Abundantly Inadequate

simply

We are all readers or writers here, and in some cases, both.  In short, we are no strangers to words. Their power, their play and their partnership when we need or want to express ourselves in some way. We write blogs, books, poems and songs; we pen memos, letters, missives and lists. Daily.  We engage in witty banter, endless text threads, singing song lyrics and reciting movie lines.

But, sometimes we come face to face with a situation where it seems that the right words, or any words for that matter, are on par with the amount of water here in California.  Simply not enough.

We’ve all been in the situation with someone who’s facing a tragedy, or they have received terrible news, enduring a heavy load with no end in sight, or grieving, missing and mourning when someone is no longer. Simply lost.

Face to face with these moments, we are moved. We feel deeply and when our emotions course through us and rise up out of the belly, we can find that the words are absent. Simply not there.

A light bulb flickered for me this morning while getting ready for work. A different way to think about this. While standing in front of my bursting closet I had that all too familiar and frustrating feeling of, I have NOTHING to wear!

emptyFor all of the infinite possibilities afforded us by the English language, sometimes it’s like that feeling of standing before your first-world over-packed closet.  Hanging there are all of those blouses, cardigans, shirts and pants.  In those fraught face-to-face moments, hanging there are all of those verbs, nouns, adjectives and prepositions, yet somehow it feels abundantly inadequate. Simply not enough.

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A Little Bit Back to Center

As with most of us, the weeks in between Thanksgiving and the holly jolly holiday can be likened to either a sausage or a can of sardines; in either case too much is constrained in far too small of a space.

Work demands seemed to ratchet instead of dwindle and we lost a bright shining star long before he should have ever gone shooting across the sky.  Losing a dear and trusted colleague is never easy, and especially the peak of the season.

On the home front we switched from cleats to high tops and a whole new game schedule.  I really need the coaches to check with me before signing up our team for extra scrimmages and tournaments.

As such, it was a push to get Christmas on the table, so speak.  A naked tree stood vulnerable in my living room for too many days before it finally got it’s well earned bling and blitz.  The flour and sugar and mixer remain tucked away in cabinets this year and I did not support the US Postal service this go-round….

(I was kind of feeling like the elf who barely made it in for the night and just kind of hanging on….)

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…and the gift list was whittled and all through the house; this nearly bah-humbug mama slowly began to exhale.

An almost stolen (but not) purse, a few unusual conversations and all the requisite daily pushes and pulls, and the edges began to fray.  I found myself needing to respond to a particular situation, make an important decision, and I realized that I felt so far from center. So far from my own self that finding the inner voice of reason and the all-important gut check seemed akin to the journey to the center of the earth; a really long way away.

***

Last night, kiddo and I spent the evening with dear and long time friends who came into town for the holiday.  To help welcome them, the friend hosting them also hosted an evening gathering with friends and family who also wanted to be with them.  There we were, the atypically warm December night found the women gathered on the generous front porch sipping wine and talking like there is no tomorrow, the kids running free between basement and front yard and the men tossing back a few beers in the kitchen. And of course, any mix and mingle of all peppered the evening.  Before I knew it, jackets and santa hats donned, wine glasses re-filled, we walked the neighborhood which some would liken to a modern day Mayberry and took in the light strewn homes, horse-drawn carriages transporting families and friends doing the same as us, and pick-up trucks filled with carolers. As we walked, conversations were easy, natural and changing depending on who walked next to whom. Kids ran front, center and in between.

At one moment, while I had the three biggest kids in my reach, I let them go ahead a bit, and ahead of them were the smalls and other adults.  I hung back, I lingered, wine in hand, and took it all in.

I exhaled deeper. A lot deeper.

Bright lights in my periphery. People I love in direct view.

Cheerful sounds filling the air.

A sip of my wine.

Exhale.

This. This right here. This is Christmas.  I exhaled fully and smiled.

I caught up to my kiddo and draped an arm around his shoulders, not far below my own now,  and said, this is good, eh?  We are good. We get this.  He was quiet and I said, this is a moment to just be.

 

***

This morning, as I woke, I thought of last night.

I realized. That was a little bit of coming back to center.

***

Merry Christmas. Holly Jolly Holiday.  Blessings.

My wish for you, each of you, is that moment to just be.

To exhale. To find center.

***

Peace & Joy

-Bonnie

 

Shifting

shifting

In recent months,  Northern CA experienced a 6.1 earthquake – the pressure built and the plates moved. Earthquakes are usually caused when rock underground suddenly breaks along a fault and this sudden release of energy causes the seismic waves that make the ground shake.

It was definitely noticed.

It rocked and rolled.

In our own lives, big disruptions come along and create fissures, changes and cracks in our lives. It’s impossible to not notice these. Things feel bumpy, chaotic and unstable.  Life rocks and rolls without harmony.

But, we have to remember –  earthquakes don’t come out of nowhere.

According to scientists,

‘…The surface of the Earth is in continuous slow motion. This is plate tectonics–the motion of immense rigid plates at the surface of the Earth in response to flow of rock within the Earth. The plates cover the entire surface of the globe. Since they are all moving they rub against each other in some places, sink beneath each other in others, or spread apart from each other…’

Things are constantly happening, even if ever so subtly.

But this is not a science lesson, I could certainly not be so presumptuous. But rather a moment of understanding – it made sense that internally, most of the time, there is movement under the surface, adjustments happening all the time, even when we don’t notice.  Or think we don’t.

I have begun to notice. A shifting of sorts. One that at times is nearly imperceptible.

 

Shifting.

decisions so small.

changes so subtle.

choices hardly noticeable.

shifting.

wishes only thought.

desires barely whispered.

strength always growing.

shifting.

leaving some things back.

choosing what holds value now.

knowing the difference so quietly.

shifting

choosing carefully.

trusting purposefully.

listening always.

shifting

resolve clarifying.

courage emerging.

boundaries appearing.

shifting

almost imperceptibly.

almost.

 

Yes. Things are constantly happening, subtly.

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Pieces | My Symphony

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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 listen to stars and birds,
babes and sages with open heart;
to study hard;
to think quietly,
act frankly,
talk gently,
await occasions, hurry never;
in a word, to let the spiritual,
unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common.
-this is my symphony.

-William Hendry Channing

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As we become curators of our own contentment on the Simple Abundance path… we learn to savor the small with a grateful heart.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

The Edges

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“There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.
Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.”      ― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

 When you think of a boundary, do you think of what is kept in, or what is kept out?

boundary

/ˈbaʊndərɪ; -drɪ/
noun (pl) -ries

1.  something that indicates the farthest limit, as of an area; border

When my mother died, one of her closest friends was one of my very few living links to her; this woman comforted me and brought my mother back to life in fleeting moments when we recounted a memory or allowed ourselves a moment of our shared sadness. This woman became incredibly important to me and I relied heavily on her in this context.  Later, as our conversation continued and we grew into our own friendship, I confided in her, something I needed to pursue.  She was conflicted about my pursuit and interjected what she thought my mother would feel about it if she were still alive. Much as I loved this woman, much as I had come to need her, this particular area was not one she understood nor did she realize my mother and I had discussed often over the years.  I came to understand that she was projecting her own fears and concerns regarding the matter and so I took more time to explain and share; all the while I remained steadfast.  It was in the midst of this conversation, not feeling supported or understood, that I realized something important  – the matter was core to me and who I am and that I was willing to draw a line in the sand for what I knew I needed. I noticed an important shift within me and that I was willing to stand my ground despite her inability to come along with me.  My need for truth and authenticity became greater than my fear of disappointing her if it meant not pursuing something so central to who I am.  As with an invisible fence, a boundary was activated and it both surprised me and scared me.

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.
– Brene Brown

Setting boundaries is not easy. In fact it’s hard work. I look around and from where I sit, it can appear so easy, so natural for others and it’s easy to wonder if I’m somehow missing something or struggling unnecessarily.  Being perfectly honest, it has seemed, that of late, the Universe signed me up, unbeknownst to me of course, for a Boundaries 101 course. Complete with a ‘text book’ of sorts.

From the book, How the State Got Their Shapes it is written that The 50 states in the U.S.A. are easily recognized by their shapes, their outlines, their silhouettes. Their boundaries. Their furthest limits. Colorado and Wyoming are both rectangular in their shape and are therefore hard to differentiate. The value resides not in knowing their shape but why. Asking why a state has the borders it does unlocks a history of human struggles, it’s history. It’s story.

Co and Wy

 

The more we look at borders, the more questions those borders generate.

Is it the same for us? 

That  the more we understand each other’s boundaries, the more we realize we should know about each other and our stories?  And, subsequently, the more we do learn about one another?

A state border is both an official entrance and a hidden entrance. 

Couldn’t we claim the same truth?

I draw a boundary based on what I know I need to feel safe, secure, seen, understood and strong. If you know, and understand, and accept what that is, you gain ‘entrance’.

The official entrance is the legal threshold to a state. But it’s hidden. Entrance beckons us into the past.

Is the same true for us?

Our own edges, can at times seem somewhat hidden, but if understood, and respected, beckon others in.

Into…

Our story.

Our selves.

Our past.

Our hurts.

Our scars.

Our quirks.

Our disappointments.

Our fears.

Our regrets.

Our dreams.

Our hopes.

Our future.

Here at the state line we can come come into contact with struggles long forgotten and now overgrown by signs saying things like, “Welcome to Nebraska. Please drive carefully.”

Couldn’t we say the same?

Welcome to my heart. Please drive carefully.


It’s easy to consider drawing boundaries as keeping something out, but what if we change that to keeping in that which what we value while at the same time also building strength?  And yet, it is circular, we can’t draw a boundary until we know what we need and want and desire, on the inside.

We know from what has hurt in the past, what hasn’t felt good. We know when someone bumps up against our edges. It’s fear. It’s disappointment. It’s feeling invisible. It’s feeling dismissed. It’s too much at once.

When my son was about 9 or so, we were having a conversation that led to me saying something about respecting his boundaries.  The way he looked at me when I said that, I knew immediately that he had no idea what I meant.  I thought for a second about how to say it in a way he’d understand;  I said to him that boundaries are the edges of when we feel ok, and that when we bump up against the edges, it doesn’t feel good anymore, or it’s uncomfortable, or it’s too much and so we stop.

When we set boundaries, we own what scares us. That which makes us feel alone in the world. By knowing what to ask for, we also identify what we cannot receive. Rejection is hard on both sides of the street.

When we talk about boundaries, setting them, respecting them, we often think of it as drawing a line – a line in the sand so to speak.  Creating boundaries, however, is not only about protecting – keeping what is not safe on the OUTSIDE.  It can also be about strengthening and fortifying what is on the INSIDE.

I have found that creating boundaries – and then establishing them – is like building strong muscles. It requires discipline, diligence and a plan. It requires that we do things that sometimes we just don’t feel like doing. It’s not easy.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote recently:

“I don’t like conflict. I aim for appeasement. I often dodge the chance to directly address problems early on, because I hope the problems will go away. I deny and I duck and I put my hands over my ears and say, “La-la-la-la-la.” And then, guess what? Sometimes those problems don’t go away. In fact, they blow up in my face… I am still learning this. I can see messy things that happened in my life this very year, because I didn’t want to cope with problems sooner”

“Liz, stay alert. Heads up. Start speaking your truth sooner. You’ve been put on watch.”

It’s work, this setting of boundaries. We have to accept the uncomfortable moments of owning our anger and understanding what lurks below its surface,  trusting our own instincts, facing the fear of conflict with someone we have decided is important to us. It requires that we stand ready to let go of something that has taken up residence within us, even when it’s not good for us. Because we get comfortable.

It dawned on me that setting boundaries and letting go are in essence, kissing cousins.

For when we set a boundary, are we also not at the same time choosing to let go of something?

$T2eC16JHJGMFFpfi!d7!BSe2vGu-Tw~~_32When we set boundaries, we have to know what defines us. What fits. What makes sense. What fills us in positive ways.  Learning to recognize when we are no longer willing to be uncomfortable or misunderstood for the sake of making someone else feel comfortable. Even when that someone is us, and for just a temporary moment.

Sometimes this process requires trial and error – as a toddler experiments with sorting shapes – and until we sort it out, we can feel empty for awhile when we only allow entrance for the shapes that actually fit. When we say no to someone or something – at first it can feel so lonely, but only then do we make room for what does fit.

Creating boundaries demands of us honesty with ourselves, being able to endure shifts in power, changes in dynamics. Sometimes, our own power has the power to scare the crap out of us. That’s nothing short of hard work, man.

In pushing our bodies in exercise, we endure the short term pain, discomfort and possibility of failure because we want something more. We want what comes when we have strong muscles; the definition, the strength, the knowledge and the confidence that come from knowing we are capable.  We work our bodies because we know that we want to be able to do the other things that require that muscle strength.

Isn’t the same true for our own boundaries?

When we work our boundaries, is it not because we know that we want more; more inner strength, more of what allows us to truly align with who we are, to be surrounded by others who understand and accept us? Authenticity. To be surrounded by others who truly see us, for all that lies within our squiggly, messy lines or our boring geometric edges. And love us.

The challenge, of course, is to not be too rigid, to find our balance with this line – we get to choose the amount of fluidity in the line, and we can only know that by being brave enough to start, to try.  Like Elizabeth Gilbert, we must start speaking our truth sooner. We must put ourselves on notice.


240099_567045576756225_2818715820781149113_oOn the back cover of the book, a review by the Wall Street Journal says:

“Give me the splendid irregularities any day. God Bless the panhandles and notches, the West Virginias and the Oklahomas.”

To that I say:

“Give me the splendid imperfections any day. God bless the vulnerabilities, the differences and the fears, the secrets and the quirks.”

For isn’t that the beauty of what is inside?

 

 

Ps…Why are Colorado and Wyoming are so similar in their shapes?

-Colorado – Money: gold

-Wyoming – Space: 7 degrees of width, coal & waterways & trails (Oregon, California and Overland Trails). Oh, and Utah’s involved too.

But, like with us, it’s way more complicated than that.

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Pieces | Does it Matter?

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When you find something that resonates with your spirit,
does it matter where it comes from?

First, read the following three comments (there might be a quiz):

“Knowing there is a world that will outlive you, there are people whose well-being depends on how you live your life, affects the way you live your life, whether or not you directly experience those effects. You want to be the kind of person who has the larger view, who takes other people’s interests into account, who’s dedicated to the principles that you can justify, like justice, knowledge, truth, beauty and morality.”  – Steven Pinker, cognitive scientist


  “In the theater you create a moment, but in that moment, there is a touch, a twinkle of eternity. And not just eternity, but community. . . . That connection is a sense of life for me.”  – Teller, illusionist


“Joy is human connection; the compassion put into every moment of humanitarian work; joy is using your time to bring peace, relief, or optimism to others. Joy gives without the expectation—or wish—of reciprocity or gratitude. . . . Joy immediately loves the individual in need and precedes any calculation of how much the giver can handle or whom the giver can help.”  – Erik Campano, emergency medicine


Then, ponder: What do these all have in common?

Other than being reflective, positive, thoughtful and other-centric?

All three are responses to questions posed to Atheists about their moral values and motivations…what gives them joy and meaning.


In reality, when asked about their moral values or what motivates them in life, atheists use words that sound downright spiritual, very much like the words religious people use in fact, with a few noteworthy differences. To create his book,  A Better Life, Photographer Chris Johnson asked 100 atheists about what gives their lives joy and meaning. To some Christians the question is equivalent to asking an elephant where he gets his chocolate ice cream. The answers might surprise them even more. Themes include love and connection, compassion and service, legacy (leaving the world a little better), creativity and discovery, gratitude, transcendence, and wonder—all heightened by a sense that this one life is fleetingly transient and precious.


Another piece in this interesting, slowly forming puzzle. One that clearly requires an open mind.

For more thought provoking responses, you can read the entire article or dive deeper and get the book.

This has me intrigued. I’d love to know what you think, when you find something that resonates, does it matter where it comes from?

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And It Was Summer

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Last night, I was helping Kiddo with his homework – which is often a harrowing experience. Ok, well, not harrowing but often stressful, exhausting, frustrating and at times, just plain time consuming. Ten year old boys are not known for sitting still and focusing and just loving the whole endeavor.

But, last night was a mama’s dream – we worked on vocabulary (this mom just so happens to love words), language arts (never end a sentence with a preposition) and some literature (reading? Ok!).

He has a test today on this week’s story in literature so I had him re-read quietly and then tell me the story from his understanding, and then I read the story. We talked about the characters, motivations, themes, what-do-you-thinks and more. His comprehension is so much better than mine ever was at that age and I was impressed with his ability to retell the story to me – it all matched up when I read it for myself.

As I had the book in hand, and read the story, it was only then that I realized it was from Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury; an excerpt of his ‘priceless distillation of all that is eternal about boyhood and summer‘ as a young boy tries to describe the magic of a new pair of tennis shoes to to his father.


This passage just sunk in with me as we are on the cusp of change from summer into fall…

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“…It was because they felt the way it feels every summer when you take off your shoes for the first time and run in the grass. They felt like it feels sticking your feet out of the hot covers in wintertime to let the cold wind from the open window blow on them suddenly and you let them stay out a long time until you pull them back in under the covers again to feel them, like packed snow. The tennis shoes felt like it always feels the first time every year wading in the slow waters of the creek and seeing your feet below, half an inch further down-stream, with refraction, than the real part of you above water. 

“Dad,” said Douglas, “it’s hard to explain.”

Somehow the people who made tennis shoes knew what boys needed and wanted. They put marshmallows and coiled spring in the soles and they wove the rest out of grasses bleached and fired in the wilderness. Somewhere deep in the soft loam of the shoes the thin hard sinews of the buck deer were hidden. The people that made the shoes must have watched a lot of winds blow the trees and a lot of rivers going down to the lakes. Whatever it was, it was in the shoes, and it was summer…” 


I was asked a great question the other day about September (thank you DK) and in response, it came to me that September ushers in colder climes, harsher times, more to do – and I asked if perhaps it is possible that September is one of the most marked months in terms of transitions from one season to the next?

Ahhh, and it was summer; I give it up so reluctantly.

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