Category Archives: OneWord 2014: Breathe

Exhale

The men kitty corner to me in this restaurant are dissecting women. Loudly proclaiming which pieces they prefer. To use. Don’t they know that this pair of breasts comes with a pair of ears? I can hear. I can feel.

Objectification.
Patriarchy.
Rape culture.
My 13-year-old child is a beauty, looking much older than the innocent child she is.
My worry. Disgust. Fear.

Exhale.

I log in to Facebook, heart sinking to read about yet another victim to the modern scourge. Daffodils sold by the ton, and yet cures stubbornly elude the smartest of us. It’s rare to feel so helpless in this day and age.

Chemotherapy.
Radiation.
Survival odds.
My loved ones are not immune, dealt a brutal hand. Again.
My worry. Disgust. Fear.

Exhale.

She browbeats my husband. Yelling, in front of our children, gesturing her disdain. “Why don’t you teach your kids some manners?” Their almond eyes, simple hearts and developmental profiles are powerless to protect them from this attitude.

Misunderstanding.
Judgment.
Ignorant cruelty.
My special kids work so hard, struggling to find their place in this world.
My worry. Disgust. Fear.

Exhale.

I shadowbox invisible foes,
bouts I cannot win.
I choke on the toxic fumes,
of a world I cannot control.
Until I learn to clear my lungs.
Let it go.
Play my part,
then leave the fight in Divine hands.

Exhale.

So here’s me, on a lovely summer holiday full of fun and adventure and ice cream, learning to spit out the ugly that finds us, even here.

This is my contribution to the Five Minute Friday roundup on the word:
Exhale.

5minutefriday

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I Live In Between

Most of my life is spent in a place of too much and not enough.

Too much to do, and not enough time.
Too much stuff, and not enough space.
Too much eaten, and not enough activity.
Too much spent, and not enough saved.
Too much stress, and not enough rest.

You get the picture. You probably live in this picture too. Most of us internet-trawling, Facebook-posting, smart-phone-clutching, Consumers-and-Users do. We don’t want to. We don’t plan to. We read and write and repost all sorts of things to avoid it. But, it’s the curse of modern life.

I suspect the subsistence-farming, factory-working, drought-surviving, war-enduring, HaveNots-and-MakingDoers are living their own form of too much and not enough. A far grimmer version. Perhaps, it’s the curse of human life.

This morning I gamely wrestled six bags, three children, a dented flute, a half-eaten muffin and a small plastic snailery (hastily fashioned out of an old pop bottle for Mrs Gander’s class) out the front door. We were running late. Again. With even the smallest chance of sunshine, ghostly white people like us must sunscreen before leaving the house. I always forget to account for this extra 5 minutes in my mad dash to all our various schools.

Fortunately we have very good friends who give the highschooler a ride everyday. The elementary schoolers were impatiently buckled into the van, the preschooler was crawling between the seats chasing a bug and I was checking one more time to make sure I had a good copy of my paper for my Creative Non-Fiction class. Even Mom goes to school these days.

As we pulled out, we began our not-so-beloved, but totally neccessary for Mom’s sanity, prayer ritual. Everyone pitches in a couple items, out loud, on the way down the street. And I remember that I actually love these little people and that life, and this day, is bigger than the latest version of yes-you-really-have-to-wear-that (shoe/sock/coat/sunscreen). It’s like a reset, as we face down another day. My favourite was the boy’s prayer:

Ah… God,
School!!!
Ah-mennnnn.

What more needs to be said, really? We arrived at our first stop, flush with success, just as the first bell rang. Of course the snailery was sitting on the porch by the front door. Of course.

Pack it back in, turn around, scoop it up, try again. Even later than ever. Again.

I used to think that this is where life is lived – in the doing: in the tasks accomplished and customers served. The bulk of my life – so  full of too much, so starved by not enough – is not a bad place, not really. I don’t regret it or hate it. I’m not willing to trade it in for another rendition. I’m not looking for a transformation or some fancy new system guarunteed to cure all my woes. Sure, I’ll seek a better balance, but I don’t imagine I’ll ever arrive.

Instead I’m changing my focus. I picked the word “Breathe” as my resolution this year. And it’s a strangely powerful one.

I’m as busy as ever, but that is not how I live. Not anymore. I live in the spaces between too much and not enough.

I live in the slight breeze tickling my face.
I live in the warm press of little bodies beside me at 6 am.
I live in the stretch of my legs on the trampoline during ‘ring-around-the-rosie.’
I live in the laugh shared over a ridiculous inside joke.
I live in the beat of a catchy tune, the blue sky as far as I can see, the smell of rain on the horizon…

I live in these moments that are just right and more than enough. There’s no trick, no equation, no escape needed. Life trickles into the gaps of everyday. It’s a gift. We just have to live it.life

Be still and know that I am God.

Breathe.

So here’s me, the crazy person who thought an intensive May/June writing course (cram 13 weeks of work into 8) would be a great fit for our life. Maybe not, but I’m actually feeling a lot LESS stressed than expected because those technicolour moments of life are powerful. Who knew, I just needed to learn to breathe all these years.


What I’m Into: April 2014

How did May sneak up on me? Not to mention the entirety of this past year. Yet, here I sit with sun beams and computer screen competing for my attention (sunbeams are pulling into the lead… I may never finish this post).

On Friday, for Pro-D day, I packed up all the kids, and a spare, along with juice boxes, pita chips, sushi, a giant umbrella, towels, kites, buckets, shovels and dozen plastic dinosaurs. The first beach day of the year was definitely the highlight of the month!

My One Word this year is “Breathe” as I’m learning to taste and savour life moment by moment. I’m still a novice at this. But, somehow, it’s so much easier in the sunshine.

Here’s a taste of my past month…

Reading

What if you woke up one day and 10 years had passed? One minute you’re happily married, expecting your first child and the next you’ve got three kids and are in the midst of a messy divorce. Although the bump-to-the-head-causing-amnesia plot device is pretty cliché, What Alice Forgot (Moriarty) is engaging enough to live it down. I couldn’t help but wonder what 29-year-old me would think of how my life has actually turned out.

Another fun read by Rainbow Rowell, Attachments is an offbeat romance which unfolds primarily through email. Lincoln, an internet security officer is tasked with reading through all flagged messages on the company server. Instead of reporting the witty banter between two of his coworkers he finds himself enjoying and eventually falling for one of them, who he’s never met.

On a more serious note, I borrowed I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban (Yousafzai) from our 12-year-old neighbour and am currently concocting schemes to get my children to read it. Yes, it is an interesting look at life as a Muslim in Pakistan, but it is the personality of Malala herself that is most compelling. In light of the kidnapping and enslavement of Nigerian schoolgirls recently, the issue of girls education is more pressing than ever.

It’s not all fun reading at our house. The Out of Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder (Kranowitz) is practically required reading for anyone whose child has trouble coping with the demands of daily life and seems a little out of step with the rest (typically developing and special needs kids). Whether it is to rule out or better understand this particular brand of struggle, this book presents a ton of information and many practical suggestions.

I put off reading A Generous Orthodoxy for a long time, because the subtitle is both long and confusing. I’m glad I did, because it is a perfect time for me to read it now. McLaren explores both the strengths and issues embodied by many distinctive groups within Christianity, encouraging us to recognize and embrace the contributions of each one while building a less defensive faith community. Something for everyone to both appreciate and hate. Good stuff.

Watching

Netflix apparently knows me well. They suggested I might like The 100 about a post-apocalyptic earth – both the humans who’ve lived for generations aboard a space station and the group of 100 teenagers they send to earth both to reduce the strain on resources and to ascertain if it is now survivable. What would we sacrifice in the name of survival? At what point is our humanity at risk?

I’ve converted my husband. After season 1 of Veronica Mars he is a believer. If only I could break him of his nasty House of Cards habit. Yuck.

Call me an idealist. Most of the time I like a hero who is unswervingly good. Which is why Captain America is my favourite Avenger despite his terrible costume and cheesy patriotism (after all, I am Canadian). I wasn’t disappointed by Captain America:  The Winter Soldier – definitely the best Marvel movie so far!

Thinking Deep Thoughts

As we’ve found ourselves moving into a new spiritual community I’ve been contemplating the nature of friendship, both building new relationships and maintaining established ones. I am, admittedly, a technophile with my iPhone always close at hand. I feel the draw of easy, efficient, but ultimately superficial social media connections. Ironically, there are several articles and videos making their way around Facebook right now about the drawbacks and dangers of our new virtual communities.

also: Loneliness in the Age of Facebook

They’re not wrong. As I click back to my newsfeed after watching/reading these kind of things I’m filled with guilt and discouragement and worry. Social media certainly has a dark side. It can be too much about too little, a poor substitute for real intimacy, and it can swallow up my actual life.

BUT, it’s only a tool. Built to serve us, not for us to serve it. We can use its power for our good.  I’m reminded of the advice and encouragement I’ve gotten from friends and family when I needed it most, the nephews and nieces whose faces and habits I am familiar with though they live far away, the childhood companions I’ve connected with (both online and in person), the new friends I’ve gotten to know and appreciate though my face-to-face with fellow adults is limited, and the cherished old friends I haven’t lost touch with though we no longer move in the same circles. There are so many things I love about it, that make my life better, when I use it to enhance reality and actual friendship, not to replace it.

Now, to figure out how to do that…

Blogging

I’ve  added another post to my What I Believe series about my changing views on God and the world and our place in it: Embracing a Bigger Gospel

I also posted a short story I wrote which was… wait for it… published in UFV’s literary magazine! Yay! The Stranger (aka – Who Will Remember) is about memory and family and losing both through dementia.stranger

So here’s me, from the sunny West Coast. My sincere condolences to everyone else in the world. While I was splashing in the ocean my family in Calgary was digging themselves out of yet another snowstorm.

Once again, I am linking up with a group of talented bloggers for Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into”
– definitely worth checking out!
what I'm into

 

 


The No-Fail Resolution

I am a woman of many words. Just ask my husband.

Usually this is a good thing, my ability to smooth out the awkward in conversations, to fill the page as a student, and to speak publicly with ease. But it can become a burden. I’m not just a talker you see, I’m a planner and a perfectionist.

New Year is like Mardi Gras for my type. We’re good at it.

We enumerate countless flaws and faults which NEED to be addressed immediately. We craft a lengthy list of high-minded goals and measurable outcomes. We paint a grand and glorious vision of our future (and yours).

In the beginning, this seems so productive, so motivational. In the beginning, it fills me with energy and hope. In the beginning, those words are perfect. And for a few brief moments, so am I.

Until I’m not.

The weight of all the words begins to drag me down. By mid-January my new expectations and obligations stop pointing the way and start pointing their fingers. Enter frustration, self loathing and complete surrender. In the long run, resolutions have done more harm than good for me.

New Year’s resolutions are like heroine for my type: thrilling, addictive and horribly self destructive.

A few years ago I discovered One Word 365. Participants choose a single word to represent the year to come. It is more of a mantra than a goal. A touchstone to focus, guide, and comfort on the journey.

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I still want to do all the things, to learn all the lessons, to make all the changes, to reach all the goals… but I don’t perform better under pressure, I perform worse.

In 2012 I traded my laundry list of resolutions in for the word “Dream” – a word I disliked at the time, but felt compelled to choose. That year I learned to take risks, to embrace creativity and to see hope and blessing when life was overwhelming. So many dreams came true that year, ones I had all but given up on.

2013 was the year of “Today.” I’m not sure I would have survived without this focus. It was the most overwhelming and challenging year of our lives for a number of reasons, which were exacerbated by ongoing lack of sleep. Jesus said that “each day has enough trouble of its own;” in 2013 it also had just enough joy, help and energy to get us through. Barely.

I’ve been praying, talking to friends, and weighing my options this year. “Sleep” seems unreasonably optimistic. “Write” appeals to me, but would undoubtedly become another guilty burden when we downshift into survival mode. Glen thought I meant “Right,” exclaimed he wasn’t surprised and had a good laugh at my expense.

Instead, my One Word 2014 is:

breathe

When I’m overwhelmed, reacting with emotion and outrage and the fearful certainty that this small frustration is the first domino in the complete breakdown of civilization as we know it… Breathe.

When life is happening all around me, precious memories coalescing before my eyes and the treasures of this unique moment hang heavy in the air… Breathe.

When I lock my keys in the car, run out of gas, lose the entire paper I JUST finished writing, publically embarrass myself (because, let’s face it, this stuff ALWAYS happens to me)… Breathe.

When I pray, when I dream, when I speak thoughts into words, when I need to expunge the poison and inhale the good… Breathe.

When I don’t have time for conscious prayer or true meditation, when I am drowning in my many words, when I need a physical reminder of my spiritual goal… Breathe.

So here’s my resolution. Barring death, I can’t possibly fail this year. What’s yours? If you had to pick one word for the entire year, what would it be?


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