The New Moon

fall trailI’m waiting this week, waiting, waiting, waiting. Preparing to say good-bye to the perfection of bare feet and hot coffee outdoors on fresh mornings, cool air sneaking in under my robe. Making peace with the arrival of yellow wet leaves on the ground, preparing for colder skies on the horizon.

At times like this, with the light getting thinner daily, my body tells me to check the impulse to chase hard after what I want. It tells me—demands, really—I need to take a step back and gather my energies, tidy up, regroup, allow the wind at my back to gain some momentum again, and wait for the images and thoughts crossing the terrain of my brain to sort themselves out a little.

So I cleaned the hard water deposits from the shower glass, and put the thin cotton dresses to the back of the closet, and tied up some loose ends on projects nearly finished. But the big projects in early stages—those that require a clear mind and abundant creative energy—those I’ve put on hold as I exhale and, once again, try to surrender. Surrender to the reality of some mountains now too big to climb, the reality of failures that have left in their wake very real limitations or a club of shame, the reality of nighttime dreams that leave a bruise.

I walked in the cool air, and picked up fresh produce for a fall soup. The beauty of fall is stunning. How is it that beauty sometimes heightens the visibility of tarnish and erosion?

Clear in my mind today are the faces of friends and family, the faces of those bearing fresh wounds, and the faces of those who have lost over and over again, for decades, lines now deeply etched into their skin. The faces of those who have lost—or watched horrible injury to—a parent, or a lover, or a child. The faces of those who have borne witness to, over and over again, those trying to manage these heavy burdens.

Someone reminded me last night that neither our lives nor those of our children are truly ours to cling to with ownership. Still. The faces of our babies sometimes seem as much a part of us as our arms and legs and hands and feet, our beating hearts. We want them joyously alive.

Warmth is thinner now; my skin seems thinner too. But alongside the chill, and equally real, is the warmth of those among us who have a stunning capacity to hold the grief of others alongside their own, literally hold it for a while, for those who need a moment’s rest. I love them for this, this ability to be the moon when the one in the sky is yet too new to be visible.


Knowing Ourselves

Shortcuts to self-awareness such as personality typing have their limits, true, but they can also be amazing tools with which to heighten conscious experience. For those of us fascinated by this kind of thing, this blogger knows her way around the Enneagram, has a great page on reasons to explore it, and a guest post by yours truly; have a look.

Love and Play as Therapy

Friends have cooked dinner in honor of my husband’s birthday. I take my currently vulnerable self, resolving (uselessly, it turns out) to smile and laugh in honor of my husband. I realize within minutes of arriving that my resolve will not be enough. We sit at their kitchen table, and they baptize us in love, literally—a parade of gourmet foods and some very special wine, conversation, and homemade caramel chocolate cheesecake. Oh, and with their tears for me. Pure awesomeness. How often do we go there, into the raw emotion that might exist between us as human beings, into full expression of the love and empathy we often genuinely feel for one another?

Eventually, perhaps an hour before midnight, they turn the music up a little, maybe a lot, and coax us onto our feet, and we dance, as we often have, in their living room, which just happens to be hardwood, and which I love under my bare feet. For a couple of hours we play. We move and sing, laugh, embrace, and, in my case, every time my husband holds me close, cry some more. I feel alive, even though I no longer do much of anything past 10 pm, and even though it’s been many months since I’ve felt enough joy to dance.

I have blisters the size of dimes under my two big toes this morning. But I have skin on the rest of me again.

Managing the Morning Mood with a Mower

I’ve found yet another solution to my waking up a ray of sunshine: mow the lawn before getting to my desk. I want my old bouncy morning self back, the one that, for decades, was pretty consistently more annoying to others first thing in the morning than it was annoyed, and I should never have taken that perky optimistic morning self for granted.

But I’ve found a cure for the less perky one. Not one that works for most of the year, granted (I will hopefully have outgrown this stage by next winter), but seriously, mowing, with my good ol’ reel mower in the fresh morning breeze and sunshine works well to break out of that left brain chatter and into right brain awareness and calm.

It’s one of many tools we have to shift our brain activity from the logical left side to the more intuitive and creative right side for a while, the side that facilitates hope and the healing of our bruised selves. Music, meditation, yoga, art, sex, massage, acupuncture, Qi Gong are all effective too. But my new favorite, simply because it’s been a very, very long winter, is mowing the lawn.

Being present in the right brain is important not just for our own pleasure and our own healing, but for being human. Our world values technology and productivity above art, but art and creativity are actually the prerequisite to technology. Creativity is the essence of life, and more primary than technology. It is the engine that drives the rest.

As blogger Kristin Lamb reminds us, here, Mary Shelley intuited the human body as bioelectric long before scientists did. George Eliot knew of the brain’s power to regenerate long before Dr. Elizabeth Gould understood and explained it scientifically. Much as stating clearly our personal goals moves us in the direction of realizing them, our imaginations expressed as art moves us as a society in the direction of the possible.

When I was undergoing cancer treatment last year, a friend sent me a TED talk by Jill Bolte Taylor. By some miracle, given my despair at the time, her eloquent and passionate words captured my attention. We humans are the light-force power of the universe with manual dexterity, she said. The potential in this thought was staggering to me. I longed to escape the chatter of my left brain to expand my consciousness again, to feel connected to the energy of the universe, to be creative and productive, to feel empathy, to be compassionate and understanding and hopeful.

Being stuck in our left brains restricts our ability to be those things, both with others and ourselves, the latter kind of being a prerequisite for the former. It also makes us more defensive in the face of critical feedback—that wonderful but sometimes uncomfortable thing that helps us grow—as left brain logic is too loud to permit us to remain present and mine the good in the words of others. Our left brains, as essential and valuable as they are, are not the whole story, and sometimes simply get in the way of our being better human beings and building a better world.

Teaching is one of our society’s many undervalued arts, and so is healing. By healing, I don’t mean medicine, which is essential and facilitates healing but is highly valued and rewarded. The healing I mean here are the other kinds, the kinds that are viewed as non-essential, even flakey and dreamy, the kind done by the world’s intuitives and artists, those who listen closely and empathize, those who do energy body work and acupuncture and other holistic and complementary kinds of healing.

The visual arts, song, dance, theatre, the healing arts, writing—all of these, though often undervalued, are utterly essential to the health and progress of a society. They are what express our essence, our soul; they nourish our collective hope.