Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mirrors on a Revolving Door

 wants embrace, not resistance

is no reason to feel shame

wants attention, not banishment

can take clever detours

 may be an addictive substance

with certainty is one way to cling

is necessarily what it seems

~ ~ ~ 

Everything and everyone is a Messenger facing us like a full length mirror on both sides of a revolving door, whose every image reflects the one friend we fear above all else: LIFE! 

How often do we stop before the mirror? Behold what we see, exactly as it is in just this instant? Then, simply take the leap: Open ourselves to its territory. Or not?

The oppportunity is ours. We deny such opportunity to show up, at our own peril. There's no right/wrong choice. Each and every juncture is a golden moment of possibility. 

It's just that  n o t i c i n g  can open a doorway, which might otherwise be overlooked. 

It may be an obvious 'yes' or an obvious 'no'. It may be uncertainty (another totally valid doorway). The secret is: it really isn't actually up to us, at all!

If we show up, if we are 'there for the moment', if we register THIS--really fully register every single 'this', that we encounter--with our entire being, then LIFE itself is what sees through our eyes. And the 'me' who might have felt 'on the spot' is relieved of any pressure. 

True 'noticing' is a sort of seeing, whereby 'the me' is seen through, just as 'the you' is seen through. And what's left is LIFEFORCE meeting itself, in the 10,000 forms IT takes.

Monday, October 1, 2012

On My First Day Of Retirement: "The Container"

This is my first day of retirement. That's me on the day I graduated, summer of 1967. Since then, I have "been a nurse", except for one year when our son was only 3 and I got to be a 'stay at home mom'. We had moved to a small town with cheap rentals, for my husband's first job, as a brand new Librarian. It gave me a taste for freedom that I've never forgotten: just being nothing in particular! All of us, of course, are much more than, "NICU NURSES". I've been mother, wife, friend, student, hiker, writer, dog-lover, meditator, vegetarian, and numerous other things--yet not inclined to identify, exclusively, with any one of them. 

Yesterday was my final day after 20 years in the same NICU. So, just like I've always done upon arrival, I scanned my badge to open the double-doors leading into the nursery. But this time I was doing it for the last time. It occurred to me that this badge would never again admit me into the hospital building, nor the Neonatal unit. In the act of that swipe, and with the sound of that buzz, some 'reactor site' was triggered within my being. 

The doors opened up; I stepped through; my stomach flip-flopped and something started to flutter inside my chest. Even though I've been ready and eager to fully inhabit my richly rewarding unemployed life, it became instantly clear that the cells of my being felt differently. They had their own ideas about what I was doing. As far as they were concerned, "I belonged" electronically and monetarily to this place. Some strange 'sense of bondage' has routinely roused me from sleep at 5 am on countess dark cold mornings, to drive over the mountain pass and step into a fast pace, high tech, critical care environment. 

I remain confident that I will not be someone who feels 'lost' after retirement, nor uncertain about what to do with herself. I rarely get enough sleep because of this cherished LIFE that constantly tugs at my skirt. I truly doubt its possible for me to ever feel bored or restless with 'free time'. But I hadn't even considered 'separation anxiety' and there was something else I did not expect, and for which, I was not prepared.  

After I put my lunch in the break room refrigerator and signed in at the front desk--feeling shaky and vulnerable--I looked up to see all of my coworkers gathered there smiling at me, warmly expressing their acknowledgment that "...this is your last day!" I knew they had all brought food for my farewell potluck. I tend to be a 'low-profile' person who works quietly in my corner, rarely expressing my feelings, unless casually. I did not even realize that my shields were down until the feeling of baffled disorientation occurred after that experience of 'passing through the threshold doors' for my final shift. It felt like I was being stretched between two very different worlds. 

I stood at the desk, looking from face to face. I tried to speak but the words choked over themselves. I knew a torrent of tears would burst forth. So all I could do was stare back with a strange smile and shake my head. This was NOT how I would have imagined my last day--if I'd given it any thought at all. I'd been too busy 'waiting for it'. 

I will genuinely miss the time spent with my coworkers and the privilege of caring about what happens in their personal world. We have forged bonds of caring. We trade intimate stories about mundane, and monumental, moments in our lives, which I will no longer share on a day-to-day basis. I will miss the families of 'our babies'. I have loved being able to usher them through their time of crisis at this important, emotional juncture in their lives. But it wasn't any of this that caught me--like getting the wind knocked out of your lungs--as I stepped through the mechanical whoosh of those automatic doors when they opened out to 'take me in', like they've done for countless mornings now.  

My last day was spent straddling realities--much like these recent months have been. Caring for my patients and their parents, going to the farewell potluck, touched deeply by the 'flower child' plates & napkins! The bouquets of fresh flowers, delicious vegetarian dishes, & thoughtful desserts. Gratefully receiving little gifts, cards, and hugs from those nurses and doctors who reached out personally (and who will always be fondly remembered for their kindness and TLC, while I was on the verge of tears--sometimes unable to hold them back) much to my ongoing surprise. 

I doubt that such sudden, unexpected emotion would have surfaced--laced with such sadness--if I felt certain that I'd be returning part time, as so many retirees have done. In fact 'the old me' would have prepared extensively for this day. Would have written farewell notes for my coworkers, and obtained phone numbers and promises of staying in touch. But current circumstances make it impossible to know what the future holds from week to week in a county hospital that relies upon funding at a time when it is scarce. Yet, none of that is the 'real' reason for being taken by surprise so often, yesterday.

Over recent months, along with all the necessary meetings, forms, office appointments, interviews and decisions, required to accomplish the feat of actual retirement, there has been an unprecidented onslaught of change and loss in my personal life. Plodding through, I have managed to accomplish the necessary tasks but it has taken a toll. Too often, we do not fully face, nor realize, the extent of depletion and stress, caused by our increasingly chaotic attempts to navigate the collision courses that we face in life today. 

Generally, I tend to meet such challenge with full awareness of the content, impact, and toll it takes. It's never easy to do this because--for starters--discomfort is seldom welcome and resistance is usually the first impulse to surface. Difficult as it may be, however, I'm well aware that the more closely we do look behind the scenes, the more we begin to notice. Doing this sheds insight upon our coping mechanisms to help us understand--and hopefully transform--our auto-pilot responses.

The real culprit, for me, was what led up to this day, and how I dealt with--or failed to deal with--everything that's been on my plate. When the time finally arrived to navigate the entire retirement enclave (existing like a high-needs child within the greater territory of 'my life') I had very little energy and few resources left. My brain has been spilling over with it all. Thoughts keep colliding as life is asking me to face too many dead-end roads, all at once.  

Concepts are containers, which 'hold' our thoughts together and keep them from spilling out. What happens to our concepts, when the content that forms them, is emptied out? Quite frankly, my 'concept containers' have been dissolving. Their crucial 'storage function' has been shrinking and melting. A concept creates a 'framework', and safeguards it until it is no longer needed. Then the container is either emptied, discarded or recycled. When the thoughts are removed from such a container it leaves empty space inside. What will that be like as the remaining bits of this clutter are set free? I'm so ready! 

Work is a container too (our profession, our job) and we inhabit it until we don't anymore. If "I" am emptied out of my 'being a nurse' container, it will be an interesting adventure to embrace the new space that becomes available in my life.

This turbulent time has shown me what occurs when we continue to hold a magnifying lens beneath a steady beam of bright light: it starts to burn. Our own Awareness is a powerful force. It shines upon the 'object' of our attention. Light and vision--when brought together will expose much more than we can imagine. Simply put, our shields and coping skills are safeguards against going to fast, or to far, all at once. Such exploration can bring transparency, within the midst of intense involvement. However, it can also reveal more material, than a particular instant might feel capable of handling. Timing is an important consideration. Whenever possible, we need to bite off only what we can chew. At the same time, I'm learning to trust that whatever Life does bring, is exactly what wants to be seen. Everything deserves it's moment to bask in the light of our full and undivided attention.

~ ~ ~ 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Conditions To Flourish - A film & a Question

When my 32 year old son was an infant I decided to 'homeschool' after reading an article in Mothering Magazine. Intuition told me this would provide the most optimal 'conditions to flourish', for us. The adventure enriched our lives immeasurably. 

Teachers became family friends. Nanda, an artist and mentor for the kids, stayed in touch with many of us and she recently brought her camera into the homes, work-world, and activities of grown homeschoolers to document where their lives had led and what they thought in retrospect about their method of education. Her newly released 'must see' film brings brings the viewer into the life of these kids now. As they look back we experience their intimate journey. 

~ Reflections from Former Homeschoolers ~  

Upon viewing Nanda's beautiful documentary, my eyes teared over. I never expected to be so moved by what I thought would be a 'factual, yet personal, review'. This scenic tour of a coastal California town, where these kids grew, with 'education' effortlessly integrated into the fabric of daily activity, springs to life with intimate glimpses of their very real world, then and now. 

This informative film answers many questions (inevitably raised whenever someone finds out that '...you home schooled??'). It shows and tells--not merely with words--but by letting you step inside the actual terrain, yourself. I was nudged back to the time when we first wondered what Santa Cruz might offer our 5 year old. 

My first phone call led us to a beach party at Twin Lakes Lagoon, near the Yacht Harbor, a spot I've always considered to be the 'heart & soul' of Santa Cruz! Enlivened by seaside, surf, and moist sand, we dipped our toes into a life that would become radically different from any sort of 'schooling' I'd ever known. We met others who were seeking the same thing. Talking with moms, while our kids played, we found community together. We planned outings, shared projects, and experimented. 

We explored places and did things that the children liked. This 'type' of homeschooling was 'child led' through paying close attention to the interests and activities making up any given day. "Lessons" existed in the form of whatever was taking place. We went where life beckoned. This meant we got to pay close attention to inner stirrings of passion and possibility. The children realized that their interests would be taken seriously.

Often, what we tend to take for granted, turns out to be an utter miracle when seen as brand new & unique, with an eye to everything it might have to show us. Youth--if allowed to follow their natural inclination--will gravitate toward just such ordinary 'miracles' and if we let them, they will show us how curiosity, genuine interest, and spunky inclusion can teach us everything there is to know. 

Back in those early days when it was just beginning--there was thrill and sustenance at being part of a thriving, supportive movement where anything might happen, and everything did! Dynamic, productive 'resource streams' appeared, spanning an array of curriculm options from traditional, alternative, and unschooled (a term for no structure or curriculum at all). 

Our own house had a revolving open door where kids, parents, and teachers came and went at all hours. It was a time of vital immersion in a world of libraries, field trips, and daily life. Eventually, a rapidly growing 'homeschool resource center' was formed, complete with classroom space, an outdoor amphitheater and endless grounds of field and forest, drawing families by the dozens, multiplying rapidly over the years that would follow.

As I look back upon this idyllic era of groundbreaking community energy, it's clear that Santa Cruz was an explosive mecca--one among many--where families sought a new approach. Homeschooling blossomed like plants: a few families here and there, at first, until huge grass-roots 'gardens' (learning collectives) developed. We entered into a 'brief window' of freedom, potential, and natural unfoldment whose expression, continued to morph and grow. 

Now 'homeschool' programs exist in public schools everywhere. "School Re-formed" is a professional blog, which probes the roles of schooling, teaching, and education in refreshing ways. Nanda posted a guest entry there, Leadership Begins at Home, where she shares what she discovered through her adventure of documenting the span of this Grand Experiment.

Looking back, now, at the vast degree of networking and connection, I recall the sense of spacious potential, which characterized our moments. Time, itself, has come to feel more compact and move much faster--as if less options exist. We were extremely engaged in unceasing activity, and yet there was a lightness then; where there's often an impression of density now.

Is there an actual shift in the ongoing structure of the Universe itself? Was it youth, and the malleable environment? Was there more permission for passion to fuel a 'creative force' within such productive, dynamic experimentation? Did being part of that Stream of Aliveness confer an ease of flow and participation? Or did it merely feel like it was spacious because The Dance itself was effortless, born of purpose and impulse? Infused with some essential interior design? Do such 'junctures of opportunity' simply come and go on their own timetable? Or is there an essence to such a dance, that exists in potential everywhere, at all times?

Reading Nanda's blog and watching the trailer of her powerful film, once again, these observations, insights and questions arise, contrasting paradigms of different natures and times. As we age and "life winds down", we expect it will get easier to experience the 'space between things'. We presume there will be less pressure at the fast pace of a world racing onward since the Golden Years are 'suppposed' to make less demands upon the time and energy of a 'wise elder', and historically, less obligation.

But as I look around there are grown children moving back into their parents home, within the 'workplace world' of a faltering societal paradigm, without the steady evolution of security, or 'the givens' we had envisioned. The whole order of expectation has been turned topsy-turvy. The 'fruits of our labor' no longer yield the projected expansion at this time of Broken Promise. Grandchildren are being cared for within 'extended family' settings once again. Companies on a wide scale now reject--or eject--the seasoned workers (who thought they could take their 'golden years' for granted) with little or no compensation. And the mantle of responsibility is being passed along to an eager 'youth-force' with ready, capable, open hands--and yet--with college degrees that fail to yield the positions they are trained and qualified to assume.

This sort of dissonance is widespread, affecting the depth and timber of human experience. We see reactions ranging from a restless, distressed heartmind, to rampant ennui of body and spirit, while the very fabric of our societal and personal paradigms are shifting at a pace far too fast for us to comprehend. It seems we are facing new territory, as a species and a planet. So when I think about the title of Nanda's film, and ponder what it means for us right now, it makes me wonder: What ARE the necessary CONDITIONS TO FLOURISH as we face an uncertain future? In our exuberant innocence at the inception of 'The Homeschooling Project'--we could not have imagined, nor foreseen, such changes.

As these young adults step forth, now, to take the helm, what resources might they bring to the table? Will they summon unknown forces that could surprise themselves and meet the dilemmas of the world they inherit? I have always assumed that this would be the case. Having lived life as a Homeschooling mom, there are things, which did change me--ways I've come to view life differently. For example, I may not have answers, however, I am eager to see what happens next...

* illustration credit: http://www.dublin.k12.ca.us/domain/35

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Empty Nest

Now, it all comes back--that first instant after we returned home. Our house had never known the sort of quiet, which awaited us once we stepped inside, after our son  moved out. We had carried his boxes of stuff from the car, settled him into his dorm room, met his roomate, and were immediately dismissed, as he eagerly waved goodbye, ready to embark upon his new life: AWAY from home--and us! I have 2 friends, facing the 'empty nest' as their sons are leaving home right now. Wanting to reach out to them, I wrote these words...

". . . Mostly I'm imagining the moment when you both got back and walked into the empty house. And How it will grab you--over and over, when you least expect it. And I want to take your coats & make you both a big salad and a glass of wine and and hear all about your adventures and laugh hard at the stories you tell, and cry at the moments of parting, and of parenting--light or heavy--but all part of a much bigger package that has been SO VERY WORTH-WHILE..."
  ~ ~ ~

While we delve through details and enjoy the memories, it activates a deeper vortex. As this passage rekindles each transition of love and loss we've ever faced; we recognize the 2 sided coin that it is. There is more to be faced in that first empty hole we stare into, than merely missing our son or daughter.  Our hearts break open to the entire realm of joy and grief within the precious impermanence of it all. 

We celebrate the steps our kids take, into the life that is ONLY theirs. We appreciate their excitement along with the underbelly of risk and uncertainty we know they also face.  

We take comfort in knowing that our kids embark upon a path, which will intersect with ours forever--even though we would not say this out loud quite yet! As moms & dads who cherished those demanding, intoxicating childhood years together, our aching hearts are soothed by the promise of a well-deserved, brand new relationship with the individuals--whom we will discover them to be--as they grow and mature. We know this BECAUSE we know that Life gave them the best  nourishment and support, possible, through the 'trial and error journey' of their unfoldment, within the custody of OUR constant care.

So we smile and text them and say "have a good life!" And after we've sent the text, with tears in our eyes, there is lightness in our heart because we know that we will always be a significant part of their world. So we pat ourselves on the back because we know we 'did good' !!!!!

And as we let this in--we also know that they know this, too--and somehow that is enough . . ."

~   For Lori & Brad. For Deb and Curt. For each mom & dad embracing an Empty Nest   ~