This is Where You Belong
I sat on my patio watching the clouds roll across an amber sunrise as the birds sang their morning revelry. A peaceful moment as the thought came to mind, "I belong here." I belong.
It was my birthday and I was reflecting, as I do every year, filing through recent thoughts on what I've learned over the last year. A question popped up.
What's profound at this juncture in life?
Shedding skin? Endings? New chapters? Initiations? Quiet moments? Surprising disruptions? Sure, all those things. But, there was something more.
I pondered this as I gazed back at the horizon behind my house. The sky was active, the clouds in steady movement. I thought about how life rolls like clouds, moving in constant flow, sometimes stormy and tumultuous, sometimes clear and transparent, light, and fluffy. The air was still, spacious. My eye caught the resident bunny in his routine, back and forth, back and forth across my backyard. He was in his element, nothing profound, simply in the midst of his day. He belonged.
That's when it hit me. The simple truth is life happens in the middle, in the midst of things. In between the aha's, the grand gestures and profound moments.
Life happens in the in-between, in the liminal space. Liminal spaces are the in-between: the moments to and from, before and after decisions and choices, during transitions, and in between the milestones.
Liminally, I belong. Liminally, we all belong because it's not about filling the spaces or looking for the thing outside of us to belong or feel satisfied. It's about being and living in the midst of our lives and belonging within ourselves.
To belong is a lifelong pursuit and a deep human desire: to matter, to have meaning. And, it's a journey where many of us feel a sense of lack, the wanting to belong but not quite getting there because often we're looking outside of ourselves for validation or acceptance.
But, what I'm realizing as my age continues to ripen, belonging is really about being in your own space. Being content within yourself and the liminal in-betweens of life. When you do, it doesn't matter who you're with or what's happening around you. You belong. So, when you're in a situation or with people where it doesn't feel like a fit, that's all it is. It's not that you don't belong, it's just not a fit.
You always belong in your space and in your in-betweens. How sweet it is to realize it, to own it, and to live it.
Photo by Michael Martinelli on Unsplash
"Thank you, Teacher." Life's Teachers are Everywhere
Life’s teachers are literally everywhere.
If you’re looking.
"Thank you, Teacher."
I had a beautiful conversation with a dear friend this week. We were working through something together, something that had found the space in our open hearts to discuss and resolve. Not the easiest thing for two people who avoid conflict. We'd made the commitment to one another years ago to be a safe place for telling the truth, for pushing each other to dig deeper, and after this conversation, we're closer than ever.
We also talked about how challenging relationships and situations often are our greatest teachers. She reflected on her children, how they have taught her to be a better parent, and often it wasn’t the sunshine and roses moments that elevated her skills. It was the resistance, the conflict, the smart pushback and exchanges from and with her engaged, independent kids. Because she does the inner work on herself, she pays attention. They pay attention because she’s taught them to, by example.
“Thank you, Teacher.”
I’ve been a part of a retreat community for over a decade. We get deep with one another, doing the work to raise our consciousnesses while elevating the community too. When friction arises and triggers are flared, we know it’s a teaching and learning moment, with the reflection aimed at ourselves first.
Thanks for the friction. Thanks for the triggers.
They open the door for self-discovery, shifts in perspective, and healing. So next time, the friction is less and the trigger is smaller.
And, the beautiful thing is there's synchronicity. Since we're human and often have the same or similar triggers, when it arises for someone else it invariably becomes a teacher for others as well, a chance to explore the issue for themselves.
What do we say after one of these opportunities presents itself?
“Thank you, Teacher.” It’s become a thing.
Then, as often happens when my thoughts focus on an evolving notion, to illustrate the point, these two things floated into my sphere recently. This quote from author Ann Patchett landed in my mailbox:
“It turns out that having someone who believed in my failure more than in my success kept me alert. It made me fierce. Without ever meaning to, my father taught me at an early age to give up on the idea of approval. I wish I could bottle that freedom now and give it to every young writer I meet, with an extra bottle for the women.”
I can imagine it wasn’t easy as a young girl finding her way to not have the support she first craved. But, she paid attention to the lesson behind it and turned it into a strength.
“Thank you, Teacher.”
And, a meme on social came and went that provided more juice. I can't find it and don't remember who posted it, but it inspired this:
- If fear is holding you back, it teaches you courage and fortitude.
- If something angers you, it teaches you to inquire, understand and forgive.
- If someone rejects, belittles, or abandons you, it teaches you to believe in yourself.
- If something bugs you, it's a chance for patience and letting go.
- If you hate something, it teaches you compassion and open-heartedness.
- If you love something, it teaches you gratitude. And, vice versa.
- If you can't control something it teaches you to let go.
- If faced with conflict, it's a chance to lower your defenses, listen, and speak your truth.
This last one was my lesson in the conversation with my dear friend.
"Thank you, Teacher."
When you pay attention, the teachers are everywhere.
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A Midlife Mantra If Ever I Heard One
I was staring at the blank page of my journal, wondering where to start. Thoughts swirling, the to-do list fighting for attention, and annoying headlines that I read while still in bed dampened my plan for an early morning calm (for which I was still beating myself up).
So, I slowed my breathing, took a sip of coffee, and turned to a favorite journaling technique I like to call, "Open Sesame."
I reached for the top book from a stack on my coffee table, Robin Sharma's "The 5 AM Club," asked my guides for inspiration and, allowed the book to fall open where it may. Open sesame.
It couldn't have been more divine. The first thing my eyes landed on was this Ayn Rand quote:
"Do not allow your fire to go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not at all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists. It is real. It is possible. It is yours."
Why did that strike me so?
I let out an "Ah." It was an oh-that-felt-good "ah." Like a reassurance coming from a collective ah somewhere. It made me feel less of an island because my deep knowing says that most of us feel like this, or some semblance of this, at times. Particularly in midlife as we reflect on what was or wasn't and gauge our sense of satisfaction or discontent with the present and with prospects of the future.
My deep knowing also says the work here is to let go of the attachments to what was or wasn't, and embrace what is. With gratitude. No regrets. I so get that on a cellular level. And, still, there are moments when the swamps that Ayn Rand mentions bubble up out of nowhere. Sometimes fleeting, sometimes they stick around for a bit.
Not all of the quote resonates with me, but a few things light the still-burning midlife embers into sparks that flame again.
"Not yet" has fuel. So does "hero in your soul," and "the world (life) you desire... It exists. It is possible. It is yours."
That feels like a mantra to speak, to toss like sparkling pebbles to follow on the path forward. That's a mantra that ignites.
It's a mantra that reminds me how rich it is here in midlife, swamps and all.
Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash
Better Than a Gold Rush
I’ve been noticing something lately. It comes on softly, and often, so much so it usually slips by unnoticed. Fleeting. Little rushes. A vibration running in the background. Backup singers in my daily soundtrack.
It’s the small rushes of gratitude and love. So rich. Richer than a gold rush.
The thing I noticed is that they literally happen all the time. It’s tiny moments that trigger them.
My cats, endless rushes of love that sprinkle my day, with his curious fascination as I do yoga, her kiss to my forehead, his headbutt nudge against my shoulder. Rushes.
Text, calls, and time spent with family and friends. Rushes.
Things I've taken for granted around my house, things I love that make me smile, like Grandpa's ashtray that's now a candy dish. Rushes.
Most often you don’t notice or take the time to notice the tiny feeling that lasts a fraction of a second. But if you strung them all together, it’s a lot of gratitude, love, joy, and satisfaction.
Whatever they are, I’ve noticed how each of these instances triggers soft gratitude or hums of love. Literally hundreds of rushes every day.
The minute encounters on the way to the mailbox. As you’re walking the dog. In the grocery store aisle. At the gas station. Appreciating a view you’ve seen and appreciated a hundred times.
Gazes at the sunrise, sunset, passing storm, waving trees, wandering deer, canoodling older couples, giggling children. Notice the soundtrack.
Wayne Dyer said: “We are God. God is love. We are love.”
Ram Dass calls our true self, the one at our core, “loving awareness.”
It got me thinking, if this is our natural state of being, the rushes and fleeting moments of love and gratitude are constant reminders of who we are.
And fear, angst, negativity, worry, anger, etc., are unnatural states of being. They cloud over the sun. It’s a great reminder that even when the clouds are thick, the sun, the loving awareness, is there. When we're challenged by health, finances, or circumstances out of our control, perhaps knowing we are love, at our core, might help ease things at the moment. Even if just for a moment. Moments string together too.
I find that comforting.
Rumi said, “You are the soul of the universe. And, your name is love.” Leave it to a poet.
So those little rushes all day long are glimpses, reminders, and recognition, of your true self. The soul coming through.
My parents came for dinner recently. I was serving pasta with my favorite Trader Joe’s turkey meatballs. My mom asked if she could bring a salad, “something that goes well with pasta.”
Mom always makes things extra special. She came with her picnic basket covered with a colorful tea towel and filled with fresh flowers in a vase of treated water, a mason jar of extra treated water to keep the flowers fresh, a delectable salad, and homemade dressing.
She shows up as love.
Dad reflected, “I’ve never been happier.” He said, “I could be living in Santa Barbara and looking at the ocean every day and not be nearly as happy as I am right now – surrounded by people I love.” He held our hands. “I’ve never been happier.”
To which Mom said, “He says that every day.”
He walks in love. It’s no wonder they’ve been together for 64 years.
They piggybacked and confirmed my thoughts: Love and gratitude are who we are.
It’s no small thing – yet it’s a simple thing – to remember that you’re love. You’re gratitude. It’s simply getting back in touch with who you are.
Hmm. More, please.
[Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash]
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Fifty Shades of Green
The dampness seeps through my cotton joggers. I don't realize it's raining until I sit on the patio chair, its cushion cool and moist.
It’s not rain, but a soft mist so fine it looks like fluctuating pixels on a grainy live photograph. Constantly moving, shifting, changing.
There must be fifty shades of green in the thicket of woods behind my house. Those early Spring greens. Fresh, young, budding baby leaves, lapping the nourishment of the dew. Wondering if it's the appetizer or the dessert. Finding strength in the anticipation.
The wild daisies and lacy purple tansies carpet the yard's floor nearby. They appear to stand on their tiptoes with their faces prone as they capture the tiny moist droplets in their mouths. They seem at ease like there's enough to go around. Seems a fitting personality trait for wildflowers.
The mist hits my face. I breathe it in. Best facial ever.
The gentle nuances of this unfolding afternoon got me thinking about the importance of moments. Details of moments, in moments. How noticing these small matters add to the simplicities and complexities of a day in the life.
When you’re paying attention.
Something to think about.