On Sunday we took the Plymouth Ferry from the Barbican to Cremyll. I was excited to arrive in Cornwall. This is where my Grandfather (Jim) was born, and where my great Grandma Tizzie (Elizabeth) and great Grandpa (James) lived before they emigrated to the New World. Great Grandpa died when Jim was very young. He’d been a coal miner, according to his marriage certificate. It is probably not a mystery why they chose to leave England. Opportunities in the early teens of 1900’s were slim where they lived.
Tizzie raised her two boys mostly on her own. She was a proper English woman, though not of noble birth. She loved her tea and scones.
She was a practical woman, and I believe she was thinking of her health and wellness when she re-married in her 70’s to a man in his 50’s. It was a bit scandalous at the time, but given that she lived well into her 90’s, I believe she chose well.
I dearly love this coastline and the English countryside. So far, this has been my favorite part of the U.K. trip. While in London, it was fun to see the historical sties and to enjoy the city life. But I much prefer the more open spaces and the charm of the coastal towns of England.
There is plenty of history here, and Saturday evening my husband and I found the Mayflower steps, where the Pilgrims first set sail for the new world in 1620. I love thinking about what that might have been like, to get on a ship to a land which scarcely anyone (except the First Nation people, who already lived there) had seen.
I thought about the courage and blind faith of people who sought religious freedom and better opportunities for their families. I considered all of the things that could (and did) go wrong on board the ships. Disease, storms, failures of navigation, starvation aboard ships, and all manner of risks beset travelers in those days.
With odds like that, it is a wonder that so many made the journey. Tossing caution to the wind, early immigrants dreamed of a future that would hold more freedom their past.
It makes me distinctly proud of my heritage and the people who brought me here, particularly my grandparents. I consider the brave choices that they made that allowed for the privilege of my life as it is and I am profoundly grateful. It makes also me sad that today we seem to have a political climate that seeks to isolate rather than welcome immigrants today.
Since I am a mix of English, Swedish, Mexican, possibly Spanish and some German ancestry, of course my bias is that mixing cultures is a good thing. I realize not everyone feels this way. But I hang onto that vision of the “new world” that my ancestors held in their minds as they traveled.
Then I contemplate how we might extend this privilege to more people in a world that is more polarized than ever, yet globalized at the same time. I do not have the answer. I just wonder if it might be possible. What do you think?
Wishing you the very best as folks head back to school and we ease into the fall season. I read Libre Paley‘s post this weekend on The Kinder September and it got me to think about my approach to this change in season and that “September feeling” that some of us have.
I have always loved September. The crispness in the air, the waning of the summer humidity and the new school supplies were always a fun part of a new adventure. In my youth there was a new school outfit, eagerly worn on the first day (even though the weather may have been too warm). We reunited with friends and classmates. And there were new things to be learned and studied! (Yes, I was a geek or nerd, pick your label.)
As I have become an adult, I recognize this pull to start a new thing in the Fall. Last year it was my marriage and this blog. There are cycles to life, and there are cycles in seasons. Respecting this and honoring the transitions that accompany the cycles is vital to our health and well-being.
In the Fall, I try to get a little extra rest as the seasons change. As the darkness arrives, I try to make time for a cup of hot tea when it feels cozy and fulfilling. I eat soups and hot foods in addition to my daily salad. I plan for time to connect with loved ones.
This year I am taking a 2-week trip with my husband to the U.K. (England and Scotland) to celebrate our first year anniversary. Right after our wedding we spent a few days in Mexico, but it was not a long enough break. So we saved to get ready for this trip. Since September is “shoulder season” for vacation travel, it is not as expensive for flights and hotel reservations as peak season.
The 6-hour time shift will be a little mind shift outside our routine “life zone” and will allow for some time to connect mindfully. I love travel adventures, especially when my husband is with me. We always enjoy new experiences, and come away with stories, shared jokes and a slew of yummy photos.
He is the better photographer, so while I may not post daily during our trip, when I do post, it is likely to show off his photography. 🙂
Hope you enjoy your month of September, and if you are in a “life zone” change of your own, I want to read more about it!
The next time you see a man belittling a woman or talking down to her, ask yourself what experiences might have shaped that man as a little boy.
Ask yourself whether his scared self was seeking attention and love from a mother or father figure. Imagine whether he might still be reacting in fear and a need to belong when he engages in this habitual behavior. While it is not an excuse, it may help us exercise compassion.
Perhaps his father taught him that his worth was derived from being superior to women. Perhaps his religion taught him that women are inferior beings in need of protection and discipline. He may have learned that vulnerability was weakness so he wanted to be sure never to show that to even his partner. Perhaps the patriarchy reinforces all of these messages.
In fact, it does.
Our fundamental sense of belonging is shaped when we are young children. Around age 7 or so once we have passed through stages of attachment, exploration, identity and competence, we develop an awareness of others. We develop a need for belonging. When we experience early “wounds” at any stage of our psycho-social development, they may later manifest themselves in our relationships, until we are able to become aware and heal them.
In reading some of Harville Hendrix’s work on relationships, I have come to have greater compassion for dysfunctional behaviors I observe in myself and others. I realize that there are certain patterns we develop to self-protect, and to preserve our identities.
Men who are secure and comfortable with their masculinity have no need to put down powerful women. They celebrate strong women, and they are fine with sharing power. Indeed, they may be relieved at not having to be solely responsible for all important decisions. They can embrace more collaboration and shared leadership.
Women who are secure and comfortable with their own femininity and power can ask for what they want. They know that they are worthy of respect. They take care of themselves. They ask for help when it is needed. They receive and accept help graciously. They believe their desires can be honored rather than repressed.
I am starting to understand that my spiritual journey is a process of learning to trust in my wholeness. I also realize this runs counter to our culture, that nudges us toward buying and consuming one more thing, or many more things. We all seek a sense of belonging and fulfillment in our daily lives. And people are trying to “sell” that to us all the time.
At the root, we must accept ourselves as we are. We must embrace the light and the dark, realize they comprise beauty and complexity. We are part of a divine mystery. It is that unfolding to who we really are in our present moment that is holy. That does not mean we do not work toward improvement. It simply means our worthiness is not conditioned on being anything other than what we are now.
If that scared little boy or girl within us still seeks approval from others or feels unworthy, then we have work to do. For when we truly love ourselves and then may love others fully, we forgive ourselves and others. We accept that we are doing the best we can, and then we can begin to fulfill our true potential.
**Re-posting an edited blog from February, because it is very relevant to the feelings I have as I navigate the final two days of corporate life. Thanks for reading and commenting! **
Recently I started practicing a new mantra, as I began to consider my actions in light of love or fear. This came from some reflection on yesterday’s blog and a conclusion I came to in seeing my work situation in a new way.
I started asking: “How can I act with more love and less fear in this moment?” It became apparent to me, when I realized that in leaving my current position soon, I am not leaving my team. I am showing them what it is to be brave and to take on a new challenge. For months, I worried, anxious about who would “look out” for them when I am gone. But by staying in department that constantly demands more from them, without providing the resources, I am just keeping a broken system intact. It’s like being a brick in the wall. But it may be a wall that needs to come down. Staying there is not an act of love, on a long-term basis.
Acting out of love rather than fear seems to require that we “re-wire” our brain in new ways, because fear is familiar to us. We are used to doing things the way we have habitually learned to do them. Learning a new way requires practice and commitment.
I took a break from my work and headed to the gym for a quick treadmill run, to clear my head and get my endorphins flowing over the lunch hour. I practiced my new mantra: how can I act with more love and less fear in this moment?
What changed: I put my phone away and began looking into people’s eyes, smiling if they met my eyes. I paid attention to my body while I ran, instead of feeding myself mindless distractions with my iPod or phone. I used my run as more of a “breathing meditation” rather than an excuse to check out from my life.
When I got back to my desk, I focused on bringing more love and less fear to each interaction with my coworkers, each email, each phone call. I kept asking myself that question: how can I act with more love in this moment? It radically changed the amount of work I was able to get done, and the purposefulness in which I was able to complete the work.
When my husband returned home, I talked with him about my discovery, and then had a conversation about a topic I had been avoiding. I had not been sure how to talk about it. I was honest about feeling afraid before, and about how that has held me back sometimes. He was very open, and he was hearing me. He did not make me feel ashamed about that. He listened and he supported me. I felt much closer to him than I have in a long time.
It brings tears to my eyes as I write this, because I realize how often I have been acting from fear rather than acting to bring more love to all my interactions. I am extending compassion to myself also, knowing this is conditioned behavior, and it is not a character flaw on my part. I am exceeding grateful to recognize it now, and to be able to start consciously “un-conditioning” that automatic behavior. While it feels familiar, it does not serve me. It does not serve anyone.
When we choose to act to bring more love into our experience, rather than to react out of fear, we radically change the orientation of our lives. We bring new energy into our relationships, and into our spheres of influence. Some people may respond in confusion, as they are not used to this type of interaction. But most are grateful for this approach, and feel our caring.
I will start again in August to use this mantra regularly. I need it as much for myself as for others. I am eager to see what a difference it makes as I embark on a new chapter of my journey.
This question can strike fear into the hearts of some people. If it has been some time since you experienced either spontaneous or cultivated joy, you may feel scarcity or grief.
If you have been living someone else’s idea of a “good life” but not your own, you probably feel a lack of joy. Or if things seem to be not going as planned in your life, and you feel a sense of numbness or sadness, joy seems far away. You may be like a poor kid looking through the windows of the candy store, knowing that joy exists (not in the form of candy, actually) but believing you cannot have it.
However, joy can be a daily practice as much as a feeling or an experience. I first learned about this from Martha Beck in her book The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life. I pulled out her book from my shelves last summer and started cultivating joy more intentionally when I realized my work life was no longer bringing me joy. For years, it had provided me with growth, challenge and satisfaction.
Then it seemed the minor annoyances I was tolerating started to grow into major annoyances. The bureaucrazy (yes, this is Freudian slip, and also deliberate) felt more overwhelming. On balance, the joy did not outweigh the suffering anymore. I no longer felt I belonged in that place, in that position.
I started finding joy in doing art projects at home, meditating, writing, doing yoga, reading books, and listening to podcasts that fed my brain new ideas. I started taking more joy in my relationship, planning my wedding (which took place last September). Instead of working late, I left the office early, enjoyed evenings on the patio, which is quite lovely in Minnesota this time of year.
My focus on finding and appreciating joy daily led me to the place where I am now. I feel healthy and more balanced than I have in years. My sleep has improved considerably, with much less insomnia than before. My eating habits have improved, and I struggle less with fighting cravings for sugar and junk food. Those things had been a “buffer” to my feelings and did not allow for me to sit with the reality of the change my soul was calling forth.
Joy is always not in the big, bright moments of happiness. These can be a part of a joyful life. However, it is often in the small, quiet moments of gratitude for the abundance that surrounds us. Joy exists in moments of internal peace and in finding our center. Sometimes there is suffering embedded in joy, and it is an almost bittersweet experience. I would not trade it for any material thing.