your wealth is where your friends are

Paths, Plans…& Plato

So, I got thinking about paths this morning. On my daily walk in the woods, I’m usually on a path, & the paths go all over the place, & some diverge & others beckon & some of them are dead ends (well, no, that isn’t actually true. Streets may be dead end, but not paths…) Each path has its virtues, & sometimes I get lost & frustrated because a certain path isn’t leading me where I think it’s going to (& at the moment, they ALL have deer flies in attendance that one can simply not dodge & one simply has to do one’s best to ignore & still notice all the peace & beauty around one)

& I’d thought about paths on previous walks, & I’ve thought, well, we’re all on a path, or paths, aren’t we? & that sometimes it’s best to stay on a (literal) path one is on, & sometimes one simply has to step off it (a great big mud puddle, say?) & sometimes one goes off down a path that beckons irresistibly, & one finds what is on it intriguing – the landscape is so pretty! & one can lose one’s interest in the path one had been on, & had maybe been following for quite a long time, perhaps even supposing it was the path one would follow forever & ever, Amen

only to discover one simply has to go on, or find, a new path

& whatever path one is on, there is always always always the chance that one will fall or step into a big pile of mud or (sorry to be so rude) even shit (I have stepped into both literal & metaphorical piles of shit more than once in my life, oh yes), & unless one chooses to take only teeny-tiny, teeny-tiny baby steps, & take no risks or chances, ever

it is STILL possible that life/Life will not, in that famous Janet McNeill phrase (), turn out in accordance with our careful plans.

Because sometimes, things BLOW UP!

Plans, marriages, storms, nuclear plants.

Sometimes stuff just plain blows up in our faces.

(or, if not, lucky you!!   I’ve had things blow up in my face a few times along Life’s highway, so I have)

and as I walked along this morning’s path, & detoured off it (most pleasantly, as it turned out), & then turned around & walked back, I was reminded of one of my very-very favourite quotations ever, ‘cos I was thinking about how amazingly lucky I am to have the awesome friends I have.

Plato said “Your wealth is where your friends are,” & true-er words were never spoken.

& to conclude (just ‘cos I feel like it, & it seems like it’s time, to conclude, I mean), these things in life save my ass:

  • friends/loved ones
  • walking
  • music
  • water
  • singing
  • writing
  • walking (yes, I’m repeating myself)
  • reading
  • books
  • friends…

 

Janet 

p.s. admittedly, I am also quite fond of food. And, dare I say, beer… In moderation, of course. Everything in moderation…

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “It is solved by walking.” – St. Augustine

Runner-up:

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

** other quotations about walking here 

Are we having any fun yet??

Sheesh. Yikes, & sheesh.

Off the charts busy & even overwhelmed, spending time in very challenging times, it seems, & wanting to write about 25 things I can’t seem to find the time for, & last night I attended an all-candidates’ meeting at which the performances were quite underwhelming, to say the very least, & this morning I’m working on some stuff that is very hard to keep my head in, & hey! I work for myself, theoretically, & don’t get paid a cent for any of this crazy stuff I do (except for an occasional donation from a friend or other who sends me a buck or two sometimes; bless you!!!) & the phrase came into my mind, are we having any fun yet??

Of course, the answer is Yes! Yes, yes, yes.

As I said to some friends last night, via e-mail after that awful all-candidates’ meeting, doing worthwhile work is of course in & of itself rewarding, but the biggest bonus is hanging out with the coolest people.

Plato said, “Your wealth is where your friends are” & my old boyfriend used to marvel at my amazing friendships & I used to say “Yeah, I sure know how to pick my friends eh??”

So, onward ho during this oh-so-challenging time. Nuclear work, tar sands protest (yes – if you are not yet signed up, please go here & sign up!!), lots of writing projects & other projects I can’t seem to find the time to make happen.

But here’s the thing: I’ve figured out that, basically, I guess, I am a date planter. Sister Miriam MacGillis, a most amazing woman from Genesis Farm in the U.S. & a devotee of the ideas of Thomas Berry, once said on a tape I have of her speaking (the tape is from 1992, is called "The Fate of the Earth" & is awesome!!), that those who plant dates do not live to harvest them. Dates take decades & decades to bear fruit, & the people who planted them are by then long gone.

I hang out with date planters. How cool is that??

Janet

p.s. Sister Joan Chittister has said “If you are expecting to see the results of your work, you simply haven’t asked a big enough question.”

p.p.s. I read the novel So Long, See You Tomorrow (by William Maxwell) recently. Really enjoyed it. At one point the main character said "I understood not only how entirely generous they were but also that generosity might be the greatest pleasure there is." Ah, yes.......

 

‘Quote of the day' with this post: Thomas Berry on the environmental crisis: “It is something like being in a lifeboat. There may be problems of distribution of food, there may be people that need medical care, but if something happens to the boat, the boat has to be taken care of immediately or else everything else becomes irrelevant.”

 

Christmas List: Dear Santa

Dear Santa:

(or, well, God/Goddess/Great Spirit/Creator/the Universe…take your pick…)

Hey! It’s a week before Christmas 2010 as I write this. I guess it’s a bit late to be sending you my Christmas wish list, but…here it is! I got thinking today about some things I could really make use of, so here goes, oh-spirit-of-generosity-that-we-call-Santa-Claus.

  • Please give me the skills/ability to deal better with all these blasted “elephants in the room.” The darn elephants keep crowding in everywhere I go, it seems!! And me unfortunately not the most skilled or diplomatic elephant-handler... Please send me some fairy dust I can sprinkle on myself to help me rassle better with all the elephants.
  • Please help me not to be petty!! I’ve been noticing a slight tendency toward pettiness lately, & it isn’t pretty. More fairy dust, please!
  • Please help me to not recycle anger/hurts/resentments/pain, & to not take my anger out on some innocent victim who happens to come along & “get in the way.” Is there some special ointment I can use for this or something??
  • Please wave your magic wand (or fairy dust) & help me to always navigate with the greatest possible class & sensitivity through the endless cloud of divorce fallout. It’s been 15 years, Santa, & it’s still hard! Sometimes I still act (& feel) like a bit of a baby, & I could really use a little help here too (mostly, Santa, because divorce fallout falls disproportionately on the heads of our children, the innocent “civilians” in the divorce “war.”)
  • Please help me to always remember that other people function as a mirror for me, & that the things that drive me crazy in others invariably or at least often carry an important message for me. Instead of being annoyed with people over petty stuff (see above), please remind me to “get the lesson” in every encounter by looking in the mirror to see what it is that’s really bugging me (& if it’s my own insensitivity/selfishness/self-loathing lurking underneath, please help me to rassle with it!).
  • Please sprinkle me with fairy dust when I get all bent out of shape over something & am about to go off half-cocked or blow up at someone – & remind me to take a time-out, & breathe, & get calm & ask myself “What is this REALLY all about???” – & if it’s that I am angry because I feel hurt, remind me that striking back will not make anyone feel better, or improve the overall situation (or the world’s!?).
  • Please help me to find the right moments at which to say the difficult things that come up with the people I love, & to say them in a calm & sensitive & loving way.
  • & to not “ascribe intention” to other people’s errors, as I was coached in one of those Art of Living workshops I took…(we all do & say lots of dumb stuff from time to time. I shouldn’t assume people mean to do or say the hurtful things…)
  • & to recognize that fear & hurt (& maybe guilt??) are beneath so much of what happens here on Planet Earth, & that my own fears & hurt (& guilt) only add to the overall noise & confusion if I don’t take the time to articulate & understand & heal them, &
  • Please also help me to always be mindful of the great privilege of my own existence here on Planet Earth, & to understand that, when I exercise some skill with non-judgment & compassion, & not “making other people wrong,” that winds up being a gift not just to others, but also to me, &
  • Please help me to operate as much as humanly possible from a place of gratitude, rather than a place of grasping, &
  • To remember to use my words with care, & that “Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.” <Margaret Lee Runbeck> &
  • To remember always that my purpose here (I think) is to be a good friend/mother/lover/worker & to help make the world a better place, & also to help create the conditions whereby continued human existence is actually fostered, & not get all caught up all the time in thinking “Everything is all about ME.
  • &, in other words, too, always remembering that “The personal is political” & that everything is also connected, so everything I do needs to contribute in a positive way & my personal growth & healing contribute to the world’s growth & healing, &
  • also always mindful that my efforts to be a good mother to my children are super-important, because if I do a good job as a mother/parent, this circulates out in a positive way to the world, & it also helps me as an individual to feel fulfilled & contented & loving & loved…(deciding not to have children is a very fine decision, of course!!! Perhaps even a rather wise one, in the world of today!? You understand that I am not advocating parenthood here; merely parenthood handled well);
  • & hey, Santa man, this is SUCH a long list, & I do apologize, but there are just 2 more things I’d like to ask you for...
  • A book about animal tracks (or a gift certificate so I can buy a book about animal tracks), ‘cos when I’m on my walks in the woods I see these neat little tracks in the snow that I am very curious about, & knowing more about the critters would be kinda cool, & finally,
  • If there is a really, really nice/good man in that great big gift bag of yours, it would be really cool to fall in love just one more time – with a man who can handle the whole of crazy old me – with all my convictions & neuroses & passion & activism & determination to “change the world,” & although I hate to be too picky, I do need to also ask you to (please) send one who will not feel the need to indicate to me all the time that I am not quite “enough” for him (or maybe that I am “too much”??) & finally, please do not send me one who (probably unconsciously) needs me to “look good” for him so that I can make him “look good” – or one who needs me to be sophisticated, ‘cos I can’t seem to “do” sophisticated (I think that gene must have been left out), although I can do quite a bit of other pretty good stuff, I think….

I know I'm asking for rather a lot, dear Santa. It’s a long list for a person who knows I’m already about as wealthy as a person can possibly be, since “Your wealth is where your friends are” (Plato), & my friends are numerous & awesome & all over the place…

But I also want to keep on kicking as much butt as humanly possible before it’s time to check out, & all these things I’m asking for will help me do that, so…thanks in advance Mr. Man in the Red Suit, & hey!………God bless us all!!

Janet

P.S. & here is a lovely & wise thought you can pass along, Dear Santa: “The secret of happiness is to admire without desiring.” ~ F.H. Bradley

Divorce: The gift that goes on giving

Funny. I just went to “save” this document, & the words “divorce sucks” came into my mind…

I myself have been divorced for 11 years now (the marriage broke up 15 years ago). It’s not the thing I focus on so much these days in my thoughts, although I have to admit, for the first 3+ years of my new life as a single woman & half-time Mom (after 20 years of marriage & 14 of full-time motherhood), it was almost all I thought about. Thank goodness for time…& healing!!

And I’m not gonna lie to you. Years ago I drafted an essay called ‘Divorce: the fun never quits!’ – because when you have children & wind up divorced, it is sadly all too true that the far-reaching impacts of a divorce will never be entirely absent from your life. Divorce, you might say, the gift that keeps on giving…

Well. I don’t have all that much to say about it now. When I was going through it, I was often miserable – lonely, embarrassed & ashamed. It was distinctly un-fun, & absolutely without question, the most gutwrenching time, & experience, of my life.(1)

Fortunately, as mentioned above, time & healing do come. As Eckhart Tolle so wisely reminds us (it is such a useful phrase), “This too will pass.”

(I should also add that it was a number of so-called “simple” things that helped me get through. Walking, music, time with friends, the love of my daughters – &, eventually, once I came up for air – useful work/volunteer work. My friendships definitely grew both in number & in depth, & without those, I’d have just plain … faded away! Plato said “Your wealth is where your friends are,” & that’s the period of my life when I really “got” that, right down to my very bones…).

My main aim for this post is simply to pass along a recommendation for a book about divorce that I just read & can’t praise highly enough!

The book is called Falling Apart in One Piece – One Optimist’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorce, by Stacy Morrison.

I can’t say enough about this book! It’s well-written, searingly honest, & soooooo potentially helpful to anyone who is currently going down the dark road of divorce. I am truly inspired by how brutally honest Ms. Morrison is (about her own faults & failings, as well as those of her ex) & by how she & her (now ex) husband have managed to put aside their own neuroses, pain & unhappiness enough that they are doing an admirable job of co-parenting their son. I’ve always thought this to be the true test of a person’s mettle during a divorce: how classy & generous can you be – can you keep striving to be – for the sake of your children, the innocent & un-witting civilian "casualties" of your own personal little (not so little, of course) war?

Ahhhhhhhh.

So many of us going through this. So much pain, so much loss…

Heartbreaking, to say the very, very least…

I do strongly recommend that any & every reader get thee to a bookstore or library & buy or borrow this book, then share it around. I’d also hazard a guess that one does not have to have gone through a marriage break-up to be helped & inspired by this book.

Nietzsche said, “Sin is that which separates.”

Alienation & loneliness are pretty big players here on Planet Earth, hmmm? Books that make us feel less alone – that help us see how very, very not-alone we really are when we’re down in one of those Very Deep Pits(2) any & all of us can fall into… well…I can’t recommend such books highly enough!!

Janet

P.S. Several years ago I read a couple of novels by Tony Parsons. One of them was called Man and Boy. I recall feeling at the time that these books of his could be a great comfort to anyone going through a divorce…

‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “It’s one of the secrets of the world. We all have the key to one another’s locks. But until we start to talk, we don’t know it.” – Michael Silverblatt, host of KCRW’s ‘Bookworm’ radio show


(1) Also, of course, a marvellous “growth opportunity”…

(2) The “Very Deep Pit” is a phrase borrowed from Winnie-the-Pooh. Winnie-the-Pooh & Piglet…well – read the book! It’s in Chapter V, ‘In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump.’ It was during the immediately-post-marriage-break-up phase of my life that I began borrowing the Very Deep Pit phrase. I used to joke that I was living in a Very Deep Pit – VDP for short. I still get a big kick out of the phrase…

 

Funny (& Smart) Things Friends Have Said...

<written April 5/09>

I have an amazing circle of women friends. Plato said “Your wealth is where your friends are,” & his insight explains my considerable wealth.

My friends are awesome. Women are awesome. (Men are pretty cool too, but that’s a different essay, hmmm?)

My friends are smart. They say some amazingly astute things sometimes. Some very, very irreverent things sometimes too. As do I. I’m not going to quote the hilarious stuff a friend & I said one time about 2 x 4’s. Not fit for a family publication, as they say… This same friend once also hilariously said “Diarrhea will humiliate us all” & I just about fainted, I laughed so hard. This woman is smart, pretty, compassionate, wise & incredibly generous-spirited. How I’d get by without her friendship, I can’t even begin to imagine…

Another friend said something recently that I really, really liked hearing.

I want to preface what follows with the comment that some of my friends & I have been through some seriously challenging times in the past, oh, six months & one or five or ten or 15 years. Details not important, hmmm?

M. said she’d realized that, although she’d love to have a man in her life, she knows she is (& has) everything with or without one.

What a powerful (& perhaps rare) realization this is…

This woman is a delight. She’s been through really hard times in her life – yet she is joyful & cheerful & open & loving, & she just keeps right on growing & changing & being a great person & friend. Among other things, she knows the power of yoga & music & dancing & singing & walking, & she’s the one who introduced me to the great Louise Hay DVD ‘You Can Heal Your Life.’

I’ve done quite a bit of musing (a fair bit of writing too) about patriarchy in the past few years. Eventually, maybe, I’ll post my essay ‘Patriarchy Sucks’ & maybe I’ll publish my “Letters to Rebecca: Musings on motherhood…& feminism & patriarchy & female/male relationships & the state of the world…” book (it has lots of musings about patriarchy in it).

Meanwhile, the quick & dirty on women thinking we are “incomplete” without a man?

Hah!

I like having a man in my life (I like it a lot!) – but only if the relationship is authentic. Characterized by trust, honesty & talking (not to mention plenty of laughter; gotta be able to laugh, hmm?).Not always possible, apparently… (I think I will wonder to my dying day why laughter becomes such an early casualty in relationships. Thank God we women laugh so much when we’re together…)

I think I may have shocked someone recently when I declared (quite without meaning to; sometimes these things just rocket right out of my mouth), “I can live without a man, but I can’t live without chocolate.”

But it happens to be true! (maybe I could learn to live without chocolate. But…why would I want to?? There is a limit, surely, to what we must learn to live without?)

Anyway. This little essay didn’t go where I intended at all (& I haven’t even scratched the surface of smart & funny things friends have said). But I had fun writing it, &, as Kurt Vonnegut would have me say, if that isn’t nice, I don’t know what is…

Janet

P.S. on May 23/10. Here's something clever (& funny!! It's a 2-for-1 deal) good friend Barb said the other day: "I'd rather have my flaws staring me right in the face, than biting me in the butt." Gotta love that one...

‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ~ Douglas Adams

Life Philosophy (as of Dec. 10/09)

<Dec. 10/09>

Interesting times, hmmm? On the planet (economic crises, hunger crises, refugee crises, water crises, climate CRISIS; Copenhagen COP15 U.N. meetings taking place as I draft this), & also in my personal life (my family & friends would agree I seem to have a perennially anything-other-than-boring life…).

As many of us know, there is a Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times.” Our blessing, and our curse, hmm?

Well. I promised my up-to-date life philosophy, so here goes:

I think we’re mostly here to learn & to grow & to love each other – and to keep on getting better & better at all three.

(Dr.) Rachel Naomi Remen said in her awesome book Kitchen Table Wisdom – Stories that Heal, “Life is the ultimate teacher, but it is usually through experience and not scientific research that we discover its deepest lessons. A certain percentage of those who have survived near-death experiences speak of a common insight which afforded a glimpse of life’s basic lesson plan. We are all here for a single purpose: to grow in wisdom and to learn to love better. We can do this through losing as well as through winning, by having and by not having, by succeeding or failing. All we need to do is to show up openhearted for class. So fulfilling life’s purpose may depend more on how we play than what we are dealt.” (1)

I think she got that very right.

Writer Anne Lamott said in her lovely book Traveling Mercies – Some Thoughts on Faith (quoting her minister, I believe), “…the world sometimes feels like the waiting room of the emergency ward and that we who are more or less OK for now need to take the tenderest possible care of the more wounded people in the waiting room, until the healer comes. You sit with people,” she said, “you bring them juice and graham crackers.”

I think she’s right too.

In Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing & Life, Lamott said “E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.” (Ms. Lamott is just plain chockfull of words of wisdom, as you can see…)

I do not think we human beings are here to

  • work ourselves to death
  • amass great fortunes or piles of “stuff”
  • kill one another or destroy the planet
  • break our backs trying to “look good”
  • break our backs trying to be “bigshots”
  • make others like us (in both senses of that expression: make people fond of us, or make them act & believe the way we do).

I do believe we’re here to love one another, grow spiritually (don’t worry, you non-believers; you can do this without faith in any kind of deity), contribute in positive, life-affirming ways to our fellow human creatures/the Earth, heal ourselves & the planet.

Evolve as a species away from violence, greed, & terminal self-absorption and toward generosity of spirit, love, compassion & all that other fine stuff.

Call me ‘Pollyanna’ & naïve as heck; it doesn’t bother me in the slightest!!

I personally have spent many years as a mother & environmental advocate/activist/writer, and will very likely continue in this vein. This is clearly not only my “calling” in life, this stuff totally turns my crank!!!

In the face of all kinds of crises, both the current & looming variety, I will also continue to advocate:

  • building community
  • finding (& sharing) our personal “gift”
  • being ourselves, being authentic
  • having authentic relationships
  • knowing our “wealth” lies primarily in our relationships (Plato said “Your wealth is where your friends are” & we don’t seem to be able to top him there.)
  • investigating helpful spiritual teachers/writings/practices/words of wisdom
  • living in the moment; in the present, in the very, very Here & Now
  • living life to the fullest!!

Music, love, Nature, laughter…fun!! Life is a joyous, precious gift, Dear Reader – not some serious & fun-less funeral dirge!

There is a Buddhist saying, “Life is a joyful participation in a world of sorrows.”

How to live our lives, so we can promote our own (& everyone’s) health, healing, well-being; the health & growth & evolution of our species?

In the face of deaths – both “personal” & perhaps even that of our own as a species – how are we to act?

I think, with courage…conviction…energy…compassion…love…generosity…determination…kindness…feistiness… unselfishness…dignity…& most especially, gratitude.

I believe we are each capable of moving mountains when we act with courage & conviction(2) – always allowing our conscience to be an ever-present force within us – & then, as they say, “detaching from the outcome.”

The results of our actions are out of our control.

Act, then let go

And whatever else we may do, celebrate this great wondrous spectacle of Life & Earth!

(And say, as often as humanly possible – in memory of that brilliant, thoughtful, irascible & wildly articulate old Pall smoker, the writer Kurt Vonnegut – “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is!”)

Janet

A Few Relevant Quotations:

“I know what the greatest cure is: it is to give up, to relinquish, to surrender, so that our little hearts may beat in unison with the great heart of the world.” Henry Miller

“Truth comes only to those who must have it, who want it badly enough. And gifts of healing come only to those willing to change.” – Doris Janzen Longacre in the Foreword to her book “Living More with Less”

“Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality of those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy, in a speech in Capetown, South Africa, June 6, 1966.

“Change is never inevitable, change is always carried in on the shoulders of those who bring change with them.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Nothing is more powerful than an individual acting out of his conscience, thus helping to bring the collective conscience to life.” ~ Norman Cousins

“The single most important contribution any of us can make to the planet is a return to frugality.” Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN

“The saving of the world from impending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of the non-conforming minority.” – Martin Luther King

“Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Choice is so important because it actually constitutes what it means to be a person.” – Joanna Macy in 'World as Lover, World as Self – Courage for Global Justice & Ecological Renewal'

“…you also know that each action undertaken with pure intent has repercussions throughout the web of life, beyond what you can measure or discern.” – Joanna Macy in 'World as Lover, World as Self – Courage for Global Justice & Ecological Renewal'

“Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.” – Joanna Macy & Molly Young Brown in ‘Coming Back to Life – Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World’ (New Society Publishers, 1998).

“If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear. People who can open up to the web of life that called us into being.” – Joanna Macy

“We do not need to protect ourselves from change, for our very nature is change.” – Joanna Macy in 'World as Lover, World as Self – Courage for Global Justice & Ecological Renewal'

“But now comes the daunting revelation, that we are all called to be saints – not good necessarily, or pious or devout – but saints in the sense of just caring for each other.” – Joanna Macy in 'World as Lover, World as Self – Courage for Global Justice & Ecological Renewal’

“Energy always flows either toward hope, community, love, generosity, mutual recognition, and spiritual aliveness or it flows toward despair, cynicism, fear that there is not enough, paranoia about the intentions of others, and a desire to control.” ~ Michael Lerner, quoted in ‘The Great Turning – From Empire to Earth Community,’ by David Korten


(1) More on this book in the posting ‘Book & Bed Day.'

(2) One hopes that everyone’s courage & convictions do not involve murder & mayhem – or even selfishness, intolerance & inflexibility; for my part, I fail to see how such things can help us move forward as individuals, or as a species…

My Most Prized “Possessions”

<July 24/09>

While I earn far less money than most everyone I know, I also know I’m one of the “richest” people I know. I actually quite often feel I must be the wealthiest woman in the world!

I must also hasten to point out that I’ve always lived what can only fairly be called a life of privilege. I was born into a family in which there was considerable privilege – large income, big house, family memberships in the local Yacht & Golf & Country Clubs. It’s also true that it was a highly dysfunctional family, and that these material “goodies” or perks brought us little or no joy or peace. That was good learning, hmm? A very useful life lesson, as it turned out. As I like to joke, I’ve been “downwardly socially mobile” ever since.

I could enumerate some things I’ve never had in my life, or things I’ve lost – and there are substantial things in both of these categories – but it seems to me it has been the losses, or challenges (and the associated suffering), that have helped bring me to this place of knowing my own very great wealth.

Currently, I am blessed to live in a small town set amongst stunning natural beauty; this alone makes me feel very privileged and rich. I’m writing these words at a beach and place of awesome beauty (alongside the Ottawa River, in eastern Ontario, Canada) and every time I come here (usually daily, on my regular walks), I am reminded that the best things in life are indeed free – and that we really need only open our eyes in order to have our souls and spirits greatly nourished.

Alright. To the list – in no particular order…

These are my most prized possessions:

  • A deep & abiding love of Nature/the Earth – and the awareness that this Earth always has, and continues to, provide us with all that we really need.

  • A strong (and mostly happy) spirit.

  • Faith in the Universe and its seeming eagerness to look after me (provided I am prepared to meet it at least halfway, of course).

  • Knowing I am loved and appreciated by a gratifying number of people.

  • A wide circle of friends. (Plato said, “Your wealth is where your friends are.” Is this not so?)

  • The joys of motherhood & the love of my children – two wonderful daughters who’ve given me more than they can ever know – and our good relationships with one another; not perfect, not without occasional stress and conflict – but a good steady and abiding love of one another in spite of (perhaps because of??) the mountains & rivers of trials and tribulations we’ve waded our way through.

  • Memories of their childhood – many, many, many wonderful moments…

  • Appreciation for the (thorny) gifts of my own difficult childhood and my so-much-less-than-perfect parents. In ways I’m sure they were never aware of, they gave me plenty of good fertilizer to help me grow into the person I now am.

  • Strong convictions – very likely the result of my genetic heritage and my parents’ (sometimes inadvertent) moral guidance.

  • A passionate and abiding love of books, reading and continuous learning.

  • The freedom I now have (at 56), after a hard knock or two and lots of challenging times and soul-searching and solitude (yes, considerable loneliness at times, too), to “follow my bliss” and not rely on our culture’s mingy “recipe for success” (materialism, rat race and the more-more-more disease). I live more from the heart than from the brain – and this has been a very winning strategy for me.

  • Work I am passionate about – most of which doesn’t pay in cold, hard cash, but which I believe in deeply, perform joyfully, and reap immeasurable benefits from in pride and satisfaction.

  • My daily sanity and joy-inducing walking habit.

  • My voice. I use it a lot, and am grateful for the strength and self-confidence that enable me to put it to good use.

  • My love of music – the great joy of listening to it, & the deep, deep joy of singing.

  • Frequent moments of feeling “full to bursting” with life – joy – gratitude – a full spirit.

  • Faith in myself. Sure, it gets shaken sometimes (especially when I behave badly, which I definitely do on occasion!), but all in all, I like myself, trust myself (mostly), and know I’ve learned some pretty good coping and living strategies and an ability to bounce back from the inevitable knocks I take.

  • Gratitude: it’s the bedrock of my existence. Only in losing what I once prized the most (my marriage and our full-time family life), was I brought to my knees and learned the incredible power of gratitude – which I make a point of practicing…actively…daily.

  • My ability to admit to and learn from my mistakes and missteps.

Are you ready to gag yet, or feel like strangling me? Fair enough. I’ll add here that I also have my full, fair share of weak moments. Times of loneliness. Insecurity. Self-loathing. My sometimes ridiculous behaviour (things like my old Friday night “beer and Doritos” habit). Saying stupid and hurtful things sometimes. Offending friends and daughters and other loved ones. I never said I was a saint, did I?? Very, very human and fallible I am. Back to the list…

  • Having learned to live much less from a place of fear, and much more from a place of faith and abundance.
  • My ability to call for, and accept, help and support when I need it – when I feel like I’m drowning – which definitely does happen from time to time....
  • My ability to not be taken in by the nonsensical and unreal worlds of television and advertising, a gift for which I am profoundly, profoundly grateful to my father.
  • My ability to laugh at myself & just plain laugh & have fun, period.
  • My awareness that the “little things” in life are really the big things, if you get my drift.
  • My increasing ability to draw forth compassion – for everyone else and for myself, and a dwindling tendency to leap to harsh and negative judgments. Still a long way to go on this, but this is the work of a lifetime, I think. I’ll keep at it…
  • The ability to stand like a flamingo in a dishpan of water, outside the back door, to get the sand of the beach off my feet, and get a chuckle out of the fact that the dishpan still has my daughter’s name on it (in permanent felt marker) from her early days as a camper. Dear brave little camper, she was, too…

Okay – now I’m being silly. It’s begun to seem as though I could go on forever! I never expected to call up so many items when I set out to write this – not for a moment. It’s kind of like the magic of gratitude. The more I say “thank you” for, and muse on what I have to be thankful for, the more the list grows and grows.

Don’t think I don’t know from heartbreak, okay? I’ve had my share of it.

But all these “prized possessions” of mine help me make my way through it. It isn’t always fun or easy, nor am I always graceful, exactly, but these things do bring a great deal of comfort.

Hmmm. I guess I forgot to mention my gratitude for a seeming ability to keep on changing, evolving and growing. I may be 56 years old, but I’m not a knee-jerk foe of life change, because I know change is inevitable, if for sure not always easy.

Karen Kaiser Clark said, “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” This seems like exceptionally wise counsel to me…

Janet

P.S. In terms of material possessions, I guess the ones I prize the most are my books (my so-beloved books) and my rain gear, Teva sandals, knapsacks, hiking boots and sleeping bag. I used to go on canoe trips on which I generally felt as though I’d died and gone to Heaven. If I take another canoe trip, and if I should happen to die on it, for some reason (lightning strike, drowning, whatever…) I tell you, I would go that way gladly.

P.P.S. The essay ‘Wealth: Nothing to Do with Money’ covers some of the same ground and has some great quotations at the end.

P.P.P.S. There are quite a few blog entries here about gratitude, & also an item called ‘What We Focus On, Expands’ that might be of interest to you if you’ve enjoyed this little essay.

P.S. # 4: Ralph Waldo Emerson on success: “To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of oneself; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived…this is to have succeeded.”

P.S. # 5: Associated 'quotation of the day': "Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued. It must ensue. And it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself." ~ Victor Frankl

 

Control Freaks Anonymous

<June 2008>

Are you – or should you be – a member of Control Freaks Anonymous? I think the membership would be rather large, if such a group existed (as far as I know, it doesn’t as yet…).

I’m hoping more & more of us are heading into recovery from being control freaks, since I think the all-too-prevalent human impulse to try & control things/people/circumstances/the weather/everyone around us/everything around us is at the very centre of human destructiveness.

I’ve long been convinced the genesis of our control freak-ism goes back about 10,000 years. I’ve written about this elsewhere & I’ve also done some fantastic reading that helped me grasp it in the first place. (1)

But what I want to talk about right now isn’t the 10,000-year deal.

All I really want to say about control, here, now is this:

There is really very little we as individuals can “control.” Well, except for our own happiness – which is a pretty darn big enchilada, wouldn’t you say?

Heck, I can’t control what’s going to happen to me 3 minutes from now – let alone the rest of the day, the week or my life.

This is a terrifying idea, I suppose, to a major control freak, but I put it to you that the option is wide, wide open to be liberated by it – broken open by it, even.

We can each only do what we are doing – one action, one step at a time – & then figure out, as we roll along, where to put our feet down next.

As Spanish poet Antonio Machado said

“Wanderer, your footsteps are

the road, and nothing more;

wanderer, there is no road,

the road is made by walking.

By walking one makes the road,

and upon glancing behind

one sees the path

that never will be trod again.

Wanderer, there is no road--

Only wakes upon the sea.” (2)

This world – this crazy, mixed-up, messed-up world we human beings have been carelessly tinkering with for at least the past 10,000 years (i.e., the era of our control freak-ism) is reeling from our various & multitudinous assorted assaults. The messes we’ve created are now so numerous, so complex, so extreme & so bewildering, it can be pretty goshdarn overwhelming even to contemplate; is it not so??

Well. Let’s simplify our lives, then. Let’s begin creating a path out of the morass, one step at a time. If we do our best to do this with care, sincerity, humility, courage, generosity, openness, selflessness, compassion, love & consideration for all our fellow creatures (including ourselves), Hey! somehow, it will all work out – one way or another…

Janet

p.s. Hot tip: “Your wealth is where your friends are.” So said Plato a very, very long time ago, & it is still and always true. This does not mean, as a young person I met recently mistakenly interpreted me to mean, that I lean on my friends for loans & money & stuff like that. It means that it is the people in our lives who give it (& us) meaning, & who help us get through. We need community…not more money, material possessions, expensive gadgets & exotic vacations.

p.p.s. Some dude named Matthew Arnold said “If ever there comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of [hu]mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never seen.” I’d say, any women who haven’t yet become heavily involved in world-changing are needed – giddy up, girls!!

p.p.p.s. Later blog posting of relevance: 'Why we are control freaks....I think.'

p.s. # 4 - in late Nov. 2011 - about 4 1/2 years after I wrote this. You know what I failed to mention?? Control freaks are not very much fun! (I'm betting it's not very much fun in-side them, when they're doing their control freak thing... Just a guess!)


(1) In the Absence of the Sacred – The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations, Jerry Mander, Sierra Club Books, 1992; Ishmael – An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, Daniel Quinn, Bantam/Turner, 1992; My Name is Chellis & I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization, Chellis Glendinning, Shambhala, 1994; all 3 are highly recommended.

(2) I first encountered mention of Machado in Paul Hawken’s wonderful book Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming. I Googled ‘Antonio Machado’ to find out more, & this poem came up.