Category Archives: Synchronicity

At least five Graces here

I woke up with THE DREAD.  But I did my work with it. Mindfulness stuff.  Sat on my cushion, did my meditating. I remembered I have to allow it to be. Sometimes I talk to my anxiety. I say, “hello, anxiety. Have you decided to be my companion today? Coming to work with me, are you? Well, okay then. First let’s take a shower. Come into the shower with me, anxiety.”

In the shower I get so absorbed in the Now, what with all the pretty droplets of water and the lavender soap and all, Mr. Anxiety often leaves me for a while.

Then on the cushion I focus on the breath, and if anxiety comes, I just acknowledge it with curiosity. What does it feel like? Where is it located? What colour is it?

And I breathe. And I sometimes chant Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung. Elspeth taught me that one, and it’s VERY powerful.

After meditation, I realized I was going around the room picking up individual specks of dirt off the laminate floors to put in the waste basket. So I got out the whisk broom and pan.  That’s when it hit me.  Oooooh, my serotonin is dipping. I can always tell when my brain chemicals do a little wobbly imbalance dance because I get much more compulsive, lapse back into rituals that I’ve been mainly free from for a couple of decades. They grab me and won’t let me go.

Well, time for work. Instead of buying into my head’s version of how the day was going to go, I remembered one of Pema’s stories. “Look to the unknown future as thrilling rather than threat.”

You NEVER know what might happen today, Kelly. A miracle could happen today. You do not know. You and your compulsive urges toddle off to work now and just do the day like that if that’s what must be.  So what?

My boss had been out at a conference for two days, so I had saved up four questions for her. She has this tendency to initially disagree with whatever one of us claims examiners proposes. I’ve found that reverse psychology works really well on her. If I want to pay a claim, I’ll say, “this one looks like a denial…” blah blah. And sure enough, she’ll play devil’s advocate and point out why it’s payable. And vice versa.

But I did not feel like games this morning. So I just laid it out to her. This woman lost her husband, we owe her this money going on four months, and now come to find out that because of a clerical error, we are going to have to wait four more weeks…

“Pay it,” she said.

I couldn’t believe my ears.  “We don’t have to wait for the…?”

Nope, there are no suspicions of pre-ex. Pay it and we’ll get the xyz after.

And so it went with my other three questions.

—–

My team is so stressed and demoralized that we stand out compared to the morale of staff on other teams. We can hear them having pot lucks and laughing. When HR announces a theme dress down day for charity, we see the other teams taking pictures in their leis and hula skirts.  We give each other furtive looks that say, “what did we do to deserve getting stuck on this team with THIS boss?”

Some days I’m so overwhelmed by the pressure to get more done faster, I don’t even read the emails about health fairs and ride your bike to work day and dress down for charity. I delete them. There’s no time for fun on my team.

But today, on a whim, I opened and read one and discovered there would be a naturopath on hand in the deli. I don’t have a naturopath yet in Windsor, so decided to go check him out.

It felt good to get out and walk in the sunshine across to the other building. Many days, because of the workload, I head back to my desk after eating.

I met Dr. Denis Marier, started picking up his pamphlets, and learned he just opened his practice here after finishing his Masters with emphasis on ecopsychology in Toronto.  What is ecopsychology, I asked. Before I knew it, we were batting the OMG, what a coincidences back and forth as we discovered parallels of interest/practice in mindfulness, Buddhism and palliative care, not to mention Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy.

Wasn’t I just saying to my friend, “too bad there are not any practitioners of MBCT in Windsor.”  There is one now, and I have his business card in my pocket.

The other day when I got my orientation and tour of the hospice grounds, I was told, “and we just got a naturopath whose office is on the second floor…”

My office is on the second floor of Hospice Windsor…” Dr. Marier said.

I’m thinking back a couple of months as I was gazing at the ads for pastoral care programs and so forth and feeling way too overwhelmed by the idea of trying to go back to school. Just one baby step. Just take one little step in the direction of this calling and see what opens up. See what networking you can do, what connections you make and what you learn about the field once you get over there among other people who are called to work with people with life-threatening illnesses.

Craziness.

Do the right thing and the Universe will support you.

Why do I forget that?

I was in a giddy good mood by the time Sylvain picked me up for our date to tour Carousel of Nations. The poor band was playing to sparse audience because today was not only Carousel of Nations, but also the Red Bull Races, blocks and blocks cordoned off downtown with live outdoor music on ever other corner AND the Red Wings playing in the Stanley Cup finals.  The beautiful guitarist with waist-length dreads and his gorgeous singer were trying so hard to get a response from us three people listening. So I got up and danced.

What a great day. I’m just so happy to know I still know how to feel good. My body remembers how to bounce, my feet remember how to dance, my face remembers how to smile.

My friend emailed me and said she got three fabulous hugs in a 24-hour period, one even being a feet off the ground, swing around hug.

Did anyone else experience a parting of clouds or special aligment of good energy today(Friday)?

Crow Comes with Sparklies

What an amazing two days I’ve just had.  I am happy to report Sylvain has been moved off ICU and into a private room. I’m not sure how he rated that, since the extended benefits through his employer only pay for an upgrade to semi-private. But he emailed me at work today to tell me about the flat screen TV, laminate floors, crown moulding, and large accessible bathroom. Mind you, he is once again having trouble getting help with things like transfers, but at least he is being ignored in plush surroundings.

Yesterday I got mail of the most special kind from a secret pen pal on the other side of the world. Letters from her make me feel warm  inside. They remind me that the world really is a good place because we have one another.

Yesterday I also got exciting news on another front, which I will share soon.

And today I met for the first time and had supper at Taloola cafe with a new friend from Trinidad, sent my way courtesy of Elspeth. We had an absolute riot of a visit, talking and laughing and getting goose bumps from learning of all the things we have in common. It felt really, really good to laugh out loud.

While I was sitting in my car waiting for her, I discovered the fat sticks of chalk in my glove box…still never used from a Joy Rebel mission handed out when there was still snow on the ground here. So I got out of my car and wrote JOY on the sidewalk.

A Letter Finds Me in the Park

It had taken me six weeks to read Steppenwolf in 30-minute installments, since I eat my lunch with a coworker first and then open the book after we are done eating and she disappears with her book. A translucent rainbow of sticky markers protrudes from the pages, marking passages I want to share with you.

The last pages, I felt, should be savoured in private. I brought the faded old paperback home with me yesterday. It was the first day mild enough for sitting outdoors with a book, so after a quick phone chat with Sylvain, I headed down to the park adjacent to my building. Sylvain said a letter had come for me to his house, and he would bring it to me.

“I’ll be near the swing set,” I told him, but added that he could bring the letter on Wednesday, no need for a special trip.

As I had expected, the ending of the book was powerful. I had to set the scruffy little paperback aside more than once to wipe tears and take in the power of the moment, the richness of every detail of the world around me. Direct contact. I feel the wooden bench under my bum. There’s a robin just three feet in front of me; she must think I’m part of the bench, I’m so still. I smell the earth awakening.

Sylvain came up the Ganatchio Trail and found me. He pulled an envelope out of his jacket.  Seeing that I was basking in a special moment alone, he left again.

The envelope contained a card from my childhood friend Mary who now lives in Illinois. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten a letter from her before, though we exchange emails now and then since reconnecting last year. In addition to the beautiful art card, there was a magnet with a painting and the Joseph Conrad quote, “the human heart is vast enough to contain all the world.”

It was one of those moments when everything becomes slightly dream-like. My world was mimicking the surreal world of Hesse’s novel. Letters delivered to park benches, indeed.

I picked up my book again and read until it grew too cool out. Pulling my sweater around me and tucking the book under my arm, I headed back to the apartment. There I brewed a cup of spice tea and curled up in the club chair to read the last pages of the last chapter.

When I was finished, I sat for a long while watching the light fade from the eastern sky. I wiped my eyes again, blew my nose.

Then I booted up my laptop to read emails and blogs for a short while before turning in.

There in among the bold subject lines of 17 new messages was one that jumped out at me: “Finding Hesse.” It was a blog comment on my Jan. 27 post from an old high school acquaintance I have not heard from in 26 years. He had apparently been Googling his own name and found the blog post about finding Steppenwolf in the book exchange stack in the laundry room, remembering that he had encouraged me to read Hesse at that time.

One of the other comments on that post was from Mary, who uncharacteristically delurked to express her surprise at seeing Eddie’s name there.

Sacred Harp 1 – Finding

It must have been the early or mid 90′s. I was a member of the Religious Society of Friends in Little Rock, and someone in the group invited two experienced singers from Mena, Arkansas to come get us started.  These two had recently begun fostering a new shape note class at Rich Mountain Community College.

They say that when you first learn about shape note singing, you either love it or you hate it. Either the bug bites you or it doesn’t. Either you “get” it, or it’s just a puzzle to you why anyone is attracted to the cacophony.

I guess the bug bit, because when the invitation went out for any of us who wanted to to travel to Mena for an upcoming all-day singing, I was the only one who went. My girlfriend who was not Quaker but who liked the idea of a road trip to gorgeous Queen Wilhelmina State Park came along for the ride.

Was this the only singing I attended, I ask myself. I vaguely remember one more, not sure where it was. I recall baking a pecan pie for “dinner on the grounds.”

And that was it. Our Friends Meeting tried getting off the ground with it, but you just can’t do it without fairly steady mentoring by experienced singers. Mena was a bit too far away for us to go there often or for teachers to come to us often.

Then one day I heard a radio program about Sacred Harp. At the end of the fascinating in-depth report on this ancient and primitive musical form, the narrator gave an address you could write to for a transcript or tape of the program. I reached into the glove box and scribbled out the address. That week I sent $10 for the cassette of the show.

One thing I had found rather daunting about Sacred Harp was remembering the shapes (flag = FA, oval = SOL, square = LA, diamond = MI) when the group went through each piece the first time singing not the words but the names of the shapes. It’s not so hard on a slow song with quarter, half and whole notes, but on fast songs or when we hit a string of eighths and sixteenths, I found myself pausing or humming while others sang, picking up again when my tongue could keep up with the strange syllables.

But having this tape, which included 21 songs recorded at the 1990 Rocky Mountain Convention in Denver, allowed me to sit with the songbook and practice for hours on end. I could hit the PAUSE button and go over the difficult passages as many times as it took before fa-mi-la-fa-so-so-la rolled off my tongue. The whole idea was that the next time I attending a singing, I would feel better prepared.

But in the ten plus years that followed, that next singing never happened.

In 1999 I moved to Waterloo, Canada. Sacred Harp is most common in the South. It’s not hard to find a singing in Alabama, for example. I knew it was a shot in the dark, but had a tiny hope that fa-so-la might have spread as far as Canada and I might be able to find a group not too far from Waterloo. An internet search revealed there was one in Toronto 1.25 hours away, but I never ventured out to it. Now and again when my soul hungered for Sacred Harp, I would pull out my song book and tape when nobody was around (I am a bit tone deaf, do not have a pleasant singing voice and usually try to spare others having to hear my caterwauling).

My Sacred Harp isolation had the potential to remedy itself when I moved to Windsor in 2007. Lonely and in search of community, I again Googled Sacred Harp to see if there was anything in this neck of the woods. I found out there was a monthly singing in Ann Arbor; I joined the email list.

Every month I received the announcement of that month’s singing at The Ark, whatever that was. I entertained fantasies of striking out one Sunday on my own, but month after month those visions remained just that: fantasies. The anxiety around crossing the border, trying to find the venue, and being a newcomer was just ever so slightly greater than my need to JUST DO IT this month, not next month.

Then last month I met E, a reader of my blog. She invited me to a spiritual support group across the river, and the hostess just happened to mention “The Ark.”

“That is where the Sacred Harp singings are held!” I said to E.

That is when I learned that the hostess and her husband not only knew what shape noted singing was, but were involved in the local group. L encouraged me to attend the next singing. Her husband sent an email to a fa-sol-la fan in London, who reached out to me in a series of very warm and welcoming emails. The irresistible lure was an upcoming all-day singing in Wayne,Michigan–just 40 minutes away.

Continued in next post…

Fear, Part II

Excerpts from an email to a friend:

Today I’m not feeling down. I made myself swim. The dance I do with myself is so ridiculous. I sit here and make all sorts of excuses not to swim. I get this inertia going that is like being chained to a rock. I don’t want to leave the apt. I want to go online or do my crossword puzzle or snuggle in bed early or eat a snack and another snack. WHY WHY do I put off the swim? Never ever has it failed to leave me feeling great after! It leaves me feeling good physically, mentally, emotionally and proud of myself for going. So why, oh why is it always a struggle to get off my ass and walk down there? Grrrr.

Yeah, I am missing Waterloo but some days I do feel optimistic about this town. My friend from work (the one I invited to the movies as one of my Be Brave acts) has invited me to check out a Buddhist temple in town for the buffet they are offering for the Chinese New Year. And Thursday the winter instalment of the Windsor International Film Festival starts up with a good French film that won a Golden Globe.

It was funny because when I first posted about experimenting, you were one of the few who understood what I meant. The readers who were saying to focus on fun stuff, I felt didn’t “get it.” Why do you think I’m trying to stretch outside my comfort zone? Because that’s where all the fun stuff is…out there in the world! LOL. But now I see they had a point. Just by focusing on the word “fun” and the concept of fun, I’ve started having more fun just today. While swimming, I said to myself “I’m having fun.” And it was true! Normally I watch the clock and make myself continue for 20 minutes. This time I just realized it was fun. Well, what a great experiment! The hypothesis: if you intentionally look at an activity as fun, does it become more fun? If you ask it if it’s a particle, it says yes, I’m a particle. If you ask it if it’s a wave, it says yes, it’s a wave. The observer changes the observed.

Tonight was meditation group. Sheila talked about a television special series running this week about the mind. She talked about synapses firing and firing until a neuron forms. This is like a behavioral pathway. For a few thousand years eastern philosophers have understood about habituation and overcoming habituation; now western science is catching up. You can retrain the brain, is what Sheila was saying. Each time you crave a snack, you might think to have ice cream. But if you instead give your body an apple the next dozen or three dozen times, you will create a new neural pathway so that in the future when you crave a snack, your mind will think, “apple please.”

We can do the same with anything. We can create loving kindness neurons, she said.

Today at work the administrative helpers who have done my phone calling for me for the last several weeks were too busy with other work. I did my own calls. I noticed that in the work setting, anyway, I can now make those calls without the slightest hesitation (time for anxiety to build) before I punch the number. When I started the job, those phone calls caused me stress and tummy aches. I’ve been successfully desensitized to that formerly anxiety-provoking act in THAT CONTEXT. Now, who wants to let me practice calling them up to invite them to do something the three dozen times it might take for the same desensitization in the personal context?

I KNOW on an intellectual level that the same is true of all the fears and inhibitions that are currently limiting my life. If I work at it strategically, I can deprogram these fear and anxiety triggers. I can, can’t I? They are just pathways in the brain, right?

I had high hopes for doing this with the Be Brave project, but I think my goals were perhaps too lofty that time around. I had all these great ideas for brave things to do, and indeed I did three or four of them. But in the end I think I do better with really tiny baby steps, and with just experimenting with doing things DIFFERENTLY rather than choosing acts that scare me.

Karyn of The Honesty Project really nailed me good when she said the first list of fun things just seemed like a way to torture myself. Yes, it’s true. There are days when I feel like the biggest f-up for leaving my last job, for leaving my fair Waterloo and all the connections and friends and family took 8 years to come together around me.

BUT…

It was good to put that list on paper. I learned something from that. What I realized when I looked it over was that the majority of really fun things come not from planning but from relationships that were the result of happenstance. Synchronicity. Coincidence. But none of those happy accidents and relationships and resulting fun came from sitting around a an empty apartment doing crossword puzzles.

I have to get out or let people in. I have to call or give my phone number to someone and welcome their call to me. Sitting around feeling all safe and protected from the messiness of life ain’t gonna cut it.

Lynn asked why all my experiments have to be dreadful things or scary things. Ok, this is the weird thing about my head. You can take almost any one of the fun things I wish was part of my life…let’s take for example calling a friend to do something together. When it comes time to choose that person I’m going to contact or actually make the contact, there comes this little voice in my head saying you really don’t want to do that. It will just be a hassle or you really don’t have a lot in common with her or you’re really on different energy frequencies and it doesn’t feel “right” or she’s probably too busy or she really doesn’t like you and she’s going to say no or even worse she is going to say yes even though she wants to say no and the whole evening is going to be awkward. And oh, that crossword puzzle is over there just waiting and it’s so cold out. Let’s just STAY PUT.

In other words, that fraidy cat part of my head turns ANY slightly risky situation (risk of disappointment, risk of rejection, risk of making a fool of myself) into something I don’t want to do. THAT’s why the experiments are about doing stuff I don’t want to do. Because that’s the barrier standing between me and all kinds of fun stuff I wish were in my life. Experimenting struck me as a way to break through to the other side.

Butterfly Effect

I was walking along and I found some books. That’s how it started. I found eleven newish books on spirituality and eastern philosophy all tied up with twine in a blue box on the curb. The Power of Now was one of them.

The 19th of November will mark the end of my one year of mindful breathing.

One year ago I was reading The Power of Now. Or perhaps by then I had finished The Power of Now and was reading A New Earth. In any case, I came upon a passage in one of those two books in which Eckhart Tolle related a conversation he had with a friend who was consulting him as she poured over a spiritual retreat catalog. Which workshop did he think she should take? He said they all looked quite good. However, he suggested that if she would undertake to become aware of her breathing as often as she could remember to do so every day for a year, it would prove more transformative than all the workshops in the catalog. And it was free.

Wow. Think of that. Something more transformative than thousands of dollars’ worth of retreats and workshops with master teachers…for free? I’m a sucker for a good deal. I decided to try it.

One thing led to another, which led to another. The place I was at in my life was very conducive to my turning more toward–and tuning more into–a spiritual path. I was struggling. I knew I was creating suffering for myself. The idea of training the mind became not just very appealing, but at times felt like a matter of life and death.

Since that day in November of 2007, so many teachers have found me. So many gifts have been laid at my feet.

TrueHope’s EMPowerPlus formula has drastically diminished what I call my “crazy head,” the incessant mind chatter, obsessing and worrying that feeds anxiety in my body.

Most recently, I sent off for the free demo CD of Centrepointe Research Institute’s Holosync Solution audio technology. What did I have to lose, after all, if the sample CD was free? My interest was very piqued by Bill Harris’ promises that these special sound waves fed separately to my left and right ears could produce deep meditative states, trigger the release of all sorts of groovy chemicals and even reverse the ageing process. When someone I know and trust came forth and told me she’d been using these CDs for four years and they had delivered all that was promised and more… well, that sealed it. I was on board for the free demo.

About the same time my bed was delivered, allowing me to start sleeping at my new place and listening to the sample CD every night before sleeping, I also was turned onto the book “The Holographic Universe” by Michael Talbot. Talk about synchronicity. All of a sudden everything is tying into everything else.

It’s funny to think that all this started with finding The Power of Now in a blue bin on the curb on a morning when I decided—on a whim–to walk instead of take the bus.

Butterfly effect, indeed.

I Found a Book, a Book Found Me

One morning in the fall of 2005–on impulse–I decided to keep walking all the way to work instead of waiting for the bus. It was garbage pick up day in the neighbourhood I was traversing. About six blocks shy of my place of employment, I spotted Pema Chodron’s smiling face in a blue recycling box on the curb. When Things Fall Apart was face down in a bundle of five books tied with twine. I peeked at the other titles: The Artist’s Way, Vein of Gold, Sacred Contracts, Anatomy of the Spirit. There was another bundle of six similar books also tied with twine. The Power of Now was one of them. I picked up both bundles of barely used books and continued on my way.

As I walked along with eleven books on spirituality and eastern philosophy, I could not help but smile up at the heavens and wonder. Was God sending me for my PhD?

I began reading the Power of Now first and while it captivated me in a way I cannot explain, I found it to be very slow reading. It took me several months to digest. What I didn’t realize then was that I was reading it with my mind. Even though I later listed it among the few books that had changed my life, I had not really gotten it. Where Tolle suggests the reader pause, I paused. But I paused to think instead of pausing to experience.

This time when I reached for the same book to accompany me on the plane and go with me on my silent retreat, I was in a place of despair… a place I’d worked myself into at the mercy of my mind/ego. This time I paused to experience. And this time it took me not six months but two weeks to devour Tolle’s words and bask in the spaces between them.

Each day I worked my way deeper into The Power of Now has been exponentially easier than the day before. The first few days I was catching my mind doing its unconscious mind thing every few minutes. Mr. Hand Puppet was really exhausted by the end of the day. “Judge judge judge,” and “chatter, chatter, chatter,” and “covet, covet, covet.” Or “too much future.” “Too much past!” Whew!

In a few days I noticed I only had to employ Mr. Hand Puppet a few times during the whole day. I was learning to dis-identify from ego, from pain body. I was learning to catch each instance of resistance to what is and bring my attention into that resistance. I was again learning how to live in the Now.

Again? Yes, again. I remember now that this is how it felt after my original awakening when I was not yet 20 years old. I found the Tao Te Ching and knew exactly what Lao Tzu was talking about. I got it, baby. I was grooving on it, too. The more I went with the flow, the easier life became. I was in a state of bliss, completely at peace. I also noticed that when I was in this zone of complete trust, all things seemed to go my way.

Where before there was heaviness, now I am light. The dread and fear and self-consciousness that were my daily companions have evaporated. Before I got on that plane bound for Arkansas, my life struck me as a series of dilemmas and obstacles…a sticky situation I’d gotten myself into and didn’t know where to start to get myself out again.

Life has once again become effortless.

The first few days visiting my mother were a struggle. The second week was easy. I was no longer biting my tongue to keep from nagging her about this or that. When the urge to judge or criticize surfaced, I watched it. I shone the light of consciousness on it and it disappeared.

Two days before I was to return, I was able to enjoy spending time with my younger brother where before I could almost not bear to be in the same room with him. We were laughing and hanging out. Incredible.

Yeah, I found a book. I mean a book found me.

Green Healing House

I hadn’t seen BR in over ten years, and even then we were only casually acquainted. She is using mom’s cabin in the woods for psychological, physical and spiritual healing after a serious illness. It is working.

When mom said BR requested to stay another night in order to visit with me, I did not feel resentment at the loss of one day of alone time. Even though I didn’t really know this woman, I sensed that being with her the first day was meant to be. It had a purpose.

I don’t know what she took away from our time together, but I know that listening to her talk about my mother as her friend was helpful to me. None of my mother’s peers who are authentic people capable of speaking the truth in a tactful, gentle way has ever talked to me about my mother. So this was my first time to have that experience…talking to a friend closer to my age who loves and appreciates her.

There is much to appreciate about my mother. BR pointed out, “she is non-judgmental.”

You can say that again. When I was growing up, many of my friends expressed envy of my funny, fun, supportive mom. I was never afraid to bring anyone home to meet her, regardless of (so-called) race, sexual orientation, or what the person’s parent(s) did for a living. I could have converted to Judaism or Catholicism, could have pierced anything. If it really made me happy, she would not have made an issue out of it.

After we talked about the string of properties my mother has purchased, enjoyed for a while and fixed up either as home or art studio or retreat, only to sell them (sometimes at a net gain, sometimes not), BR pointed out to me that my mother is “impulsive.” Hmmmm, I suppose that is the word for it. I said, “If she were not impulsive, we would not be sitting here in the middle of the woods watching the sun set over the water.”

My mother knows that the place I have named Green Healing House is a gift and a blessing, and that G_d expects her to share it. I am blessed to have a mother who believes in Karma.

——————

A second-hand hammock that was a gift is strung up between a Swamp Cypress and a Black Oak. It is near the water and so receives sun in the morning.

High above, a flock of tiny warblers, chickadees, vireos and woodpeckers pass through twice or more per day. I imagine they are keeping company for fall migration. It is supposed to give me a pang of regret that I can no longer identify one of the species by the two wing bars and call. I am releasing that. I USED to be a skilled birder, and that’s okay. While I’m watching the little birds–more than even at Point Pelee in spring–a Cooper’s Hawk passes over headed northeast toward the other shore.

“I know what you mean about this place having healing energy,” I said to BR.

“You can feel it, can’t you?”

“Yes. I was needing this,” I said.

I told BR a little bit about my current living situation.

“I love them, and they are very good to me…”

But?

But.

I didn’t realize until I got on the plane how I’ve been holding myself in. I’ve been breathing more shallowly. I know the house could feel less oppressive to me if I worked harder on my boundary skills. But the way my skills have been till now, it is not working. I thrive alone and find cohabitating with a whole family extremely taxing. Depleting.

We talked about patterns. We talked about her mom.

It wasn’t compulsive fill-up-the-silence talk, but slow, thoughtful talking with long pauses. Shriiiip, shriiiip, shriiiip, the rug getting bigger. The clock ticking.  A fish flopping out by the dock.

Boundaries

Another very timely bit of connectivity came when I read The Importance of Practicing Clear Boundaries at Women at Rest.  This is just the exercise I needed right now.

This exercise can help you identify your boundaries or those you want to set. Give several examples each:

I have a right to ask for –

  1. Quiet time.
  2. Time to think about decisions.
  3. Space for my things.
  4. The salary my skills are worth.
  5. Accommodations for my dietary needs.

To protect my time and energy, it is okay to –

  1. Close the door.
  2. Take a long walk or bike ride.
  3. Say no.
  4. Sleep when others are not sleeping.
  5. Eat when others are not eating.

People may not –  Actually, I can’t come up with five nor even one item to list here.  Nobody in my life is treating me in a way that is unacceptable or unkind. Nobody is taking advantage of me, abusing me.  Quite the contrary, I am surrounded by people who only want to help and are trying to help.  I am my own worst enemy! So perhaps I’ll ponder what it is my Shadows should not be allowed to continue to do.

We all have an Inner Critic voice or more than one,…a negative anima and negative animus.  My friend Suzanne calls her negative anima “Piranha Woman.”  What a great image comes with that, eh?

I know Carla won’t mind if you borrow the above exercise for yourself.

Knock and…

Today has been full of learning and blessings.

Sylvain was sick and so we decided it might be good for me to sleep downstairs on the bed I brought with me from Waterloo. See, I have not been able to adjust to his mattress. So uncomfortable me means a less restful night for both of us. And though we missed each other, we both got a fantastic night’s rest for the first time in a month. I was in a better mood Saturday. So with Sylvain still a bit under the weather, we decided to try it again last night. This time I slept even better and we both awoke more refreshed and rested.

So there’s a lesson. We’re not sure yet what to do with this new knowledge, as we are not keen on the idea of sleeping apart every night. Might have to change the mattress. We’ll see.

It rained all day. I spent a good portion of the day doing laundry, including ironing, so by the time supper was done I had cabin fever. I didn’t realize I was about to go bonkers until some little thing triggered tears. I said to Sylvain, “I have to get out of here. Can we GO somewhere?”

“But it’s raining,” he said.

“We could drive to the Marina and have our Sunday check-in there,” I offered, desperate to get out even for an hour. I know this about myself. If I don’t get outside once each day, I go mad. (Insert cuckoo noise here.)

Sylvain was up for that, so we sat in the van and had our weekly State of the Relationship talk with the waters of Lake St. Clair lapping at the docks just a few feet away. Gulls careened in front of grey rain clouds and lit on the wooden posts nearby.

It became crystal clear to us both this past week that the better care I take of myself, the more my moods improve, and the easier I am to live with. The more I communicate my needs and wants, the more smoothly things go for us all around. Sylvain said he was shocked and proud of me when I asked if we could stop at the grocery store on our way back from Chalk & Chocolate Saturday.

He said he was surprised because that’s so out of character for me.

What?

Wow, my perception of myself must be WAY off.  In my mind, I see myself as asking for things constantly.  Whiny, needy, high-maintenance.

Hmmm. But come to think of it, I can recall at least three different men telling me, “wow, are you ever low maintenance.”  Easy to please.  One guy referred to me jokingly as “a cheap date.”  What are all the other women out there asking for?  Trips to the Bahamas? Diamonds? Come to think of it, yeah, they probably are.  Me?  I feel hesitant to ask for a carton of rice milk.

When we returned from the Marina, I still had a tiny bit of cabin fever left in my system. I wanted to walk up to the store and get more things to have in the house that I can eat: celery, grapes, almonds. I said so and Sylvain came with me. Wow, this feels good!

What stuns me about this small event is:

  • That I’m 44 and still grappling with these demons, still trying to learn this simple behaviour–clearly and honestly communicating my needs and taking responsibility for getting them met. Had Sylvain not felt like walking up to the store with me, I was ready to go by myself.
  • That there is this very insistent tape in my head that always tries to talk me out of communicating my needs. It says things like: “You are being selfish. You don’t really need that. You don’t need that right now. You can get that later. It’s too expensive. You have reached your quota of needs for the day/week/month. “

—–

Something else I notice today is that since that tiny fissure opened in my heart to allow hope to slip inside, the blessings have been pouring in. I am grateful to Dove for pointing me to her blog and to the near-death-experience story she shares there. Many people might read that story and think it is hogwash or a fabrication. The main reason I don’t doubt its veracity is due to an experience I had about a year ago. The experience I had is not something I can put into words, so I won’t try. But I thank Dove for reminding me of it. Just remembering it makes me feel peaceful and loved.

Oh, and Dove started talking to me about the archetypes in the Tarot and which one I might resonate with the most. Wow, how timely is that? I just started reading Sacred Contracts and was just this morning lying abed with Sylvain (having come upstairs after waking) and was talking about archetypes with him.  I told him that Myss says we each identify with at least a dozen of the archetypes in the human collective unconscious.  What’s an archetype? We were exploring that together.  It’s a template of sorts that is universal across cultures and across time for humanity.  The Father, the Mother, the Shaman, the Child, the Healer, etc.   I haven’t read very far yet, so haven’t yet gotten to the exercises that help you see which archetypes your energy aligns with most in this life.  So we were just guessing at ours.

Anyway, synchronicity.  That is always a sure sign that I’m headed back into the Flow (Tao)…when coincidences start to come faster than I can write about them.

What Does It Mean?

Patti Digh recommends we notice the metaphors all around us. After reading this post, I thought more about the kind of day I had yesterday.

For starters, I abandoned my plan to bike into the city because the weather report forecast rain all day long. Instead I would take the bus. But it did not rain all day long. To the contrary, it was hot and muggy most of the day. A severe storm with very high winds passed through from 4:20 to 4:50, leaving us with a picture perfect afternoon.

If there is a symbolic lesson in there for my life, it is that I should go back to ignoring what others predict and listen to my inner voice.

Before I moved in with Sylvain, I had a media-free life. No television, no radio. I took my umbrella with me when I smelled rain on the air and did not take it when the sky was cloudless. Sometimes this method betrayed me, but not often.

The next two hours of my life were filled with dead-ends and frustration. There is construction at the intersection where I would normally catch the crosstown bus. I thought long and hard about which side of the street I should be on to catch the bus going downtown. I pictured the map which I’d inadvertently left in the den. It should be in my purse always, as I have no sense of direction. Well, I have SOME sense of direction, but it is a perverse, unconscious saboteur who will always tell me to go right when I should go left and vice versa. I am not dyslexic and I don’t transpose numbers, but in my brain east becomes west and west becomes east. Right is left and clockwise is counter-clockwise.

After thinking about it for over a minute, I chose a side of the street that I was confident would get me on a west-bound bus and then walked a few stops until I knew I was well beyond the detour around the construction. When the 2 was due, it didn’t come. Instead the 10 passed me.

I walked a few more blocks in case I wasn’t sufficiently beyond the detour area, and waited for the next number 2. Still no bus. Finally I walked far enough to realize that nothing looked familiar; I was walking in the wrong direction. I’d thought I was headed west, but I was going east and was therefore completely outside the route of the 2 bus.

Sigh. Such is life with a brain like mine.

I had dressed for a rainy day: long corduroys, long-sleeved black cotton top and clogs. Sweat was trickling down my back. I headed into the strip mall nearby to cool off before deciding whether to throw a toddler-like tantrum and give up my plans of going downtown or regroup and try again, this time walking in the right direction.

I passed an SUV parked outside the drugstore. A boy of about 9 was sitting alone in the car with all the windows down. Every 6 seconds, he let out an animal-like screech. Perhaps autism, I thought.

“I know just how you feel, darling. I know just how you feel,” I said as I passed him by.

If there is a metaphor for my life hidden in the dead-ends of yesterday, it is this. Maybe I am waiting for the crosstown bus on the wrong side of town. Mabye the bus I’m waiting for doesn’t even come to this stop.

All’s well that ends well, right? I made it downtown. The umbrella came in handy at 4:15 when the storm passed through. Sylvain took me out for a birthday dinner a few days early. Terra Cotta was exactly what I was dreaming of: a quiet place with no loud music, no glitz, no extra forks.

Three

Further to the number synchronicities mentioned in the previous post, need I point out that it was the adjacent Church of the Holy TRINITY that built the labyrinth?  Or the fact that Elspeth’s motherland is Trinidad?

I feel like doing a meme I found on Carla’s blog and also a meme I found on Leah’s blog.  But I’m going to mutate both of them and do them in threes.

Three random facts about me, taken and adapted from Zena Musings:

  1. I always set my alarm clock to a number divisible by 2 or5.
  2. I have 24 teeth (wisdom teeth and canines removed by the orthodontist) .
  3. I am reading Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss.

And adapted from Leah’s page:

Three jobs I have held:

  1. Clerk on a book mobile
  2. Teacher of Japanese language and culture
  3. Office manager of independent bookstore

Three films I can watch over and over:

  1. Fiddler on the Roof (hold your ears…I am going to sing along with ALL the songs)
  2. Babette’s Feast
  3. Me and You and Everyone We Know   (Miranda July ROOOOOOOCKS!!!)

Three places I have lived:

  1. Fresno, California
  2. Sapporo, Japan
  3. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Three categories of TV programming I enjoy:

  1. Educational (Nova)
  2. Quirky, slightly surreal drama series (Six Feet Under, Northern Exposure)
  3. Brainy quiz shows (Jeopardy)

Three places I have been on holiday:

  1. Grand Cayman, B.W.I.
  2. Everglades National Park and Sanibel Island, Florida
  3. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Three of my favourite dishes:

  1. Veggie tempura
  2. Sushi and more sushi
  3. My mom’s hot water corn bread

Three websites I visit (almost) daily:

  1.  Now is Wow
  2. Art in the Garage
  3. Little Rock Daily Photo

Three places I’d rather be right now…  Well, I am where I am supposed to be now, but soon I hope to be:

  1. With Sylvain
  2. Visiting my mum
  3. In a room with my realtor signing closing papers (not necessarily in that order)

Nellie Elephant Squirts Water

…all over the place.

I rose at six a.m. to be on a bus to Toronto at 7:30 so I could spend a day with Elspeth, an amazing woman whose blog I’ve been visiting for many months. She came to Toronto a few weeks ago for a reflexology course that ended up being canceled.   Elspeth didn’t even get angry about the cancellation after flying all the way from Trinidad to be here for it. She knows there must be another reason for her journey and her stay here.

I had never taken a bus nor train to Toronto before and so emailed my friend Ada to ask her how it’s done. This is the sort of thing I am famous for botching…being in the right place at the right time and then not mis-communicating the details of the rendezvous on the other end. After so many incidents in my life where a friend waited and waited for me in the wrong spot, I have got a bit of a complex around the whole task of properly planning meeting times and places. Now I tend to spend way more energy than the average person describing and double and triple checking that we are both talking about the same day, same place, same calendar year.

So it is funny that I would not have confirmed with a little Googling that–like the trains–buses arriving at Toronto disembark at Union Station. I just assumed they do and asked Elspeth to meet me there at 9:00. She said she would.

At 6:50 I was sitting in my bus seat wondering why I’d left myself facing an hour and a half ride with nothing to read. Then through the bus door came Rachel, Ada’s daughter and my good friend and sister-in-law. City’s population: over 200,000. Seats on the bus: 60. Chances of ending up with one of my best friends in the seat next to me? Chance has nothing to do with it.

Rachel was going to Toronto for a homeopathy workshop along with her business partner and fellow doctor of naturopathic medicine, Michael. We talked for the first hour or so heading into the big city, then got quiet. As we neared the first Toronto stop, however, Rachel asked me, “where are you meeting your friend?”

“At Union Station.”

“Then you’ll want to get off here at the Royal York and walk there, it’s just a block. Otherwise you’ll have to take a subway back to Union Station from the coach terminal when we arrive there.”

And so I did. I hopped off at the Royal York and easily followed Rachel’s directions to Union Station. Elspeth and I both wandered into the deserted station at around the same time and celebrated our finding each other with the sort of long, warm, tight embrace that not everyone knows how to give.

====

Let’s do the labyrinth first. Yes, yes, let’s. I’d like that.

Do you already know about the labyrinth?

No, I’ve never walked a labyrinth before.

Elspeth explained to me the different parts of the labyrinth. First, you can ask the labyrinth a question or ask it for what you need. Or you can say, “labyrinth, surprise me.” You can take the walk at any pace. When you get to the middle, you can spend as much time standing or sitting in each of the petals as you feel you need to. You can do anything. Stay open.

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labyrinth-middle.jpg

When I was walking the labyrinth, a sort of chant came to me. I saw the winding path of the labyrinth as my journey from birth to death to transcendence. This is some of what came to me while I walked.

Sometimes you are in the shade; sometimes you are in the light.

Sometimes you trust the path; sometimes you doubt the path.

Sometimes you pass someone who seems to be going in the wrong direction; know that you share the same destination.

Sometimes you are tired; sometimes you are full of zest.

Sometimes you feel large and important; sometimes you feel minute and insignificant.

Sometimes you feel grounded; sometimes you feel lost.

Sometimes you feel cold and exposed; sometimes you feel warmly cloaked.

Sometimes you feel agitated and impatient; sometimes you feel one with what is.

Sometimes you think you are going in circles.

And you are.

But that doesn’t mean you aren’t still on the right path.

====

After the labyrinth, Elspeth told me about a thing she sometimes does.

We pick a clue. It can be a colour, a compass point, a number, anything. You go first.

Ok, … um… PURPLE. Our first clue is purple.

There was a large church beside the labyrinth with a big banner beside the open door: “DOORS OPEN TORONTO.”

Oh, right. Historic buildings all over the city are open for public tours now as part of this event. We can go inside this church. And we did. Among the pamphlets, Elspeth found a purple one and I picked up a scavenger hunt colouring book. I love colouring books. Elspeth suggested we do the scavenger hunt. Our whole day was a scavenger hunt, so this was a scavenger hunt within a scavenger hunt. Inside symmetry is one of the themes that would come back to us throughout the day. We found all thirteen things in the Church of the Holy Trinity, second oldest still standing church in Toronto. It is 160 years old.

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While we were in the chancer looking for the third of three things that should have been there, a lovely octogenarian gentleman with a long white beard crossed through and spoke to us. “Are you going to help us with this third item?” I asked him.

“NO!” he said. “You are having fun!”

He told us that is what God’s house is for…whether the space is being used to marry a Gay couple or whether homeless people are coming in there to sleep each night. God’s house is no place for dour piety without joy.

Carry on. He went on his way and left us struggling to find the next item on our scavenger hunt.

Our next clue was Seven East.

The clue East put us on a trolley. “You choose when we hop off,” Elspeth said. This brought us to Kensington Market. I looked up. “Elspeth, is that a number seven?” Yes, the shop is called Collective Seven.

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We had a great time wandering in and out of the funky vintage clothing shops and other little businesses here. I was captivated by this poster outside the Global Aware information centre.

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We had some lunch in the open air.

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Leaving Kensington Market, we spied this little alleyway fronted by a row of tall, narrow homes. Someone has incorporated an M.C. Escher work in the facade of their house.

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The next chunk of our day was a bit frustrating. Neither one of us has a good sense of direction. In fact, neither of us has any sense of direction at all. We went in circles a lot. We were trying to find some of the CONTACT photo exhibits using the festival map Elspeth had picked up. Everywhere we went to find one of the exhibits, the building was closed Saturday. Dead ends, dead ends. We walked many, many blocks and took many trolleys trying to find even one open exhibit on this tour. No luck.

Our feet were getting tired. My back was getting tired.

“Do you think maybe we need another clue?” I asked Elspeth. Yes. Yes, your turn to pick.

“The number three,” I said.

“Ok. I am sensing FRUIT.”

Three of some kind of fruit, I thought as we set off in a new direction. Very soon we were standing in front of an antiques mall and there on the door was a CONTACT sign, indicating there was a participating photo exhibit inside. One of the antiques vendors was able to direct us to the booth toward the back of the large antiques mall where we finally could see a festival participant’s work.

The first thing I noticed as we approached the booth was the apple sitting by the guest book. And then I saw the other two apples on the bookcase behind it.

“Elspeth?”

Mmm?

“How many apples,” I said, grinning.

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Elspeth found two sets of three pears in the photographs, as well. Three sets of three. More of that fractal stuff going on, that symmetry in more than one dimension that they talk about in chaos theory.

After a long outdoor dinner back in Kensington, Elspeth put me on the southbound subway to Dundas, where finding the coach terminal should have been as easy as walking one block west upon emerging from the subway station. “Nellie Elephant squirts water!” she called to me just as the subway doors were closing. That is the childhood mnemonic she was taught for remembering the compass points. It didn’t seem to stop us from getting on the subway going the opposite direction from where we wanted to go more than once. It didn’t stop me from turning the simple directive on a sign (Toronto Coach Terminal One Block West) into an hour ordeal of walking, walking, paying a beggar to get me turned back around, managing to mess up those directions and getting lost a third time. Nellie elephant! Your water is squirting all over the place!

Sylvain asked me when I arrived home after eleven and called to let him know I’d arrived safely what Elspeth is like in person.

It was nice, I told him, to be able to talk about non-linear time and simultaneous reincarnation with someone and have her get it, have her know instantly what I’m talking about without having to explain how I find this logical or why I sense these things to be true.

It was nice playing the question game at dinner with two pens and two pieces of paper, folding the paper to hide the mystery question for the other person to answer and being told, “not everyone can play this game.  Some people get confused.”

Here is the product of our question game. We didn’t get to unfold the pieces of paper and see the full quetions we were answering nor the other’s answers until the whole thing was done.

What did you want to do when you grew up? Three encounters with someone who always provided a new surprise.

How many times have you smiled since Sylvain? Three.

When will you return? When there is a full moon and a song in the background that has something to do with France/French.

What is the magic of now? My dream come true.

Why do you love? Because it makes me feel strong, independent and free.

What is today’s lesson? It is something indescribable, but close to the sky.

How do you feel when you are happy? With love and curiosity.

Will a door open? Yes! Most definitely, because that is divinely ordained.

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Right (written by Sylvain)

I thought some of you might want to hear how I felt about our time spent together. After reading Kelly’s post, my initial reaction was simply to reply with “Yeah! What she said!!” And that would be the truth, because I truly feel the same. But I’m going to give you a bit more, from my perspective.

I drove up to her house, pulled into the driveway, and got out of my van. I had called to say I was on my way, so her door was open and before I got close, she appeared in the doorway. I was speechless. She is beautiful. I had seen pictures, but they had not done her justice. She smiled and gave me a big hug; all my anxieties melted away.

From that point on, it was as though I was with someone I had known all my life. Our actions truly complemented each other, our thoughts connected before words were even required, and her eyes told me over and over that she was feeling what I was.

That moment in the elevator which she described, the one with the little girl and the mismatched shoe laces. I had entered the elevator first, and had seen them. As I turned and was contemplating what to say (because I had to say something!) I saw Kelly’s face. She had seen them too, and immediately went into character. She kinda rolled her eyes a bit and advised the young lady that her shoe laces didn’t match. She did it exactly the way I would have, serious enough to give everyone a slight pause, but over the top just enough so that they would quickly get that she was just being silly. Everyone got a chuckle at the strange woman in the elevator. Me? Well, I fell in love with her just a little more.

There were tons of moments like that all weekend. She remembers names. The name of the guy who helped us with our bags (Dave). The name of the doorman who greeted us (Loreto). The name of the woman who cleaned our room (Jeannie). And Mark, the guy who made us those fantastic omelets. (I’m hungry now.) She makes it a point to make everyone feel valued. I love that. I do that too, but I stink at remembering names. Once again, we complemented each other. And once more, she showed me, without knowing it, what a special person she is.

And I too was able to be myself, like I never have with anyone. I could just be me, and I knew without a doubt that I was accepted and understood and appreciated. It’s an incredibly freeing feeling. You can be silly or serious or goofy. You can talk about anything. You can share tears and laughter with complete abandon. And we did just that. And her laugh, her beautiful laughter, I can still hear it, and it still warms my heart.

We’re sitting by the lake now. The sun is warm and there is a nice cool breeze. Her skirt flutters gently in the wind as we munch on some grapes. Kelly’s feet are on my lap. She doesn’t know I’m looking at her. She’s looking up in the trees at a bird we have just spotted. I’m struck once again by her beauty, her sweet smile, and her beautiful eyes. I glance out at the horizon. Somewhere between the deep blue sky and matching water, a few sailboats are dancing around. I sit quietly, holding her feet, and realizing that nothing in my life has ever felt this right.

Sylvain

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view from room

When Good Things Happen to Bad People

I don’t know why I chose that title for my blog post.  I am feeling silly tonight.  I wonder what would happen if Jinbon H. Wrong, Rob Brezsny and Sera Beak got together in the same room at the same time.  Sometime.

???

I am feeling silly tonight and I am going to tell you all a secret.

Can you keep a secret?

Are you SURE?

You won’t tell anyone, right?  Cause you’re my special friend.  I’m not telling anyone else… just YOU.

Are you ready?

I have a new special friend.  :)

Yep.

Those of you who are intuitive already knew that.

Remember that day when I blogged about sitting in my cafe and watching the man cross the street?  Around that time I wrote here on my blog that my Shadow was running amok. I was acting out.  The fact is that I … on more than one occasion… while insomniac and complexed… visited a place I had not frequented for a long time.  It’s a dating site where people with physical disabilities can meet others with physical disabilities.  They let people like me in, too.  If we promise to be good.

I didn’t want to meet anyone (or so I told myself).

I didn’t want anyone finding me, and so the obligatory profile I set to HIDDEN.

Creating a profile, though hidden, allowed me to view profiles.  All I wanted that night was a photograph.  All I wanted was one face, one body, one image to help me get to sleep.  You know what I’m talking about.

And so I created the briefest of profiles then hid it.  That gave me profile surfing privileges.

The next night I got an automated email in my inbox.  You are invited to our weekly chat! Come to the chat room, it said.

Oh, what the hell.

I went.  Wow, there are a lot of Canucks here, I noted.  There’s a gal who lives not far from me.  There’s an old man in Vancouver.  There’s a young student in Winnipeg.  There’s a fellow in Ontario.

Lots of us Canucks here, eh?  I said.

And before I knew it, one of them was saying hello to me.  Let’s IM away from prying eyes.  Ok, private chat. That’s fine.

We chatted into the night.  When it was time for me to go to bed, he wanted my email address.

Whatever.  That’s fine.  Sure, email me.

And that’s how it started.

Before I knew it, I had a penpal.  I looked at his photo.   Not really my type.

He emailed me.  I fired off a response, polite enough.

He emailed again.  I responded in kind, the bare minimum.  Not rude, but not warm.  Just there.

He wrote more.  I wrote less.  I was not interested.

Shoo!  Go away, you.  We have nothing in common.

He didn’t go away.

I stopped writing to him.

He wrote, “Write me.”

Something happened.

Something terrible happened, people.

I started to like him.

Yes, just a little bit.  I started to like him.  I started to look forward to his daily electronic letters.

I opened the jpg file again.  Not my type.  But gosh, nice lips.

And the more I got to know him, the harder it became to ignore the fact that he embodies all the items on my wish list.

Smart? Check.

Compassionate? Check.

Generous? Check.

Way, way into me? CHECK!

What about that OTHER thing???  He’s…   he’s… you know.  The packaging.  It’s dented.

Well, did you put anything on your wish list about the physical package?

Um, no.

But! But!  That’s in my past!  I don’t do that anymore.  That was part of this paraphilia thing… gimp fetish.  I don’t have that anymore. Ok, so maybe sometimes it’s subtly arousing.  When I’m out of sorts I might sneak off there to one of those sites and furtively steal glimpses of profile photos.  To help me sleep! That’s all!   But I don’t want to DATE one of those people.

No.

It’s AB guys for me from here on out.  You know, it’s a SELF ESTEEM thing.  I’m supposed to be with able-bodied guys now.  That’s progress, you know.  Shows how far I’ve come.

Or something.

WHAT?

Stop that. Stop having such a beautiful soul in that dented package.

STOP!

Sigh.

Shit.

Grace

Is there a full moon? Are the planets aligned in some special way? Or is God just really busy right now?

Today was amazing.

As soon as I got to work, I asked around for a stamp to the US so I could send that little piece of wandring sheet music to Gwendolyn.  Our mail room had one and wouldn’t take money for it.

****

Because I’d committed to a workshop my friend was giving BEFORE I agreed to take the noon to 8 pm shift starting this week, my boss agreed to my keeping the prior commitment, i.e. leaving work early tonight. So when said workshop was cancelled, K suggested we go on to our weekly GRIC potluck. So we did.

My friend Andrew remembered I’d wanted to hear how Simple Gifts goes. So he and his wife Jannette sang it for me.  Then Michelle joined in.  It was Michelle’s first GRIC event. She read about it in the Humanist newsletter Our Neighbourhood. She thinks we may have crossed paths before tonight.  I liked looking across the dinner table into her beautiful face as she sang this little hymn for me.

I was in a bad head space. I was fretting over this phone call or email, the first one since meeting the big heartthrob on Saturday. I was working myself into a knot over why he hadn’t called me right away. After all, we’d really hit it off on Saturday. Or so it seemed to me. We’d had one of those moments that almost never happen between two strangers. There had been such raw authenticity, a tossing aside of all concern for perceptions, a following of our hearts.

My friend K…she is so amazing. There I was all giddy and hyper, hugging all my friends, chattering, slurping soup. She catches my eye and raises an eyebrow.   Are you okay, her eyes ask me. And that’s when I realize I’m not. I curled up on Wendy and Alan’s sofa next to her, pulled a big throw pillow up in front of my face so I could let it out. All that tension turned to tears. Her hand was on my arm, the warmth of her caring flowing into me.

I told her what was up. She talked to me about keeping centred. See, I always give that up…for a man. I can stay grounded in department meetings. I can stay grounded in and out of friendships. I can even stay grounded with my MOTHER for goodness sake! But let one potential lover give me reason to hope that he might be the one, and I’m a goner. I lose it. The ground beneath my feet crumbles.

By the time K and I had finished talking, carrying our conversation outside into the sharp, fresh, white-blanketed world, I was 95% myself again. (I’d tried going to the basement to do some belly breathing, but one child threw a soccer ball at me and the other walked across my abdomen.)

So I got home, took my ritual bath to warm up my icicle toes, and got the incoming IM request from HIM.

WOW. What an amazing night. In about an hour an a half I managed to go from lovesick to sane again. This person and I? We are going to be friends. And I thank him from the bottom of my heart for his honesty.

Can I tell you what happened to me once? Once upon a time I met someone and this someone did not unburden me of my fantasy that he and I were to live happily ever after. Oh, I suppose he tried to hint at it, but I thought he was just being shy. He let me go on believing things, believing in our future together, when he knew full well it wasn’t going to happen.

Finally one night after a year and a half together, the shit hit the fan. I hit him, actually. We were sitting there in his car breaking up and he was being his usual unauthentic cardboard self. Not present. Playing some role, wearing a mask. Hiding out. I was screaming at him, sobbing, pounding on his huge chest in hopes of eliciting any reaction other than his stupid everything is kopa setic cartoon character facade.

He broke. He cried. He came to the breakup party. And he told me then that the reason he never told me the truth was that he didn’t want to make me cry. He just couldn’t bear the thought of Kelly in her bed crying into her pillow over him.

“Well I’m crying NOW!” I said, sighing and reaching for the box of Kleenex, blowing multiple kilos of snot into the next tissue.

The man I met on Saturday did not do that to me. He told me today that he isn’t ready, isn’t able, can’t, won’t.

Oh.

Yes, I did feel hurt at first. But we kept talking until we were laughing. We ended on a very good note.

===

And then I looked at my emails.  I had an email from a longtime friend with whom I haven’t spent a lot of time over the years. I suppose that makes us closer to acquaintances than friends. But no. There’s more than that.  I have deep respect for him and the only reason I don’t do things with him is that the one time we did, I ended up feeling smothered in negativity.

So here was this email in which my friend acknowledged how that evening a few years ago must have felt for me, and he apologized for that!

What power is moving through and among us today.

****

Vernon is not getting better.  He seemed to rally after the first 2-3 days on the two antibiotics, but he’s worse again now. He will eat and drink a bit, but not enough. And it’s not going through him.  I suspect he has a systemic cancer or something similar.  Domestic rats sure do get cancer a lot.  So tonight after his warm bath (he is not cleaning himself), I wrapped him in the towel and instead of nestling him back in his cage with Owen, I decided to bring him to bed with me.  Some rats can count on their cage mate for comfort and nursing at the end.  Some rats can’t.  Owen is not being a good nurse, so that job falls to me.

Right now wheezy Vern is resting on my sternum, the flannel sheet pulled over him for warmth. Now and then I offer some mush, and he takes a nibble or two.  I bring the water bowl under his nose and he drinks just a bit.

***

I am myself again.  I feel alive again.  Please,…if I ever in this decade say I’ve met someone, could you just whop me upside my head with a calabash? Sigh.

It’s good to be back.

New Free Happy Unusual Life

I’ve discovered a new blog that makes me happy. It’s Ink on My Fingers (blogroll, to your right).

Yeah, yesterday was neat. Andrew and his family did give me a ride and then Andrew helped me put together the bookcase when it came time for two sets of hands and a drill for the wall anchors. Actually, he helped me undo the mess I’d made by tightening some nuts before the shelves were settled into place. D’oh! Bless that man. He didn’t hit me over the head with the drill. He just helped fix the problem.

Andrew’s little girl and I make a great team. She likes to dust! She helped welcome some of the children’s books to their new home by insisting daddy read to her. And he did. I got to listen as he read a funny story called Kooken.

Wendy brought Steve (far right in this photo) into the room while I was balancing shelves in my hands. “You once autographed a CD for me,” I said to him as Wendy made introductions from the doorway. Later we all sat around on the couch and talked. It’s pretty neat when people whose autographs you once sought are part of a circle of friends you’re joining.

What was even more exciting for me, though, was when Wendy was talking to me about her dad and said, “you’ll meet him.” Wow. I might have Philip Pearle all to myself in the corner of a room, sipping tea and… and… getting to talk about the nature of reality and the universe?

Can my life get any more exciting than this?

Having puttered around Wendy’s house since before 1 p.m.–with a midafternoon break for veg chili and basmati rice–we finally settled around the dining table as the sun was setting. A fellow cohouser and his mom, who is active in the local humanist group, came by. We all had spicy tisane and talked. D brought up the movie The Secret, wondering if we’d seen it. Thanks to Mo, I have.

It’s about the law of attraction, the notion that we–like magnets–draw into our lives what we think about, including our worries. So the man in the movie who is constantly worrying about being in debt just keeps sinking lower into debt.

On the other hand the movie shows the results of making a story board for yourself where you cut out and paste pictures of the life you want. You put the collage somewhere you can see it every day. It helps your mind focus on what you want so you can start attracting those situations, people, job, home…whatever.

We talked about that and about the union of religion or spiritual beliefs and science, which quantum physics makes easier than ever, if you ask me. We talked about democracy and what’s been going on in the U.S. over the last 7 or 8 years. I listened and learned many new things.

At one point I let my mind float back a few feet from the scene in front of me. How long has it been since I sat around a table with a bunch of good-hearted, open-minded thinkers talking about stuff like this? It’s been so long, I didn’t even remember how good it feels.

First there was Violet, whom I met online because we both have rats. She taught me to blog. Then I met Katryn, who brought me to my first GRIC meeting that I didn’t even know was a meeting about cohousing until half an hour into it. I’d thought we were going to a humanist meeting! What a happy accident, as my late friend Larry would have said.

I didn’t find any of this. I wasn’t looking (consciously) for any of this. It found ME!

Last night before finally winding down enough to sleep, I pulled from the bottom of my bedside stack of books Nina Wise’s a big new free happy unusual life and read the following from subchapter heading “Reclaiming What You Have Lost:”

Since the inception of the human species and until only decades ago, daily life was infused with art making. We crafted our own tools, we sewed our own clothing, we built our own shelters, we cultivated our own food. We sang songs that we made up, songs that were passed down to us, and songs that were given to us by the gods. We danced together matching our steps to the steps of our companions. We built musical instruments out of hides and sinew, twine and wood. We painted on walls and on our bodies and our implements. These creative acts enhanced our well-being as individuals, strengthened family bonds, knit communities together, and provided access to states of being that invoked insight and wisdome. We as a species cannot reside in psychological and physical health if we abandon the very activities that maintain well-being.

Where was I going with that? I don’t remember. Time for my bath. Time for work. When I get back, you tell me where we were going and we’ll go there together.

A Peek Through the Keyhole

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If you could have spied on me this evening as I fired off a torrent of emails to friends and loved ones, here are some of the things you’d have read over my shoulder:

Hi, Hollie,
The other person just now let me know she isn’t coming. I am going to be here bathing and otherwise getting ready for my day, then heading out at noon to help my friends unpack a moving van. I hope to be back here this evening.
Are you still interested in the books? I could perhaps put them all out in a box on my porch today if you think you’d like to come get them. There will be another box with non-book items in it. That is for the family who had the fire.
Let me know. Thanks! Kelly

===========

Violet, Hi! Are you planning to help Wendy and Alan today? I am headed over there around noon to help put beds together, bring boxes in, etc. Alan has a broken foot.

I had a lot of fun yesterday looking at websites that offer tips for micro living. Questions: does the room have a door or just a doorway? Does the room have electrical outlets? If so, on which wall/s? Thanks! I am going to play with graph paper now.

===========

Hi, Andrew,
Just wondering if you are headed to Wendy and Al’s place today. If so, I’d love to catch a ride. If not, I’ll take the 8, no worries. Or I might bike it! :)
Kelly

============

Hiya! Ends up we had plenty of helpers today. More bodies would have been too many. I had a DREAM assignment of putting together a bookcase and then filling it with books. Yummy. I got to see Al and Wendy’s book collection and touch every last volume, …hard backs, paper backs. Oh, she has the same SARK books you have loaned me. Gosh, they have a lot of children’s books. Wow, I didn’t even know Wendy was Jewish until I started unpacking her books and things. She is related to Amy Irving! Plus her dad is Philip Pearle, the quantum physicist who was once a guest speaker at PI. Tonight was amazing. I’m going to blog all about it. Oh, and I met another Tanglefoot band member, Steve.

Ok, I made my graph paper bird’s eye view (my brain is tired and I can’t come up with words right now). And I cut out my furniture and think I can make it work. Yes, I would like to donate my craft supplies to the craft room…but also Freecycle the ones that we would probably never use. If you need a cabinet for the craft room, let me know. I have two. You’ll have to survey my house to see if you need anything. I only use the toaster oven for shrinky dinks! LOL.

Clutter BAD. No clutter GOOD. I check out some organizing and Feng Shui books the other day just because I am going to be helping Andrew and Jannette in their basement. But ended up looking at them in a different way after you and I got into serious Kelly Move In talk. I’m a little wound up right now, sorry. :)

My diagram has my single bed, a bedside table and my chest of drawers from IKEA. That’s it. I might also be able to squeeze in my tufted vanity chair and was thinking of having it re-upholstered. My arm chair just won’t fit, but that’s okay as long as I can sometimes read in the sun room or someplace loungeable. I was thinking we could hang a rod by two chains over my chest of drawers because my chest is wide and low. Then I could hang all my clothes up like that, utilizing the vertical space.

For flooring, I want to buy an area rug. I’ve been scoping out the best deal for them online. One of the best deals is at Target…even better than IKEA’s price for similar rug.

By selling off my dining table and chairs, I can easily afford a NICE 7 x 7 or 6 x 7 rug. Also I’ll be selling my Ektorp sofa bed with slip cover. I think I can get some money for that, as well. I’ll have moolah for paint and so forth.

So yeah, I’m pretty eager to come see that space again so I can get an idea what you are talking about re what the walls are made of now, etc. I am not picky. I think in a former life I was raised by wolves and lived in a cave. :) My primal roots must be calling.
Violet, I am really jazzed about this new development in my life and YOUR lives… yes! I bragged on us today to our GRIC friends, saying we are getting a head start on them. Heeee.

All the rest of the books went away today and the big box of stuff for the burned out family. Yay! This space feels less oppressive by the day. There is a new SPRING in my STEP!!!

Love, love, love and hugs and kisses!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Kelly

===========

Suzanne,
I can also talk by phone, just not when I’m so wound up. If I talked on a night when I feel like I do now, I’d never shut up. I’m WIRED from being around some good people today with whom I have a lot in common and who will be forming this intentional community with me over the next 5 years or so. I spent from 12:30 to 6:00 helping them unpack and move into their new house (moved from Ithaca to here). But when I’m calmer and more grounded, I could talk. I get 5 cents a minute to the states, so I’ll pay.

But I can also write. Ok, I should shut up now. I’m even chatty in writing now. I’m drinking the rest of that carton of wine now in hopes of settling myself down. I don’t have alcohol in the house often, but sure glad it’s here today. :) K

===========

Hi, Annie! Haven’t started Ishmael yet, but read the blurb while still in the library and said to myself, “Definitely.”

Annie, I want you to know that of all the women who have come into my life this year, you are one of the mentors. Some of the women flowing into my life now are also recovering from things. You are a strong one, a role model. As much as I need the women who are finding healing (as I am), I also need the healthy ones who can shine a light on the path. Hug, Kelly

===========

V,

I had such fun unloading boxes into Wendy and Al’s bookcases today. Throughout the day and when I left, Wendy was thanking and thanking me. I said, for one, “you’d do it for me.” That’s the whole cohousing spirit, eh? Second, I was having FUN. I arranged books by subject to some extent (all cookbooks on main floor by kitchen and at eye level). But also I arranged by height (can’t waste tall shelf space on short books) and also by depth of book. I put deep books at the outside edges and as you come toward the centre of each shelf, the books are more shallow. I push them all flush to the back of the book case, which means you have some shelf area in front of the books in the centre. It looks neater that way.

I had one area where I lay some books down on their side to act as a bookend for the vertical ones, then topped that arrangement with a beautiful small gift book. Oh, I had FUN.

….
I’m having some Shiraz in hopes of calming myself down. I can’t believe I have to report to WORK tomorrow. That feels wrong, just wrong. I rather think that you and I need to take a trip to Target and buy my rug or something fun like that. Work. Hrrrmph.

===========

After the moving part today, Stephen and his mom D dropped by and we all had tea, starting talking quantum physics and green party, all sorts of good shit. I really like Al. I have a tiny crush on him, but that’s okay. I think he’s dreamy. One day…when I’m ready for a boy/girl relationship again, I want to find a man like that. He is so beautiful.

Yeah, I got to know W &A’s kids better. Have you seen A??? This boy looks like he stepped right off the pages of a Shel Silverstein book of poetry. He has flaxen blond gently wavy/curly hair down to his waist!!! He pretended to shoot me and I fell dead or wounded about a hundred times until I convinced him I had to continue putting a bookcase together and couldn’t do so while dead or dying. I got J to making snowflakes with paper and scissors I’d brought over. Oh, it was a good day, Violet.

Yes, I need to come over. I need a hug from you fix and also I miss the doggies. I love your doggies and you are going to have to teach me the rules they are supposed to obey. I don’t want to be the one undoing all the good training. Because if it were up to me, they would sleep with me…all over me. We can’t have that, esp. with Beag’s night terrors/neurosis. I could get my nose bit off and I rather like my nose, in spite of my mother’s innuendos about it being too big for my face. Poo on mothers and the body complexes they pass on to us uninvited. Poo indeed.

Ok, I want to come over. Tomorrow (Monday) after work? If the floor is linoleum, then we can just throw a beautiful rug over it. No worries. The walls are what? Wood panel and pegboard. The pegboard could come in handy for me. I think I will wash down the paneling with TSP PST TPS you know what i mean (no longer wired, the wine is kicking in) and then paint it. That is all good. Now I just have to get stuff out of this house and put it on the market. I have never sold a house before. Eeeeek! Please help me understand that process.

I want to bring my scrap books over for you to see. I have been cutting and pasting idea photos from decor magazines for 10 years. I’ll show you what I am picturing for that space.

Oh, I am SOOOOOOOO glad you want the 100 year old mission table and chairs. They are 1/4 cut oak. I love them and it would kill me to sell them. I won’t allow you to pay me for them. Please move them into your home as soon as you have made room for them. Maybe one day I’ll ask for them back. We’ll just have to duke it out at that time. :)

Ok, very cool thing is that I am currently sleeping on the futon in the basement, which means that as soon as I paint and carpet “MY” room, I can move my single bed in. Wheeeee! Did anything ever feel so MEANT TO BE???

You feel like family to me. I love you both and already love the children you don’t even have yet. Auntie Kelly! Auntie Kelly! I am going to be an amazing co-teacher in your home school. :)

Love love love, K

Fire

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I read this post by Elspeth Sunday night and left my comment, “What an amazing idea. I’d like to do that. I believe it could help me move on. K”

This morning the phone rang. My phone doesn’t ring that often. About 40% of the time, it’s a telemarketer. Fifty-five percent of the time, it’s my mom. About 4% of the time, it’s a friend, and the other 1% is miscellaneous, like a Freecycler calling to arrange to pick something up. I expected this to be the last of these–someone coming to collect a box of things for a family who just lost everything in a fire.

It wasn’t.

It was a beloved friend of mine calling to say she was going to have a fire in her backyard today (Monday), and would I like to be there to support her when she let some things go into this fire.

Isn’t life something?

Before heading over to my friend’s house this evening, I sat and wrote on one very special small piece of paper my prayer for guidance and courage in the new year. On another scrap of paper, I scribbled out the things to which I want to say goodbye. Needing someplace to tuck the scraps of paper so they wouldn’t blow away, I reached for the nearest book at hand–The Power of Now by Tolle.

Perfect.

We drank mugs of hot herb tea as a few drops of rain hit the pages of my open book. As my friend fed broken memories to the fire, I shared a passage I’d marked months before in pencil. The flames lapped at the dusking sky.

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After a beautiful rite of passage into this new year with my friend and a delicious supper of brown rice and pea soup, I biked across town for another date. At this friend’s house, I played with a Buddha Board and learned about Linux.

Conversation was good, sparking inspiration. I left feeling happy and full of ideas for my journey.

I have begun planning something very special for myself.

===

Now I lie here with a mug of fennel seed tea and hot water bottle at my feet thinking of the day, of the two visits with friends, savouring the feeling of love, remembering what was done and said–said not just with words, but with eyes and silence, with tears and long, tight, good embraces.

Welcome, new year.

Welcome.

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A Second Chance at Childhood

It was working. Farsi class was keeping me out of trouble. My classmate Andrew was struggling with the wind and the rain chapter as I was participating in grade one activities weekly. I tried comforting him by pointing out that: a) this was my seventh or eighth or ninth language to study; b) I had no family and no social life to tear me away from hours and hours of study and c) I was a keener. I hope I managed to convince him to stop comparing my rate of learning with his own.

But I wasn’t learning as quickly nor as well as I knew I could. Mr. Sadr and the kids in my class were very helpful, always ready to pronounce a difficult word for me or flesh out a definition. But I needed more.

I needed a tutor. I needed someone during the week to help me while I memorized chapters and composed essays that were due the following Saturday.

And so I took a two-pronged approach to finding my tutor. I knew there were two places full of Iranians. One was the University of Waterloo, where in the electrical and mechanical engineering departments you could hear more Farsi around you than English. The other was my apartment building.

I put up a sign in the lobby near the mailboxes. In Farsi I wrote: DO YOU SPEAK FARSI? And the rest I wrote out in English. I was offering English tutoring in exchange for Farsi help. I put my phone number at the bottom on a series of columns and cut between them so anyone interested could tear off my number and put it in her pocket.

Then I emailed the Iranian Students Association at U of W and asked the president to pass on the word that I was needing a tutor.

That week I got a phone call from a young man who was responding to my advertisement. He said he would be happy to help me and would welcome some English practice, too. And so we would meet.

“Which building are you in,” I asked, “One or Two?”

“One,” he said.

“Which floor are you on?” I asked.

“Fourteenth,” he said.

“Fourteenth? I’m on the fourteenth floor! What’s your apartment number?”

“1409,” he said.

“Fourteen o nine? I’m 1408! We’re neighbours!”

And so I met my neighbour Farhad, a meek and awkward young man trying to pass his exams so he could become a practicing accountant. His roommate was the tallest Iranian I’ve ever seen. Both of them were polite, sweet boys who always asked after my welfare when we met in the elevator.

Farhad and I established a schedule. He would come over on Wednesday evenings after we’d each finished dinner and help me with my homework. Then I would help him with his English. He brought his ESL book with him, or sometimes preferred help interpreting a letter from a government office, or wanted me to look over his resume and newest cover letter.

I had known and would come to know many Iranians, but Farhad was just about the only one I knew who was a practicing Muslim. He observed Ramadan. The first time he came to my apartment, he expressed some consternation over the matter of our being together–an unrelated male and female–in a room with the door closed. And so we didn’t pull my front door all the way to, but left it open a hair’s breadth.

Before sitting down to study, I always offered Farhad a traditional glass of hot tea, complete with sugar cubes. Twenty years before, Hamid’s brother–when I stopped to visit him in London–had showed me how to drink tea like an Iranian, placing the sugar cube between my teeth before raising the piping glass of tea to my lips.

I really sucked at preparing the tea, and had to remind poor Farhad that if I’d over steeped it, he need not drink it. I also invited him to show me what I was doing wrong. Together we managed to brew a not quite so disgusting pot of tea.

Farhad and I joked about the Iranian social phenomenon whereby one never accepts anything on the first offer. This is called taarof. Decorum dictates you must wait to see if your friend offers again. And a third time. If you get a third offer, you are free to accept knowing the offer was sincere.

Farhad told me funny stories from his days of learning that we don’t practice taarof in Canada. One day it was raining and he was setting out from campus toward home on foot. His chums passed by in a car and asked him if he wanted a ride. Obligated to decline the first and second invitations, he said, “No thank you.”

His friends said, “suit yourself” and drove off, leaving him standing in the rain.

I helped Farhad practice the Canadian way of doing things. If he politely turned down tea the first time, I’d say, “fine. I’m having some.” Then I’d grin and say, “Want to try that again?” I also assured him that if my tea was so nasty that he really didn’t want any, he could say no the first time and I’d take his word for it. Learning a new set of cultural mores isn’t so easy!

Not long after Farhad and I set up our first tutoring date, I got an email from the president of the Iranian Students Association saying she had found me a tutor. The candidate was working on his PhD in electrical engineering and was extremely excited about the prospect of meeting me.

Oh, dear. Had she not added the latter part, I could have said thanks but no, I’ve already found someone. I decided that since it wasn’t costing my anything but an hour of my own time in exchange for an hour of theirs, it might not hurt to have two tutors.

And so I met Kiarash at a small tea shop next to the campus. I have to tell you that Kiarash and I hit it off as student and teacher so well, and he was so smart and kind and fun…well…it was only with great difficulty and a lot of help from Anna that I managed not to fall head over heels in love with this much younger man (who, by the way, was already taken).

My two tutoring sessions were as different as night and day. Farhad didn’t know how to help me. I tried spelling out what I needed from him, such as, “Could you read the passage through once for me?” He would read it quickly through from start to finish without taking a breath. I’d ask him to slow down a bit, but he didn’t seem to get the concept. Teaching Farhad to teach was stressing me out. So I learned to save certain things for Farhad while relying on my meetings with Kiarash for everything else.

Kiarash, on the other hand, was a natural born teacher. Seeing my interest and giftedness, he challenged me to go further than even I dared imagine I could go from one week to the next. He wanted me to converse with him. I was too embarrassed. A perfectionist, after all, gets it all down and then utters perfect sentences. We do not make fools of ourselves by speaking baby talk in the interim. Yes, well. Kiarash was not one to take no for an answer.

Oh, okay. I suppose I can say Salaam. Haale shomaa chetoreh?

Khoobam, mersi. Haale shomaa chetoreh?

I appreciated the economy of “khoobam,” with am stuck to the end of good, like AmGood rolled into one word. And what could be easier than mersi for thank you instead of the longer, more traditional kheili mamnoon? With these two little words [khoobam, mersi] I could walk the halls of the school answering every inquiry in perfect Persian and sound ever so fluent. Fun!

During my next session with Anna, I reported on my new life as a first grader. I told her of playing with Khorsheed and Kimia at recess. I really felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. My work week dragged by; I couldn’t make Saturday come soon enough.

She asked how things were going on the other front.

“Still nothing. Tabula rasa.”

When I’d first told Anna that my paraphilia was gone and that in its place was nothing, she’d nodded and smiled broadly, saying, “That’s GOOD.” I trust her, so I took her word that it was a good thing, almost puffing up with pride as if I’d had anything to do with it.

With her sharp eye and ear for those coincidences no Jungian considers to be coincidence, she noted that I had dreamed of an eight year old. My playground mates were eight years old.

“What was going on when you were eight, Kelly?” she asked me.

“I guess we’d just moved to Arkansas. It was right before things started to fall apart. That was the year before Mom met Don, who made me touch him,” I reported, curious to know what she was thinking.

“So that was your last year of innocence,” she said softly, scribbling notes on her pad. She put her pen down. We looked at one another as that idea settled on the quiet room.