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Mini-Retreat: Day Four

On this final day of our Mini-Retreat, you will be entering into this space with a rough idea of what you think your life is like now and what you want it to be.  I want to applaud you for getting this far, for it’s not easy to put a magnifying glass, so steadfastly, to the details of your life.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.

In fact, before you do anything else, please slide your tiara on.  The day is that special.  If you’re confused, please read Kristin van Ogtrop’s erudite words about the clever appearance of Julia Mancuso’s tiara in the women’s downhill medal ceremony.

Are you back now?  Do you need to go buy a tiara?  I do.

Back to the job at hand.  We’re not quite finished…

A couple of things to remember.  It’s okay to stay in rooms that are unpleasant, as long as you can out-loud admit that you’re there.  It’s okay to split your life up into manageable pieces, for none of us can deal with so much chaos at once.  It’s okay to ask for help.  Just make sure that you pick a friend who is non-judgmental and who will keep things confidential.  Confidentiality will keep you feeling as safe as possible.

If any of these concepts are new to you, it may take days, weeks, years to work through these exercises.  That’s okay, too.  You’re on a journey, and how you go on that journey is more important than the end result (I don’t think we’ll ever feel like we’re at the end, do you?).

If you’re in chaos and confusion now, it means you’re on the brink of something grand.  It won’t, necessarily, feel grand.  That’s okay, too.  Give yourself permission to feel anything you feel.  As long as you’re not taking it out on anyone else.

A couple of resources, for those of you who find encouragement through other’s journeys and experiences…

Order Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life by Karen Maezen Miller (it’s not available until April, but I’ve read it, even blurbed it, and it’s excellent).  A timely reminder of the fact that your life is here…in the daily “now.”  Embrace it.

Order Katrina Kenison’s The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir.  Kenison was an editor of a short story collection for many years, allowing her the freedom to work from home while raising her two young boys.  [Her first memoir was Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry.]  In this new memoir, published last year, she tells the story of how she lost her job…and how she realized that she needed to find her passion, her joy, since she would lose her boys to college and life in general.  Beautifully written and emotionally charged, you’ll find that her story is your story, wherever you’re at, and it will help you make your own baby steps into the wild, gnarly world you want so much to be a part of.

Do one thing today.  Call a friend.  Write an e-mail.  Read a book.  Wherever you find answers, however you best operate, do that…before the weekend.  That way you can mull it over.  Your mind and body can sort things out while you’re involved elsewhere.

Be brave, dear hearts.  We’re all in this together.

Thank you for sharing the past four days with me.  I’m squeezing your hand right now.  Can you feel it?

Ahem.  Lean down a bit.  Your tiara is askew.  There.  Whew.  You’re working it now, let me tell you!

*   *    *

For those of you who want a few more tidbits, to help you on your journey, I offer up a few quotes from Kenison’s book, The Gift of an Ordinary Day.  They touched me.  Perhaps they’ll do the same for you.  [All unattributed quotes are Kenison’s.  You have to buy the book, though.  There are so many more that are excellent and worthy of ear-marking!]

“Moment by moment, we have the opportunity to say yes, to move into our lives and open ourselves to the adventure—but that doesn’t mean that we ever really know where we’re going or that we can predict what we’ll find when we get there.  If we’re lucky, though, the life we end up leading is one that makes us feel alive.”

Sometimes you need to let go of the person you think you are, in order to become the person you are meant to be.  –Unknown

“‘Do you have agendas for your children that are more important than the children themselves?’ asks William Martin in The Parent’s Tao Te Ching.  He continues, ‘Lost in the shuffle of uniforms, practices, games, recitals, and performances can be the creative and joyful soul of your child.  Watch and listen carefully.  Do they have time to daydream?  From their dreams will emerge the practices and activities that will make self-discipline as natural as breathing.’”

“According to yoga teacher and writer Stephen Cope, every human being is born with a unique gift, a gift that, once discovered, is the doorway to a fulfilled life, to our particular path or calling.  Not surprisingly, the gift requires practice, an enormous investment of time and energy and faith.  But what is surprising, according to Cope, is that our gift is often paired with a wound.  In other words, our strength seems to be born of our suffering, growing and flowering out of our limitations.”

“‘We are born not all at once, but by bits,’ wrote Mary Antin after immigrating to America nearly a hundred years ago.  ‘The body first, and the spirit later; and the birth and growth of the spirit, in those who are attentive to their own inner life, are slow and exceedingly painful.  Our mothers are racked with the pains of our physical birth; we ourselves suffer the longer pains of spiritual growth.’”

“Lately, I’ve noticed that when someone asks me how I’m doing, I reply by telling them how busy I’ve been.  When someone inquires after my sons, I talk about what they’re doing—playing basketball, working on a senior research paper, rehearsing for a show—instead of how they are.”

“But now I suspect few of us ever really get that “Aha!” moment, the spark of insight that finally makes perfect sense of our muddled, complicated lives.  It may be that some kind of divine wisdom did lead us here, to this town, this place, this house.  But I think the truth is simpler and plainer than that.  The small choices we make each day, the doors we open and close, determine the lives that we live.”

“‘If you want to be reborn,’ it is written in the Tao Te Ching, ‘let yourself die.’  This is what I’ve been having trouble with, the fact that letting go can feel, at times, like a death.  Someday, I know, I will lose everything.  All the small deaths along the way are practice runs for the big ones, asking us to learn to be present, to grow in faith, to be grateful for what is.  Life is finite and short.  But this new task, figuring out how to let go of so much that has been precious—my children, my youth, my life as I know it—can feel like a bitter foretaste of other losses yet to come.”

“The message is not lost on me: The world is filled with need.  If I am to be of some use, I must first rise to the challenge of my own rebirth and growth, must engage in the gradual, demanding process of discovering the person I am meant to be now and taking up the work I am called to do.

‘Go into yourself, and see how deep the place is from which your life flows,’ the poet Rainer Maria Rilke once instructed as aspiring young writer.  The advice might as easily have been written for a middle-aged woman contemplating her emptying nest.  The work my friends seem compelled to undertake in their forties and fifties is no longer what they think they should do.  It is what they felt, in their deepest souls, that they are meant to do.  What example of their lives suggests, what I desperately want to believe, is that once we have weathered these changes, honored our sorrows and released them, there is also great joy in moving on.”

“Turning back to my desk, I reread the lines by Clarissa Pinkola Estés that I’ve just copied into my spiral-bound notebook.  ‘Anything you do from the soulful self will help lighten the burdens of the world.  Anything.  You have no idea what the smallest word, the tiniest generosity, can cause to be set in motion…Mend the part of the world that is within your reach.’”

And with that, I say adieu, adieu…to you and you and you….have a lovely weekend!

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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