Category Archives: gratitude

Mimsy thoughts while editing my email address book

One of the things I feel driven to do, at work or at home, is render order from chaos until something deep within me answers “Yes, it is now good.”  This is why I found myself, on a rare day off on the 4th of July, editing the duplicates out of my Gmail address book and adding my Apple contacts into that and eliminating the duplicates.

I love clean data. It allows you to have faith as you charge forth and generate charts for impatient bosses, or do hurried searches for your skin doctor, or look up the phone and address of your little brother who lives in Portland and is about to get married. Perhaps it is this imminent marriage of my 8-years-younger brother Alfredo which has me thinking in a mimsy way while editing my address book.

I love clean data and structure, but I also love the people whose names were flying by under my gaze. As I watched diligently for those names that were to go under the “Business” heading, I could not help but see the names of the people with whom I’d shared part of my life.

Start with those no longer with us, whose names I left in my address book for memory’s sake:

Louise Dale, mother, born in 1946, died in 2006 of cancer. Visionary, empath, kind soul to those who hurt and strive. Funeral included native American drumming and the presentation of an eagle feather to one undeserving daughter, the vicarious, accidental beneficiary of the joys of a life lived full of heart.

Jeanne Marcoux, grandmother, born in 1913, died in 2008 because she didn’t really want to outlive her daughter. Warned us for years that she would check out, and then did so after a nice breakfast in her favorite easy chair. Left me enough money to move my new family out of squalor and buy me an iPad which I stubbornly cling to, because it came from Grandma. Devotee to the digestive systems of all her daughters, granddaughter and grandson. Fudge and quilt maker extraordinaire. She did not understand her daughter’s death at age 60.

As I read and edited, I deleted the names of people whom I’d met a long time ago and, for whatever reason, with whom I had not kindled a friendship. It was with a sigh of regret for each person, though barely remembered. I knew I must have had at least one meaningful connection with them, to have put them in my address book. Like those unread books filling my bookshelves, I had hoped to eventually fill my days with their potential companionship. But now I know – time is limited and life is scant. Delete.

No one was deleted because I hate them now. That is no longer how I operate. Human beings are full of flaws and challenges. There is no room for contempt and no time for blocking out a potential meaningful contact.

Although I have plenty of confusion about the pain and sadness that still follows me, and bitterness does crop up, I am actively saying no to that way of thinking.

Reading through the names, I rekindled a profound sense of gratitude and warmth at some people who aren’t immediate family, but who nonetheless played an important role in my life. Here is a small sampling of a very large list of caring individuals:

The fellow editor from Tulsa who escaped to Florida after being a balm to my hurts as my mother slowly died. “That’s some shit,” she would say after listening. “Come over and I’ll get you drunk.”

The best, and longest-held friend I ever had, who I met when we were both age 4 (we are one month apart in age), who after so many twists and turns of our lives carried us along separate paths, showed up with her baby and husband at my mother’s funeral.

The fellow editor from Washington who I met at a scholarly society meeting, and who inspired me to understand what I needed now that my mother had died.

The cheery woman who greeted me in an online world where I was still a stranger and welcomed me with open arms, helping me understand how Second Life can embrace a lonely person.

The creative and welcoming man who encouraged others to play and create with him in Second Life, and who listened with genuine sympathy to my troubles.

The quirky boss I had at LexisNexus who taught me how to make a website show up higher in Google, and how to explain that to customers and negotiate in any situation.

The sweet young woman who I was friends with in junior college and who almost fell out of our friend’s truck when the door gave way unexpectedly, but without thinking I yanked her back in and shut the door.

A fellow college newspaper editor, a self-described hick who was funny and warm, who stood guard over me in the campus parking lot with a flashlight while I changed my car’s water pump (insisted on dong it myself, too, and he respected that).

The older couple I met at a small Quaker meeting, who did more to settle my heart and draw me into a new spiritual community than all the religious texts and other churches I had visited.

The Jewish friend who, with her lovely husband takes me to New York some Sundays, to visit museums and eat good food, or just to hang at her house and have inspired cheeses and wines and good conversations.

The kind doctor of physics who loves good beer as much as I do, played Dungeons & Dragons, and talks engagingly about science fiction.

Thank you all, and I hope you are part of my life for a long time to come.

 

 

 

 

Quaker meditation – getting focused

Sitting with the Quakers in silent worship one morning, I found a way to settle down into the silence that helped me. It’s like a song with three verses – you can repeat each verse as many times as you like until you reach the right mental state. Chant aloud or silently – it’s up to you. If you try this, I’d love to hear how it worked for you.

breathe in while saying or thinking,

I rest

 

breathe out while saying or thinking,

I give thanks

 

(repeat as many times as needed to give yourself grace for this process)

 

breathe in while saying or thinking,

I give thanks and open

 

breathe out while saying or thinking,

I wait and listen

 

(repeat as many times as needed to begin to clear the mind)

 

breathe in while saying or thinking,

I wait and listen

 

breathe out while saying or thinking,

(silence)

 

(repeat as many times as needed to stay in this listening state)

On expectations and blessings

This morning while sitting in silence with the Quakers, I began to explore the extent and impact of expectations in my life. What are the kinds of events/things/people/relationships we expect in our life? How do they steer our daily existence and our opportunities? Do they give us hope or do they limit our happiness?

We are a goal-oriented society; we all must to some extent have an idea of what we want, or we likely won’t get it. At least this is true for material things like jobs, cars, houses, or fitness. But is this the right frame of mind for experiences like relationships, people, and opportunities?

It seemed to me that the more detailed and complex my vision for my life was, the less space there would be for surprises (otherwise known as blessings) to occur. I explored that for a long time, thinking of each expectation, goal, or plan I had for my present life.

To me, blessings are a stealthy thing. They sneak up on you and wait for you to notice them. They probably won’t impact your life for the better unless you see them and let them in. And if you’re focused on the script for how your life is to play out, maybe you won’t see them at all. I visualized myself at the center, sitting cross-legged on a folded towel on a packed dirt surface. Blessings and love shone toward me from all sides, but between me and them was a round brick wall tightly encircling me. Each brick was actually an expectation of how my life should proceed, as in:

I will work for a marketing department.

My house should be clean.

There should be plenty of food in the fridge which everyone in the family can eat.

I should have friends.

My dog should behave herself.

My car should always work.

My man should treat me well at all times.

I should be a healthier weight.

My hair should not be gray.

Each of the kids should have a nice birthday with a cake I bake myself.

My cat should not puke on the floor or meow too loud.

The kids should always help clean the house.

New Jersey should be nice to me.

I should get over my mom’s death.

And so on – try this exercise yourself and you will begin to see how many you have too! I was amazed. It became clear to me that every expectation I had could obscure a blessing waiting to come to my life. And some of those blessings might actually help me with many of my goals and dreams, but what they required was serenity and trust.

I’m a type A from way back, so this is not an easy task for me. In fact, I immediately began to think of new goals that would help me get more blessings into my life. Aha. More bricks in the wall, not fewer. Okay, breathe, Sylvie.

Lacking in answers, I did a little positive visualization. I imagined myself punching out those bricks one at a time, after visualizing the expectation first. I give up my attachment to a constantly clean house. Kaboom. A little ray of sunshine sneaks in and bathes my shoulder with warmth. Another one – I give up my expectation that my man provide me with attention at every opportunity. Crunch. A little bird flies in through the opening and sings a pretty song to me.

I visualized punching out every brick and walking out into the world to be buffeted by chance and opportunity. I realigned my view of the world – now I was a leaf in a stream, spinning and swirling downstream past rocks and other obstacles, sometimes floating with other leaves and sometimes rushing past. Now it’s a journey and you take the impermanence of it along with the joys. I read that the Buddhists say change is the only constant. Also: If you can accept that inevitability, you can begin to be content.

So have I completely transformed my existence from this exercise? Heck no. That would be too easy. But this gives me some more information and some more questions to work on.

Moved to New Jersey

Here is an update on my new intention to open my heart and learn to live life fully and with gratitude for the dear people in it. Having seized the day (Nov. 1, to be exact), Jim and I drive the moving van, with Subaru in tow and animals loaded, across eight states and more than 1300 miles in 2 days to arrive in New Providence, NJ in the wee hours of Nov. 3.

I had decided to quit my job and say goodbye to my dear friends to move to New Jersey, where I had seen great jobs advertised (for my field of Web Content/Online Editor) and where I had several new friends whom I met on Second Life. I also was volunteering for a discussion group in Second Life about meditation, and they were based in Princeton, NJ, and they had flown me up twice to work with the group on projects. All signs pointed to this area, as if I was sliding down a funnel and would inevitably end up going down the center hole into a bottle.

I am staying with roommates Jennifer and Rel in North Brunswick because Jim’s landlord doesn’t allow pets, but we are looking for a rental house in New Providence and expect to be moving in together in December. He has four kids (2 of which live with him all the time) and they all like me and I like them. I’m glad I am here and I am looking for a job. I’m meeting with a recruiter about doing some contract/consulting work in the Web Content area.

Jim and I both have talked about move to Portland someday. But for now I will enjoy seeing NJ and hanging out with my friends in the area. The NYC area is a 1-hour train ride away! Fun fun!

Jim took me to the New Jersey shore today (Island Beach State Park) and it was wonderful. My dog Sophy was so excited. She did the puppy bark thing for about an hour. After returning home, she crashed hard and has been sleeping it off.

I’ve changed almost everything about my life and I am excited about my future, which is great because it’s been a hard couple of years with Mom’s illness and then Randy’s dad’s illness. I could use some smooth sailing for a bit! Not that it’s going to necessarily happen starting this instant (LOL) but maybe gradually, bit by bit.

Here is a wonderful song by Blues Traveler, called “Fledgling” about a young bird who is being counseled to spread his wings and simply fall. That’s me.

People I am grateful for:

  • Jim, who flew to Tulsa to help me drive a grueling 1300 miles to get me safely to New Jersey, and who treated me like a valued and loved person the whole time.
  • Jennifer and Rel, who trusted me sight unseen and took me in as a roommate, and who helped me lug my stuff into the apartment.
  • Sophy and Meaghan, who as pets put up with many changes in their little environments and routines with good humor and flexible spirits, never losing their basic sweet natures.
  • DeAnna, for her hours of work helping me move boxes into the storage unit.
  • Jessie, for her kind acceptance and gentle spirit.
  • Laura, for her sweetness to Sophy who needed a friend.
  • Jamie, for being adorable.
  • Lynn, for reaching out to me and taking me to a local dog park (my first ever!) by way of welcoming me to New Jersey.
  • Steven, for checking on me every step of the way and helping me feel better about the changes.
  • Valerie, for being a fun and sincere friend who shows her love without reservation.
  • Julie, for sharing her troubles and hopes as I have shared mine, and walking with me.
  • Ceci and Will, for being great friends during the trying times (Ceci: wine-tasting Thursdays and Will: concerts that make me young again) and making me sincerely miss I could “fold the world” and easily give them hugs.
  • Sarah, for writing an amazing going away card and making me proud of my time as Web Content Manager at SEG.
  • So many other people who added to my joy and eased my burdens along the way.