Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Flowers in my yard. We all take time and patience grow.
Tonight memory emerged as a main theme during my Buddhist book discussion group, where we are currently reading Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill by Matthieu Ricard, a French-born Buddhist monk. We focused on finding inner-knowledge, regardless of our personal histories, by making a regular practice of quieting our minds to allow for new inspiration. Following prescriptions forged by past experiences do not always lead to productive decisions.  We can become trapped in a cycle by reacting as we always have. That can lead us back to exactly where we started.

This topic led to a bit of an aside. We discussed how our past changes us, how we reflect upon previous experiences, and how we only know turning points in our lives upon looking back. We do not have to disavow our pasts in order to make effective choices. Sometimes we learn by getting burned - by a flame, candle or otherwise, for example. Our pasts shape us, but our memories do not have to control us. 

This idea inspired me. Someone mentioned that he can look at memories with a clarity that is not present when the past is, well, present. We extract information and insight from experiences as they are occurring, but we gain wisdom from observing our pasts from afar. Distance from an event, in both time and space, allows us to look back upon an experience without being affected emotionally. We can remember past occurrences without reliving them. We can become observers of our own lives. That is when the fruit of the past is ripe for picking, eating and digesting. Some experiences take more time to ripen than others; sometimes we remain embroiled in the present (presence?) of an experience for so long, we do not know how to quell the blaze.

Here are a couple examples of experiences that have affected me greatly - one is old and silly, the other is recent and serious: 

1) For YEARS I was embarrassed about a middle school incident - because middle school is rough on everyone, and even little events become gigantic traumas. My shoe squeaked in gym class one day when we were all silently lined up in our rows, and my classmates accused me of farting. I was so humiliated, and it took time, distance and the realization that a) I am probably the only person who remembers the event, and b) I have actually farted in front of people who really mean something to me. Finally, after years of reliving the red-faced heat of that moment, I can look back and see the humor. I am no longer so afraid of standing out, because I know I can live through/with embarrassment; 

2) When my Aunt Vickie died unexpectedly a couple months ago, I played that day over and over again as if it were my favorite record. I relived the phone call, the drive over to my aunt and uncle's house, the first sight of my cousins' faces, my uncle's pain, and on and on and on. I drowned in those feelings. They prevented me from sleeping and caused intense panic attacks. This event has caused trauma of a different sort - related to my own mortality, the mortality of those I love, the fear of being alone, etc. It took going to a therapist and meditating regularly to begin to dissipate those feelings. It's only been a couple of months, so, obviously, the forces of that event are still affecting me. I still do not have the clarity of distance my acquaintance mentioned, but I really want this experience to be profound in the most positive way possible. Because I do not want to be ill, I have decided to make coping an activity into which I put real energy. I am developing skills I can take along with me into future experiences.

I am in no way a Jedi Master, a guru, a saint or a genius. I am a person who thinks too much, too deeply, and, at times, too darkly. I most certainly chew the cud too often. From my perspective, time, patience and space from an experience help. So does intentionally re-focusing my mind whenever I start to ruminate. Feeling that I have a choice in what I think about, and intention in how I think and act, makes me feel like I am in control of the content of my life. I may not be able to control what happens during my life, but I can react in ways that benefit my well-being by being conscious of my thoughts and actions.

Any reflections on memories and how your recover from the past, apply lessons to the present, and take the skills learned into the future?

Alison :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why, Hello

Detail of stamping and cocktail umbrella.

Why, hello. It's been awhile. My internet has been down, but after two hours (TWO HOURS) on the phone, conversations with FIVE different AT&T U-Verse representatives, and two PREVIOUS phone calls, I'm back online. Thank goodness! It's one thing if I choose not to write for a couple of weeks, but it seems like I have tons to share when I can't easily update my blog.

To while away the time, I have been employing both used envelopes and those handy dandy reply envelopes that come with bills and credit card offers as blank canvases for revamped envelopes. I love to write letters, but I know I do not put nearly enough effort into that art. The good news - my internet break allowed for a little extra play time.

See below for a sampling of my attempt to add a little homemade happiness to my friends' days:

This friend had a bad week at work -

Front & Back, with address marked out to protect the guilty. Materials: old piece of lined paper, letter stamps/stamp pad, part of a cocktail umbrella, scrapbooking paper, pencil and glue.

Detail of doodled flowers.
 And this friend had some health concerns -

Detail of penned note and bird.

Front & Back, with space for an address insert. Materials: notebook paper, wrapping paper, ink pen, scrapbook paper, and glue.

Detail of cut paper.

While a letter can't make up for a bad work week or health problems, it can bring a moment of joy to an otherwise rotten situation. What do you do (handmade objects or otherwise) to brighten your friends' days?

Glad to back,

Alison :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Amongst Other Things

At the Sporting KC game last Tuesday. This is the one event from the past week I actually photographed!

When I have nothing going on, I am in a real social drought. Life is dandy, but life is slow. During a week when I have even one event planned, I somehow receive more invitations than I can accept. It is as if the first event is magnetized and draws other invitations to me. Never mind the slow times before and after. When it rains it pours. Like begets like. And so on. Last week was one of those periods where my social calendar was filled to the brim - happily so. I attended (in this order) a soccer game, a birthday party, a film screening and after party, and a wedding. 

In no particular order, I spent the last week doing the following:

1. Celebrating my mom's birthday.
2. Catching up with a high school friend I haven't seen in forever and ran into unexpectedly.
3. Relishing wedding cake.
4. Drinking lemonade.
5. Watching the first public screening of the movie Dust, written and directed by Adam Dugas and Casey Spooner and featuring Kansas City artists Cody Critcheloe, Jaimie Warren and Peggy Noland (opinion forthcoming).
6. Dancing like a crazy woman.
7. Singing along to songs from my youth with a nostalgia that made it seem like I actually liked the songs when they originally hit the airwaves.
8. Cheering on the home team, even though I don't really follow sports (photos forthcoming). 
9. Crying through a sweet wedding.
10. Enjoying my mom's birthday dinner and her (I mean my Grandpa's) pancakes.
11. Chatting around a fire.
12. Shucking corn. 
13. Hanging out with an awesome child.
14. Hanging out with an awesome child's lovely parents, who are dear friends.
15. Dancing my phone out of my pocket.
16. Unfortunately missing an invitation to see a funny movie and a good friend.
17. Working on finishing up the tv series Lie to Me.
18. Reading a whole, a half, and a part of a book.
19. Getting lost on Pinterest.
20. Discovering new-to-me blogs (links forthcoming).
21. Nibbling on cream cheese mints.
22. Meditating on the good things in life.
23. Slipping stealthy looks at a guy that went unnoticed (it's the thing to do at weddings).
24. Chomping pizza gratefully at an after-party. 
25. Telling new acquaintances that roly-polies (not to be confused with pill millipedes) are crustaceans.
26. Not understanding men.
27. Talking on the phone.
28. Perusing facebook to see if anyone "liked" my new profile pic.
29. Mailing letters.
30. Making things.
31. Learning new things at work.
32. Driving a lot.
33. Recuperating from dancing two nights in a row.
34. Feeling pretty and feeling ugly.
35. Hanging with my cousins.
36. Drinking more than normal.
37. Extolling the virtues of Jane Eyre.
38. Ruining my manicure.
39. Commiserating over the phone.
40. Sleeping in.
41. Having a day off. 
42. Dressing up.
43. Pretending I was a sports photographer (thank goodness for zoom).
44. Missing a craft night and an activities night with people I would like to know better.
45. Spending time with my sister.
46. Giving an awkward introduction to some friends without intending to.

All these little moments made made the big events I attended, and the hours in between them, memorable. 

What big and little things have you been up to over the past week or so?

Alison :)