A Benediction for 2017

by susanna suchak

adapted from “A Blessing for the New Year” by Kayleen Asbo

(dedicated with gratitude to Mike Prepsky who always inspires)

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As the presence of light

begins to grow with each passing day

may the fearful places in your heart

unclench their grasp on your life;

may your courage blossom and bloom.

 
Let this be the year that you

silence the monkey’s chatter,

pick up the drawing tool,

the pen, the paintbrush, the rasp,

and compose together with

the chorus of creativity.

 

Let this be the year that you

break the invisible yardstick

of impossible expectations

and learn that, just as you are,

you are enough –

and so much more.

Let this be the year that you

embrace the messy wonder

that is your life

as it is;

hold it close 

and do the tango.

Let this be the year you

cherish your own humanity

be tickled by its

quirky charm.

Elope with the wonder

of your own true calling,

and invite the hungry world

to the wedding feast.

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#bounceback

Caregivers are compassionate. It is their nature. For most humans it is their nature and very natural to care. It can be an exhausting job though. Sometimes the compassion well feels pretty dry and empty. Oftentimes, caregivers are not the first to notice the symptoms of empty well or exhaustion until they are just about at the end of the caring rope.

It feels awful. I know. I’ve been there.

But where do you turn?

I turned to counselling. I turned to prescription drugs for depression. But neither were enough.

Until I began searching and seeking for a way that was natural, had no side-effects, and was virtually free, I was flailing. I felt like I was sinking. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the face in front of me.

Then over a year, I dug my way out. I found joy and I found the me I remembered. It was so wonderful that I wanted to share my how.

But first I had to develop the step-by-step method. That took me another year and a bit. With the help of my wise woman, academic advisor, Reinekke Lengelle I have developed my methodology into something that others have found as helpful as I did.

I call it “Wordscaping”. Over the next few weeks, I’ll explain with pictures just what it is.

I am trusting that you will find it worthwhile to try it.

It’s a good way to practice self-care even if you are not a frontline caregiver.

Talk soon!

Pilgrims

Twice in the past few days I have read similar versions of the following story (which I paraphrase):
“A troubled pilgrim, exhausted from the journey, asked a sage for help. The sage gazed compassionately into the pilgrim’s eyes and after a time he spoke, “I can offer you one of two things – a map or a boat.”
The pilgrim thought a few moments and then said, “I’ll take the boat.”
The gentle sage kissed him on the forehead saying, “Go then in peace. You are the boat. Life is the river.”
I supposed it resonated with me because I was … am … that pilgrim. Feeling unmoored and adrift, I ache for “home” without knowing exactly where that might be or precisely what it will look like when or if I do find it.
Feeling like I don’t fit, I transpose that feeling onto so many people who are rooted in this place. Rooted and complacent in this organization or that group. Sometimes, I resent their unquestioning acceptance that they belong; that they are at home.
But this story reminds me that home isn’t a place … although it very well might be to some. We carry home within as we journey. And life is a journey.
Yes, we are all pilgrims, on a journey; it behooves us to listen to these words of wisdom from David Foster Wallace
“Our endless and impossible journey toward home is in faDSCF1741ct our home.”

Learning…to listen

Reflections_on_MBCTLately, it seems, I am making more time for reflection. Perhaps it is the season; perhaps that I am beginning to find comfort in the artful practice of contemplative photography; perhaps it is just who I am and who I am becoming.
Reflecting requires a high degree of listening. That said, I am beginning to realize how I listen best. I prefer face to face listening … even Skype … rather than the phone. I have always found that the phone was not an optimum method of communication. Texting is really low on my list of communication methods that work for me.
So, I am finding myself leaning into anachronism and outdatedness. Something else to reflect on.

many_ears Do more ears help?
Sure, I want to be current and connect with people of all ages, but not at the expense of authentic communication.
Not long ago, one of my sons explained to me that he felt unheard during a telephone conversation. I empathized. I’ve felt that way a great deal.
In this instance, though, it was the technology that was to blame. I liken it to getting used to our toddlers first communication attempts. Our ears are keenly attuned and we “hear” words where others hear a jumble of phonemes.

Folks who use cell phones frequently are in all likelihood, more attuned to the nuances of what comes through the fibre optics, for filling in the blanks, for filtering out the static. Me? Not so much.

It hurt deeply to hear that a very dear person to me felt unheard. It hurt more when my attempts to explain were pushed aside.

But it helped me to listen to what was under the words, to know that I have listened deeply, uncritically, and with patience and will continue to do so.

We need to listen under the words, sometimes, perhaps often. And when we do that with love and patience, we will hear volumes.

A week studying mindfulness in a great deal of silence taught me much.

Dare I say, it has changed me for ever and always. I am deeply grateful for the privilege. I am best able to listen … in stillness, in silence…red_leaf

We need to hear with our hearts.

And best of all, we need to reflect on what we heard and what we know deeply.

 

Planting Seeds …

Today is Labour Day.

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Photo Credit: Jeff Suchak http://mythiclandscape.com

The group I spoke to last night paraded in Port Elgin this morning. They will partake of a well-deserved BBQ this afternoon.

I have been a member of CUPE, the OSSTF and grew up as the child of the CAW. I know that my life was the better for that.

So a deep bow of gratitude to all of you…and especially to UNIFOR who honours me by sharing their work with me. I offer this poem, one of my favourites, by Marge Piercy… I can think of no better way to honour them and the others who work to improve life’s quality through their participation and service in a trade union than to keep these hard won rights and privileges in front of people; vigilance is always our duty.

To be of use

by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight. They seem to become natives of that element, the black sleek heads of seals bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart, who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience, who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward, who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge in the task, who go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and pass the bags along, who stand in the line and haul in their places, who are not parlor generals and field deserters but move in a common rhythm when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud. Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust. But the thing worth doing well done has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident. Greek amphoras for wine or oil, Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums but you know they were made to be used. The pitcher cries for water to carry and a person for work that is real.

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“To be of use” by Marge Piercy © 1973, 1982. From Circles on the Water © 1982 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and Middlemarsh, Inc.

 

Choosings and Musings

Yesterday on Facebook someone posted part one in a series called,

Can we learn to be happier?”.

I thought that that was an unrealistic expectation and might even cause more suffering in this world. I believe that we focus too heavily on “the pursuit of happiness” instead of acceptance of what is.

I preferred that we instead focus on feeling content.

Lani thought they were perhaps the same thing.

I disagree. Here’s what Etymology Dictionary [DOT] com says about happiness

happy (adj.)

late 14c., “lucky, favored by fortune, prosperous;” of events, “turning out well,” from hap (n.) “chance, fortune” + -y (2). Sense of “very glad” first recorded late 14c. Ousted Old English eadig (from ead “wealth, riches”) and gesælig, which has become silly. Meaning “greatly pleased and content” is from 1520s. Old English bliðe “happy” survives as blithe. From Greek to Irish, a great majority of the European words for “happy” at first meant “lucky.” An exception is Welsh, where the word used first meant “wise.”

and about the word content …

content (adj.)

c.1400, from Old French content, “satisfied,” from Latin contentus “contained, satisfied,” past participle of continere (see contain).

content (v.)

early 15c., from Middle French contenter, from content (adj.) “satisfied,” from Latin contentus “contained, satisfied,” past participle of continere (see contain). Sense evolved through “contained,” “restrained,” to “satisfied,” as the contented person’s desires are bound by what he or she already has. Related: Contented; contentedly.

then I said I preferred equanimity which has its roots in …

equanimity (n.)

c.1600, “fairness, impartiality,” from French équanimité, from Latin aequanimitatem (nominative aequanimitas) “evenness of mind, calmness,” from aequus “even, level” (see equal (adj.)) + animus “mind, spirit” (see animus). Meaning “evenness of temper” in English is from 1610s.

Pausing,  I wondered if I was just being picky or just cranky.

That’s why I’ve gone into the etymology of each word. I grant you it’s not the Oxford English … but I don’t have a subscription right now. Perhaps that’s something I need to treat myself to. But for now… this will have to do.

I claimed yesterday that happiness was too dependent on events, circumstances, even other people and it would seem my memory served me right as it meant in the original sense something to what we would refer as “lucky”.

On second thought I think that’s what many want … to be lucky, wealthy (in the sense of $$$) and even silly giddy. Not that I would deny anyone those moments. Glory, I sure enjoy my “silly/giddy” moments. Just saying I wouldn’t want to be that way 24/7. Exhausting and often inappropriate.

Unless of course, you are Welsh and you want to be wise. Now that would be excellent. However, I don’t think I’ve ever heard even a person of Welsh decent actually express that wish. So I guess this meaning left us late in the 16th century.

What I’d like to offer is that we seek balance such as that denoted by the word equanimity.

I propose that we stop vilifying emotions by calling them good or bad. They are just feelings and we don’t have to act on them.

For a start we can just allow ourselves to feel melancholy when we do and notice how that feels in our bodies. Then go about what needs doing … or if nothing needs doing just go about feeling melancholy.

Certainly, we can warn people that that is how we are feeling, but we may also need to let them know that we don’t need fixing or advice or cheering up. I think that would make me happy on those occasions when I just need to sit with a feeling rather than fake a grin. Indeed, I think that all this duplicity is crazy making.

We rail about the weather, the state of the environment, the behaviour of others … but in the instant we really have no power over any of that. It is only setting ourselves up to believe that we are the centre of the universe. Let’s start realizing that we are all connected and that we can only be in one place in time. Working from that may not always make us “happy” but it’s a good place to start on “equanimity”.

My husband frequently quotes a poem by Li Po and I share this today in all its appropriateness.

In the landscape of spring

there is neither better or worse

the flowering branches

some grow long

some grow short

Image

Photo Credit Jeff Suchak

layering and textures from Kim Klassen

My Thursday blogging posts will examine an etymological / emotional theme for the rest of December and seeing that this is the last Thursday of 2013, we may need to extend it into January 2014.

I’d really appreciate your comments about how these posts make you feel. If you have a friend or colleague who might benefit from or even enjoy an exercise in pondering how to be authentic and balanced in this wacky world, please share a link. I’d love the company.

It’s raining … raining in my heart

Thanks to Buddy Holly for this…

And Jeff Suchak for this …

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Well, I’ll just get this over with. Yes, it is raining. It is “Hallowe’en” and the kiddos will be soaked before they get to the sidewalk. So that is just so not what I wanted. But does the weather care? No, it is callously pouring down and we are being threatened with a “rain warning”. I really have no idea what that means because the last time I got caught in a downfall (hmmmm… I think that was about a week ago) my jacket was soaked before I could travel from the door of the Zehrs store to my car. And it is my winter jacket. And even my shirt was wet…well, damp, very damp. And I know at least 4 people will say to me today as I run around on errands, “Well, at least it isn’t snow.” And I will work really, really hard on my compassion skills so as not to slap them. Why do people say these kinds of things? Why does what a stranger’s  struggle to connect  … errr friendly comments affect me in such a nasty way.

Perhaps because I have had between 4 and 5 hours of sleep for days…and yes, I am tired… but more than that I am feeling a little less than skillful at anything today. Disappointing news can do that to us … errr me. I can’t presume to speak for you. But I think that maybe you are affected the same way by disappointing news and/or sleep deprivation.

On the plus side, I did finish my book (wow I see that they made it into a movie … boy am I out of the loop) by 4:45 am this morning and it is due back to the library today. So no fines for me. Is that a skill? Getting books back to the library on time that is. Sometimes it is. I can remember lots of fines before email reminders. So thank you, Owen Sound etc. Public Library. I appreciate the reminders.

Another plus is that I do have a cheque to deposit. This is always a good thing. And hmmmm I do think I have a small cheque due from TOM too. I’ll have to check into that when I go to pick up my parking pass. So wow! I’m almost rolling in money. Coming up for air…now that was hilarious.

Another plus. Today is my last day of having to post giraffe pictures as my profile pic on FB. So Bob McFee you can look forward to November or should I say Movember, turning back the clocks, and Indigo Riff‘s Last Dance. sniff … bittersweet that is.

Then I read about Grad School Barbie … read if you haven’t already. Even if you aren’t an aging grad student, you’ll enjoy the humour. And humour is healing. Some days it’s even more healing than art. Now that’s saying something.

I’ll take my leave now…get my errands done…run to my studio…and laugh at the mess.

“Mama said, ‘there’d be days like this.'” But she also said even more frequently, “This too shall pass.” And after the rain there is much beauty.

New_1_DSCF6683  New_1_DSCF6657Thanks to Jeff Suchak at http://mythiclandscape.com for these lovely images.