How’s Your Wobbly Factor?

Change is constant. How we experience change…that’s up to us.

-Meredith Grey-

DSCN3861While a few crave change, most of us avoid it like the plague. Change knocks us off centre, makes us wobbly and uncomfortable. But when life gets tough, change offers us the hope that things will get better. Three years ago I said goodbye to my daughter, Rachel. Without faith in the power of change I’d have remained emotionally paralyzed.

Life is full of endings, full of goodbyes; change. Even as we finish the last piece of a chocolate bar we’re reminded that nothing lasts forever. Poet David Whyte suggests 50% of life is saying goodbye; until we absorb that reality we’re easy prey for depression and anxiety. Besides, one day we’ll have to give it all away. Everything. Maybe if we practice we’ll be better prepared for that Big Goodbye.

We just have to open our fingers, loosen our grip.

Daehyun Kim

Daehyun Kim

As Tim Kreider reminds us in this week’s New York Times: You are older at this moment than you’ve ever been before, and it’s the youngest you’re ever going to get. The mortality rate is holding at a scandalous 100 percent.” 

We all have a date of birth, and a date of death at yet unknown. Until that day maybe it’s worth shaking things up, practice feeling wobbly: sit somewhere different, give a gift anonymously, do something others might describe as ‘not like you.’ Call it prep work. Detachment from attachment.

Changing my living situation every few weeks keeps me wobbly. Trusting that everything happens at the right time inspires a calm resolve and intuitive faith in life as it is…traits absent from an earlier life that left me ill prepared for massive change.

How we remember our lives trumps how we experience them,” claims neurosurgeon and cancer-survivor Allan Hamilton.  Today I shall reframe my thoughts about Rachel’s departure from this world. Rather than think of it as the date of her death, I shall celebrate memories of the 8533 days she lived.

“Cos’ I gotta feelin’…”

-The Black Eyed Peas-

Sources

Grey’s Anatomy, Season 7, Episode 1

You Are Going to Die by Tim Kreider

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/you-are-going-to-die/

7 Ways to Make Happiness Last by Allan Hamilton

http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=378

David Whyte workshops

http://www.davidwhyte.com

Rock Me Gently

Rock me gently,
Rock me slowly
Not having been much of a Neil Diamond fan I was surprised to find myself humming these lyrics as I awoke a few weeks back. Most likely my body’s way of telling me to go gently on myself as I transition back into life in Vancouver after nine months away.
The place I proudly called home for the last 30 years.
All that changed long before I embarked on new adventures. The stodgy boundaries of my comfort zone screamed for boot camp. It meant removing myself from all things familiar and taking that all-important first step. 
Of living everything. 
Of giving up control. 
Of being OK with not knowing. 
What I got was nothing short of amazing.
Probably the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
It was a year of warmth and solitude, with no agenda, no itinerary. I reveled in all things slow.  Stopping to watch something that would normally pass me by on my way to get somewhere. Allowing myself to do nothing tangible or productive without self-judgement or guilt. When you have no destination but the journey itself you get to experience life in a whole new way. 
A good traveller according to Lao Tzu is “one that has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” 
I like that.
I met more people than I could have ever imagined, shared dinners with strangers, slept in countless beds, listened to amazing stories and learned more about places than I’d ever thought at the outset. 
All this I am sure, because I was alone. 
With no one to join me at events, or turn to in an emergency, or walk with everyday, or talk with at night there was both a discomfort AND a heady freedom. 
Strangers are eager to help out the solo traveler. The vulnerability of being alone resonates with people everywhere it seems. Launching yourself into conversation with total strangers is the order of the day. There’s no holding back.
The flip side of course, is with too much solitude comes loneliness. I experienced plenty of both. Yet glad to say that tears were more often triggered by a gratitude and joy for being alive than by sadness.
My girls traveled with me everywhere: a photograph of one, the ashes of the other left in some of the most beautiful places imaginable. The poignance and healing in that simple act no words can fully express. Over the year, what used to gut me each time I unscrewed the cap from it’s small container gave way to a comfort and joy, allowing me to mend just a little more each time, knowing that another part of me was letting her go.
I’m now convinced that a grieving heart can only be healed through gratitude and wonder.  
I remain full of questions and am all right with that.In the words of the marvelous poet, David Whyte
Let my history then
be a gate unfastened
to a new life
and not a barrier
to my becoming…



Image: DepositPhotos

Singaportrayal

Travel asks how much we’re willing to surrender to the unknown. It is as Pico Iyer suggests, an exercise in trust as we pitch ourselves, naked and undefended, into a foreign place. It satiates our curiosity to know something more about a place and to go deeper inside ourselves without the encircling familiarity of home. No surprise that in Ancient Greece, travel was considered one of the four main tenets of educating the ‘whole man’. Time for educational reform!
In transit for the past two weeks, some poignant thoughts and reflections from Palma to Perth. Check out the flickr photostream – In Transit, Singapore and Perth 2011
Thrills and Giggles
  • flying to Singapore on an Airbus 380, marveling at the minds able to engineer an 80 m wing span. Flying may well be my Ghostly Lover. I am ever more convinced that the woman’s animus IS, as Jung believes, up in the air.
  • watching locals patiently wait out the daily downpours of Singapore’s rainy season, no umbrellas or rain gear. A wonderful comment on acceptance of life as it is.
  • searching out bustling eating places (Chinese, Malay, Indian) where mine was the only ‘white’ face 
  • attempting to eat Indian curry, rice and sauces with fingers only! So humbling, and counter to everything I was taught about eating etiquette.
  • remembering the things I so loved about being in Australia years ago…passion fruit, sunshine, laid back lifestyle, BYOB to restaurants. A right thing in the right place (see  A Shoe in the Washer)
  • hearing Christmas carols while wearing summer clothes
Surprises
  • how 32 degrees and 94% humidity feels on a jet-lagged body 
  • young people publicly puffing on giant, steaming hookahs at an outdoor cafe in the Malay-Arab quarter, and the fruity fragrance of sheesha (flavoured tobacco). Legal in Singapore?
  • how achingly beautiful the evening call to prayer (adhan) from the Sultan’s Mosque. An overwhelming yearning to enter and be part of this ritual. 
  • warning sign of gun-toting soldier aiming at would-be intruder at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Confirmation of law breaker treatment in Singapore.
  • entry into Australia requires a visa! Thank God for night time revelations and e-visas
  • my house sit owner’s inspiring love of life. I am open to this choice, as are you. 
The few annoyances arose from jet lag, waiting in lines, and the time and expense of getting to and from airports and accommodations. Things that can consume hours of precious time and energy. All ample evidence for going some place and staying still for a while. I like to call it residential travel. It’s about being somewhere not just seeing somewhere!
 

La Buena Vida

When in doubt about where you are meant to be, look down at your feet- Buddhist saying –


Llucalcari, a one-street village nestled along Mallorca’s spectacular west coast is my new ‘meant to be’ place. A village that warrants a name on a Google map but not on a road sign. Blink and you miss it. Not surprisingly many new visitors arriving into Palma’s airport after dark, in just-rented vehicles, tackling hair pin bends and glancing down at ‘How To Get To The House’ directions, simply drive on by! 


The bus stop, as it happens, is the lone marker to this dreamlike hamlet. The descent to which resembles a private driveway on a roller coaster. My inner voice, now firmly in the ‘ON’ position, talks me down, down, down, convincing me to take the No Entry lane toward the beckoning ocean. Apparently the only way in, and out. 
  
With exacting precision I maneuver the car into the one remaining teensy space, congratulate myself and step outside. Houses trussed up, all in a row. Not a soul in sight. Probably just as well considering my Spanish illiteracy. What’s “Good evening”? I forget already! With flashlight and careful instructions arrogantly ignored on the back seat, I grasp the house key. The search for my Caserio begins. “This is fun,” I chuckle, like a kid on a scavenger hunt, supremely confident in my detective abilities.

Ten minutes later and I am still out on the street, homeless. The key doesn’t fit the lock. Am I even in the right village I wonder? The derelict church next door invokes chills even the warmest of breezes can’t avert.  A deep down fear brews in my gut. Could there have been some kind of mistake? Unwittingly I try the key in the adjoining property (my neighbours’ apparently) leaving us all half scared to death. “Habla ingles?” I ask in desperation to the blank faces in the doorway. Yet amidst the confusion my arrival had in fact been anticipated and I am redirected to the door I first fumbled failingly to master. A welcome entry befitting sighs, giggles and cold beer waiting patiently for my arrival. 


Part 2
Last year, arriving in Ireland on a week’s retreat with poet David Whyte, we were reminded to take a good look around as we’d never see this place again exactly as we did on this first night. And so it is here. Four weeks and each day reveals something previously unseen, unfelt. And as with any place we inhabit for long enough, a familiarity grows. We get to call it Home. A House of Belonging?
Life here is slow. Days are long. Fertile ground for one to ponder new directions. Boiling the kettle to clean the dishes. Washing clothes by hand. Everything more elemental and necessary to gear down a body and mind. A healing of sorts. Windows recessed deep in stone walls allow for an uncommon darkness and profoundly deep sleep, and ancient doors keep interiors like wine cellars, cool and dark. Once opened, blinded by the light. Reminders of childhood Saturdays spilling out of the local cinema into the bright afternoon light. 
The sun’s rays enter the outside bathroom in the late morning making for a perfect time to bathe. The shower head limps with excess weight in its cradle requiring body convolutions to rinse bubbles from my hair. Errant winds deposit swirling leaves at my feet. I am a million miles away from the life I so recently knew.
A 30 minute walk to Deia, the nearby village with its ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ appeal, provide the basic necessities for daily life and the opportunity to greet new friends with the obligatory kissing on both cheeks. Purchases need to be made before the mandatory siesta closures, the heaving weight of bottled water and wine forgotten by years of car ownership. Chocolate cravings have to be planned ahead, if that’s even possible!
Beach access, a 5 minute descent through terraced olive groves and a resident donkey, invite sun lovers the opportunity to spread their nakedness over giant boulders, providing they possess the agility to scale the perilously steep ledges….typically those meant to be seen naked. This is how many ‘take the sun’ on this side of the Atlantic, but as the Buddhist saying goes, ‘When in doubt about where you’re meant to be…’ I look down at my feet and make a swift departure home.