Saturday, December 29, 2012

Finding it hard to be easy with myself

I'm on retreat this week in a favorite beautiful place. I come here twice a year to write and read and reflect, to move out of the quite busy life I keep going at home. In drawing tarot cards and angel cards the first night, I got contemplation and relaxation, words that aren't easy for me to hear, activities that aren't easy for me to step into.

I'm not good at nothing. Instead I'm good at doing too much with grace and productivity. I'm not only the product of a culture that rewards that, I'm the product of a family that admired that. I'm reluctant to hear those three little words: Take it easy. I know all the physical and mental health reasons why that is such a good idea, and yet something in me mightily resists, a brain that doesn't want to be idle, a body that often runs on free-floating anxiety.

My recent astrological reading was about completion, completing projects and phases so that something new can come. Most of the completion is done; I moved it along before I left home. Now I'm waiting, something I'm not so good at. I'd love to find some kind of dimmer/rheostat for my body and mind so that they didn't have to be full on or full off. Maybe that's what I'm here to learn.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Completing the seasonal exhale

I had an interesting conversation with a spiritual director yesterday. Jen is in training and I am a volunteer recipient of her practicing in spiritual direction. We have conversations once a month about the inner life.
We were talking about the solstice and the seasonal cycles, and Jen mentioned that if the year is a breath, the winter solstice is the end of the exhale. I liked that image, and we can began to talk about what things need completing and what things need releasing at this time.

Completion is of particular importance to me right now. I had my first big art show last weekend at the studio, the culmination of 6 months of recent painting and 10 years of earlier efforts. It also marked for me stepping into my painter self more fully. On the writing front, I am self-publishing my first novel next month and I just finished proofreading the final version and sent the changes off to the designer, who has already completed the cover. A smaller book, on creativity and recovery, is also nearing the end and I plan to publish it next month as well. Both books have been in my mind and heart for quite a while and it is nice to get them out.

On the letting go front, I'm ready to release several things. One is any sense of limitation on the creative front.  There's a lot I need and want to learn about painting and writing, but feeling incapable of doing so doesn't work any more. Second is wanting to release tenacity, holding on to things I don't need any more. Like limitations, like old fears and old stories, like needing to have too much to do in order to feel worthy.

I don't know exactly how the completion and releasing will play out next year but it feels good to set the intention and complete the seasonal exhale in that way.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The bliss of quiet

For the last four weeks, I've been subjected to roofer madness. The two-building complex where I live got a new roof. Not just new shingles but the roof built from the studs up and new gutters and new drain pipes and new eaves in places and new porch roofs and a new roof on my covered patio, which has leaked for the 18 years I've lived here.

It took a crew of 15-16 men  to tear off the old stuff and build the new stuff. There were three different crews: roofers (Hispanic), gutter guys (a grumpy old guy with several kids working for him), and two handsome Russian carpenters. Then there were a slew of supervisors and advisers and onlookers. They had hammers and compressors and nail guns and more hammers and tromping feet and loud voices over the noise of the hammers and compressors and nail guns. There was also something that sounded amazingly like a large dental drill.

I live at the far end of the courtyard, off the street. It's usually pretty quiet here, especially in the winter with the windows closed. But for four weeks, it's been bedlam most of the daylight hours. Many days the generators and compressors have racketed steadily for 8 hours. While I could have taken my laptop and worked elsewhere, I felt it important to stick around and reassure my three cats, two of whom were very frightened by the noise.

Yesterday morning, two guys came. I passed one of them on my way to drop off the recycle stuff. "We're done," he said. "Final clean-up." I wanted to hug him. I didn't, just smiled and thanked him. He and his crew have been very respectful and tidy and have done an amazing job. They've been pleasant and courteous and I'm so glad they're gone.

For two days now, it's been quiet. My jaw is starting to unclench and my shoulders to drop. Ah, the bliss of quiet!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Goldilocks and enough

I've been thinking lately about my relationship with enough. I'm taking an online class with teacher Wayne Muller on that very topic. When have we done enough so we can rest? When have we put together enough money for our future so we can stop worrying? When have we eaten enough so that we are satisfied?

I eat too much. I work too much. I'm anxious when I'm not doing either or both. Hard as I try, I can't seem to find a place where I feel it's enough. Or perhaps it's that the feeling of enough-ness doesn't last for more than a few minutes. That was a common pattern with my drinking. I'd be okay for a brief time and then I'd go into withdrawal and need another drink. I get that same antsy feeling with eating and working. Disconnected, wanting, and uncomfortable in the wanting.

I've always admired Goldilocks as a archetype. She seems to be pretty picky. Bed too soft, bed too hard.  But from another angle, she's pretty discriminating. She knows what she likes. She knows what's just right. I admire people who eat that way. People won't eat something just because it's there. "Not worth it," my sister will say and push away a restaurant meal after a few bites. She could send it back, order something else, but she doesn't. She's eaten enough. I've often wondered what enough feels like to her. I wonder how to recognize it in myself.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

When an introvert gives a party

Today is my annual holiday open  house. I invite just about everybody I know who is local to come to this event the first Sunday in December from 2-5 pm. I started doing this in the late 1970s when I invited my two French classes and other graduate students to come for a cookie exchange. The kids were always excited about coming and taking home a bunch of cookies. Then I began inviting faculty friends and people I knew from my part-time jobs. I made mulled wine and eggnog with bourbon from scratch. I never drank those (too sweet). I'd just have a never-empty bourbon on ice in a coffee mug. Oh the games we used to play.

Most of the years since then, I've held this annual event, the only big party I ever give. It's been an alcohol-free gathering since 1989 and a sugar-free gathering for about the last five years. I make a cranberry cider and ask folks to bring savory appetizers and no sweets. I've discovered you get a lot more interesting food if people can't bring cookies and brownies and fudge, the holiday standbys.

It's now 12:40 and I'm ready for the party. I have it all down to a routine of set-up and tear-down after so many years and I make the cider in advance. But it's about now each year that I wonder what I'm doing this for. As an introvert, I don't much care for a lot of noisy people invading my not terribly big space. I'm also a One on the Enneagram scale. We like tidy and orderly and parties are seldom that. So I feel trepidation and a desire to run away and put a "open house cancelled" on my door and go to a movie.

Then I remember that I'm blessed with lots of interesting people in my life, who will also bring other interesting people with them, and that in a big way, this party isn't for me but for all my friends to meet each other and make good and perhaps important connections. And it's an easy way for me to get together with acquaintances, those folks I know won't ever be close friends but I like them and want them to know that.

And I know how to take good care of myself. I went to the gym this morning and had a good workout. Then I went to the studio and painted for an hour and came back happy. We'll all have a better party now!