Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I found myself yesterday thinking this little gem:

"I wish I didn't schedule so many activities so that I could have more space in my calendar to schedule more activities."

And how, I wonder, does one do that?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Relationship Questions

My homework in the next week:

  • What imbalance do you find in your relationship?
  • What might that imbalance represent symbolically?
  • What can be negotiated to lessen the imbalance?
  • How much do you want to fight for the relationship vs. maintaining the status quo?
  • Who much flexibility can you find in yourself to accommodate a change?
  • What are you doing to keep things imbalanced? (I think of this as - what barriers exist to change?)
  • What ideas or alternatives can you think of to change the imbalance?
And then the big one:
  • What does it take to be emotionally healthy in my marriage?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

35th Year

In my 35th year, the last grandparents' ashes successfully sprinkled in their final resting place, I find myself casting about for how to live.

I suddenly realize life is moving faster than my ability to learn from it or about it, and I can tell that for the rest of my life, I will never catch up. What to do with this expectation that life will someday make sense? That the choices you make will add up to a meaningful whole, resolve into a familiar picture, resonate on some level that means, "I've made it, and this is who I am, what it means, where I will live."

Having been a mother now for 2 years, it still strikes me more often than not as surreal, unbelievable -- sweet, yes, and deeply satisfying, yes. But not as grounding or as self-validating as I had expected somehow.

What does it mean that I love my life but can't feel that it's real on some deep internal level?

Some of it, I feel, is how fast friends spin outward from a center in the past that signaled our closeness. Time spirals people away faster than can be believed or processed. Even intense efforts at reconnection can't keep up with the days racing by or the moments that pile up when you're not watching. Who can watch everything?

I've been reading Greek and Roman philosophers and Carl Jung. Interesting that both seem to be reacting to a deep psychological need to stay on top of a rising tide of change. Marcus Aurelius -- emperor by day -- mad journaler by night, writing volume after volume of wise sayings and reminders to himself to stay calm, to stay grounded, not to let others dictate his mood or imbalance his equilibrium, even as his empire is threatened on multiple fronts, and his own rule must constantly be defended. Jung feels the same threats from his own unconscious, while watching a growing tide of world war rise up around him. Watch your dreams, he says, to understand your mind, to understand what your mind makes of you life and the world. Watch the world, Aurelius says, to understand yourself and your mind.

And inside me, a great silence but growing unease that I don't have a direction to follow that will lead me to the method by which I will know myself or my life or the world.

My laziness exceeds my ambition, so I disappoint myself daily. Self-flagellation is not enough to induce movement or effort.

Eric told me the story of our courtship and joined lives the other day when I expressed my profound feeling of disorientation. And his story grounded me for a while. It's a good one, and true. We do love each other. Our lives are good. Our life is good.

But I think about all the advice I'm not reading about how to live from civilizations long gone, from philosophers now dead, from strong men and women who were able to balance their lives to do extraordinary things, and I wonder -- how much am I wasting when I pretend to "rest"?

I believe writing makes it impossible to hide. Silence = disappearing. Years pass without comment, and they are lost to me. Lessons lost, people forgotten, places unacknowledged. To live is to pay attention, and the ultimate attention is description, documentation, synthesis. Bringing intelligence to perception and resolving it into experience and learning.

Tired of working so hard, I have been coasting so long that my abilities have atrophied. I feel weak, childish, a beginner again.

Better to begin than feel the guilt of delay.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Memorial for Jack & Judy Hart

You were hard --
so rigid you never moved an inch
from each other
fused instead like two trees into one,
trunks locked in a death-grip
that flowered into love
mostly in winter.

Your stubbornness and strength
seeds your legacy.
We remember you unbending --
straight and unwavering
like two sentinels --
stubbornness you could set your watch by --
strength we can chart our course by.

We will labor to understand
how deep your roots must have gone...
how did you weather's life's storms?

We will endeavor to wear love on our sleeves
like you did.
And someday,
more and more each day,
we'll free ourselves of the leaves of judgment
and righteousness
that you never tried to shed.

We remember your love --
strong as ice,
deep as glaciers,
sharp as your wit
and your criticisms
that broke the surface
but never your spirit.

We will remember you --
human --
our tree-trunk grandparents
so fused as to support forever
our family tree.

- Summer 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Working Principles

Ten Principles To Live By In Fiercely Complex Times

BY Tony Schwartz
Wed Jul 13, 2011

If you're like most people I work with in companies, the demands come at you from every angle, all day long, and you have to make difficult decisions without much time to think about them. What enduring principles can you rely on to make choices that reflect openness, integrity and authenticity?

Here are ten that work for me:

1. Always challenge certainty, especially your own. When you think you're undeniably right, ask yourself "What might I be missing here?" If we could truly figure it all out, what else would there be left to do?

2. Excellence is an unrelenting struggle, but it's also the surest route to enduring satisfaction. There's no shortcut to excellence. Getting there requires practicing deliberately, delaying gratification, and forever challenging your current comfort zone.

3. Emotions are contagious, so it pays to know what you're feeling. Think of the best boss you ever had. How did he or she make you feel? That's the way you want to make others feel.

4. When in doubt, ask yourself, "How would I behave here at my best?" We know instinctively what it means to do the right thing, even when we're inclined to do the opposite. If you find it impossible, in a challenging moment, to envision how you'd behave at your best, try imagining how someone you admire would respond.

5. If you do what you love, the money may or may not follow, but you'll love what you do. It's magical thinking to assume you'll be rewarded with riches for following your heart. What it will give you is a richer life. If material riches don't follow, and you decide they're important, there's always time for Plan B.

6. You need less than you think you do. All your life, you've been led to believe that more is better, and that whatever you have isn't enough. It's a prescription for disappointment. Instead ask yourself this: How much of what you already have truly adds value in your life? What could you do without?

7. Accept yourself exactly as you are but never stop trying to learn and grow. One without the other just doesn't cut it. The first, by itself, leads to complacency, the second to self-flagellation. The paradoxical trick is to embrace these opposites, using self-acceptance as an antidote to fear and as a cushion in the face of setbacks.

8. Meaning isn't something you discover, it's something you create, one step at a time. Meaning is derived from finding a way to express your unique skills and passion in the service of something larger than yourself. Figuring out how best to contribute is a lifelong challenge, reborn every day.

9. You can't change what you don't notice and not noticing won't make it go away. Each of us has an infinite capacity for self-deception. To avoid pain, we rationalize, minimize, deny, and go numb. The antidote is the willingness to look at yourself with unsparing honesty, and to hold yourself accountable to the person you want to be.

10. When in doubt, take responsibility. It's called being a true adult.

Reprinted from Harvard Business Review

Formula for Change

Alan Webber, co-founder of Business Week, wrote that change is a math formula.

Change happens when the cost of status quo is greater than the risk of change.

C(SQ) > R(C).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Invitation - Rev. Angela Herrera

This is a prayer of invitation.

An invitation

To you there, with your happiness and your burden,

With your hopes and regrets.

An invitation for you, if you feel good today,

An invitation if you do not,

if you are aching—

there are so many ways to ache.

Whoever you are, however you are,

wherever you are in your journey,

this prayer is an invitation into peace.

Peace in your self,

and peace in your self,

and— with every breath—

peace in your self.

Maybe your soul is heavy.

Maybe it’s troubled,

and peace can take up residence there only in the corner,

only on the edge today,

what with all that is going on in the world,

in your life.

Ni modo. It doesn’t matter.

All that you need lies within you -

All that you need for the deep and comforting peace to grow.

May peace spread from your core into your life,

and may it pour from your life into the world

And in the world, may it shine upon all beings.

May it be so.


Peace be with you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Barbara Ras - Washing the Elephant

Isn’t it always the heart that wants to wash

the elephant, begging the body to do it

with soap and water, a ladder, hands,

in tree shade big enough for the vast savannas

of your sadness, the strangler fig of your guilt,

the cratered full moon’s light fueling

the windy spooling memory of elephant?

What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize

your parents in Heaven,” instead of

“Being one with God will make your mother and father

pointless.” That was back when I was young enough

to love them absolutely though still fear for their place

in Heaven, imagining their souls like sponges full

of something resembling street water after rain.

Still my mother sent me every Saturday to confess,

to wring the sins out of my small baffled soul, and I made up lies

about lying, disobeying, chewing gum in church, to offer them

as carefully as I handed over the knotted handkerchief of coins

to the grocer when my mother sent me for a loaf of Wonder,

Land of Lakes, and two Camels.

If guilt is the damage of childhood, then eros is the fall of adolescence.

Or the fall begins there, and never ends, desire after desire parading

through a lifetime like the Ringling Brothers elephants

made to walk through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel

and down Thirty-fourth Street to the Garden.

So much of our desire like their bulky, shadowy walking

after midnight, exiled from the wild and destined

for a circus with its tawdry gaudiness, its unspoken


It takes more than half a century to figure out who they were,

the few real loves-of-your-life, and how much of the rest—

the mad breaking-heart stickiness—falls away, slowly,

unnoticed, the way you lose your taste for things

like popsicles unthinkingly.

And though dailiness may have no place

for the ones who have etched themselves in the laugh lines

and frown lines on the face that’s harder and harder

to claim as your own, often one love-of-your-life

will appear in a dream, arriving

with the weight and certitude of an elephant,

and it’s always the heart that wants to go out and wash

the huge mysteriousness of what they meant, those memories

that have only memories to feed them, and only you to keep them clean.

If You Forget Me - Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Knowing You're in Trouble

I know I'm in trouble when I don't write in a journal or a blog or random pieces of paper in church.

I know I'm in trouble when I find myself thinking... uh-oh! I should be writing this down.

I know I'm in trouble when I hide even from myself.

I know I'm in trouble when a friend asks, "Do you love him?" and you don't know how to begin to know how to answer that question.

How can I know so little about what love should feel like? I know it's not passion, because passion means self annihilation. I know it's something to do with respect and appreciation and gratefulness that I can be small and vulnerable and loving and he will be there to feel it and be grateful in return.

The truth is, in the absence of family pattern, I don't know much about love. I know it's a verb not a noun, and that I haven't been doing it much lately. As a friend said once, it doesn't help to do jumping jacks to get a blind man's attention. For the same reason, I just haven't been doing much to get my work-addict husband's attention. His love seems to have nothing to do with me or with how connected I feel. He wakes up and loves me, goes to bed and loves me. In between, I don't think I much enter his thoughts.

And me? I just feel ... like I don't rate. I feel thin and tensile and hollow. High-pitched and vibrating before the break comes.

I'm far away and heading farther unless I see that he sees how far I am. And cares.

A pause for a moment while I read this last line to be sure I'm still talking about who I'm talking about. All of this has echoes of childhood, for sure.

I want to feel I have a partner who's working some fair percent as hard as I am. Who sees and feels that far away is a problem. I want to stop doing jumping jacks and hand over the pencil to keep the to-do list.

I want someone with spirit and imagination and engagement with the non-business world. Someone with friends who love him and commitments to those he loves.

For myself, I want to stop keeping a tally of what I do vs. all that he doesn't. I want to love him more than resent him. I want to let go of SOMETHING if it will mean feeling closer and more in love.

Who writes poems about this stuff?

A Tomb Is No Place to Stay - Richard Gilbert

A tomb is no place to stay,
Be it a cave in the Judaean hills
Or the dark cavern of the spirit.

A tomb is no place to stay
When fresh grass rolls away the stone of winter cold
And valiant flowers burst their way to warmth and light.

A tomb is no place to stay
When each morning announces our reprieve,
And we know we are granted yet another day of living.

A tomb is no place to stay
When life laughs a welcome
To hearts that have been away too long.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Autumn - Rainer Maria Rilke

The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
as if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.”

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

We’re all falling. This hand here is falling.
And look at the other one. It’s in them all.

And yet there is Someone, whose hands,
infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.

Translated by Robert Bly

West Wind #2 - Mary Oliver

You are young. So you know everything. You leap
into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me.

Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without

any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.

Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and

your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to

me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent

penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a

dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile

away and still out of sight, the churn of the water

as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the

sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable

pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth

and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls

plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life

toward it.

Biding Time

One of my beloved friends wrote today about biding her time. Seems to have struck a nerve.

After all my waiting for months to find steady employment, I have job I'm truly loving -- challenging, engaging, interesting, detailed, big-picture oriented... it really is quite something.

But after getting tremendous support last month in a Herculean effort to submit a plan for review and approval, the next one in line is now due, needing just as much time and attention, but this time, I seem to be all on my own. Which is why I'm up at 11 pm worrying when typically I'm asleep by 9.

I feel needy and helpless and exasperated, none of which I like very much. But it's where I am, and Idon't see it changing in the next two days, when everything's due.

I'm trying to yoga breathe and focus on the good things or think about other things or do laundry or put together the shopping list.

But tick tock. And what I really want to do is put on a sweater and shoes and go to work and edit the plan that ticks like a time bomb at my desk.