Thursday, April 28, 2011

Another Quote to Cling To

You need only claim the events
of your life to make yourself yours.
When you truly possess all you
have been and done, which may
take some time, you are fierce
with reality.

Florida Scott Maxwell 
No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Quote to Keep us Going When we Doubt our Abilities or Calling

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching…….…Whether you choose to take an art class, keep a journal, record your dreams, dance your story or live each day from your own creative source.     Above all else, keep the channel open!
Martha Graham
No more to read even though Blogger says Read more!

Bending in a Storm

Found this essay from a year ago.  Seemed apt for this April weather.

A tornado passed near our town yesterday. We were blessed. Although we’ve been without electricity for over 24 hours now; our home, garage, and cars are intact. Some of our neighbors haven’t been so lucky. Many of their towering old trees broke in half or cracked along an enormous limb. These came crashing down on cars, homes, streets and sidewalks.

I was home when the violent storm started. The power shut off and I debated whether I should go into the basement--but it was hard to leave my view at the window. My three-story-tall Black Walnut trees were bending and swaying ferociously. The 80mph winds shook my lovely, old giants—but they did not break.

How did my stately trees survive? Despite their great size, they somehow were able to bend in that murderous wind. I’m not a tree expert; perhaps Black Walnuts are a heartier species. Still, the three in our yard must be internally healthy to have weathered that incredible force.

The storm battered our psyches too.

My husband, Rick, doesn’t feel confident with household maintenance. And since he is “the man of the house,” and I know much less than he does, the burden falls to him. When something goes wrong in our home, he often panics.

When we lost electricity in the storm, I assumed it would be restored quickly, as usual. But as the hours passed and the sump pump filled, Rick began to feverishly bail water. We didn’t have a backup generator. Without electricity our pump wouldn’t work and our basement would flood. I pitched in bailing as Rick carried buckets away. But the storm continued and after several hours we had only kept pace with the incoming water. We couldn’t bail all night. Now it was late, stores were closing and we had few options.

Rick was in a downpour of panic now. I recognized the symptoms. When overwhelmed with fear, in a situation I detest, I too make poor decisions, creating more work and more stress.

Luckily, at the last moment, a neighbor offered an outlet on his generator.

The next morning, I joined a crowd of neighbors to view the devastation. While the wind had only raged for 10 minutes, the cleanup would take weeks. I thought of the psychological storms that rage inside us and how these too cause damage that requires lengthy clean-up. When confronted with the situations we detest, both Rick and I can be overwhelmed by an emotion, or battered by an alter-ego. The storm takes over, devastating our thinking or our plans.

Why did some trees break? Were they brittle inside? Or diseased? From the outside they appeared healthy (at least to me).

The storms come, both inside and outside ourselves. Either way, we clean up the damage. Today we move tree limbs and clean warm refrigerators, hoping the electricity comes soon. Likewise, Rick and I try to learn from our emotions. We strive to keep ourselves from getting brittle. Then, when the storms come, we can bend.  
 © 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Trusting God or Another Bad Move?

All my life I’ve been stuck halfway between faith and doubt.  When others talk about trust in God, what does that mean?  Do I passively wait for my Destiny to arrive?  How will I recognize Destiny vs. My Own Stupidity? 

Rick has been trying to trust God more--especially regarding money.  Now God is graciously giving us many opportunities to practice that trust.  Financially, we feel like Job--every day brings a new savings account hemorrhage.  Car needs new brakes (3K), our insurance didn’t fully cover Rick’s colonoscopy (1K), little Sophie needed 8 teeth pulled by vet (3K), and last week’s big item-- sewer pipe busted ($12K).  Rick is convinced that God is “testing us.”  Do we pass when the bank account is empty? 

Meanwhile, my freelance gigs have dried up.  Does “trusting in God” mean looking for other work or should I enjoy this time and write?  The question is moot to me—I can’t wait without feeling like a big irresponsible jerk.  I’ve been actively seeking other work.  But questions of “trusting God vs. being responsible” never end.  Should I just take whatever job that I can get?  (I’m getting too old for that!)  We still have some savings so I can wait and “trust.”  But is that simply laziness?  Or is waiting more responsible than grabbing the wrong job—one I’ll want to immediately jettison?    As expenses increase and time passes I feel the pressure of “just taking anything.” 

Ironically, waiting for good things (is that what trusting God means?) feels immoral.  I’ve never been able to do it.  When I produced theatre, I’d get frantic over late props or costumes.  Others would trust that “everything will work out.”   I judged them as simply having low standards.  Even though I believe in God and try to live with a spiritual focus, I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) “trust” God to help me with costuming.  God isn’t following me like some assistant, taking notes of all the things I need and promising to deliver—often at the last, dramatic moment-- when all seems lost. 

I don’t want to depend on God to bail me out if I don’t manage my projects well.

On the other hand, I’ve too often aborted jobs and projects when I encountered colossal barriers.  When problems came, I felt overwhelmed and confused.  I didn’t know that obstacles always come—especially when we’re creative.  Mythically, they’re the ferocious gatekeepers we must overcome on the way to our dreams.  Why must they block our way?  Because--as we overcome the dragon or evil stepmother, we discover our strength and power.  Without the obstacle, the hero is still undeveloped.  Seen this way, I understand the great gift of my impediments — the nitpicking bureaucrat, or the lazy costume designer forces me to learn leadership. 
Last year we put our home on the market.  Our plan was simple—reduce our mortgage.  My fantasy was to move somewhere cheaper so I could pursue my dreams.  I wouldn’t have the struggle between being responsible and following an inner calling.  But, in the dismal market, our house sat--ignored.  In the past I might have pushed my agenda, lowering and lowering the price.  But this time, I tried to watch the flow of Life.  Instead of forcing my will, I surrendered to the frustrating reality:  we couldn’t sell at a reasonable price.   Since we could still afford our mortgage we decided to accept the unknown.  We “un-staged” the house and reclaimed our space.  

Months later, I saw the blessing in our failure.  If we had sold and bought a cheaper home, it would have been much smaller, and in poorer condition.  We would have found more financial freedom, but Rick would have hated the tradeoff.  How much money and time would we have spent, trying to improve the space?   Would we, unhappy again, want to move—continuing our dysfunctional cycle of impulsiveness?  By trusting in God (not forcing my own will), we may have avoided more pain. 

I believe in a Higher Power that is somehow involved in my life. I’ve learned that it is far wiser to go with Life’s flow (Destiny, God’s Plan?) than to fight for my own agenda.  I’ve seen the difference.  Sometimes opportunities move rapidly toward me, and sometimes a relentless parade of barriers block my path.  Being responsible is learning to respond (be response-able) to Life’s changing circumstances, moment by moment. 

Instead of letting my emotions dictate my actions, I’ll become aware of them.  I’ll uncover my deepest fears (“What if I don’t get what I want?  How will I handle that?” or “What if I screw up again?  What will everyone think?”).  I trust in God to help me tolerate these feelings and move through them.  Then, when watching our bank account dwindle, I can admit these fears to myself and to God.  “I’m afraid regarding money.  I don’t want to be irresponsible but I want a vocation that is meaningful.  What should I do?”  Then I can listen and wait.  In the quicksand of strong emotions and distorted thinking, I’ll need to discern what is true.  At this time, in this place, what is the responsible action?  What have my past mistakes taught me about my reactions now?  My mistakes are my greatest teacher, helping me recognize my faulty thinking.   With practice I’m learning how to balance between waiting on Grace and taking responsibility for my life.  It is a high wire act. 

© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Be Kind to the Scaredy-Cat

Last night I dreamed of a skittish cat that I’m trying to calm.  A man near me begins to handle her roughly.  The cat is growling, almost barking with fear and anger.  I angrily tell the man to never do that again.
In my dream journal I write, “Who is the cat?”  Me?  Yes, I am skittish.  Especially when leading others in any heart-felt work.
Then I feel a jolt of remembrance—this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered the “scaredy-cat.”  Years ago, I worked with the archetype and recognized my own cat-like traits--positive and negative.  As a leader, I am acutely sensitive to the energies of a group and can adjust to their needs.  But too often, my hyper-alter state morphs into a paralyzing fear. 
Thank you Dream, for the reminder--to be kind to my internal scaredy-cat.  This isn’t an intellectual dream analysis but a deeply felt recollection.   I’m posting cat pictures and signs throughout the house and will gently cherish my inner cat today….
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

State of the Art Plumbing Project--Inside and Out

Getting lots of sympathy from family and friends over our recent plumbing project. Interesting!  For me this construction/demolition has been a #3 level of annoyance while my search for a compelling job continues at a #8-9.  (To be fair, I don’t share my struggles. How could others understand, if I’m perpetually confused?   Or is it embarrassment?  Shame of my constant search for my vocation?)
This morning I saw the synchronicity--that my soul is also undergoing an excavation.  At the base (ment) of my personality I feel exposed as old habits and assumptions are ripped up.  I’m exploring the deep underground of my psyche.  Is this difficult time really about removing an old psychic system and replacing it with one geared for the present moment, not the past?
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Working with dreams

For years I’ve read about the importance of actively encountering the images in my dreams. Slowly, I’ve begun to have a small inkling of what it means to “work with my dreams.” I’ve come to appreciate the advice I’ve often heard to “not overly interpret” but to “live with” the symbolism. I’ve drawn dreams and made crude artifacts, but mostly I’ve tried to actively imagine the characters and situations. Not all dreams lend themselves to further “amplification” so I’m always grateful when a juicy one comes. I’m thankful for the powerful symbols in last Wednesday’s dream. Here’s the section that has affected me.

----I am at a smorgasbord/Chipotle kind of place. Very abundant, incredible food. I don’t know what to order. Suddenly a robber comes and all the staff leave and I’m left alone in this smorgasbord. I can’t decide what to try and feel afraid that I’m going to get caught pillaging. But the staff is still gone so I go around rapidly trying things. I pick up a giant mango, peel it and taste. While the food is amazing, I’m not really enjoying it because I’m not sitting down to a meal, I’m just snatching tastes, furtively. I become paralyzed trying to figure out what I want. Eventually the staff comes back and I get ready to leave with my tiny burrito that was never fully made.

Much more happened in this dream but these images (of my greed and sneakiness robbing me of joy) have given me guidance. I continue to remind myself to relish my wealth of opportunities, ideas, and impulses. Instead of rejecting this abundance within me (my many dreams of writing, training, running retreats etc…..) I can allow myself to fully savor different flavors.

These dream images have had a profound influence on my last few days. I am embracing my impulses and enjoying them instead of rushing myself from idea to idea in a frantic need to “figure myself out.” Several projects have presented themselves to me (like a luscious mango). I’m tasting each and enjoying the taste without worry. I’m allowing myself to have a plateful of different items, instead of insisting that I decide on one direction.
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Character study—Grace

Like a puppy, I follow my Muse, here, there. Another wasted day. How is it, after all this time searching, there is no path for me?

The church, work, friendship--all bores. And now, even my beloved Writing holds no life. What difference does it make, if I clean the house, buy a new bra, or attempt to write—something, anything? There is no need for me. How does each day pass? Somehow I move from superfluous to redundant to unnecessary.

For decades I had dreams and goals-- but now? I belong to no one and nothing. Bobbing, lost, on a sea of selfish distractions, afraid and unsure how to give. Why am I so stingy? How can I serve?
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Do you know Marlene? Are you Marlene?

Marlene feels guilty. She loves George but sometimes, after hanging out with charismatic neighbors or coworkers, she feels an aversion to him. “He’s not that attractive,” she thinks. How did I end up with him?

Marlene avoids conversations with cute ex-boyfriends or former bosses. These beautiful people stir up her feelings of discontent. She loves George. She’s happy with him. She just wishes he was more handsome.

She is happy. This is a small problem.

Still, Marlene’s secret and her guilt are heavy burdens.
© 2011 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved No more to read on this post. Even though Blogger says Read more!