Saturday, January 30, 2010

Committed

I'm a commitment-phobe; perhaps a recovering commitment-phobe. In fact, I was secretly doing the "giving thing" for a while before I decided to finally commit to the whole concept and do an official 29 Gifts Round. I figured it would be good conversation for my book club. I figured signing in on the site would make me more accountable, even though I thought it was a bit contrived and not really me (I'm more of a doer not a talk-about-doing doer). And so I stepped in to the commitment not realizing what I was really committing to. Hell it was only 1 month, right?!

Yesterday I realized how much that sheer act of commitment has done for me. Every day I have been accountable for giving something, and in turn I feel like I have received so much. More than that, I decided at the outset to do a blog post every day on that site so I would not forget the gifts. It compelled me to wake up every morning and write, which is my passion, my dream, my balance. Sadly, it is also something I stuff down and keep secretive and leave seemingly out of reach. A few weeks ago, I realized that this blog was me "living the dream". Yes I would love for that dream to include a book contract and publication and yes perhaps I was celebrating the purple ribbon; but for now I was doing something and was inspired enough. It surely came with the mindset reframing that has taken place.

Wednesday night we were watching American Splendor and I found myself inspired by Harvey Pekar, a file clerk who never quite his “day” job but also held on to the idea of doing something “more” with his life. It's ironic coming from a man who has such a down-trodden, negative take on life; but they call him the “everyman comic book hero” and he writes stories about real life. After the movie, I felt like something was missing in the day and I realized I hadn't done a 29 Gifts post yet because I didn’t write that morning. It wasn't the first time that has happened but it was then that I realized I have written almost every day the past few weeks. At the beginning of January, my goal was to journal 10,000 words; I am well over 30,000. It's just a number but it validates something deeper in me.

Thursday morning, I woke up with a renewed sense of habit. Funny to, I bucked my normal routine and took a shower before I went down to write. D was up making coffee before me. When he came upstairs and saw me headed to the bathroom, he said, "Oh I thought you were going downstairs; I turned on your computer and heater." I realized then, that he too was getting used to this commitment and he was supporting it. It made me shine inside.

Afterwards, I was on fire in the basement. I was mentally in a place I hadn't been before. It was as strong as the sheer bouts of joy I have experienced lately but it was more than that. It was about really feeling connected to myself and the life I want to be living. I realized too that last year I stepped in to the one hell of a major commitment by marrying D. I was scared. It was something we both put off for so long but when I said yes, I felt like I was saying yes to life. I spent the rest of the year happily surprised to find how much marriage suited me. I also spent the rest of the year committing to get my body to a size and place I found ideal. That physical change has brought so much clarification and perspective on how I've been living. A year ago I was not this person. I felt like I was glowing.

Walking to work, I remembered a conversation with JK a few days ago when she said she was a commitment-phobe. Re-thinking it, I realized it was there to make me realize what committing does for one's soul. I wondered how many people never commit to their passion in life and yet they show up regularly to jobs they hate or they serve others needs while pushing aside their own. I thought about how much more inspired my life feels when I take care of myself first and how much more I give others when I am in that "space".

I was dying to ask JK if she could commit to an idea, to a desire in her life. When we finally sat down, she said she always associates commitment with the bad things, the obligation. I completely related. We spent two hours having a juicy conversation about this topic. I told her how good I felt and that I thought she should choose to commit to anything that inspires her. Anything and hold tight to it, if only for a month. I wondered what would happen. She said the idea felt like the rabbit hole; like once she got started, there would be no way to go back. She wasn't sure how much life would shift, but she thought it would be huge. I agreed it was scary - you never know what's going to happen. Then again, I told her my bigger fear was not the rabbit hole any longer, it was that this feeling of inspiration and hope and intuitive connection would end.

Is that the secret? To be accountable for who you are and what you do and what you want out of this life? As Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Yesterday it was so strong, I felt like I was flying. I left M a voice message saying I was spewing happiness. I wanted to say it was a good day, especially since it feels like so often I say it’s a bad day. The lights kept turning green as I approached each intersection walking home. I couldn’t help but think anything was possible.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sprinkled with Love

Another photo montage?! A birthday tribute of sorts....

How lucky can a girl get? I don't even have photos to commemorate everything that was showered on me in the form of phone calls, texts, and e-mails including a little bird singing me a birfday song on my voice mail; a lovely vino and some chocolate covered strawberries; a new scarf; door-to-door work delivery with a smile; dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant; game night, which had nothing to do with games; beautiful flowers and sugar-ridden de-lites from Happy Cakes; and to top it off a delicious dinner at Chez Maillet - the hottest bistro in town. I'm not one to drag my day out, but my entrance into 34 felt more like a birthday week. There was no grand party, no fire-ridden cake, but rather a sprinkling of mini-celebrations, which left my heart happy. Thanks!

Friday, January 22, 2010

For you. Yeah, you.

Yesterday I was completely excited and inspired to do my give for the day. I bought a really cute card last weekend (made by a company called Mean Cards), which says “thanks…for nothing.” It makes me laugh every time I read it. I love the sentiment to it – very creative use of a phrase. I had decided it was the perfect card to randomly leave for someone, just to make them smile. I took it a step further and borrowed $5 from my husband’s wallet (planning to return $10) and stuck it in the card with a note saying, “Hope this card makes you smile. Have a good day.” On the outside of the envelope I wrote, “For you. Yeah, you.” and on the backside I wrote, “Go ahead and open me.”

I couldn’t wait to anonymously leave my give. I had decided I would take the light rail in to work and leave the card on my seat. In my imagination, someone would get on the train after me, sit down and find this piece of goodness in their day; perhaps they would laugh at the card and buy a treat for them self; or perhaps they would pass along the magic. It was nothing major, just something extra. The possibilities were endless and I couldn’t wait to send some positive floating out in to the world.

The light rail was empty when I got on. A few stops later, three people got on the train and sat in my section of four seats (out of an almost empty car). One man sat directly across from me. I smiled and said, “Hi”. He said hi as well and we proceeded to move down the line. I started thinking about how I hadn’t planned on anyone sitting across from me. The two women next to us were chatting back and forth and I checked my head to see if, in my giving fantasy, it was a man or a woman who came across the gift. I realized I had not gotten that far in the details but generally assumed a woman would be more open to the experience. The guy kept weirdly staring at my jacket (which made me realize I needed to wash it). He had a plant in an instant oatmeal box and a booger dangling in his nose hair. Admittedly there was a moment when I thought, “I don’t want this guy to get my gift.” Then I realized that thought had NOTHING to do with giving and was precisely opposite of the "positive" I was trying to put out there in to the world. It didn’t belong in this experience; I was just trying to control the situation and my expectations about the giving. The guy was friendly enough – who knows what his day was all about. We awkwardly smiled to each other again between out-the-window stares.

The city grew as we got closer. I realized he would probably notice me leaving the card behind at my stop and try to give it back to me. I started getting anxious about how to deal with the situation. I decided I would coolly respond, “That’s for you” and exit the train. In my head, it was the scene in the movie where the music starts playing and I walk down the city street empowered, as the man in the train glides off in confusion and wonderment. When the train came to my stop, I got up and said, “Have a good day.” The door took a minute to open and the guy said, “Did you forget something?” and I got nervous, and then mousely squeaked, “no that’s for you” and ran off the train. I didn’t look back. I was walking anxiously away. A half a block later I came to and thought, “What was that all about?”

It, by far, has been the funniest giving experience I’ve had. I have no idea if the guy even picked the card up. Perhaps he figured the crazy lady on the train, with the dirty jacket – mind you, was acting strange and he didn’t want to get involved.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dear 34,


I like you already though I’m just getting to know you. I think we are going to be fast friends and have a great year together; one with many new adventures and a lot of love. I am excited about the possibilities. I am excited to be sharing this with you. Funny, I always thought 33 would be my first love... and don't get me wrong, we did have a great time, but it was a tough love of sorts. Not that it was all bad, just that I am ready to let go and move on to the next great thing.

I am looking for something new and healthy. I am ready to embrace the possibilities and respond rather than react to life. I am ready to love myself wholly, love my husband mostly, and love my dog always. I think you will fit in just nicely. I think you will like how we live and what we do with our days. The world is our oyster, 34. You and I together tracking 365 days. What will we come across? I can’t wait to find out.

grin,
a

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wooden Ships

Crosby, Stills, Nash

Tuesday was another Art Night. As always, I both came and went inspired by the idea of getting together with funny, creative women to make schtuff. It fell on my favorite weekday and came after my Lemonade experience - I was one Cloud 9. I blogged about the evening on the D'Podge Site.

The thing is, these are really intelligent, supportive women. I find myself wanting to soak in everything in their midst. They are uninhibited, they are funny, they are the type of ladies who listen to good music and hear things on NPR and want to discuss them over good food. And they're not scared of candy gossip either, which is nice sometimes - to be able to just be silly.


The other night, I walked in and was presented with gifts from J. She always does things to show she's thinking about me and makes me feel a bit special. She passed along Julie and Julia by Julie Powell for me to read, which I was so excited about because I loved the movie (Meryl Streep is unbelievable...really outstanding). J also helped me with a design situation of sorts and then presented me with a yummy pre-birthday Wooden Ships Flapper Pull Thru Scarf, which we saw while shopping at Decade pre-Christmas. I almost skipped to work in it the next day while yelling about how fabulous I felt. Admittedly, it was a Bridget Jones moment. Seriously though, it was touching on so many fronts.

I created a candle (an activity done at a different art night that I missed) and then I tried my luck at contour drawing. There's something about drawing lately; like I want to exercise my brain. It's rarely pretty but I am inspired to do it these days. I also found J had a set of the yoga cards I used to get in a class at Samadhi. I have one hanging over my desk that says, "Success is not found in what you have achieved, but rather who you have become." I opened the box the other night to find the one on top read, "What is, is. What is not, is not. No amount of wishing or wanting can change that simple fact." It felt so timely with my "whatever happens, happens" lesson. J let me take it with me that night. So many great things to receive.

The more I get to join in the nights, the more I feel lucky to have been invited. The other night they were talking about how they have been doing it for three years now. Most of them were fast friends long before that, it's a fact but you can just feel it too. J asked me if I was interested last year, perhaps it was a bone to my unemployment woes when I spent most days not talking to anyone. I think I said yes before she completed the sentence. Now I find myself anticipating the evenings. It's just nice to take a piece of time out to loosen the other side of my brain. To walk down the intuitive path, to pander to the color in my life.

P.S. This is Tammy’s most recent video from the art night we had in December. I love all the red in the video and how you see the holidays (it seems so far away now). The quote at the end is great!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lemonade

I'm experiencing a visceral effect right now. In fact D just came down to say "hi" and (very supporting and surprised) asked me if I was crying. I had forgotten for a second that I broke down; just me slumped over my computer with some tears. The moment already seemed to pass when he came in from his day but apparently my runny masquera didn’t get the memo.

I'm not a crier...it’s a rare occurrence. In fact, when I got laid off I didn't cry. The layoff was months in the making and I knew walking in to work that my number was up. It was finally the job I loved and the whole experience didn’t last more than eight months. It’s funny how some of our most profound life experiences are just a wink in the face our life span. I figured I would make the best of the change; I would make lemonade out of lemons. Whatever happens, happens for a reason. Funny my friend's mom pointed out the other day, “Whatever happens, happens.” (period) Perhaps there's no reason. Damn – that can be a bit scary to digest but also rather inspiring. I mean, life’s to short to analyze the hell out of everything, right? If you’re not doing, you’re wasting your time thinking about things that are a waste of time, even if you’re thinking about doing, you’re not doing.

So something in this trailer hit me just right. The first time I watched it, as I drank a glass of lemonade (no shit), I found it so inspiring I donated money to the cause. I decided that would be my gift for the day because it made me feel the most connected. Never mind that I stayed an hour longer at work to help someone out or that I took myself and my dog for a walk on this gorgeous Denver day. None of it seemed as suiting as sending some money to a documentary created entirely with resources donated from a bunch of people and organizations. It comes from a place of giving. It’s for people feeling demoralized or isolated; so that they can feel some sense of inspiration and camaraderie. My day changed right then.

The second time I watched it, I slumped over and cried. Perhaps it has to do with feeling like I am falling short of my dream to be self-employed by taking a job that feels “off”. There was a point where I hated myself for taking said gig but I do feel now it’s all good. Especially with unemployment so high, I realize I am lucky to have said gig – it pays the bills and provides space for me to keep freelance flowing. Whatever happens, happens. I can’t fight it but I can enjoy it. Maybe there’s a reason, but I don’t see it right now.

The third time I watched it, I watched it with D. I’m pretty sure he was expecting a video about puppies or something. I welled up a little again at the end. I think it’s the line where the guys says, “I got laid off and I started doing my life’s work”. It gets me every time. Wherever you are in your life: if everything is perfect or if everything is not, do something to inspire yourself today.

Lemonade Movie Trailer

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Family Visit

I'm catching up a bit here but wanted to celebrate D's Uncle and his cousin's visit right after Christmas. It was so great to have them here and to be able to show them our town and our life. They were excited to soak in the Colorado-feel and went full force into some activities that they might have otherwise passed on. They also shined right up on the ski slope and took Mr. Maillet's wild ride quite nicely as he turned a three-hour tour into 3 days in the mountains - complete with skiing, breweries, and hot springs.

We took them over to see the lights the Denver Botanic Gardens displays every holiday season. It's really amazing what they do and so pretty to walk through. They sell 3-d glasses so you can see snowflakes or bells on top of all the lights.

On New Year's Day, we made our way over to the Denver Cathedral for mass. It turned out to be quite nice, the church is really gorgeous and huge. My mom joined us and was in her zone waving at people she knew. She actually was glowing all day - it was fun to see. I was taken back by the ceremony itself and the symbology of the church. D and I took in the whole experience from a visitor's perspective and found it quite interesting - though I would put my catechism up against anyone in a match if Bible Trivia if need be. It's amazing how second nature all of the prayers and hymns are in my head, even though I haven't thought about them in years. I did light some candles for those lost last year and my grandma, always... That is my favorite part of going in to any church; I always light candles. My mom whispered to me that it's an old Irish tradition to make three wishes in a church you've never been too before, who knows if she was making it up but she sees something so magical in her religion and I let that energy flow into what I was making of the whole experience - it felt good.

Afterwards we stopped at the Brown Palace for lunch and dined on some really good fare in the Ship's Tavern (ironic to take people from Boston to a ship tavern in land-locked Denver).

P.S. If you're a French Onion soup fan, go. GO RIGHT NOW!

The last day of their vacation, we took them up outside Nederland to cross-country ski. Admittedly, I should have done better research on a place to go but I think we ended the experience much stronger than it started. A mountain lion with bad knees was tied to a tree and watched as we shifted through the snow.

We can't wait to have them back. (That is if we don't adopt the Stoughton girl Gingy is gunning for now that she didn't get a cat for Christmas).

Friday, January 8, 2010

We See Things As We Are

I'm changing my tune these days; at least I'm trying to cultivate a new perspective. Ironically, I read this quote yesterday while I was in the midst of my "giving act" for the day: babysitting for my sister. I found the quote in a calendar she had hanging on her fridge. I had jumped ahead to see what the quote on my birthday was and this is what I found:

We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.
-
Anais Nin

It’s suiting because as my week of giving continues, I continue to have a shift in attitude. For example, the other night when I was walking home from work, I experienced complete joy. So strangely complete I didn't want to take too much time to consider why I was so utterly happy. It was 8 pm. I was just leaving work after deadline, and the snow was seeping in to my shoes. Perhaps it was the peacefulness of the city or that the only other person I saw out walking downtown, strangely enough, was a friend I knew. Whatever it was, I was on cloud 9 and there was nothing that could get me down. I didn’t have a care in the world.

Last night I closed my yearly book club hosting chapter and I must admit, the night was a success. Eight woman gathered around our hearth to laugh and wax intelligent. I had a lovely meat and cheese platter loaded with fig cake with almonds (a glorified version of a fig newton) and parrano cheese, as well as prosciutto and mustard seed cheese. I was bringing a big cheese game. The dessert tray had a bowl of fresh raspberries and blueberries (for color and surprisingly flavourful and in season) Mexican wedding cookies (not as fluffy as I prefer, but seemingly suitable for breakfast), two-bite brownies, and mint milanos (really they need to represent every now an then).

The book choice was 29 Gifts by Cami Walker. Surprisingly, we had a longer, good conversation about giving and receiving in general. Some of these questions weren't posed but are good considerations I want to share:
  • What constitutes a gift?
    Or is the mere act of acknowledging a connection made between you and another person the true gift?
  • Do you have to be acknowledged as the giver to “give” something?
    Or is a gift something done anonymously?
  • How much of giving is about receiving?
    And how hard is it, as an American (and as a woman for that matter) in our uber-competitive society, to receive from others?
  • Where do you draw the line on giving too much to the point where you loose yourself?
    Is it possible to give too much?
  • How does giving affect our health?
    Would we all see physical improvements if we cultivated more positive energy?

As I continue to give, I continue to recognize in others things I never noticed before. I also note myself in conversation and find how I respond or react and what I contribute or withhold. I will say this, focusing on giving makes me boatloads more present: sometimes I forget to ask about other people’s lives or their children or their careers; sometimes I forget to bring up thoughts I meant to share and later skip a beat aching to go back to the moment. This thought resurfaced after the ladies left: it’s a gift we give ourselves to meet each month to gather and discuss something intelligent and creative and thought provoking or just to be silly; to take time out and share a bit of ourselves with other women whose lives we might not otherwise touch, except for the occasional camaraderie of standing in a grocery store line.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Be The Change

Last month, I picked the book 29 Gifts by Cami Walker for my book club choice. I learned about it after reading an article in Yoga Journal - Overwhelming Abundance. When I went to Tattered Cover to find a book club pick, it was on display and seemed so perfect given the timing of the holidays. I promptly bought the book and made the choice whole-heartedly, abandoning my usual back and forth decision-making wrestling bonanza.

Before the holidays in the midst of our chaos, I read through the book with joy and some strange sense of performance anxiety. I always have a smidge of that feeling when choosing a book to recommend people spend their time reading. That and I was embarrassed by the sense of spirituality in the book - my "anti-religulous" ego and pride not wanting to be shelved. In any case, once I let the judgement go, I enjoyed the idea of giving for the sheer joy of connecting and opening oneself up to fullness rather than scarcity, which feels so commonplace these days.

So after weeks of vacillating; not being able to actually commit (as always); and secretly giving things to others while feeling too matyrish to log said things; I’m stopping the insanity and choosing to do what I have really been wanting to do for a month now: 29 Gifts in 29 days.

This morning as I decided to finally commit, Yogi Tea gave me some sage support. I love little random notes that I find along the way in life. As I start this process, I am inspired by this quote as well:

"We must become the change we want to see in the world."
- Mohandas Gandhi