, issuing the promise of meaning into her and her days. She could live the life depicted in the pictures. The answers were right in front of her.
Really? Can I really live a more vital and meaningful life - beyond the to-do lists and the collage on the wall? Are the answers right in front of me?
It’s been a long season of doldrums, for me. I keep waiting to feel differently, better, engaged, inspired… but I can’t wait any longer. I’ve started making decisions to do the good stuff that I want to do but don’t feel like doing.
I started, like I always have, with lists. Intentions and goals for how I want to live this year. Changes where I’d like to develop momentum until they become just how I live, just my life. A new day-planner for 2017 helped by providing prompts to think about and a place to jot it all down. That spurred me into creating my own little curriculum or syllabus for self-care. Recipes, movement goals, books to read, practices to adopt into habits.
It still feels like work, right now. I am making progress, in a staggering, uphill, pause-out-of-breath kind of way. I’m starting a new yoga class. I’ve cooked two new recipes. I’m writing again.
Writing. That revealing, self-discovery, expressive, often creative craft that I’ve always turned to and returned to over the years. Creating and expression are things (“things”?) that I’m missing in this season of doldrums. So this evening I chose to write. Regardless of how I feel about writing, right now. To sit with a blank page and meet myself in my own words.
Back in November, I posted that Samhain to Imbolc would be a season of sitting still with the life that I live. Oh, but I am a wriggly little worm. Much of this dark season has been resisting the life that I live. So mundane. So uninspired. I've been looking ahead to a season of action on resolutions.
I came across the above image in my Facebook feed and it did inspire me a little. I'm thinking a lot about my health. About managing my weight, getting a grip on how I feel before reaching for food, about how I want to feel, and about the things that I enjoy, that feel meaningful, and that make me feel connected. This colorful image opens my lens on health to include all of those aspects and their interconnections. Plus, I read a quote (also in my FB feed) that basically said we overeat not because food gives us pleasure, but because it doesn't give us enough pleasure. I hunger, really, for pleasure, happiness, good relationships, a sense of the presence of the Divine, meaningful work. In the absence of these things I reach for a chai tea latte and a cheese danish and head back to my job.
This season of action prompts a long list of To Dos in order to reach for the full health that I want and need. Eating healthfully. Moving my body in a way that's enjoyable and repeatable. Playing with my son after work each night and reading to him before bed. Checking in with friends for Mama-dates and ritual. All things that I am capable of and have done before.
And - this season of action calls for discrete inactivity. Sitting. With my journal. With my life. Recalling and recounting my blessings. Perceiving the fissures in the mundane where the special and inspiring whisper through.
I started smoking the summer of 2013, when L and I decided to divorce. It was an amicable decision and yet it initiated a very stressful phase of transition, communication, and action.
Our divorce was finally final on 12/2/14. In recognition of what prompted my smoking habit, I decided that I would quit when we divorced. It has been 6 days since my last cigarette.
I'm chewing gum, including nicotine gum. I've told a few folks and have received good support from friends and coworkers. I'm imagining my lungs healthy again.
There's more to say. About the work it took to get divorced and how I feel. But for now it is enough to recognize it and even celebrate an end, a new beginning.
In addition to being a time to recall our Beloved Dead, Samhain is also referred to as the "Witches' New Year." This really works for me. I appreciate the cohesion of a year ending while the earth is going into a cold, fallow state. In fact, I see the time from Samhain to Imbolq as a period where the year is dying. When the light and the plants start to rebound in February, I perceive the new year beginning.
This year, I've approached Samhain with a mind of letting go. A whole dark cold season of letting go. A time to compost, mull, and brew. No resolutions for January 1 - they will wait for February's light.
I am letting go of my marriage as I complete final paperwork and prepare to stand before a judge for the final decree of dissolution. I've been preoccupied with doing the work of this process and the emotions have faded from my perception. In this dark season I will pause and say goodbye to married life. Lay it down, with all its expectations and disappointments. Let it rest.
I am loosing my desire to lose weight, right now!, and slowly surrendering to my emotions. I may need the entire dark season and the entire new year to learn this practice. Where in my body do I feel my feelings? How do I experience my emotions? Time to lay down the perfect body and inhabit the one I am today.
And somewhere in the back of my mind I'm wrestling with our culture's prescriptions for age and timing and worth. That by X years old one should have achieved, purchased, defined Y, Z, and Q. I'm 40. I have a job that is neither a career that defines me nor my heart's work. My job is low paid and my heart's work goes unpaid. I have a home that I rent. Purchasing a home is not in view, despite my age. I have no partner. I am mother to a young child with special needs. I am short and fat with greying hair and no make-up on my face. My life is out of sync with the culture's preferred order and significance. This year has surprised me with the realization of how much those guidelines mean to me despite how little I've consciously subscribed to them. I will lay these down, too, and sit with the life that I am living.
The promise of spring lingers in another segment of the Wheel of the Year. There will be a fresh season for incantations and invocations. Part of me very much wants to skip over the slow still dark and rush into the bustling of resolutions and new habits. But a deeper hunger rumbles, calling my attention to the value of this current season.
On Sunday afternoon my Pagan circle celebrated Mabon, the holiday of the Autumn Equinox. Mabon is the second harvest festival we recognize, this one for later crops like squash and apples. We gathered to give thanks for the light that has sustained us and the bounty of the land, and to prepare ourselves for the coming darkness and cold. Already we observe darker evenings and cooler temperatures.
This new season we are entering is referred to as the time of the Dark Mother. She is the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess. Marked by her sickle and scythe, she comes to reap what has been sown, in the land and in our lives. She has many names in many cultures including: Demeter, Inanna, Kali, Tiamet, Hecate, Nemesis, and Morrighan.
The story of Demeter and Persephone is particularly relevant to Mabon. Demeter, the goddess of grain and harvest, loses her lovely daughter Persephone to Hades, the god of the underworld. Either abducted or perhaps descending voluntarily, Persephone is resigned to six months of each year with Hades. Demeter grieves the absence of her daughter and the land is barren. That change, from lush to loss, begins at Mabon.
For our ritual, we decorated the altar with garden fresh vegetables and fruit. Bright Mums and Oak leaves stood out in a vase. We crafted candle holders from apples and placed them on the altar to note the four directions and god and goddess at the center. Our meditation focused on seasons of our lives – which season are you entering and how are you preparing for it? We used a Talking Circle to shape the individual sharing and later group discussion around our altar.
I’m entering a season of partner-less among the partnered. Now, more than ever, I feel like our culture places heavy expectations on us to have a partner. The expectation peppers our popular culture in music, television programs, and even commercials. The love-interest. The love unrequited. The love lost.
I started dating when I was 13, and while interspersed with solo phases, have usually had a partner or some love interest in my little sphere. Even in those times when there wasn’t a partner, and they were good for me once I adjusted to them, I assumed that there would be again. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve drawn some (a lot?) of my sense of worth from being partnered and possessing partner potential. Not so these days. Who wants to date an overweight, 40-year old, divorced mother of a child with special needs? The culture tells me the options aren’t good. So I look ahead and assume a long season of singleness. A season of belonging to myself. I’ve grown to like the idea. I’m choosing how to live in that season and claim it as my own.
I think it starts with treating myself as I would a good friend, in my thoughts, words, and actions. I tend my close friendships with time together, authenticity, listening, fun, sharing, patience… and so I will treat myself. It means developing personal practices for my body, mind, and spirit. It includes returning to my dreams for 2014: improved health and weight loss, feeling and expressing my emotions in healthy ways, hosting mini-retreats for women, cultivating a good divorce and co-parenting, and returning to my creativity – especially writing. It stretches to imagine new dreams of confidence, good work, and community.
So where I previously experienced loss and confusion, facing this season of living partner-less, I now feel excitement and anticipation. I am a true companion to myself. Composting the distractions, lies, and cultural hubbub, to tend something true, vibrant, and vitally my own. This is my season.
Note – The Fall Equinox has only recently been named Mabon. It received the name in the 1970s from Aidan Kelley as he wrote Crafting the Art of Magic. He deemed it a useful tool in helping modern Pagans to conceptualize Pagan religious ceremonies. This is interesting to me because it speaks to how contemporary Paganism is both an old religion of ancient myths and symbolism and a young religion that is still being created. I think about that seeming dichotomy a lot as I imagine all the little circles around the country, or around the world, gathering and recognizing the symbols and seasons of the year in their own unique ways, borrowing from the past and infusing it with their own personalities, creativity, and desires. I appreciate the malleability and personalization of this religion because it allows each person to honor Spirit in his or her life in his or her own ways.