Getting By With a Little Help From My Friends

If you suffered through my sorry apology post, you may recall that #4 of the “43 Eternal Truths” is: “We are all already dying and we are going to be dead for a long time.”  If I had been considering abandoning ship on this project before I got to that one, well, there’s no “considering” about it anymore.  I mean, yes, I will write about depression and other difficult things, and I am not, in general, a naturally happy person, but for God’s SAKE. 

The thing is, though, I have this friend…

Continue reading “Getting By With a Little Help From My Friends”

This is It? Yes and No.

The thought of writing about this topic, #1 of the “43 Eternal Truths,” has been plaguing me since I decided to do it.  No inspiration.  No insight.  Just confusion, that dull, awful feeling when the gears in your brain keep getting stuck at the same place, over and over.  The dilemma was this:  I feel that I should agree with the statement, “This is it!” because what it seems to be saying are things like, “This is your life!  Be here now!  Moments are all we have!”  And that’s fine.  That’s good.  I get it. 

But in my heart, I don’t actually agree that this is IT, that this is all we get or have.  And I don’t agree with the message that you shouldn’t hold onto things, or project into the future, or care too much about outcomes, or that living in the present is the ultimate goal. 

I am a big advocate of mindfulness, of presence, of paying attention. 

However, wrestling with these three little words–this is it–has made me realize that I am also an advocate of allowing ourselves to live in the past, present, future, or our own imaginations, to project whatever desires we want onto our lives, to be strongly attached to whatever really, really matters to us, to care as much as we possibly can about whatever we want, knowing of course that none of this guarantees anything.  Anything, that is, except a life of deep passion and commitment, self-permission and the chance to let your longing and desire become visible enough, powerful enough, that you cannot help but follow it.

Continue reading “This is It? Yes and No.”

New Project #1: “This is It!”

There are one or two new projects in the works here at From the Heart and I’m excited to share the first one with you!  Some time ago, a friend shared with me something called “An Eschatological Laundry List: A Partial Register of the 927 (or was it 928?) Eternal Truths.”  This is a list created by author and psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp, and is printed as an epilogue in his book, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.  Shortly afterwards, my husband taped a copy of this list, which has 43 items, onto our refrigerator.

I ignored it, partly because I did not know what “eschatological” meant, partly because it’s in tiny little print, and partly because one or two Eternal Truths feel like enough for me, let alone 43 of them.  Then I started to see the list in various places on the web.  The items on it are things like, “Love is not enough, but it sure helps,” and “We may have only ourselves, and one another.  That may not be much, but that’s all there is,” and “How strange, that so often, it all seems worth it.”   

But I noticed that no one really talked about the list when they posted it in different places, they just put it out there like, “Hey, isn’t this cool?”  And seeing it stuck on my refrigerator between the Champaign-Danville Overhead Doors magnet and an orange Post-It note warning from Gabe that says, “No bad dinos in the house,” made me wonder, what is one supposed to do with something like this list?  It seems cool and enlightened, but what does it actually mean?  How does it help you live your life better?  Are these Eternal Truths really true?

In my research on Sheldon Kopp and his laundry list, I’ve learned two useful things so far: 1) “eschatological” means “concerned with the ultimate or final things, such as death, the destiny of humanity, the future state, etc.”  2) Sheldon Kopp seems to have had a sense of humor.  Here is how he described the list: “The subject of this particular letter was the foolishness of our professional pontificating….This was to be a zany private spoof, a way of tenderly making fun of myself.  Instead, what emerged was a fragment of a cosmic joke, a visionary list of the truths which, at best, shape my life, provide answers to unasked questions, and give insights too powerfully simple to be grasped finally and forever.”

I love this attitude.  It is very un-list like, in fact, because lists typically do not show you the connections between things; lists contain discrete, potentially unrelated items, and don’t lend themselves to deeper understanding.  I love the playfulness of combining a word like “eschatological,” so weighty and doomsday-sounding, with the words “laundry list,” so mundane, everyday-ish, and non-threatening. 

All this is to say that this has inspired me to take these 43 Eternal Truths one by one and see what they have to tell us.  So our poetic Lenten journey of 40 Days in the Wilderness will continue on with an exploration of these 43 Eternal Truths (incorporating poetry whenever possible, of course!).  The first ET is simply, “This is it!”  On the surface this sounds like a call for presence in the here and now, which is good and important.  But it’s not that simple; from a Christian perspective, for example, “this” is not really “it.”  One’s perspective on how one lives their life now is profoundly shaped by how one understands, relates to, believes in the idea of everlasting life. 

It feels a little scary to me to go down this road, but I’m going to give it a try.  I hope you’ll be here too, and I hope you’ll write in with your thoughts along the way because I know they’ll be fabulous.  So stay tuned because coming up next is: “Is this IT?”

What do you think?

What I Really Meant to Say About Leisure Time

Something has been bugging me about my “leisure time” post for the last few days, but I didn’t want to admit to myself what it was.  Today I did.  Even though it was a perfectly fine post, it did something that I would like to stop doing:  it took the easy way out.  I complained about something (again, perfectly fine, because saying that working women have 30-40 hours of leisure time per week is ridiculous), but I didn’t take my thinking to the next level.  I didn’t offer anything new in place of what I was criticizing.  This is kind of lame. 

Anyone can criticize, and some things deserve to be criticized (did I mention that saying that working women have 30-40 hours of leisure time per week is ridiculous?).  But writers worth reading don’t stop there.  They think, and imagine, and envision new ways to see what is ordinary and commonplace.  There is so much stuff to read out there, and I made this commitment to myself and to people whom I asked to read my blog that I would try my best to be a writer worth reading.  I learn more about how to do that every single day. 

Continue reading “What I Really Meant to Say About Leisure Time”

You Can Learn A Lot About a Person By How They…

 Maya Angelou has said: “I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”  To these words of complete truth, I’m going to add that you can learn some important life lessons by watching how people behave in a Butterfly House.

We visited a Butterfly Conservatory on our vacation to Niagara Falls last week, and I wrote about it in an earlier post.  I love them.  If I could live in one, I would.  They’re one of the only places where I feel completely calm, except for the reptiles.  Those would have to go.    
Continue reading “You Can Learn A Lot About a Person By How They…”

Motherhood: The “Thankless Job Filled with Fail” Version

One of the funniest websites for all things parenting and pregnancy related is Let’s Panic! by the fabulous writers Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy.  I wish I had created it, because it’s like they open their mouths and everyone’s voices come out, except 100 times funnier.  Here are some of their tips on “Alternatives to Yelling:”

  • Tamp your anger down, down, farther down, as deeply as you can, until you are wild-eyed and tense as a jungle cat.  But at least you’re not taking it out on your child!  Oops: you have cancer now.
  • Instead of making noise at your child, express yourself through art.  Try a collage made with your child’s photograph and large streaks of thick oil paint and maybe some animal teeth or feathers.  So cathartic!
  • Communicate your feelings via your child’s teddy bear. You can’t punch your child, but you can punch Mr. Fuzzy.  Just punch and punch and punch some more.  Mr. Fuzzy can take it.
  • Move out. Make sure to leave him or her some beef jerky and spare lightbulbs.  No need to be cruel. (source=Let’s Panic!)  Continue reading “Motherhood: The “Thankless Job Filled with Fail” Version”
  • “It Was Like This: You Were Happy”*

    If I had thought last week that I would be writing about rainbows and butterflies, I would have felt immediately compelled to dress in black, light up a smoke, and drink JD straight out of the bottle.  That’s my delusional edgy writer persona talking and it says things like, “What is this, the Hello Kitty Blog?  The Snow White Blog?  Are you going to be posting pictures of yourself with tiny birds perched on your finger and furry woodland animals gathered around your feet next?”  And then my you-can-be-a-normal-person-and-a-writer-at-the-same-time-voice says, “HEY!  If rainbows are good enough for Maya Angelou, they are MORE THAN good enough for you!  So GET ON with it!”

    Continue reading ““It Was Like This: You Were Happy”*”

    The Curse of the Garden Tour

    Because I have had about enough of myself being a big whiner about this upcoming family trip to Niagara Falls, I made a conscious effort to focus on the positive today.  I appreciated the sunshine, I looked around the yard, I noticed the green tulip leaves coming up in the yard, and I was delighted to see some tiny yellow crocuses popping up around the linden tree.  “Photo opp!”  I thought.  “A happy, positive thinking photo opp!  How nice!”  So I grabbed my camera, knelt down on the grass to get closer to the crocuses, and here is what I saw: 

    Spring Still Life: Crocus with Trash

    In case you can’t quite see it, it’s a crocus with a Sour Wild Strawberry Jolly Rancher wrapper lying next to it.  And this is exactly what I hate about gardening: it lures you into believing that it offers a lovely, cyclical way of being in your life–the renewal of spring, the return of lifeblood to the earth, the time when your senses awaken, blah, blah, blah–but then it exposes itself for what it really is: the fruitless quest for perfection.  You might catch sight of something beautiful, but the residue of your past indiscretions, failures, and general sloppiness will still be clinging to it. 

    Continue reading “The Curse of the Garden Tour”

    Why Balance is an Unhelpful Ideal (Unless You Are a Gymnast or a Tightrope Walker)

    Whenever I see a flyer for a workshop or talk on “Work/Life Balance,” I get a very bad feeling in my chest and my head starts to hurt.  Unless there will be someone at the workshop with a clipboard and a sign-up sheet for volunteers to come over and dust my floorboards, cook dinner for my family, buy the batteries at Walgreens that I keep forgetting, or clean out the box of stuff from when I moved my office last December, I can’t think of a single good reason to attend.  
    My bottom line belief on work/life balance is this–it’s a hoax, and a dangerous one at that.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Here’s David Whyte in his most recent book, The Three Marriages: Reexamining Work, Self and Relationship: “People find it hard to balance work with family, family with self, because it might not be a question of balance.  Some other dynamic is in play, something to do with a very human attempt at happiness that does not quantify different parts of life and then set them against one another.  We are collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way.” 

    Continue reading “Why Balance is an Unhelpful Ideal (Unless You Are a Gymnast or a Tightrope Walker)”

    A Case for Running Backwards

    There was a lady in our old neighborhood who used to walk up and down the sidewalks backwards.  Sometimes she carried what appeared to be two gallon jugs of drinking water, one in each hand.  She was very thin, made all her own clothes, and had a very complex relationship with her health.  She was extremely concerned about air quality, for example, and yet was married to a man who smoked so much that not only his teeth but both of his hands were yellow from nicotine.  I hated seeing her, not because she was so odd, but because I recognized her as a fellow neurotic.  Even on days when I was feeling completely normal, catching a glimpse of her lurching down the sidewalk was like a magnet for all of my wacko health fears.  They would just come shrieking to the surface like little monstery kids who jump up and down and yell “BLAAHHH!” right in your face.

    Continue reading “A Case for Running Backwards”

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