Radical Amazement

Mary Oliver once wrote that when death comes, she wants to be able to say that all her life she was a bride married to amazement. I think she always knew that she had it in her to do amazing, incredible things with her life, and so she went ahead and did them, through poetry and teaching and observing life and nature. For me, she embodies a life well lived, a beautiful marriage of giving oneself to the world and at the same time, making sure she always had enough time for herself, for solitude and contemplation. She has had the great fortune of a grace-filled life. She can rest in the knowledge that through her efforts, she has touched and inspired millions of people across the world. In my own humble way, I would love to be able to say, at the end of my life, that I too have been a bride married to amazement. That I too did something artistic and wonderful and giving which made a difference to others’ lives. That people grew for having known me, that they found a creative part of themselves which they hadn’t quite been able to access before. That knowing me inspired them in some way, and made their lives richer than it would have otherwise been. I don’t think this is purely an ego-desire on my part, but rather a sincere desire to share my gifts, to fulfill the purpose I was born to fulfill. I am beginning to see, starting to know why I am here, and what it is that I wish to do with my remaining time.

We are more magnificent than we can imagine.

It is not difficult to waste one’s life on trivialities and petty dramas. People do it all the time. We humans are masters of making mountains out of molehills, and conversely, denying and covering up our actual pain and suffering so that we don’t have to deal with them. We are all grappling with being in these human forms, and the difficulties of embodiment on earth at this time. We are all aware of the consequences of this life: addictions, violence, separation, depression, suicide, dissolution, despair, desperation. What can we do, how can we deal with our anxieties and fears?

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Everybody has a story to tell here. The biggest favor we can do for each other is to listen to another tell their story. Not with judgment or condemnation, but simply for the fact that they will heal by telling it, eventually. Many of us love to read stories, whether fiction or factual matters not. We love certain characters in a novel, play or movie because he seems all too familiar, because we see ourselves in her. My story is a little bit yours too. Okay, now I don’t feel quite so alone out here on the high seas of life. Your story has given me a lifeline, something I can hold onto, a way to help me get back to shore. When I am feeling low and alone, and like no one else in the universe cares or remembers that I exist, when eating alone the tenth night in a row is making me feel completely miserable, or when the demons come in the middle of night and attack me with their punishing thoughts, what can I do? Give in, lay down in a puddle on the floor and want to end it all? No. I will not give into fear and thoughts of hopelessness. Somehow I must find strength within myself to climb out of the hole, to hold on until the morning, to find hope that I will again one day be cooking for two or twenty. Because I am not only doing this work for myself, but for every other lonely and afraid human out there also. My struggle, my battle with the darkness of my soul is everyone’s battle. The single most important work that any of us can do now, is to embrace the love and light within ourselves, while acknowledging the darkness and pain there too, and work to find all the ways, big and small, to shine it upon the world. Every single day.

By now, I am way beyond self-help books and pep talks (even though I sometimes still read and listen to them.) Life is about more than that, and is much, much more complex. Good advice is all well and good, but the times are calling for something far deeper and greater. Our world needs compassion like never before. It can be the smallest gesture, a smile or a friendly greeting to another human as we walk down the street. It can also be simply noticing others, from people to the birds in the tree above your head. Every gesture counts. Every thought also.

When I learn how to truly love what is in my own heart, it will automatically free me to love everyone and everything else which appears to be outside of me. The illusion is that there is any separation. I love you.

<p style="font-size:15px" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">[Note: This post comes from an older blog I had on WordPress, called <em>Clearskies, Bluewater. </em> I wrote the original post in January of 2014. In upcoming posts, I will be sharing some of the best writing from that blog with readers of <strong><em>interrelatedplanet.org.</em></strong> Thanks for reading and sharing.][Note: This post comes from an older blog I had on WordPress, called Clearskies, Bluewater. I wrote the original post in January of 2014. In upcoming posts, I will be sharing some of the best writing from that blog with readers of interrelatedplanet.org. Thanks for reading and sharing.]

Peace, hope & trust for 2021

Happy holidays, Dear Readers! This post has been a long time coming, my apologies for that. The past four months have been—let’s just say A LOT—and I have struggled with writing on this blog.

Now comes the end of 2020, a year in which so much changed for humanity and our beloved planet. No matter where you were on Earth this year, most likely you felt the changes in myriad ways. We were changed from subatomic to cosmic levels—literally the atmosphere, the air we breathe, the way we live our lives, and the way we see one another all shifted during 2020.

Those we have lost this year have left Earth, but they live on through our memories.

This year we collectively became aware of the presence of death in a whole other dimension than previously. Never before in living history were so many humans taken from their lives on Earth at once as this year. The Covid-19 virus has taken over 1 million, 642,000 people from the Earth this year. Depending on who you talk to, which news outlets and social media sites you read, and what your personal belief system is, this information will affect you in various ways. Regardless, I think we can still agree that an enormous number of souls left the planet, and the sheer number of deaths is a force that humanity has been reckoning with in ways large and small this year.

Along with the natural grief and sorrow that death brings, I believe that having to face so much death this year has forced us to grow up somewhat about this subject, especially in western countries. I live in the United States, which has by far experienced the most infections and deaths from the virus. It seems that death has been a weird, taboo subject for Americans. We don’t like to talk or think about it, and in fact many people spend most of their lives doing everything possible to deny and avoid the subject altogether. Which is really quite strange, considering that it is surely going to happen to every single one of us at some point in our lives. Why then, is there such terrific fear around such a natural process? Everyone is born, lives for a limited amount of time, and then dies. Is it really such a frightening experience? We humans experience death all the time. We squash bugs, run over squirrels, cut down trees, and eat many millions of slaughtered and processed animals every single day. Others hunt for their own food, or raise and slaughter their own poultry, hogs, cattle and sheep. This has been humanity’s way of living for untold thousands of years. Most people don’t even think twice about killing another life in order to further their own. Death is present all the time in the world. Why then, is it so uncomfortable for us to face our own, or that of those we love?

Perhaps you have experienced death during 2020, of someone close to you or someone you knew slightly. Or you read and heard many stories of people who died this year. Some stories were tragic, others were poignant and beautiful. Some died while still quite young, while many who died had lived long lives. Death, like birth, is a uniquely individual experience, and simultaneously a universal one. It is a process, and depending on how it is experienced, can be beautiful and simple, or painful and complicated. Or both. Many of the stories I heard this year mentioned how grateful the narrator was for their beloved and the time they had with those who passed on. The biggest lesson to come out of this year filled with global death, seems to be the lesson of making the most of the time you’ve got while you are alive. Nobody knows exactly how long we’ve got in these physical bodies once we arrive. The absolute best thing we can do with our time on Earth is to make the most of every day. We needn’t do incredible feats to awe the masses (although that’s great too), because I think the whole point of being alive is to appreciate that fact and learn how to love yourself and everyone and everything else.

Dear Readers, I wish you the very best life you can imagine living for the new year of 2021. Appreciate everything, from the moment you awaken in the morning, until you fall asleep at night. See everyone else as your brothers and sisters, both human and non-human. Notice the incredible quality of the sun’s light now as it shines upon us all. Feel reverence for the night sky and all our star families who are helping those of us living on Earth’s surface. Become increasingly aware of the amazing gift we are given to live on this gorgeous planet. Help and love your family, friends, neighbors and those you don’t personally know. We are one family, and have one planet which is our common home. Make the most beautiful life possible for yourself and your beloveds in 2021. Become fearless and love it all.

August Angst

These are very strange days indeed, these brutal August days. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but clearly we are living in extraordinary times across the board. It is safe to say that no one alive on Earth has ever faced what we are now facing on the daily. How do we retain our sanity in the midst of such unprecedented chaos?

As I often do on this blog, I’d like to share a personal story of what’s happening in my own life at this moment. This spring, before the pandemic upended our entire society, I applied and was accepted into a Masters of Teaching graduate program at University of Colorado, Denver. I was scared, excited, and had to work through relentless mindtalk about my ability to accomplish such a massive undertaking. I’m sure that, for some, getting a master’s degree is simply the next item on their life’s to-do list. But not for me. I’ve sort of done my life in a weird reverse order in some ways, therefore working towards higher degrees wasn’t on my radar until mid-life. That’s where I am now.

The fall semester of 2020 started this week. After a very uncertain summer, the university decided that most courses would be held online, either asynchronous or remote, which means we all join a Zoom meeting once a week. I’m sure that many of you are experiencing similar ways of meeting, either as students, for your jobs, or by helping your children with their own online classes. Will this become the new normal for education? Nobody yet knows. We are going into this school year with myriad questions, but not many answers.

Four years ago, I returned to university to finish up my bachelor’s degree that I never completed back in the days of my twenties. For two and a half years, I loved going to classes, studying for exams, reading lots of books and scholarly articles, and writing many papers. I took classes I was interested in and enjoyed. School was great! I was actually sad when it was over. Then I took a year to contemplate what I should do with that degree, what path was next in my life?

https://studentlifethespot.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/10-inspirational-quotes-for-students/larson/

As I looked and reflected deeply within, the idea of becoming a licensed teacher kept coming up, and even as I shrugged it off or tried to ignore it, that invitation would not leave me. I used many arguments against the voice. What about my age? I’m not in my twenties and full of invincibility, I told it. Didn’t matter. What about all the crap that teachers have to put up with in public education? They complain all the time about the low pay, long hours, fights with administrators, and badly behaving students. Didn’t matter, the invitation remained. What about the amount of work it will be to actually do the master’s program? And the internships- I will have to borrow money in order to work for free at a school for two semesters? And the cost of grad school?? Yikes. My mind would spin out into these whining rants over and over.

And yet. Whenever I took a deep breath and remembered my students from the past year of being a literacy tutor, their faces, sweet smiles and stories would calm my mind. Every single time my mind would mess with me, then I’d think of those kids and drop down into my heart space. What I know, deep inside, is that those kids needed me last year. There will be others who will also need me to be with them, helping them to learn, to cope, to grow through their childhoods in good ways. If I give up before I start, I am letting them down. And I cannot, in good conscience, do that to them.

So, here I am, the first week of this crazy semester, trying to figure out how to get my footing as I begin this ascent. How to organize my time with four online classes? Only one has a formal meeting day and time for the 2 hours, 45 minutes of Zoom class (ouch). The others have syllabi, schedules for readings, assignments and due dates, and discussion threads. Without having to leave my apartment to go to campus and meet in person, it’s up to me to figure out how long each day should I devote to each course, to the readings (most of which are done on my laptop), and to taking notes (in a Word doc? In a notebook with a pen?).  Geez… I sort of feel like I’m back to the basics of how to do school. Then, there ‘s TECHNOLOGY.  Oh my goodness, it is more complex than ever!  The more apps and fixes and hacks the techies create (supposedly to help students) the harder and more difficult it seems to become. Oy.

As I struggle through each day of this longest, hottest, strangest summer ever, there are many moments when I either want to complain, give up or break down. At those moments, what seems to help the most is remembering that there are many millions of other people who are going through similar or way harder struggles than me. None of us are immune to the pain and hardship of these days. My heart is breaking for the folks in California, and my own Colorado, who are running from the wildfires during the extreme heat and dry winds of August. We’ve been here before, during the past decade of drought and extreme weather conditions. The global climate catastrophe hasn’t gone away just because the world is engulfed in the 2020 pandemic.

Dear Readers, are you finding good ways to cope with your own lives and challenges? This unusual summer will soon give way to perhaps a beyond unusual autumn. I wish you all strength, courage and loving guidance to be with you, as you traverse your individual paths and we collectively move into the unwritten future. Keep your chin up!