Monday, July 27, 2009

Still, and still...

"Hurry is not of the devil; it is the devil." (Carl Jung 1875-1961)

I'm just going to say this: I behave terribly when it is time to get little people out the door. Partly because I'm always running just slightly late, always underestimating the time it takes to find one pink Croc, the 2 Very Special Playmobil Guys who are to travel with us, and the big sister who is Officially A Bit Dreamy. Partly because no one seems to grasp just how important it IS to get somewhere on time. Partly because no matter how many times it fails, I keep believing that yelling/sighing/stomping (I know, mature, right?) will actually change the outcome.

In fact, I think this ineffective yelling/sighing/stomping sort of behavior has been a bit of a hallmark of the last year or so. A development that doesn't necessarily fill me with pride.

So this was my Mother's Day present this year:

It is a Lisa Leonard necklace, titled "Be Still." I have worn it almost daily since that day in May - it is beautiful, and a sweet little accessory, but it has become a talisman to me. A meditation, if you will, to remind me in its weight against my collarbone that what is required of this moment is to simply Be Still.

It is so hard for any of us to be still.

Those of us with kids are fully occupied by the next activity, the next fight, the next birthday party. Those of us who work are stressing the next deadline, the next phone call, the next meeting. All of us have homes with dishes, with laundry, with bills to be paid, with projects large and small. We all sit with our computers, clicking from tab to tab, instant messaging-emailing-shopping-Facebooking-blogging. Maybe the TV is on for good measure, just in case all the websites go silent at once.

Psychic busy-ness is a specialty of mine: with worry, with guilt, with blame, with doubt. Yet none of those pursuits will bring me to stillness.

Most just avoid stillness through its antithesis: hurry. We are hurrying to the next thing, hurrying to finish, in a hurry to cook, in a hurry to eat, in a hurry to live.

Really, many have addressed this topic far more eloquently, more deeply than I can. For starters, try this post over at Zen Habits:
We are always on, always connected, always thinking, always talking. There is no time for stillness — and sitting in front of a frenetic computer all day, and then in front of the hyperactive television, doesn’t count as stillness.
This comes at a cost: we lose that time for contemplation, for observing and listening. We lose peace.

I am trying to find Still.

So what does this have to do with synchronicity, I hear you wondering. (These modern blogs are so freakin' interactive!) Well, just this: I started this post long ago, right after I got the necklace and I wanted to tell you about my new meditation tool. I'd been doing a lot of thinking about how to preserve stillness in my life, in my kids' lives. I'd been regretting my need to hurry, wondering how I could carve out stillness for my home. And then....I got busy. And hurried. And then I got an email, just ahead of a particularly busy weekend. And this is the photo that greeted me when I clicked 'open':

In every faith, in every tradition, there exists in some form this exhortation - this command: Be Still. It is a command designed to give us nothing less than our lives.

Stop. Cease. Slow Down.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

That Lattice o' Coincidence

Whenever I am at a loss for words, I always find it helpful to quote from the old classic, Repo Man:
A lot o' people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch o' unconnected incidents 'n things. They don't realize that there's this, like, lattice o' coincidence that lays on top o' everything. Give you an example; show you what I mean: suppose you're thinkin' about a plate o' shrimp. Suddenly someone'll say, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate o' shrimp out of the blue, no explanation. No point in lookin' for one, either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.

Which is all to say that today, class, we'll be discussing something a little out of my field, but something that is pretty important to the next few posts making any sense. Today we're (and by 'we' I mean, um, I) talking about Carl Jung and his theory of synchronicity.

I promise I totally listened really super hard in my freshman year of Psych 101, but don't recall having come across this idea. In the interests of maintaining my huge fan-base (yes, all 10 of you, fabulous as you are), I'll keep it short: essentially, it is the idea that simultaneous occurrences can be meaningfully related. Or, as my incredibly bright pastor says "[events] of significance that I need to pay attention to, for [synchronicity] can give direction to what matters in my life."

So. Who's still with me?



Here's a story for you, to illustrate what I mean. Waaaaaaay back in the day, it's 1983 and Police release Synchronicity. (Really. I'm not trying to make this obvious.) I am TEN. An innocent, non-rock-n-roll-listening TEN. The closing song on that album? "Tea in the Sahara." Fast forward 7 years, I'm 17, and a boyfriend puts it on a mix tape to use up that awkward space at the end of a tape where you can still fit a song, as long as it's short. I listen to it, it's completely haunting. I decide it is the most romantic thing I've heard. (Turns out the song is about 3 women deceived by a prince and left in the desert to die. This explains much about my 17-year old ideas of romance.)

Fast forward another four years, and I'm contemplating a relationship with someone widely known to be loud, overly-opinionated and a bit arrogant. Someone who (I thought) wouldn't have much time for haunting, romantic, or.... quirky. Let's just say I was on the fence about this prospective love interest. I walk into his dorm room, he's on his own (having scared away all roommates), and I hear "Tea in the Sahara." Literally stopped in my tracks by the coincidence, the sheer synchronicity of it all, the only thing I can say is 'I love this song.' He turns around, and in his funny Norwegian accent says 'Of course you do. It's the best song on this album.' (see? you get haunting, romantic, quirky AND arrogant, all in one package!!)

Fast forward another 15 years, and here we are on the couch talking about synchronicity, and well, Synchronicity. He has no memory of that particular moment of cosmic grace. But let me just say, he's grateful for it.

So this week we're going to talk about connectivity. Say it with me: See how it rolls off your tongue? Soooo much fun to say, so much fun to find! (Could this be like Where's Waldo for the grownups?)

Isn't it exciting to think that the random things that happen to you in the course of a day, a week, a month, a year, or even decades may possibly be related, and even better, have actual significance to your life?

For me, this means ideas of Stillness, of Glass-Half-Fullness, of Abundance, and of Slowing the Pace, and yes, of Connectivity have all presented themselves in a myriad of ways that leave me wondering if knocking me over the head with one of those carnival sledgehammers may have been only slightly more subtle.

I'll be filling you in in the next week or so.

Keep your eyes & ears open: wouldn't mind hearing your stories of synchronicity. (It needn't even involve the actual album.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Waving, Drowning, what's the difference? Facebook Part II

The same morning I posted my blog about Facebook, I chatted with a good friend at the pool. We were having one of those 'half-conversations' where you chat with one side of your face whilst you turn the other towards the baby pool to make sure your toddler isn't clobbering a 5-yr old with a large bucket.

I think the conversation was steering towards our individual struggles with *certain* of our kids, and I offered " yeah, I posted a blog today, about why I'm on Facebook so much," intending to expand that to where I get advice/encouragement/input on the odd behaviors of my kids. "Eh. I'm pretty bored of Facebook" was her response - and before I could say, but no, wait, here's why YOU NEED IT IN YOUR LIFE!!! - one of our kids needed something, and the half-conversation was left hanging.

But it got me thinking. This friend doesn't need Facebook. She is one the most socially skilled people I know. I watch her as she navigates Poolside Life - she stops and chats in a genuinely interested way with almost every person sitting there. It takes her 20 minutes to get from her chair to the locker room for a shower because there is always someone to catch up with on her way. She is able to get a daily run in because her network of friends is always willing to keep an eye on her kids, and in her daily routine of swim team/swim lessons/sports practices/birthday parties/work(!), she manages, because she is so connected with her community, with the people around her.

Check out this link for just a tiny glimpse of what passes for a day in Betsy's summer life. And this one for her take on her 'village' and the support they offer.

Get this: SHE'S A LIVING BREATHING FACEBOOK PAGE. It's true. Betsy is living - in real time, in face-to-face contact - a life that models how Facebook's creators wanted us to connect. She shares a book recommendation. She checks in with this friend, fills them in on an event of mutual interest, and then redirects a small child to a parent who's moved to the other side of the pool. She doles lunch out with one hand whilst tracking down Kid #4's blue goggles with the other. She never hesitates to pick up the phone to fill me in on some small detail that she thought I might miss (you know, some minor point like "didja know school's canceled today??")

Well. Before she gets uncomfortable with my unofficial Fan Page here, my point is this. She has a gift: a gift of connecting with people in a genuine, meaningful way that makes you glad you saw her that day. As I watch her, I learn a great deal, and I admire what she does.

Now, anyone who's been friends with me for any length of time knows how poorly I keep up. I never call, I never write. It's true. So here's how Facebook has changed my life: it lets me do that. I am able to fire off a quick message to a friend in Germany whose address I can never find. It lets me congratulate a friend on a new baby, so that those good wishes aren't waiting on my organizational skills and the USPS. I can even keep track of my own husband's random thoughts and ideas - with long hours commuting, he and I don't get to share as much as we'd like to in a face to face conversation.

Now lament all of this 'postmodern' media as much as you want: I'm certainly not suggesting that Facebook replace a real conversation or that a hand-written letter will EVER go unappreciated. I'm merely saying that if it helps me find my community, if it gives me the tools to even be half the social creature that Betsy is, it is no bad thing.

My friends are dear to my heart, far flung, and so diverse. I'm delighted to have a way to keep track of them. One more vote in the 'yay!'column for Facebook.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I want

Sometimes you come across a blog where the author lays out in front of you every single solitary word that you would have wanted to have in YOUR post that day.

There are a good number of blogs that I read, but Heather of the Extraordinary Ordinary is one I seem to return to more and more regularly. I came across this post of hers, talking about her heart's desires, and my oh my: does she really know that I want all of those things? Surely I am the only one who wants so much, and yet struggles to be content with all that I have?

So. Go ahead & read Heather's blog today - you can thank me later. Meanwhile I'll continue wanting - most of all wanting contentment, and working to find it. More on that - from me - later.

photo from Flikr Group Lake Sunapee NH

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Not waving, but drowning

Been having a lot of strict discussions with myself, recently, about how much more I could get done if I wasn't wasting my time on that darn Facebook. You know, things like........ making something with the 10 lbs of blueberries we picked, organizing the kids' 1000 'small pieces, exercising, talking to my husband, laundry or, how about....actually blogging?

So in these very stern talks to myself, I demand to know what it is about Facebook that is such a siren call. Is it the myriad of quizzes that promise to give me the key to my personality? Is it the addictive quality of Bejeweled Blitz? Is it a latent addiction to voyeurism, spying on the photo albums of friends-of-friends without them knowing? (Did anyone ever read Harriet the Spy in 4th or 5th grade??)

Funny thing is, I don't often go in for those things. I generally find myself obsessed with status updates - Twitter for the slower-moving among us - and the comments that follow. I'm a bit obsessed with coming up with status updates, I mean, crafting statements on 'what's on my mind.' Which always strikes me as a little self-involved, even as I sit down to type a new one.

Finally, this morning I was out walking and it hit me: Facebook is a quick, low-investment way to let people know what's going on in your head, and you get instant feedback to let you know that people are out there, interested enough in your silly life to make a 5 second comment. When you're deep in the trenches, whether that be the cubicle-shaped variety or the minivan type, all you want is a quick affirmation that you're not in this alone. That someone, somewhere, gets what goes through your head.

For me, it is a quick check-in with the adult world. The adults out there with their own little people who can say I hear ya, sister!, but also the adults who will give me the non-child-focused perspective which is a fabulous reality check for me. This is all leavened by the older generation, when they weigh in with the benefit of experience.

So now, I have used up my morning's allotment of goodwill from the Noisemakers. No more workin' on that computer, Mommy! But I just had to post this, about how Facebook keeps me from the uglier corners of my brain. Because it is my way of calling out 'hey folks, I'm not waving, but drowning.'

And those little comments sprinkled on friends' pages, both theirs and mine, those tiny threads of thoughts, are the lifeline to bring me back to shore.
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