I wake to a cardinal singing at my window after a semi-existential crisis dream #cardinal #parenting #midlife

Image by Chris Chow from Pixabay

I had been dreaming about being at school. That is not unusual for me. Last night I was back at Bowdoin College, but it really wasn’t anything like the Bowdoin I attended nearly 25 yrs ago. Instead, it felt foreign and strange. I was enrolled in four classes, yet hardly even attended the lectures. I couldn’t seem to remember where my classrooms were, let alone the room number of my dorm room. The dream was filled with angst, reflecting the, well, let’s just call it a semi-existential crisis I’ve been battling these days: What the heck am I doing here and where the heck am I going with my life?

Yep, I know that sounds extreme and dramatic. And, quite frankly it’s something I circle back to from time-to-time. I’m now at the stage of life when my kids are nearly ready to head off to college. As they get ready to embark upon life outside of their childhood home, I can’t help but think about what that means for me.

Once again, I’ve found myself circling back to the idea of returning to school, myself. It doesn’t matter that I’ll be 50 in less than three years, I seem to have a passion for life-long learning. The only thing that tends to hold me back is the money. Which is an underlying block in my current semi-existential crisis.

School seems a foolish thing to think about for myself when my own two kids will be heading out the door in just a few short years. Even though our household income is higher than most, it’s not enough to pay for 4 yrs x 2 kids’ college tuition costs. When my husband recently announced our current rate of college savings and how he had hoped that I would have been able to contribute more through my meager income, I felt a wave of panic and guilt set in. Every dream and hope I had for my life, and our shared life as a family of four, began to dance in spectral forms around me.

I don’t mean to be dramatic here, but I wonder how many other stay-at-home-parents feel the same way and are haunted by similar ghosts of a future that could have been, but never was…

Even though I wouldn’t trade back my time at home with my kids, if I could do it over again I would have a plan in place for this time in my life. I would have thought long and hard about a career that could be picked up again after a long absence, or one that could be nurtured part-time as I nurtured my children full-time from home.

I don’t life in a society that makes it easy for mother (or fathers) to return to the workforce after long leaves of absence, at least not in careers that honor higher degrees of education beyond the high school level. Nor does it assign monetary value to the work that is done by a stay-at-home-caregiver. It is, for the most part, an unpaid and thankless job.

Yet, despite this, I would not trade in my time with my children. I also know they are grateful for my presence in their lives. As the saying goes, it’s nearly impossible to have it all. So we must instead as ask what is enough?

In my present state I have come to realize that I tend to define my own worth too much by monetary values without allowing myself to accept how much value there is to the unpaid work that I do. That’s where my friend the cardinal comes in.

After a night of struggling with my inner-demons, I woke to birdsong. Mind you, it’s the middle of February and temperatures are below freezing when I wake most mornings, including this morning. I am not used to hearing birdsong in the middle of winter outside my window.

At first I was a little annoyed. I rather liked the idea of a few more minutes of sleep on a day when an early rise was not needed. But there was no further sleep to be had. The bird was insistent, and soon after I pulled the plugs from my ears I had a good idea of what type of bird it was. I wasn’t, though, quite expecting it to be so bold.

The cardinal was the first thing I saw as I pulled aside the curtains. Its crimson coat, a bold contrast to the snow-brushed hemlocks as it peered back at me and sang. It was eye-level. The only bird in sight. The only bird singing. Fine, I told it, I’ll look you up in Ted’s book later.

I should not have been surprised by what I read, but somehow I had not recalled that particular bit about the cardinal as a messenger. In the last sentence of Ted Andrew’s description of cardinal in Animal Speak, you will find these words, “…remember that everything you do is of importance.”

I am sharing them here, because if I needed the reminder, perhaps you do too.

A Saturday Musing on Sovereignty Spurred by a Myopic Meme

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Merriam Webster defines Sovereignty as:

1a: supreme power especially over a body politic b: freedom from external control AUTONOMY c: controlling influence 2: one that is sovereign especiallyan autonomous state 3 obsolete supreme excellence or an example of it”

Simply looking at the above definitions of sovereignty one can see that its definition is, at its essence, both complex and subjective. On one extreme, sovereignty defines power and dominance over others, whereas on the opposite side of its spectrum, it reveals the individual’s right to “freedom from external control.”

Hmm, it makes one pause and reflect, does it not?

Sovereignty has become a popular word these days, used to define individual and group rights, as well as the sovereignty of animals, plants, and other life forms. I have been thinking a lot about sovereignty since I responded to a meme on FB yesterday that claimed that pro-choice or “anti-life” groups do not care about life. In essence, the meme was defining sovereignty in terms of the first definition, “supreme power over a body,” while also defining the importance of the said body as such: the woman’s body is less important than a fetus’s. A domineering political/religious body has the sovereign right to delineate this said value.

As someone who defines herself as both pro”life” and pro”choice,” I found offense to this definition of sovereignty. When we try to define and impose restrictions on the sovereignty of another being, we impose the will of the ego’s striving for control and power. We also place limitations and restrictions on the very complex nature of life itself.

If one takes the view, which I strive to, that all life is sacred, one must dance with the complexity of how to define life and where to impose the individual’s will (or group’s will) over another life. The individual who posted the meme happens to define life at conception, when a sperm fertilizes the egg, yet she also limits herself in this definition, excluding, one can say, the rights of the sperm itself and the life-force potential of the eggs that will never get fertilized by the billions of sperm that will never exercise their rights to that fertilization. Then, there is the ego’s imposed definition of when that said “life” really begins. Science disagrees that it is at conception. And so do many branches of spirituality that say the soul does not enter the body until around 3 months after fertilization. Who has the right to define this life?

This individual’s belief (defined by her religion), in its inherent assumptions, is also limited to human life. She represents a section of humanity who abides by a specific religious indoctrination that defines sovereignty by one specific set of edicts. This sovereignty is also imposed on the populous that does not adhere to these edicts, sending their children out with their holy books in the attempts to sway others to their definitions of sovereignty. Which, again, limits humans to being holy beings and not other other life forms, ranking through a patriarchal hierarchy of the holiness of life that excludes animals, plants, the living planet, etc.

Again, this begs us to question, if we do value the sovereign rights of one “life” over another, why that is so? Who has endowed us this sovereign power and right?

The very definition of life, when reduced to the simplest of its complex form, reveals to us that life is cyclical and never ending. That life, in essence, is both the potential and the active. It cannot repeat and continue itself without sacrifice of other life. Therefore it becomes a question of how we define what is holy. Is the potential more holy than the active? Is the unformed more holy than the formed? And, is one life more valuable, holy, or sovereign than another?

In the meme that spurred this musing, there was an implication that the life of a fetus is more holy than that of an immigrant child.

It also implies that the mother carrying that developing life is less holy than the fetus her body may or may not be able to support. This post is not intended to dive into the complexity of carrying an unwanted or planned pregnancy, but it is worth spending a moment (or more) contemplating the complexity of what this means in terms of sovereignty. Considering, as one does, the will and sovereignty of the rapist, along with the sovereignty of those who strip away the sovereign rights of mothers while refusing to support them after their children are born into poverty, incest, abuse, etc.

If we are going to be emphatic about imposing limitations on sovereignty, should we not also explore the origins of our beliefs? Should we not question whether our definition is really about power, or whether it is about freedom? Should we not question whether we truly have the right to say that one life is more sovereign than another and what this sovereignty really means to Life with a big L?

Joining Don and Wen…

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

I had been living in the area for years. I was aware of the hillfort hidden in the woods, could have pointed out the chalk-carved figures, shown you where the burial mounds were and explained how the Ridgeway had traversed these hilltops for the past five thousand years. Even so, the land had never come to life for me.

I am a Yorkshire lass. The moors of home were alive and calling. I needed millstone grit and bracken, peat-gold streams and a sea of heather before the land would sing to my soul.

Until, that is, my friend came to visit.

It was a day of pure magic and the land, no matter where we found ourselves, would never again be silent. By simply paying attention, it was as if the earth was illuminating itself from within, whispering secrets it had been longing to share for millennia and laying before…

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Castles in the Sand #dreams

Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay

If you read my last post, Dream Guardians, you may have sensed that it was about love and partnerships (the clue was also in the hastag😉). I decided I would let it sit before I lended my own interpretation. Sometimes our dreams hold meaning for others too. To me, the dream spoke quite clearly in symbolism of insecurities I am attempting to unravel and come to terms with: How two people can love after growing together, then growing separately. That union of allowing individual space, while still supporting each other.

In symbolic terms, horses are often associated with strength, but also of freedom. They are wild animals who are often domesticated. On the magical side, they are thought to be one evolution away from unicorns. In the dream, it took a child (a representation of the inner child) to show me that the magic/life force/love was still there, it just needed to be fed. The inner child is that ever-wise voice of truth, even though we may often ignore/neglect him/her.

And so together, the child and I fed and watered those two wooden horses and saw life begin to return to their rigid forms…

Early this morning I woke from this dream:

I was at Laguna Beach in California with my family. The name is important, as names seem to be in our dreams. Laguna Beach is the place where my birthfather gave up the chase to find me and my sister when we were in hiding with the Hare Krishnas. After months of trying to follow the cryptic trail of our sitings from commune to commune, he took a break to surf the waves of Laguna beach and suffered some broken ribs. It was, you could say, his moment when he surrendered to the tides of life.

In my early morning dream, I was standing on a cliff facing the ocean. In one fleeting moment, a scene of pure magic unfolded before me. The tide had receded, and suddenly a world of wonderment was revealed. The light was soft and cast incredible shadows over the patterns of the ocean floor, which became undulating hills of sand. I grabbed the camera of my phone, knowing I had but moments to capture its splendor. I started to text the family, on a ridiculous band of fabric. An impossible feat. The scene was mine alone to capture.

And so I did what I could to take it in. I watched the unfolding of play and felt the pure joy it held. Would-be swimmers were now building endless castles in the sand, their spires reaching to the heights of mountains. How could it be, I wondered, knowing that within seconds the tide could take it all away…

Dream Guardians #dreams #love

Image by Susann Mielke from Pixabay

Last night I found myself under an arbor of branches with a young girl. It was dusk, I believe, in this landscape of dreams. The colors were muted as though we were on the verge of darkness. The space, wrapped with the remains of two trees. Or, at least I thought they were remains…

When I tipped my head I could see the forms of the branches as they bent to create a natural roof that filtered in light. There were two. Guardians, I decided. Their heads close together, but not quite touching. I thought them beautiful, but also sad. As I studied them, I realized they were horses.

Lifeless, or so I thought. Their lips, mere inches away from union. The thought of love frozen in place before it could be realized filled me with melancholy.

“They are dead,” I declared as I reached up to stroke the wooden neck of one.

“No,” the young girl declared. “They are not dead. They are only in need of care.”

And as I listened to her child-wisdom, I saw that she was right. Ever so slightly, the two wooden horses began to move. I followed the girl to the place where food lay forgotten in the dust and helped fill their bowls with nourishment. Together, we brought our offerings to the pair of guardians.

“See,” the girl said. “They just needed our love.”

News of the Rodeo Classic.

From the folks at CarrotRanch.com, a wonderful gesture of friendship and love:

willowdot21

Carrot Ranch

Sue Vincent is many things, blogger, mother, grandmother, carer to her older son and and a founder member of the Silent Eye a modern mystery school and friend and inspiration to many worldwide.

© SueVincent.

I have met Sue and joined her and her companions from the The Silent Eye on a couple or their weekend workshops. My life has been enriched by knowing her. I have learned a lot from her and basked in the warmth of her friendship.

Like many others I have been inspired by her posts about her musings, beliefs and always been uplifted by her regular #midnighthaiku. Like many others I have joined in with Sue’s #writephoto prompts. Weekly Sue has tirelessly supported other bloggers by sharing their responses to to #writephoto. As well as explaining about the photo prompt and entering her own contrabution. Also her thoughts on her life, her…

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When Influencers Become Haters Give Yourself Permission to Leave the “Room”

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

“She’s a hater.”

Three simple words hitting the head of the nail with precision. Driving the thought I had been avoiding bringing into articulation into the stark light of truth. “She’s a hater.” Even though she touts herself as an influencer of positive change.

I had been following her for longer than was comfortable. To be honest, I lost comfort from the first post I saw, but since I was trying to open up more of my awareness to BIPOC issues, I kept following. And, to make it worse, I kept liking her posts. I even responded to one. That’s when the hammer finally hit the head of the nail. Bang. Reality check.

Although my post was not hostile by any means, it was immediately returned with a hostile response based upon unfounded assumptions about the white writer who had written it. That would be me. I went further with one more response, again devoid of hostility, but with a slight bent towards defense. Another flurry of hostility came my way.

I liked the response anyway, but declined comment while I made the decision to wait for one more of her posts on Instagram before I decided whether to unfollow her. Three swipes through a barrage of hate memes, ending with a literal “f-you” to all the folks who did not see life the exact same way the influencer thought they should (aka just like her, I sealed my decision. Goodbye.

I am sharing this experience not for pity or defensive purposes, but to hopefully bring some awareness to the damage that can be caused by people who place themselves (or are elevated by others) into a position of influential power. In this particular case, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the former POTOUS, who managed to amass a huge (cult) following of sheep-like followers drunk on his power. Drunk on his hate.

Hate=Hate. It’s simple math. Even when you are trying to be an influential voice of positive change. I can’t help but thinking about Amanda Gorman in comparison. A bold, strong, beautiful voice of truth spoken with poise, compassion, and grace. A voice of light.

There is a huge difference between an individual who is working to bring the light of enlightment to the world, and one who becomes drunk on his/her own power while thinking that being angry and judgemental is a path towards the better good. One is living from the place of the heart, while the other is trying to thrive through the self-righteous ego. The divide could not be wider, even though the mind might think the goal is the same.

I find it deeply disturbing that these types of people rise to positions of power by others blindly lifting them up. Liking their posts. Sharing. Applauding. While not taking the time to pause and say, “Is this really such a good thing?” “Am I really contributing to a cause that feels authentic and true?” More disturbing, of course, is the lack of self-examination by the person who is in that position of such incredible influence…

Anger is okay for short time. It spurs action. It is a yang force to drive the latent yin into doing rather than just thinking. Yet, anger becoming the constant driving force is never a force of good. Anger begets more anger. Hostility begets more hostility. To be a true influencer of positive change, one most inspire through a voice of truth and love. One most model the change one hopes to see, but from the place of empathy and compassion, and the knowing that there are as many experiences and viewpoints in the world as there are people.

When we close our ears to all voices but those who echo our own words, we only hear ourselves. That, in essence, is living in a vacuum. It is not opening our hearts to light. So, while I am now following the beautiful voice of Amanda Gorman, whom I had regretfully not heard before the inauguration, I am no longer following the influencer pumped up on her own myopic power. And, I feel good about that. I’ve given myself permission to leave the room of the bully. I’ve given myself permission to find further enlightenment not in the voice of hatred, but in the voice of beautiful, powerful, compassionate truth.

Trimming Trees #givingthanks

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

It’s that time of year, again. At the end of the driveway, the machine is parked. The man who drives it has had to move it twice. First for my daughter on her way to class, then for my husband on his way to work. Each time the bucket descends and the engine roars back to life. It’s now blocking the entrance and exit, again. Parked at the end of the driveway it has better access to the maple whose branches are threading the electric wires.

Who was there first? It doesn’t matter. We humans have taken over time and place to claim them both as our own. I have been reading a lot of nonfiction these days. Books about the land and our relationship to it. Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer took much longer than its short length would insinuate. It was not an easy read, just like Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass was not. The words both beautiful and heart-wrenching, reminding us that we are a part of this living land. Stewards, if we choose to be, but always Earth’s children.

I can see the workers outside the dining room window. They lay their tools on the snow bank. A red metal can holding gasoline lifts to fill the chainsaw. I can hear its whine getting ready to work. I recall Sue Vincent once remarking, “I like to think of it as a haircut” when trees and bushes are being trimmed. Her comment was filled with empathy, but also reason. When we take away the guilt and the sorrow, we can move into the space of gratitude and abundance. Limbs grow back, just as hair does.

Yet, we also know that plants, in their own way sense pain. They send out warning signals to their neighbors when they are in danger. Their energy spikes into a wavelength that indicates panic. We cannot truly know what a tree feels. We can only guess. We can take scientific readings of chemical reactions. Infuse our own emotions upon their bodies.

And, we can always move into the space of gratitude and love. Science has shown us what we already know, that all life responds to love. And so I find myself residing with intention while the maple outside my window is getting its branches trimmed. I am thinking of the tree, but also of those tasked to trim it. They are both worthy of my love and gratitude. Working, in their individual ways, to support life. I am grateful it is winter here. The live force within the maple less active than during the growing season. Hibernation, I hope, is a type of anesthetic to the cut. And, perhaps, so is my love.

The Return #return #writephoto #SueVincent

Photo Credit: Sue Vincent

The last star reader was called down from the hills to prophecy the outcome of the divide. He stood on the cusp of the morning, more sure of where he was going than all who stood below. To understand the language of the stars was a gift seeded into the womb and those who received it could not pass it along. Only their words carried forth the song of the light. A light to which he longed to return.

Yet it was his duty to translate when beckoned. How weary he was of trying to reduce the vast into the limited. Minds trapped inside longing were not easily opened, and for the star reader this was another futile effort.

“I see it!” hollered a tiny voice. “I see the dragon!”

“What is she talking about?”

“Shush the child.”

“What insolence. Put her back to bed!”

The crowd below grew angry together, feeding upon the rise of their wrath bestowed upon a wee child who spoke only the truth. The last star reader watched and waited. He listened to the rise and fall of dissonance and sighed.

“See what I mean?” he muttered up to the sky.

“What are you waiting for?” the sky replied.

“It will not work. It never does.”

“Speak to the girl then.”

“Come here,” he beckoned in the softest of whispers, yet she heard him.

Softly she crawled the tangled roots, grabbling hold of the grasses for support until she reach the last star reader. He said nothing, just nudged the staff towards her waiting hand. One finger and then another curled the weathered wood.

No one knew she was missing. No one knew she had left their masses. Filled with their wrath, they had forgotten all meaning.

“Why don’t they see it?” she asked the reader as she peered at the angry mob below.

“Because their eyes have turned blind.”

“But it’s so beautiful.”

“Those who cannot see truth cannot see beauty.”

So the wee child turned her head back to the sky and the dragon, every-so-gently, swooped down to receive her.

For Sue Vincent’s #writephoto challenge #return.