16 May 2010

The Window

They stand so close their breath stirs the other's hair.
Mother and Daughter.

Some things cannot be undone.
We make history -- no matter what we choose.
We make a story, we journey together
And arrive continually, again and again
Face to face.

How much truth can be spoken? How much can be heard?
How do we find each other --
spinning in the vast black universe that holds us...
trapped in the tight white cocoon of our imperfection and fear?

Love is a mysterious tie that binds.
Love breathes us.

Open the window.
It's starting to rain.

11 May 2010

If Not For Money

My new friend asked: "If money were no object, what kind of work would you do?" She is retired now but worked as a career counselor for many years. She hired me to help declutter her home office and, among the debris in the bathtub of the bathroom adjacent to the office, I found a copy of Thomas Moore's "A Life at Work: The Joy of Discovering What You Were born to Do."

It's a good question. She posed it two weeks ago and I am still thinking about it. Of course, "work" has been an "issue" for me for most of my life. The difference is that money is less an object now than ever before. The question moves from academic to practical. In the moment, the apparent answer to the question was "When money is no object, I help people bring order to the spaces where they live and work."

With a longer view, thinking back on all the jobs I've had and hated, jobs I took because I needed the money, a different answer surfaces: If it weren't for the money, I wouldn't work. But those were "jobs"...which is not the same thing as "work." I find the question more inspiring when it is reframed as "If money were no object, what would you do with your time?"

Looking at my life now, in this amazingly graceful period where my material and creature needs are met, I spend my time

  • thinking about what to do with my time
  • playing piano
  • hired out to help bring order to other people's chaos
  • reading
  • working logic puzzles
  • taking walks
  • filling bird feeders
  • pulling weeds
  • watching movies
  • exploring the Internet
  • smoking and thinking
  • writing correspondence
  • writing music
  • sifting through boxes of stuff from storage I haven't seen in 6 years
  • playing guitar

Lately, a conviction has begun floating alternately between The Back of My Mind and The Front of My Mind; a conviction that this chapter of my life has a title: Alex Finds Her Life's Work and Begins It. But how exactly does one do that?

Moore writes about alchemists whose laboratories contained precious books, a tiny oratory with an altar where they prayed for success and a big book containing a log of the experiments conducted. They used "liquids and solids, pure stuff and rotten stuff, ordinary material they found...and more refined chemicals," placing the materials in beautiful, glass vessels and subjecting it to various levels and periods of heat. They consulted ancient books and watched for changes in color and texture.

The entire process was known as the "opus," the Latin word for "work." "Work" was "the long process of refining raw material, going through many phases identified by colors...and reaching an end point described variously as a peacock's tail, the philosopher's stone, or the elixir of immortality."

Moore says
It has long struck me that these details of the alchemist at work say something profound about anyone's quest to find a life work. It is deep and mysterious. It involves changes and developments. For it, you will need patience, good powers of reflection and observation, and the courage to keep going when it seems nothing of worth is happening. There is a surface activity and an underlying meaning to this work, and to remain on the surface takes you nowhere.

...the alchemist approached his work as though his life depended on it. ...Your work is equally important...not just as a means for making a living but as the medium through which you
become a person [italics added]
This perspective is not new to me; but Moore says it so beautifully
and it is significant for this book to come to me at this time in my life.

I don't have a job.

I have time and love and shelter and food and companions of exceptional talent and intelligence and integrity who treat me well. And I am listening, watching.

When I feel anxious or unfocused I take a deep breath and stretch and then focus

on laundry or weeding or playing piano or reading or walking.

I am the alchemist. Combining elements and observing. This is my opus, my calling, my self. What do I do with my time, my life, when money is no object? Continue the experiment...

06 May 2010

This Is Not A Dream

"Unconditional positive regard." This is how I describe my relationship with my dear friend, P____, in whose home I live currently.

Only Time will tell. I know. I have loved and lost before. I have been loved....and then rejected before.

But for now, this is the spirit of our engagement. I hold it as blessing in my life. We have an honorable relationship (see previous posts on "honor" in relationship).

We are honest with each other. We use considered, sensitive language with each other.

It is a voluntary, fully-conscious improvisation with two women--a mother and daughter. And me...a daughter estranged from her own mother...and her own son. Memory currents of feeling run old and deep in each of us. Conflict is unavoidable between humans. The critical question is "how do you handle conflict?"

These days I talk about the "amazing grace" that holds me. The tender, willing improvisation and the unconditional positive regard are primary expressions of this gifted time. Yes, it is good to have shelter and food without undue stress. It is good to be in a relatively warm climate. It is good to have found, already, a group of artists to play with (I think of us as the InterSplay group...more on this later). My shoulder injury appears to have been only a bad sprain and movement is almost completely recovered.

It's all good. It's all graceful and generous.

It's nurturing. I am drawing, playing piano, writing music for the UU Fellowship that P____ leads, playing guitar, dancing/moving with the InterSplayers.

It's all good. Everything feeds everything else and wraps my life in amazing grace.

This sojourn is retreat. Sabbatical. Furlough.

I had uncertain goals when I arrived a month ago and grew anxious about the lack of definition after a few days. There is nothing to prove here and so each day my relaxation deepens; I am more and more comfortable in my skin.

I am reading

A Life at Work by Thomas Moore
Black Pioneers in a White Denomination by Mark Morrison-Reed
The Cornel West Reader
Mother Teresa; Come Be My Life: Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta

Even the appearance of these texts at this time in my life is part of the amazing grace.


What this picture has to do with anything is not immediately apparent but a conversation tonight led to some research online (for starters: WTF is this machine called?) during which I have not yet uncovered any discussion of the history of the machine but did find this image which I like enough to share.