<written Oct. 1/09>
I’ve just come away for a 2-week writing “retreat.” When I’m at home, a lot of things distract me from focusing on writing as much as I’d really like to – & that’s okay, because they’re all good things, really – worthwhile things – lots of volunteer work, socializing, occasional paying work – but from time to time, I need to get away.
I’m staying in a to-die-for, wonderful place – a lovely home surrounded by trees, with tons of big windows that let in plenty of natural light, by the Crowe River in eastern Ontario, Canada. I’m feeling pretty much as though I’ve died & gone to Heaven, actually. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, P & L!!!!!)
Human nature is a funny thing. Instead of being fully, 100% present in this beautiful setting, I found myself this morning thinking, “Boy, I wish it was four weeks I’m here for. I’ll have to come another time & stay longer.”
That more, more, more virus that infects us, hmm? And keeps us from being here, now, enjoying & being grateful for each & every moment – right now.
Well, at least I caught myself at this early on here (Day 1). I’m getting a little better at nipping that kind of thing in the bud.
Another thing that came up for me this morning was our hoarding tendency. I think an awful lot of us do an awful lot of hoarding. I’ve been noticing this for a pretty long time now. I recall an incident from many years ago when I was volunteering at a food bank. The shelves were nearly empty, & it was clearly time to use the considerable amount of money that had been donated by people keen to support the food bank – to buy food. The woman in charge was reluctant to dip into this money (I think some had been put in an investment certificate or some darn thing). I was pretty much apoplectic about this. Being reluctant to spend on food the money that had been donated for food?? For people who are hungry? I mean…yikes!?
I’ve seen this phenomenon at work over & over again – in individuals, community groups (even church groups) & I’m pretty sure it’s hugely present among politicians & corporate hotshots & even (perhaps especially) some people who are ridiculously well off.
In other words, it seems to be human nature. It isn’t rational. It arises out of fear, presumably – fear that there isn’t enough. Never, never, never quite enough.
(I must hasten to point out that it was a personal little hoarding episode of my own this morning that got me twigged to these thoughts, motivating this little essay.)
So, yes, I’ve done it, & do it.
You too, I bet.
We all do it, I reckon, hmm?
We’re pretty silly critters, aren’t we?
I could get airy-fairy with you now & tell you that the Universe is a wildly abundant place & that when we drop our customary fear-based thinking (i.e., our poverty mentality) & place our faith in this amazing abundance, miracles begin to happen.
And it is, & they do.
But I know lots of people wouldn’t “buy” that. At one time, I wouldn’t have bought it either. Especially when I was feeling as though the rug had been violently pulled out from underneath me (it had! In the form of an unexpected, unwanted marriage breakup).
But that’s precisely when I began to “get” it. I had that “Aha!” moment that made me initiate my daily, active practice of gratitude for what I had, & stop focusing so obsessively on what I’d lost.
Gratitude is magical, & transformative, & most (if not all) indigenous cultures have always understood this & have lived accordingly.(1)
It’s the fear, & the poverty mentality, & the more-more-more disease that are killing our beautiful planet & our (often beautiful) selves as a species.
It might be too late for us, you say – & I agree. It may very well be too late to save ourselves (the Earth it/herself will survive, & heal, no doubt much sooner, without our troublesome presence here).
Even more of a reason, if you ask me, to drop the more-more-more nonsense, & the hoarding, & be here now & actively appreciate & enjoy the very great abundance that most people reading this essay very likely possess. The abundance, & the privilege.(2)
Oh goodness me – I could go on & on here. This is all so very, very fundamental.
But let me go back to making it personal, shall we?
When I caught the gratitude ‘virus,’ my life began to turn around. More & more wonderful things began to happen. Life became ever richer & fuller – & money & possessions had nothing whatsoever to do with it. I’ll also point out that, at the time, I was doing a pretty horrid factory job, for starvation wages. I didn’t feel too enormously privileged in that respect, although even then I knew to be grateful to have a job that did help put food on the table…
Before I got into the gratitude habit, I seldom felt that “full to bursting” feeling – of joy & gratitude – & energy – & wonderful potential – that I feel so often now.
Quel paradox!! When we “let go” of the more-more-more graspy-ness, more & more & more things come along to enrich our lives.
Now, as I may have pointed out elsewhere, I am not, I think, what you would call a hugely selfish person. I try pretty hard to harness my energy for unselfish purposes. Lots of volunteer work, not very much paying work, lots of “living more with less” – & voilà – I’m one of the happiest people I know – & most often feel very, very rich indeed.
I’ve also long feared/believed the world is “going to hell in a handbasket.” But I’ve spent the last 20 years working passionately to ensure a different kind of outcome. & in very fine company, I might add! There are tons of environmental & social justice activists, & writers & singers & painters & lawyers & teachers – working their butts off to make this world a better, safer, healthier place for all of us.
And we have, & we do, & we are.
And the work is its own reward.
And even supposing I prove to have an as-yet-undiagnosed illness (one never knows, does one, when such an eventuality may come to pass?), & even suppose the human race has a terminal disease (all too likely, I’m afraid) – that still doesn’t change the fundamentals of how I conduct my life.
I’ll still operate on gratitude for what is(3) – I’ll still be an environmental activist & writer (& Mom!), because these are the things that really “turn my crank,” as they say – & I’ll still do my best to enjoy every moment, & every day, & not to take it for granted (à la Kurt Vonnegut, who wants us all to say as often as possible, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”)
And I’ll keep right on living my life as if it matters, &, as I have done increasingly for the past three years especially, with a concerted effort to live from the in-side out, rather than the outside in – trusting in my instincts & intuitions & inner guidance – & hanging out with a whole host of the most incredibly awesome people, to boot.
I ask you, can life really get any better than that??
P.S. & yes, admittedly, I will probably still have occasional attacks of the more-more-more & hoarding disease, because I am, after all, merely human….
P.P.S. Along with as-yet-unpublished book entitled Letters to Rebecca: Musings on motherhood…& feminism & patriarchy & female/male relationships & the state of the world… I’ve written a book called Letters to My Daughters, in which I’ve given my girls several “life suggestions.”
One of them goes like this: “Don’t hoard! Your intelligence, your energy, your passion/compassion – your money. Be wildly generous with all of them. The Universe will reward you abundantly, I promise!!”(4)
And it is so, it is so….
(1) When a culture is profoundly grateful for the Earth & all of its wonders & bounty, beauty & blessings, there is little inclination to go about determinedly laying waste to it.
(2) As John O’Donohue, Irish poet, philosopher & former priest once said, “We are privileged, and the duty of privilege is absolute integrity.”
(3) In the movie “Home: A hymn for the planet” it was said, “What’s important is not what’s gone…but what remains,” & that certainly resonates for me.
(4) In the above-mentioned movie, it also said “Sharing is everything.” It’s true! Leonard Nimoy once said, “The miracle is this – the more we share, the more we have.” This, too, I believe to be true. Paradoxical – but true.