Joy Through Sacrifice


Watching an interesting TED talk today about a young Arctic surfer (yes, you heard me right, that was Arctic surfer), he said something that really struck me–not about surfing, but about sacrifice. As you can imagine, someone who surfs in frigid waters does a fair amount of sacrificing.  He does it in part to get away from the normal tropic crowds, but also to take these amazing photographs. To paraphrase very loosely he said something like: most things worth any kind of real joy usually involve some kind of sacrifice.

That gave me pause.

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I began thinking about some of the things that take sacrifice but bring joy:

  • 9 months of carrying a baby: the worrying, the weight gain, the hormone shifts, the vomiting, the swelling, the potential dangers involved…
  • being in a relationship: any kind really. It’s constant ups and downs, bargaining (with the kids, partners, co-workers, family members), tears, give/take, compromises, giving away parts of yourself at times
  • having a dream or goal: these can take huge amounts of time, money, changes in lifestyle and re-evaluating ourselves for the final outcome
  • moving somewhere new: leaving friends and family behind; leaving a career or job, doing something scary, taking a leap of faith
  • starting over (with a job/a person/or alone: leaving your comfort zone, stretching parts of yourself you may not know you had, or totally remaking yourself
  • helping others or someone else: living with less than normal, learning about other cultures (which maybe is uncomfortable), focusing less on “me”
  • giving up something completely: getting used to life “without”, feeling what it’s like when others perceive because we are now “different”
  • changing our point of view for the greater good: getting into arguments (political/family?), battling within ourselves over the old point of view, reconciling what’s right/wrong
  • coming out: about our sexual orientation, addictions, mental health, illness, abuse, political view or anything else we’ve been keeping inside for fear of judgement, shame or condemnation
  • sharing our home with animals: limiting our work day, getting up in the middle of the night, cleaning up hair, poop and vomit off the floor
  • Waiting: for anything you want, it can be excruciating at times because we are a culture of wanting everything now, having patience is like hot iron swirling in our bellies…the loss of precious time while we wait
  • standing up for what you believe when others around you don’t agree: this can be going to rallies or being a vegan, it can bring agitation or arguments from others, confrontations or simply tiresome questions
  • sharing our home with children: never having peace and quiet (or rarely); suddenly realizing you have to sacrifice so much and become a very good teacher when you hardly know yourself (or much else for that matter…)

There are so many more things…what can you add to the list? And it all comes down to mindset like anything else really. We give to get. Nothing comes easily really.  It seems like many things feel like work these days, and trying to pick out the little pieces of joy can be tough. But when you think about the sacrifices we make all adding up to something beautiful–that it’s the wrapping surrounding the gift inside, then it doesn’t feel quite so much like drudgery. 

So when you are climbing that next mountain and it feels like hell: the boots are giving you blisters, the sweating like a banshee and the mosquitoes buzzing around your head: remember that when you get to the top you will see this incredible view of the world below. Every step you took to get there was worth what lies before you as you look out. See it as you breathe the joy and try to remember that you couldn’t have experienced the splendor without a bit of pain.

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Poem: It Works This Way 


To all the Mothers out there

and to how we toil

and care

would give our

Life

for their life

and sometimes do

in child birth

in war

sometimes just 

to give them a better 

Life

If they are happy 

we are happy 

So Mother’s day can only really be 

Happy 

if all the children of the world 

were

too

Beyond Our Borders 


Patriotism and the ability to have a deep sense that our lives encompass greater spheres are not mutually exclusive. They can reside within one person at the same time. 

We can appreciate many ideals that were the foundation of this nation and have drawn so many to its shores. These ideals are in the heart and soul of most of us; it’s what makes us American. 

But some of us can also can see beyond these ideals: the bigger picture if you will. The global picture, the human picture. And, to some, it seems this makes us less American. 

We could argue about it–and many do now sadly.  People can feel what they will. And many hold much anger these days.

For those of us, though, that are willing and able to be both a decent American and  to see beyond our borders–then if our only reward is that we remember to have gratitude and love, then I suppose we have won in the end. 

If People Were More Like Dogs


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They would take the time to play more

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They would spend less time gossiping and more time listening

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When they were afraid, they would just go hide for a bit instead of becoming bullies

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They would take lots of naps so they would always be well rested and not stressed out all the time

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They would love other species like family

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They would smile more

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They’d be OK with their bodies

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They would learn to wait patiently and to trust

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And to forgive and forget

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They would learn to love those different from themselves

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And that love is unconditional

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That you just walk away, rather than fight if you get angry

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And that territories are defined by sniffs and pee not walls or bombs

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That most of us aren’t purebred anyway, but we are just as wonderful

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That everyone just wants a home

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That we should save our voice only for the important things

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If when we were frustrated, we took it out on our own stuff, not other’s….

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That tongues are not for lashing, but for kisses and we are each unique in our own crazy way

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And if our lives were as short and precious as theirs, maybe, just maybe we would live more fully, play harder, rest more deeply, love more expansively, trust more easily, be careful not to destroy stuff and even share all we had…. For they are gone so quickly, but leave with us lessons that we carry forever.

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So they will continue to play

And we will continue to struggle

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But maybe one day we’ll tip our head close enough to theirs so we can really listen to what they’ve been trying to tell us all along.

 

Walking


During my walk through my ‘village’, I am constantly struck by what an alien landscape it is to me. Even the name of the place reminds me of some sort of Sci Fi novel where you can’t be quite sure who is human and who might appear so, but is really a look-alike with highly functioning artificial intelligence.

The homes are all blazingly white, with only specifically allowed colored shutters and all laid out with the same floor plan–this giving the effect of some weird colony created by Big Brother (it was actually in the ’70’s, and BB was the usual group of condo types trying to create the ultimate paradise), but getting cookie cutter instead. It was a good thought and the prices were good, so the humans came…

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But as I stroll around a corner and am by myself, the southern sun shimmering off the dazzling white homes, I feel transported to decades into the future. Maybe I am the last ‘real’ human left here, wandering the streets, pretending to be one of ‘them’. They sit behind their curtains, with no honest food in their refrigerators (because they don’t eat) and their hollow laughs echoing in my mind. Who are they really?

I walk and wonder. Do they know who I am? Do they watch me from behind those standard colored shutters? Am I safe? My heart picks up a pace. The heat beats down.

Then I turn a corner. Music drifts from one of the identical homes. I listen: some 60’s tune I recall… And in the driveway next to this home, a car has a bumper sticker: COEXIST. You know the one: with each letter representing some spiritual symbol.

And I snap back: maybe they are really human after all? I remember now, it’s 2017 and it might be OK.

As I’m walking, I briefly look up at the empty blue sky above me. And just for a moment, I imagine a huge billowing mushroom cloud. I lower my head and keep walking…

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Let Freedom Ring 


I am a black cat and live with a white dog. We both live with a different species too. At times it’s tough, but we are family. Our Mom has taught us to get along and not to judge by the color of someone’s fur or if they don’t have any. She said it’s what is in their heart that counts. 

She was listening to a famous speech today about humans with black and white skin getting along. She was crying like she does every year when she hears it. I’m not sure if they are happy or sad tears, but I know that I hide under the bed when most people come into our apartment. I try to judge them from the content of their heart, but I still worry most the time. 

What is freedom anyway really? Can we all ever really live together in peace? In our house we manage and my mom tries to keep the spirit of message she heard today alive in her heart. 

I just wonder about everyone else?

Poem: Grounded 


Thought I’d hitch a ride 

I did not feel like flying 

Stay out of the sky

I stand quietly 

Showing solidarity 

Grounded against guns 

(Note:  Prayers sent to those victims and their families, the witnesses and responders at the most recent shooting today in Florida’s airport. May there someday be an end….)