Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shiny Happy People

We all want to be 'Shiny Happy People'. We want our lives to go well. We want to be happy. We want to have fun, to be carefree, to have no worries. Isn't this the Great (North) American Dream? To have enough money to sustain our lifestyle, with extra to pay for our toys, our trips, our dinners out. This, we say, is the life. Who could ask for anything more?
The flaw in this design, the fly in the ointment, isn't always clear. Sure, we are happy. Days slip away, one glorious self-indulgent day after the other, like so many grains of sand running through our fingers. Sure, we hit the occasional speed bump on our fast track to the good life. Sickness, divorce, a drinking problem, maybe a troubled child. These speed bumps jar us out of our slumber. We shake our heads, blink wildly and glance around, trying to get our bearings. Where are we? How did we get this far without really noticing? The speed bump acts as the proverbial smack on the back of the head, to shake us out of our complacency. And it works, for a little while. We hold our loved ones close. We are kind to our neighbour. We appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. We are thankful.
And then, slowly, quietly, we slip back into our self-absorbed snooze. Our focus shifts back onto ourselves and we blissfully allow it.
Genocide in Darfur? Hmm. Political unrest in Sri Lanka? Wow. Neighbour lost their job? Too bad.
What will it take to make us aware of our surroundings? and not just aware, but involved? Not just seeing, or hearing, but doing? What will it take to cause us as a people, a nation, to turn from our fat, spoiled, pampered selves to the dirty, gritty, sometimes smelly suffering that exists all around us? To ask ourselves, how can I? How can I help my neighbour, my country, my fellow man in pain? And then to do it?
We need to get our collective heads out of the sand. No more 'tut-tutting' about the plight of humanity. Let's educate ourselves, gain knowledge of those around us who are hurting, and then act in compassion. Have your jobless neighbour over for dinner. Volunteer at the food bank. Donate funds to one of the many organizations working tirelessly overseas.
We must get outside of ourselves. Once we take that first scary step that says 'there are more important things in this world than myself' we will be changed. We will be awake, and aware, and we will no longer be content to simply accumulate toys and plan our next trip.
The world will break our hearts, and our broken, bleeding, weeping hearts will in turn reach out to that world and change it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

What's So Great About Safe?

Lately I feel distracted by my life; the goings-on, the busy-ness, the 'other-ness' is distracting me from the niggling thoughts that are always just below the surface.
"Remember me?" my self says quietly. "I'm still here, waiting to be acknowledged."
And yet I allow myself to be distracted. I choose to ignore the deep waters of my soul that are churning uncomfortably below the surface of my mind. Am I too tired to listen? Too lazy to make the effort to look? Or too scared of what I might find there?
Mostly, when I take a moment to breathe, to be still, what I hear is my true self banging on the door of my heart.
"Let me in," it yells with all the indignation of a spurned lover. "You can't keep my locked out forever."
And yet, that is what I have done. I have locked my true self - my true nature - out of my heart and kept it tucked safely away in a secret place. Like an old relative who gets a room in the top of the house; slightly mad, unpredictable, with the tendency to say and do strange things; who only ventures out for the odd meal and spends the rest of the day muttering and yelling at anyone who dares to walk past the door.
I have not given myself much breathing room, I'm afraid. You see, I tend to be dangerous and unpredictable. I tend to say inappropriate things, at inappropriate times. I am selfish, and want to do things that please me, and only me. I like to speak my mind, dream big, read poetry, dance and laugh. I am ambitious and intend on fulfilling many of these ambitions. I want to try new things, go new places, meet new people. I want to look into the face of suffering and tell others what I see. I want to wear crazy hats and sit on park benches in the sun.
So, you see, if I let this person out - if I let her in, into my heart - well, she would take up residence and then....well, take over. She would set up shop and then all hell would break loose. Because my small, predictable, well-ordered life wouldn't work anymore. I would start disappointing people, letting them down. I would probably offend others with the things I would say, or puzzle them with the things I would do. I wouldn't fit in. I would dress different, look different. I might not always be there to oversee, to caretake, to guide. Plus, there's always a risk that I might actually.... feel something. My whole life has been structured so that I don't have to worry about that whole 'feeling' business. So if I let her take over, who knows what might happen? I might weep uncontrollably, or laugh hysterically, or scream in anger. And then what would I do?
It's really only logical to keep my true self locked up. It's too risky to let her in. My world is safe, and she definitely isn't safe.
On the other hand...what's so great about safe?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Where's the shut off valve for my brain?

It's spring and things are waking up. The trees are breaking out in their brand new leaves, the daffodils are waving to me from my front yard, and neighbours are poking their heads out from their front doors and joining the parade of new life that marches down the street. Unfortunately there is one thing that is still lawn. We haven't been able to turn on the irrigation yet, as we are waiting for a water pressure pump to be installed. You see, we live on a hill....with a verrry steep driveway....which means that we have a great view from our front porch, but it also means that we have zero water pressure. So, when we turn on our sprinklers, they spit a pathetically small amount of water onto the lawn, which in turn leaves us with big unsightly dead patches of grass that, by July, are crunchy and gross. This spring we finally caved in and ordered a water pressure system which should solve this problem. So this morning, James the Mighty Plumber arrived on our doorstep, tools in hand, to install said system. Yeah! However before he could begin we had to find the main shut off valve for the water to the house. Searching, searching....ah yes! That big metal thingy in the front yard! And down he went to turn it off.....not so simple. Apparently whoever installed it wanted to be really thorough and set it four feet under the ground. James digs. And digs. And finally finds the darn thing and shuts off the water. Sweet.
Which got me to thinking. Is there a shut off valve for my brain? Because lately I have been thinking a lot. Okay, I always think a lot. But lately I have been realizing how much I think. I live in my head a great deal. My thought life is intense, and complicated, and basically I am having a conversation with myself 24/7. Except for sleeping, but then I have these amazing complex dreams, so even then I don't get a break! A dear friend has been helping me learn how to find my shut off valve, even for a little while, so my heart has a chance to speak up. Because mostly, my heart can't get a word in edgewise with the ongoing monologue upstairs. And I am realizing that my heart has a lot to say. Important things, like how I might be feeling about all those things I am thinking about. And if I neglect my heart-speak, I find myself getting really tired, and frustrated, and distracted with all the brain-speak.
Breathe. Focus. Pause. Ask. Allow those heart matters to bubble up to the surface. Aaaah, that's better.
I am finding my shut off valve, a little bit every day. It's a good thing.