Sunday, May 31, 2015

Taking a radical step. Part I

I was at my spiritual director's on Tuesday morning and we were having one of the conversations we have about once a month: why I keep on overeating and numbing myself with food when I have such a great life. Of course, she and I both know that I'm an addict but we also know from our many conversations that there's more to it than that.

She complimented me on the fact that after all these years together (seven and counting), I am moving to a place where I now overeat consciously, not unconsciously. I watch myself get up and get another sweet, fat whatever. Sometimes I even pause before I do it. But usually, most usually, I am working and I don't see any other way to help myself out of the restlessness, the boredom, the agitation than to eat and settle down. And as I am a workaholic and a productivity junkie, the cycle is well entrenched.

About 40 minutes into the session on Tuesday though, she made a radical suggestion: that I take a month off work this summer. Not a month of travel or vacation or sightseeing, but a month of inner work, of being with myself, of coming to understand what is going on and what choices I really have. I found this both thrilling and terrifying.

When I left her office a few minutes later, I hadn't said yes but I hadn't said no.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Talking to the young about the future

Lately I've been on a roller coaster of emotions: gratitude and joy for the beauty of the world, despair and grief for its imminent destruction. The moribund ocean, the dying sea lion pups and dolphins, 15 years left for the elephants at the rate we're going. And how many years left for us?

Half-jokingly my family and friends talk say more and more frequently, "Maybe we'll be gone by the time it all falls apart." But my nephews won't. They are 23 and 25, just getting started as the end lumbers into sight. Both adopted at birth into my white middle-class educated famiy, they have had a lot of cushion already. Will that hurt them or help them when it all changes?

In my mind, I've been writing a letter to them of unsolicited advice, thoughts on survival of the most flexible. It seems like time to write it down and send it.

Who do you need to send such a letter to? 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Poem 162

She comes in about 2 am
This wild thing that lives with me
She smells of crushed grass, damp soil
tree bark
She puts her paws
on my outstretched arm
drops down with a sigh
and headbutts my chin
The rumbling comes quickly
sleep too
And she'll lie there all night
as domestic as you please
But when the first light comes
Her feral self wakes me
Wants out
Needs to wander
and I shift from friend to captor
Until the terrace door opens
and springs her free

Monday, May 25, 2015

The love affair with bad boys

I just finished the last episodes of the final season of Sons of Anarchy, the 7-season drama about a California motorcycle club of drug- and gun-runners.It's a wonderful soap opera of sorts, with romance and intrigue, lies and deception, loyalty and betrayal. So many of the shows I grew up on were about the hero and so many of the shows that interest me now are about the anti-hero, the villain who still lives by a code of honor. It could have been medieval knights, or cowboys, or cops, but it was bikers this time.

The ending was quite satisfying, an inevitable sacrifice, taking responsibility for his hubris, his passion, his mistakes. Quite literary after all.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The value of having three budgets

One of the most helpful ideas to come out of the money program for me is the idea of three budgets or three financial lifestyles. A lot of our program is focused on developing peace of mind around money and this activity really helps with that.

Budget 1: Bottom-line sufficiency or how little can you live on?
In this budget, you list all of your basic expenses but none of the luxuries or emergency items. Housing, food, taxes, insurance, utilities, work-related transportation, school loans, etc. You're looking for absolutely the least amount you can scrape by on and survive. Most of us discover that this figure is much lower than we think, that we can actually live on very little. However, if this is a big amount for you, our financial teacher says to look at several areas: are you over-housed (living in a too big, too expensive place)? Do you really need a car payment? Do you have a lot of credit card debt? All three of these create a lot of financial stress.

Budget 2: Comfortable sufficiency
      This budget takes Budget #1 and adds in some luxuries: eating out, entertainment, vacation travel, emergency fund for vet bills or home or car repairs, replacement clothing. What do you need for a comfortable but not extravagant life? My house cleaner would go in here but massage and facials would go in Budget 3. Each of us decides. If your car is decrepit, a new car would go in this budget. If you're just bored with your ride, a new car goes in Budget 3. You get the picture. Budget 2 also should include any debt repayment and steady input into savings.

Budget 3: Cushy sufficiency
      This is Budget 1 plus Budget 2 plus anything else you want to budget for. Work with a clothing stylist? A new wardrobe? A month in Italy instead of a week at the coast? Remember that this is still a budget meant to help you live within your means.

Having this sorted out helps me understand the difference between expenses and discretionary spending. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Poem 141

The last mementos
got recycled last night
Random letters from
family and friends
old calendars
and date books
I don't know
what I kept them for
Perhaps proof
that I was busy
that I worked
that I taught
that I had friends
that I had a life

No one will carry
the Kelly DNA forward
My brother's daughters
are childless by choice
like me
My sister's boys were adopted
How often do they think of my parents?
How often do I?
How often will they think of me?
And after them, no one

It seemed right to let it all go
those fading letters from
a different era of communication
those calendars documenting
dental appointments and
committee meetings

It's what I do now
that matters
what I create
that may last

A comforting thought

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Taking things for granted and poetry writing

My favorite blogger, Leo Babauta, recently wrote about the sad reality of taking things for granted, things like sunshine, roses, our human form with its senses, food, love, connection. And I find myself wanting to slow down, stay awake, be in this life while I'm in it.

I think some of this is being satisfied by my current poetry writing activity. While I don't write a poem every day (that seemed too tyrannical even for me who loves structure so much), I do write a poem or two every couple of days and so I am watching for observations, experiences, visuals that intrigue me. It is making me more alive in my life.

What is keeping you alive in your life?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Poem #149

Written at Sandy River Lodge, May 2015

The geese fly up and down the river
They honk as they pass the deck
where I sit reading
and Eileen sketches
the soft May green of the trees
on the other bank
There are swifts and swallows
robins and crows in the woods
but we don't hear them
for we sit at a bend
between white water and white water
and though the winter has been dry
enough melt is moving to the sea
to create a steady rush of sound
I move between the quiet
of the house
where my characters wait
and the deck where the geese pass
and the last of winter rushes down hill

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Becoming a big tipper

In this second year of the money course, I've been thinking a lot about generosity and donating money. I find the donation decision so complicated: which charity is truly worthy, which ones pay their CEOs big money and should they do that, which ones are a scam or have so much overhead that little trickles down to the recipients of the services. I used to give all my charitable donations to the local food bank but its reputation for good management has dwindled. I want to save every old tree, every polar bear, every old dog living in a cage or on a chain. And I know I can't.

So for lack of a wiser decision, I've decided to become a big tipper. Whatever the bill and its percentage, I round up to $5 or $10 or $15. I'm well paid for what I do. I know that service people aren't and that tips are shared in most restaurants with bus boys and dishwashers, all that staff. It won't save a polar bear but it seems right for me to do.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A heart stretched by beauty

For the last three days, I've been up on Mt Hood on the Sandy River at a lovely rental house with three good friends. We talked and laughed and wrote and spent a lot of time, by mutual consent, in silence. The weather was near perfect and even though the winter has been a pretty dry one, enough water was flowing to thrill us with steady river sound.

This morning, I spent all my time on the deck, writing and reading. It was almost too cold but I so wanted more of that beauty to soak in before I came home to the city. After a while, Pam and Eileen joined me and we talked about what a lovely time we'd had. And Eileen said that her heart felt stretched by the beauty of the place. I love that image.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A poem for Bridget

What to say to my daughter
who is moving across country
to be more fully in love's grasp
Don't go?
Stay here where I can love you?
I need your inspiration, your example?
But I cannot say any of this
For she is not my daughter
Only the daughter I would choose
if I had one
For her complications
Her tender heart
Her show tunes and quick laugh
Her creative soul
And even if I were her birth mother
I could not say Stay
I could not deprive her
of this chance
Not this woman who settled
for too little too long
and who now can step into
an emotional world
wide with possibility
What to say to her?
I cannot say I'll miss you
Words she's said weigh her down
with obligation
I'll have to settle for happiness
and keep secret in my heart
the longing that she will return

Jill Kelly, 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

Leo Babauta on Procrastination

 Below is Leo's recent post. I almost didn't read it because I don't think of myself as a procrastinator. And then I got to thinking about a letter I'm putting off writing and sending, and a phone call I need to make, and a flyer I should have written a month ago, and so I needed his advice. Maybe you do too.

We all do it: our best intentions are to go to the gym, get started on writing something, do practice learning a language … but then we procrastinate.

There isn’t a person on this planet who’s immune to the procrastination habit.

How do we defeat this habit? Just as an athlete would, or a world-class chess player: daily training sessions.

The problem, of course, is that we’re likely to put off the sessions!

The only way around that is to 1. find your motivation, and 2. start as easy as possible.

Make it so easy you can’t say no, and find a way to not let yourself say no.

Here’s how:
  1. Commit to doing daily 5-10 minute unprocrastination training sessions. Tell someone you’ll give them $100 (or do something embarrassing, maybe) if you miss a day.
  2. Set a reminder for first thing in the morning, when you usually start work or study. Whenever you open your computer, basically. A big note near your computer is a good idea.
  3. When you open your computer, before you do anything else, do your unprocrastination training session.
  4. Here’s what you do: pick a task you’ve been procrastinating on, clear aside everything else, and do that task for 5-10 minutes. That’s it. You can stop after that.
  5. Notice when you have the urge to switch tasks, to do something easier or more comfortable. Pause, watch the urge, let it go. Then return to the task. Don’t let yourself switch.
That’s it! Do this daily for a week, then increase to 10-15 minutes. Do that for two weeks, and on your fourth week, increase to 20 minutes. You’ll be a rock star after a month of training.

Friday, May 1, 2015

A way of approaching life

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, to all bravely await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.”

― William Henry Channing