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?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Don't settle, ask for what you want

"I bet you could help me choose," she called from the jewelry counter. "Which one of these do you like best?"

"Well the one on the left won my heart when we were watching the artist's demo," I confessed. "But it's more important that whatever you buy wins your heart. Which one do you like best?"

"Well I have clothes to match both of them," she hesitated.

"But which one do you really love?"

"Well the one I really love isn't here. It was at the demo, but there isn't one like it here."

"Which one was that?"

"Oh, it was pink and blue," her eyes danced with the memory.

"Then why don't you have this lady call the artist and have her deliver it? You have a day-and-a-half until we leave."

"Do you think that would be okay?"

"I think you should have the one you really love, and it can't hurt to ask." Oftentimes the distance between what we want and what we settle for is the courage to ask.

Sure enough the artist was contacted, happy to deliver the necklace, and the woman was elated to buy the thing she really wanted.

Piece of cake. Next.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I am enough

So here I sit, bowl of stew warming my left hand as I shovel with my right an assortment of mostly white vegetables recommended by Chinese medicine to fortify the lungs for the coming winter. I am preparing myself, like nature does, to return to the earth, to introspection, to letting die off those things that don't serve me well in favor of rebirth in the new year. And I've figured something out. I am enough.

It started, as do most of my musings, with words from one of my peeps, S, who through a series of events had developed the moniker, "I am enough." I don't think I asked enough questions to really understand what it meant to her, but the three words have rolled around my brain since last we lunched on the steps of the library at the local university. "I am enough," she declared with resolve.

It continued with a visit to an Oregon artist friend who lives in Ashland. Our visits are filled with food and friendship, and a touch of shared inspiration. We are always working on the next big writing project. "Maybe it's enough that I take photos and add poetry to them," I supposed. "Maybe there never was a book or anything bigger. Maybe what I do is enough." I said out loud what she had been chewing on all summer.

I even conjured up the courage to submit my photo-poetry pieces to a community college literary magazine, asserting the work is worthy of a category of its own. The editor accepted the submissions. I am enough.

And then this morning I cleared my calendar and actually have a day to write. A whole day uninterrupted. I went for a run, relaxed in yoga poses to counteract the pounding, had a good breakfast, finished some paper work and headed for the shower to begin my writing day. I "woke up" in the shower, well into the routine, finally coming into my body. I was hyperventilating--my predictable reaction to anxiety. Really? A perfect day and I'm hyperventilating. And then it hit me, "I am enough." There is a place deep inside that isn't so sure I am enough. That childlike place that rewrites history to prove it. And when I make time to write, that fear hampers my ability to catch my breath.

Yoga has taught me about breathing. It has taught me to send breath to places in my body that hurt on the inhale and release the pain and tension on the exhale. I'm pretty darn good at it after five or so years. And so I inhaled and sent my breath filled with "I am enough" to the catch in my lung. I exhaled and sent my breath filled with "I am not enough" out with it. Inhale and exhale. In goes enough, out goes not enough. Until the hyperventilating ceased.

It wasn't a huge surprise to rest my hands on the keyboard and find my fingers type my first words of the day, "I--a-m--e-n-o-u-g-h." No matter what I write. I am enough.

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.