Shelter from the StormWhat’s the difference between major surgery and minor surgery? I’m at a special pre-op session led by the hospital physical therapist. I had no idea. Didn’t care. Hospitals aren’t my thing. I just wanted to get this knee replacement over with without breaking stride in my full life. I know. I missed the irony at that moment, but I get it now. I get the punch line to the joke, too. Minor surgery is someone else’s. Major surgery is mine.

My Major Surgery was three weeks ago. By every account it was a success. I’m no longer a short-term resident of La La Land because of the pain medications. Friends and health care folks comment on how well I’m doing. My walker sits on the sidelines, no longer needed. I find it possible to track a thought long enough to tease it into a paragraph.

Now that I’m not quite so immersed in my Major drama, there’s room for a much bigger vantage point, I’m more deeply moved by all the generosity around me: the well-wishers, the cards, the visits and chocolate. I’ve made room within for the life force spun close around me, and I’m blessed by it. Now that my body is recovering and beginning to believe that it can trust the Universe again, I’m able to embrace “minor” events that occurred while I was absorbed in my “major” one. I’m less overwhelmed by my surroundings and way more interested in the world around me. There’s room inside for everything from sobering world events to holiday merriment.

More than ever before I’m bathed in deep respect for the suffering endured by loved ones and strangers, as they try to make the world around them a little kinder. My heart is cracked open when I think of those who step up and do what is theirs to do, whether it’s miss Christmas with family to fight Ebola or stand together during personal or community tragedy to keep Hope alive. Just today I learned that a loved one will be given the support he needs to find housing out of the rain and wind this winter. The faces of those who have made this possible for him are the ones I collect in my personal bundle of Major League Heroes. They find ways to give my brothers and sisters shelter from the storm. That is Major.

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LabyrinthI’m traveling with my friend Siri, she who is the little sister of Garmin and the daughter of Mapquest, the maker of all directions. Sometimes when I believe her, we go straight from Point A to Point B in the most efficient manner. And sometimes I end up making three left turns when I wanted to go right…or entering a freeway to go to another exit altogether, only to get off and find that I was where I wanted to go just before I got on the freeway in the first place.

All I’m saying is that sometimes her logic is a bit circular. Much like my own.

And I’m reminded of all the trips I made with my co-author and business partner, Jeanne. I’ve always considered myself directionally challenged, and…let’s just say Jeanne was in the same tribe. And in the olden days, before GPS, this was sometimes a significant challenge.

We’d fly to new cities. Drive to PR gigs and workshops. And even with our stash of maps and one of us serving as a designated navigator, we were often lost more than we were found.

Our favorite navigational method was to circumambulate around the location, eventually zeroing in on our goal.

We called this the Sacred Spiral Path.

I’ve noticed that this process is similar for almost everyone I know who wants to live a life that is more and more satisfying. We set our GPS or identify a destination. We begin. There’s a sense of freedom and possibility. An open road and hope.

And then something happens. There’s a natural fear or discomfort that comes when you’re doing something new. This is a part of the process, something to lean into. But as you go on, another feeling may show up in your body. It may feel like a general heaviness or a tightness in the belly or a felt sense of stuckness.

When we get closer to what we thought we wanted, sometimes there’s a feeling that it’s not right for us. Or we may notice that the landscape is off and the Universe is giving us new signals. These bodily directions are as important to navigation as the first excitement or joy.

This is a good time to remember that we’re not lost. We’re getting closer and closer to our essence.  Finding our unique way on the sacred spiral path.

What body signs tell you that you’re on the right path? What are your navigational signals that it’s time to recalibrate? How do you do that? Is your path straight, wiggly, circular or spiral? Or sometimes all of the above? Just notice….

Photo by en:User:Widosu/CC-BY-SA-3.0

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Wise in This Lifetime

November 11, 2014 Identity

Last week I made a lovely connection with a young woman by surprise. We were participating in an event where the leader requested my very least favorite group exercise: gazing in the eyes of a stranger.

I realized it would be far easier to drop my opinion and see what happened than to keep my story. As it turned out …(drum roll)…

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Slow-Mo Life in Mid-Mo

November 4, 2014 Fall

Last week I made a cross-country plane trek to visit my family in Mid-Missouri. It’s nearly impossible for me to make the trip without leaping into high gear. From the details of preparation beforehand to shuffling bags from car to fight to shuttle, by the time I arrive at my mother’s “gracious adult retirement center,” I leave skid marks.

And then I’m there. With my mother and about a hundred other folks in their eighties and nineties. At first it feels like I’m moving underwater or become a character in a slow motion movie. My mind leaps and bucks at being so tethered. It seeks a job.

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The Last Blast of Summer (or of Anything)

October 7, 2014 Body or Aging

It’s October. Last week I built fires in the woodstove to take the nip out of the early mornings. And then the last few days, here it is. Indian Summer. Temperatures in the eighties, hawks soaring above in the balmy breeze. The sun offers its light on a slant, making it feel even more stunning and precious.

And how very precious it is, this Last Blast of Summer. Called by different names in as many cultures, humans have long celebrated this brief but intense return of the warmth of the growing season.

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A Mind-Clearing Habit

September 30, 2014 Confusion to Clarity

I have a habit of throat clearing. It seems there’s often a froggy sensation that simply must be cleared. Until the other day, I’d never thought of the possibility of clearing other parts of the body…or the psyche, at least in any kind of routine way.

An idea came up last week when we co-hosted a couple of amazing musicians. Their names are Gina Sala and Daniel Paul. Both are highly respected for kirtan, a kind of meditative music most people associate with yoga classes. Kirtan is sometimes described as “yoga for the voice.”

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Salmon, Autumn and a Return to the Wild

September 23, 2014 Fall

A small, hopeful group is gathered here in anticipation of the event. Indian summer, and we’re poised over the impossibly picturesque mountain stream, cascading and rivuleting and pirouetting downhill.

Each of us has our own opinion about what we’re waiting for. All we know is that it’s called a Salmon Release, and each of us has a vague idea about what that means. And it’s an hour late.

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Morning Ritual: Rinse and Repeat

September 2, 2014 Noticing

6:30 a.m. Last day of August. My favorite: time of day, time of year, spot on the planet. Most early mornings are spent in silence and solitude. These moments are improved by the beauty that is summer. I watch from my garden deck overlooking the oak savannah as a buttery sunlit field gradually spreads over the meadow. There is deep peace in this little spot of glory. Deep gratitude finds a similar spot in the center of my body.

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My Inner Slacker vs. My Self-Improvement Junkie

August 19, 2014 Radical Kindness

This has been the perfect season for my highly competitive inner slacker. I’ve put up my feet and sipped ice beverages with the best of them. “Manana” has become my favorite word. All was good until I noticed that September is sneaking up behind me. And now Slacker Sue and Serious Susan have come to a face-off.

I sit right now in the mountains, savoring the summer air, listening to the nearby creek. I want to write about the stuff that folks from my home state Oregon are known for. Boring old Nature and mountains and beaches and stuff like that. The stuff of life.

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The Purpose of Life

July 31, 2014 Noticing

What All Animals but Man Know is that the Purpose of Life is to Enjoy It. -~Samuel Butler.

This bittersweet moment arrives every summer. The calendar flips and we’re in August. Not yet! We cry. There’s another month until Labor Day.

Some of us (as in me) wear blinders to the darker fall colors and school supplies subtly reminding us of what’s coming.

And yet. (And this is important): Fall is not here yet.

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The Grace of the Sea Stars

July 22, 2014 Body or Aging

Sea Star is the name of a watercolor in my office, painted by a friend years ago when she was traveling in India. She was on the beach in Goa watching the sea when a local woman, arms full of colorful, dancing scarves, swept up to her: “Sea Star, You want to buy? “ It took her a minute to realize that the woman was calling her “sister,” not selling her sea stars or starfish. Sea stars, or “sisters,” my dear women friends, have held me in kindness, given me tea and sympathy and laughter my whole life. The painting is a vivid reminder of the strength of this tribe of love.

And then there are the other Sea Stars, the variegated, orange and purple creatures of the sea that are also called starfish.

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A Burn Center and a Kind Universe

July 1, 2014 Confusion to Clarity

Einstein famously said that the most important decision we can make as humans is whether or not the universe is kind. As I’ve practiced Positive Paranoia in my life, I’ve looked for evidence of a kind universe for the last forty years. Based on lots of evidence, my own jury has pretty much already decided. But my mind is still open to new proof.

A few years ago my son awakened in the night with his bed on fire. He got out alive, even though the Burn Center doctor said he shouldn’t have awakened because of lack of oxygen to the brain.

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Positive Paranoia

June 24, 2014 Confusion to Clarity

1975. I’m 26 years old and my life is just what I always dreamed it would be, yet I’m raw and desperate. I’ve achieved all the things I set out to do: travel, happy marriage, a meaningful job. I’ve somehow proved myself Successful in conventional ways and unconventional ways, taking on all the tasks of being an acceptable member of the Counterculture of the time. And then, without knowing why, I hit a dead end.

It happens in a moment. I’m walking down the street and I suddenly feel flat and hollow inside. Not there. It seems like a dead end: there’s no exit in sight. I’m deeply scared, and my bed seems like the best refuge.

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To Life As It Is

June 17, 2014 Power of Connection

Only a few weeks ago I saw myself as a Recovering Rushaholic. I was experiencing a few days of peace and a deep sense of optimism. Just as the peaceful and hopeful and reflective Memorial Day holiday was ending, I pulled together my travel stuff, drove a couple of hours to an early flight, flew into the Heartland, drove another three hours, and spent a week in the muddle of family, caregiving, loving and experiencing losses first hand. My speed picked up. There was so much to do, to solve, and only a week to do it! By the time I capped the trip off with two doctors’ appointments and a twelve-hour reverse journey, I was past rushing. It’s taken three days for all my cells to return home. They seem to take longer than the luggage.

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Rushaholic Recovery: An Unbecoming Tale

May 13, 2014 Identity

It’s been years now since I officially retired from my first career as a teacher. During most of these 25 years all the roles of life converged: Teacher (over 150 teens a day), Mother, Daughter and Sister in a family continually in crisis. Toward the end I also wore the hats of Author and Speaker, with a new book out (and that “baby” to raise).
I know. Cray cray. You can look it up in your urban dictionary. It’s a word for that means taking crazy to a whole new level. Times two.

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Deep Spring

May 7, 2014 Noticing

At my cabin in the mountains there are many deep springs. As in deep pools of water bubbling up from below, with temperatures ranging from cool to dangerous. The water below ground is visible because the mantle of the Earth is a little thinner here. Even though I know where the springs are, they’re always somehow a bit of a surprise, a catching of breath, a tender mercy of heat on a snow day or chill in a heat wave.

Since I love playing with words, I’m thinking of Spring (the season), in the same way. Here I was, trudging through the mud and rain, and I come upon a clearing. A deep pool. Not too cold, not too hot, a blessing of refreshment and inspiration.

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The Daylight Bloom of Night’s Dreams

April 8, 2014 Confusion to Clarity

I’m a dreamer, and I respect (and sometimes remember) my dreams, in all their vivid and jumbled details. I made it a hobby more than thirty years ago to study them, at one time logging three or four dreams a night for several months. This has offered a window into the subtle realms of healing. From time to time, I delve deeply into the symbols and the details. This is great entertainment, but often there’s way much TMI to decode or recall. Over time I’ve found reason to trust the process, which is beneath and beyond what my conscious mind can grasp.

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The Great Un-Doing of Spring

April 1, 2014 Noticing

The early warning signs are so subtle at first… a swelling of the limbs, a softness of the breeze/breath, a whiff of possibility. I’ve usually been so busy DOING, strategizing and reacting to the demands of winter, that I barely notice the change around me. After all, my inner Drama Queen insists, we’ve been under siege, and Important Things must be done.

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Charms, Amulets and a Blessed Life

March 25, 2014 Family Stress
Charm bracelets were all the rage when I was a teenager. Tiny replicas of the Eiffel tower, new bikes, tiny dog figures, and figure skates tinkled from the wrists of the Popular Girls. I admired the look and the high style, but I never expected that I’d be in the circle of lucky ones who could afford such a wondrous thing. Even if… even if I did get a magical white box from the local jeweler for my birthday. Even if… Even if there was a gold bracelet inside. Even if…. that came to be, what good would it be? What charms would I wear?
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Giving Up the Bone and Proving Myself Wrong

March 18, 2014 Confusion to Clarity
A few days ago it happened. Again. I was wrong. I hate that. I had imagined how I would fit a couple of important gatherings with friends into my evening, sandwiched between two long trips. But my mind didn’t stop with logistics.

It found a bone to chew on, a way to try to manage lots of things that were none of its business.
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