Risk

August 4, 2012

And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. ~Erica Jong

I have put myself “out there” by applying for a residency at the Hambidge Center in northeast Georgia. I imagine the competition is stiff, but I am proud of myself for applying. And, who knows? I can dream that I will be accepted to spend two weeks in the woods with my poetry!

I’ve never understood daredevils or adventurers. (Why does anyone want to climb Mt. Everest? I can’t fathom it.) But there is something about this kind of risk that is exhilarating to me. What kinds of risks affect you in that way?

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Facing the Blank Page

July 30, 2012

Writing is easy.  All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~Gene Fowler

I have discovered two more favorite books on writing to add to my previous list: Writing From the Inside Out, by Dennis Palumbo and Writing Your Heart Out, by Rebecca McClanahan. The former encourages us to work with our own resistance rather than fighting against it. The latter helps us explore what matters to us. I used to think I read books about writing only when I was stuck and couldn’t write. But I’ve enjoyed these two titles in the midst of an ongoing practice.

At this point in my life, I am staring at a blank page, both literally in my daily writing practice, and figuratively, as I move from my library career toward an unknown future. And, as Fowler says, it can make you sweat blood! My facing the blank page each day, though, may ease me through this uncertain period. Just as writing begets writing, I believe courage begets courage.

What is your story about facing uncertainty?


Leaving Librarianship

July 24, 2012

For nearly 30 years, I have been working as a public librarian. Even when I “retired” in 2010, it was to do consulting and teaching in the field. I have now come to a place in my life where I want to make a space for something new. I don’t know what that something is right now. There is a certain amount of angst associated with jumping off the path and into the void. Where will I land?

Below are some words I am drawn to at the moment. As one who is typically mad for closure, it is difficult to rest in uncertainty, to not pick a new path right away. The challenge is to remain receptive in order to hear my soul speak. I am grateful for the luxury of choices.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. ~Joseph Campbell

The end of one turn of the spiral becomes the beginning of another…we are designed for possibility. ~Gabrielle Rico

There is only one success—to spend your life in your own way. ~Christopher Morley

Where there is a path it is someone else’s way. ~Joseph Campbell

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ~Howard Thurman

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. ~Henry David Thoreau

Trust yourself, then you will know how to live. ~Goethe


Practice

May 5, 2012

Whatever your path is at this moment, every single step is equal in substance. Every step actualizes the self. Every moment of practice is always the koan of having to agree to your condition, to bring unlimited friendliness to what you are, just as you are, right now. Even your obnoxiousness, your failures, your rank inadequacy is it. Your best revenge is to include it as you. ~Susan Murphy

Hello, again, Quotesqueen/Only Moment readers. I am proud and happy to say I have at long last established two practices: meditation and writing. To these two practices I am trying to bring “unlimited friendliness” to what I am, just as I am.

The writing practice is resulting in poem after poem. Not all of them are good or will ever be good, but it sure beats not writing! I hope that I will be able to maintain it when I begin writing a nonfiction book on sustainable public libraries. My plan is to write poetry in the mornings, then work in the afternoons.

One important key to practice is, I believe, self-compassion. I found a wonderful little book called Making a Change for Good: A Guide to Compassionate Self-Discipline, by Cheri Huber. In it is a 30-day program for change in small steps.

What would you like to change for the better? and for good?


A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life

February 18, 2012

Rereading this wonderful book made me remember this post from March 2009. Don’t miss Palmer’s newest title, either: Healing the Heart of Democracy, which I wrote about here.

Here is the ultimate irony of the divided life: live behind a wall long enough, and the true self you tried to hide from the world disappears from your own view! ~Parker J. Palmer

I have just finished reading Parker J. Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. How can every sentence from Palmer be exactly the sentence I would write if I could think and write as clearly and beautifully as he?

This book covers virtually all the themes I have explored in this blog–integrity, the open heart, connection, woundedness, respect, attention, letting go, and many others–in the investigation of an undivided life. Bringing inner and outer worlds together is a process Palmer refers to as the joining of soul and role. Rejoining, really, because in his view we were all undivided at birth. But he cautions that this process is much more than “embracing the inner child,” since “we carry burdens and challenges children do not have.”

Solitude Palmer defines as not necessarily living apart from others, but apart from ourselves. And community he says is not necessarily living with others, but rather “never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other…being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.”

We cocreate each other in encounter, Palmer says, and he gives a specific method for establishing “circles of trust,” safe “communities of solitudes” where people can listen to their own hearts, discern their own truth, without being invaded or evaded by others. He likens the soul to a wild animal, shy and self-protective, and says we must not go crashing through the woods (arguing, preaching, proclaiming, advising, trying to be helpful). We must sit in silent attentiveness and hopeful expectancy if we want the soul to appear.

I already knew a little of Palmer, a Quaker, from the many times my minister/friend Marti spoke about him from the UU pulpit. But (as with most books), I have no idea by what route I got to this one. I am just grateful to have discovered it.


Focus on the Joy

October 16, 2011

For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Years ago, I wrote a post called More Love, Less Fear. Today I say more joy, less fear. I think joy and love are intertwined and reciprocally generating. It occurred to me today that the way I overcame my feeling of being adrift after retirement had to do with focusing on joy rather than fear.

What is the security that Lindbergh talks about? I believe a basic physical safety, enough to eat, clean water, and community are the essentials for security. We can construct much more elaborate security needs when we come from a place of fear.

While I’m no Pollyanna, I do believe that most people hunger for true connection more than wealth and power. Many of them don’t understand the yearning and do bad things in the pursuit of security. What if they focused on what gave them joy?

What gives you joy? Can you pay more attention to that and less attention to the nagging fears that tell you to pursue greater security?


Uncloseted

October 11, 2011

There is so much stuff in my closet that needs to go. Yes, I’m talking about clothes, shoes, scarves, belts, stockings, and so on. I’m also talking about the things I’ve hidden away over the years.

For instance, in my 30s I realized I had a major depressive illness. Drugs and therapy keep it under control (mostly!), and I am so grateful daily for good health insurance, my wonderful therapists, the SSRIs that kept me alive, and the newer medications that are such a relief for me.

While everyone has been depressed at one time or another, I have found that only those with similar illnesses really understand the struggle that is depression. It’s so easy to say, “Buck up!” and in fact, part of the struggle is learning not to abuse oneself with those words. There really is no “bucking up,” no way to “get over yourself” when depression is a constant companion.

It helps to know I share this condition with many successful and wonderful people–William Styron, for example. His autobiographical Darkness Visible is a chilling account. My hero of the moment, Parker J. Palmer, has struggled with this black cloud. As did Abraham Lincoln, Virginia Woolf, and so many others.

Only now am I able to bring this condition into the light, and I have to say it feels very risky. I do so not because of any confessional impulse, but in the hope of helping anyone else who might feel closeted and alone.

Alchemy

Imagine you have struggled too long.
One day, on the interstate,
it comes to you: Car exhaust—
that you could accomplish.

You go home and call your sister,
make pasta salad, anything
to save your life. At your next appointment
you get new pills, a threat of hospital.

Imagine that a switch is flipped;
you can see a normal sky.
You laugh; you play, for God’s sake.
Months and years pass uneventfully.

Dream you’ve nearly forgotten
how to struggle. Then, waking,
you are certain: The pills have failed;
you must save yourself all over again.

Fast forward many years and drugs,
many, many appointments.
One day you know that you
are learning the ancient art.

Awareness burning, deep down
you are swirling molten lead.
It bubbles up through your throat,
emerging gold and bright.