Saturday, August 27, 2005

Checking In

A taste of fall, this photo, taken yesterday--home-grown tomatoes lined up on the next-door neighbor's back patio. Where has the summer gone? Where have I been? In my head, mostly, to tell the truth. Lots going on up there, contemplation of many things--Should I quit my job? (And then I got a hefty raise.) Should I have another baby? (Husband against this idea.) Should I go back to school and get an MFA? And then recently a deeper commitment to my inner work, which means that to any outsider observer, essentially nothing has changed. But it has and is. I do think it is.

I've been reading Seth, the first book he "wrote" through Jane Roberts, Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul. I bought this book a few years ago yet had only skimmed it before. Now I'm reading it all, and sometimes have trouble putting it down. Not many people I know are familiar with these books, or of Seth, the self-described "energy personality essence" whom Jane Roberts channeled from the late sixties until her death in 1984. I've mentioned my choice in reading to only a select few. Many, I know, would find it weird, nonsense, suspicious, crazy. I have to say I have been profoundly moved and inspired reading this book. I intend to move on to The Seth Material, which Jane wrote about her experience of becoming a medium and channeling Seth. I also own two other books about Seth/Jane Roberts, both of which I also bought a few years ago. One is also by Jane Roberts, The God of Jane. The other, Conversations with Seth, is by Jane's friend Susan Watkins, who attended Jane's ESP class and witnessed the Seth personality many times. I'd like to read more from Seth, too. He "wrote" many things through Jane (her husband, Robert Butts dictating while she was in a trance state). One I'm especially curious about is The Natural of Personal Reality, whose chapters correspond very closely with the major arcana of the tarot.

Just before I was drawn to pick the Seth book off my shelf to really read this time, I had an experience that moved me in an unexpected way. I still puzzle over it, and yet the Seth book, amazingly, as if suggested to me to add further depth to what I had felt, has made me believe there was indeed a deep meaning in it. (I find that with books: I sometimes buy them with a clear interest but then put them away virtually unopened. The "right" time to read them seems to need to ripen, much like the tomatoes on my neighbor's patio. I am always so pleasantly surprised when that time arrives. A well-stocked book shelf can be a treasure trove. I take exception to my husband's belief that I "just like to add books to the shelf." Oh, how he misunderstands the draw of books. They often speak to me initially of somethin I need, but they may also equally need to be on the shelf until I ripen mentally and am truly ready to appreciate them.)

So, I had this experience of a member of my dream group making a sudden decision to sell his house and all his belongings and move with his wife to another part of the country. He had his reasons. I didn't want him to go. I felt sad about it. I hoped it wouldn't come to fruition. This drama playing out over about two months. His plans became more and more solidified. Finally, his day of departure was upon us. He came to group for the last time.

Now, I really liked him. I felt a connection to him. I felt a deep understanding to his dreams, and I think he felt the same way about me. It was a funny thing because I didn't have a "crush" on him in a traditional (for me) sense. And perhaps as a result, I didn't understand how much I cared about him. And then, that last night, we all went around the room and took turns saying something to him, about him. I offered to go right away. I felt myself prepared to say some nice things to him, to tell him I would miss him. And yet when I opened my mouth to speak I completely lost it. I sobbed and sobbed and couldn't get any very intelligible words out. The whole time I kept thinking, "Get a hold of yourself. You don't do that kind of thing. What is going on?"

I consider myself a sensitive person, but a pretty buttoned up, in-control kind of person in situations like that. It blew me away. Everyone was surprised. He was surprised. I was embarrassed, of course. But also inside, I was simply stunned. We all went out for drinks after group, and I acted chipper, pleasant. Yet inside I was stunned, worn out. I've mourned his leaving ever since. I feel as if some part of me has been hacked away. And yet, again, a more rational rooted-in-this-reality of ours side of myself tries to say, "You didn't even know him that well." But now, reading the Seth book, I of course wonder, how is Dave connected to me? Is there some deep beyond-this-life connection? Is there more history there than I am presently aware of? I at least acknowledge with great confidence that we understand only the smallest tip of what flows beneath and between us all.

I was going to speak of my knitting, which I've been obsessed about again. I have some pictures, too, of projects finished and in process. Perhaps I will sign off for now and tackle that topic later--but soon later, not in another month and a half.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

An Insight Comes in the Form of a Voice and a Warrior Horse

How does this happen? Nearly a month of not posting? It's a constant struggle, keeping one's self on track. What interferes? What excuses do I have?

Work is always a good one. I have been stressed there, with increased responsibilities, including the need to mentor a new staff person and also cover for the resignation of another. And I have needed to do this while (1) continuing to serve as managing editor of a journal that publishes every other month (I do have two coworkers who are veterans of that with me, though, and who have been carrying much of that weight); (2) trying to create new online educational programming with that new staff person who, though her heart is in the right place, needs lots of coaching and steering in a social sense (some people inherently understand the boundaries and accustomed work style of the environment to which they are hired to contribute; she doesn't, but we're working on it); (3) becoming the lead on our residency examination process--working with a consultant and a new committee chair to improve the quality of the exam, overhaul the database, and retrain the committee of volunteers who write the exam; I was doing this already, and then the coworker who had worked on it longer than me, who was the main liaison while I was her supervisor and the editor, was offered a new job and took it; her last day was a little over one week ago, the day before my grandmother died (that's another recent stress factor, which I will get to momentarily); (4) continuing to serve as the overall manager of publications in my department, which means all the material for our Annual Meeting; that cycle is beginning again (on the plus side, I have another staff person working on that with me; he is approaching his first full year on the job and is eager and conscientious).

Those are my main responsibilities. Some say it is more than one person's job. It may be, but I am also expected to stay up on a perch somewhat, to learn the art of delegation, to remain sane and figure out how to grow those who work under me, giving them more day-to-day responsibilities. This is a constant personal challenge. What if they don't do things as well as I would and the quality slips? (This is often my perception.) What if they think I'm pushing my responsibilities off onto them? (This is often my paranoia. But come on, they see I'm busy. They can and should do as much as they are capable of doing, too. *A point to debate sometime, perhaps, but that is the culture we're part of [and that I certainly perpetuate, for better or worse, with my own work ethic.*) What if, what if, what if. Those "what ifs" also contribute to my stress level.

So I was struggling with all this at work. The more I struggle at work during the week, the less I keep my focus on my innerwork, the less I know what the hell I'm supposed to do to maintain any balance in my life, to grow as an individual. I lose all energy to be a creative person. I begin to resent my lot in life. What happened to me? I think. I thought I would be a novelist, typing away at my inner thoughts and obsessions, transforming them into something meaningful and entertaining. I would be an attentive, nurturing mother and garden and knit and make my home a haven for myself and my family all after a good six hours of daily writing.

There's still this strong part of me who thinks I could succeed at this if only given the opportunity. Given the opportunity. See, that's the catch. It's just not like that, is it? It's a fight, those dreams. Do you really want it or need it that badly? If so, you will find a way to get there and make that your reality. But you don't have what it takes, do you? You obsess about work and come home beleagured and with responsibilities to your family. You will never accomplish that dream.

Whose voice is that? That voice berates and exhausts me. That voice has no charity or perspective. A different voice inside me is in control right now, for instance, as I write. "Voice" is perhaps not the best word. It's a different side of myself. The side in control right now says, "Look, you do have a lot on your plate. There is no indication that if you quit your job your life would be all roses and sunshine and well-acclaimed books. You need to acknowledge that the horse you are saddled into is tall and lean and powerful and complicated. A warrior horse at the height of its powers. [Ed: Not sure where this side is going with this image.] Yes, a warrior horse at the height of its energy and powers who CAN handle many things. The trick, I see in this moment, is to give that horse a compassionate rider who acknowledges the horse's drive, who steers it properly or at least consciously, and also makes sure it gets proper rest and grooming and nourishment and praise. Praise and love and kindness for its many and various accomplishments, not just certain ones. The rider must not be biased, must not judge the tasks and battles and journeys and loads that the horse is carrying."

"Also, that other side, that critical one, can't get over the fact that I wasn't "given" a certain kind of ideal life. To be more accurate, that voice thinks I blew it and made the wrong choices, jumped into the wrong job, altered my path irretrievably. Well, whether or not that is true, I have to make the most of my path. And, as I see above, I have a pretty damn good horse. It's the riders who are too changeable."

OK. That insight came unexpectedly. I started out berating myself for my many "excuses." I see now they aren't just excuses. They did really happen. For instance, my grandma really did die. We really did pack up and drive back to Michigan (680 long miles) to spend time with our families (we saw my husband's parents, too, and our sister-in-law and kids).

I was discouraged in dream group on Thursday. I'd just gotten back into town, only hours before. Still, I wouldn't have missed it. I read a dream from late June, a dream I had the night after a private dream session in which I read a dream from the night before that was highly encouraging and in touch with the unconscious. This next dream, the one I shared Thursday, I knew was disappointing, showing that I had somehow gotten off track (again). How? How had that happened right at that time? Thursday night, as I took in this information more consciously, I knew that I had gotten even more off-track during the subsequent week, but how, I wondered, had it happened the very night following such a positive and progress-showing dream? I'll never get it, will I? I thought. In that dream I was supposed to be nurturing two plants. I neglected them and then gave them a special miracle grow treatment and trimmed them in an attempt to save them. But I covered each of them with a pastel quilted "cozy" top and gave one each to a different friend for safe-keeping. One of the friends abandoned me and left the plant. When I peeked inside the plant had dissolved into what looked like egg whites--lost potential? And then the other friend abandoned me. I need to nurture my own plants and not leave them to others to care for.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Tired, but Still Knitting

I've been too tired to write, working long days and trying desperately to catch up from being out of the office last week--not easy to do when my days are largely filled with meetings. At night, after the kids are in bed, I think briefly about getting back to work and invariably reach instead for one of my various knitting projects. In fact, yesterday, feeling exhausted and depleted of all sense of peace, serenity, and plain old fun, I snuck a visit to my new favorite local yarn shop (LYS), Borealis Yarns, before I went home. Bought three skeins of this Noro yarn I've been thinking about, Daria Multi. It's a cotton/rayon cording, a feast for the eyes in turquoise, green, purple, cranberry and brown. I spotted it a few weeks ago, and then when I was trying to teach myself to crochet a few weekends ago and failing miserably with anything beyond the first row of a single crochet, I kept thinking this might be the perfect "yarn" to use, since it is, in fact, cord, and I'd be able to study what was going on better than with worsted, or even cotton. I spent all last night playing with it, not attempting crochet, but knitting a swatch in garter, moss stitch, basket weave, etc, trying to find the perfect way to show off the color and sheen of the stuff. I think I'm going to make a bag--the perfect antidote to stress--and I'm leaning toward moss stitch though I did like the look of reverse stockinette.

I have other yarn projects in the works, too: the ribbed shrug from the summer issue of Interweave Knits, which I'm making in robin's egg blue Reynold's Morocco; a bag out of blue Cascade Quatro; a scarf using leftover ribbon from the red shawl I made during the winter (I'll probably give it to my mother-in-law--it's in her colors, rust and gold and brown). I forgot to cancel the monthly selection from the Crafter's Choice book club last month. The package was waiting for me when I got home Saturday. In a moment of weakness I opened it rather than writing "return to sender" and setting it by the mailbox. And, oh, what a shame, I discovered it was a new knitting book called Loop-d-Loop by Teva Durham. Decided to keep it and now am determined to make this gorgeous cabled riding jacket at some point. There's also a cute mock cable hat in Rowan Polar, and oh, what do you know, I just happen to have two miscellaneous skeins of the stuff lying around.

What is it about yarn and all things knitting? For me it's the colors, the textures, the endless fascination with the ability to transform long strings of yarn into fabric and shapes and wearable, usable goods. It's so nonverbal. As I knit I become absorbed in the stitches and am quite quickly lured away from the obsessive worried work thoughts that tend to follow me home. One of my favorite weekend pastimes is to sit on the couch in my upstairs window-lined office, knitting and listening to downloaded programs of This American Life. Ahh, the weekend. It's getting closer.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Leaving Home

I hate the hours before I have to fly somewhere--today to Chicago. I keep an eye on the weather (hot and muggy today, with newly posted tornado watches), and I find myself making telephone calls--rsvp-ing for my daughter to a Saturday birthday party, scheduling doctors' appointments, scheduling a tree inspection for the yard. It's like on one hand I have some idle time on my hands, on the other I want to have these things lined up as a kind of morbid insurance policy--see, I'll be home in a few days, here to keep these appointments and arrangements.

Work has been intense, new responsibilities and politics involved in advocating for myself and my staff. Now I'm off to some work meetings. Three packed days and then home for the weekend. I feel this reluctance to write about what I do. There's no mystery, really. But I can't at this point bring myself to reveal that much specifically.

Here's to safe flying!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Gardening at a new house:
lots of treasures and lots of weeds, too.

Grand Old June Sunday

I feel such giddiness about having a blog. For today, at least, my second day in publication (Is that what you say? Probably not. I'm really green to this and part of my sense of accomplishment is actually just having been able to figure out how to do it at all.) I'm feeling a little obsessed. Everywhere I go, I think, "I have a blog." It's a little like having a new love in my life. And I also look around me, wondering, "Does he have a blog? Does she have a blog?" As if there were some secret society of which I've become a secret member. I suppose this is probably true.

Went with the family to St. Paul's primo beginning-of-the-summer event--Grand Old Day, a huge street festival with a parade, bands, and the first taste of Minnesota's beloved fried State Fair food. We saw a lot of the parade. The low point for me was the huge entourage in green supporting our traitor of a mayor Randy Kelly, a supposed Democrat who supported Bush in the November election. That he even has the nerve to run again as a Democrat makes my blood boil. Mr. Kelly himself was present at the parade. I steeled my gaze and stared through him as he walked by, the bravest I could muster in the form of a political statement. The high point of the parade? I suppose it was the Macalester College bagpipe band. They're pretty cool to hear. I'm not all that much of a parade booster, though. It was OK.

Then we headed over to the kids' area, where my son got a heel blister sliding down an inflatable slide thing called "Ironman," which ruined the event for him. He sat nursing it in a corner with my husband while I accompanied my daughter on the pony ride and to a petting zoo. We managed to extricate ourselves as the sun became quite hot and the kids crabby--and no, we didn't even eat any Fair food (my husband and I have lived in St. Paul for fourteen years and we've never even been to the State Fair, but that's a topic for another day, perhaps).

At home I decided to do a little gardening. We bought our house in October, and the yard has lots of trees, shrubs, plants, plenty of weeds, but also many gifts from the previous owners--peonies, hosta, purple yarrow, coneflowers (not blooming yet), some roses (one that didn't make it through the winter that I've already replaced with a wild rose that needs no special winterizing), rhubarb up the wazoo, Japanese iris, and my most-prized acquisition, a jack-in-the-pulpit, tucked under a very tall old white pine out front. I've always enjoyed gardening in a lazy unaccomplished sort of way. Today I went outside, took a few pictures to post here, and decided to mow the lawn rather than deal with the weeds. And then it started to rain before I finished the front, but all in all it was a pleasant afternoon. Now my thoughts must turn to Monday, and work obligations, and the fact that I have to fly to Chicago Tuesday afternoon through Saturday.

The Pendant Posted by Hello

A Start

"Our trueset life is when we are in dreams awake." I have a silver pendant inscribed with this Thoreau quote. It's a sort of talisman that I wear often, although I'm sometimes uncomfortable when people stare at my clavicle trying to decipher what it says. Strangely, they rarely actually ask me to tell them, and I just smile and offer a sociable segue from it. I'm not actually all that comfortable with a lot attention, especially if it means revealing something that really matters to me (then why, you ask, are you starting your own blog--more on that in a moment). And that quote does matter to me. I believe in it absolutely.

For over six years now, I live by my dreams. I write them down, I analyze them, I get analyzed by them in a dream group and in private dream work. I believe dreams are a profound guide to living the life we are meant to live. I think it's a great tragedy that they are ignored, misunderstand, and largely unregarded in our material-minded, superficial, see-it-to-believe-it culture. Hence the name of my blog, in dreams awake, which serves as a constant reminder to me of how I want to live. Welcome!

Once I chose this name, I thought it apt to actually find out a little something about that quote. Despite a master's degree in English Literature, I haven't really studied Thoreau, not in a long time, anyway, and not very mindfully. Is it that Thoreau is a writer who appeals to those who are more advanced on the path of life (ie, not in their twenties any longer)? Well, I'm reading him now, thinking all the while, How have I missed this? But it was while reading about him that I realized the name is a good one for other reasons: for Thoreau, of course, was primarily a journal writer. This quote, found on The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, says it nicely:

From 1837 to 1861, Thoreau kept a handwritten Journal that began as a conventional record of ideas, grew into a writer's notebook, and eventually became the principal imaginative work of his career. The source of much of his published writing, the Journal is also a record of both his interior life and his monumental studies of the natural history of his native Concord, Massachusetts.
I have always aspired to be a writer. I have many excuses for why that hasn't actually come to be my official life's work: family,the reluctant but successful spiralling of an unrelated and time-consuming career and the resultant lack of time, fear of criticism, etc. But I know that really the main reason is because I've limited myself. Thoreau led a life of great simplicity by choice and let his journalistic thoughts evolve into profound and thoughtful essays and classic works such as Walden. I have kept journals and recorded dreams and begun many a short story (and even two novels) for many years but have lacked the rigor and polish and discipline to finish my work and put it through a necessary revision process and really get it out there for others to read and respond to. (My husband, I know, is quite curious about eavesdropping on what I'm writing here--a chance to read those words I'm always clicking away privately and closing the window on when he comes up behind me.) Part of my reason for starting this blog is plain and simply to address my fear of exposure.

So this is my start. We'll see where we go from here.