2.19.2015

The joy is in the journey

I've posted recently about the spiritual journey I have been on for the past many months. Or maybe I just imagined that I posted about it. Anyway, I have been on a journey, one that has expanded my mind beyond what I knew was possible before. I was meant to find Oprah's Super Soul Sunday shows, and I know I was meant to drink them in and learn all I could from the inspirational guests. Watching those shows has led me to follow interesting thinkers that would never have been in my world before. Some of those guests are deeply religious, and since I am not deeply religious their deep faith has started to make me question my own lack of religion. I saw Rob Bell and his wife Kristen Bell on Super Soul Sunday last weekend, and I thought their message was refreshing. Now I see that he has angered the established Christian community by saying that the church will eventually accept Gay Marriage. I went down a rabbit hole of articles about him, and I guess this is not new hatred for him. It makes me sad though, and somewhat reaffirms my stance on religion in my life.

I have never been religious. I grew up sporadically going to church - a very liberal United Church of Christ community, where honestly I still felt out of place. I went through the confirmation process through the church, and then decided I didn't want to go again, so I didn't. I haven't attended church regularly since I was confirmed. I'm not sure what that says, but it is what it is. Through my childhood I also went to Awana's meetings with some neighbor friends. Awana's and the summer camps we went away to, were probably my only real life encounters with evangelical like communities. I was asked to invite Jesus into my heart, and I did, but only because everyone else seemed to think it was super important and they really wanted me to do it. Looking back at those experiences - and there were others with different youth groups that came into my life through my teen years, it makes me cringe. That was not a path to god for me. It certainly may be the path to god for some people, but it wasn't for me. I have no qualms with people using religion to get closer to god, but I've made peace with the fact that religion is not my avenue to get there.

My journey has led me to a place where I can see god in everything and in everyone. I don't need to go to a church every week, and read scripture to tell me that there is a god. I know in my heart that god doesn't need me to be able to recite scripture, or to live by a certain set of firm rules to love me either. I feel closest to god when I'm in nature, when I look at my kids, and when I feel the love I have for others and that they have for me. Some people might say that I will go to hell because I don't fully abide by a certain religion's rules, but I don't buy that for a minute. It is okay for them to think it though, I don't need to change anyone's mind. I know that the god who created me, and everyone else in the world did not do so out of spite or with a large test looming that I need to pass. I'm enough just as I am, and while I do think there were struggles placed in front of me so that I would finally see what god is - or a glimpse of what god is anyway, there was no test in any of my experiences either. We are all given trials in this life, and we either learn from them or we hide from them. When we learn from the trials, our minds expand, and we do gain a greater clarity of what it means to be human though.

A bad picture of a wall hanging I have


It is great that for many people their paths to god come through religion and scripture, I think that is the whole point. Not all of us will follow that conventional path though. There was never any god in church for me, I only found static words on a page that had very little meaning for me personally. I can look back at my experiences in church with a different view now though. I think that at least in the Christian church where I have some exposure there are lots of great messages in the scriptures. I believe that Jesus was a very enlightened thinker, and he understood that god was in everything. Regardless of whether or not I believe he was the messiah, I do believe he gave the world a gift which was shifting from a view of a vengeful god that we see in the Old Testament to the loving and forgiving god we see in the New Testament. Ultimately scripture cannot give us the only way to find god, but I understand why people want to use it that way. Faith can be scary at times, because really what if we are wrong about all of it? I feel as though many people today want to interpret scriptures literally because they are afraid of what it means for them if they were meant to be fluid. I won't pretend to be a religious scholar, and my goal is not to offend anyone here. It is okay if you read this and you think I'm going to hell, I promise I won't hold it against you.

We are all on a journey in one form or another, and finding god for me has been incredibly joyful. I have no intention of telling others that god can't be found in a church, because I don't think that's true. I just know that church was not the way for me to find god, and maybe it never will be. I don't know what all of the hateful venom about Rob Bell is all about, but I do think that whatever is spewed says a lot more about the person spewing than it does about Rob Bell himself. I am not a follower of his, but from the brief glimpse I've had it appears as though he was a rising Christian star, and then walked away from it and found his own path. Maybe his early followers feel betrayed that he left the comfortable path they know. I do know that I never would have heard of Rob Bell if not for Oprah, and if his message was strictly from quoting scripture I wouldn't be all that interested in what he has to say. He may have deviated from the traditional Christian leadership path, but continuing to recite the same lines from religious texts was never going to get me to suddenly start going to church. I suspect is it the same for many others. Seeing the message that underlies all of the scripture is the ultimate goal isn't it?


2.14.2015

A trip to London

I traveled to London for work this week. I've been to London before, always for work, and this time was no different. However this time around I left home Sunday night and got in decently early Monday morning. I also didn't absolutely need to work until Wednesday morning. This meant that I had a couple of days to adjust and sightsee prior to the real work commitments. After making it to my hotel I found one of my favorite colleagues and forced him to go on a walking tour of London with me. Well I didn't really force him, and what I thought was going to be a quick walk and then lunch turned into 3+ hours of walking.

The Tower of London
Tower Bridge
The Shard
Tower of London from across the Thames
The Tower of London

St. Paul's Cathedral

It was a great tour of parts of London I hadn't seen before. After we made it back to our hotel we caught up with 2 other colleagues who had flown in a little later than I did. We then went on another 2-3 hour walking tour of London. I was unprepared for the length of that journey, and my boots with 3 inch heels started to make my feet long for a pair of running shoes. We walked a third time that day as we looked for a place to eat. I finally changed into some flat boots for that walk though, and my feet thanked me tremendously.

Tuesday was an office day. I caught up on email, and tried to finish a business case that had become urgent over the course of the week. I even had a sad desk lunch in the office - although if you notice the sad desk lunch I often eat when I'm working from home you can see that the London version of a sad desk lunch is a huge improvement over what I come up with myself (I'll let you guess which is which).



Tuesday afternoon my UK based colleague took us to The Savoy for Afternoon Tea. This was a nice surprise, and an experience I'm sure I wouldn't have ever thought to have on my own. We had lots of tea, towers of finger sandwiches and scones, fancy pastries, and cakes. My lesson learned from the experience was that the scones were the best part of the whole tea, and I shouldn't have saved room for the pastries or cakes.


I felt badly at the conclusion of the tea for forcing my colleagues to go back to the London office with me so I could work on my business case more. I managed to get enough done after an hour or so though that I finally gave up on it and we all headed out of the office and back to the hotel. The next couple of days in London revolved around the purpose for my trip - a client forum. The forum was good overall. I think my presentation was well received, and I know I got a lot of great feedback from individual clients over the course of the two days. Then it was time to go home. While this isn't how I would structure a vacation to London, it was nice to fit in a few fun things in between the work.

2.05.2015

3 Good Things

You might have noticed that I've been in a deep thinking mode lately. One of my friends told me that my blog posts were very heavy. While I don't think she meant that in a bad way, it made me think that even in the midst of deep, heavy thinking there is always space for the light and easy.

Every night when our family sits down to dinner we all say 3 good things from our days. I can't remember when we started this ritual, but it has been with us for several years. There are days when the kids are feeling rushed and crabby when they don't want to participate. However, even if it takes reminders about things we knew were good (maybe the school lunch was spaghetti or french toast sticks, or maybe the school lunch was horrible and they brought a lunch from home) we can get them to come up with their respective 3 good things.


When we started this ritual there was the thought of saying the bad things from our days too, but we decided to leave those out. I think we all find space to complain about things pretty naturally and easily, but finding things to be thankful for can take more effort. Saying the things we are thankful for provides us with far greater benefits than complaining ever can. I won't pretend that dinner in our house is always sunshine and roses, or that saying our 3 good things has the power to reverse a bad mood. I do think it matters though, and I'm glad we do it. I hope when my kids are grown and they find themselves having dinner with each other that one of them will say: "so what were your 3 good things today?" I imagine they will both smile and laugh and say their 3 good things, or maybe just quietly remember how annoying their Mom was when she forced them to be thankful every night.


1.29.2015

Boundaries

My heart broke a little this morning, or it wanted to break just a little this morning. I almost caved to my instinct to stop the heart breaking, but I held firm instead. And you know what happened? My heart grew instead. I work from home these days, and I knew that this morning I had a call that I needed to be on and ready to actively participate on by 8. I didn't want to be on mute and in the background getting The Girl ready to leave the house and then off to daycare where she catches the bus. After my workout I woke her, telling her I was going to get in the shower, that I had an early call, and that she needed to be up and ready if she wanted a ride to daycare (it is 2 blocks away). She said almost nothing in response, so I was not surprised when after my shower she was still in bed showing no signs of waking or moving. I told her again, that I had a call, and that when I was dressed/ready we would be leaving or that she could walk. After I was ready for the day, she was of course, still sleeping. I told her I would make her lunch, but that if she wasn't ready in 10 minutes I wouldn't be able to drive her.

I guess you can all see where this is going...at 8 I got on my call. The Girl was still in bed. I heard her moving around upstairs at a little past 8, and at 8:10 or so she came into the office with her sad face and asked me for a ride. I pointed to the phone, and told her I couldn't (I had to mute). She slammed the door and stormed off. Then she came back again and tried the same thing to no avail. After a couple of minutes she gave up and walked down to daycare. I was able to actively participate on my call without muting (mostly) and I felt strong because of it.

My point in sharing this story is not to embarrass my daughter. It came to me a few days ago - with the help of T showing me that I needed to get this, that we don't have firm enough boundaries with our kids - or maybe just I don't have firm enough boundaries with them. This hasn't always been the case, but it has been recently. I read a few books in the past year that I think set me on a path where I thought we didn't need boundaries and consequences (though to be fair this was absolutely not in either of the books). I'd been devoting a lot of my time and energy towards helping both of my kids in letting themselves feel their emotions when they happen rather than stuff them and hide them and fear them as I learned to do as a child. I know that this has been important work, and it is by no means done, but in addition to that work my kids need to know that I have boundaries. Both kids to some degree have been testing boundaries lately, nothing disastrous really, but in hindsight I can see that my kids were pushing back to see where the actual boundary was. I've had scenes like the one with The Girl this morning many times before, and I have still driven her when she comes down with a sad face, and then muted myself on the call. So why would she respect my time limit for getting a ride to daycare? She didn't think it was a real boundary, and she knew she could negotiate with me and get her ride.

I still don't love the incident this morning, the nurturing mom in me wanted to drive her. I knew that the indulgence of me driving her today wasn't going to do her any good tomorrow though. Ultimately it wouldn't do her any good as she becomes an adult either. I hope that she is able to be strong enough to set boundaries for herself, and stick to them. There are so many times in life when we are asked to trample our own boundaries, and that is where problems arise. The only way she will become an adult who can set and stick to her own boundaries is by having parents who model that skill for her as she is growing up.


Another BrenĂ© Brown quote to learn from

The same idea holds true for my son. Just yesterday he confided in me that some kids at school took his pencil, a pen, and a highlighter from his pencil case under the guise of "being funny." It wasn't funny though, and he was too shy, and too afraid to speak up for himself. Instead he went the rest of the day with no pencil because he only had one with him at school that day. I think in his case the issue is trickier than needing firm boundaries, but it is certainly an aspect of what happened. A year ago I would have talked to his teacher about it on his behalf, but he doesn't want his Mom involved now that he is in middle school. He and I will talk about it more. I think he understands that those kids stole from him, and the fact that he doesn't want to say anything to them or a teacher about it because he is afraid one of them will beat him up - well that is bullying. As much as I want to swoop in and rescue him, I can see that what he really needs is for his Mom to be there to coach him through it - and to listen to how he feels about it. He may not decide to stand up for himself in this particular case, but hopefully over time he will realize that he has that power inside himself. I want him to know that he is he worthy of boundaries.

The hardest thing about parenting seems to be that we can't give our kids anything we don't already have for ourselves. If I don't respect my own boundaries my kids won't be able to do that for themselves either - unless they find themselves a good deal of therapy as adults that is. As much as I want my kids to be able to learn from what I say, they will only learn by watching what I do. Recognizing that power - that obligation - forces us to grow up.




1.26.2015

Bridges

I love bridges, or more specifically I love pictures of bridges. I was searching for a few photos to fill a new collage frame we put up, and I realized just how many bridge photos I've collected over the past few years. My favorites from this bunch were all taken with my iPhone while running. A small sample:
Mill City Ruins - Minneapolis, MN

Bridge over Mission Bay - San Diego, CA

Bridge over Mission Bay - San Diego, CA
Bridge over the Chattahoochee - Columbus, GA

Bridge over the River Ouse - York England
Another bridge over the Chattahoochee - Columbus, GA
Bridge over Pacific Ocean Inlet - San Diego, CA

1.25.2015

Tempted to grow

This week was strange. The kids and I had Monday off so it was a short work week for me. It was made even shorter by a quick work trip to Toronto Tuesday/Wednesday. Obviously the week wasn't actually shorter, but working while traveling doesn't feel quite the same as working from home does. While in Toronto some work news surfaced that at least temporarily rocked my world. The person who recruited me into my current role is no longer there. I won't say more than that, but it was most definitely a shock. My first reaction was to speculate about how this change would affect my work. I think it will affect me, but it is too soon to know exactly how that will be. I've decided that my best plan for the moment is to continue my current efforts until my work is no longer needed there. There are several possibilities for me there, but I don't think my future projections will help me cope with today if I dwell on them. The reality is that there is very little I can do to influence my future there if I don't focus on the job I currently have.

I started reading a new (to me) book this week called "Seat of the Soul," by Gary Zukav. Oprah mentions this book in her Super Soul Sunday shows fairly often, and I watched an older re-aired Master Class on OWN that was about Oprah herself where she mentioned it again. I finally gave in and bought the book to read for myself. My first observation is that I am probably not completely ready to read this book. It is remarkably hard to follow as he circles around the concept of our soul and our personality and how the two work together but also apart. I feel as though there is truth in his words, but I need to read them more slowly to allow myself to fully absorb the meaning. Or perhaps I will finish the book, but then come back and read it again at another time. Either way, there are a few tidbits that I've taken from the book already.

The first tidbit is that temptation is your soul's way of allowing you to test yourself without involving others. Temptation gives us an opportunity to grow stronger. I know that when I resolve daily to eat less junk food, to eat more consciously, and not eat to numb my feelings I am always tempted to throw that away. I had seen temptation as weakness, but the book shifted my perspective about it. If temptation is actually strength what does that mean for me? I should expect temptation, and I should be happy for it. When I resolve that I am going to yell less, my kids do things that make me want to yell even more - and again I felt that I was weak in not being able to respond more constructively. Now I see that every opportunity where I would normally comfort eat, or yell to try to solve a conflict with my kids is an opportunity for me to grow - for my personality to better align with my soul if you will. I recognize that this is out there, so it isn't as though I am suggesting that all of you go read this book or believe the same things I do about the messages. For me though, that may have been the lesson I needed to learn this week.

I think back to the person I was just a couple of years ago, and that person would not have been ready to read that temptation was a good thing. She would not have been willing to move beyond the "why me" aspect of a big job change so quickly either. I know I still have a long journey of growth ahead of me, but it is good to recognize how far I've come. As I go forward into a new week I am choosing to be grateful for any and all temptations that try to take me off of my resolved path. I will know that it is my soul's work (or God's work if you are so inclined) to help me grow and make me stronger against those temptations when they continue to arise.

Lake Ontario Sunrise

1.18.2015

The second post

The second post back after a long break from blogging seems to be the hardest for me. I have made a few returns to blogging, but then couldn't come up with a follow-up. It was as if I had said what I wanted to say, and could then step away again. Maybe that is all I need from a blog - an outlet when I occasionally want one, but otherwise a static, boring page. I guess I'll find out as I go along, but it felt good to write 'for me' again, and I want to remind myself of that feeling at least a few more times before I hide back in the corner in silence.

This week I traveled to San Diego for work. I think I have been in San Diego 10 or so times in my life, and for some reason I feel drawn to the city. The first time I was there I was 8 years old and my parents took my brother and me to the San Diego Zoo. I don't remember that trip at all, other than vague images of me wearing my Mickey Mouse Ears I'd just gotten at Disneyland and of it raining in San Diego. I also spent a week in San Diego as a teenager, where a church group I was with stayed at a college campus and I did my best to ignore the prosthelytizing while enjoying the socializing and the ocean. On that trip my distinct memory is of swimming in the ocean and being helped to shore by a lifeguard because I had been caught in a rip current. Most of my trips there have been for work though. I assume conference planners are drawn to San Diego because of the predictable weather - generally not too hot, not too cold, and pretty much predictably gorgeous all year round.

When I've found myself in San Diego for work I have always found a way to make it to the ocean or the bay - whether that be a morning run along the bay from one of the bayfront hotels, a run along the beach, or at a minimum eating at a restaurant with a good view of the ocean. This week I had a chance to walk on the beach 3 different times, twice for morning runs, and once at night after dinner at a beachfront restaurant. The beaches I saw this week were mostly uninhabited, which is my favorite sight to see. I can certainly appreciate a good crowded beach, but the peace from a deserted beach is something that touches my soul. The waves crashing to the sand, the vastness of the ocean, and just little old me standing on the shore taking it all in...there is something magical in that. I think when I have a moment like that I am closest to god. I can feel the way we are all connected when I look out at the never-ending ocean. The beauty, the sounds, the experience, it all comes together to remind me that we are all in this together. I am but one tiny speck in the universe, but we are all part of the same life force. Instead of making me feel small and insignificant the ocean makes me feel powerful and free. I get to be part of the same life force that created all of this beauty, and that means I have the same beauty within me.


Torrey Pines State Beach - San Diego, CA

I would love to live closer to the ocean, to be able to see that beauty whenever I want to. There is certainly beauty in my home town, but sometimes it is harder to connect with it when it is covered with snow. Although even snow, and the cold hard months of winter remind me of the power there is in the universe. When I run past the frozen pond that sits at the entrance to our subdivision I always think about the turtles and frogs who lie buried at the bottom - almost completely frozen and in a state of nearly dead - who will come alive again in the spring. In a way the contrast of the easy living ocean, and the nearly dead turtles at the bottom of the pond are a reminder that sometimes life is smooth and easy and at other times you have to work hard to get what you need. Without one I don't think you can adequately appreciate the other.