Posts

3 AM Amanda…

Several years ago one of my daughters came to visit me at work to drop something off.  In those few minutes that she was there, she witnessed me engaged in a few simple interactions with the patients I was caring for that day.  I worked in a long term care facility at the time; this was the patients’ home and they loved seeing visitors-especially children.  

Although she was only there for a few minutes that day, her perspective of seeing me at work planted an image in her head.  Several weeks later her school teacher sent some of her work home.  This picture was included…

  
My job as seen through the eyes of a four year old.  It seemed pretty incredible to me that this is how she saw things that day.  It was certainly not what I would have described through my 37 year old eyes.  I was actually feeling quite harried and tired.  Yet in that moment it was her truth.  Her mother was helping people in a very Herculean way.  

And even at 4 years old through her drawing, she illuminated a point to me that has drawn me back in so many times since.  

People that care and love you in a deeply honest way, have a perspective of you wherein you will always be the “good guy” in their story.  Their opinion does not waver.  They will find ways to make you always look your best.  Because that is what they see.  

It’s like being woken up at 3am.  Hair sticking up, disoriented, emotional guard down, not much rational higher-level thinking happening.  And the person next to you still looks at you in the same light they did when you were fully dressed and coherent at dinner the night before.

These are the people you invest in.  It’s unconditional.

Over the last few months I’ve taken on more responsibility at work.  More tasks, more technology, more learning and more worrying.  I’ll be honest and say that I fall neatly into the Type A, perfectionist, over achiever, feels ultimately responsible for everything that happens category.  Yet I love the reason I’m doing it….it’s something I just can’t get enough of!  In many moments though, the overthinking and fretting about details makes me feel like a wild woman running around with hands waving frantically in the air.  In fact, I almost think people can see it or sense it in me.

Like clockwork, I have these few people who always see me at my best.  These girls are looking at the 3am Amanda and saying “what a great day!  Get some rest and we will do it again tomorrow”.  

And I’m thinking “seriously????  How can you ever want to come back after that day we just had?”

They see past the blips and the burps and the sweaty armpits.  They see past what I look like at 3am to the deeper threads holding us all together. They know I care.  I know they care.  And all of the superficial foolishnesss we get tangled up in melts away.

3am is real.  It’s the most real anyone can be.  Vulnerable.  Maybe even naked depending on how you sleep.  

Someone once said to me “I want to see the Amanda no one else sees”.  

Initially I thought “but I spend so much time trying to squash her down..all of that effort can’t go to waste”.

Yet, really, 3am Amanda has given me my deepest and strongest connections.

Not everyone deserves to see you at 3am.  Those moments are selectively reserved for the most sacred of hearts in our circle.  You are your most YOU in those hours.  
  
And, yes, mothers do have 8 (er…4) arms.  Or, at least, our children think we do.

Dear Gnarls,

I have to call you that…because that was my little name for you.  And it will always be how I remember you.

Last night was rough.  I’ve been on this blog before talking about different life events and stressors…and situations I’ve gone through.  Especially over the last couple of years.  This ache in my heart is very different.  The tears that are spilling over without notice are hot…they feel like they’re coming right from my heart.

You know I wasn’t a “dog” person.  We had that conversation in the beginning.  We set down our ground rules on that first morning I met you.  I saw you all alone in the corner while your brothers and sisters were all huddled together in a different spot in the room.  The breeder said that you were the only one that seemed to be unaffected by a stomach bug the rest had.  It almost struck me funny to see your furry little 8 week old body curled up away from the brood-almost as if to say “keep your diarrhea to yourselves guys”.  I felt like you had a sense of humour.  I felt like within two minutes of seeing you I understood you.  I walked over to you and reached my hand out.  You stood up and looked at me…no licking.  No untoward movements.  I sat down and you walked closer and tried to get into my lap.  And you became mine in that moment.

Leaving that day I was told just to take the alternate exit in the house because your mother and father were running free in the fenced in back yard.  Your mother had shown herself to be very protective of her litter and the breeder was concerned seeing me leave with you would upset her.  I held you carefully to my chest but to no avail.  Your mother, Buffy, saw me.  I’ll never forget the howls that came from her.  I rushed to the car but she had sufficiently worked herself up to the point that she jumped the fence and came chasing after me.  You made no movement in my arms.  As terrible as I felt removing her baby from her, I knew without a doubt in that moment you wanted to come with me.

And our life began.  Initially, I felt like I was a new mother.  Laying beside your crate through several sleepless nights while you cried.  Cleaning up your messes when training didn’t seem like it would ever come to fruition.  Hearing you get upset when I would crate you before work…having guilt leaving you just like I would with Hannah.  Coming home and seeing all of your stuffed toys in your crate ripped to shreds with the stuffing floating in the air like snow.  Carrying you around like an infant because you were too small to do the stairs.

I look back now and understand that our relationship was being laid down.  You may have been intended to be Hannah’s dog.  Yet, really, you were mine.

And the years went by.  You never left my side.  Through two more pregnancies that required bed rest…you laid on the couch with me.  You defended me when the door rang…or you spotted someone walking down the street.  Or kids that got a little too close to the edge of the property.  You were small but you would challenge anything or anyone that you perceived as a threat.  Your barking drove me nuts at times…even success at obedience class couldn’t shift that behaviour.  It was as if your soul’s purpose was to protect me.  If I left the house, I knew you were simply waiting until I returned.  If I was sick (or the kids were sick) you knew instinctively to lay in quiet wait.  Never leaving our sides.

We had a lot of conversations and you saw me cry a million tears.  You saw my joy and my pain.  You saw my anger.  You saw me looking my best and my worst and waited at the door regardless of all of it.  You were my shadow.  It’s hard to find a photo without you or some part of you in it.  I trusted you.  You never once hurt me or the girls-regardless of how rambunctious they would get trying to put clothes on you or dance with you.  I never heard you growl…unless it was at another dog or the deer.  To us you only showed love.

I felt like you were my kindred spirit.  It’s amazing how you can develop a relationship with one party being unable to talk.  But I knew you loved me.  And it was truly a love that was unconditional.

I’m sorry for the pain you experienced yesterday morning.  I’m sorry I wasn’t there in the early morning hours that this happened.  All I could do was hold and love you as the decision was made to end your suffering.  Yet as I sat there with you cradled in the blanket holding your litttle body like a baby, I just knew you would go on your terms if you could.  And you did.  With one deep-throated growly sigh and those big brown eyes open.

I’m not a dog person.  I’ll never say that I am.  But I am a Papillion named Gnarly person.  Because you broke a piece of my heart open and taught me to love and trust.  You’re in my heart forever and I know this sharp ache of grief will lessen.  

Thank you for being my best friend.  You’re my little buddy forever.

  

Now What Do I Do With You?

My oldest daughter was born when I was 22 years old.  Unexpected.  Yet, really, all babies are unexpected. Even when people are “trying” to have children, our bodies work on their own schedules.  We don’t always have the control that we like to think we do over these things.  I can truthfully say that my other two daughters (one born when I was 31 and one born when I was 36) were also unexpected.

I never saw myself as a mother.  It was not a something that figured into my plan as a child growing up and thinking about my life and what it would look like.  I imagined a very “alone” life.  I don’t ever remember a time where I WANTED to be a mother.  

Yet at 22 years old I became a mother to a little soul born 6 weeks too early physically, but not a moment too soon.

For as unprepared as I was mentally and emotionally…I needed her more than I would ever know.

She will graduate from high school this week and begin a phase in her life that is probably one of the biggest roller coasters we ride as we age.  It’s full of turbulence and uncertainty.  It’s also a time of amazing opportunity, and fulfillment and pure living.  None of us are ever “ready” for anything in life.  To say we are is just to placate ourselves into believing we have some control.  We don’t.  And that’s the most beautiful thing about life.

And as she’s preparing to move forward…so am I.  As I held her for the first time 18 years ago, the words I uttered alone to her are the same words I’m saying to myself over these last few weeks.

Now what do I do with you?

You’re a young woman…strong.  Clear headed.  So much softer than I am to the world.  Able to see clearly so many of the things I can’t because I think too much.  

You have a plan and it’s coming together wonderfully.  The details still will need to be worked out as with all plans…but you’re firm in your desire and that’s really all you need.

There’s no fear with you.  You’re meeting the prospects of leaving home with excitement and eager anticipation of the great things that are coming.  You are so independent and I am so unbelievably grateful for that.

You are a good person.  You make mistakes and you come back around again to meet them.  You are loving and kind.  And so very intuitive.  Your teachers have always remarked on your sense of compassion.  This is a gift.

Your presence in my life has changed me.  You came from me physically but your soul is far greater than anything I could take credit for.  I became the person I am because of you.  I dedicated everything to becoming the mother I always had wanted for myself.  I became a nurse to have the ability to express my own talents and gifts and to give you a foundation for the importance of education and stability.  I nourished my creativity and invested in my own personal development to be as solid as I could be for you.  

You were my first example of unconditional love.  

I finally was able to see my value in the world after creating you.  I look at you and see the beauty in life.

So now what do I do with you moving ahead into all of our days to come?

Exactly what you did for me.

Never leave your side.
  

And It Moved Me…

“Time stands still best in the moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life”~unknown 

Because that morning had been a flurry of activity as usual…and I was rushing around like I normally do at the beginning of my day.  I was talking, I was laughing.  And, at a certain point, I had an exchange with someone that left me irritated and sucked of some energy.

Yet it was really no more or less than what it might be on any other day at work.  I was preoccupied with my tasks and I remember thinking I really wanted a coffee.  Why I remember having that thought…who knows.  

And just as things chugged along as they normally do on any other day at work, an unexpected and completely unforeseen event happened that required the entire room to move into lifesaving mode immediately.

For anyone that works in a healthcare capacity, it is a privilege to observe the immediate, almost unspoken, level of coordination that has to happen when you’re unexpectedly fighting for someone’s life.  In that moment of transition from “normal” to “life or death”, I could feel the shift inside of me from that little hamster wheel of redundant thoughts I generally have to such an extreme quietness and stillness.

Nothing existed other than this moment before me.  No details, no movement, nothing past and nothing future.  There was an awareness inside of me that this was happening but it was such an intense and immediate shift from “noise” to nothing that it was startling.  I was involved but yet so detached.  

And as I observed the series of events unfolding in front of me, it was so intensely obvious how powerful life is.  That in a split second everyone present in that room focused their entire energy reserve on saving this life struggling before them.  I was watching the clock because I was recording times…but time became meaningless in those moments.  It was simply a measurement for documentation.

Every chest compression felt like it was squeezing my soul.  The fact that life can be snatched so quickly gave me an overwhelming few moments of clarity in a way that I have never had before.

This sentence kept running through my mind…

What are you doing?  What are you doing?  What are YOU doing?  What are you DOING?

This is how quickly it can happen.  This is how fragile we are.  This is what we all know at our very soul’s level which is why the preciousness of life becomes ALL of our focus when we encounter life and death moments.

Our outcome was all we could ask for that day-in every way.  A life that will continue on its physical journey.  And an experience that provided a multitude of learning opportunities and an appreciation for each other.

And perhaps a huge wake up call from the Universe.

  

A few days after this happened, I was reading an article that had been written on the Huffington Post entitled “Why Time Sometimes Seems To Stand Still…And Why It’s So Good For Us” by Alena Hall.  In it she describes that sensation of frozen time that I experienced so overwhelmingly during the crisis at work.  She indicates that this feeling of time stopping is actually a by product of awe, and that awe influences our perception of time by strengthening our focus on the present moment.

After thinking on that awhile I found it so ironic that, with all of the exposure, study and engagement into meditation and other forms of “mindfulness” I’ve had over the last few years, this crisis moment was actually the catalyst that stopped me in my tracks.

Because in those few seconds I asked myself so truly and deeply “what am I doing?”  It was like The Universe grabbed me by the shoulders and hollered “wake up!!!!!!

It eradicated the junk, the repetitive thoughts, opinions, judgements and all other useless garbage we fill our minds with.  And it gave me a fierce sense of clarity and fuelled a desire and passion I haven’t felt for some time.

One of the greatest blessings of working in this healthcare field is the opportunity to be slapped in the face repeatedly with the sanctity of life.  With that comes the responsibility to ask yourself if you are living a life that leaves no room for regrets.  

And whenever you are not “listening” or paying attention, The Universe WILL find a way to get your attention.  It may not be gentle either.  Most of my best lessons in life have needed to hit me squarely between the eyes…

Or spelled out by a thrown away piece of gum melted into the pavement…

  

Resolutions…or Revolution?

2016 has punched me in the stomach more than I would care to admit.  Of course, that in itself is part of the beauty of life-the extreme darkness we often experience.  Because that heaviness and crumbling that we all go through from time to time is inevitably followed by a period of lightness-even it feels short lived.

I have never made New Year’s Resolutions.  I have never felt a need to do that.  Usually my December 31st’s are spotted with moments of simply thinking about the year I’ve just lived through and desperately trying to cement in my brain the “good” moments that have happened.  Attempting to be grateful for those “positive” things and making a concerted effort to block anything unpleasant or unpretty.

“Attempting” to be grateful because I have found that any time I do my “rewind” I’m always pulled in the direction of remembering my year’s  messy moments.  Then I find myself trying to extricate from that and frantically search for the next positive memory I can focus on.

Over the last several weeks I have been ruminating a lot about the approaching finish of 2016.  As I said, it kicked my ass hard and I don’t know that I can throw in here “but I came out a better person”.  

I turned 40.  And it seemed as though the Universe said “let’s welcome that in a big way”.  There was divorce, there was death and there seemed to be an ongoing theme of consistently trying to navigate through situations with people that I just did not know how to deal with.  Situations that left me in a lot of pain.  And speechless.

The phrase is that we can’t control what happens to us.  We can only control our response.  I have found that sometimes you can’t really “control” that either because you don’t really know how to respond.

On remembering my 2016, these profoundly awful moments are the ones that kept popping up.  Not necessarily because nothing “good” happened.  It did.  But because these disgusting moments were my revolution moments.   They changed me.  Often unwillingly.  But they still changed me.

“Revolution” has many different meanings.  Oxford describes it as a “wide reaching change in conditions, attitudes or operations”.

Forbes says that only 8% of people succeed at fulfilling New Year’s resolutions.  I think that’s because, as ironic as this sounds, the failed resolutions aren’t personal enough.  Meaningful enough.  That they are too “global” and not self driven.

For me it’s been a deeper exercise to acknowledge the beautiful of 2016.  But that’s the easy part.  Then to not push away the “crap” moments and try to see if there’s room to grow.  Because the crap moments have left their biggest mark on me and I don’t want to let that be for nothing.

I have said “I don’t know” so many times in so many different ways this past year.  I’m beginning to see a bit of value in the chaos that has turned my plans upside down.  Plans, designs…resolutions are helpful.  And important.  Yet the more vital part for me has been to observe how things  have “overthrown” my own blueprints I had for myself.  

We are constantly moving in this flux of life between the yin and yang.  Sometimes the momentum by which you’re propelled through these things is not the pace you want to go at.  But you’re still going.  

I don’t really know, then, if I have come out a “better” person from this year.  I can say that I have come out differently than how I went in.

“A revolution is bloody.  Revolution is hostile.  Revolution knows no compromise. Revolution overturns and destroys  everything that gets in its way”~Malcolm X

Sometimes what has been getting in the way is the way you “think” things should be.

  

The Book And Its Cover…

Facebook has been the best playground to observe human behaviour in all of its wonder.  

Earlier this week I posted a photograph of myself taken 3 years ago.  The photographer is a man I admire greatly for his creative insight-I “get” his work.  Anyone whose soul is moved when they are exposed to creative works (whatever the modality) will understand what I mean when I say that.  

My photographer understood my personality.  Perfectly.  He understood my lack of confidence in front of the camera…my discomfort with that particular sort of attention.  We discussed at length what I wanted and how that vision would connect to my blog-my creative outlet.  I wanted my readers to have another piece of me to put together a “picture” in their head of who I was and why I write.

Aside from a friendship already there, there was a certain level of trust and an ability for the two of us to communicate on an honest basis.  

During the session that day, he caught a moment where he saw me in a different light.  He snapped that moment.  Capturing it forever.

Because he “saw” something.  Whatever it was, it compelled him to push the button.  What he caught was a very different “look” to my “normal” face that interacts with the world every day.  That photo became my introduction to the “About Me” section of my blog.

That photograph is weighted in meaning for me.  So many things about it are a juxtaposition to my “everyday” face the world sees.  I was sad.  A bit resentful.  Angry.  Lost.  Indifferent.  Intense.

And not smiling.

It’s amazing when someone sees something and reflects it back to you so that you can see yourself through their eyes.  There is an instant clarity.

He loved the picture.  I loved it too.  It was and remains one of the truest photographs ever taken of me.  It is not the face everyone sees.  But it is MY face baring my soul in that moment.

I posted that photo on Facebook this week.  I received a comment from a friend who said that “although you are beautiful inside and out, this picture does not look like you”.  The comments then extended into a typed communication whereby this friend explained that the photo made me look sad.  That it wasn’t a “true” representation of who I was.  It didn’t look like me.

Initially I was very taken aback by her comment.  Hurt.  Especially because those comments were typed for the world to see.  And I perceived it as a critique on how my physical appearance came across to her.

And as I mused about it, I realized how little people actually know about me.  Truly.  That even those who we might describe as “closest” to us often don’t truly glimpse at the soul level.  Beyond the game face we each have.

And I became very aware of how much I had disappointed her perception of me.  I no longer fit into this box that she had built around me with labels and ideas that weren’t necessarily consistently true.  

She had looked at that photograph and had not liked what she saw because it did not fit her idea of who I was.

Ironically, it was exactly who I was in that moment.

And perhaps we all spend too much time trying to fool people into believing we are otherwise.

“A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people”~Annie Leibovitz

Thank you Beaver Smith for falling in love with something you saw that day and helping me to love and accept myself right where I’m at.

  

 

**please check out Beaver’s insanely beautiful photography on Facebook.  Living in Qatar has fed his creative soul as you will see from his work

Angry Yoga…

Kundalini yoga and I met for the first time in September 2014.  

This type of yoga is based on the philosophy  that we exist with a primal energy  that lays coiled at the base of our spine.  The energy can be thought of as either a goddess or a serpent and remains dormant until awakened.  It was a very different experience to me…spiritually and emotionally.  My intention and focus fell completely away from the actual yoga poses themselves and I felt this heaviness peeling away from me each of the 6 mornings I did it.   I felt renewed, clearer, solid and calm.  The goddess had been invoked.  Yep…she had woken up and was full speed ahead with new intentions, and plans and an unshakeable steadiness that made life seem completely straightforward.

The yoga sessions were a part of a larger certification I was taking to be qualified to teach meditation.  At the end of my certification course, all of my experiences from the week amalgamated into one gigantic ball of creative  and peaceful energy.  I returned home afterwards feeling as though I had left 20 pounds of garbage on the beach in California.  It was heavenly!  I was light…I felt like a different Amanda.  I remember saying to someone that I felt like I was a child again-where the constraints and weight of adult life had not touched my soul yet.  It was one of the most beautiful feelings I have ever had.  

And I latched onto it like grim death.  

I gripped it so tightly believing that this was a new permanent feeling.  I was clear now and would never become mired down in the gunk of life again.  I would float through my days from now on.  No more struggling.  No more confusion.  No more worry or hurt.  There would be no way I would let this go.

And then about a month after I returned home, my youngest daughter (a toddler at the time) came close to dying from an undiagnosed metabolic issue.  I found her unresponsive in her crib.

And then a few other things happened.  Fairly serious…life changing relationship type things.  Things that happen every day to a million different people.  

I went from the Rock of Gibraltar to an angry little mess quite quickly.  And I remained that way for a long time.  At one point I even uttered the notion that I felt like the Universe let me finally have a taste of goodness and then just ripped it away from me again.

Fear is at the base of anger.  I have come to discover that.  Slowly.  Over years of living.

There’s always a tipping point though.  Some describe it as rock bottom, seeing the light, the turning point-many different names for the same concept.  The resignation that you don’t want to do that mess anymore.

Mine came through yoga again.  A year after my first encounter with Kundalini, I found myself on the beach, in another workshop with the same yoga teacher in a Kundalini session.

Only I was feeling the effects of a full year of piss-offed-ness by this point.  Even before the session began I found myself stewing…

“Look at her sitting there in those flowy white clothes…so perfect.  I bet her life is perfect.  Sitting here on the beach trying to teach all of us to be vessels and open our hearts and all of that BS”

While that narrative played in my head on repeat, I also became increasingly irritated by every single person in the session with me.  They were too close to my mat, their breathing was too loud and the chanting needed to stop.

That lasted until the annoyance inside me grew until I couldn’t even bear to stay in one spot on that beach.

I collected my mat and power walked up the stairs and headed straight to get a coffee and breakfast at a nearby cafe.  I became angrier as I walked.  I remember the feeling of being squeezed.  Like I was suffocating.  

In my fury crossing the street I ran into (almost literally) my meditation teacher who was facilitating the workshop.  He laughed when he saw me. 

“Why aren’t you at yoga?” he asked

“I can’t handle it.  Not in the mood right now” was my curt reply.

And then he asked me what was wrong.

The dam broke.

The things that had brought me such connection and peace a year ago were intolerable experiences to me in this moment.  I couldn’t sit still long enough to even try.

He said something I had heard before but wasn’t ready to hear until that moment.

In every moment we get to choose.  Fear or love.  What are you choosing Amanda?

Serpent or goddess.

Past or present.

I had not understood that the peaceful, beautiful experiences I have enjoyed in my life were just as fleeting as the confusing, painful times I have experienced.  I was choosing to frantically hang on to the “good” ones thinking I had “found” it and now couldn’t let it go.  I was pushing away every other moment of life that I didn’t deem acceptable.

The struggle was real.  Oh man, it was real.

But I got it in that moment.  And in that moment, some lightness seeped back in again.  I realized that it will be forevermore a swing from beauty to pain, dark to light.  Knowing to unknowing.

I simply try to be aware now when my knuckles are starting to hurt from squeezing too hard.

**my daughter is a happy healthy thriving being

**my life is still messy at times.  So is yours.  It will be like that forever 

**I managed to complete a full Kundalini class again on the same beach a few weeks ago and did not throw anyone into a headlock on their mat because of my stress level.  Below is proof that I am able to sit peacefully with  others again  🙂

 

The Rest Of The Story…

When I was (much) younger, my parents would always listen to a segment on the radio by a gentleman named Paul Harvey.  He always ended his piece by saying “and now you know the rest of the story”…his tag line.  As a child, it was his voice that engaged me.  With maturity, I paid more attention to the story details…and became interested in how you would be captured initially, but caught up in the twist at the end.   It left you thinking.  

You thought you knew what was going on until you realized you really didn’t.

I’ve been thinking lately about the prevalence of this concept…especially given the instaneous nature of communication in these times.  Social media is at the heart of so much of our day…and also the reason we are becoming so caught up in other people’s lives and less rooted in our own.  Our judgement of ourselves and others, many times, is on overdrive.  We are comparing and examining and ruminating and wondering because of snapshots in time that are captured and posted.

I am so guilty of this.  I cannot log onto Facebook without a thought popping into my head because of what I’m reading or seeing.  I often log off a little too preoccupied with the fact that I’m in my pyjamas at 8pm on a Friday evening.  Or that my supper of intense Dorito dill pickle chips may not have been the wisest choice after seeing the healthy quinoa salad that my friend Binky has made for her and 30 of her closest friends (one of which is NOT me).

Or I will begin to judge my parenting.  Or my ability to do yoga.  Or how the shrubs in the front of my house are looking pretty sickly and not at all like the beautiful fall foliage in some backyards.

And by then the train has left the station with me on it and it’s a WILD ride of self judgement and criticism.  It’s so easy to go there…effortless.  One button.

Then I clue in.  Awareness hits and I’m seeing how ridiculous I am.  I’ve let everything about my world get mangled up in what I’m “thinking” things “should” be like because of some input I’m getting from a news feed.  I realize I don’t know what’s going on behind everyone else’s closed doors.  And I realize no one does.

That a snap shot of time is exactly that.  One moment.  And we truly have no idea what the other 99% is like.  We are seeing a sliver.

I posted a photo a few months ago and received many wonderful comments on it.  It’s a sweet photo.  It’s a moment in time.

  
Right before this was taken, my two little dollies were at each other’s throats. 

“She’s looking at me…she picked my flower I wanted, she touched my flower, I’m hot, I’m tired, I want water, tell her to stop touching me, a bug just bit me”

And, in a moment, I just happened to catch this second of silence where my older daughter reached out to my little one and held her hand.

I remember that day well.  I was tired.  My life was in a little chaos.  My children were going at each other like Donald and Hilary.  Yet I wonder how many people on my Facebook feed looked at that photo and thought:

“She’s got her shit together.  Out walking with her sweet little kids holding hands and picking flowers.  She’s probably got an organic free range chicken in the oven for supper”

Now I just try to be aware.  I love social media for its connection.  I’ll continue to use it and watch it be used.  Yet I am becoming quicker at stopping my own train of silly thought because I realize that I don’t know the rest of the story when I see a moment in time.  None of us do.

  

Self Propelled…

It was a humidly hot Saturday afternoon last weekend when I found myself in a frustratingly difficult situation that I couldn’t seem to figure out.

I have recently become a new home owner with a newly installed lawn that was needing some TLC.  I had purchased a new lawnmower the week before-quality engine, middle of the road in price range.  I felt quite confident I could make quick work of the task ahead.  I wasn’t a mowing expert but had certainly mowed a fair share of lawns and varied terrains in my past.

My lot is not big…a bit over 1/2 an acre with minimal sloping in the back yard and an essentially flat front yard.  I planned my day accordingly figuring I could jam in all sorts of great things after my work was done.

As I began, I realized I was in trouble.  The sweat was pouring down my back within minutes of beginning and at the 9 minute mark I had to shut the mower off and reevaluate.  The thing was a beast.  I felt like I was dragging 100lbs of dead weight up and down the yard.  I couldn’t understand.  I checked the mechanisms…looked at the wheels.  I had pangs of self doubt wondering about my 40th birthday in 2 weeks-had I just become very old in a very short amount of time?  Was my body breaking down and becoming very out of shape?

I pulled the start to get things going again almost in tears looking at the two small strips I had managed to complete.  I was going to have to get a lawn boy if this kept up.

One hour and 34 minutes later I shuffled to my couch with tears streaming.  4 blisters on each hand and two bloody heels from blisters that had exploded in my rubber boots.  Not counting the two pitied stares from neighbours and the extensive list of curse words…some of which I had never used before in my life.  The lawn was done.  And so was I.

The open blisters made the rest of my weekend uncomfortable.  The mental angst of not understanding why I was having so much trouble with the lawnmower was worse.  I dreaded the thought of having to take it back…getting it out of my car in a box was difficult enough.  I thought of the expense of having to buy a higher end model…perhaps a tractor was necessary?  I finally had resigned myself to having to hire an entrepreneurial young man to mow it for me.  That irked me the worst.  

Discussing the events with my friend the next day, the confusion only became worse.  It was a good quality mower…what could be the issue?  Then came the magical question…

“You had the self propelled trigger engaged on the handle right Amanda?”

Um…nope.

So in essence, I drug about 50lbs of dead weight around my yard for an hour and a half in the blistering heat.  The trigger was right there.  All I had to do was pull it.

Cut to dinner with a dear friend this week in which I was discussing my longing for a different fulfillment in my professional life.  How I felt so drawn towards certain aspects of my current job but that I was dancing around my true calling.  This friend is a very astute reader of people-and she has been a true cheerleader in my corner over these last few years.  We talked for a few hours over dinner…and she helped me realize how fearful I am of failing.  And how that fact alone was a big reason I am so stuck in my head…the self chatter frequent about all of the reasons I can’t.  I am standing in my own way.

Not unlike my mowing fiasco.  I had myself in such a dither with my self-talk that day.  

  • I am getting old
  • I had purchased the wrong mower
  • I’m in horrible shape
  • It’s going to cost a fortune to upgrade/hire someone to mow
  • I never make any good decisions
  • Who am I to think I can take care of a home alone?

If I had just stopped long enough to see that I only had to pull the trigger, that whole trip of negative thoughts would have been avoided and the lawn would have gotten mowed without bodily harm.

I mowed it this morning using the self propel mechanism properly.  27 minutes.

There are moments where we struggle so much in our lives.  Those moments are unavoidable…this is where our growth comes from.  Yet how much of the struggle is real….and how much comes from us standing in our own way?

We came into this world perfectly…with everything we need to flourish.  Over time we become bogged down by experiences…and those experiences often will cloud the clarity within.  If we stay focused on those individuals who build us up…who see us for what we really are, and listen to the whispers within, the struggle disminishes almost instantly.  It becomes a passive journey of allowing and learning.  

No prime…no choke.  Just pull for power.

Stop struggling.  It’s there already.  

  

How To Save A Life…

There is a photograph that I first came across when I was much younger.  I remember the feeling of seeing it and standing there for several minutes losing track of time.  In my life I have come to discover that, often, there are things-people, pictures, environments, interactions, objects-that will stop me in my tracks.  Almost as if they latch onto my soul and won’t let go.  Many times, I don’t understand “why” when it happens.  I just know that I am pulled strongly towards these things and that it’s usually best to listen to that calling and let it figure itself out later.

This photograph is one of those things.  I can remember standing in the store looking at it.  I can remember the gray industrial carpet underneath my feet and the metal slats on the wall where the other pictures hung.  And the turbulence I felt looking at this photograph and wondering.
  

Recently this memory came forward for me again.  I have thought a lot about that day…catching sight of this photograph for the first time.  Many things have fallen apart in my life over the past two years.  And when things fall apart you often feel like you’re standing there holding broken pieces in your hands.  Wondering where you go from here.  Looking at those pieces trying to figure out if there’s anything familiar in there or if you’re actually just as lost as you feel.  Expecting that there is a good chance that you might just be completely swallowed up by the chaos of it all.

When things fall apart they don’t look like you thought they did.  They become fragmented…the familiarity is gone.   I think that’s the pivotal moment of it all.  It does not look like it did before.  It never will.  And, did it really anyway?

The “aloneness” that comes with grappling with those questions can be overwhelming.  But I think it’s supposed to be.  Things happen to all of us…pain is universal.  To make meaning of it is to hang out in it for a good while.  Not become consumed by it, but to make friends with it and understand it may stay for a bit and that’s ok.  

From that pain twinges of beautiful things erupt.  Moments of peace come and there might be one or two souls that will stand on that perimeter with you and hold your hand tightly as the waves pound you madly.

This photograph was taken by a man named Jean Guichard.  The lighthouse keeper is Theodore Malgorne.  This moment was captured off of the North western coast of France.  According to Firepress.net, Theodore had stepped out of the lighthouse thinking he had heard a helicopter coming to rescue.  Initially unaware of the wave, he quickly realized what was about to happen and steps back inside slamming the door.  

Saving his own life.

Things will happen in life that are unexpected and will shake you to your very core.  People around you will often stand and watch helplessly…not because they want to but because they don’t know what to do with something so overwhelming. But this is actually perfect.  They are not meant to know what to do.  People can’t rescue you despite how much you want them to.

It’s up to us to save ourselves.  No matter how big the mess or how lost we get.  Allow and hang onto the soft steadiness of the one or two sets of hands that extend from the perimeter.

But close the door yourself.