If you had lived

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If you had lived
we’d be still talking
If you had lived
we’d be hanging out at our favorite café
If you had lived
I’d be visiting you in the nursing home
If you had lived
We’d still be creating memories together
But you didn’t live
You didn’t make it this far
with me
I am left to create
memories with other people
I am left
with memories of you
of us
I have memories
Because you once lived


My neighbor says she’ll be 91 next month. A quick calculation tells me she was born in 1928. And I remembered a friend I used to have, who was born in 1929. And started musing on the might-have-beens had she lived passed 73.

There are other might-have-beens, too, with other people.

Such is life.

It contains death.

And memories.

Clearing out

I think I’ve mentioned Daily Om before, a website that offers life affirming essays and online courses. I’m currently taking a course on clearing. On any other website, it would be called decluttering, but it’s not just getting rid of stuff. It’s the why we hang on to things and how it feels to have them or let go of them. Not quite Marie Kondo, either, this. But rather a supplement to firm tossing and saying thank you to stuff. The course starts with exploring one’s attitude to things and to clearing them.

It’s slow going, which I like. I really do not understand “housework”. I’m not good with routines. I’ve followed other flaky people and their systems and have learned something from each of them. Still, I hunt for The One Method that will get me decluttering and cleaning and all that.

So why is this different? Maybe because it starts from the inside and you make the outside happen according to that. For example, one lesson was about movement. About how we get stuck in an attitude or a belief. We need to get ourselves unstuck. So act that out by moving something in your home: Find something that’s out of place and put it in place, or find something that is trash and toss it out.

That idea I could embrace: That the little household chore was about getting me moving, not about establishing some routine in the home. And that right there is the “hook” I need, the attitudinal approach that helps it make sense to me.

All the emptied and washed spice jars, ready for the recycling bin. This is the only “spice rack” I have ever had - or will need.

All the emptied and washed spice jars, ready for the recycling bin. This is the only “spice rack” I have ever had - or will need.

And from that desire, from wanting to get unstuck, from wanting more energy, I then get a routine: Every day I do that little thing in my home for me.

The course has motivated me to declutter all my spices today. That’s another thing: Understanding who I truly am, and what I’m actually likely to do. I will never do all the cooking all those spices suggest. Most of them were covered with a thin layer of gray concrete dust, so they haven’t been touched in the over 2.5 years since my bathroom was remodeled (!). So out the vast majority went. I even got a rhythm going emptying the little jars for recycling and felt really good about my little task. I was honoring my true nature: Salt and pepper go a long way with how I cook. And I finished, too!

I think that’s what has been missing: Feeling personal about the task at hand. Weird that I treat routines in my home like a service I do for a stranger. But housekeeping truly isn’t something I “get”. I do it because I understand intellectually that that’s what one does. (I admit, I do this quite irregularly.) I don’t understand it intuitively. It’s not second nature to me at all.

The things I do that “feed” me, that give me meaning on a personal or emotional level, those things I tend to do regularly. The penny dropped when I finally timed how long it takes to do dishes and realized it wasn’t that much of a chore. Now it’s something I do with pleasure. Also: The first place I can see in my home that my mental health is starting to stumble is my kitchen counter: the longer the dirty dishes don’t get done, the more “down” I’ve been. I’m back to my happy self again when I want to go into the kitchen and wash the dishes. Sometimes I’ll wash them anyway, because I know the cleared counters will make me feel better.

See, it’s an emotional thing, not a “let’s keep the house clean” thing.

And maybe, also, this is why apps don’t work for me. Lists somebody else comes up with overwhelm me because I don’t know how to use them for my own stuff. I don’t know where to start. Oh, yes, on an intellectual basis I know. I’ve read enough emails from FlyLady to have a pretty good grasp of what a daily routine should look like. But it’s not my routine. I can’t feel it. (FlyLady did help me finally do the dishes regularly, though.)

Happy accomplishment, Saturday’s decluttered travel stuff. How many of those little toothbrush caps does one person need?

Happy accomplishment, Saturday’s decluttered travel stuff. How many of those little toothbrush caps does one person need?

What works? Oddly, it’s writing a daily list by hand. Same thing with the grocery shopping. I can’t get comfortable with apps. I write my lists from scratch in Google Keep and when I’m done, “delete all checked items” and start over again next time. I think maybe this is how I focus and organize my thoughts.

Sometime last year I started writing daily to-do’s in a notebook I leave open on my kitchen table. It became a part of my healing journey through this past fall and winter. I saw the so-called “dot journals” or “bullet journals” and instantly felt overwhelmed by all the effort people put into those things. But I liked the idea of a dot in front of task and if you do it, write an X through the dot, else put a > there if you’re carrying the task over to the next day. I used to actually write little boxes to check, but the dot method is quicker and clearer. I also like that if I end up getting around to a task after all, the > easily becomes an X.

So finally, at age 58, I’m starting to understand myself, how I actually approach things, how I get meaning out of something.

Thank you for reading all this! Here’s your reward: Edvard Grieg in the Bergen city park.

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Forgiveness

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others their trespasses.” Matthew 6:12

I remember when I first started to seriously forgive people with whom I had a difficult relationship. I thought forgiving them would end something. It didn’t. It started something (I wish I’d been warned). I thought forgiveness was a way to pull a bandaid off, revealing the healing wound underneath (warning: if you’re squeamish, this next part may be icky but it’s what I’ve got). But it was more like draining a cyst (I’ve done that a couple of times) and then the doctor packs the emptied hole and you have to keep getting that changed for up to a month while the wound heals from the bottom up, from the inside out.

That’s what forgiveness starts: A process of healing you from within yourself. Surprisingly little to do with the other person, actually. It’s not about justice or lack of; it’s about masochism. By forgiving the other person (or even yourself), you’re basically no longer hurting yourself. The other person already hurt you. They hurt you that time. You may or may not have gotten justice or an apology for that hurt. The thing is, it’s in the past, but every time you think about it and react to it. you hurt yourself. So instead of that other person having hurt you badly that time back in May of 2006, here you are, 13 years later, still seething about it. The other person doesn’t even know!

See how useless that is? See why forgiveness sets you free? Because that’s what it’s doing. It’s letting you off the hook, not the other person. It’s putting the past where it belongs: In the past.

I’ve mentioned ho’oponopono a few times. I come back to it because it is so easy. You don’t have to know what’s bothering you, you don’t have to know what’s stuck, you don’t have to know anything. These four deceptively simple sentences do a lot of work for you. Just keep repeating and repeating and repeating (in any order you want):

I love you
I’m sorry
Please forgive me
Thank you

Any time a thought that isn’t the most supportive crosses your mind, do ho’oponopono. (I really need to remember to take my own advice.) Or fudge and play Jasons Stephenson’s wonderful track on repeat (I go to sleep to this).

Just let your wounds heal.

Another battle

Obviously, something deep in my subconscious wants to imitate Nedry’s lock screen in “Jurassic Park”, doing his finger-wagging “Ah-ah-ah”.

I had bronchitis in February. Was out sick for two weeks.

Bronchitis was something I had a lot as a kid. Usually when the bullying over time finally got to me, my body would react with bronchitis. When I finally recovered, I blogged, intending to keep blogging. But I lost my routines, my momentum while sick and it took me until the end of March to get it back.

That’s when I hurt a knee, just standing with a very straight leg on my living room floor. Sheesh.

Got my PC from work delivered home because brain works, but dang, if this knee stuff isn’t darned distracting!

After a week at home, a friend shopped for me and showed me a good exercise for knees. Can’t overdo it, though. Can’t do the steepest hill between my place and the office so have been taking the bus to work.

It’s like everything just says “Ah-ah-ah” and I realize there’s something deep inside me I’m not addressing or even aware of. Time to go in deep and see if I can find it. And heal it.

I have always had a copy of Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life” and all the affirmations for all the ills. Bronchitis: The family is fighting. Knees: Stubborn ego and pride. So peace and harmony and forgiveness.

I think the bronchitis is a matter of feeling safe with the ones around me. Weirdly, I had it last year, too, at about the same time. I sure hope it’s not going to become a tradition!

But the knees… They’re about fear and the solution is forgiveness and compassion.

In a discussion with friends, we were talking about how forgiveness is the one thing that heals everything. I said something about being done forgiving others; now it was about forgiving myself.

But I wonder…

I may have peeled so many layers off the onion that is all me and my experiences that I’ve found fresh stuff to forgive, and it may involve others, after all. Some little remnant is left, like not quite emptying the existing bottle of shampoo or sauce before opening a new one.

Time to stop this battle and dig into healing.

Apple blossom

Apple blossom

The battle for spring

Of all the seasonal transitions, the one between winter and spring seems to be the most violent.

I’ve tried to predict weather using astrology (astrometeorology). The starting point are the seasonal ingress charts, i.e. the charts for the equinoxes and the solstices or the cardinal signs. For the spring equinox the chart is made for 0 degrees of Aries, which is ruled by Mars. For the summer solstice, it’s 0 degrees of Cancer and Moon ruling. For autumn, it’s 0 degrees of Libra and Venus ruling. And for winter solstice, the chart is for 0 degrees of Capricorn and Saturn ruling. These dates are approximately around the 21st of March, June, September and December, respectively.

I live where we have four seasons and am used to how they flow into each other, and how it can vary from year to year exactly when one can say that one season is officially over and we are fully in the next season. Spring glides into summer by budding, one type of bush or tree at a time, and growing the leaves and turning a deeper green by the summer solstice. July and August are rich thick foliage, but during August, ripening of berries breaks up the solid green. Still, the trees can look quite lush well into September. October is the month of changing colors, and November is the first month of naked trees. The first snow or frost may appear where I live at this time but not stay. In fact, a true winter chill doesn’t happen until January, well into the winter season.

But the part that has my attention, is the transition between winter and spring. This seems to be the most obvious conflict of interest. Whereas the other seasons move into each other on a gliding scale, even weatherwise, Winter seems to arm itself and do serious battle with Spring.

The hedge had started to leaf, and then the snow returned

The hedge had started to leaf, and then the snow returned

I mentioned ruling planets above. I think they may be key. In traditional astrology, Saturn and Mars are called malefic. In more modern terms, they are challenging or difficult. These two planets require more self-discipline to use correctly than, say, Venus or Mercury do. In a person, Saturn and Mars in a bad relationship to each other can be volatile; it can mean a bad temper or bad impulse control. I have this myself, but maturity, meditation and some therapy have tempered these two for me.

But weatherwise, we have two planets both known for high energy, high winds and a desire to make bad weather. Saturn is the ultimate low pressure significator, while Mars is just volatile. Venus is a moderating influence on the weather (though she can misbehave if in bad company) and the Moon is about clouds and rain and wind, but the normal stuff, not the extreme that Saturn can be. Mars emphasises whatever is there, and brings on heat and movement, usually.

So in the transition from a Mars season to a Moon season, the force necessary to generate new life gives way easily to the force necessary to grow life (watering the plants). And later that growth force transitions calmly into the final ripening and harvesting energy of a Venus season. Venus then quietly passes the torch on to Saturn who sets about making sure everything acts dead.

And so Life reappears, with the Mars energy of spring (and of course, the increase in hours the Sun is up), and starts to throw its weight around old, cold Saturn who isn’t having any of that. Saturn demands proof that you are viable, that you deserve respect, and so throws whatever it has at the budding life lured by some mild weather. It’s snowing out as I write this, and I’ve already seen fresh dandelion leaves on our lawns.

The other seasons do battle too. It’s just so obvious with Winter and Spring and perhaps more so because we humans need to see life and warmth and growth again. We want Spring to win. We need to know the dead of Winter is not permanent. We’ve all had our rest. It’s time to get moving again.

Ultimately, Life wins. Aided by warmth and ever lengthening days, growth takes hold, and the dead of winter gives way until next time.

Moon landing

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I cannot remember when men first landed on the moon, in 1969. I was alive and old enough to remember something like that. We had a TV. That is to say, my granduncle had a TV—up on the old farm, in a little valley above a fjord. There was nothing on it until 6 pm, when a children’s program would come on, then the news. All in glorious black and white. Everything was in black and white until 1974 when Norway decided to allow the broadcasting of color TV even though protesters thought it would be bad for people.

People have the weirdest reasons for not wanting change.

My folks kept their black and white TV for quite a while. It wasn’t broken and we were used to it. The first thing I saw in color was at a friend’s house, a scene from a British series, “Black Beauty” (yes, the one about the horse). The only thing strikingly different from seeing the same show in B&W was the grass. Incredibly green in color. Black Beauty was still black.

But why can’t I remember the moon landing?

Because I was asleep. It was night time in Norway. I was 8 years old. I couldn’t stay awake even if I wanted to. But I remember my grandma telling me they stayed up to watch it. My grandparents saw astronauts in real time step onto another world. On a TV on the old farm Grandpa was born on in 1901.

Today’s prompt: stripes, lemonade, astronaut



Apples, APP and another abbreviation

Apples makes me think of the old gold mining town of Julian in Southern California, a charming and tiny place that today specializes in apple pie. Warm apple pie with cheddar cheese on it is a wonderfully delicious combo!

Lasers make me think of when laserium shows were new. Started in Los Angeles, at the Griffith Observatory, and I loved it!  I didn't have the sense then to appreciate the show’s choice of music from Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon". I appreciate the music more now, but it's still not an album I play much. It is, however, produced by Alan Parsons and I love Alan Parsons Project (APP).

Michigan's two letter postal code is MI. I didn't have to look that up. I actually know all the state postal codes by heart.  

I have no good pictures of the city itself, only Julian’s plaque explaining its history

I have no good pictures of the city itself, only Julian’s plaque explaining its history

Today's prompt: apples, laser, Michigan.

Seashells

So something a bit shorter today, rather than the lengthy letter home of yesterday’s two blog posts (wherein I mention yoga).

I can’t ever seem to go to a beach and not want to pick up a seashell or smoothed rock. Bad habit, really. It sadly just becomes clutter because I’ll never do something fancy with these things like paint a face on the rock or glue the seashells to a picture frame “for interest”.

My dust-gathering finds do remind me of where I found them, but so do pictures. Here’s one of the last beach I collected seashells from. It’s in Normandy, France.

I like how the waves are making waves in the sand

I like how the waves are making waves in the sand

Today’s prompt: letter, seashells, yoga

Five year journey, part 2

(Part 1 here)

Sometimes, I think that I have undiagnosed ADHD. I relate too well to descriptions of people with ADD etc. Apparently, December children are overrepresented on the ADD spectrum. I am a December child. My therapist did point out that it doesn’t really matter if I have ADD or not; I hold down a job, own my own condo, have no bill collectors chasing me, etc. I adult just fine.

The thing about being scatterbrained (besides needing to write everything down) is that things requiring a lot of discipline remain out of reach. I have, for years, disappointed myself in not being driven to try a 90 minute daily practice of yoga and meditation because enlightenment sounds so cool!

Instead, I’ve done the spiritual equivalent of the buffet: A little of this, a little of that. Restless, curious, easily wowed, easily bored. Some things seep in and stick, though. 

A few of my spiritual books. The wide unnamed one is a worn copy of “A Course in Miracles”, I gave a new cover.

A few of my spiritual books. The wide unnamed one is a worn copy of “A Course in Miracles”, I gave a new cover.

I was raised by a grandma who was into New Thought, theosophy and astrology. Her wisdom and guidance and free thinking guided me during some crucial years. The idea that God is not a being but Love has stuck with me ever since my mother introduced me to Science of Mind at age 17. Affirmations have stuck with me. I used guided meditation a lot in college and it mitigated my scatteredness; I was able to focus and remember better. But I did that sort of thing on a whim or once a week or whenever. The experience and knowledge didn’t leave me; it became what I call my spiritual toolbox.

My spiritual toolbox contains the fruit of many classes, books, sermons and seminars over the years. Affirmations, faith, astrology,  meditations, yoga, etheric oils, reiki, crystals, Tarot, etc. I can tell you this: There is one constant and that is Love. If whatever you are being taught or told is not promoting goodness, it’s not True. I have also remembered Grandma’s words that God will always be stronger than any tool I use (such as astrology); a reminder to commune with spiritual source. 

The thing is, I have disappointed myself by not having routines, for not having a regular practice, for not being disciplined. This has applied to both the spiritual and the physical.

Yet, here at the start of 2019, I know I’m not the same as in 2018. When panic starts, I recognize it far more quickly than before and I stop it far more quickly. It no longer becomes something I must care about; it’s just there and I shove it aside. 

It has occured to me that this is something to be proud of. That I have, in spite of my monkey brain, been able to do the work that has changed my thinking and beliefs and will continue to do so. I know that it’s very important not to get frustrated. Feeling forced or “shoulding” myself is not healthy or helpful and just makes me want to abandon whatever it is I’m trying.

I took small steps. I talked with my therapists and healers and friends, sorted my thoughts and my beliefs, journaled a bit, found a meditation that let me visit my childhood, and talked some more. Bit by bit, a new structure took form. The thing is, it wasn’t just one thing and it certainly wasn’t just one steady thing, as in daily or regularly. My curiosity drove me to books and articles, learning about complex PTSD, about mantras that can heal depression, about my own family dynamics.

Learning the Gayatri mantra by heart in the shower

Learning the Gayatri mantra by heart in the shower

And I have realized something: Having variety is what works for me. The moment the novelty wears off, so does my dedication. But switching it up a bit or keeping it short is doable. For example, my I-planned-to-this-daily yoga routine is 15 minutes long and I choose to target different body parts each time. My morning Om chanting takes only as long as it takes for my tea kettle to boil (about 2 minutes), maybe a minute longer. That’s it.

For years, I’ve recited a “prayer” on my walk to work. I’ve used it for so many years, I can’t remember its source. It goes like this:

Close your eyes or focus on something natural, like clouds or trees or a flower. Hold your palms open and facing up, if you can. Breathe in while saying silently to yourself, “I breathe in the cosmic forces of the Universe, asking for strength protection and guidance.” Exhale. Repeat once. 

If you want something extra, do this a third time, changing what you say after the comma. My standard is “…asking that each and every encounter with each and every person be a joy and a blessing for all concerned.” If I have more things I’m concerned about, I end up holding my breath for quite a bit!

The above is now part of a new morning routine, one that got tacked onto a regular activity I do. The best way to start a new habit is to stick it to an existing one. (My problem is that I don’t have many existing regular habits.) So, while my tea kettle boils water for my morning coffee, I do 9 Om chants (because I like 9) while raising and lowering my arms, then I do the cosmic forces prayer. I now also start with some yoga forward bends which help loosen me up.

I’ve tried apps. They are rarely a perfect fit so I lose interest or get frustrated. I also don’t want my cell phone in bed with me. So something I can do myself, that involves my body, seems to be a better method.

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I finally own my flighty self; I acknowledge and accept that buffet-style is what works for me. I no longer want to be someone else, be different. I can accept who I am, how I function. I’m not stupid or irresponsible; I just have to understand what motivates me and what helps me.

When it comes to my own mental health, I have done what matters. I have listened to all my helpers, and I continue to listen to them. I have taken responsibility for my healing, in my own way.

I’m not usually proud of myself, but this time I am! Yes!