Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What a year :)

Hello All

Hope the holidays have been wonderful for you and yours. This is my end-of year note - primarily to alleviate residual guilt for not sending cards (I love getting them but can't bring myself to do the work of sending), and also to allow myself a little personal reflection. Bonus is getting to keep in touch with those dear to me :)

I've been from hither to yon this year, in hundreds of ways it seems. I've gone from engaged and nervous to single and peaceful. It's not the being single, but rather the getting really solid about how I move through the world, and the internal clockwork that is stronger than ever.

Staying true to ourselves at all costs is a balancing act - with the demand of constant evaluation. And when you get to Happiness, you have to fight to keep it. But I'm finding the diligence pays off!!

My delectable dessert is to finally not be just intellectually ok with being single but also deep down in my gut. This has to be one of the biggest sweet victories of my life. Makes 2008 a success no matter the stock market.

This transformation was hard fought, hard won and is something of a theme for the year - internal growth and big revelations - and also a culmination of years of work.

Not that it will stop friends and family from worrying about me, (grin) but that's ok. I'm sure I'm good for them, y'all, at least sometimes.

People who take large risks, whether financial or emotional or physical seem to exist to make the rest of us appreciate safety. And while I still love the thrill of taking chances, I have to say being a bit more jaded, works in my favor. I'd recommend it to anyone - even optimists.

Especially optimists.

I've also traveled a wide arc in the career/financial arena - from a fantastic job that raked in the dough, top of my career, to suddenly laid off and looking. A Sabbatical wasn't what I had it mind, a year ago, but that's what has happened. It's been just what I needed.

The gift in this is that the search for my Life's Work continues, in several major cities that I love - Atlanta, Charlotte, but primarily St. Louis. Even considered Winston-Salem, where the sisters live, if something comes up there.

Holding to my vision doesn't mean it will happen right now, so it could be another IT job, or Project Management, or even litigation technology, but I'm trusting that Spirit will lead me to something fantastic. I'd love to travel and find a way to bring healing to the world, even if just one small corner.

My hope is for non-profit management or teaching.

A great part of this year has been reconnecting to many high school and college friends, and staying more connected to dear Charlotte and St. Louis friends. Facebook is a great tool for socializing when we are spread all over the country, and lead such full lives!

As far as the kids, they had a great year for the most part. Patrick is a Junior in high school now, and Madeleine is a sophomore. Both are thinking about colleges and working on keeping their grades up. Both have Honors and Advanced Honors classes, A/B averages and have made new friends in the Nashville suburb where they live.

Madeleine is doing community service work and has gotten involved with several clubs at school, while Patrick is still supporting his Thunderbird with working at Rack Room shoes and dreaming of a cool Mustang.

I try not to think too much about Patrick driving, (he's a good driver) or his grades sliding because of work, or that Madeleine is so beautiful that she could forget what I've taught them about beauty is on the inside.

Mostly I am humbled to speechlessness at what amazing people these kids are becoming. Probably in spite of me. I used to pray with them at night, and ended with "Thank you G-d for making me their Mommy." Still do with my little one :)

Gwyneth is in 4th grade and we've been homeschooling since November, when we moved all our things into storage. It's been interesting, hard and fun but rewarding. Until we settle in a new home it's the best way to keep her moving forward. She reads like a demon (go figure ) and scores advanced in language arts and math. Still, I have renewed respect for all my Mom friends who tackle this - it's an enormous responsibility. I can't say I'm up for it long term, but short term it works for us.

My mantra is "Do no harm." lol But Latin, French, chess and knitting, math theory are not for the faint of heart.

Gwyneth was taking cello this last Fall, but with the shifting we haven't picked it up again. On the list for 2009 is cello for Gwyneth and voice for Madeleine (again). Hopefully Patrick will go back to lacrosse - he's really amazing to watch.

Speaking of plans, we are officially in transition now and I've begun to discipline myself to stop making plans until something definite works out in my career. It's actually another good sign - slowing down to wait for the right answer to bubble to the surface.

I learned this lesson years ago, when making some major decisions in my life. Ever since it's at least some comfort to keep waiting for that sense of peace when I choose a path. I can always look back and be sure I did the best I could, as we all do, whether we know it or not!

My work with homeless teens had to pause during my months of moving and travel, but I'm planning to re-engage in Atlanta and will be creating a database for tracking grants for them. I'll also be helping with writing some grants, so anyone with experience in this arena, I'd love to hear from you. Who knows, maybe that will be my new calling - helping foundations give out money to the best non-profits. I used to have several non-profit clients when I was an independent consultant so there is some sense of how much I enjoy working with people who devote their lives to making a difference.

I continue the knitting of my life, not smooth and predictable but loops built on loops, and often bumpy. But still a useful thing emerges, eventually, at least a testament to the things we don't understand - the timing of tragedy, seen in friends with cancer and debilitating chronic illness or in the faces of the homeless; the moments of sweet grace that fill my heart to the brim, sunset on snow, bald eagles in the wild, my child's embrace, holding hands with someone you love; G-d herself.

It's good to get to the point where Love is still everything, and yet just a gift. It's great to get stuck, and then unstuck this year, and learn deeply what is to be learned. It's good to be grown up, and still not know what I will be.

Best of all, it's beautiful to know that my friends and family are on the journey with me - each of us alone, and together. Thanks for going wild places with me.

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A leaf print

In high school there was a funny spot on one of my favorite roads. I was lucky to live on Unicoi State Park, in north Georgia, and on the border of the Chattahoochee National Forest with my family. There were 6 of us in a tiny two bedroom cabin, so I spent as many hours outside as I could.

On our road, the one up to Anna Ruby Falls, I found a place where the outline of a leaf was perfectly placed on one of the double yellow lines. A truck had come along and painted those lines, and this defiant leaf stayed there, leaving black leaf shadow on the yellow stripe.

I remembered that leaf print the other day, when I was thinking about all the miles of road before and after that spot. What stood out was just the negative space, the place where the leaf had been, but was no more.

The compelling thing about it, to me, was the impact - random but sure - of one leaf in the same safe predictable pattern of yellow ribbon over a mountain road in a forest of deep green and lush waters, filled with trout and the pulse of the earth.

Yellow paint was man's imprint, attempting to bring some order to what is essentially chaos. I guess that's what I loved about that small act of defiance.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Burn Out, the Wall, and Forgiveness

Not a lot of time to post with so much time on the road. In Winston Salem this week, was in Charlotte last week, helping a very sick friend, and in Atlanta the week before to consult for a small startup in my field.

It's all good, but looks like end of January before we settle into a house, and frankly, as much as I love seeing everyone, it will be good to be Home.

Today I hit the Wall - burn out big time and prowling snarling swipes at people around me. I'd like to think I was getting it out of my system, but I'm not at all sure that I'm in the clear.

It was an effort to get myself centered, even after yoga. I had to take a walk then get spring rolls and wonton soup with G to regain my ability to walk on two legs, upright, mostly.

Blogging can also help, since I usually have a list of topics I'd like to tackle. For a few days I've had this story on my mind, and it got the attention off of my b-tchy self :

The story of the F18 that went down in a San Diego neighborhood, killing a mother, two small children and their grandmother caught my attention last week, as it did for many of us. The thought of losing everything material is hard enough to fathom, much less your entire family. What moved me to tears was that the husband immediately forgave the pilot, who survived by ejecting, and called him "one of our national treasures".

What an amazing reaction to so much tragedy.

I also found today a new site via NPR, Interesting premise that we can actively promote healing, and life changing decisions with a campaign.

Forgiveness, is after all, a decision.

Not necessarily an easy decision, but like walking thru a door that once seemed entirely stuck, if you put your mind to it, anything can be forgiven.

Even the gal in Atlanta who sold her husband's collector boxing glove - with Muhammad Ali's signature! ... to her ex boyfriend's brother. Ouch. Still makes me cringe to think of it.

Somehow forgiving others seems directly linked to our ability to find compassion for ourselves. Also, not always easy. This has been a challenge of mine for years. Only recently have I gotten better at letting go of my own often harsh standards for myself.

Years ago I read that the Greeks "discovered" the Perfect Circle in ancient times, and that was when the idea of perfectionism was added to philosophy, religion, etc.

The downside is that we limit ourselves, and others, if we expect more than is reasonable. And isn't that the beginning of hurt, disappointment, resentment and anger? Next thing you know we have something to forgive. Or worse, ask forgiveness for!

So this year I've worked on both being gentle with myself, and my mistakes. I especially work on this because I firmly believe that making mistakes is a sign of growth. When I used to train software classes I once had an advance Excel class that terrified me, simply because I had never taught it before, and the material was difficult.

But worse than my own shaky command of advanced formulas and pivot tables, was the very timid class I was addressing. They followed my every instruction perfectly, lockstep and it made me nearly hyperventilate with stress.

By the end of the first break, I had to make some mistakes (not hard) to convince them this was good! I reminded them that one of the primary reasons to get into a group for instruction, in my view, was to have a "free ride" to stumble, and without a deadline or boss hanging over you!

As for others, yeah, I do try to practice forgiveness, even for those close to me (funny how that can be harder than forgiving a complete stranger). I work to see the world through their eyes, and try to consider them with as much compassion as possible. Especially for my ex and his wife. When we disagree, as we are now over holiday visitation, and I get those too familiar nasty emails, I at least work to sidestep the aggression. Doesn't mean I get what I want, necessarily, but I'm certainly more peaceful, and a better parent than I would have been otherwise.

So too I have to be patient with my transition right now. I'm homeschooling Gwyneth for a few weeks, and visiting friends and family while I can, before we settle in St. Louis next month. Gwyneth will have regular time with her dad again, and I hope to see more of Patrick and Madeleine, who miss their friends.

Most of all I have to trust that even tho the move to Atlanta didn't work out, and the hoped-for move back to Charlotte didn't end up the best choice for my family, that it is all Good.

What the hell, even if it isn't I'm going to have fun - most days - on the way.

Send blessings and prayers for the young husband in San Diego who lost everything in a matter of seconds. His family, his home, his world. May our friends with serious illnesses also be wrapped in comfort and love every day - Cindy in Charlotte, Anne in St. Louis, and my substantially pregnant sister, who almost went into labor a few weeks ago, at the end of her second trimester, Lura Katherine.

And please remember the homeless, especially the teens and children.