I’m sure you’ve heard the question: Is the the glass half full or half empty? The response you give might indicate if you are an optimist or pessimist in terms of the way you view life and the circumstances you encounter. I always answered in the affirmative that it was half full, thus claiming my status as ‘eternal optimist.’ Then, it occurred to me that (as is illustrated above) the glass really IS always full of something, whether liquid or air. I changed my designation to ‘opti-mystic’; as I define it “someone who sees the world through the eyes of possibility.” In my life, as in yours, ‘stuff’ happens. As I gaze back over my shoulder, I recognize losses- maternal grandmother at age 4, paternal grandmother at age 14, friends who have died throughout my adulthood, my husband when I was 40, my parents in 2008 and 2010, my home in Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and along with it, a portion of our business, an ectopic pregnancy that same year.
Last week, I was interviewed for a podcast and the host commented that I had had a difficult life (or words to that effect) since she knew my history as I had just expressed it. I was surprised at that description, since I had never thought of my life as difficult at all. If anything, I have (with a few petulant, pity party moments) seen my life as being charmed in many ways. Loving, supportive large extended family, intact parental marriage, no abuse, no addiction, no major trauma, no devastating events. Even when my dad was laid off from a few jobs, he always managage to find something to tide him over until he was called back to work, in addition to my mother’s salary. We always had a “roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs,” as our parents reassured us that we would. Even though I was diagnosed with asthma at age 5 that necessitated medical appointments, treatments and the occasional ER visit, I was active and wouldn’t let it slow me down…no big surprise there, if you know me. If anything, I used it as a catalyst to extend myself further than I might have otherwise.
Such it is with all of the other life events that have shown themselves to be motivators for even greater yoga-off-the-mat stretches. As a result of being widowed, I became an interfaith minister, bereavement counselor, organ donor educator for Gift of Life Donor Program (since Michael died while awaiting a liver transplant), as well as a more compassionate therapist. As a result of being a family caregiver for my husband and parents, I have been able to assist others in doing the same for their loved ones. As a result of all of these things, I have been able to use them as grist for the mill with my writing and teaching. There are no wasted experiences if we can learn from them.
Last night, I was speaking with my friend Ondreah about Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s poem The Invitation. I came to this line and couldn’t answer yes to it: “I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.” That is one of my greatest challenges as a therapist and friend. I often muscle my way through my own pain and struggle and am less than compassionate with myself when I have felt stuck, telling myself that I need to move through it as quickly and ultimately gracefully as possible. I sometimes move more rapidly than clients would prefer. Learning to be comfortable with discomfort.
I had posted this on my Facebook page and received poignant comments. This one came from Oriah herself:
“Edie, how interesting that this is the post at the top of my newsfeed this morning. It is indeed a challenge to be with what arises when what arises feels uncomfortable or downright painful. I’m guessing that that is true for all human beings- but even more so for those of us raised in a culture where “moving on” is valued much more (and pushed for) over “being with.”
Not easy at all- and yet, what really surprises me is that when I manage to find the grace to be with pain- mine or another’s- it changes. I don’t mean it goes away (sometimes it does, of course- but there is no deal to be made that if we are with something it will instantly dissolve.) In part it changes because everything is always changing and. . . . truthfully, my own experience is that when I am with something I soften to it- and softening (versus resisting, clenching against or around) almost always eases things a little.
For me, the bottom line is practise- I use meditation, prayer, yoga and writing to be with whatever arises- and when I practise with the small stuff regularly, I have a much better chance of being with something- if only for one full breath- when the harder stuff comes along. And, of course, some days are better than others. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this and stirring the mulling.”
No one ever said that what is in the glass will always be desirable or pleasant, but sometimes even the most yukky tasting stuff is just the medicine we need to heal whatever might ail us AND you can always dump the contents out and refill the glass.
Yesterday, the music and social justice community on Earth lost a peace troubador and the one in Heaven welcomed him with open arms and I imagine greeted him and blessed him for a job well done. Richie Havens, whose great big heart gave out yesterday at the age of 72, may be best known for his role as the iconic opening act at Woodstock. He was asked to perform a handful of songs but ended up playing for hours since the others who were scheduled to be on stage were caught in the historical traffic jam. He had done 5 or 6 encores to the point of what I imagine was a combination of exhaustion and exhiliration. He had run out of songs to sing at that moment and then brilliance broke through.
According to Richie: “I start strumming my guitar and the word freedom comes out of my mouth as FREE-dom, FREE-dom, with a rhythm of its own. My foot takes over and drives my guitar into a faster, more powerful rhythm. I don’t know where this is going, but it feels right and somehow I find myself blending it into an old song — ‘Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child’ — a great spiritual my grandmother used to sing to me as a hymn when I was growing up in Brooklyn.”
www.youtube.com/watch?v=fA51wyl-9IE Freedom Richie Havens
He was a road musician who traveled world wide, touching hearts and enhancing lives with his devotion to co-existence. The essence of his music was that it encouraged social action, and he seemed unafraid to take a stand. I had the delighful experience of meeting and interviewing him, I’m thinking, in the 1990’s when he came to the Abington Art Center in Abington, PA to display his artwork. This man, tall of stature, with a larger than life presence, was friendly and approachable. I sat next to him on a bench as we had a casual conversation, with the only indication that it was a journalistic interview was the tape recorder between us. His deep, smooth speaking voice and rising laughter, along with his long fingers, each encased in a ring, were among the most memorable aspects of our time together, as well as the warm hug we shared after the interview that I needed to stand on tiptoes and he came down part way to my height to experience.
My favorite song of his, that he sang with Cliff Eberhardt is called Long Road. It speaks poignantly to the journey he was on in life and will continue with his passing.
http://youtu.be/jJOgCNwBe_U Long Road- Cliff Eberhardt and Richie Havens
Richie, may you follow your dreams, down the long road and may those who follow in your footsteps know they have big shoes to fill.
Today is Earth Day, celebrated for the first time in 1970, when I was 12 years old. This eco-friendly, environmentally conscious, tree hugging, gracefully aging hippie, celebrates it every day, leaving as small a carbon footprint as possible. I reduce-re-use-recycle whatever I can, I walk where I am able, combine trips when I can’t, carpool as often as possible, have never been a litter bug (my parents taught me well), buy organic food when available, mostly veg, bless the planet with thoughts of love and healing, practice Tikkun Olam (Hebrew for ‘repair of the world’) and have taught my son to be kind to the earth as well.
According to the website: Earthday Network: ”
The height of hippie and flower-child culture in the United States, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Protest was the order of the day, but saving the planet was not the cause. War raged in Vietnam, and students nationwide increasingly opposed it.
At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news. Although mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries and, up until that moment, more than any other person, Ms. Carson raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health.
Earth Day 1970 capitalized on the emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns front and center.”
Today, as I was listening to The World Cafe on my favorite radio station WXPN (885. fm), the host David Dye was interviewing Adam Gardner from the group Guster. Along with his wife Lauren Sullivan and a gathering of kindred spirits with all kinds of skill sets from promotion to organization, from logistics to community outreach. The purpose of their organization that they call Reverb, is for those in the music industry to take the lead in making the tours eco friendly and responsible. It is a grassroots effort that is spreading worldwide.
For the bands, it involves using bio-diesel fuel for the tour busses and vans, using recycled and re-usable products rather than disposable and creating a sustainability thought process for their fans that includes:
- Eco-Village | Festival-like village with environmental displays and activities to educate and engage fans
- Non-Profit Groups | Environmental organizations hosted at each Eco-Village
- Carbon Offset Program | Allows fans to offset their carbon footprint
- Volunteers | Reverb volunteers coordinated to encourage fans to participate in Eco-Village activities
- Eco-Concert Program | Takeaway for fans describing green initiatives of the tour and offering simple calls to action
- Jumbotron Slideshow | Includes eco-trivia, tour greening information, and text messaging campaigns
- Greening Website | Custom tour-specific site outlining all greening elements taken on tour, featuring resources and calls to action for fans
- Online Carpooling | Resource for fans looking to carpool to and from shows
Artists, including Dave Matthews, Brandi Carlile, Bare Naked Ladies, Jack Johnson, Maroon 5, Janelle Monae, John Legend, Sheryl Crow, Jason Mraz, Ben Folds and Phish have jumped aboard this Earth friendly stage and encourage their audiences to do the same.
One thing that I would LOVE to see happen, but is not likely, is that venues (even those outdoors) become completely smoke free. I have been at many events at which otherwise enviro-savvy folks blow smoke about and then drop their butts on the ground as if it is their ashtray. Now THAT would be quite a feat. Imagine the reverberation that would spread world wide~ In the meantime, good for you, Adam, Lauren and your family of choice who are making this planet a greener and cleaner place to live.
I am thrilled to say that my invisible Wonder Woman cape and tights are in the Jeep (along with my faerie wings, which are tangible and colorful)… and I don them less often these days. Once upon a time, they were standard wear for this recovering co-dependent, caregiver, people pleaser, feeling like Mighty Mouse singing “Here I come to save the day!” Not sure if I come by it genetically or by example since my parents were the go-to people among their circles, who could be counted on to be there in times of crisis. My career path led me to become Ms. Fixit and in my personal relationships, my social worker’s ‘rolodex’ brain cards have been thumbed through so many times that they are dog eared. The truth is, no one needs rescuing and while I have information and experience that are helpful, I am no expert on anyone else’s life and needs. I am a willing guide along the way.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to allow myself the freedom to leave the Wonder Woman facade behind. I attended a retreat called The Woman Within which is an event I have been encouraged to experience for many years. Several of my friends have taken it and had marvelous breakthroughs. I welcomed that as well and was delighted that when all was said and done, my transition from where I was to where I am, took all kinds of leaps; some of faith that I would safely land. I was determined to savor the time just for myself; rare indeed for this woman who feels that nothing I do is for me alone. My healing heals the planet….all that stuff which may be true AND I really am permitted to have personal joy. Going into the time away, I told the organizers that if they saw me attempting to fix, save, heal or otherwise exhibit ‘savior behavior, they were to call me on it. I was off duty. Within very short order, an opportunity arose to test my mettle. I was asked to take on a leadership role and as my ego chirped….”How cool! They know you are a natural born leader.” and my Sally Field Academy Award speech persona chimed in “And I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!” My inner knowing creature, looked at me with kind and compassionate eyes, wagging finger and loving smile and said “Don’t you dare.” Saying no has not always come easily to me. It felt really good this time.
Throughout the weekend, I faced multiple challenges to my resolve. Each woman there had her own particular story that had me wishing I could offer answers, wanting to charge in there to fix the situation. Knowing that I couldn’t do it, even had I not made the promise to myself since it was not my role, was painful….literally, head throbbingly so. I needed to sit with my emotional discomfort and it wasn’t until I acknowledged my own loss, pain and sadness; my real human vulnerability that the headache dissolved and I saw clearly that my help was not requested or required. I rest my cape~