In the Rockies

In the Rockies
Butler Gulch

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What is Right in Front of Us

Looking nearby on the path
Going away, driving up the canyon to higher place- -as if all the beauty is somewhere else--I do that often.  Oh I know there is beauty here, but I live on the flatland in northeast Boulder, not up against the Flatirons or foothills.  Last Sunday grandson Sam and I looked for leaves of all colors on the path in the center of this complex.  I left my phone inside so Sam wouldn't want to play an app, forgetting that I would be missing some great shots with the I-phone camera.  On Monday I retraced our path, walked to the park across the street and down paths allow for a longer trek, looking for shades of red and orange, more likely here in Boulder than in the mountains. 

I was reminded again that beauty abounds.  I am grateful.

I'll be off on Monday to St. Benedict's Monastery in Old Snowmass near Aspen for an 8-day silent retreat so my next posting will undoubtedly be about more "falsities" that I'm shedding.  Perhaps it will also include a dose of Divine Love. 

                                                     Happy Halloween from Sam!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Play -- Changing What's So

Playful Sunsets -- One Manipulated, One Original
Taken at the Boulder Reservoir

It was late in the afternoon when I went to the Boulder Res.  I was on the phone, listening to a friend's family concerns.  I walked slowly.  Then, with the conversation completed, I realized the sun was falling behind the clouds and would quickly lower behind the mountains.  My I-phone out, I clicked and clicked, savoring the colors and the reflections on the water.  Our sunsets don't last long, so I quickly tucked my phone into a pocket and walked with purpose back to the trailhead and across the street to my car, chill beginning to penetrate my body. 

As you all know, color is important to me.  Sunsets and sunrises have made a difference in my life for as long as I can remember.  My daughter-in-law told me that she began to fall in love with my son when he pulled the car to the side of the road to watch a sunset.  When she exclaimed about how special that was, he replied, "That's what my mom always did."  That's a romanticized version of our lives for sure.  There were plenty of days when we rushed past the beauty around us attempting to complete the tasks in our crowded days. 

These days I find myself trying to grasp the colorful beauty and hold it.  Colorful sunsets--holding on to something that is fleeting--easy fodder for a blog.  Am I near the sunset of my life?  Hard to know.  An 80-year-old friend recently told me that she was planning how her resources would last for 20 years.  I exclaimed that she would then be 100 years old.  She nodded, saying this was more likely now than ever.  I'll let her plan for that eventuality.  My plans don't go beyond a few things scheduled this winter and next spring. 

Holding on rather than letting go--snapping all those photographs of the sunset--as if I wouldn't see those colors again.  Of course, I might not be at the Boulder Reservoir at that time of day when there was a glorious sunset.  However, I do walk there at least once most weeks.  It's not such a pretty winter place though.  And what is pretty about the winters of our lives?  I'll leave that question to you as this blog has been intended to focus on the fun I have been having with my new I-phone app.  I made the circles of color above from the sunset photo with that app after trying several versions of manipulation. 

How often do I manipulate what is real to make it more appealing to my sense of self, my sense of security.  I have recently realized that a woman whom I have looked up to doesn't like me.  Perhaps she hasn't liked me for a long time.  I simply hadn't paid attention.  I knew that she wasn't particularly supportive when I led spiritual groups or programs, but I made excuses.  That wasn't her personality.  Lately there has been a coldness that I couldn't ignore--as if she wanted me to be certain of her dislike or disapproval, maybe some of both.  Since she has a leadership role in contemplative programming in the Boulder area, I see that my participation there will be waning even more than I had expected or intended as I let go of roles that I felt called to release.  

I ignored my daughter's anger as much as possible for years.  I worked hard, harder to please, harder to assist, harder so that her life might be easier.  I can see that the woman to whom I referred in the previous paragraph represented in some ways, my mother.  (She would be appalled!)  As with Mother, I wanted her approval and support--and got it as long as I wasn't in her arena.  But as I moved into leadership roles and acquitted them well, the support dropped away.  Like Mother, she didn't want me to be successful in any arena where she played.  

It's rather depressing to see how those old patterns have continued to exert influence in my life!  It's also very freeing.  I can let go of the need to please those who aren't supportive.  I don't need to struggle and work hard to get their approval.  I haven't spent a great portion of my life courting approval.  In my career, I rather enjoyed making a stand and staying with it during stormy weather.  In my volunteer leadership roles, I have done the same, considering it my job to protect the integrity of the group.  And it's interesting to notice that the hardest of those tasks have been in churches and spiritual groups!!!

I will spare my readers more musing on this topic.  Today is the day when we interview four candidates for the soon-to-be vacant Voices For Children CASA Executive Director's position.  My newest role with that board, president, isn't one intended to make me necessarily popular.  However, I intend to go into today's conversations with kindness, even though my questions will be probing.  A few minutes of quiet will be helpful before the process begins.

Blessings on this cold, snowy morning.   

                                                    From my porch yesterday morning


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Acceptance -- Changing Seasons

Front the Boulder Creek path                                                In front of Boulder library -- a planted maple

Reviewing the photographs on my recent postings, I can see that I've worked hard to keep fall's colors as long as possible.  The near mountains have shed all but a very few of their golden leaves.  Boulder, however, is flush with color, again most of it golden yellow.  There are signs--cooler days, nights of hard freezes, more cloudy days--of the season's change.                                 

It feels too soon.  Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk, has written a powerful book about the second half of life.  Though near my age, Rohr's focus is on the second half of spiritual life, and he says that many, if not most never get there.  He means most of us aren't willing to make the cross over from our need to see ourselves as powerful and in control.  We don't give up our search for external ways to get affection and esteem, and we continue to look for security where none exists.  As we finished our study of this book on Monday morning, a woman several years my senior lamented that she hadn't made it to the second half of life in all aspects.  Another came back with the single word, acceptance. 

Acceptance.  It seems like such a simple word, but I find that not true for me.  I think of myself as younger than my 74 years.  I did easily make a 6 mile (rt) trek up to a lake at a little over 11,000 ft. yesterday.  I am told I don't look my age (of course, that's not true when I'm tired and discouraged).  I would say that I'm not vain; however, I like hearing that.  This is called noticing what's really true for me.  It's fun only when, as in the instance of how I look, I can smile or laugh out loud, even though there's no one to hear.                         
                             Sure signs of winter's approach from the Blue Lake trail yesterday

Acceptance of my power and control "falsity" as dear Sr. Maria calls it, is harder.  So, as when I don't accept what is and what needs healing, it gets slammed in my face.  The Holy Spirit can be a tough teacher.  Now before I go farther, you are free to think "what in the world possessed her?!"  After several days of not-so-nice e-mails batting back and forth and a board meeting where our Search Committee chair was determined to make me wrong, part of me is wondering too. 

I have taken on the job of Board Chairman for my favorite charity--our local CASA organization.  Across the country CASAs are trained and provide advocacy for neglected and abused children who are wards of the court.  We are in the process of searching for a new Executive Director, one to replace the woman who has led this organization for 22 years, most of the time it has been in existence.  I moved into this position without much notice, and have been acting as president for a couple of months prior to my term beginning on October 1st.  However, the previous president made sure that she appointed the Search Committee, including the chair, her friend and our newest board member. 

I could list the annoying behaviors of this committee chair, and some of you would agree.  However, that is not the point of my writing.  I've known for some time the truth of one of Sr. Maria's teachings--that when something sizzles down deep inside, rumbles around and disturbs me more than makes sense, it is telling me something about me.  Monday night after the board meeting, I was upset.  I was tempted to write a "nice" e-mail to the Search Committee pointing out the need to omit one step the chair had insisted was needed at the board meeting.  I wanted to thank the committee members who had been unable to attend last week's meeting for making time to review all the applications (the chair had wanted to cull the applications before others saw them).  I wrote it in draft, but didn't send it.  I did communicate with the two board members I can count on for a measured assessment of the meeting, and I was given affirmation. That didn't stop or even ease my stewing and fretting.  

I got to see in living technicolor, a dating expression for sure, what a grip my power and control and revenge issues have on me still.  Sr. Maria says that only God can remove our "falsities."  No doubt she is right.  I do know that for me, being open to my unconscious' ability to bring up the early nuggets of how those falsities were formed is what allows breaking them open for healing.

This afternoon we have another Search Committee meeting.  I'm going to spend time in silent prayer before going into the meeting.  Then I drive to Denver for session four of Sr. Maria's class.  I will no doubt have grist for the mill when I arrive! 

There are more lessons in all of this than I could share in this post.  One merits acknowledging.  My two fellow board members pointed out that the search chair must feel very insecure or she wouldn't have behaved the way she did in the board meeting.  I'm no longer good at saying nice things I don't really mean, but I will look for ways to appreciate her efforts before the meeting and for ways to express them

Thanks for listening.  Prayers and blessings to you on this fall day.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Awareness and Acceptance of our Own Darkness

I awoke this morning to our first dusting of snow on the bushes outside my window.  October 5th!  Really.  More light snow is predicted overnight.  I am not ready or willing to move into winter.  Perhaps that reflects my feelings about life. 

Even though the darkness I'm feeling today will move into light, I'm saying today's word "acceptance" over and over.  In the spiritual journey class that I'm taking at the Denver Contemplative Outreach Center, last night's word was "awareness."  That one too is useful today.  Awareness keeps me from running to the cover of the Swedes' latest import, The Nightmare, by Lars Kepler.  When I read his first book printed in the US in early summer (The Hypnotist), I stayed up way too late to finish it.  I would neither have to accept or be aware if I made that turn.  If I feel the need to turn to fiction, Mary McGarry Morris' Light from a Distant Star's main character, Nellie Peck, on the verge of adolescence, brings up feelings from my life at that age though her story is different from mine.  Over 100 pages into it, I should continue with that one should I need diversion.

Today's "falisity," as our class teacher calls the behaviors we crafted as children to make us feel safe, secure, loved, or powerful is seriously ugly.  The Enneathought for my Enneagram type might have been sent with me in mind.  The work for today--"I now release believing that taking vengeance will free me from my own pain."

Really, you say.  Surely you didn't really believe that?!  Oh yes--that hurt, angry little girl Margaret definitely decided that if she could get back at those adults who hurt and shamed her, she would feel better--powerful even.  That wasn't the news that came over me at last night's class.  The behaviors those adults exhibited deserved punishment (and today that might have been possible). 

What showed up last night was that this feeling hangs out still, often coupled with good wishes -- "I hope it doesn't work out to make you so happy after all" on one hand, while wishing my daughter true happiness in her quest in the other for instance.  It's a quiet and preferably unaware feeling in the background that pollutes loving wishes.

One of my favorite--yes, I'll admit that I enjoyed it--memories of revenge was from my life in Tennessee Economic Development.  The corporate executives that our senior loan officer and I were meeting with had sized me up to be someones "girl friend" or a political appointee, and Phil, the loan officer was young and looked younger.  They had come to show us their financials since they had not been willing to give us a copy.  They didn't need the money they were requesting.  It was a perk for locating a plant to employ several hundred people in a poor county.  I was quiet as they rather condescendingly took us through them page by page.  I made sure that I showed no emotion.  Then when they finished I asked a couple of piercing questions.  Their heads shot up, a startled look on their faces.  Finally one said something like, "Oh, she's smart," to the other one and began to answer my questions.  After the meeting finished, Phil gave me a "high 5."  He enjoyed it too. 

That was not the way to make friends for sure.  Another loan fund applicant took the same behavior as an insult and wrote the Governor to complain.  While the Governor's staff person who sent me a copy said the man no doubt deserved my treatment of him, it still wasted time in a frenetically paced work life (for others too) to answer the letter and make amends.  That behavior was planned.  The background thoughts that I'm seeing more and more of today are those that I'm either not aware of at the time or that shame me into being overly nice to someone about whom I've had such thoughts. 

I certainly know that taking vengeance, even in thought only, doesn't take away my pain.  So with Divine assistance that I always need in this healing work, "I now release believing that taking vengeance will free me from my own pain."

A post script:  I began this writing with the intention of using the changing seasons to talk about seasons of life.  Maybe next time.