Human beings are strange creatures, often waiting until we are forced to change rather than choosing to change before we "hit the wall." We see signs--irregular sleep, discord with others, regular illness, excessive drama, acting outside of our values--but we ignore them. We don’t act or we don't act consistently. Each time we ignore a sign we place a brick in the wall we eventually hit when all those signs add up to crisis. Sine qua non is Latin for indispensable element or condition. I call it "readiness." This blog seeks to connect those who are searching for or have found the sine qua non of change. What makes you or keeps you from taking off? What keeps you from flying or helps you soar? What do you know about change that can help others?

Monday, August 30, 2010

I am change

In the spirit of the Italian film "I am Love," I devote time to the topic "I am change." Change, like love is complex and powerful.

I am change:

baby steps
hard work

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I have become my mother

I remember the day I was standing in the narrow hallway of the ranch-style rental I lived in with my daughters, hand on hip, speaking in a voice that could only be my mother. It was a perfect example of "family of origin" stuff. There I was in her image, saying the words she would have said to me. Family of origin is roughly the imprinted behaviors implanted into our own lives from habits that belonged to our ancestors.

The idea rattled around my brain. I remember wondering why my daughter sniffing her nose and the neighbor's barking dog made me crazy. Why did they bother me?

One day I realized my sweetie and I have very different perspectives about standing up (in public) for what we believe. I can still hear Mom in the backyard, speaking angrily to me about my having told the neighbors that she was a Democrat. "It's no body's business," she scolded in a loud whisper
. Funny, I don't talk about political beliefs with anyone except very close friends and family. My sweetie on the other hand has ancient black and white photos of his mother marching in a crowd in Times Square. He's the kind of guy that will stand on the street corner with a sign of protest stapled to a 1x3" garden stake. There is a part of me that envies his courage and a part of me that cringes at his gall.

Most disturbing is the reality that I too mop the backsplash behind the kitchen faucet when it is puddled with water. It is creepy because it was one of Mom's disapproving actions I hated growing up. Her messy countertop obsession transferred to my own aggravation.

It's one thing for me to choose these behaviors. It's another for me to do them because they are incidiously etched in my brain and I'm bound to live out the insanity that came before me. If I'm going to do something weird, I want it to be conscious and intentful.

Lots of work.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another day is over

Were you who you wanted to be?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Escape from the archives

I pulled this photo out of the archives today because someone asked for Portland photos that are portrait or vertical for a calendar. I didn't know until I searched that most of the photos I take, especially of bridges, are horizontal. During my search I looked at this 2-year old image with a new eye. I found a beauty I had set aside in favor of images in the glow of a blue sky captured at the next photo shoot. Like this sleeper photo, sitting there looking pretty every time I went past her, we ignore the little voice that informs us at a deeper level. We prefer the chatter in the attic.

I related this to those of us who are seeking the blissful path and how hard it is to know where to go and what to do, and how easy it is to latch on to the next sunny idea that bounces in our head rather than stick to that sustaining idea that keeps calling us from our gut. Instead we jump on the next bandwagon
or throw up our arms and surrender to status quo because there are too many options. If I hadn't been asked to look at the archive using a different lens this solid piece of work would've gone unnoticed. I'm sure the lesson is in being true to my artist's eye and avoiding making artistic decisions based on superficial attributes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Transition--lean into it and then cut the cake

I was summoned to a women's circle that I am able to attend infrequently because of time and distance. It's run by a couple of wise women in the their 70s who provide comfort and inspiration through reading or writing, but certainly talking and eating. I have always had the feeling that some of what these women do has a little magic. It was a larger group than usual, triple the size of the usual five- or six-person gathering. There was food and the topic of conversation was inspiring books.

One of the women waited until everyone else shared and then admitted she really didn't know why she was there, she was physically hurting and really had nothing to say except that she felt like her life was falling apart--job, relationship, health. Everything out of control. She was crying by the time she uttered her last word. The blanket of concern silently covered her shoulders.

Someone joked about how little we control, and we laughed about the lessons to help us learn to recognize it. And how we are offered the lesson over and over until we get it. There was nodding consensus.

"Have you given birth to a child?" the woman sitting on the piano bench asked her.

"No," was all she said.

"No matter, it's just a metaphor anyway for the kind of human pain that occurs in things like childbirth."

"It's called transition. I had one woman grab my arm and yell 'I cannot do this one more minute, I am losing it!'" remembered the nurse in the overstuffed chair.

"Yeah, I literally pushed my kids' Dad out of my way and told him to get away from me I was so over the edge," said the hostess.

The woman quietly sobbed through her puzzlement.

"This is where the Mom is dialated and ready to give birth," the nurse confirmed.

"Sometimes change feels like the transition of childbirth. Just when you think you cannot endure one more moment, you give birth to a new you or a new part of you. Is it possible you are in transition? And you're about to give birth to the new you? asked the woman on the piano bench.

The women surrounded the crying woman, each touching a small patch of her aching left side. The leader said some words of blessing.

And then they cut the cake.

Friday, August 13, 2010

No Joke

We really do reap what we sow.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Teach your children well

Mt. Vernon is an 18 mile buggy ride from the Capitol, a distance to prove the farmer that was our first president. He was an unlikely leader who relinquished the power earned him as an officer in the Revolutionary War in favor of returning home to experiment and farm. “George Washington never gave up!” announced the tour guide to her 4th grade tutelage. The never die spirit was sliced by her father’s unkind words said standing over her small 6-year-old frame, his humongous face inches from hers, spit occasionally sprouting from his lips.. “Stop singing! You are always singing and driving everybody crazy.” I cringed and wondered if her song was her passion, the dirt under George Washington’s nails. I thought of J still wishing she was someone's teacher fifteen years after an influential elder stopped her pursuit of a teaching career with well-meaning warnings. I whispered in the child's ear when her Dad wasn’t looking, “I think your song is beautiful. Never stop singing.”

Working wholeheartedly

Hopefully at some point in your life (I'm all for doing it daily), you have felt what it feels like to work "wholeheartedly," literally with your whole heart. I'm sorry to say I think it's rare, and so I've been feeling pretty lucky to be working wholeheartedly for the past month or so. As I've mentioned in earlier writing, I'm trying to be less of a teacher and more of an artist. And I keep repeating that every time I follow my bliss, new doors open. I keep saying that photos don't come knock on my door. I have to be out mingling with the world's people.

When I'm working with all my heart I do crazy things like willingly get up before 5:00am to get the best light. I sit for hours waiting for the perfect context to live by so I can capture
it. I spend hours looking and re-looking at images and going out again to get better light on a promising shot. No sweat. No taste for grumbling or hesitating. I even bought a ticket on a Saturday evening for the local river cruise so I could shoot by my subject from a prime vantage point while others ate and drank. I have a feeling no one bothered me while I lurked around searching for the perfect shot because I had this big smile on my face the whole time and no one dared encounter the grinning nut with the camera.

Part of the joy for me comes undoubtedly with the assignment itself. I was actually hired to take photos of a local historical landmark (permanently
altering my amateur status). I like having the clarity of an assignment. I got that assignment through my network, those who are aware of and support my work. As a matter of fact I wouldn't have been considered for the assignment had it not been for one of the women in my writer's group. Daily, walking the path of bliss. But the other is in living my mission--behold, ask, learn, create, share, connect. I walked within the joy of my talents and gifts and it left a silly smurk on my face. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I mourn for you

I cry because someone important once degraded you, carved a mark on your soul that colors your lens, distorts your thinking. I ache because your head has built a wall around your heart that protects you from people you long to know. I grieve because you serve others, settle for less than you want, sit with that lump in your throat and ache in your heart that leaks tears when you speak. I mourn for the signs you saw and ignored, parasites sucking you dry of money and emotions, of goodwill and compassion until you cannot put a sentence together any more than you can repair your life because you are clueless about where to start.

Awareness before change

Awareness November 2008

“I was hoping to come back and join you in bed,” my sweetie said clearly disappointed as he walked past me on his way to the bedroom after spending the night in the guest room where his back finds respite. “Too late,” I retorted, fully clothed, brewing a cup of coffee and unfolding my buttermilk pancake recipe. He continued to our bed, surely hoping I would change my mind. Standing my ground meant we missed out on the irreplaceable morning “spoon”—a defiance way beyond the occasion and very much out of character.

I had nothing to say on this Pancake Sunday--a ritual we started to bring the family back to the fold once a week, even after Mom arrived; even when my sweetie tried to get me to leave my post at the grill to come see the critters converged on the deck enjoying the morning’s banquet of seeds and suet. I ignored him. “I’ve got pancakes to turn,” I growled under my breath.

I could feel myself slipping over the edge as Mom poured syrup and detailed the lives of her neighbors and their little girl whom she cannot forgive for going without underpants, and the impending birth of twins, and the small house they live in, and the Mom’s favorite coffee and their latest conversation encased in a “Then I said,” and “Then she said,” recalling every word. “I don’t care,” I thought, through my blank stare.

That was the first time I realized my heart hurt. Not the “I’m-having-a-heart-attack” kind of hurt, but an ache in the anterior. I breathed deep into the pain and sighed.

Luckily only Mom had joined us on this Sunday after Thanksgiving. Instead of the usual group of friends and optimistic chit-chat, we ate with an uncomfortable quiet. It didn’t take long for her to pack up and go home after breakfast, leaving me alone to dwell on the status of my relationship, the recent and untimely death of a friend, my floundering career. My heart hurt. I breathed deep and sighed and relieved it for a moment more.

Awareness October 2009

Darkness had not yet dissolved on the Saturday morning I awoke anxious and sad and inconsolable. The contrast was stark to the usual song in my head. The frenzy prevented me from turning and breathing and willing myself back to sleep. What? I wondered.

The channels flipped on my internal tube, exposing trailers of unfinished business, the chasm I feared growing between me and my daughter, the class the previous day that produced two negative evaluations, conversation with the neighbors at dinner the night before where we talked about elders and our turn, Thanksgiving plans upended again in a phone call.

I paused and hit replay. Decades of chaotic Thanksgiving scenes montaged through; my Dad’s death on the holiday when I was 5, yelling and swats with the hair brush over dresses and curls, a major riff in the family where half split off to celebrate elsewhere, Mom insisting on celebrating one place or another creating the necessity to “pick sides,” my daughter throwing up to avoid choosing, the ache in my heart the year before. Years of chaos and drama created by ancient sadness and suffering disguised itself as current reality and visited me there in my bed to me to remind me to move on.