Musings

The game comes to rest.

Posted on June 29, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Games, Health, Musings |

 So I play this subtle game. I mean, literally, a game. It’s a puzzle game that lives in the background of my computer and comes to haunt me when I’m trying to write or to get things done.

Of course one cannot “try” to write. I punch at the keys now; I am writing. If I don’t press, or speak, or tell—it is not.

I’m playing it now, I admit. Well, not RIGHT now, RIGHT now I am writing. Or punching. Or pressing. But in a moment, I’ll go back to the game, just hit the tab and I’m in.

“Multitasking” they call it. “Avoiding”, me. Yet in the switching, I find my thoughts, as it requires fewer and different ones.

There! I just did it! Played another round–could you tell?

And went again, as no further inspiration struck, except to tell you I found myself rather clever in writing my process as it happens.

“Too eclectic!” my blog screams at me. “This will NOT appeal to your usual audience!”

My audience, if any remain, has been so generous they might not notice. Patiently waiting as they find me here again. As arrogant as I find that last statement (“waiting”?…as if!) I know my friends are there.

I did it again! I went off to play the game for a bit and came back here, except…I wrote three other pieces first. I got ideas for them, you see, whilst playing the game, making the SIMPLE decisions that free my mind to go elsewhere, as an untethered balloon. But, the balloon travels a solitary path, and bumps and bounces and looks pretty and shiny and fragile and belongs to the child that let the string go.

Sometimes life is forgiving oneself for letting go.

Sometimes it’s OK to find a new string.  

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Blessed.

Posted on April 25, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Health, Music, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

 Blessed.

It’s a word.
How does a secular-oriented person reconcile feeling blessed?
But I do.

Blessed. (or Blest): Consecrated.

Consecrate: to make or declare sacred.

Sacred: regarded with reverence

Reverence: a feeling or attitude of deep respect.

Do you see what happens when one tries to go down the semantic road? Of course these are not all the definitions of each word, but they do bring me along a path that is circular; by the time I get to the “deep respect” definition; it describes adequately what I’m feeling.

The word “blessed” tends to be associated with spiritual concepts, but I’m not ready to give it up in secular life. There are times, and situations, when no other word will do.

This time, in my life, is one of those.

Although I have not been writing very much lately for many, many reasons (some of them interesting!) and though I want to share those interesting things with you but somehow have not, I have been blessed by people both on- and off-line, thinking of me and wishing me well.

There have been some occasions to occasion this in recent days. The week just past has been a holiday one for many. Some of my family acknowledged Passover last week, while others of my people celebrated Easter week, culminating in the spring renewal of Easter Sunday.

As I am eclectic spiritually as well as socially, 🙂 my week went something like this: On Tuesday, I experienced a secular passover brunch, featuring my favorite dish of the season, matzah brei. On Saturday, it was, of course ( 😉 ) World Tai Chi Day, so I celebrated that by watching wonderful demonstrations of several different forms of Tai Chi at the Chinese Cultural Center, including one I hadn’t seen before using a curved racket and a ball! This was performed by two masters from China who now live here in Arizona. There was good food to be had, and interesting companions. I was surprised how many people do Tai Chi here, and pleased that our local medical community is actively studying it for conditions such as recovery from stroke and heart surgery, and increasing mobility and flexibility in people with arthritis. I know from my own practice that I have better balance and flexibility.

This was all great; and I was having a good weekend, when later that evening I discovered I was being given a surprise birthday party! Orchestrated “behind the scenes” by a dear one, I had no idea; was attending a chat group I help with, and instead of just chatting, we danced, and had cake and champagne! What a lovely unexpected pleasure!

On Sunday I worked; co-facilitating a group. I work at several of these, each scheduled one per month, and the Easter Holiday did not interrupt the schedule. I was curious about the turnout on a holiday that generally has many visiting with family, but we had a very good turnout, and I felt useful to people; always a good thing. 🙂 A potluck dinner followed.

Today is my birthday, and I kept my birthday tradition of brunching here with friends. It was a beautiful spring morning, and the surrounding gardens displayed our desert in bloom. It’s the absolutely best time of year to see desert fauna at it’s best. I was additionally treated to the company of many butterflies as I walked in amongst the splendour.

During the past few days, I’ve received greetings from two cousins I hadn’t communicated with in years, and from two good friends I’ve known since my childhood. I’ve also gotten messages from some blog friends—and this blows my mind and has generated the title of this post—this, after being “absent” from my blog space for quite a while! The fact that I am still thought about and cared for makes my birthday mean more than the passing of another year; it truly is a time of renewal.

Continual happy spring to you!

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Balance in the Spring

Posted on March 21, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Health, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

The wind is howling as is my conscience. A card from a lovely friend reminds me that I have not deposited pixels here on my blog for quite a while. She hopes it’s because I’m having such an amazing time in the rest of my life, that my blog has fallen by the wayside.

That is a nice sentiment—and I thank her for that!—but I wonder… I’ve written some of my best blog posts when my life was full of activity. Lately, things have seemed as if they are closing down.

There are distinct joys in my life; some new windows have opened. But, open windows notwithstanding, I’m still in the same house (literally and figuratively.)

When I first started blogging, the social media site “Facebook” was not as prominent. Many of my blog friends have FB accounts, but I never have had.

I may have lost some of them to it, but they have not lost me.

So why am I lost? I’ve felt inauthentic; disconnected lately. I used to write my truth here; from my heart; from my soul; from my spirit. “My” truth seems elusive, and no one else’s exists!

I could point to “world events”, and indeed they are frightening and uncertain, lately. I have given some little donations to the Red Cross, and I help facilitate a group for people who are disturbed by things. I am disturbed, too.

But, as much as some recent events can make us feel helpless, my recent malaise came along before most of them.

I realize I’m out of balance…that’s the thing!

A friend that’s a coach has a tool she uses; the balance wheel, I think she calls it. She has tried to counsel me using it, but I am stubborn and resistant.

Here it is:

Balance Wheel

Life Wheel - Inner North Coaching

You can rename sections to match the important areas of your life. You may also choose to split one or two sections or add one or two sections of your own. For example, many people prefer to divide “Friends & Family” into two sections.

  1. The center of the wheel is 0, and the outer edge of the wheel as 10. Rank your level of satisfaction with each life area by drawing an arc at the number that represents your level of satisfaction. A 0 means you are not satisfied at all with an area right now; A 10 means everything in that area is absolutely perfect for you right now.
  2. Write the number that the arc represents. For example, if you are 75% satisfied with your career, draw an arc about 3/4 of the way out from the center of the circle in the Career section of the Wheel, and label it 7.5.

As you can see, the task is to rate one’s SATISFACTION in all the areas on the wheel, not necessarily where one feels one does the most good.
However, like many of us, much of my satisfaction comes from at least thinking I’m of some use!
The creator of this wheel also lets us know that we can rename one or more sections…but, I’ve found, through chatting with my friend, and examining the sections, that they are pretty representative for most of us.
Naturally, few if any of us will have a perfectly balanced pie. But it’s a warning sign if, for instance, one has a little sliver of a pie piece for a particular category, and half the pie in another!

I always wonder, with these kinds of graphs, where one puts something like “Spiritual Expression”. Many would say it goes under “Personal Growth”, but that narrows it too much, on the one hand, and jams it in with too many things, on the other.
I prefer to find spiritual expression radiating out from the center point of the chart, as a ninth, but all-encompassing area, as it permeates all else.
(I believe, by the way, that whether one embraces religion, or not, one can engage in spiritual expression. This does not have to involve worship of an outside entity or entities as many imagine, but rather contains that “spark of connection” that keeps us WANTING to be human!)

Many of the “pie pieces” can be expressed through, or at least reported upon, by blogging. I feel I need some work and definition in each of the wedges. I challenge myself (and YOU are a witness) to write about each one, both from a personal viewpoint, and as a universal model in the next few weeks.

If you hadn’t guessed by now…this is my Spring Renewal Project! Several traditions, including some that resonate deeply with me, celebrate a new year, or a start of a new cycle at or about this time.
I am awestruck, once again, at the sight of the huge full moon on this day, and respectful of the natural time known as spring equinox. I want to say “Happy New Year” to those of my blog mates I know are celebrating now:

☼Chinese New Year came quite early this year; starting on Feb. 3…but I always include it in spring renewal as it resides there in my heart.
☼The Spring Equinox is a favorite contemplation, as it’s all about a natural marker in a natural cycle, not about any dogma, or human-imposed beliefs.
☼I respect and honor the Hindu spring festival of colours: Holi, of which I was recently reminded.
☼Persian and Bahai friends celebrate NawRuz, New Year, at this time. This festival predates and informs the next one:
☼My Jewish family members are celebrating Purim, during which Jews are delivered from enemies. Although Jewish New Year is in the fall and not the spring, I like to think of the story from the bible book of Esther as a metaphorical time of renewal as well.
☼Many Muslims celebrate the birth of the prophet Mohammed at this time, and finally…
☼A bittersweet remembrance of the Spring Festival of Japan; the festival of the Cherry Blossoms, or Sakura, which took place some weeks ago, but one I tend to associate with the dawn of Spring. I won’t go into what Japan has or has not to celebrate right now, but I have been gratified to see the few Cherry trees in my desert neighborhood valiantly bursting into bloom. In my native San Francisco we had hundreds of Cherry Trees, and the festival was a huge city-wide event!

I sometimes long for those days when life was as simple as gazing at a flower. Or so it seemed 🙂  ☼ Happy New Spring to you! ☼

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“Hi, Atus!”

Posted on February 9, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Games, HowTo, Musings |

 OK, I admit it. I plunked this post into the middle of February even though I didn’t write it until almost the end of April. If I confess that, am I excused?

The reason I did this is I hadn’t posted ANYthing in February, and it was the first month since this blog’s inception that I had not come up with EVEN ONE POST for an entire calendar month. I looked at my blog archives list in my sidebar, “February” was conspicuously missing. Although a short month, it made January and March look lonely.

So this post title is in acknowledgement of what I actually, did, blogwise, in February of 2011. 🙂

Using the title “Hi, Atus!” (You did know that was my clever destruction of the word “hiatus”, right; to indicate that I’d been away) I thought the least I could do is search for the word or term “atus” and promote the results. I found an acronym for “American Time Use Survey” and also a blogger named “Atus“! Well met, both. Now, I think I need a “random” category for posts if I keep this up…

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I saw it! Winter Solstice Glory

Posted on December 23, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Science, Travel |

I feel lucky now. In many parts of my country, the Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse could not be seen. Where I live, there were clouds; there were stars; but, somehow, they moved away so the moon could be viewed—until it couldn’t. I stopped watching when it was completely covered, because I’d read that would last for three hours. And as it was very early in the morning by then, 1am-ish, I decided to just trust that the moon would reappear in its own time.

To say that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience is trite, but true. This will not happen again for some 90 years, plus or minus, so I’m not holding my breath! If medical science progresses far enough to keep me alive for that long, well, I’m not sure that would please me!

On this night, I was able to go into my marvelously large back yard, and, looking straight up, I could see the current phase of the eclipse. I started at about 11:30 my time (which is US Mountain Standard) and popped out every 15 minutes for the next hour. Each time I went, I thought it would be the last, but I couldn’t resist another look, until…there was eerily no moon and no sun, anymore!

What does it mean? Do we need to wait another 90 years to find out? All I know it, this was a Winter Solstice to remember, and, as a person that celebrates these anyway…I felt particularly blessed!

Blessed be to all as we move towards what promises to be a memorable year! 🙂

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“Christmas”…”Cheer”…?

Posted on December 18, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Music, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

I want to get this down while it’s still fresh in my mind. Today, (and similar days in past Decembers), is one of the more emotionally devastating, yet ultimately satisfying days of my year. I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally, but, I think…in a good way.

I do free-lance administrative work for several arts and cultural organizations. One of them is a chorus I sing in as well. Today, we made our annual “Christmas Caroling” trek. I put that in quotes, as I don’t really know what “Christmas” means…more about that in a minute. I generally grumble and mutter under my breath when the group plans this expedition. Coming up to the time, it seems overly precious and sentimental; not to mention, well, more “religious” than I’m comfortable with. I’m the kind of secularist that, on one level, really doesn’t understand how someone can say something like: “I’m an atheist. But. I really like Christmas!” —what? What does that mean? To me, when I observe the society around me, I can’t define “Christmas” as any one thing. It is a pivotal celebration for some branches of religionists. It’s also associated with Pagan or natural celebrations of solstice; in fact the solstice observances of many cultures have been hijacked by the Christians in order to incorporate already existing holy times into the celebration of their leader’s birth.

The confusing thing to me is that in some countries, Christmas is also a cultural holiday; a time to share gifts and cards, parties and greetings, and perhaps a softer attitude than at other times of the year. Is there something in the darkest time of the year that causes us to slow down and reflect? Something beyond the religiosity of it all?

In times past, I’d tell people I don’t celebrate the holiday, as I’m not a Christian or a Pagan. I’d receive looks ranging from the quizzical to the hostile; from those who’d ask what either of those spiritual paths has to do with it (!) to those who are strictly Christian and don’t like the Pagans or secularists usurping “their” holiday. (Kind of ironic, considering)

So I grumble and complain and say I don’t want to do this “caroling” thing…and yet…I always do. We’re not the kind of carolers that go door-to-door. We visit care facilities such as today’s Alzheimer’s, Hospice, and Chronic Care units. I realize, as I always do, that most of the people who receive the gift of our songs have heard them all their lives, whatever their religious or lack of religious upbringing. These holiday songs are ubiquitous. You’d have to travel somewhere really remote, or never leave your home between November 1st and December 26th to avoid them. This becomes important in the saga of the caroling.

Our first visit was to an Alzheimer’s unit, a nice set of five cottages around a central courtyard. We visited all five cottages. In most, there were a mix of relatively alert, and pretty-much-out-of-it residents, with a few visiting family members thrown in. We never know what kind of reception we are going to get, because with Alzheimer’s patients, the short-term memory is the first to go, and they may not remember their son’s name, for instance, but they sometimes do remember all the words to a Christmas carol. I’ve seen this happen many times. The residents will look around in confusion as we enter their living space. Are they supposed to know who we are? Some of them give us hostile or suspicious looks.

And then: We start to sing. We sing very well, as we are from a semi-professional chorus. Rich, four-part harmony greets the residents as they listen to familiar tunes. Some of them open their eyes, and watch, with rapt expressions. Others keep their eyes closed, but, somehow, mouth the words. Still others wake up, as if from a long sleep, and start to sing along; voices beautiful; moving; emotional.

This is when the magic happens for me. For those few moments, there is no illness; no loss of cognitive function. We all share in these carols we know so well. We sing a mix of purely secular winter songs (Jingle Bells; Frosty the Snowman) Pagan (Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly) to the overtly religious (O Little Town of Bethlehem; Silent Night) and we always end with We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and at that moment, I do; I really do!

As we ended with each group, we went to shake hands with those who were able to do so, and greet them. Two women and one man kissed my hand. 🙂 We were told by their caretakers that they hadn’t seen some of them this animated in a long time. I felt blessed in my ability to share this gift. I was content. It was meaningful. We had another facility, a county nursing home to visit, and then…we had “a thing at the mall”.

“What a contrast”, I thought to myself, “between singing to these lovely folks who can’t get out for a concert, and singing for a lot of mall shoppers trying to get the best deal!”

At the county-run large nursing home facility, I recognized several residents from the prior year. Unlike at the previous venue, there were a variety of ages; many quite young, but profoundly disabled and requiring 24-hour care. The staff member that took us around to three main lounges explained that, although some residents would have their eyes closed, or otherwise appear to “not be all there”, they nevertheless just might be able to take the music into their inner lives. She told us that last year, a resident came out of a coma after we sang! This was the first I’d heard of that. Again, a few audience members sang or mouthed some of the words with us. Others sat still and unblinking with tears running down their cheeks. One man, relatively young, sat with his eyes closed, seemingly oblivious, until, during Jingle Bells, two of the singers actually jingled bells they had brought with them. He opened his eyes and stared and stared at us.

And so, on to the “mall thing”. I will say that, although I don’t frequent malls to begin with, this day is probably the last day I would have chosen to visit any mall. The parking lots, and the mall itself were packed with shoppers, hoping to be inspired just a week before the holiday that causes them to give.

Some, obviously, were enjoying the shopping. Many, however, had “that look” on their faces; the “concentrated; obligatory; let’s get this gift buying over with” sort of expression that makes me question the wisdom of this December Debacle.

I hoped that what we were about to do would ease their pain, if only a little! 🙂

Inspired by a project born in another state, the Arizona Music Teacher’s Association decided to bring a “Random Act of Culture” to southern Arizona’s busiest mall on the busiest shopping day of the year. Fresh from my lunch of hummus and Greek salad, I wandered over to the large rotunda. There was an organ playing Christmas carols; not a terribly unusual thing in a mall in this season. It seemed there were many onlookers lining the railings from the floor above, and as I and my colleagues merged and mingled with the shoppers, we became aware that it was almost time. The organ stopped. And then it started again, at four times its previous volume. A conductor appeared on the landing between the floors. As the organ completed the introduction, several hundred voices, all mixed in with the shoppers, began to sing. Chills ran up my spine. Although under very different circumstances than in my morning activities, I still felt that I and the others “ministered” to these shoppers, perhaps victims of our consumerist culture; perhaps only trying to bring happiness to their families and friends.

As I contemplate my day, I’ve let go of feeling that any one group was more deserving than another. We’re all in this together, doing the best we can. As I was driving home from the mall (after taking 38 minutes just to be able to leave the mall!) I noticed a bumper sticker on the car ahead of me: “Don’t Postpone Joy”. Indeed.

Here is video from the project that inspired ours. We may make the local evening news with our event; if so, I’ll post an update here. We sang the same music as in the video, and received the same spontaneous applause.
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Her Beans and My Heart ♥

Posted on December 17, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy |

Roasted Sesame Green Beans

Last month, I participated in that American Institution known as “Thanksgiving Day”. For the past couple of years I had attended a potluck dinner, and was assigned to bring vegetables. Although green beans are traditional for this meal, I wanted something different, and consulted my favorite food blogger, whom I’d known for about a year at the time. “Sesame Green Beans” were the result of this consultation, and were the hit of the party two years running.

This year, through a series of events, I was called upon to provide the entire Thanksgiving meal, although for a smaller number of people. I again cooked the green beans, but this year, it was a different experience. The beans were excellent, as always, but I was not able to report that fact to the dear friend who had provided the recipe.

You see, I only knew her through her blog, and through the many emails we’d exchanged over the three years we knew each other. Last year, soon after I reported my latest bean success; I read what was apparently to be her last blog post. She wished her readers a happy Christmas, declared she’d be back in the new year…and was not heard from again.

Most of you know that bloggers come and go. It is a strange medium in some ways; if a person wishes to be anonymous, s/he can usually do so. Casual, hobbiest bloggers don’t owe anyone a thing. They can start to write, gather a following, and decide to stop at any time.

What has amazed me about a couple of the social media outlets I’ve been involved with, is that, over the course of spewing my thoughts, I have made genuine, lasting friendships. I counted this food-blogger among them. She wrote about more than food, but that was her passion, on this particular blog. I’m not much of a cook; never was, but she was easy to talk to about all sorts of things. She was kind to me; commenting on my blog often, and sending me emails when she came across something she knew I’d like.

We started to share more about personal situations. She was a very private person, as am I, so I was honored by her trust.

She doesn’t owe me anything; never did…but…it seems odd to me that after three years of several-times-a month communication, it would cease—for me, and with all who knew her from her blog.

Perhaps she thought she would come back, and somehow, didn’t have the heart for it. Perhaps she didn’t want to write a “goodbye” post, because she felt she’d come back in a bit, and then what would she say?

Some of us who were her friends thought she might have become too ill to post, and we tried to find out more. It appears she is still with us, from the latest reports.

Somewhere along the way, however, I’ve realized that I have been guilty of some of the same behaviors of which I accuse my food-friend. I have not updated my blog very often lately. I’m not entirely sure why, although I have a few good ideas. I tell myself it’s something I can do “tomorrow”, and we all know there is no tomorrow.

I tell myself that I at least answer emails from concerned friends, unlike food-friend who has not. But I haven’t even done that as quickly as I’d like to these days. And there are non-blog friends, and even family members who have not heard from me as much lately.

I’ve gotten some lovely messages from blog friends wondering where I have been! I am humbled; I’m chagrined. A couple inquiries I’ve gotten truly have made me realize how much I was preoccupied with my own issues.

One was from a someone whose mother recently passed away. He is young to lose a parent. And yet, in the midst of his grieving, he took the time to inquire how I was, as I had not been on this blog for a while. It shames me to know this, not in a self-deprecating way, but in a self-involved kind of way.

To hep me plead my case, I will say that I’ve spent some time helping a dear friend who has been ill, and attempting to mend fences with family members, particularly one who may not be long for this world. But it doesn’t compensate for neglecting to notice what others have been dealing with. It doesn’t excuse lack of compassion.

I am hard on myself, as we often are. Noticing is an education. Taking action on what one notices becomes the harvest of our being. I am reminded that whenever I am feeling judgemental about someone’s actions, I’d best look within to see if there is some version of those things operating in my experience, and then, with great understanding, forgive us both!

To all those, blogging or not, who have touched my life, I thank you for being my life tutors. Blessings be.

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The other way

Posted on November 23, 2010. Filed under: Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

This speaks to me as my life has unfolded lately:

No Other Way
by Martha Smock

Could we but see the pattern of our days,
We should discern how devious were the ways
By which we came to this, the present time,
This place in life; and we should see the climb
Our soul has made up through the years.

We should forget the hurts, the wanderings, the fears,
The wastelands of our life, and know
That we could come no other way or grow
Into our good without these steps our feet
Found hard to take, our faith found hard to meet.

The road of life winds on, and we like travelers go
From turn to turn until we come to know
The truth that life is endless and that we
Forever are inhabitants of all eternity.

So many times I’ve said to myself “why can’t this have happened sooner?; why did it have to happen at all?; if I knew then what I knew now; …etc. etc. etc.

The fact is, even if I knew then what I know now, then would have been a different then, and now a different now. I would not be the person that says: “if only…”. The words you read here would be those of someone else!

I’m not sure why, but this, strangely, gives me comfort.

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October, the month of letting go

Posted on October 30, 2010. Filed under: Culture, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

I’ve written before about Dia de los Muertos, here and here.

Although not raised with this holiday, I do live near people it’s important to, and it’s become a reflective time for me.

Letting go and acknowledging what I want to release, as we travel into the last part of the year, has become a meaningful ritual. This year, perhaps, I’ve let go of a little too much.

But, perhaps…I shall regain my equilibrium. I welcome the time of embracing; releasing; regaining.

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Random Confessions

Posted on September 22, 2010. Filed under: Culture, EFT, Games, Health, HowTo, Music, Musings, Philosophy |

This is a time of year I often evaluate aspects of my life. Some do it at Gregorian New Year; others in the Spring…to me, the fall is the best time, the time of the Autumnal New Year. I can look at what I’ve “harvested” over the past few months; evaluate what I want to tuck away for the winter (Don’t chuckle; though I live in the Sonoran Desert, we DO get winter. Or what passes for winter, here, anyway) 😉

Another reason to evaluate in the fall is that it’s a tradition for part of my family. Although I wasn’t raised with this holiday; some of my family members celebrate the Jewish New Year; and I observe my own version of Yom Kippur in a September. I think the fact that I was not brought up in that particular religion makes me more able, objectively, to appreciate some of the ceremonies it has. I have a lot of religious baggage from the religious upbringing I did have; and am still reconciling myself with what was passed to me as truth.

Some random things I’m looking to let go of:

Hair! I’m sure I won’t really do this; but my hair has been bugging me lately. I’m sorely tempted to shave it all off. I’ve always been “into” my hair; it’s sort of long for who I am, and it gets into everything. During the long hot summer we’ve been having here, it’s particularly annoying. I know the more obvious solution is to just cut it short! But I can’t! That would be so un-me. I’d rather just cut it all off, if I’m going to change it…but then I’m afraid I’ll look like an melon or, worse, TweedleDum! (TweedleDee wouldn’t be as bad!) 🙂 So, I’ll probably, as I usually do, just let it grow another inch while I ponder…

Papers! Seriously, is there any reason to keep old bills around any more? They are all accessible and stored online from every institution. I act as if I’m about to be subject to a tax audit of the last 78 years (!) and I’ll be one of those people that rolls in 24 carts of materials to be examined. In looking to clean out and simplify certain aspects of my life; both out of desire and necessity, I’m gingerly going through these old records and shredding away! I hope I feel better afterward.

People! Do you ever see people as baggage? Is that a rude thing to ask? Some of the people who have been in my life don’t quite fit anymore, while others are changing roles or adding to them. This is natural evolution in most cases; but we humans tend to hold on even as we evolve, sometimes. I’ve heard it said that if a relationship isn’t serving you, let it go! Much like you would and old vacuum cleaner that blows dusty air out instead of sucks it in. Some of my relationships are work-related, and I’ve noticed that, in most cases, when the working relationship ends, very often the personal one does too. Most of them need the glue of the common interest and activity to hold them together. There are exceptions, of course. It’s perfectly possible—and I have done—to find a long-term friend in these circumstances, but as I look back, I realize that, out of all the people I felt were extremely important in my day-to-day existence, only a handful have stayed in touch with me, or I with them. I am more guilty of this than most, I think. If someone calls, months after a project, and wants to have lunch, I’ll think “Why?” I may go ahead and have the lunch, but in these cases I’ll feel tongue-tied and awkward, and say things like “So, how’s your life been since we finished producing that art project 1000 balloons as Representative of Modern Angst?”

Thoughts! Here are things—and I have heard it said many times that “thoughts are things”–that are a bit harder to deal with, even more so than people. People will eventually go away if I ignore them long enough (I know I sound unsociable, and I sort of am!, but I only do that with people I want to go away), but thoughts! what can one do about thoughts? Really, for me anyway, there are only two ways to clear up the unwanted kind. One is to replace them with better-feeling thoughts, and make some new memories. After some practice, these will become my thoughts. It doesn’t do a lot of good to dwell on the unpleasant ones without some form of relief. This can be anything from vigorous exercise to energy techniques, but best for me is to imagine the kinds of thoughts I’d like to have!—Not to sound too Pollyanna-ish… 🙂

English! By this I specifically mean the English language used in sacred choral music. A lot of people in the western world play in orchestras or sing in choruses. I have done both for many years. In the “classical” tradition (misnamed, but that’s another post) 😉 most—by no means all, but most—of the vocal music consists of interpretations of western Christian liturgy. Many people can just sing those right along for years, regardless of their background or beliefs. In one of the choral groups I work with, there are a surprising number of spiritual persuasions and non-persuasions. I will confess that, for me, it is increasingly difficult to repeat phrases that have no place in my belief system. I could just continue to “suck it up” as I have been doing for years. After all, choral directors and coaches often tell us that part of our “job” singing this music is to be actors, to “sell” it. I do see this as important if accepting a role in a play (and I WAS a missionary, for the Save-A-Soul Mission, in the musical Guys and Dolls–ironic, huh?) but, there are a variety of roles in plays, whereas in traditional western classical music, there is mostly this adulterated religious expression. When these works are sung in Latin or German or French, I at least get some distance from them, even though I still know what every word says. I can more easily step into a “role” if I’m not using the language I speak and think in.

Ideas! You’d think this would have been covered in “Thoughts”, above, but ideas are different from thoughts. An idea is: “Hey maybe I’ll become a circus clown! That’s just what I’ve been needing to spice up my life!” or, “I’ve noticed that when I go into rooms painted Chartreuse I feel peppier! I think I’m going to paint my whole house Chartreuse!” (I never said “ideas” were necessarily “good” or “helpful”.) They are Proclamations rather than mere Thoughts. All of us have probably thought of a product or two from time to time that *does* seem to be a good idea. Some of them languish away on the back burner, while others are brought to the forefront. So I’m ready to let go of the not-as-good ones.

Fix-it Projects! My house seems to need a lot of work at the moment, some of which I can do myself, some not; some of which costs a fair amount of money, and some not. Everything from replacing the carpets to fixing the leak in the garage seems to need doing. The kitchen could use some work. The bathrooms scare me a little. But how to prioritize? Should I do the things that cost the least and that I can do myself first? Or should I make a list of things from most to least urgent and work my way down as best I can? I’m a bit unmotivated and disheartened, but if I want to leave this house for greener pastures, these things must be done. Even if I don’t…I deserve a nice place to live, don’t I? I’ve just thought of a third way to do my list, which brings me finally to…

Lists! I have a love/hate relationship with lists. When I travel, I obsess about them. I put everything I want to pack on a list, from underwear to nail clippers. After all, I’m traveling all the way to…California!, a primitive land where I’m sure they don’t have things like toothpaste, should I forget it, nor could I possibly borrow it from my native Californian sister, whom I will visit–backwards creature that she is! She probably scrubs her teeth with backyard sand! …And then there’s the other kind of list: “Things To Do”. I like to make these lists, but I rarely do what’s on them. My streak of rebelliousness comes out when I’m told to do something, even when I’m the one telling. I don’t really want to “Do” anything. I do often do things, but I’d rather just “Be”. Perhaps I should make a “To Be” list! Yes! I’ll put that on my list of things To Do. 🙂

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