Mid Life Blog

My main purpose for starting a blog at this moment in time is to consciously seek and write about small and big sources of inspiration no matter what.  I have no idea if it will be of interest to anyone else or entertaining in the least – I only know I need to start something new that holds me accountable to seek hope and inspiration and “moving toward the light” of life.

The people and social movements who inspire me will be in these pages, as well as recipes that make me smile, wisdom to live by, books that taught me something, and some factoids about a single parent who finds herself in mid life just like all those others out there, making it through another day spinning through our universe.  ~ (October 2011)

By Erin W

Accidental Leadership

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As I work to enroll in a learning program focused on qualities of leadership, I am aware that most examples in my life of leadership feel accidental.  In the right place at the right time.  For the most part my life has been a “behind the scenes” kind of life.  My invisible job from home or small group office, my passion early on for nature connection, making music and meditative endeavors in solitude.

The few exceptions stand out in strong relief because of the rest of my life’s background.  Like when I wrote and gave a speech in front of 600 of Seattle region’s elite, MC’d by a star TV anchor in a hotel ballroom to raise funds for a charity who had given me so much.  I borrowed all clothing and got shoes at a thrift store.  I was quite literally shaking the entire time.  But even though I am unsure who I pray TO, I prayed immediately before the speech to be used as an instrument for the cause.  My voice was steady and the fundraising over-the-top successful.  Following that event, I was given accolades by a former speech writer for a Seattle mayor and asked to join several volunteer committees providing leadership in that way.

Recently, a seemingly innocuous event happened in my household that made me aware of one quality of leadership– standing firm in the face of opposition to a deeply held moral principle– in this case nonviolence.

My child requested me to buy a holiday gift for a friend.  A video game with a violent title (includes the word assassins) and content, despite its otherwise good qualities of problem solving and even historical education.  I refused, saying I understand people by age 13 in our culture have watched untold numbers of murders in all forms of media, but that I was not going to spend my money on something that includes it in a form of entertainment.  I provided alternative gifts, but there was no deterring this willful person.  I do not mention this to embarrass my teen or claim moral superiority over anyone.

It feels important to me to observe the arguments:

1)  “The good guys are doing the killing of people in history who have done bad things.”  (Hmmm, where have I heard that before?)

2)  “You are not the last peaceful person on Earth, so it doesn’t matter.”

3)  “Everyone I talked to thinks you’re crazy, Mom.  It’s not more violent than any movie I see.”

I would like to acknowledge I am not perfect in screening every last thing my child watches, nor do I have the illusion I could be with all the devices available to her.

It seems to me sometimes a firm NO is a leadership quality, and something in me feels validated by standing my ground for what I believe.

For anyone interested in learning about possible links between violent video games and behavior, reading this was enlightening for me:

Why Do People Deny Violent Media Effects?

These studies show that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others. The effects occurred for males and females of all ages, regardless of what country they lived in. So the question then becomes why people and journalists repeatedly shrug off this compelling body of work.

 

If you would like to support me toward funding my leadership learning, I invite you to check out and/or share my campaign here.  Thank you!

My Dream to Learn and Serve

Intentions Toward Honoring Self and Others

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Up early again to work on a Sunday.  And the Saturday that was yesterday.  And the entire week prior.  And last Sunday.

Everyone I work with and for puts in 10- to 12-hour days 7 days a week.  Because that’s what it takes these days.  Maintaining the infrastructure of our lives has become untenable for so many IF at the same time we want to live in balance with our nature.  No matter the consequences, I do not care to continue the insanity.

My 2015 intentions:

1) Meditate.

2) Wednesdays off to be at food bank garden work parties.

3) Knit for my fledgling business and Etsy page setup: Conscious Knits.

4) Explore Habitat for Humanity housing, low-income HUD apartments and keep praying to manifest something I have never seen – a 2 bdr rental cottage in the woods with no prior cat/dog.

5) Cut hours in half each day that I listen to medical traumas (medical transcription).

6) Walk each day outdoors and live more of the freedom walking provides me.

7) Learn about vulnerability, letting go, living with state aid or whatever is required to put self-care first and stop the intense pressure to provide.

8) Remember my FILTER LIST.

FILTER LIST

I am walking.

I am serving others.

I am creating.

I am outdoors.

I am traveling.

I am now and forever a magnet for all the good and abundance that is mine by divine right.

All Miracles?

No More Want.  Is it possible to not want?  That question rumbles around inside.

Of course my favorite escape dream visits of living off land, immersed in nature most of my days, a tiny cottage with a music room and desk, but I don’t feel willing or able to throw out everything and my responsibilities to get there.

What if where I am is a miracle?  Every breath, every word, everything unfolding?

I’ve been kindly offered much help on defining what I want and how to get there.  My head spins.  Living with want feels like a stranglehold.  Yes, road maps can be constructed and realistic steps a person can take to get from Point A to Point B.  Simple cause and effect.  This begets this, that begets that.  I know there is work one can do to bring oneself from poverty to affluence, from soul-deadening work to joyful work.  Everyone will tell you it begins inside of yourself.  It’s all you shifting.

And then a course on how to bring compassion to the parts of you that have been blocking miracles.  I listen in and feel uncomfortable, because I wonder, what if it’s all miracles?  Self-compassion is fabulous, but who’s to say miracles are blocked just because a person does not live everything the way they might think is ideal?

What if every moment up to now is a miracle?  Is it possible to not want, but simply unfold like a leaf?

Dreams that live in me are always just a someday away and maybe dreams are better like that.

What about now?  What about the miracle of being here, thinking these thoughts, breathing in this time, doing these things?

I have created in many ways during 2014, more than in my entire adult life.  Drawing, learning, photographing, publishing, knitting, writing.  Some days I have felt urgency like a plant that flowers like crazy before it dies.  Pressure to create a new vision because same old, same old feels worn out and uncomfortable.  Maybe a new way forward is unfolding.  I am starting to think it may all be miracles, even the discomfort, losses, worry, financial struggle, even the not knowing.

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By Erin W

How To Videos

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My dream focus has been quietly for years on creating a way to do work I love in the world.  The need to work 50-60 hours a week for most of the past 15 years to maintain roof over said dreaming head places limits on the speed of my trajectory toward heart-centered work.  Plus I am challenged by simple technological advances such as e-mail lists, subscribe buttons, and online marketing.

One successful marketing strategy is to create How To videos on YouTube as a way to introduce people to you and increase your e-mail list.  After all, each of us has something unique to contribute to the world.  Some piece of knowledge, talent or innate gift that we have to share.

Upon hearing this tasty bit of strategy, I came up with the following list of How To Videos.

HOW TO:

1.  Live Like a Monastic Without Leaving Your Day Job!

2.  Become the Neighborhood Crazy Cat Lady.  Without Cats.

3.  Knit a Sweater in 10 Years

4.  Transform Unfinished Knitting Projects Into Yarn

5.  Create Delectable Vegan Meals From Other People’s Gardens

6.  Release Your Inner Nemophilist

7.  Meditate and Do Yoga While Working at a Computer Without Anyone Noticing

8.  Become a World Class Nature Photographer Without a World Class Camera.  (Redefining World Class – Step #1).

9.  Be an Armchair Activist.  Save the World from the Comfort of Your Couch.

10.  Survive Kookoo Doodoo Mountains Life Throws At You and Keep Your Mental Health. Sort of.

Distance Pain and Daily Practice

A list on Facebook clued me to German words that cannot be translated into English clearly.  As I remember my German grandparents’ frustration over this countless times, it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling that different cultures express a broader range of emotions than might be available in my own language.

This is one term that jumped out at me:

Fernweh (Distance pain). This gem describes the feeling of wanting to be somewhere else. It’s kind of like a reverse homesickness (Heimweh in German).

Suddenly the fact I experience “distance pain” most days of my life in some way ever since around age 11 was a flash of insight into WHY I feel compelled to have a daily practice of meditation, a daily physical practice, and a daily mental practice.

I need to practice constantly remaining okay with what is.  Don’t most of us?

All the times I would rather not be in my physical body, all the angst about my paid job, all the angst about where I would like to live, all the times I fall in love with people who are unavailable to me and don’t trust what love I have.  It’s all perfectly described as FERNWEH.

It is easy and free as the air we breathe to practice gratitude and say daily I am grateful for my body, grateful for my job, grateful for the roof over my head and grateful for the people in my life.

It is also a challenge to go in the direction of one’s dreams simultaneously.  Especially when there is no clarity of the dreams.

Recently I participated in a visioning exercise that was to write a letter to yourself describing in great detail the emotions and practical details of your “ideal life” 1 year from now, 2 years from now, etc., each year up to 5 years from now.  I have had lifelong issues around money, but it became crystal clear to me how small I allow myself to dream when I found my future self writing “I now weed people’s gardens in exchange for organic produce, and this allows me to stop relying on the food bank.”  Are you kidding me?  That is the biggest dream I can dream?

This helps me remember to trust Life:

Be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.  And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

~ Max Ehrmann, Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life

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This helps me believe in possibility, even when I don’t see how it can possibly unfold:

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

~ C.S. Lewis

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Creating Joy

I am riding what feels like a wave of creating lately amid large amounts of persistent work I would rather not be doing.  Suddenly worlds that before felt closed to my heart are opening.  For the first time EVER I bought myself some art supplies a month ago to take a year-long Eco-Art Therapy course with Nature and a very patient teacher as mentors.  And then I took a side job that earned me exactly the fee necessary for a course that opened up unexpectedly – a beautiful(!!!!) 3-week course taught by Molly Hahn of Buddha Doodles called the Unstarving Artists Academy.  Molly is a fantastic force of nature I tell you!  Her daily doodles make my heart smile and what she offers of herself to her students is so inspiring it has no words.  The course includes her own bite-sized yoga instruction and an amazing team of mentors.  Learning her own personal story makes what she offers all the more astounding.

P.S.  Molly’s Interconnected Doodle is my all-time favorite and should there be an occasion like a birthday or holiday gift arising, here is a not so subliminal message. : )

I feel a bit like a baby learning to walk as I move pencils and markers around paper to convey feelings, but without any prior training at all I feel like sharing what I have created so far simply to mark a beginning.

Feeling I had when taking 1st vacation in 5 years from work in 2011

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Sitting at beach in Oak Harbor

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Purple cabbage

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First Fall Maple Leaf

Fall

Tea

 Tea

Little noisy wren

Wren

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Doodling my Self Marriage in 2013, thanks to SARK who happens to be a mentor in Molly’s course : )

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In addition, I learned anyone of any photographic skill can post 15 photos per week on the National Geographic site, so I started doing so as a way to cull my favorites and see how far I can go with nature photography and my little camera HERE.

30 Days of Fear Challenge Never Ends

Thanks to a flood of work, I nearly forgot this blog.  For sake of follow-through, I am finally jotting this post about what I did for the remainder of my 30 Days of Fear Challenge.

This photo represents shining light on a fear.

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And this represents what happens as you take a closer look – it can become intricate and beautiful and much different than it appears at a distance.

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My friend who formed the challenge group made a video of her own results here (http://youtu.be/QHq9STF2IJM), and I can say she is correct to ask the question – should 30 Days of Fear actually be called 30 Days of Happiness?

I recommend trying this conscious experiment for 30 days because you may find you don’t want to live differently.  I don’t.  Now I ask myself each day, what am I putting off doing?  What am I blocking with my fear?  Some fears I just sit with and observe because they feel so big.  I am beginning to understand them in a new way simply by sitting with them.

The 2nd half of my 30-day challenge I did the following in addition to other items:

  • Decided to take more time to earn enough to move from my current housing situation until July 2015.  Sometimes staying put is the best choice until the path forward becomes clearer.
  • Sorted through many more boxes of books and took more boxes of clothing to food bank/thrift store.
  • Worked on a public presentation I gave shortly after the 30 days ended.
  • Initiated reading books,writing as I process my readings, and an eco-art therapy certificate program toward my master’s degree in ecospychology.
  • Sought and applied for a Seattle job that pays $1000/month more than I can earn self-employed just to prove to myself these jobs exist, since my mantra is “No higher paying jobs exist that I qualify for.”  I didn’t get the interview, but finding and filling out the application and considering the trade-off of a 3-hour public transit commute each day versus working from home gave me a fresh perspective.
  • Reached out to learn about any nature-connection groups forming in my county and volunteered to contribute something in evenings when my work schedule allows.
  • Learned the remaining 15 miles of wooded trails near me “like the back of my hand.”
  • Meditated on a fear that is probably my biggest.  Sometimes sitting with a fear is the most we can do.  I will likely do some self-designed art therapy on the fear and see what I learn.

Moral of the story:  We all have fears.  We all can let fears limit our soul’s expression or our life path while here on this beautiful mother ship.  We all can begin to transform our fears and resistances by shining a light on them.  Some will release easily.  Some may take a while to disintegrate.  But taking on the challenge is the only option to move toward an authentic life.

Poems in Praise of the Small Life

One of the sweetest results of going through stuff to move is finding things you thought you had lost long ago.  In a little 8-1/2 x 11′ paper box labeled by the paper company “Whisper – Quietly Speaks Quality” I found hard copies of poems lost in digital form.

These poems I would have added to my published collection “Holding On & Letting Go.”  They give praise to a small beautiful life I had before the day in a crowded lunch cafeteria when someone found me intriguing, approachable or gullible enough to ask me out for my first date ever.  Yes, I made it through high school, four years of college and outdoors treks, world travel, and 7 years in the working world before this happened.

Compassion for all the late bloomers out there.  Your remarkable self is fine.  If I could go back there I would.  Had I been raised toward a more religious bent, I might have become a nun.  Or possibly that karma is what I came into this life carrying with my hermit-like tendencies and sense no one else can take better care of me than me.

Poetic echoes of that small beautiful life.

 

One Bedroom Apartment Without a View

This cubicle I
nurture so it nurtures me.
Plants expand along
the walls, hooked
by nails and string
Smooth oatmeal carpet
extends wall to small wall,
bookshelf to bookshelf.
A twelve-inch TV rests
on the recycle crate–
black and white,
a foot from the ground,
branded by a previous owner
with a red-lettered sticker
“This Insults Women.”
Photos of friends, family, Hawaii–
one tan poster captures
a wizened Navajo man
wearing high-top sneakers.
Reads, “White Man’s Moccasins.”
An electric keyboard cuts
one corner of the room, standing
on black legs, a giant insect.
A healthy ecosystem,
closed-loop economics–
the space is swept and dusted when it asks,
the dishes washed and dried by sponge and towel.
Each object, if not in place, migrates
to its meant space.

 

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Cut Free

My sister makes people from wrapping paper
with silver blades.
She folds a fan
just longer than her hand
and slices,
arcing left,
turning the paper’s edge slow
against the blades.

She shifts the scissors straight
to make a point.
Scooped and rigid air
sprouts from the paper–
the shapes look nothing like people.

Surprise is unfolding
the fan to a chain.
Perfectly dancing people
kick a leg left, then right.
Minus mouths,
I hear them laugh and
watch them sway
in crinkles.

 

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Walk About

You stay there open-mouthed, shocked
at my ability to pull out and leave
you both waiting–
would I treat a car this way?  Or a bike?
Any other vehicle might be polished and cared for.
I have no apologies for the thrashing I inflict,
for the loss you experience in your souls.

You transport me everywhere I need to go,
but I must use you until you weaken,
and your threads pull loose around your skins.
My faithful companions, your age will creak
on my conscience and replacing you will be
as trying as this path I am on–
Why do you hide your secrets so well?
I search your faces for a sign
while you sit there gaping,
planning my next journey,
envisioning an end.

Our mutual resentment grows
as I abuse you and you hold your silence
somewhere in a string, knowing
where it is I must go.

 

 

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Babysitting Crayons

Four year olds always give me colors.
Purples, reds, yellows, blues
and always the designs offer Life.
Not life after being done to,
burned and learned.
Life that jumps and laughs and hugs.

They fill in their lines quickly,
knowing they can color another page.
Placing the prize in my hands
they say, “Look what I made for you.”
But why do they give them away so fast?

And don’t only four year olds ask whys?

 

 

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Two things I wanted more than most:  1) To be able to have a dog companion, 2) To have courage and funds to equip solo outdoor treks.  One day a young woman passed me driving an old green car with a canoe on the roof and a dog in the passenger seat.

Alter-Ego

Car-speed tickles hair
loose from its braid
weighted along my spine.
Silver earrings click their
charms in dance.
I rush on toward
silent waters,
canoe quiet.

Sponge-wet dog kisses
graze my knuckles with each gear shift.
Sucia, Alaskan friend, leans
on wind, opening her ears inside-out
lapping up air with thirst–
she thinks of running circles in false-start
leaps through wide, falling, open places
where only white shines.

I desire green depths,
gurgling shallows under willow bough
strokes– a scale to weigh my hollow
wooden craft;
to roll duckweed floats and lily pads
away in a single paddle pull.
My glides attempt a certainty
planes above an orange carp
swagging straight
through frenzied currents,
stone wall shadows–
I am free to find the smoothest motion
inside a swirl.

By Erin W Tagged

Halfway to 30 Days of Fear

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(Photo credit: Jordan Siemens, Aurora Photos)

WOW has this challenge ever been amazing.  All I am doing is coaching myself through fear and procrastination on a daily basis.  Here is a list of not even all the transformative happenings from 15 days.  Keep in mind what is fear to one person might be completely benign to another.

  • Self-published a book connected to work of my heart.
  • Contacted publisher when error was made on title page of book and received free shipped replacement copies.  (Stepping forward on behalf of self = fear)
  • Got self into bathing suit at public lake.
  • Jumped off dock with nieces at lake.
  • Committed to doing old yoga tapes 3 days each week and kept commitment.
  • Started creating a 30-Day Fear Challenge curriculum and simple webpage to allow others to join in and support one another after my challenge is over.
  • Explored and memorized 10 of 25 miles of horse trails I had never been on in the woods near me.
  • Contacted camp director in person to introduce self and leave book copy for her, even though I had to ask four people to find the woman in the pink wig with tiara and cat-eye glasses.  (You gotta know Camp Goodtimes to understand).
  • Work 12-hour days at job when more work became available suddenly. . . Even though not ideal because job causes ear ringing and hearing loss with long hours, it is a stepping stone making cash available for next steps.
  • Gave 3 months notice to move to a smaller more manageable space.
  • Sorted through and took 4 giant boxes of books and clothing to community thrift store attached to local food bank = Win-Win.  Giving back for food I receive while making items available to people who may want them, while clearing out living space.
  • Visited friends in children’s hospital, despite all memories/emotions floating there.
  • Got many inches of hair chopped.  Shedding.  Feeling lighter.

 

Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.

― Jim Rohn

“As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we’ve been avoiding uncertainty, we’re naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there’s a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it.”

Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (p 54)

Environmental Cost of Digital Devices

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(my shell phone)

I just saw a news flash that Apple posted $7.7 billion profit based on their latest iPhone.  I am not a Luddite, but sort of wannabe one.  I have never owned anything more than a simple emergency cell phone (and only got that 2 years ago) that still has more computing power than the desktop Apple I did my college senior thesis on.

Suddenly a question popped into my mind that goes way beyond Apple.  What is the environmental cost of our devices?  I already have read reports of the social impact on Chinese factory workers.  The only environmental impact I had envisioned was the phones’ physical bodies wasting away in a chemical soup of a dump site somewhere.

Then I came across this article that put another piece of the environmental puzzle together and was blown away by the thought we exist inside a pot of water we do not know is about to boil.  Steaming up, up and away into the Cloud.  This was the first time I encountered the phrase “digital ecosystem,” but of course that is because I prefer to live inside a natural ecosystem and am behind the times.

Quite the perspective:

The report finds that the global Information-Communications-Technologies (ICT) ecosystem uses a total of 1,500 terawatt-hours of power every year. This is equal to the total electricity generated by Japan and Germany combined, and as much electricity used to light up the entire world in 1985.

Apple iPhone Uses More Energy Than Refrigerator