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Posts Tagged ‘personal growth’


I’m in a liminal place in several ways – my father recently died, making me officially ‘an orphan’ (that is, my mother had pre-deceased him – I’ve been promoted to the head of the class in terms of mortality); I turned 64 in February and now I’m getting all these Medicare-related things in the mail (oooh! scary!); and I’m planning to retire from corporate nonsense by the end of the year.

So ~~~ Where are the ceremonies?

I mean, when you’re little you look forward to kindergarten graduation so you know little-kid-dom has ended and now you’re a schoolchild.

Then you get grade school graduation – and on to high school! Check!  You’re not a schoolchild – you are a TEENAGER!

For many of us that leads to college, and maybe a wedding. Ah! the Householder/Wage Earner years ensue! You get ceremonies! Presents! Accolades!  it’s very clear – the old order has passed, you are now AN ADULT!

Rituals that say:  The old phase of life has ended, welcome to the new one.

We welcome boys to become men with a bar mitzvah; girls to women with a bat mitzvah.  Christian confirmation is somewhat analogous, but it strikes me that Jews more clearly call out this life transition.

But when we get to midlife we get jokes about sports cars for guys and for the ladies, we have an array of menopausal jokes, products and discussions. But no ceremony.

Then if you’re lucky and make it to my age you’ve got your AARP membership and lots of mail from people wanting to sell you Medicare supplements.  Maybe you get a retirement party if you worked at some company for awhile.  But no ceremony.

I don’t like that.

I have friends who have had croning rituals and that may be where I have to go with this desire.  The earth-based religions speak of the three stages of life as being the maiden, the mother and the crone.  The Hindus talk about the Student, the Householder and the Wandering Sage.  I like the idea of being a Wandering Sage – especially if the wandering includes Italy, Peru and Tibet.

Having been through those other transitions, I have to say this one feels just as huge as going to first grade was for me.

  • What’s going to happen?
  • Who will be my friends?
  • Am I brave enough to do this without my Mommy?
  • Are there good snacks there?

Yep.  Pretty much the same.  Oh, I’m more confident on the snacks part than I was then.  But now I wonder also

  • Where will I live?
  • What will I do with all my time?
  • Am I making a difference?

Well, as Cat Stevens sang back in my day “I’m on the road to find out.”  I hope you’ll come along with me as I work on Diane 3.0:  the Crone/Wandering Sage.

How about you?  Do you feel the stages of your life have received appropriate ceremonies and have clearly marked the transitions?  What would you like to have happened?  As always, I really want to know!

Wandering sage...

Wandering sage…

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New Years Day


“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’….”
Alfred Tennyson

My friend Peg posted that on FaceBook this morning and I found it an apt aphorism as we begin this new year.

It’s a handy tool, this made up concept of time and of its beginnings and endings.  We think we have a new year. A new month.  A new week.  A new day.  In reality, I think we swim in an eternal now and if quantum physicists are to be believed time truly is made up to help us organize things.

But on New Years day I’d prefer to think that each day IS a new beginning. That we DO get the chance to begin again (and again, and again and again….).

Dreams without an action plan are indulgences.

But action without purpose, meaning and direction is simply activity.

Really, we need both.

So much is outside our span of control – most of life, really.  So we can plan our intents, our methodologies. We can set goals and keep our eyes towards them.  But if we are unable to surf the vast tide of chaos – life – we’re likely to be constantly jarred.  Riding the El on old tracks with a full trainload at rush hour – this bumpy business of life.

That balance between focus and spontaneity – between “where I’m going” and “be here now”  – it all gets encapsulated in this holy holi-day.  Maybe you are like me – you at least write down some hopes, plans and dreams for the year to come.  And then – because it is a day out of ordinary time (a holi-day) you relax into the moment.  Laugh with friends.  Maybe go visiting. Watch football.  Eat and drink in ways you wouldn’t on “just a Tuesday”.

I’m reading a book on quantum physics now – “The Intention Experiment” by Lynne McTaggert.  Those physicists seem to be proving scientifically what my mother always said “you become what you think about.”  Our thoughts DO create physical reality.

So what shall we create in 2013, friends?  What are YOUR intentions – for your own dear self?  And for our great big beautiful world?

As always, I really want to know!

Great the New Year with open arms!

Great the New Year with open arms!

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Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets

Yesterday I went to the Bar Mitzvah of my friend Julia’s son, Joseph.  One of the things I like best at a Bar Mitzvah is the young man or young woman’s commentary on the Torah.

Joseph read the Biblical passage about Jacob and Esau and their disputes.  His commentary was about the need to protect the vulnerable.  He talked about the rich not being unkind to the poor – that rather than stealing from them, we need to help them.  I thought that perhaps he could be an advisor to the Republican Party – they need him.

He gave several examples of people with more power taking advantage of those with less, the most endearing of which, from this tall, but still young man, was the injunction that larger people should not pick on smaller people.

His prescription for how one ensures adhering to this path of protecting the vulnerable was quite insightful for a 13-year-old:

Self-control.

Joseph’s analysis immediately made me think of Gandhi, a longstanding hero of mine:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
―    Mahatma Gandhi

At the Bar Mitzvah, I was surprised and happy to run into a friend from my youth.  She was clearly similarly surprised.  Not similarly happy.  Which left me puzzling throughout the service – why was Marlene so aloof?

I realized that my beliefs, thoughts, words and actions in my youth were not ones that always engendered endearment to those in my path.  And when a significant relationship ended in my 30s Marlene was the one friend who “sided” with my former partner.  She saw me as “bad.”

We become who we are along Gandhi’s trajectory.  Our actions DO reap results.  Karma is, indeed real.

The good news from my perspective is that using Joseph’s nostrum of “self-control” we can change that trajectory.

I have a long way to go, in so many ways.  My faults are glaringly obvious to me.  But Joseph’s wisdom combined with being rebuffed led me to reflect on my own life – on the ways in which I have changed for the good, and on my current efforts to change my beliefs, thoughts, actions and habits.

How about you?  Do you think Gandhi was correct – that we become who we are, starting with our beliefs, which, ultimately become our destiny?  And is Joseph correct that the way to ensure we behave in ways that are ‘good’ and just is first and foremost through self-control?  How has that played out in YOUR life?  I really want to know!

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“Like a subliminal message being played under the predominant music, a sense of possibility, no matter how faint, drives a wedge between the suffering we may wake up with each day and the hopelessness that can try to move in with us on a permanent basis.  It inspires us to envision a better life for ourselves.  It is this glimmer of possibility that is the beginning of faith.” – Sharon Salzberg, from “Faith:  Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience

I just finished reading Faith by Sharon Salzberg (and will soon write a review).  This bit really jumped out at me right now.  In some ways I feel as though I’ve been dropped into “Waiting for Godot”, Samuel Beckett’s play which epitomizes boredom and a sense of meaningless. 

My presentation issue is wee and a high class problem to have – the start up work lag at the new job is interminable – 3 weeks thus far with nothing to do. 

So much of how we experience life is directly related to our attitude about circumstances, not the circumstances themselves.

Sharon Salzberg, like Viktor Frankl and Anne Frank personally knows about suffering.  And all three of them bravely, perhaps inconceivably, made the same points:  Life is still worth living.  Our attitude shapes our realities.  Finding meaning amidst the grief, destruction — or just plain old boredom – transforms us and our view of reality.

I like this, particularly: “It is this glimmer of possibility that is the beginning of faith.”

I’ve noticed, too, how the glimmer, if nurtured, can grow very quickly.  I’m seeing this in a very small, practical way at my house.  Some small issues that needed to be addressed snowballed a bit (home-owning friends, haven’t you noticed this tendency too!).  But seeing that I CAN affect change in my surroundings – change that both makes things more workable, but also more beautiful has set me to envisioning other possibilities.  Instead of just quietly enduring an extremely ugly front walkway, I actually got a few quotes and have a plan to replace this eyesore that has annoyed me for the entire time I’ve lived here. 

Even when it truly feels as though changing the outer reality is just not a possibility, by changing our relationship to it, things change. 

Many years ago my corporate life, so on the ascendancy, got turned on its head, for reasons totally outside of my control.  My boss, a very powerful man, got ‘overthrown’ in a corporate coup. As his second-in-command, I was much despised by the new leader (who had never met me before).  I tried to move out of his group, but could not.  My life at work felt unbearable.  I resisted, tried to change things, railed against it all.  Nothing.

Finally, in a frenzy of anger and distress I had a harsh heart-to-heart talk with God.  “Really?  You kidding me?  THIS is your will for me??  Well, I hate THIS but since it seems to be what you have in mind, I surrender.  I give up.  I accept this as my fate for now.”

That was on a Friday.  I came in to work on Monday – approximately one year after the coup, a year of misery, to be sure – and my hateful boss told me that he was transferring me back to work under my former boss/mentor.

Wow.

While that story has much to do with acceptance, it also relates to the Salzberg quote in that by changing my attitude, I let in that glimmer of hope.  And that changed everything.

How about you?  Has hopelessness ever tried to move in with you  on a permanent basis?  What did you do?  As ever, I really want to know!

 

 

 

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I finished reading Anne Lamott’s standout new book, Some Assembly Required a few weeks ago.  It’s been sitting on my desk, on top of the “To Do” folder just about a foot away from this laptop which seems to be where I live.  So it’s not exactly out of sight. Or, actually, out of mind.

You see, a book review of Some Assembly ‘is going to be my next blog post’ – and that has been true since the day after I read it.

I LOVED this book!  So why no book review yet?

It’s not that I don’t have time – quite the opposite in fact.

I think it’s the dance between perfectionism and slapdash – a dance I’m quite adept at, actually.  My perfectionism says “This book is so over-the-top good and Anne Lamott is such a superior writer that  you must write the PERFECT review so people will flock out to buy it.” Oh – “and so people think YOU are smart and funny, too” – ya, there’s that.

My “let’s get it done, NOW” self says “For goodness sakes, Diane, this has been sitting on your desk for weeks – let’s get this show on the road!”

The root of much of my procrastination is perfectionism.

When, if I listened to Anne Lamott’s instructions on writing, I’d know to ‘write shitty first drafts’ – and then if they truly were shitty, I could revise and go.

A former coaching client of mine coined a phrase:  “Action leads to satisfaction” (thanks, Jim Gahen).

So now that I’ve told on myself, expect a post about Some Assembly Required within the next 48 hours.

But how about you?  Does perfectionism get in your way?  Do you end up in slapdash mode, having been on the sidelines too long due to perfectionism?  For me that shows up like “oh shit!  now I REALLY have to crank this out!”.  How about you?  As always, I really WOULD love to know!

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For three years I attended Jean Houston’s “Mystery School” in New York.  One weekend Jean was gone and our substitute teacher was Marianne Williamson, the writer and peace activist who has popularized “A Course in Miracles” in her books, such as “A Return to Love” and “Everyday Grace

Marianne said something I’ve not forgotten.  The context was powerful – and I’ll write about that event another time, as it is worthy of reflection.  But for now, just the quote:

“Forgive yourselves and get back to work.”

I remembered that last night as I was talking to friend.  I am blessed to be in a sort of ‘big sister’/mentor role in her life and she had called me for advice.  She had three instances of late in which she found herself enraged at people who were not pulling their own weight, not working, not being self-supporting.  She has done enough personal growth work to know that the degree to  which she was upset was indicative that this wasn’t just about ‘them’ – it was about her.

It wasn’t the obvious (it rarely is).  She has worked hard since she was young, is working now, and is financially pulling her weight in her marriage.

But as she delved deeper she realized that she still had some deep shame about some financial decisions she and her husband made a few years ago.

She’s made a lot of financial changes – has ‘amended her ways’ – as a result of that hard decision.

But what she had NOT done was to forgive herself.

I congratulated my friend on the “getting back to work” part (i.e., ‘doing the next right thing’).  And I encouraged her to now turn towards forgiving herself.

So imagine my surprise this morning when I awakened, just barely conscious, and began berating myself for wasting the rest of the evening last night.  Oh, my time with my friend felt like a gift, worthy of my attention – but it was the hours of playing games and checking Facebook rather than ‘being productive’ about which I had an opinion.

I can see, too, what a habit this can be.  NOT ‘doing the next right thing’ and then, rather than observing and changing, acting like just beating up on myself will change things.

It doesn’t.

In fact, it makes it worse.

For one, it stops a deeper inquiry.  And, it gives the false illusion of having made amends – when the real amend is, as any dictionary will tell us, ‘to change.’

I’m grateful to Marianne Williamson for giving me a memorable quote for this concept. And to my friend for serving as a mirror.

And now?  I forgive myself for loafing (not such a bad thing at all!) and I have a plan for tonight that includes both some productive activities and some RELAXATION (which is not ‘bad’!).

How about you?  Do you ‘forgive yourself and get back to work’?  Or do you need to retake that class as I do?  I’d really like to know!

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Just the other night I was chatting with a friend about happiness.  I told her that I had a vivid memory of a party – one of, oh, I’d say, a thousand parties (seemed like one per night) in my youth.  I was probably about 24 at the time.  I was standing in a kitchen – whose house? who knows? – with my foot up on the seat of a kitchen chair.  I was drinking Guinness out of a bottle, talking to Denny Lindsey, just laughing my ass off.  The house was filled with laughter, loud GOOD music and people I loved.  It was winter and I had on blue jeans, a flannel shirt and some hiking boots.  I was filled to overflowing with joy – pure joy.  And I thought “I’m gonna always remember how happy I am tonight.”

You know, close to four decades later, I still DO remember that.

And so what an interesting little bit of synchronicity that less than a week after recounting this story, I was on my goddaughter’s Facebook page and saw a post from her uncle – Denny Lindsey.  So I sent off a “friend request” and tonight we connected on Facebook.

Looking at the pictures of his family – I was close friends with his sister, my goddaughter’s mom, and with Denny and their brother Geoff – brought back a flood of memories.

And it got me thinking of the great, incomparable gift that old friends are in our lives.  Especially friendships that aren’t just longstanding – but the ones that began in our formative years.  People who knew us when we were significantly forging who we have eventually become.  Who, in fact, helped shape that becoming-ness.

So welcome back into my life, Denny Lindsey.  And thanks to all of the companions of my youth.

Though there can be a danger that friends from our past can’t see who we are now, blinded as they are by who we once were, the ones who DO see the changes, but also remember the changeling – those are rare and precious jewels and should be cherished appropriately.

How about you?  Are you blessed by people who knew you “back in the day”?  Is it fun to reminisce?  Do they see you as you are now?  Do you see THEM as they are now?

I’d really like to know!

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