Saturday, November 20, 2010

Giving Thanks for Blessings: Big and Offbeat

Welcome to a special Thanksgiving edition of A Writing Life. I noticed that since moving to Durango I’m much more aware of the blessings in my life. For one, I look at the valley and mountains EVERY DAY and am friggin’ elated that we moved here in 2003. Two, Durango is a very outdoorsy town so I’m more aware of my health – and am thankful my legs and lungs are able to move me about this gorgeous, awe-inspiring world.

These are BIG things I’m thankful for – but there are so many things I forget to give thanks for – but I will now.
  • I am expert at wrapping gifts and making bows.
  • I can iron men’s shirts so that they look they came from the drycleaners.
  • I never get insomnia.

At this risk of sounding like your mother at the Thanksgiving table, urging you to name one thing you’re thankful for… Share something weird or offbeat you’re thankful for that you sometimes forget about.

  • Are you a great dancer?
  • Do you tell jokes well?
  • Type 100 words or more a minute?
  • Do you know how to tie sailors' knots?
Have a great week and remember to wear those elastic pants on Thursday.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Take Anything, but Not My Blankie!

My niece had a cuddly toy bear she named Chubby. It was one of those soft toys made out of terry cloth. After years of loving, Chubby was worse for the wear. My sister, an excellent seamstress, fashioned a new body out of a cotton, waffle-weave baby blanket. When that “body” wore out, she sewed still another body and then another body until the baby blanket was no more.

Today, my niece is 18 and away at college, but Chubby is still stationed on her childhood bed back at home. There’s no other way to put this: Chubby is disgusting. He’s dirty, his stuffing is falling out, there’s very little left of him. But my niece will not part with him.

What is it about humans that makes us cling to things that are comforting even when it *might* be time to give them up? An old sweatshirt from college, a chipped coffee mug, our VHS tapes?

We do this with our actions and emotions as well. For those of you familiar with astrology, you might remember that the Moon’s South Node in your chart represents habit patterns from childhood or from past lives; those experiences and qualities that come naturally to us, that are over-developed, and that we tend to fall back on. The North Node represents the kinds of experiences that we must work to develop in order to work with our karma, and to grow spiritually. If we over-emphasize and fall back on the qualities of our South Node, at the expense of developing our North Node, we may have a difficult time feeling personally successful.

I have quite a few “safety blankets” that I cling to as desperately as my niece clings to Chubby. Lately however, I find myself gravitating more and more toward my North Node, the life I truly want to lead – even if the transition is scary and unknown.

Thoughts? What’s your North Node calling you to be?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Living Your Life Awake

Before moving to Durango, I was a working zombie. Each day melded into the next; routine pushed me along like an airport’s moving sidewalk. Every decision felt as if it had been made a thousand times before: wake, feed cat, exercise, shower, dress, eat, pack lunch, commute, work, commute, let cat outside, eat, watch TV, sleep, repeat. Memories of my childhood and youth in Granger, TX, and of my adult life in Houston, TX, and then Silver Spring, MD, remain muted. There’s no vibrancy or crispness to the details. That’s because I was asleep for all those years.

Living *awake* is hard work but worth it. Staying present means appreciating the subtleties that make each day meaningful.

I spent the last week in Texas with family. I made a conscious effort to soak in my environment, to really be in the moment. Some things I recall:

  • The pungent scent of burning incense at my uncle’s funeral, a powerful reminder of the daily masses I attended as a child.
  • A rainbow of plain tee shirts (71 of them) hung neatly in my brother’s closet.
  • The glorious first bite of the homemade Czech kolaches that my sister and I baked – for the first time – and our squeals of delight and high-fives that we’d succeeded.
  • The downy-soft hug of an elderly aunt I hadn’t seen in years.
  • The strange and uncomfortable nostalgia driving the pot-holed streets of my small hometown – recognizing some houses and landmarks, and others not at all.

Perhaps all the rich details I noticed will find their way into a novel or short story. At least these memories are crystal clear because of choice; because I remained awake rather than shutting down.

Are you present in your world? Do you have to work at it?