Inspired.

Walk so lovely tonight I had to break my blog silence. This poem came tumbling out as we walked. Punctuation’s all off, I know. Sometimes life is like that… or poems are, at least. Hope you enjoy.

Last blog post, 7 years later

Seven years ago today, I sat in my office in Shoup Hall at the University of Idaho and wrote my first blog post. The walls were made of cinder block painted off-white. I’d moved from Boulder, Colorado just the previous summer and was thrilled at the prospect of staying in touch via blogs. I was missing Home, and my people.

More miles than anyone should count and at least 36 countries and territories later, here’s the last post for XpatAdventures:

Spring has arrived in Zurich. Birds are chirping everywhere and sun is pouring through the living room windows, making it far warmer inside than out.

Tomorrow I need to remember to close the blinds so it’s cooler for Mufasa. I can’t believe he’s been on this entire journey with me. It’s clear his time is coming to an end – he walks slowly up the path from the door and pants after just a few steps. It’s tough for him to stand and sit, but he still looks at me with a hint of mischief in his eyes and comes to find me when he’s hungry for dinner. He sniffs his way around the neighborhood, eyes glazed over with a greenish shine, his hearing not as sharp as it once was.

In Boulder, when we told him we were getting divorced, my stepson said: “Now we can stop struggling.” and “If Dad gets me, you get the dog.” It’s been 56 dog years since we left Colorado, since I packed him into the back of my silver Nissan Pathfinder and drove away from our entire life.

Mufasa was only six to eight weeks old when we met at the Boulder Humane Society. Sometimes people call dogs from places like that “rescue dogs.” I’m not sure who saved whom.

I didn’t know when we set out that there’d be this much change and isolation for so long. I sought to make a home and family again. Instead I have seen so much of the world, met and connected amazing changemakers & committed souls, and explored terrain (internal & external) rocky & steep.

I stay in touch with friends in Colorado as if it’s been just a few weeks, as if I never left. Their lives there continued and mine didn’t. Andrew Love, a great writer, speedskater, father and friend said it’s kind-of like time dilation in science fiction books. “You drop in all world-weary and tired from your travels and our lives have moved on – we’ve had kids and gotten new jobs and made new friends; people have died – but you haven’t gone through that with us. We pick up where we left off; you’re the same as back then, and we haven’t seen the world with you.”

I want to say every day to the people I love: I wish I could bring you with me and that I could stay with you. There’s this strange pull of Home and a longing to see and do everything, everywhere, all at once.

I wish that I could say after all these years I have figured it out, solved the riddle of Home.

For now, I am savoring these last days with Mufasa – the only one who’s seen it all. For now, Home is where Mufasa is.

He’s not going quietly into this dark night. I don’t blame him.

He has stood on the side of the Matterhorn contemplating chasing herding sheep. (That’s what he’s doing here…)

He’s been to the top of the Jungfrau and taken the car ferry across Lake Como to a five-star hotel in Bellagio, Italy… more than once.

He’s visited the beautiful Munich Christmas market… and didn’t see a thing but scored *lots* of discarded pretzel and bratwurst.

He’s treed a cat on the grounds of a 16th century Tuscan villa and stood poolside victorious. The soundtrack for this next photo should be “We are the Champions;” he is standing proud for all dogs, everywhere.

It’s an amazing 12-year journey we’ve been on together: Here’s the story of how Mufasa came into my life. (Warning: cute puppy photos) Here’s a guest post from him back when we lived in Lugano. Here’s the post from when he had cancer in 2008.

And here’s a tidbit from more recently, December 2011:

I’m on the phone; it’s a business meeting – a call with a PepsiCo executive in Turkey. Mufasa couldn’t stand up again this morning. This is mostly from the phenobarbital, I think, a ghastly medicine they put him to control seizures.

Actually, he stood at first just fine, then tried to climb the stairs to the kitchen for his breakfast and fell, all splayed, on the hard marble steps. I helped him back down (only 1 step) and he slid around at the bottom trying to stand. It took quite a while and an elevator to get him upstairs.

He plunked (literally, it sounded like, “plunk”) down in the middle of the living room floor after he ate. From the middle of the room like that he can see everything that happens on this floor of the apartment. I’ve been reading online about how people know when it’s time to euthanize. They say things like, “When the spark is gone out of their eyes.” Or “When they don’t eat and enjoy things anymore.” My vet at first said, “When he can’t stand up anymore.” He’s recanted that statement.

There was a jar of peanut butter next to me on the couch as I spoke on the phone with that PepsiCo executive. From his middle-of-the-living-room position Mufasa first politely requested then more forcefully demanded I stand up and bring him some. He’s not stupid; it was too easy, really. He’s knows when I’m on calls like that, business calls, important calls. He also knows that if he makes enough noise during such a call I’ll do just about anything to placate him. Also… he really likes peanut butter.

I caved, and he had a couple tablespoons of peanut butter.

This is why the three vets I’ve asked if it’s time to think about euthanizing look at me like I’m crazy. He has difficulty standing some days. He’s having grand mal seizures, sometimes more than once in an afternoon. He still enjoys things, though, thank you very much.

Goodness, he is my dog. We live large and love the ride. “Life is good,” he’d tell you if he could. He tells me every day still in a thousand different ways.

I guess that’s what we’ve learned all these years, on all these expat adventures of ours: we are surrounded by overwhelming beauty; there is joy to be had everywhere.

We are on a long and winding road, the 2 of us. The light is not anywhere near gone out of his eyes. He’s on a new pain med & for the first time in about 8 months tonight he went to his basket of toys in the living room, got one, and brought it to me to play tug of war & fetch. Just when I think the journey with him is over, he keeps going. And so we both move forward… for now together.

Thank you to each of you who’ve cared for and stayed with him while I’ve worked and travelled overseas. He adores you, and you have made so many of the adventures here possible. Thank you for sharing the ride with us.

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Tuesday Tidbit from Tara Sophia Mohr

A while back I wrote about Blank Slating. Here’s an update, in the form of a Tuesday Tidbit.

One thing I’m learning is I don’t have to be anything I’m not, or go too far out of my way to please anyone. I know this sounds basic, but it’s revolutionary really. I’ve been trying to do things “Right” for so long. It’s exhausting. Some people worry they’re not enough… I’ve been hearing I’m “too much” my whole life… and it’s not true. Too much… who ever heard of such a thing?! And I bought it, silly me. Internalized it deep down and have carried it around and into relationships at home and work. Trying to pipe down, scale back, not stand out too much… don’t let them know I’m too much, unmanageable. Do things “normally” or worse yet someone else’s way. Hooey! For the birds, I tell you. Especially because it’s a game I cannot win. (And you know how I feel about that.) It leaves people thinking exactly that I am too much, unmanageable and yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. Irony! Hmpf.

That whole paradigm’s just not helpful. I have no desire to be manageable, reasonable, or normal. Never aspired to that set of adjectives at all.

A friend wrote to me the other day, in the middle of a message: “You don’t have to be perfect to be loved. (on the contrary)” Holy moly! I’m not too much at all. I just am. You’re not too little or too much, either, you hear me?

In his oft-quoted Stanford commencement speech Steve Jobs said, “Keep searching.” Do what you love and keep searching. For your Right Work, for someone who’s just right for you… because you are already just right the way you are. I mean, really. What’re you gonna do about it now? So onward with the search, Fellow Adventurers!

We all do what we can do. We’re each sloppy sometimes. I’m learning to fly. So are you. This Tuesday Tidbit is brought to you by the lovely and talented Tara Sophia Mohr, who is just right, too. It’s called “You Shaped Hole:”

 

You-Shaped Hole
Sometimes the world feels inhospitable.
You feel all the ways that you and it don’t fit.
You see what’s missing, how it all could be different.

You feel as if you weren’t meant for the world, or the world wasn’t meant for you.

As if the world is “the way it is” and your discomfort with it a problem.

So you get timid. You get quiet about what you see.

But what if this? What if you are meant
to feel the world is inhospitable, unfriendly, off-track
in just the particular ways that you do?

The world has a you-shaped hole in it.
It is missing what you see.
It lacks what you know.

And so you were called into being.
To see the gap, to feel the pain of it, and to fill it.

Filling it is speaking what is missing.
Filling it is stepping into the center of the crowd, into a clearing, and saying, here, my friends, is the future.
Filling it is being what is missing, becoming it.

You don’t have to do it all, but you do have to speak it.
You have to tell your slice of the truth.
You do have to walk toward it with your choices, with your own being.

Then allies and energies will come to you like fireflies swirling around a light.

The roughness of the world, the off-track-ness, the folly that you see,
these are the most precious gifts you will receive in this lifetime.

They are not here to distance you from the world, but to guide you
into your contribution to it.

The world was made with a you-shaped hole in it.
In that way you are important.
In that way you are here to make the world.
In that way you are called.
– Tara Sophia Mohr

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Blank Slate: the Ultimate Adventure

Greetings fellow adventurers! I am in the midst of something perhaps you could sense and I have referred to in bits and pieces. The time has come to just own up and write about it here. It’s been so long since I sat quietly and let you into my world in a meaningful way.

I’m Blank Slating. What does that mean? Literally making a blank slate, a fresh start, a Do-Over. Making way for what’s new and next, as always of course, but also making time for quiet and reflection, for what matters. I’m doing it here with this site by participating in Gwen Bell‘s Align Your Website, revisiting every thought, idea and assumption I have about what XpatAdventures is and will be (including those designers I shared a couple months ago).

I’m also doing it with my life. I’ve just taken on a couple big new work projects and indicated in negotiations that they should run only through the end of 2011. 2012 is a completely blank slate. Everything will be re-evaluated. Everything.

It’s terrifying and liberating all at once.

My usual M.O. would include shoving in every paying gig I can get and volunteering to do more than humanly possible. It’s a recipe for disaster — or illness. I know because I’ve tried. And the truth is, it’s not what makes my heart sing. I’d like to fill 2012 with the things that matter. With making new friends and visiting loved ones around the globe. With singing gigs. With work that both builds on my talents and pays the bills. I am asking myself to slow down and take conscious steps, to pay closer attention to what is right for me instead of creating at a full-out sprint and collapsing in a heap alone at the end.

Here’s the real truth, and I know I’ve shared this years ago here: when I was 24 years old a nephrologist walked into an examining room, told me I should sit down, and explained that I should expect to have 10 good years to live. It was one of the most incredible days, because I realized there was nothing else I’d rather do, nowhere else I’d rather be than exactly where I was right then and there.

That is not the case with my life now and it is time to begin living again like this is the very last decade I’ve got. Funny how easy it is to grow complacent. Our machinery – the thoughts that go on between our ears and shape how our lives look – takes over so quickly. It is time for me to run the show  again, instead of it running me.

So I am Blank Slating, questioning every assumption. Slowing down to check the validity of every agreement, trying to be true to myself.

I can see how Blank Slating will contribute to many areas of my life all at once: my health, relationships with friends & family… if the Universe conspires in my favor Mr. Right may have room to appear once the slate is wiped clean.

And you? What would Blank Slating even a part of your life provide? What would it look like to clear out all the assumptions and activities and put back only what really mattered and worked? Keep the things you love. What would stay ? What would go?

I’ll keep you posted on the project. Thanks for being here.

Something Good We Can Be Up To Together


Hello, my friends and family. This is an experiment in what we can be up to together. Today I made a $100 tax-deductible donation to the Media Coordinator of a small elementary school in rural North Carolina. She’s raising money to buy books for her rookie readers. She only needs $335 to meet her target.

It’s easy to support teachers all over the US — Donors Choose at donorschoose.org has set up a system where teachers post projects that need funding and people all over the world able to make tax-deductible donations of any size do so. It’s great the stuff that we can make possible! Maybe you can finish off that teacher’s goal and we’ll take on another? What do you say?

I am doing this — and donating globally on Kiva.org (maybe you’ve seen Kiva.org on tv… Bill Clinton talked about it in his books and discusses it a lot on tv)– because I believe we can do better than the current gross disparity between the rich and the poor. We can do this ourselves right now. Thank goodness new media technology is making this possible quickly, too!

I also believe we can generate good news with projects like this. Mainstream media will shift to reflect the changing paradigm — the conversations on the planet are not all doom and gloom despite what you see on the daily 4 o’clock news. Wonderful, generous, important things are happening every day. The media do not reflect our power and kindnss back to us… yet!

Please join me in the incredible new movement to redistribute wealth and create new possibilities for people everywhere. Let’s see how much we can raise just from this little blog-a-thon! To donate to school teachers who’ve posted their needs, click here. I selected four projects I really liked and that are in high-poverty areas of the US. You can go to donorschoose.org to see many, many more proposals posted by teachers all over the US.

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Have you seen this free video that features scenes from seasons 3 and 4 of Grey’s Anatomy?

I’ve been worrying lately, and the title of that song is a good reminder, a great practice… just keep going. It has felt like everything is out of sorts, off center, out of control, pretty well wrong. I don’t like to admit when things feel that way. Plus, I just keep going and things always turn out somehow.

And so all the sudden, I gave my lovely singing business cards to a young Swiss-Italian piano player during his set at the Fall Festival this weekend. He wants to get together this week to see if we can make music even though we can’t speak to one another very much. Got an email asking if I’d travel for work to Copenhagen in November. You betcha! An author in LA has offered to coach me to finish two books I’ve been working on forever. Friends are showing up everywhere… life is good.

So I am reminded that my role is as dream-keeper, inspiration, pursuer of passions… all there is to do is keep being that. I love this poem about breath and dreams. Enjoy and keep going!

When you see them
tell them that I am still here,
that I stand on one leg while the other one dreams,
that this is the only way,

that the lies I tell them are different
from the lies I tell myself,
that by being both here and beyond
I am becoming a horizon,

that as the sun rises and sets I know my place,
that breath is what saves me,
that even the forced syllables of decline are breath,
that if the body is a coffin it is also a closet of breath,

that breath is a mirror clouded by words,
that breath is all that survives the cry for help
as it enters the stranger’s ear
and stays long after the word is gone,

that breath is the beginning again, that from it
all resistance falls away, as meaning falls
away from life, or darkness falls from light,
that breath is what I give them when I send my love.
— Mark Strand, “Breath”

The Life List

Here’s a retake on the last post, which must not have been inspirational or motivational in any way, because nobody responded! :-0

So another way to think of it comes from this New York Times article from a few weeks ago. It’s about “Life Lists.” Apparently one trend sweeping the nation (& world) and about to show up as the plotline in a Rob Reiner film is the idea of creating a list of things you want to see, do, be or accomplish in your lifetime.

Hmmm… I like it.

I think I store my life list in my head, but you know how storing things in your head goes: one day it’s all I can think about and then I forget about it for years at a time.

I decided to search around a bit for info on life lists and found this great post by a guy who thought his wife would never approve of some of the things on his.

Some of the things on my life list include:
– scuba dive again
– become a beautiful skier
– have at least two books published
– get monthly massages
– pay or raise money for disadvantaged kids to get great educations
– keep connecting people with similar interests and commitments in different parts of the world

I don’t know what else will be on it, but I do know it’s changed. Have or adopt a baby used to be on it, but it isn’t anymore.

What would go on your life list?

Your Place in the World

This quote is lifted from The Gastronomical Me, by MFK Fisher.

To be happy you must have taken the measure of your powers, tasted the fruits of your passion, and learned your place in the world.
– Santayana

My place in the world is shifting, and I am starting to realize that this is part of the adventure. We make roots, humans do. Recently several childhood friends have sent pictures of their lives and families today. Most are raising children of their own now; their lives are rooted in the routine of getting the kids fed and to school scrubbed clean or at least with teeth brushed and hair combed and shoes on the right feet. Right now they are rooted to the ways and means of raising those babies, to the people they have chosen to do that with, to the places they’ve made home.

It all looks so stable and steady, monotonous, even, but roots can come up over time, you know.

My parents are Floridian… on their second date they sat on a wooden bench in a park in Ormond Beach and talked about what they wanted out of life. They must’ve been around 15 or 16 years old. My Mom says she remembers my Dad saying he wanted to live in a $25,000 house one day. She said she thought, “I wanna live in a $25,000 house one day too!” They have been married since they were 17. They are rooted to the state, in some ways, though they think about leaving. They are rooted in the home they’ve lived in for 25 years. (Just look in the kitchen cabinets to see that — there’s some interesting stuff in there… like long-time residents!) It looks out onto the Intercoastal Waterway; dolphins play out back. They are rooted to who they have been over the years, to the shopping malls and restaurants and car dealerships and drug stores and tackle shops that have made up the this and that of their daily lives. Their place in the world is known and solid and steadfast and together; it’s always there when they return. You could place or find it on a map, but it has changed, its boundaries shifted. They are no longer rooted to the same personal and professional networks they had for many years, to the places and people they knew when my brother and I were growing up.

My place in the world shifts from beneath me and disappears when I have gone. I have no place in Colorado anymore, though it is so familiar that I as I crest the hill on Highway 36 from Denver northwest into Boulder, when the red roofs of the University first come into view I cannot help or prevent the deep sigh of “home” that flows past my lips (the same thing happens in my parents’ back yard). My home has not been there since I left our big gray house in 2004. Drove off with the dog in the car and never looked back.

Since then, I have been making up life as I’ve gone… and now it is starting to feel like movement is part of the adventure, that my place in the world is on the road, in rented apartments with relatively short-term contracts, accumulating little, travelling light. My place in the world is waiting for me, maybe, or nowhere to be found. I told Stefan the other night, “I love this apartment but it doesn’t feel like home. I am ready to make a home again.”

Where is your place in the world? Is it with the people you love? Are you attached to a certain place? Does it change over time?

The Perilous Journey of Becoming…

‘Wrote those last two posts about becoming and then what shows up in my inbox overnight but this uplifting, funny little video on the subject! If you’re in your office, be forewarned, there’s a snappy rendition of “All of Me” playing the whole 2 minutes, 53 seconds…

Enjoy!

Full Moon full of promise

My friend Helen is far more comfortable with her woo-woo fu-fu side than am I. In fact, most of my friends are more comfortable with their New Age hippiness than I have ever been.

Late one night, back in our senior year of college, my three roommates and I were sitting around talking and Kara shared a revelation; it was an Aha! moment. She threw her hands up and exclaimed, “You’re a hippie in normal people’s clothes!!!”

Shhhhhhhh. Let’s not tell anyone.

Since this was at one of the hippiest places on the planet, a college opened in 1970 as an experiment in education, that was pretty funny.

Anyway, I not-so-secretly like to read the fascinating info about the moon and its meanings on an AstroHippie link from Helen’s blog. I really like, if not believe in, this stuff. Parts of it anyway. The rest I skip.

Tonight is the full moon. For this particular full moon the astrologer began,

This is the Full Moon of the Guru [skipped part]. A night dedicated to thanking all our teachers, in every walk of life. An Aquarius Full Moon asks us to especially honor unique and revolutionary teachers: those who vision far out beyond the rest of us. Those dedicated to upliftment, freedom, utopianism and humanitarianism.

Pretty much all the rest I skipped, but that first bit I liked and thought about as I walked Mufasa tonight. The full moon was hidden behind Monte San Salvatore; remnants of its bright rays shot up in all directions, like sun sometimes does from behind the clouds.

I thought about teachers, the ones who’ve taught me the most, what I’ve learned from different paeople along the way. The usual suspects and unexpected teachers. I feel swing (music) from the very bottom of my soul thanks to Mr. Andrew J. Wright and picked him up a card from the Montreux jazz festival to tell him so. I had a great series of teachers in Universities — but two (Sut Jhally and Mike Tracey) were really what she described in that quote, seeing what others don’t, committed to things the rest of us lose track of along the way. They are both so controversial. Strange, that. They’re on fire for justice each in his own way. I loved that about them, but it seems like they’re way before their time, unfortunately. Maybe that’s the point.

Here’s what I was really chewing on: Even though I’m not going back to the classroom in a few weeks, even though I’m thrilled about that, I am looking for what part of what’s next will allow me to step up into that role with greater reach, to carry and create a vision and upliftment further than my eyes can see right now.

I have some ideas brewing…

Okay, that’s all the woo-woo fu-fu I can handle. Happy Full Moon to you! Give thanks for your teachers with vision.