I studied Catholic Theology as an undergrad, thinking this would answer all my questions (and explain my upbringing by a dad who joked about what he’d do if he were Pope!) At midlife, I write in search of understanding rather than answers. I’d rather live in the Mystery than deconstruct it. But I want a foundational, orienting touchstone to return to again and again lest I stray into the inflations of too much spirit or the despair of too much ego, defense mechanisms and brain science. Spiritual health and well-being form that touchstone. TT addresses current social issues from that base. Continue reading
I knew I’d be frustrated and challenged embroidering the Mayr Corbet “The Leafy Tree” kit. I ordered it anyway. And when I saw the printed pattern was only 5″ tall, I knew I should just mail it back. Mary had said: this kit is not for beginners. But I haven’t been a beginning embroider since I was 7 years old when I won a prize for my satin stitch. So I decided to keep it, and traced the pattern at 150%, thinking that would let my glaucoma’d eyes navigate the fine outline.
Then I noticed that while all the other stitchers in the FaceBook group were showing off their handiwork, with their tree trunks nicely outlined, I had not begun. I was only admiring the colors of the thread packets, and fretting about all the stitches I hadn’t ever mastered. I decided my tree would likely look like…something a 7 year old could manage. So I haven’t begun The Leafy Tree. But I sure do admire those colors and the pretty circle shape of the tree pattern.
Meanwhile, the other day I participated in a gathering of other spiritual directors to spend a morning in engagement with Death. We explored our individual, tiny losses as ways to prepare, as the Tibetans do, for our own eventual deaths.
The first exercise had us recalling pleasant things we did the day before. And then, imagining that yesterday was the last time, forever. Sitting with the “never-again-ness” was not easy. I imagined my daily morning routine: sitting with a cup of coffee with milk, in the sunshine across my dining table, the dogs sleeping nearby, the house quiet. I love this routine. “Routine” is not a euphemism for “rut.” Routines can be blessed rituals, expressing a basic trust in the day-to-dailiness of our lives. Having a routine creates orderliness, comfort, and a familiarity with oneself and one’s surroundings that gives continuity to our days. It makes us, us.
This morning, while engaging with my coffee I thought, “there will come a time when I can no longer have coffee with these dogs, in this house.” I noticed a mix of sadness, gratitude and appreciation. I’m looking at The Leafy Tree kit with a bit of sadness, realizing the window of good-enough sight has closed. Trying so hard would not be fun, or rewarding, only frustrating and disappointing. It is OK, I decided, to send it back. It’s OK to find a new routine for my creative outlet this coming winter. It is OK to not yet know what that will be.
Like most of us, I fret about what’s ‘good enough’ far too often, and it costs me confidence and creativity. I can get rigidly addicted to the idea of how my efforts should turn out. Then I fail to give something deep and rich and from my heart and mind. I still can be fearful of giving a talk (even when I was invited by a warm, eager audience!) lest I forget my speech, make a poor word choice, speak too fast, and so on. But I’m getting too old to fear my imperfection! And I’m learning that although we live in intolerant times (both on the Right and the Left), being authentic is essential or I’ll never take any risks.
Last holiday season, I made my Dad a very imperfect tabletop Nativity creche. He had just the people and animals, and the Baby Jesus, but no little barn for them. I had, serendipitously, collected small pieces of tree bark over the summer, and got an idea. I knew I could never do a perfect job, and was making this for a man who built our family home from scratch. Having his spirit but not his skills, I had to give myself permission to enjoy the project. And without the burden of my ego running the project, I really did have a lovely time, hours of it, at my workbench. I hope you enjoy my video! And I hope you give yourself permission to create from your heart.
By happenstance, I’m alone today and tomorrow, Christmas Eve and Day. Last time this happened was half my lifetime ago, when I was just 24 and enduring a rough patch. That holiday was spent in unwelcome solitude, in a Minnesota winter with its usual awful cold. But it was not, in the end, an awful time. Continue reading
Bullies fear those who show the tenderness that also lives in the bully, but in secret. The vulnerable, sensitive child scares the bully and makes him or her uncomfortable, because being around that child reminds the bully of what he hates within himself. He learned to hate any sign of tenderness, of need or hunger for dignity and love. When the bully sees it in another person, she wants to banish that person to prevent being reminded. This is the psychological defense mechanism of projection, and it is unconscious. Continue reading