Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reverb6 Ease

6. Ease

What can you do to add ease to 2012?


Speak directly, answer the question that is asked and deal with concerns as they happen and not procrastinate or obfuscate. It will make my life much simpler.


Think of how I can help someone else, what I can add to life, what do others in my life need, when I come home what needs doing, could be as simple as vacuuming or cutting the grass, especially rather than reaching for my MacBook Air or my iPhone and getting buried in blogs and feeds.

Letting go

I don’t need to be part of every conversation or read every post on the web.

Self care

Accept that I will make mistakes and rather than berating myself, think of another way for next time. For instance, at my college we were interviewing candidates for a fellowship. The criterion was to ask the same questions of each for fairness’s sake. The question I had was about service beyond self. Instead of considering the candidate, an infantryman who’d served his country for half a dozen years, I read from the script and made it sound like I was blind, not paying attention, or tone deaf. Upon further review, I might have said, tell us more or tell us some stories about your experience and what they mean to you or what you learned, rather than just repeating the generic question verbatim. (Take the wisdom from the situation and accept the humorous side.)

Smile more.

Reverb 5 Reading

5. Reading
What has been your favorite book (or books if you can’t pick just one) that you’ve read this year?

I haven’t read many books this year. I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read, for example Brene Brown’s wise and generous The Gifts of Imperfection; Michele Norris’s The Grace of Silence, which documents not only racial history in America but the author’s coming to know family secrets; Jessica Kristie’s Dreaming in Darkness, rich with stories of survival after heartbreak and insights into the author’s own writing process; and Elaine Schuh’s The Traz, delightful and improbable romp of a young brainiac who joins a biker gang.

One that especially made an impression is Present Value by Sabin Willet. It’s a book about value, the monetary kind and in life. It was timely to read around the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, which are mentioned in the book, and then a company and a family implode. There’s elements of uncertainty, the characters are drawn sympathetically, even the wife who is addicted to her Blackberry who then finds herself fallen on the concrete on an icy January day. Maybe I connected with this story because it takes place in my part of the world, I identified with parents being disconnected from their children, the flashbacks to college and the idiosyncratic economics lecturer, and the timeframe of the story paralleled an unsettling time for me. I don’t know if it is my favorite reading from this year but one that haunts me at the moment.

Reverb11 #4 Beauty

4. Beauty
How have your standards of beauty shifted in the past year?

This question prompts me to ask, what is beauty?

What compels me to say “Beautiful?” What stops me in my tracks? What is different from what I usually see in the world?

Is it only the ugly, as it says in the Tao te Ching, or like Thelonious Monk’s Ugly Beauty?

I usually find beauty in color, colors of nature, pigment, textiles, design. And beauty in simplicity.

If my standards, if I have any, have changed, maybe it is a greater acceptance, a willingness to find beauty where I have not before. In an abandoned lot watched over by the same blue sky. In the ordinary, uniform dress of women and girls. In this moment, dissolved into a sequence of other moments.

And in another moment, maybe accepting impermanence, what is beautiful is subject to change and will emerge again, somehow.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Reverb11: Year In Review

High points

Getting a new job after a long unemployment (nine months or so.) Things just seemed to fall into place around it. I felt welcomed by the staff. Drawn to the place and its beautiful neighborhood. Even the day I went for my interview, in front of me was a cement mixer with the word on it "advance." I took it as a sign. Many people helped and encouraged me throughout the job process, and I think of Carol. When I told her that I'd majored in religion in college she said it was because I liked to find connections between people and things and ideas, and that's as good an explanation as any I could give. Calling her on the day I went to the interview was a confidence builder as well. And when she said "I put things off for tomorrow because I didn't believe in today," I kept that with me.

And connection with so many wonderful people online, particularly through Twitter, more than I can count, has been especially gratifying. Especially Belle and her We Love Gratitude which encouraged my daily awareness and acknowledgement of what's good in my life. And also Christa and Amanda who both invited me to post short writings on their sites, Christa's question being how we might spend a day together and Amanda's a group of seven relating a favorite childhood memory. And Jessica asked me to review her book of poetry, and her work still delights me.

Low points

In February, the roof nearly fell in and we were evicted from our house. A lot of daily disruption and uncertainty, and accepting what I can't fix or control has, if not helped, certainly kept me from making things worse. And there is completion in sight.

And at times I've struggled with depression. Negative self talk. It's better today, because I'm refocused on what worked for me before. It's practice. Being grateful, staying present, paying attention, keeping active and focusing. And I have so many people to help me do that and I need to stay connected with each one.

The year as a whole

It would be great to say the path is linear. Maybe it's more like a sine curve. At times I've really felt held by something greater, and at other times this nagging anxiety like a boy who never has his homework finished. Maybe it's better when I don't take it so seriously. It's been a hard year and a great year.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reverb11: Writing

From the Reverb11 event:

What is my favorite piece of writing from 2011?

This one, about another man's story. This one was hard to write, due to my feelings of inadequacy. So I took time and listened to the story several times and remembered details and nuances. I tend to remember the arrow or the direction of the story or the argument but am not too mindful of the particulars. Taking time to acknowledge these gave this writing balance.

On the other hand, it's typical of me because I stop short, lacking endurance.

If I had a second choice, this would be the one. It reflects taking a new direction in life and opening my mind even in a commonplace repetitive activity such as driving. At the same time, there's the usual allusiveness, which may be a copout, pointing to someone else's work rather than writing what I mean.

I can look back on some things I've written and say there was something alive in me and maybe something will be alive in me again.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Reverb11: One Word

I appreciate Carolyn bringing this Reverb11 writing project to my attention via A Beautiful Ripple Effect.

Word for 2011

Gratitude. This word encapsulates 2011 for me because it is gratitude that has kept me going. Grateful for each day. Grateful for my family. Grateful for a community of friends online who supported me through difficult times, through their example and providing the messages (of gratitude, of action, of beauty) that I needed to read and hear and practice.There are more than I can possibly name or thank.

I got a new job in the beginning of the summer, running the libraries at a small college. I approached it with so much excitement and then encountered frustrations along the way. At one point it was clear I stopped doing what had been working, yoga, meditation, staying connected to people in my life, and daily gratitude, particularly in the form of a gratitude list. Since I've recommitted to these practices, I feel more focused, life weighs less heavily upon me. Frustrations will come and maybe I can put them in context. The bigger picture is wider, more expansive and more fantastic than I can ever comprehend, and the smaller picture is a lot better than one year ago. And all God gives me is the one day. Breathing, staying grateful and remaining connected to that energy and power, as a fellow traveler says, "which is our common denominator."

Word for 2012

I'm glad to have come across this project, thinking of goals which is unusual for me, especially at the end of the year. What is the word I'd like to say? Joy. Joy in appreciating right now people and opportunities in my life. Joy in taking action and writing every day and not apologizing for it. I'm thinking of joy as a step beyond gratitude, not leaving it behind, but rather than just "grateful that I escaped that shipwreck." Joy with gratitude. A cumulative process of right now, a continuum.