From the category archives:

Surrender

2012 has been a year of accelerating shifts, change, and evolutionary opportunities, many of which have been less than positive. This year (granted, the past few) has been rife with unsettling and chaotic if not tragic events both collectively and for many of us, personally as well. Inevitably it seems that the negative makes a more profound and lasting impact on humanity than the positive.

Lest we despair, it helps to remember that just as the sun cannot shine without casting shadows, even the darkest days are not wasted. They provide the contrast required for us to recognize light and consciously seek it.

There is no more fitting a time to explore this theme. As I write this, the northern hemisphere is in the midst of the winter solstice when daylight is in shortest supply. So it also seems timely to explore the shadow side of life, to learn how [click to continue…]

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Amsterdam Canal on New Year's Eve
Creative Commons License photo credit: LenDog64

As you know if you’ve traveled yourself or read my other outer journey adventures every new journey reveals a special gift otherwise unavailable to you.

This trip is delivering early. That’s the thing about travel. You never know when the gifts will appear. They so often show up in the quiet spaces between big planned events, and of course when you least expect them.

I’m writing this on January 1 at 35,000 feet on a flight from Amsterdam to Istanbul on my latest outer journey accompanied by husband and daughter.

Amsterdam was meant to be [click to continue…]

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Can you receive the gifts of the season?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Theodore Scott

A Cautionary Tale

First, a little holiday story:

You’d have to be blind not to notice it was the largest present under the tree.  He had wrapped it as best he could, but still the bright paper and gaudy bow made it stand out like a flashy hotel on the Vegas Strip compared to the other gifts.

She couldn’t help but wonder what it could be; wonder or dread, she wasn’t sure which was the more accurate feeling. He hadn’t been much of a gift giver in the past, at least not the recent past.

For a second, she fondly remembered the precious gifts of jewelry he’d given her in the early years of their marriage. Nothing extravagant (they couldn’t afford it), yet the sapphire earrings and matching bracelet had been thoughtfully selected, delicate and tasteful, wrapped in small pretty packages. She also recalled the silver and gold bracelet (a custom creation by one of her favorite artists that she wore almost daily) he’d surprised her with one Valentine’s Day after seeing her covet it in the shop window at Christmas.

It had been years since he’d given her anything like that.

This was clearly not jewelry, judging by the size of the box. She pictured small kitchen appliances that might fit the bill. Maybe it was a toaster oven, a slow-cooker, or an ice cream maker. In any case, ick, ick and ick.

She worried he spent too much money. Maybe after so much time away from gift shopping and giving he was now trying to redeem himself by over-compensating. Hmmm . . . if it was a big-ticket item, she wondered what kind of dent this might put in their vacation budget for the year . . .

Worse yet, it was probably something he thought she’d love but didn’t have the slightest need or desire for. Proof of how little he knew her now, or cared to.

She sighed, thinking this was the year their marriage might finally reach the last straw.  Maybe she should just go ahead and file for divorce  – get t over with and get on with her life before she was stuck for good in what (judging by the mounting evidence) seemed a passionless, lifeless relationship.

***

He watched her, eying his gift, with childlike anticipation.  He couldn’t wait for her to open it, to see he was finally giving her what he’d so often held back but knew she always wanted.

A few months ago, after yet another long-haul business trip to Asia, he realized how withdrawn they’d both become from each other. His frequent travel was usually manageable, but the cumulative effect of so many years of it was now unmistakably taking its toll on not only her, but him.

He was tired of feeling disconnected from – well, practically everything except his job – coming and going and popping in and out of what was supposed to be his life so often that there was now almost zero continuity to his relationships with family and friends. He could see that every time he left, his wife and two boys seemed to get by better and better without him. The boys were big enough to really help around the house now, even mowing the lawn and washing the cars once a week.

So right after Thanksgiving, rather than scouring the Black Friday sales for some luxury handbag she might like or getting her the usual spa gift card he robotically produced every year, he began preparing his new Christmas gift for his wife.  He’d made his decision.  This year, he would give her his whole heart, all his love, without holding back.

He gathered his love into a bright, shiny nebula of brilliance.  He added a significant and steady amount of companionship in the form of long walks on the beach, a vacation without the kids, and weekly dinner dates alone. He blended a healthy dose of passion, sex and romance into the mix, and finally completed his creation with gratitude, appreciation, and respect – all the long-held feelings of his now open heart that he’d been meaning to share but found it so difficult to express.  When he was done, his creation was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen – so beautiful he almost hated to have to box and wrap it.

Just thinking about it again brought tears to his eyes now as he caught her inquisitive gaze, clearly trying to figure out what was in the box.

* * *

To Give is Divine, but It’s Not the Whole Story

What little we know of life’s gifts. How limited we are to receive them. Yet, how much we need them and can flourish from them if only we could be truly open to receiving.

In this holiday season, so focused on giving and gifting, I say it’s high time we learn to receive.

Does that strike you as funny? That we have to [click to continue…]

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"Confessions of a Reluctant Mother"

I have to confess something few people know.  For most of my daughter’s life I’ve been a reluctant mother.

It’s not that I got pregnant as a teenager, knocked-up after a wild night of debauchery, or stumbled into any of the typical, tragic unexpected motherhood situations so popularized in the tabloid news.  I was “raised right”.  I was responsible.  I was married for five years before I ever in my life got pregnant, even though we weren’t trying.  And in theory, we wanted kids.  It was the “in practice” part I struggled with.

No, I was not reluctant because motherhood was thrust or forced upon me at a tender or inconvenient age.  It’s just that it was never my calling, and I did have a calling.  From a very early age I longed to be a writer.  I had bigger plans than mommyhood: novels, travel, money, and fame – maybe even transformed hearts and minds.  In my wildest dreams, a legacy that would last the ravages of history.

Plus, being a mother never looked like much fun.  Whether watching my own mother or the moms of my friends, it didn’t seem like motherhood was a very satisfying, easy or meaningful (in any kind of big, outer-world way) path. As the oldest of four kids, I witnessed my parents fulfill classic 1950’s era roles – mom stayed home, cooked, cleaned and raised the kids, and dad went to the office every day.  With four, mom had her hands full.  Imagine this juxtaposed against my daily viewing of Oprah, then just getting started in Chicago where I lived, rapidly ascending to super-womanhood and you [click to continue…]

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Image: federico stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This week, the father of a dear friend died. It wasn’t a surprise – he’d been ill for a while and there was adequate time to prepare – still, the loss is palpable. In the same week my sister’s mother-in-law was seen for chest pains and promptly ushered into open heart surgery for a quadruple bypass. She came through it fine, but the loss of expected freedom, mobility and livelihood during what is sure to be an extensive recovery (she’s in her 70’s) hits hard.

There are losses like these which are significant and permanent. They undeniably affect the person experiencing them firsthand and impact all with strong emotional attachments to that person. In these types of losses, it’s difficult if not impossible to see a silver lining.

Then there are those losses which are really wins in disguise, like my daughter’s recent loss. She’s twelve and has lost her eyeglasses AGAIN.

Mothers of kids with glasses, retainers, and similar personal health implements can relate. You spend thousands of dollars on braces, they finally come off, you spend a few hundred more on the retainers, and you think you’re done. Wrong. Retainers and glasses and sports wraps and such inevitably fall out of backpacks, are left on restaurant tables, and vanish on school buses. In my daughter’s case, she has worn glasses since the age of six and probably had at least ten pairs so far.

I’ve been at this motherhood-vision-care thing too long to freak out about another pair of lost glasses. I’ve been worn down. With calm resignation, I simply booked an appointment at the ophthalmologist. Her prescription had expired so she’d need to have an eye exam before new glasses could be ordered anyway.

Off we go to the doctor and while we’re waiting [click to continue…]

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