The One Reading at the Beach

Tonight I’m in Branford, CT. Alone with my dog. A rare Memorial through Labor Day moment when our second home isn’t rented.

 

I’m noshing on pretzel sticks, olives, edamame, and chocolate from Daren & I’s trip last week to Santa Barbara and to the cutest little chocolate shop I’ve ever seen in the town of Los Olivos, CA… while sipping on an inexpensive (the hubs would cringe at the low cost) glass of Chard.

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Chocolate Shop in Los Olivos

I was outside earlier. The sun came out for a few minutes when I first arrived. It was warm & comfy in the sun. I met the contractors working on our neighbor’s sea wall. They had some (maybe– fingers crossed!) bad news about our own possibly poorly constructed sea wall. Time will tell, right???

 

Now I’m inside reading a book I picked up from the library just this afternoon. I’m just on page 34 and almost done with my snacks (aka ‘dinner’) when I came across this line.

 

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I want to be her. Not her friend. I look just past my own feet at Koji and admire him…. But I am the friend. The narrator of this part and Koji are not me. I envy them because I don’t know how to relax.

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View of the inspired picture of Koji

I’m the chick on the move. I truly can’t stop moving. If I have to I must twitch or shake while not moving. So many things feel wrong with that. But that’s me.

 

Somewhere in my not so much younger life, I received advice I took to heart from well meaning friends and colleagues on keeping weight off (not due to my weight, just a coincidental state of mind I kept running into). Keep moving, eat light, no eating after 5pm or forget it….

 

Forget what I thought only to myself?

Self answers: Obesity, heart disease, triple bi-pass surgery or another one of these cases where 45-year-old otherwise healthy individual kicks the bucket out of no-where. Family and friends are astonished.

 

Other advice – from my father when I was even younger…. Don’t be lazy. People who don’t look around for what there is to do won’t amount to much. Do as much as you cant. Seize the moment.

 

Seize the moment? Not amount to much? Get fat and be in the newspapers because I kicked it at a healthy 45-years-old… That will be the destiny of the chick reading at the beach. Right? Right?? Right (read- sound of crickets)…

 

So… I’ll be the one swimming. Meeting the cute guys in the water. Being thrown back in with some other girls as we play chicken or whatever that water game is called. And I’ll be the one in an hour coaxing my reading friend to get up, showered and dressed with me so we can hang with these cute dudes at the restaurant/karaoke bar right there – look you can see it on the boardwalk; at 7pm sharp. Hurry… hurry… hurry.

 

34 pages into the book. These 2 girls went to grad school together. At this point they just couldn’t be more than 26 years old, though this is my educated wicked cheap chardonnay guess.

 

So fast-forward to me now at 43 with my sleepy only 5-year old dog. Rocking, twitching, whatever you may call it. My ex used to call it an Elvis shake. I can’t stop moving. So even when I’m sitting/’relaxing’I should be burning calories twitching??? Do I have body issues? NO!  but yeah, who doesn’t?

 

I want to be the reading chick. I want to be Koji. I don’t want to have to worry about achieving something every moment of every day. Seizing every moment by running to capture it. These ‘others’such as my beloved dog seem to capture it by staying still. Are one of us right and one of us wrong?

 

My brain tells me yes, but my heart/soul say no.

 

My yoga background says there are two sides to everything. The proverbial ‘They” are Tamasic and I’m Rajistic. The pendulum swings both ways. Somewhere in the middle is Sattva. A place almost none of us achieves because early on in life at some point some how we choose sides. More on this

 

Sides by skin color/fur color, ethnic background/animal species, gender, income level, housing type, you name it! And sides by if one wants to be on the move or still.

 

I chose to be on the move. Later in life I realize stillness is the “key”. Meditation. Quiet. Where the magic & wonder is.

 

But is it? Doesn’t stillness lead to boredom, inertia, obesity & depression. The minute I think of these things I’m on the move again, in case the thought of them may entice me and I’ll turn into what I can’t stand.

 

BUTTTTTTTTTTTT….. what can’t I stand about it? So I’ll move, miss life and be anxious? Better than being bored, lazy, seeing every slow (yawn) moment, and having my heart not pump out of my chest 24/7/365 due to the anxiety I’m creating. Gulp….

 

I envy them. So why do I try to avoid being like them??? Is total stillness, meditation and quieting the mind the key to life? I always thought so and oddly strayed from that path to the MOST opposite end I could conjure up before knocking myself out with exhaustion at the end of every day; times 43 years to date. Straying from what I believed rather than moving toward it.

 

But is it the “KEY”?

 

I did always think so until right now when I opted to pick up the laptop and capture these thoughts. No, it’s not the key. The key is in the middle.

 

Even Buddha says to choose the middle path. Yeah, google it. No one extreme or the other is the answer. In some weird way I feel that applies to everything. Democratic/Republican. Black/White. Hot/Cold. Day/Night. Sun/Moon. Hot/Cold. Yin/Yang.

 

Thousand of years ago the Tao tried to explain this with a simple symbol of the Yin Yang.

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Very last painting I did on 4/22 (though it feels like a life-time ago). My brother Mario bought it from a fundraiser for Mental Health a few weeks ago. I plan to write a blog about it, as it’s meant to represent the yogic koshas.

So WHYYYY. WHY, Why, why….. (this is me metaphorically shouting from the rooftops) Why do we have to take sides?

 

In a completely yet totally unrelated story…. My step-son visited our home just a bit over two weeks ago for just one brief evening and took something without asking from my eastern (albeit sun-rise) facing window sill mock alter I constructed in my son’s (who recently moved outwith a full-time out of town job) old room. It was a statue of Shiva that my husband brought into my life. It had been a fixture in our basement for years until it moved to a new room when my son first moved out into college, then to oldest my step-son’s room when he took it one day from that common room (as he has taken quite a many things that were either ours or his father’s over the years into his room, to his mother’s or in the trash), then to my altar where it stood as my epitome of the Lord of Dance; the Destructor/Creator of Change… and in my mind the one who makes so much change and moves things SOOO fast that they end up culminating into a silent moment. The way the autumn changes, destroys and culminates in winter- which is the only thing that could help spring bloom again. Where the flowers, trees, bushes, fishes, animals – whatever is to come only evolve smarter with age, passing along the wisdom they learned from generation to generation.

 

And back to the present. Shiva is the most Rajistic of the Hindu Gods in terms of the Gunas. The next Hindu God if this were a circle, would be Brahma who is the creator before leading to Vishnu (the sustainer). All three circle round & round in that order. Create, Sustain, Destroy/Change…. So we can start again.

 

The Shiva “taking” mentioned above prompted me to purchase a Saraswati staute. Saraswati is a Goddess I briefly learned about at the end of my 300-hour yoga teacher training (for those who don’t know – it’s level of study past the required yoga teacher requisite). Similar to a masters – yet not quite a Ph.D as to those who lead the Master level students.

 

Saraswati… Just her name kind of touched me the first time I heard the vibration of sound in the air. She’s the Goddess of Wisdom, Knowledge, the Arts. I didn’t remember at the moment I ordered the statue, but she is the “female” Goddess of Brahama, the creator. In my memory she was the consort of Vishnu who sustains what is. Kind of similar to the middle part of life. The summer. The heat. The least of anything I’m attracted to. I’m moved toward super movement, but attracted to rest.

 

Symbolically Saraswati intrigued me, though the male version of Shiva raptured me. Probably because it’s where I am in the scale of life. In that late stage of change, heading toward rest/rebirth/spring.  I don’t know why I was and may possibly continue  to [until the end of my life] hold onto to this habitual thought pattern. As humans, I know we are drawn to habits and repetition, but ultimately we are meant to pass through the cycle and keep moving.

 

If ‘keeping moving’ when you need to move to the next change toward rest is what you are holding onto/fighting against, then you are stuck. When you are stuck you are fighting the laws of nature. Similar to attempting to swim against the tide. You can either go with it or let it overtake you. Nature always wins.

 

That may have been TOO much for some. I perplex myself sometimes and have to stop and think about what I’m thinking or writing about. But yeah yeah yeah… that is just one more sign that I’m at that edge before slowing down, just trying to keep on holding on by moving.

 

It’s funny I felt drawn to Saraswati. The most Yin of the trio of the dual male/female God-beginning of the cycle. Drawn to the Goddess of Wisdom, Knowledge, and Creativity. Aside from the last 3 years of my life being the most anxiety ridden of my life, they’ve also been the most creative.

 

Maybe I’ve been on the cusp in these three years toward change. Maybe I was on it long before then; perhaps I was born that way. Whatever the case, the people and experiences in my life shaped my habitual thought patterns.

 

But that doesn’t mean I need to hold onto it and not accept the transformation so desperately trying to take place within me. It doesn’t mean I should build walls around myself to protect what is old and crumbling.

 

It’s funny the crumbling physical sea wall just a short while ago was brought to my attention here at the very place I write this from. It’s not a coincidence my silly black lab mix was peacefully laying beside me as I read a line from this book that struck a cord.

 

There’s a reason why I want to be the girl who is reading at the beach and not the one swimming. I don’t know why I’m fighting it. To be honest, it’s quite exhausting.

 

Let’s just stop choosing sides and all get along. Perhaps that will quench our inborn desires to swing one way or the other towards the middle where we can all just stop swinging and see the beautiful life we were given without all the surrounding opposite end issues, and enjoy the miracle together. Accepting all that is from every view.

 

Namaste.

 

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Voices Carry

Voices Carry

 

Shush, keep it down now, voices carry

 

The song “Voices Carry” by Til’ Tuesday always gave me somewhat of a chill. Not in a bad way, but through some haunting lens I didn’t quite understand but felt a magnetic draw to.

 

2 years ago while preparing some yoga classes April’s Sexual Assault month which has a strong hand-in-hand partnership with October’s Domestic Violence month (a topic that I feel very strongly about as a child abuse survivor) – I set out on a search for songs about these topics.

 

Voices Carry came up under Domestic Violence. Yes, I suppose – ‘shush, keep it down now, voices carry’. It wasn’t all too different from some of the other 80’s tunes like Luka and Behind the Wall. It had that same eerie vibe that drew me in, while not really digesting much what the lyrics were so poignantly about.

 

A few months ago on the way home from work my music was playing on shuffle in the car when “Voices Carry” came on. Likely for the first time I really listened to and digested the lyrics. The Internet search from 2 years ago plagued my mind, but I wasn’t so sure anymore that Domestic Violence was completely behind it. Was it a secret lover perhaps? What did the words mean???

 

Hours later after dinner, walking the dog and the nightly routine – Daren was out at hockey with Devin and I picked up my phone before bed to search the lyrics meaning.

 

No doubt it was about the power dynamic in an Intimate Partner relationship. But what I read over and over and over, is that the song was originally written with “She” instead of “He”. I read a lot about the video and how the man tried to control the woman… (never saw this video) and how it could be about sexual assault; but I couldn’t shake what almost seems now after one too many sources said that it was about a lesbian relationship.

 

Wow. That just shifts everything now doesn’t it?

 

I’ve written about this before- that back in May 2017 I was required to take a 50 hour CT state training on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in order to teach yoga at Domestic Violence shelters. I was ambivalent about the training. It was a requirement. I had to shift my schedule a bit to fit it in. It ended up being a life-changer.

 

The topics were so eye opening. It wasn’t just about the topics. It was about the dynamic of relationships. The dynamic of human unfairness. The dynamic which children grow up and how certain segments of society are treated unfairly. How cycles of violence perpetuate through generations. How we treat and work with perpetrators. How the police are trained and not trained to deal with these issues. How the law works and how the laws have changed over the years. How our culture almost encourages boys toward violence and treating women as objects. How the LGBT movement plays into it all. How race is involved in this. I trained at the umbrella agency in Bridgeport CT. I was finally able to piece together that these topics are all so very related and are ultimately human rights issues. Human Justice Issues. All encompassing and under one umbrella.

 

It was there I very sadly realized that I myself have PTSD from childhood abuse. I was very likely unable to handle the awareness until then.  It was probably the most educational 50 hours I’d ever spent – professionally and personally.

 

Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and a same sex relationship – how can one song be related to all 3? How can these topics even be related?

 

Strange thing is that they are. It’s all stuff that as a society we’ve kept hush about and swept under the rug. Things that folks were ashamed of and had to hide. The unspeakable, but oh so very real truth.

 

I heard the song again last night on the way home after sharing a few drinks with a friend. It haunted me as always. Something I read a few months back when I search it the last time preoccupied my mind enough for me to try to find it again (of course I could not – go figure). A writer explained how she always believed the song was about a heterosexual couple in an affair situation until she read about the “she” word removal as well.  At that point she wrote a bit about how sad it was that the record company wouldn’t record it, as stations and the public were not ready for the topic; but how that changed the words and entire meaning of the song for her.

 

Voices Carry… Voices Carry… Voices Carry.

 

That was the main meaning. If we don’t keep quiet about a topic, the voice of it will carry to others. The message will get across. Yes, ‘shush’ we’ve been told to keep it down, that voices will carry. But on the other hand – Voices Carry! The more we talk and bring awareness, the more our voices will carry. Would it have been so bad to carry the message the writer intended to send?

 

The love of homosexuals. Any human or sexual orientation that is involved in intimate partner violence. Child Abuse. Sexual assault/abuse/rape. The mental illness of perpetrators. & their own sordid pasts… These are human rights issues. Things that have made people feel ashamed and lesser than. Things they’ve felt the need to hide. People who have felt they have no voice.

 

Not treating everyone the same regardless of the shoes they’ve walked in is ABUSE.

No need to listen to the bully who says “Shush & Keep it down now”. Voices do carry. All of them do. Like drops in a bucket. Each little drop will contribute to the eventual overflow that will change things. Every voice counts.

 

https://spinditty.com/playlists/Songs-About-Domestic-Violence-and-Child-Abuse

Unknown

Voices Carry

'Til Tuesday

 

I'm in the dark, I'd like to read his mind
But I'm frightened of the things I might find
Oh, there must be something he's thinking of
to tear him away-a-ay
When I tell him that I'm falling in love
why does he say-a-ay

 

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry



Uh-ah

I try so hard not to get upset
Because I know all the trouble I'll get
Oh, he tells me tears are something to hide
and something to fear-eh-eh
And I try so hard to keep it inside
so no one can hear

 

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Uh-ah

 

Oh!
He wants me, but only part of the time
He wants me, if he can keep me in line

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, shut up now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, darling, she might overhear
Hush, hush - voices carry



He said shut up - he said shut up
Oh God can't you keep it down
Voices carry
Hush hush, voices carry

 

Songwriters: MANN AIMEE / HAUSMAN MICHAEL / HOLMES ROBERT / PESCE JOSEPH

Voices Carry lyrics © Til Tunes Assoc., MECHANICAL COPYRIGHT PROTECTION SOCIETY LTD, 'TIL TUNES ASSOCIATES

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A Place with Answers– What a Teacher, Fashion Designer & Astronomer have in Common

What do a teacher, fashion designer & astronomer have in common?

 

Nothing. Everything. Answers to our deepest questions.

 

When we are children we are asked by our elders, our peers and even ourselves what we would like to “Be” when we grew up.

 

Some lucky young children just KNOW from a very early age what they would like to do with the rest of their lives. The majority do not, but provide an answer anyhow. I was in the latter category.

 

When we innocently ask our youngsters this question, I think it’s important to be aware of how our reaction might affect them. And more importantly, how it may affect their life choices.

 

As a child, the messages I received and then, later on as an adult proceeded to provide, seemed quite contrasting:

  • You can be anything you set your mind to be

AND

  • It’s important to choose a job where you can make a lot of money and not have so much competition that it’s difficult break into the field.

 

I cringe to think about the advice I gave my own children.

 

I couldn’t tell you how many times during my elementary and secondary school years I needed to write an essay or composition about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

 

Not knowing – and needing to answer – I always chose to write about being a teacher and helping others learn. But did I really want to be a teacher?

 

Not in the way that I knew what a teacher was. I distinctly remember the first day of school in my senior year. I was sitting in first period math class and thinking about how next year there would be no first day of school for me. It seemed liberating to break out of these walls. Then, in a brief moment of panic I thought  – well, you want to be a teacher, so you will be back. That was the first time I actually thought through what it would be like to really be a teacher… school supplies, the smell of the buildings, bells, kids…. Ummmm I didn’t really want that. At all. Why did I ever write that?

 

Rewind back to second grade. I received my first Cabbage Patch Doll. The name she came with was Marni Elisabeth. She was a preemie, but she had the Xavier Roberts name scribbled across her bottom; so she was the real thing and not the ‘fake’ my parents tried to pass off for Christmas. I was SO excited. I sat in the on the top step of the third floor in the hallway of our Brooklyn apartment on Coney Island Avenue. It was mid-day and the sun was shining through the skylight above.  I went through the contents of Marni’s package, reading what I could and filling out her “adoption” paperwork. Questions were asked of me. My name. Did I want to keep her name? And there was even a question that said,  “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I still have that little piece of paper. For some very strange reason I wrote Fashion Designer.

 

A few years later we had the standard, run of the mill elementary school science fair. I chose to create a physical model of the solar system. We hadn’t yet learned about the solar system in school so I turned to the trusty, dusty, half collection of encyclopedias we had in the closet of our apartment. I learned enough to manifest a creation in my mind of what I wanted to build and how/which planets circled the sun in which order. While building the solar system, something about it just touched my soul for some reason. It resonated with me in the way no other information really had in my learning experience to date. Maybe it was because I chose to learn it on my own, or maybe it meant something more.

 

I recall sitting around the dinner table around that time and making the announcement that I would like to be an astronomer when I grow up. My well-meaning parents scoffed at the idea and said I didn’t and didn’t know what I wanted. There aren’t many astronomers in the world and I would have to be at the super upper end of the best of the best to be able to find a job. They said if I wanted to be happy and make money I should set my sights on becoming a lawyer or a doctor.

 

Common story huh? Just the thought of either job made me not want to be in the workforce. I’ll worry about it when I get older, I thought.

 

Well, I grew up pretty fast. At 18 I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I went into the Coast Guard and became a cook simply because the start time for cook training coincided with my ex-husbands training as an aviation mechanic. I ended up enjoying cooking far more than I could ever have imagined.

 

After active duty at 22 I still didn’t know what I wanted to do long term. While I loved to cook, I now had a child and didn’t want to work the night/weekend/holiday hours. I bought the suggested “What Color is Your Parachute” book the military’s separation seminar suggested. It was truly no help.

 

At the time I had obtained an Associates Degree in general studies and enrolled for my Bachelors with a concentrationUnknown in accounting since an 8th grade career test said I would make a good accountant. Once I started school I was required to take a variety of basic business majors. I enjoyed the business topics so much and while reading through the course catalog I felt more excited and connected to the general business studies, so I changed my major to business administration. I loved school and learning in a way I had not in high school or would notif I had gone to college at 18.

 

After my daughter was born; I was only 23, mostly a stay at home mom, full-time college student and in the Coast Guard Reserves. I strongly desired to leave the house a bit more so I started a part-time job as a cashier on the front end of the local A&P while my ex-husband was not working his full time job. I enjoyed doing the mindless work of standing at a register and talking with the customers. I wasn’t working there for more than a few months before I was a head cashier and was offered a position to teach new employee orientation as well as train others in customer service. I was the customer service guru of the store. I enjoyed that job too – immensely!

 

Pressing money matters required me to find full-time work when my two children were five and three years old. I began working at the VA Hospital where I still work today. At last I was able to put some of my degree to use and after a few pay raises I decided to go back to school for an MBA in healthcare administration.

 

Again, I loved school and learning! I almost didn’t want it to end. And again I was promoted to another job where I was able to put my degree skills to use. I was mandated to go to a handful of trainings and advanced trainings on “Facilitation” and it was something else that really seemed to touch my soul and resonated with me at a deep level. Again I wasn’t doing it for very long at all before I was in a position where I was teaching it to others at all levels of the organization. Somehow it tied into team work and I would go to different departments to help team build or help them figure out ways to do things better in their own workflow processes.  I was having so much fun!

 

A few years into that job and a full marriage later, I still very much enjoyed what I was doing, but I missed feeling like I was learning and growing. I was becoming a robot in every way. The commute, the standard meetings, the rush at night to get dinner on the table, get kids to where they needed to be, and falling asleep in complete heap of utter exhaustion at the end of the day.

 

I became very adept at what I was doing, but longed for something more. I just wasn’t sure what it was. For some odd reason I started to Google and become interested in what seemed like a variety of topics. It started out with the planets, then energy, then gravity. As I kept exploring, my searches became deeper and somehow more spiritual at the same time. Astrophysics, metaphysics, the universe, universal laws of spirituality… Who are we anyway and why am I here?

 

Looking back I now know I was missing an existence where creativity and self-expression were part of it. I tried to engage the audiences I was teaching with interesting and funny clipart and quotes or puns. In every single spreadsheet or report I created, I tried to match colors in various tables and charts, and make it interesting and easy for the reader to interpret the information. In one famously funny instance, my then-boss asked me for some data and analysis on the diarrhea ICD-9 code. I pulled up the data and analyzed it very quickly. But then to make things interesting I topped the tables and highlighted the key information in muted shades of browns, greens and yellows. I didn’t realize how the need for creativity was just bursting out of me and I was using it in the very few ways I knew how.

 

I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but I was getting bored. With a capital B. I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I did know that I didn’t want to commute and sit behind a desk, teach in a classroom and look like the model of a young professional for the rest of my life.

 

A Teacher, Fashion Designer, and Astronomer.

 

Writing this a few years after I literally just could not take one more second of the standard run of the mill modern day job, commute and dress-up; it now makes a lot more sense.

 

I’ve since had a run of mini breakdowns which helped me to slow the heck down, think about myself and think about my work in the world. I currently work part-time at the VA, teach yoga and manage a rental home on the water. For now I’ve never been happier and feel like I’m slowly finding my life’s purpose.

 

When I think about myself and who I am, and what I love, those three careers make sense. I am one of the rare people in the world who loves to clean. For me personally, cleaning ties into making things look nice and welcoming. It ties into being organized, to re-organizing as needed, decorating, and creating a space wherever it may be, at home, in the office, in my car or in other areas people allow to me touch. I enjoy making things feel welcoming, appealing and spacious.

 

I like making things pretty… myself included of course! Fashion Designing has many of those core things – the idea of dressing something up in different ways to create an experience for others to see. It’s probably why I liked playing with colors and patterns on spreadsheets. And why I still until today enjoy cooking and being creative with flavors. Why I enjoy sharing my home on the water with renters and creating a getaway space and experience they can enjoy. Why I love creating a yogic atmosphere for my students. Why I like to paint, whether it’s on a wall or a canvas, update furniture, remodel, etc.

 

A teacher? Yes but not in the way I understood that a teacher existed at the time. The parts of A&P and the VA that I enjoyed so much were teaching others how to do something I myself enjoyed and someone else also deemed that I was good enough at to teach. I like the experience of doing what I’m teaching as I’m doing it and demonstrating it in real time. I fell into teaching while doing customer service, facilitation and yoga. I’m sure there are myriads of other things out there which are similar. But these were in my lap somehow. Coincidence? Maybe. Or did what something in me really wanted manifest itself through what someone else may have seen as me being good at and the opportunity to teach it presented itself.

 

The astronomer is a toughie to explain. But at the height of my life boredom, it still appealed to me. In what may seem like a very strange way to others, it led me to yoga and spirituality. Energy, vibration, the gravitational pull of the planets and then gravity itself led me to explore space-time, quantum mechanics, how thoughts have energetic qualities… and it gets crazier as it goes on. But I feel a total tie-in between science and consciousness, which really is a manifestation of how we are all one. It’s not easy to explain and I could talk for hours about it with anyone who has a similar interest. The point is that something deep inside my soul detected this during my 4th grade astronomy science project. Only in the past few years has it unveiled itself and opened my world to all types of exploration.

 

I like how life turned out. I like being on a journey. I know that everything in the universe unravels as it should. I know that one day I very well may be looking back to now, seeing these days as a stepping stone to where I ended up.

 

However, I can’t help but wonder if my life would have been different if anyone had helped me explore what my early so-called ‘passions’ were.

 

I can’t help but wonder if kids in their more unfiltered and not yet too muddied up version of the world, kind of know deep down what inspires them without even knowing it does. I did.

 

Just because I said I wanted to be a teacher, fashion designer and astronomer; it didn’t necessarily mean I wanted to pursue those careers on a literal level. But it meant something about who I am.

 

When my now almost 22-year old son, who doesn’t have an idea of what he wants to be when he “grows up,” was younger – he wanted to be an artist, a comedian and a cook. I don’t want to “What if?” anything (because gosh it’s unhealthy). But I do wonder what would have happened if earlier he had been able to explore what particularly touches his heart, and if I and his father had not told him those are really difficult fields to break into, or that cooks have horrible hours and don’t get paid well.

 

We can only learn from our past. What I’ve come to conclude today while meditating and then consequently writing, is that the answers really are all within. If we can only quiet the external noise of the physical world around house, our own internal monkey mind, and then ask,  they are there. Like an undiscovered treasure.

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Gingerbread Cookie (Yum) Lesson

It’s the time of year for holiday baking! For a few years I skipped it completely. My friends and family moaned a little, but we used whatever money I was going to spend making cookies and sending cards towards charity. This year I decided to make somecookies. Only a batch of each to keep it all super low key. Also, as long as a nice large tray of cookies would be dropped off at the domestic violence shelter where I often make donations– it would still be for charity.

Yesterday while making Gingerbread men I experienced a little of a spiritual quest, where the words of many who’ve walked before me sunk even deeper.

Monday I made the Gingerbread dough and popped it in the fridge until I was ready to roll it out at a later time. Yesterday I worked from home, and following my lunch walk; I decided to pull out the dough so it was be perfectly soft when I logged off for the day. The cold air outside left me craving the warm smell of cookies in my home.

When it was time to roll, the consistency was just perfect (ever wondered where that phrase came from anyway? “Time to roll”). I preheated the oven and set to work making tiny little people with a brand new cookie cutter I purchased from Zabars on Sunday morning (for an unbelievable price by-the way). They were coming out seamlessly!

I knew I was going to freeze most of them so I didn’t want to frost them. Instead I opted to make 3 little indentations with an appetizer fork on their bellies for buttons as well as on their feet to mimic a little cuff. For the eyes I used the back of a lobster pick. I decided against a mouth, nose or cuffs for the arms. It was a bit too much, as this year I’m keeping it simple.

As I decorated the first batch I couldn’t help but notice how different each cookie already looked. I attempted to make them all the same, but the place in the dough where I cut and the ever so slight differences in the eyes, buttons & cuffs made each and every beautiful little Gingerbread person unique in it’s own way.

I popped the first two trays in the oven and set to work on the second two trays. It was immediately apparent that the dough was already slightly warmer and a bit more difficult to cut. However, making the indentations was easier.

The first batch came out and I loaded the second one in. I let the first two trays cool for a minute before beginning to carefully remove them with a spatula for the cooling rack.

These cute little confections puffed up in the oven and began to sink back down as I started to lift them. As with many cookies (especially complicated cut outs) a few broke a little arm or leg in the process, some had less deep button indentations, some just cooked a little more than others depending on their place in the oven and how thick the dough was. Despite my attempt to make them uniform; nature, chemistry, and my own artistic abilities made each ever so slightly dissimilar to one another.

Some had gotten so puffed that they combined with a neighboring cookies. I had to carefully cut them apart so I didn’t break either in the process. For some it was difficult to distinguish which overlap belonged to which cookie.

This is where my mind went the to aforementioned short spiritual quest.

Like people and animals, these little cookies were all distinct. Where does one person really begin and another end? Those cookies that stuck together came from the same batch. Where they overlapped it was hard to tell who was who, as they are made from the same stuff. And does it matter other than to the eye that they are separate? It’s all just cookies that will taste more or less the same.

Then I thought… What if somehow these Gingerbread cookies became conscious? Would they form a society and create a hierarchy of “better” or “worse” cookies based on cut, color, consistency, button deepness, etc? How crazy would that be? Not too long before that they were just ingredients in the store, then my fridge, then in a ball together… Why would they create a structure in which some have dominance or perceived superiority over another?

What if they split off into groups and started hating on one another? Hating on one another so much so that they began destroying one another as they saw fit to their own Gingerbread beliefs. Wouldn’t that be kind of crazy? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of making the cookies in the first place? Why would they fight over differences rather than celebrating how each is unique?

Why do we think we are any different from Gingerbread people?

Carl Sagan’s quote sort of describes how I was feeling at the moment:

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.

Alan Watts famously said:

“Look, here is a tree in the garden and every summer is produces apples, and we call it an apple tree because the tree “apples.” That’s what it does. Alright, now here is a solar system inside a galaxy, and one of the peculiarities of this solar system is that at least on the planet earth, the thing peoples! In just the same way that an apple tree apples!”

The Alan Watts quote might be a little more confusing, but I listened to a Podcast one day that expounded upon this quote. Watts said something to the effect of imagine a few million years ago some advanced aliens were roaming around the universe and hap-chanced upon planet earth. They may have took a look at our planet and said ‘eh it’s nothing but a pile of rocks’. A few million years later the same alien race came by the earth again and noticed us humans walking around. This time they said ‘Hey look – this rock peopled.

 

We are all from the same stuff. To some extent as humans, like the Gingerbread men; we are from the same batch of mixed ingredients that were provided by the earth, solar system, Milky Way, and universe. Deep down we are all the same. It’s only nature, some chemistry, and the artistic work of our creator that makes us ever so slightly different in appearance and thought. We were created for the same purpose and should only celebrate what makes us so uniquely beautifully different.

Lessons from the Gingerbread People

 

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One of my cookies-