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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

saving the world

via google

via google

I can’t save the world. And it makes me crazy. I can’t even save individual people. Or cats & dogs. And that makes me crazy, too. Because I’m a fixer, by nature. It’s what I do: I try to fix broken things. Now, that doesn’t mean people are broken — that’s not what I’m saying. But sometimes things in their lives are, and I too often want to fix those.

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And what I’ve learned is that this saying by smart ol’ Unknown is true: very few folks I love want to be saved (re: have things ‘fixed’ for them). They want to be loved.

via google

via google

I’m pretty good at that, actually. I love so very many people. And cats. And dogs. And bees & neglected children & the sad lawyer at the courthouse today who needed a hug (I didn’t give him one — learned that lesson a while ago!), but who received instead a compliment on his tie and a huge smile. It’s what I do…

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Still, when people I care about have things that are very badly cracked (some might say breaking), I want to fix them. And save at least their place in the world. Instead, I’m trying to learn grace. Which is pretty hard for non-Christians to define: the term has been kind of coopted by the idea of divine Christian grace. But grace predates Christianity — I’m not sure what it was called then, but the idea remains consistent. It’s what the universe offers us when we are in harmony w/ our lives, our world. It has to be one of my beginner’s hearts hardest assignments, and one I continue to study. As if my life depends on it. Which it does, of course. All our lives depend on grace.

So in the meantime? Instead of beating my head against the I can’t save the world wall, I’m practicing grace. It’s kind of like when I went back to ballet as an adult, I’m sure. My practice bears little resemblance to real grace! But it’s a start. And eventually? Like ballet, I may get most improved. While it may not save the world, it will help. It will help.

 

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a happily full-isa calendar, and a thank-you to Jimmy Carter

via google

via google

My calendar for the next few months is filling up quickly. And while usually that makes me feel overwhelmed (and I confess to moments of that still!), my upcoming events are all about the ‘rocks’ in my jar. You know, those values that are more important than anything? In my case, family, writing, service.

I’m going to spend a few days w/ a beloved niece in one of my favourite cities. I’m facilitating a writing retreat/ workshop. And I have several meetings w/ my favourite non-profit. I also have my grandniece’s FIRST birthday party to help host, as well as a much-anticipated watch-the-grandson trip.

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In other words, I’m elder-ing.

Jimmy Carter & grandson  via flickr

Jimmy Carter & grandson
via flickr

It’s a rare blessing, to be called to elder. And yes, sometimes it’s challenging to juggle things. But when your life is full, it’s a good thing, signifying much love and good fortune. Certainly many of my rôle models are personal — my wonderful old ladies (grandmothers, great-aunts), my almost-godmothers. They loved me enough to teach me, not always an easy task. There were also professional rôle models, a boss or two who taught me the rules of my various professions (sales, journalism, scholarship, writing). But recently, they’ve been more universal: Jimmy Carter comes to mind. Here’s a picture of him with his grandson, eldering. It’s a verb, you know: to elder ~ to serve as an elder to one younger and/or less experienced. Originally used by the Quakers in reference to the ways older Quakers mentored younger ones in faith and education. Jimmy Carter has eldered me (& many many others) for decades.

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In time of crisis? Carter turned to his spiritual values; he kept his faith. When he was ridiculed, even slandered, Carter kept on quietly doing what he has always done best — helping others. I have no idea how many homes Jimmy Carter has helped build for Habitat for Humanity, but surely it’s in the hundreds by now.

role modelAnd now, in his 90s, he’s still doing it: showing us how to live, how to age with grace and dignity. Reminding me to remain true to my own values — the ‘rocks’ in my life’s jar. Illustrating what it means to live a life that makes a difference. And nudging me not to complain because I have arthritis, and babies are hard to pick up — Jimmy Carter has cancer, for cryin’ out loud! Babies are soooo worth a little pain. As are nieces, and grandnieces, and grandsons & sons & the humanities & all the people & things that crowd my calendar. My wonderfully full & busy calendar, filled with myriad opportunities to aim high. To elder, like Jimmy Carter.

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temper temper

via google

via google

I don’t have a terrible temper. I can take quite a bit of hassle, as long as it’s just about me. No one will agree w/ you all the time, nor will everyone like you. So it’s silly to get put out when those things happen — disagreements & people not liking you. That said, I am still that kid who yelled It’s not fair! And when it’s not? Well, I have this tendency to… ignite?

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To aggravate the whole thing, I used to think you had to ‘talk things out’ immediately — in the white hot Vesuvius of my reaction to whatever. NOT the best idea, I now realise. But it seemed (for many many years) that to let things go was, somehow, to cave to the idea that women should be the ones who ‘give in,’ or ‘compromise’ (the euphemistic term for what women do in most jobs…). And that was NOT me.

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via google

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These days, however, I’ve come to see that sometimes, a disagreement disappears on its own when folks are rested, fed, and some time has elapsed. Sometimes we need distance from our anger. It gives us perspective. This is so obvious to me today that it’s embarrassing to confess how recently I came to this realisation!

So here’s my day’s advice for our beginner’s hearts: let it go today. Back off from whatever it is that is driving you nuts. Take a deep breath, continue your life, and return to what’s lighting your bonfire tomorrow. Or even in a couple of days. If it’s really worth your passionate upheaval, believe me: it will still be there. But chances are, if you give it some time & space, it will go out like, well, a fire w/out fuel. And that’s a good thing, believe me.

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via google

via google

Buddhism talks a lot about letting go — which is NOT the same as not caring. It’s giving space to whatever the feeling is, and not attaching. So when your anger flames, don’t feed it. Acknowledge it, and then take a deep breath. Go get some tea, or take a walk. Let your incandescent rage die back, the way fires do when they don’t have fuel. It turns out — giving in to rage is the very best way to feed it. And walking away from it? Like a damp shower. I just wish I’d known this a couple of decades back! It would have saved everyone a LOT of burn…

 

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beneath winter

via pixabay

via pixabay

In winter, much happens out of sight. Magic is uncurling beneath piles of frost-blackened leaves, beneath the glistening canvas of snow. In dormant hives, bees cluster around the queen, warming her w/ their own bodies. And in burrows, sleepy rabbits, foxes, & moles prepare for spring births.

I’ve always loved winter. It seems to me to brim with infinite possibility, while still affording the peace to dream of each one. It’s curling up in a chair beneath a warm fleecy throw, w/ a book on the octopus. It’s making hot chocolate w/ prime chocolate, and adding a few more marshmallows (because there really is no such thing as too many!). It’s the certainty that you are warm, cosy, & safe.

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Even though so many aren’t. And that’s the knife-edge of privilege.

Via Google

Via Google

Warmth is one of the most basic of privileges, in the winter. My elder son, DIL, & grandson are in the middle of the East Coast snow dump, more than a foot of snow expected (maybe two!). But their house is a remodel, w/ great heat. So I don’t have to worry, like I would if they were off in the Big Woods, or on the icy prairie a century ago. Modern conveniences (mod cons, as the Brits say) offer heat, hot water, and light. It’s only when those disappear that we talk about ‘disasters.’

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Our everyday American life is a LOT to be thankful for. And something I rarely take for granted, after living in countries where electricity, water, and basic supplies (toilet paper!) sometimes disappeared for days on end.

Beneath the the surface of my winter — safely cocooned in the comfort of gas heat & electric light — I’m free to plan gardens that will bloom come summer. Free to dream of the ocean when it warms up. Free not to worry about my sons, each to his own battered coastline, struggling w/ the contretemps of blizzards & icy storms.

Let’s hear it for ordinary privilege: heat, light, refrigeration, and clean laundry. All those things we need before we can go back to musing…

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Previous Posts

saving the world
I can't save the world. And it makes me crazy. I can't even save individual people. Or cats & dogs. And that makes me crazy, too. Because I'm a fixer, ...

posted 7:51:19pm Feb. 04, 2016 | read full post »

a happily full-isa calendar, and a thank-you to Jimmy Carter
My calendar for the next few months is filling up quickly. And while usually that makes me feel overwhelmed (and I confess to moments of that still!), my ...

posted 9:25:31pm Jan. 31, 2016 | read full post »

temper temper
I don't have a terrible temper. I can take quite a bit of hassle, as long as it's just about me. No one will agree w/ you all the time, nor will everyone ...

posted 3:16:38pm Jan. 27, 2016 | read full post »

beneath winter
In winter, much happens out of sight. Magic is uncurling beneath piles of frost-blackened leaves, beneath the glistening canvas of snow. In dormant hives, ...

posted 1:30:36pm Jan. 22, 2016 | read full post »

the art of interdependence
I love reading my horoscope. I won't go so far as to say I believe it, but often it really does hit the nail, etc. Spot-on, as a Brit friend of mine would ...

posted 2:15:50pm Jan. 18, 2016 | read full post »

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