Being Alive

People aren’t looking for the meaning of life; they’re looking to feel more alive.

In order to sustain life, the heart cannot beat in the past nor can the lungs breath in the air from the future. This ever-present moment is when life is and when more life can be had. Yet most of us live in the past, replaying events,  how it felt, what roles we or they had, and the shoulda-woulda-coulda’s.  This is not where life is and yet is where the majority of our thoughts live.

By noticing and being the observer of our own thoughts and behavior, we can create new habits and hone our ability to be present in each moment. Meditation or yoga are great ways to foster this skill.  When we set the intention of observing our world right now, we can be more fully in it.

Hiding Me

I’ve been hiding this for some time and want to finally rid myself of its burden. I want you to know that everything I told you was true. But what I did not tell you was also true.

What I did not tell you was that when I am with you (but only occasionally), my thoughts whirl in directions I can’t quite seem to control. I tell myself how unworthy I am to be with someone I love so much. Could it be that my thoughts speak to my body? Because I then get overwhelmed with this ungodly pain filling up my chest, completely taking away my breath and my ability to be present with you.

But I hid this from you, pretending everything was fine.

I said the right things, made you laugh, and we shared many wonderful moments together. But I never allowed all of me to be with you.

I was afraid of seeing the disgust in your face, afraid of your pulling away, leaving me quite alone in the cold darkness, without you. I couldn’t bear the thought of that.

But what I was afraid of happening was what I was actually creating. I’m afraid of you pulling away, so I pull away because I’m afraid of you pulling away. It makes no sense. I’m so glad I told you this! I made it all up from nothing! There’s nothing to be afraid of.

So. Here I am. No more secrets. And all the more closer to you.

And to myself.

Strangers in Good Company

In the movie “Strangers in Good Company,” a group of elderly women slowly hobbled out of a lame bus, onto an isolated Canadian dirt road, and into their lives.  The bus driver though younger and nevertheless mature and wiser than she appeared, injured her ankle upon exiting the bus.   All of these women were stranded, alone, vulnerable, and dependent on a world for survival.

Strangers in Good Company
Directed by Cynthia Scott
Starring
Alice Diabo, Constance Garneau, Mary Meigs

The movie was an early docu-drama which captured the story of a group of elderly women figuring out how to endure a seemingly hopeless situation.   At first, I thought the intention behind the movie was simple entertainment – they said the darndest things which had me laughing out loud. But so much more was happening.

With canes and exaggerated limps, the women ambled away from the bus and toward a dilapidated and clearly abandoned house (a clear metaphor).  Knowing they would be there overnight, the women got to work making do.  This was a generation of women that made a home from scraps and making do was part of life.  Each contributed in their unique way, creatively tapping into dormant problem-solving skills. They found themselves strong, resilient, capable and happy, perhaps for the first time in many years.  They had reverted to an earlier version of themselves which the film captured quite nicely with pictures of their childhood, their marriage, a babies birth, graduation.

When the women were finally rescued, none of them looked relieved.  I sensed that none of them (save the younger bus driver) wanted to leave a world in which they were completely accepted and a significant contributor.  In this isolated countryside, they had meaning, purpose, importance, and real community.  They were not being rescued; they were being sent back to where they were no longer relevant.

Irrelevance and Aging

What are your fears of aging? Does irrelevance sneak into your life today? Do you give up your power to those you believe know better about what is best for you? Or do you do that to others? Have you judged elderly people in the past? How do you want to be as you reach the last moments of your life?

When I was Free

I was a child running in the cool summer grass. It was dusk and my long shadow darted behind me. No, it was a deer chasing me, I pretended. I felt completely one with my body, so fast, so easily catapulting myself forward into the next landing blow toward the ground far in front of me. I was completely free and felt amazing joy in my human form.

Forty years later, I still remember when I was a child running in the cool summer grass. I can be her again, right now, and imagine the man that is today my son and see him differently. At this moment, I don’t see lack or disappointments. That little girl looked up and was delighted to see this young man, so handsome, kind and gentle. He is, will be, her gift from life. And in this space, I am unburdened, completely free to let in the amazing joy of the gift that is my son.

Sitting in my Mind

How long have I been here, churning through my thoughts which ground away my resolve? When did it start? Ah, she said boo and I shut down to be alone with my familiar self-destructive thoughts. She wasn’t aware because I didn’t want her to know that she scared me. I didn’t want me to know that she could scare me. My body was unimpressed with all of it and screamed to be let out. I wasn’t listening.

Success

When our collective effort is united behind a singular purpose, the universe is then more aligned, and the energy that gathers behind this shared purpose is undeniably more effective.
These words bring to mind Victor Frankl and his memoirs in “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  He calls for us to not focus on a particular outcome, but on how we want to be.  It is inevitable that success will follow this way of being.  Frankl wrote,
Don’t aim at success.  The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.  For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.  Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success you have to let it happen by not caring about it.

 

Why We Laugh or Cry

With the unexpected punchline, you laugh with delight.  Your friend is so witty.  But when he repeats the joke to others, you don’t find it funny at all, and are actually quite annoyed that he would repeat it for the umpeenth time.  This is a natural, human response, is it not?

But why do we laugh more and more audibly when we’re with others? Perhaps we have more control over our laughter than we truly understand.  We learned how to laugh before we could talk.  But if you observe human interactions around you, you’ll notice most people are laughing when there is nothing funny at all happening.  According to Robert R. Provine, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Maryland Baltimore County who authored the book Laughter: a Scientific Investigation, the primary purpose of laughter could be to trigger positive feelings in other people.

We don’t laugh at the same joke twice. Then why do we cry on the same sad story again and again?  Again, it has everything to do with our thoughts and beliefs.  (The article on Why We Cry offers much fascinating information on the science behind our tears.)  You’re crying again about something you lost, something you wish hadn’t happened, or something you long for and but cannot have.  What do these things all have in common?  Wanting it to be different.  How will crying change it?  How will sadness change things?

From the Science of People, Sadness: The Science of Why We Feel Sad and Its Surprising Benefits

Humans depend on each other to survive. Sadness is the emotion that makes us remember that fact. Young children feel sad when they are separated from their parents and it’s that sadness that prompts them to cry and/or find their parents, potentially saving their lives. As people grow older, the sadness that accompanies separation is what drives people to continuously invest in relationships.

 

My Neighbor

Almost to the end of my jog, my neighbor stepped from her front door out onto her lawn, and sent me a non-verbal apology for meeting my gaze. She put the miniature dog she was holding onto the lawn and it immediately darted to the far end of the yard, thankfully away from me. “Honey… Honey… Honey, come here. Come here Honey.” The expression on the dogs face said, “You are nothing to me…” As I passed the end of their yard, the women was running to the dog as her unending, useless pleas faded into my lasting memory.

Teachers Appear

I had a heartfelt conversation with a friend tonight who believes that he is doomed to live a life in which he will only be able to create “monsters” with his love. He believes his bad choices are his burden, and evidence to his belief that he is unwanted, not good enough. As I watched him say these things, I was incredibly moved by his vulnerability, his earnestness to understand. I could see that he has been and is now working through the messiness, but he believes that he is getting nowhere. If he could only see what I see, that he is enough, a beautiful example of self-love, and not just surviving, but creating a better life for himself. He doesn’t know that this is a temporary thing.To change how we are, and what we do, it’s important to understand what we are believing and redefine our beliefs.  But to do this takes quite a bit of effort, practice, patience, and perseverance.  Brad Brown, one of the founders of More To Life, used to say, “Practice, practice, practice until it becomes your practice.”

But I want to add one more important piece to this.  Because we are never alone on our journey, it’s important to stay open to the support of the teachers around you, and to be open to what that looks like.  It is likely not be what you expect.  A teacher shows up in your life not because you asked for it, but because Life is flowing through you.  The teacher may appear in the form of an enemy, the monster this man created was such a teacher.  When he discovered what he had created, he wanted to learn a different way of being.  It was the only way he was able to understand.

There is a kind of partnership with Life that enables the teacher and the learning to happen harmoniously.  There are many examples of this, and the most familiar one finding our path in life.  Most people do not know what they want to do when “they grow up.”  And so when we listen to the cues life delivers, we can find a path that is more than what we could have dreamed up.  Let’s say you love art and decide to be an art dealer.  While in college, you temp as an office clerk during the summers, and in your second year end up working for an interior design agency.  Your flare for design so impresses the owner that she offers you a job to help design interiors of high end homes.  You love it.  The new opportunity presents itself, and the original plan loses its relevance.  You course correct according to a different plan, one life had for you, perhaps all along.  You would never have chose this for yourself.

By looking at major events in your life, you can chain the events that happen.  One event must come before the next, and you never choose.  These events have something in common and only you can truly understand it.  In the mystery is your purpose for life.  It is why you are here.