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Pressed:  My Antique Clock

8 Jun

My Grandmother’s Clock:  When I was younger, visiting my elderly grandmother, I would wake in the early hours of the morning to the quarterly and resonant Westminster chimes of her Canadian S…

Source: My Antique Clock

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Pressed:  The Honeymoon

23 May

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The Word Honeymoon:  The word “‘honeymoon’ comes from the the Old English “hony moone.” Hony, a reference to honey…and the ‘indefinite period of tenderness and pleasure experienced by a newly wed couple,’ and how sweet the new marriage is. Moone, meanwhile, refers to the fleeting amount of time that sweetness would last” (Kerley, 2014).

Our honeymoon was an important period of time for us after much preparation for our recent wedding. Amidst a storm of personal and professional transformations, both Chris and I looked towards our trip to the Dominican Republic as a reprieve from the angst of everyday life.  The countdown to the tropical escape was very important to us along with entering the world as a legal couple, sanctioned by the church, the country and our families.  We were finally official, and as we travelled to another country, I became comfortable referencing Chris as “…my husband”.  It required a bit of practice for someone who has been single for 45 years of my 50-year-old life (90 percent of my life).

Time to Think Big:  We found as we rested away from our everyday angst and relaxed into a new reality filled with sunshine, excellent food, Dominican rum and loud Latino music, that we were able to think about our lives differently.  New possibilities about our future together emerged, where in our day-to-day paradigms, we did not immediately connect the dots.  As well, what seemed possible as dreams from home, when looking at our plans with a bit of objectivity, and less attachment, seemed less realistic.  Our perspective from a new culture, landscape and state of minds, allowed for much discussion about “what next?”  We really appreciated this space and time to really collect our spirit and thoughts in order to really explore our relationship and our dreams together.

The Never-Ending Honeymoon:  In one of the books that Chris and I have read together entitled:  How To Be an Adult in Relationship:  The Five Keys to Mindful Loving by David Richo (2002), we grappled with his fairly sophisticated look at human love relationships.  In it there is this sense that we go through phases of relationships.  He indicates that the romance phase is just the beginning.  “All our experiences and levels of interest follow a bell-shaped curve:  ascending, cresting/flourishing, and descending.  This geometric figure asserts the given of human existence…Thus, rising interest in someone crests in romance, descends into conflict, and finally reposes in commitment.  Love is authentic when it stays intact through all the phases of change” (p. 106).  As depressing as his assertions are that romance decreases and changes with time, it impressed upon us to think about the value of the positive beginning of our relationship marked by a honeymoon.

My parents told me that they often think back to their early days with fondness.  Although they have humorous tales of getting lost on a drive down to the US in a snow storm for their honeymoon, they remember so many of the romantic encounters of their first years together very lovingly.  Those early days are remembered most, I imagine, if they are filled with romance and hope; fun and dreams; and all of the things that beckon us to find ourselves anew in the wonderment of new love.  What better way to set the stage than by doing many new things together.

The List of Firsts Together:  On our honeymoon, we looked over our “list of firsts together” that we continue to build, reference and check off in our relationship.  We love setting out little goals that help us to think about all of those new things that we want to experience for the first time together.  On our honeymoon, we tackled a few of these:  skinny dipping, frolicking in the waves, drinking from a coconut, travelling internationally, ping pong, billiards on the beach, snorkling, dancing meringue, learning Spanish and so much more.  We had time – made time to really get to know each other in a fun and romantic way.

After the Honeymoon:  The goal after the honeymoon seems for us, to continue adding to this list, and then crossing things off as we explore ourselves in the context of marriage.  So many matters of life stand the chance of getting in the way.  The challenge is always to put each other first and to find ways to celebrate special occasions, and everyday opportunities amidst the minutia of our day to day experiences.  We find it too easy to get caught up in the spinning of family, friends, work, house and health, when really, it just takes a bit of time to weave a really interesting memory together.

I often think back to the experiences that jump out most to me.  They are the ones where we took time to prepare, experience and then re-live them through our pictures together.  I often marvel at how many people spend more time prepping for a meal which involves gathering the food; pulling it together into some reasonable recipe, eating and then cleaning it up (often hours); than they do to create romantic experiences together.  Instead, they throw romance together through ordering up a date; buying a gift, or making plans at the last minute and hoping that they will work out.  Romance requires more than simply leaving things to chance.

We need to stage our romantic lives just like a honeymoon.  We need to ask ourselves:  What is it that we want to experience romantically?  How do we do it?  What steps need to happen for it to turn out well?  How do we insure its success?  What will we do to remember it long into the future?  This is a recipe for prolonging this romantic stage that Rico indicates is short-lived.  I believe it could help us think about courting our spouses long after the wedding thank you cards have been sent out, and the marriage certificate arrives in the mail.

“[O]ur honeymoon will shine our life long: its beams will only fade over your grave or mine.”
― Charlotte BrontëJane Eyre

Source: The Honeymoon

Pressed:  Good Morning Vietnam

23 May

Taking the Plunge:  What a wonderful world we have discovered nestled in by the South China Sea. Vietnam always captured my attention as fellow travellers assured me that it was the country to see filled with kind people, good food, cheap accommodations and a beautiful countryside. After considering options as a couple to get off of the North American grid, we started exploring volunteering and work options on a site called HelpX. Chris had learned that some people he had met at a hostle in Vancouver had travelled the world while working for free food and accommodations doing odd jobs in various organizations, and private enterprises. We took a look at SE Asia, and there were many places in Vietnam that jumped out.

We started doing the math. To live in Canada means to stay locked into a financial grid where we work hard to pay a lot to keep inside a lifestyle box. It is a nice box, but it is a box never-the-less. We work from morning to night to sustain a way of living. How much time have I spent working for, minding the paperwork of, and tending to the management of my home inside a culture where everyone is doing the same thing? At the end of the day, the savings are nominal, and unless I am frugal and vigilent with my finances, money just gets used up. It disappears. Therefore, we felt that if we could live leanly working for an organization that supports our room, board, Internet connections and cultural interactions, we would be able to manage. We could pick up extra work, and possibly save money in the end if we were motivated.  As well, we did other math.  As a couple, at most, while working we spend three hours a day together.  By working together abroad, we have far more time together.  This means that in one year, we can potentially increase our time together to be equivalent to three or four years of time of the average working couple.

After meeting with some people who have worked in some English as Second Language (ESL) learning centres in Vietnam, we realize that our English skills are pretty marketable. As well, a couple of these people have made it a lucrative experience. One fellow told us that he would never go back to England. “What would be the point,” he told us. He felt that he was making more in Vietnam for half of the stress. As well, an older fellow who had come from what he called the “US rat race”, explained that he would never go back either. It was just too nice to live in such a pleasant culture with fewer “issues and pressures”.

Learning About Vietnam: Now visiting Vietnam, we can see the richness of the culture, and the very real opportunities that abound in a culture where this country that has really only been free of war since 1995. Vietnam wants to network and connect with other countries. The hotel manager in Hanoi talked about knowing that he is about 20 years behind where other countries are in terms of the hospitality industry. He wanted to hear our suggestions about how his hotel could improve. He knew that we had travelled in other countries, and as a result, might be able to give him insight into what foreigners wanted when coming to visit Vietnam. We were complimentary of the hotel that afforded us everything we needed, and gently reminded him that people from all over the world all have different expectations. Unfortunately, in my travels, I have learned that unless people are already happy, no one can ever truly assist in making them happy. They are quick to find fault, and make things difficult for hotel owners hosting them, especially in some undeveloped countries. (I notice some trends in the foreign travellers who seem to be the most disgruntled–but I won’t generalize at the risk or sounding judgmental.  This discontentment by my estimation is the following formula: “high expectations”=unhappiness).

What we are enjoying about Vietnam is only a small commentary on the North which is the focus of our visit so far.  Today we head further South to Hoi An, and I am certain that we will have many more experiences to write about.  Hanoi and Hai Phong have much to offer people who are interested in getting off the beaten track into the noisy cacophony of the scooter culture. The tastes of the real Vietnamese food are both exciting and disconcerting to a more conservative taste pallet such as my own. The food is as diverse as the families running each restaurant, whether in a little space with real tables, or on the street on tiny plastic chairs. I find the people to be both innocent and filled with raw enthusiasm for anything such as cherry blossoms shipped in from the country to experiencing music and technology; and as well, shrewd as they are able to find ways to rip off the unsuspecting tourist. Here are some interesting things that we are enjoying about our visit to Vietnam:

– People are very friendly, but English is not the universal language that we expect it to be here. We had to really try to speak Vietnamese and our language translation book came in handy many times. Google translate was a real God-send. It allowed me to communicate more complex information without as much difficulty.

-There are literally millions of scooters. What was once a bicycle culture, has quickly become a motorized scooter population. We had difficulty crossing the roads. Scooters were never following any traffic laws, and were often turning corners, going in the opposite directions, driving on sidewalks and generally freaking me out.

-People eat dog here. Need I say more. This was pretty hard to get used to right out of the gate. I have been pretty careful to avoid anything that looks like “thit” on the menu. Other crazy foods such as frogs, eel, tongue, pork feet, and creatures that I have never really associated with a digestable food, keep paying close to the menu. I am getting braver every time I order something, but I draw the line at eating dog.  My favourite meal was the hot beef noodle soup.  (People with peanut allergies should beward here).

-People rise early here with their desire to be fit through aerobics on the main streets, and Tai Chi in the parks and court yards. Exercise here means loud music. There is never a quiet exercise routine by our observation.

-People like to say that it is a foggy environment, but the polution is pretty intense. Some of the people who we met along the way seem genuinely concerned about it and are hoping that the government will set up some policies to start helping with the problem.  Being a country of almost a hundred million, and being South of China, smog is a fixed part of the scenary. It was disappointing to see Halong Bay through a haze of pollution, but we still appreciate the amazing beauty of the countriside.

-There is noise everywhere. Traffic, construction, music, animals, alarms, talking, singing, whistling, and animals, are all the regular sounds in a normal day in the lives of the urban Vietnamese. It takes some getting used to this type of constant sound stimulation–noise. I found that Ihad to manage it by bowing out into a temple for respite, or taking some time in my hotel or hostel bedroom to re-group. This noise must take a toll on people’s hearing, but everyone seems immune to the volume of sound that I find new to me.

-People stop working at certain times of the day, and on certain times of the week. Not everything is open all of the time. Not everyone is available all of the time. Lunch hours mean that doors close for approximately an hour and a half. Sundays are quieter as shops and businesses are often closed. Mondays are sometimes closed as well. Signs appear in windows, and, guess what?  No one seems to care.  And, guess what?  We were okay with it too.

-Things are cheap in some places, but not in all places. You have to do a bit of looking, but there are deals to be had. However, some shop owners are catching on to the value of a dollar or Euro and charging people accordingly.

-The men congregate, drink beer, play games in local bars, and once again, I am sometimes left wondering where the women are hiding. I am finding this to be a common trend across all of the countries that I visit … and live in. Men rest and take time outs together, and women seem to be…somewhere else.

-The greenery is lush here in Vietnam, especially in the countryside outside of the cities which include:  tropical trees (bamboo, banana, mangrove, palm); different types of cacti; and other tropical growth. I have a lot to learn about the different varieties of trees and flowers, but we are learning that the 100% humidity in the air, makes everything grow like crazy, and prevents my hair from drying and doing anything even remotely manageable.

-The signture feature in many photos of the country side are the limestone karsts that jut out of the land and sea.  Inside of many of them are massive caves that are drawing visitors from all over the world.  What the Vietnamese have explained to us is that they are upset that foreigners who have the money to visit them are experiencing this incredible opportunity to see the wonders under the earth; whereas, the Vietnamese who are less able to afford it, cannot.

-Chris notices that the matters of health and safety (as this is his work background) are left pretty much to chance. Seeing people up on ladders without safety measures, or working without what we consider due diligence to standards that keep people from dying is not as common as in Canada where we are likely hyper-vigilent about these kinds of things. People just work hard here in Vietnam and get the job done–no matter what, even if it means short cuts that might be dangerous, but are obviously more affordable.

-Historically, this is a culture that has been through many wars.  We were impressed by how many countries have tried to conquer, invade or destroy Vietnam, and yet, these people successfully defended and kept their country to the Vietnamese.  These are strong, resilient people.

Connecting with Educators: I have enjoyed travelling with Chris on this exciting holiday. It has really been a cultural experience as I find ways to learn more about the education and culture by visiting some of the schools and universities. I am learning that everyone here is interested in the same types of things when it comes to teaching and learning: “How can we make it interesting and engaging for the students?” This is the common topic. I think the key is to keep everyone applying their learning to the real world.  As well, educators seem interested in building new curriculum (locally developed courses) and teaching students new information.  Communist philsophy is a big part of the school programming in Vietnam.

One of the most exciting times was visiting one of the ESL centres, and going with the adult students to the museum. Through the field trip, the conversational English opportunities in the museum provided multiple opportunities for the students to ask and answer questions in English where textbooks could not provide the same connection points. We enjoyed the whole experience from riding on the scooters to eating some wonderful food with the students and staff, very much. Overall, we are finding that by visiting Vietnam as explorers and researchers, we are thinking of the opportunity to travel (not tour) as something that is more manageable than we initially expected. Where there is a desire to really connect with another country, and to do so affordably, there lies the opportunity to stay longer, dig more deeply, and really find meaning in the experience.

Will we come back to Vietnam to do some work within it?  I think it is much more possible now that we have dived into the deep, and came up swimming. It is a beautiful place to visit, and quite possibly a place to live for awhile.  Time will tell.

Source: Good Morning Vietnam

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 52: How 52 Weeks Became 156 Weeks

22 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 52: How 52 Weeks Became 156 Weeks.

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Looking Back to July 2012:  Three years ago, I made a journey from Calgary to Comox.  It was a leap of faith and one where I had very little idea about what lay ahead.  I decided to write about my journey and experiences and began with this one 156 weeks ago:  https://adventureahead.wordpress.com/2012/07/14/52-weeks-begins-now-moving-to-comox/  I was both excited and scared to make my way out West to live out a dream of being by the ocean and in amidst the rain forests on Vancouver Island.  Despite some nerves in doing so, I felt oddly sure of myself moving ahead.  I knew deep inside of me that there was a reason for going.  I felt a readiness to leave Calgary, and an even greater belief that where I was going was where I needed to be.  I was confident that I would meet new people, and explore new opportunities in my career.  Most importantly, I felt that I would meet someone who would be like-minded in his passion for the outdoors.  I hoped that together we would find ourselves together in the woods.

In many ways, as I review my blog entries over the last three years that were intended to be written over the course of one year, I realize that I have filled a lifetime into three years.  There really was very little time to sit down and write about it.  At one point, I began writing a novel entitled Coast to Coast Calling. My experiences were stranger than fiction, but fiction-worthy, never-the-less.  My blog entries have helped to inspire some of that writing, and it has been a helpful process as I attempted to make sense of my experiences in my new homes on both Pender Island and the Comox Valley.

Dreams Do Come True:  Perhaps I moved to the Comox Valley with such conviction (and naivete) because I was intended to meet my partner Chris.  He has been both an inspiration to me and someone who challenges me to be my best.  He has afforded me the belief that there is a purpose in the life experiences that we have had to date.  All of my life seems to have led me to this place where my vantage from Pender looked out onto the Crawford homestead on Saltspring Island (without knowing it), and from where he looked many times onto Pender Island to see my neck of the woods (again without knowing it).  And from there, our tales collide.  We have learned that our ancestors come from the County of Tyrone, and that we have many similarities that have afforded us to land in the same spot in exactly the same time based on our families journeys to Canada, and then our respective journeys to the islands.   https://adventureahead.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/pressed-52-weeks-begin-now-week-forty-eight-what-happens-when-god-answers/

We both express daily how fortunate we are to have found each other.  I feel very fortunate to know that someone who is so expressive, and responsive to me as a person, can actually exist.  Every day is a new adventure now that we are learning to live together in the same home.  We have big plans ahead of us.  We have stories that we want to share with each other and our grandchildren to come.  However, before those grandchildren come (from my son, or his three sons), we have some things we want to do, accomplish and experience around the world.

New Blog Site:  As a result, we hope to share some of these adventures (and misadventures) with our friends and potential blog followers on the following site that is still in its infancy:  https://stretchingcomfortzones.wordpress.com/

We hope to see you on our new blog post.  I will continue to write, and Chris is hoping to share some of our pictures from our experiences together.  We both feel that it is important to map out our journey in advance, during and after our experiences so that we can also savor every aspect of each new trail we encounter, and each trip we have the good fortune to share together in Canada and abroad.

Thank you for reading my blog entries so far, and I hope that you will feel inspired to share your feedback, input and ideas with us as we move ahead together.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Nine: What’s in a Name? My Journey of Names

17 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Nine: What’s in a Name? My Journey of Names.

What’s in a Name?  My Journey of Names

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Dr. Shelley Robinson

The Significance of Titles:  Our society seems fascinated with this idea of titles or we would not keep using them.  Both women and men have been addressing each other with titles in front of sir-names for centuries.  It has been a way to formalize social significance and relevance, business prominence and academic status.  It helps people to understand that certain people fit into various social categories, perhaps due to their status by birth, marriage, caste system, regal relationships, academic performance and other.  For example, when women move from the title of Miss to Mrs., it has traditionally been the way to show that they belong to, or are (in some countries) owned by their husbands. Having a title is also a way to remind people of our roles in a hierarchical organization such as the military where there are clear chains of command.

For the “entitled” person, a title can help define us to the world in ways that mean something to us and everyone around us.  However, I have also learned that having a title can be perceived as a means of setting us apart from the people around us.  I have learned that titles can garner respect, admiration, jealousy, disinterest, curiosity, confusion and a sense of belonging in various communities.  My observations in my own experience in this journey of titles is simply this: whether we choose to take on a title, or to ignore it altogether, people pay attention.

Miss:  In the past, when people referenced me as Miss Robinson, I got the distinct impression that they were reminding me and others around me of my age and the fact that they did not see a ring on my finger.  Being a “Miss” felt as though I was very young and very single.  However, when  I was referred to as Miss Robinson by my students, as opposed to them simply referring to me as my first name, which is Shelley, I felt as though I was being treated with respect as their teacher.

I grew up in a family where I referred to all my parents’ friends by their last names.  I would not think of calling my parents’ generation (friends or otherwise) by their first names.  It just did not seem appropriate, and my parents nor their friends encouraged me to use their first names.  To this day, I have a difficult time referring to anyone who is in a higher position of authority, age or position of respect by their first names.

Mrs.:  When I was getting married, this idea of being referred to as a Mrs. was both exciting and perplexing.  I was not keen on giving up my last name as I was born with it, and had accomplished a lot in my academic and professional work with the name Robinson.  However, I found this idea of identifying myself as a married woman a very acceptable shift to everyone around me.  At my age, it was just the socially acceptable thing to do and like all rites of passage, the wedding and celebration encouraged it.

However, to give up my last name was a major life shift for me.  I struggled with this shift because I didn’t recognize myself by the name, nor did any of the music community where I had established myself as a musician.  Each time I had people refer to me by this other name, I looked around to see who it was.  I also felt as though I was giving up on the Robinson name as the oldest child.  I worried that if my sister and I changed our names, and our children took our new married names, the Robinson name would be lost.  As it happened, my son did take on the Smith name, and my sisters’ children are now Taylor, and so the Robinson name will not pass down through my father’s line.  However, I returned to my maiden name after my divorce, and continued on in my life both personally and professionally as a Robinson.  It felt like putting on an old pair of comfortable shoes, and I decided not to make another change to my last name again.  However, giving up the title and name was easier for me than the world around me.  My son then had a different last name than myself.  When I travelled, people had difficulty wondering why I was not a Mrs.  It is less common around the world to be a woman over 40 without a married title.

Ms.:  However, the conundrum of titles continued.  As I aged, it was obvious that I was not a Miss to people any longer.  People stumbled over calling me Ma’m and I had no ring on my finger to identify myself as a Mrs.  The title choice then remained to be called a Ms.  For some women, this title is a source of pride and neutrality that prevents them from falling into any social category.  I remember my French teacher demanding that her students never forget that she was a Ms.

For me, it reminded me that I was now a “mature”, unmarried, and confusing social anomaly to the general population, including myself.  I was not impressed with this idea that I had to announce on paper forms at every turn that I was now “divorced”, and a “Ms.”  In fact, I would often defiantly check off “single” and refrain from choosing off any title at all.  Whose business was my title anyway?

Dr.:   After many years of being in formal education to achieve a doctorate of education, I graduated with a PhD.  At the graduation, we were told by our valedictorian to never be embarrassed by our education and titles; rather, to be proud of our experience and knowledge in the world of academia and beyond.  It was an important name to share with others, including the younger generation of academics, and in my case, young women who aspired to the same level of education.  I was told by a couple of fellow graduands that same convocation that the title Dr. could never be taken from me.  When I returned to school the day after my graduation ceremony, the principal at that time, had my name plate on the door changed.  It now proudly announced that I was Dr. Robinson.  In Alberta, this academic status change was well-respected, and I felt good to have students calling me Doc Rob.  As well, with some relief, I no longer had to explain my lack of marital status.

However, what I have learned recently is that this title is also one that other people find intimidating.  In a world where academic accomplishment can be perceived as pretentious, we are sometimes encouraged to shed out titles.  Therefore, despite being called Dr. Robinson for a number of years in Alberta and then in BC; now in rural BC, and smaller community settings, I have been told that the norm is to refer to each other without titles, and by our first names.  For me, giving up both my title and my last name has been difficult, but I have embraced this idea given the cultural disposition and in some cases, outward hostility towards what they perceive to be an unnecessary formality.

Reclaiming My Name:  What becomes apparent to me is that my name is my own choice.  My name is also a sense of personal and professional identity.  I can choose my own name and title, and yet, I need to be thoughtful of being new to a community where this does not seem to be socially understood or acceptable.  I suppose I need to examine why the title and last name are important to me.  Do I need to be distinguished as academically superior, or is this title something that I should be proud of representing all of my hard work?  It was a very rigorous program and a huge accomplishment to complete as a single mother at a time where I was working full time.  As well, does being referred to by my first name actually strip me of my self-respect?  Has my upbringing of being referred to my last name make this my preference in the work world right?

But then after over-thinking all of the above and this matter of having had four titles and two last names in my lifetime, I find myself gravitating towards this final conclusion.  I think when I am about to turn 50 years old, I can choose to be called by any name that I choose.  Perhaps I’ll refrain from being called Queen of Sheba or Madam President and especially single names like God.  However, I think that my name Dr. Shelley Robinson needs to be reclaimed for my own re-identification.  I am a Dr. due to my academic degree because I have earned it.  As well, I am no longer a Miss, Mrs. nor Ms.  But most importantly, I want to carry on the Robinson name, and I would like to be referred to it as a form of respect when working with people in the world at large.  My first name has, and will always be Shelley, but I will continue to reserve it for those who are close to me in family, personal and professional circles.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Four: You’re going the wrong way!

3 Jan

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Four: You're going the wrong way!.

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Looking up:  Have you ever been driving along happily (or unhappily), in a zone of quiet (or frantic) windshield contemplation, and you look up, and realize that suddenly, nothing looks familiar?  In fact, you are lost, and it is slowly dawning on you that you are not only going the wrong way, but you have landed somewhere where you don’t recognize anything or anyone, nor yourself in this habitat.

How can this be, you ask?  You researched the trip; followed the map; read the signs, invested some money; but somehow, you are not in the place where you had anticipated being.  Instead, you are somewhere else and it does not feel right.  It even feels a bit dangerous.  It is late.  It is not easy to turn around.  Your fuel tank is running on close to empty, and there isn’t an open gas station to be found.  However, you decide that turning around is your best option.   This place is not what you had hoped, and you are disappointed that you had invested time and money in getting here.

When this epiphany has happened to me recently (as I feel a crossroads in my own life), lines from the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles ring in my head with Steve Martin and John Candy providing some levity to what I know is a disappointing situation:

Neal: He says we’re going the wrong way…”

Del: Oh, he’s drunk. How would he know where we’re going?”

Or, from the Twilight Zone, “Where is everybody?”

All of these lines of confused travellers bear witness to the fact that I can’t possibly be the only one that has found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time even after taking a leap of faith with the best of intentions, and hoping that this dream would play out just as I had anticipated.

How does this happen?  The Dalai Lama in his book The Middle Way:  Faith Grounded in Reason (2014) points out that when we “grasp at self-hood and self existence” we have the potential of finding a very unenlightened existence at some point in the journey.  We realize that what we were hoping for in this harmonious, happily-ever-after dream, did not “penetrate our true mode of being” (p. 19).  He explains that the “direct antidote to the self-grasping mind as well as its associated mental factors is insight into selflessness.  Therefore, it is on the basis of realizing selflessness that we attain true liberation” (p. 16).

What this means for me is that I have to be very clear about who I am so that I can best understand what I have to offer the world, and what to expect from it in return.  Sometimes we fixate on wanting a certain picture of how things will end up.  We manifest them, but in doing so, it has the potential of missing a key ingredient of who we truly are in the picture.  For example, some of us slave everyday to afford our vision, or do things or continue breathing life into a dream that is not necessarily in our best interests.  The dream lacks the raison d’être of all dreams…finding our calling and the flow within that calling.  Finding our vocation is not always an easy journey, as most spiritual journeys are not easy, but it should not be perpetually difficult with obstacle after obstacle thrown in our way.

When everyday is an uphill battle, or swimming against the stream of people with different goals and value systems; or where you have to prove yourself over and over again, just to make a little bit of progress, you know you are in the wrong place with the wrong people.  Therefore, the dream needs to be revised.  And that is okay, because who leads a perfectly well-executed plan the first time around, or even the 500th time around?  Unfortunately, most people don’t try anything new for fear of making mistakes.  A new expression I learned on this trip is a nice one:  “Feeding fear is feeding the enemy.  Feeding faith is feeding your true self.”  Therefore, we have to live in faith, even where our faith may lead us to places that scare us (Chodran).

I come back to the quote from the movie The Lunchbox that says that “sometimes the wrong train takes us to the right station”, and we have to have faith that this is the case.  Sometimes life’s departures from the expected have less to do with our failings, and sometimes to do with external variables that the universe plays out randomly.  The universe knows.  Therefore, sometimes, the courage and the learning that goes with the effort is worth the experience.  It helps us to know more clearly where we want to go–need to go next.  Knowing when to turn around and find another route is part of growing up and figuring things out because we learn from life’s mishaps and periods of isolation and loss, just as we do from finding ourselves in the right places for those blessed fleeting moments in time.

Travelling Teaches Me Much:  There is something about the fluidity of travelling that shows me more about life than any other experience that I attempt.  Travelling relies so much on chance and a faith that whatever we plan (or don’t plan) will turn out to be a great experience.  If we go in to travelling with any higher expectations, we are bound to be disappointed.  How wonderful if I can learn to transfer this philosophy more to my everyday life and become less attached to it, and dependent on so much of what I do for a living to afford the things that I surround myself to call it a safe, secure and successful life (attachments).

On each trip, I get lost, lose something, meet someone, learn something, inquire about something that I didn’t know about before, risk a little, and find joy in small experiences.  I always grow from my experiences.   However, every so often, I look up, and say to myself, “I’d rather be anywhere but here.”   I don’t feel safe.  I don’t like the vibe, the people, the smell…all of it, and I move on.  This is not a waste of time to realize this after you have invested time getting to these locations.  It is, instead, insight, and wisdom to realize that it is time to move on.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Two: Waiting for Grace

31 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Two: Waiting for Grace.

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The Waiting Room:  I remember this quote from the movie Shadowlands where Anthony Hopkins speaks to his colleague about his difficulty with waiting for a new season.  It captures, very aptly, the impatient space where I find myself right now:  “I’ve always found this a trying time of the year.  The leaves not yet out, mud everywhere you go.  Frosty mornings gone.  Sunny mornings not yet come.  Give me blizzards and frozen pipes, but not this nothing time, not this waiting room of the world.”  Lately, I have found myself waiting—waiting for people to do what they say they are going to do; waiting for people to communicate with me; waiting for my work to get started after a strike; waiting for some financial matters to resolve; waiting for the outcomes of an insurance matter to be concluded; waiting to meet people in my new location who can inspire me further on my life path (lover, and mentor roles as outlined by Downs, 2002, although I am meeting some very special and interesting new friends); waiting for my lifestyle to kick in physically so that I look and feel better; waiting to have fun; waiting for my next trip; waiting for some sign of what it is that I am supposed to do next with my life–my calling…I am waiting.  At this exact moment, I am waiting for the appliance repairman to come and fix my dishwasher.  It is the last straw on the camel’s back.  For God’s sake, will everyone (and the divine), just hurry up!

Let’s Go! I have never had trouble living “in the meantime” before (Vanzant, 1999) to the degree that I am struggling with now.  Now, I do not want to wait.  In fact, I am ready to move forward in so many facets of my life.  I have done the work.  I am in a state of openness.  I feel primed to leap outward, but thoughtfully because anything that I choose to do now will have a great impact on the latter part of my life.  With this being said, I feel prepared to say, “Sure, let’s go!”  I am sending these signals out the universe daily, hourly, and in every moment when I can no longer bear doing something that does not inspire me.  Something important is bellowing from the sidelines, but I cannot quite make out what it is saying.  Instead, I feel that I am in a holding pattern.  

Although I feel physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually ready to go on a journey and to share this leg of it with someone significant, or with like-minded people who are on a similar path, where are they?  Everyone is pretty involved in their lives, and they are not all looking outwards to share in new experiences at this time.   However, those variables of meeting “the right people” are outside of my control.  As well, I want to do something meaningful and to have some impact on the world for the short time that I am here; however,  I believe that that this flow of vocation needs to come from the synchronous source that leads us all to our purpose in life.  

The Universe in Slow Motion:  The universe is testing me of my patience because not all of the things that I want in my life are within my control, despite my efforts to take the reins, and seize the day.  At times, life feels as though it is unfolding unnervingly–painfully slowly as the universe gets around to what is supposed to manifest.  However, time is of the essence.  It feels as though it is running short.  I am feeling my age; my mortality; and my dreams keenly.  I know that I am on the cusp of experiencing something new.  It is at the tip of my tongue.  It is this ethereal tapping on the inside of my head.  Something is tempting me from another realm, and I know that I am supposed to be doing it.  But what?   

Letting Go:  I have done my part to front load my life work so that I am in shape and prepared to take the next part of my journey.  I have done everything that I can to be open to the signals.  I have learned what makes me flow, and at the moment, I am ebbing.  I know what authentically grabs me, and I have also learned what wastes my time.  I am long past “willing [myself] to do something when [my] mind says no…[which takes setting the] ego aside…” (Dyer, 2004, p. 41).  As a result, I have opened my arms up wide to the universe and said, “I have done my best.  Now it is up to you!”   

“Then, when you know in your gut that you have done all that is required, that is, all you know to do at this moment, turn loose.  Breathe a sign of relief, and turn the results of your actions over to the powers that be—whether you call it God, the Universe, a Higher Power, angels, the fates, karma.  Consider the matter done and out of your hands;  trust that whatever happens will turn out to be for the greater good…This creates the space for magic and synchronicity.  It allows the Universe to do its part”   (Belitze and Lundstrom, 1998, p. 181)

However, in doing this, and believing that I have let “it” go, I am still impatient.  “Come on Universe!”  I cheer from the sidelines of my life.  I am well-educated, well-travelled, well-read, and experienced enough to know that I know nothing.  I have a lot more to learn.  I know that there is a big world out there that I have not sunk my teeth into it in ways that I know would be absolutely delicious.  “Come on Universe and make it happen!”  Instead, for multiple reasons, and some more notable than others, I am waiting on a few things:  the right job (calling), the right partner (champion), the right logistics to support the dreams; the right timing; the inner knowing that, “Yes, this is it!”

And so I wait.   I am trying to “[r]emain confident that through continued reliance on [my] imagination, [my] assumptions are materializing into reality (Dyer, 2004, p. 41).  I have taken risks to set some of my dreams into motion. I moved to the island to seek inspiration and refuge in its stunning beauty.  It has replenished me and afforded me inspiration and insight.  I realize the enormity of operationalizing my recent move out to British Columbia from Alberta (leaving my friends and family, and a successful career) at this stage in life.  However, it felt right, and I have no regrets.  I know that I am on the right track, and that this is one big step towards the next leg of my “raison d’être”.   However, now I need to wait for a bit of divine intervention to afford me insight and patience so that I do not feel this “nothing time, not this waiting room of a world”.  

The Perfect Citation:  The answer came to me today as I wrote this article.  I pulled my faithful friends, which are my books, down from bookshelves, and put my mind to this matter of waiting, and out popped the answer that I needed to hear.  The right books leapt into my hands, in particular, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth (2005).  The perfect citation jumped out at me as if the Universe wanted to answer me:

So while you are perhaps still waiting for something significant to happen in your life [Shelley], you may not realize that the most significant thing that can happen to a human being has already happened within you:  the beginning of the separation process of thinking and awareness.

Many people who are going through the early stages of the awakening process are no longer certain what their outer purpose is.  What drives the world no longer drives them.  Seeing the madness of our civilization so dearly, they may feel somewhat alienated from the culture around them.  Some feel that they inhabit a no-man’s-land between two worlds.  They are no longer run by the ego, yet the arising awareness has not yet become fully integrated into their lives.  Inner and outer purpose have not merged. (pp. 261-262).

It is eery to come across a citation that gives me goose bumps because of its poignancy and uncanny personal relevance.  It also never ceases to amaze me how quotations find me when I write for personal meaning.  

Making Peace:  It is also difficult to write anything beyond this profound excerpt that so eloquently addresses all of the difficulties that I have raised above. I will, however, say one thing.  As Tolle describes, I do feel keenly discombobulated lately as I grapple with an open sense of liberation in myself that other people do not seem to understand.  And so, I feel a little alone in this journey.  It heightens my need to be around other people who “get it”.  I now feel keenly that it is through relationship that I will be better able to understand my next steps.  Therefore, it reminds me…again…that I am waiting to meet these types of people who are conscious and awake, and who are open to connecting with me and talking about something spiritually important.  

Therefore, the other things I list above, like waiting for the dishwasher repairman, are manageable (by the way, he did come, and we ate dinner together, which in itself is a bit unusual).  It is this waiting for this enlightened connectedness that is truly difficult to do.  I now understand that because I am waiting for this sense of spiritual connection (impatiently so) that it has drawn my attention to everything else in my life that is taking time and taxing my patience.  So, now I need to breathe and make “peace with the present moment…[because b]eing one with life is being one with Now” (Tolle, 2005, p. 115).  In other words, by being present, I am creating “space for magic and synchronicity” (Belitz and Lundstrom).

I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.

Stephen Hawking