December Darkness and Light

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I have such mixed feelings about this time of year. I love the decorations and the trees and the generally festive spirit of families in reunion. I struggle with the short, dark days, and the drumbeat to review the year so I can be a better me in 2017. I feel an odd mix of sentimentality and love and foreboding, and aspirations combined with shame. This is the first year I think I’ve seen this combination of darkness and light in such a clear way; previously, having a big day job laid a thick layer of activity and distraction over this time of year.

Irony abounds as I experience clarity about my dark frame of mind. Every year I swear I won’t feel this way. I will certainly take better care of myself leading up to year’s end, and have a baseline of resilience, fitness and discipline to guide me until the days begin to get longer again. Every year, the same wish.

We’ve made the turn with the solstice a few days ago, and still I feel the path forward is hard. I arrived at my mother’s house yesterday afternoon, where my brother and his family also live, and after dinner my niece had a crying meltdown about applying for colleges. My first insight was that I am always on guard for the emotional curve ball with my family, and here it was. My second insight was that we don’t have to relive the patterns of our youth just because the opportunity presents.

I kicked in to action. I am by inclination a guide, and I also saw that she needed comfort, first and foremost. She let me sit with her as she cried on her bed (after hiding in the bathroom for a bit), and she showed me how she was worrying about today’s problem as well as the next, and the one beyond that. She was drinking an ocean of woes in huge gulps.

I felt deeply empathetic. Her worries, at their core, are about being good enough, about recovering from (and seeking forgiveness for) past mistakes, and always, oh always, wanting approval from her parents and elders in the family.

I comforted and calmed her so we could, together, narrow her list of potential colleges for the simple purposes of getting her transcript out in the morning, the last day her school was open before the application deadline for many of the schools she was interested in. We spent several hours poking over a list of about 30 schools, looking at them online and in the Fiske Guide to Colleges, which provides the ‘inside scoop.’  (I have prior experience with college admissions: I worked as a student interviewer my senior year at Wesleyan University, and then for three years after graduation, I worked as an assistant dean of admissions at Hamilton College in upstate New York. My prior experience was helpful in guiding my niece.)

My mantra with her was ‘one step at a time’ while encouraging her to express her thoughts and feelings about college, her search and how she saw herself. She will need to find her own thoughts and inclinations in this process, something that so many of us find challenging. We know what others want and think, but finding our own voice, authentically reflecting how we feel? That’s much harder.

It is harder still to put our own distilled sense of self into another context, one barely imagined. This is why bold planning for the future can be so hard, and why “vision” doesn’t always lead to change or results. It is difficult to imagine life different from the way it is now, not without more perspective, another vantage point, and a lot of help and guidance. As Meg Worden says: “We need all the help we can get. We just do.”

My niece and I got through the evening, and she went to school first thing in the morning with a list of 20 schools she wanted her transcript sent to. I’ve asked her, as her next steps, to start reviewing those schools and to try to get a feel for how she thinks/feels about them. I’ve suggested that she’ll want to narrow her actual applications to less than 10 schools (certainly) and probably more like 5-6.

I went to bed both wound-up and exhausted, happy to have helped, but realizing there was a lot at play here. This morning I realized how similar our states of mind are. Unlike my niece, I have years of experience at acting as if: everything is fine, I have it together, etc. etc. And mostly, I do. But the truth is that this time of year, and this time of my life, when I am considering launching a leadership, life and business coaching practice next year, is fraught with questions of worth, value, contribution and acceptance. For me, the key question is when I’ll start choosing to move toward the life I know I was meant to have. And then, on top of those existential questions, the days are short, leaving me, and others, to fret in the dark.

Tonight, we’ll have a casual family dinner at my mother’s house including David’s brother Roy and his wife Kris. And then we’ll traipse off to see “Christmas at Pemberley,” a light theatrical fare based on the characters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Could there be more opportunity for light, for joy, and to be fully present?

The light is always here. I have a hard time seeing it sometimes. Tonight, we’ll light candles, we’ll expand the table to add more family, and we’ll remember that we love each other. And even with an old family pattern or two, I know I am grateful to be here with these special people.

My very best wishes to each of you for a wonderful holiday season, and I wish the best for all of us for 2017. I’m very grateful that you are here, following along.

Love,
Susan

Forever in a Day

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My last post, on the morning of November 8, left us on our Nepal trek with overlong monsoons, tough initial trekking days, stomach disorders, leeches at camp, and me with a substantial gash in my arm. More to come, I promised you.

And then it was full on election eve, and then night, in the US. It was a long night.

* Hangs her head, sighs deeply. Sighs deeply again. *

All those tough moments in Nepal pale by comparison.

At least a week or so went by when any thoughts of blogging were about the election and its aftermath. Writing about Nepal seemed escapist and selfish, which I realize in retrospect might have been helpful. Except for my realization that I was, during that week, allowing myself to both wallow in worry and despair (aided by a fair amount of bourbon) while also engaging in magical thinking, I felt I had little to add, especially when so much was being said and written everywhere else.

Magical thinking is interesting, and there’s probably another blog post there at some point, as it shows up in so many places for people, especially under stress. Suffice it to say that magical thinking in this case is when you start to hear yourself say – to yourself – that things probably aren’t going to be that bad, and maybe the office itself will transform the man, and let’s give him a chance. But, as Maya Angelou said, and many people have been reminding us: “If someone shows you who they really are, believe them.” Magical thinking need not apply.

So my post-election mantra is that I will have to hold, going forward, contradictory intentions at the same time: I must seek to understand and try to bridge the divide that is so visible in our nation, while holding our government accountable and standing up for justice.

And then it was Thanksgiving and time to shake off the blues, consider and be grateful for all that is good in our lives. There is so much for which to be grateful.  We spent time with David’s brother, Roy and his wife Kris, at her and her family’s ranch in Cachagua, California, over the hills from Carmel Valley, out of cell phone range. It was a lovely time in a magical albeit very real place. Life has happened there in all its occasional mess and upheaval, as it has to us, and yet gratitude and goodwill prevailed.

But I promised you more stories of Nepal, which brings us to Day Four of the Indigenous Peoples’ Trail Trek in Nepal, leeches and stomach ills and arm gashes and all. A few people have questioned the “fun” quotient of this trip…  certainly some things, like leeches, aren’t really fun no matter how you frame it. But the whole trip was an adventure in which every moment was interesting if not exactly a delight.

I learned a lot about fear on that fourth day of trekking. As I started out my trek the day after falling and badly gouging my arm, I didn’t feel any fear in spite of my fall. I didn’t have the familiar stomach ache, or the tingle at the base of my shoulder blades. And yet, when faced with the first steep downhill of the day, my body couldn’t move. I wasn’t afraid by any conscious sense I could feel, but my body had incorporate an immediate and profound fear directly related to my fall.

Fortunately, one of the assistant guides, Hera, took my pack – and my hand – and helped me down the steep parts of the trail for the next few days. In some cases, he’d put his foot just below where my foot would go, to block my step and keep me from slipping. It took more than a few days to get my trekking mojo back, and I’m very grateful for Hera’s firm and gentle hand in securing my path.

The remarkable thing about a trek is that each person, no matter how fit, is a bit wobbly at the start. Most of us flew at least 14 or so hours across the globe to get to Kathmandu, some of us (ahem!) a little more. And then there’s time zone adjustments and new food, and new surroundings and people, all of which take some toll on our individual resilience. Of course, the energy created by the excitement of the adventure often carries us a bit. And then we leave for trek and are hiking up sheer walls of stairs (I swear!) and sleeping on the ground in a tent at the end of a hard, physical day. We are together, and yet alone as we each also try to manage ourselves and get adjusted.

Somewhere around the middle of trek, we each find our rhythm, getting used to the exertion, the pace and the structure of each day. We each trust in our guides as they describe the day ahead, and then lead us on the day’s trek, and to “proper rests” and lunch at the right time throughout the day. So too, the group finds its rhythm: initial exposition of life stories are exchanged in small conversations. Over the time we become more comfortable with each other as a group, sharing meals and chatting, and revealing more about ourselves through the sharing of the day to day of the experience.

Writing in my journal near the middle of trek, I noted that I felt I’d had forever in a day. The fullness of being so physically grounded and active, in company with the journey of the mind and spirit, is so rich.  And at the end of each day, it was startling to realize that the morning was attached to the evening of the same day. Of course, I know that this richness, this sense of fullness and mindfulness, is available to me every day anywhere I am. In Nepal the vistas seemed endless and the days seemed full of infinite moments. This awareness was one of the many things I wanted to bring home from the trek.

* *  * * * *

Still more from Nepal to follow: I’ll post about the end of the trek on Thursday, and on Saturday about our adventure to Chitwan National Park. After that, I’m planning to get back to a weekly post, barring surprises of the disruptive, dysregulating sort, of which there have been more than a few of late…

Love,
Susan

 

Greatness Big and Small

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Since stepping away from my career as an executive in January, I’ve sought space and quiet to listen for insight about what might be next for me. I know that slowing down, nurturing my creativity and focusing on building habits of self-care are essential to that process. I have listened to my brain and mind for most of my life, and they have served me well. This gap year was intended to develop a more heart-centered approach to my life and work.

Round about August I got a little panicky about the future. I had been exploring the idea of enrolling in a life coach training program, and was as excited about the journey of discovery I’d be on as I was the picture of myself at the helm of a coaching business. Coaching has always been an interest, and I currently work with a few people. But suddenly I felt urgency about deciding on the training, and figuring out what was next. Part of the pressure was the deadline for the upcoming training session, but I knew that a fair amount of the urgency came from an untended well of questions about identity and purpose.

The idea of setting myself on a path to be a life coach – something I feel naturally and experientially inclined toward – answered so many of those questions. But the urgency was self-inflicted, a response to the discomfort of the untethered, highly disrupted, and confusing sort of year it has been. I realized (doh!) that the training and a coaching and consulting business would still be there for me if I decided I wanted it after listening to my heart rather than my brain (and the many shoulds that live there!).

I learned a valuable insight several years ago from a woman I took an art class with. We chatted one evening about navigating one’s path in the world, and she said the man who was coaching her told her to “listen to your inner voice” for guidance. She told him that she had many voices in her head, and asked how she would know which one to listen to… “That’s easy,” he replied, “listen to the one that’s kind. The voice that is kind and gentle is your true inner voice.” The loud, stringent voices are hard to ignore, and while even the harshest internal critic is trying to keep me safe, the methods are outdated and not useful to me anymore. I have to get very quiet to hear the kind voice, the one that knows my wants and needs better than I (consciously) do.

In all this sorting through “what to do next,” I have toggled back and forth between thoughts of doing great things in a small way – like working with individuals or consulting with small businesses or non-profits – or doing great things in a big way, like joining an organization with audacious goals and the potential to change the world, or at least a corner of it. The constant is my aspiration to do great things, which I define as making a difference, having integrity and high standards for myself and others. I want to continue to make a difference in the world, and I know that I can do so any number of ways.  My assumption has been that I while I’d be willing to work with large organizations, I wasn’t inclined to do so from inside the organization but rather as a consultant.

So I found myself surprised by my enthusiasm late last week when a friend forwarded a job description for a big job at an organization with audacious goals. Not at all the picture I had when I left my career in January, but one so aligned with my values, my experience and my aspirations, I am compelled. And watching my thoughts and feelings scramble about as I contemplated the role and putting my name in for consideration was an instructive adventure in itself.

I was drawn to the role, obviously, and recognized the “juice” of ambition the job description sparked in me. I realized that this would be an “all in” role, and likely wouldn’t allow me a flexible or reduced schedule, but that would be offset by the learning, the adventure, and the amazing potential of the role. I also entertained a litany of “not good enough” thoughts so common among us. I realized I wasn’t afraid of rejection per se — I have been seasoned by a career with many rejections, or as I have come to think of them, re-directions to something better. My core fear was being mocked for thinking I could compete, for having the hubris to raise to my hand.

But raise my hand I will. I’ll forward my interest and resume by tomorrow, and see what happens. If offered a chance to meet, I will be enthusiastic about the ways I can lead and contribute to the organization. I’ll be prepared to adjust to a future I hadn’t envisioned but would be excited about. If not, I have learned still more about myself: what calls to me, the ways I want to contribute to the world, and the many ways, big and small, I can be and do great things.

Sweet Lucy

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I agreed to adopt Lucy and her litter sister Ethel in May 2002, a month after they had been left with their other litter mates in front of my vet hospital. I couldn’t bring them home until July because of my travel for work, so for two months they had the run of the back rooms of the hospital, running around the room where animal patients were recovering from or awaiting procedures. Both black in color, Lucy had short hair while Ethel was a fluff ball of long hair, and they were a hit with the staff.

My sister-in-law said at the time: “you’re going to be one of those cat ladies,” referring both to the fact that I would then have three cats, and that I was single at the time. I adopted them anyway, and met my future husband a few months later. A cat lover himself, David withstood inspection (trial, really) from my male cat Moses, who really was not at all happy this fellow was hanging around. Moses brought mice home several times during that period to show me he could provide for me… And then one day he got over it, and the two of them were inseparable. The kittens took to him too: my three cats became our three cats.

Lucy has always been the more extroverted of the two cats, loving to be with people and happy to hang out, while Ethel is shy and secretly ferocious. Lucy took over the role of alpha cat when Moses died, and began emulating his behavior: she’d sleep in ‘his’ chair in David’s office, began petitioning for lap time while David worked at the computer – providing Cat5 support – which was something Moses had always done, and took her place in the narrow space between us as we slept that we call ‘the valley of love.’ Sometimes, when she’d be on David’s lap on the couch, she’d lean her head back and look at him with such adoration. I’m certain she loved us both, but she and David have had a special bond.

She has been willful and entitled, arguing back with a sheep-like bleat when told not to do something, clearly understanding both the tone and intent of our words. She has ruined several lovely pieces of upholstered furniture with her scratching even though she has had plenty of cardboard scratching posts available. She has been jealous of Ethel, and chased her off the bed.  And yet she has mostly been loving and sweet to us and to strangers, and always been a chow meow: looking for more food or another treat, especially Gouda cheese.  She has deeply appreciated many pleasures: human attention, sitting in the sun on the deck, naps, pats and scratches, food – lots of food — and a good lap.

We met our former neighbor and now dear friend Russell (and occasional house sitter/cat care provider) because she wandered over from our back yard to his (several yards down) and befriended him. One day, he approached me on the street saying “you’re Lucy’s mom!” Last Friday we shared our fondness for “the paw”: as Lucy’s appetite burgeoned over the last six months and she wanted an early morning feeding, she would gingerly walk up to your sleeping face and reach out with her paw to ‘ever so gently’ touch it. Once awake, she’d jump off the bed and assume you were following her down to the kitchen to feed her. If you closed your eyes again, she’d repeat “the paw”, and show you, again, the way down to the kitchen.

Over the past year, Lucy has lost her sway belly and extra weight, developed severe arthritis in her hip and back legs, and is now a skinny, tiny slip of a cat with a bony back. The vet diagnosed kidney disease earlier this year, but couldn’t explain her dramatic weight loss (12lbs to a mere 7+lbs). When we returned from our most recent Canadian adventure, she looked tired and pained. I have always thought of her as a young cat, even at over 14 years old, but now she seems old.

She walked onto my chest in the middle of the night late last week, and sat down for a bit. I’m pretty sure she asked me if she could go; I know she told me she loved me, and that she was tired, so very tired.  We have second-guessed ourselves any number of times about what to do, especially as her arthritis and pain meds have masked her discomfort. But she has spent most parts of most days under the bed, which cats do when they are hurt or in pain.  Either way, I am sad, so very sad.

We humans know – if we are lucky with our own mortality – that our lives will be much longer than those of any pets we invite into our lives. Yet we still do it, knowing we’ll have to say goodbye and grieve the loss. We do it because these creatures are so special in their animal ways, and they bring so much joy, love and companionship into our lives. They bridge us to our own animal parts and wildness while inviting us to be more humane. They remind us that being human means creating bonds, and deepening them even if we know they won’t last in this physical world.

We say goodbye to sweet Lucy today, wishing her peace, and with luck, a loving, fun reunion with Moses. I’m grateful that we found each other and that she has shared our lives these past 14 years.

She has been a very good cat.

Love,
Susan

I usually post about once a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday, but sometimes later…  Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

 

Under Observation

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We arrived on Sunday at God’s Pocket for our week of scuba diving. After a glorious week of sun and fishing at the Cluxewe near Port Hardy on Vancouver Island North, we arrived to learn of a very low water supply on the island.  Surrounded by water and not a drop to drink! The universe has since provided: it has rained every day this week, sometimes torrentially.

The diving goes on in all weather, gale force winds or 3 meter seas excepted. I chose not to dive this week, but planned to go out on most of the trips.  Humpback whales have been common sightings, and I yearned to see more otter, seals, and especially, wolves, all possible from the boat.

On Monday, as the divers suited up on the deck, I felt myself tense in empathy: diving is an equipment intensive sport, and diving in cold water require layers of clothing – thick neoprene wetsuit or, more likely up here, sealed canvas or crushed neoprene dry suit with fleece body suit underneath – which is then layered with a hood, buoyancy vest, mask, etc. Getting ready to “get wet” can take up to 15 minutes, and by the time one is ready, the boat may not be. It gets hot and claustrophobic waiting for the signal to jump in the water. And then I relaxed with the realization of how relieved I was not to be on deck, suiting up.

I am an observer this week, not least in the context of diving, and I’ve mostly been fine with that.

David surfaced on the first dive of the week, the check-out dive, with air leaks in his buoyancy vest. Then his computer malfunctioned too. In assessing potential solutions for his diving, we both realized that he could use my vest and my computer. The universe provided: we had one vest and one computer between the two of us, only a good scenario if one of us wasn’t diving.

I have come to God’s Pocket for scuba diving six times over the last 12 years, and I remember the experience of many of the dive sites in this unique environment. As the divers surfaced, I could again empathize, this time with their descriptions of their experiences, their joy in an interesting, good dive. I have had brief moments of envy, of wishing I had chosen to dive this week, remembering the fun of being under the surface, reveling in the remarkable experience of breathing underwater.

This week has also been more people intensive: our charter consists of 12 vacationing people, many of them with large personalities.  The owners and crew add five people, so meals are talkative and loud, and the clubhouse is frequently full of people chatting, trying to be heard over each other. I have enjoyed skimming the surface of these gatherings, and escaping to the quiet of my room with a book.

My yearning for peace and quiet, so strong that I wrote about this vacation as a “misery” a month or so ago, is still palpable. I so want to be home, with the cats, not worrying about restoration and workers and dust, returning to a bit of routine, exercising with my bootcamp peeps, eating clean and eschewing the daily cocktails and wine, and, well, just being home. I have enjoyed our two weeks in British Columbia, but also know this week, with all these people in close quarters, has again pushed against my introversion and need for quiet and calm.

Today is the first of September, not technically fall, but still the path to shorter and colder days is well established as the rain on the roof now affirms.  My gap year is nearly three-quarters done… mostly not at all what I planned, and certainly not what I had envisioned. Still, I have an abundance of observations and insights to guide me and to inform these next four months.

Love,
Susan

I usually post about once a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday, but sometimes later…  Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Here and Now

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It’s hard for me to believe that my most recent post was on July 30th. I’d decided, when I started to blog, that I’d be intentional about it, keep a schedule and inform you of my plans if my schedule were to change. Somehow, it has been nearly a month since I’ve posted, and all without a word of explanation. Intention can slip away from action while still being held in the heart.

That’s because the explanations, like so many things in life, are only clear in retrospect. At the time, and over the time since, well, I have experienced a fair amount of overwhelm: getting back to San Francisco after a five weeks in Canada and trying to get organized and regulated; work on the condo ongoing (the famous “impressive hole” in our slab was only filled with fresh concrete the Friday before we returned!) including the installation of new wood flooring and then painting, and a bath cabinet and plumbing that didn’t work as expected after (say it with me now) MORE THAN SIX MONTHS OF WORK AND DELAYS; and house guests and a sick pet and getting ready to leave town again…

I was grappling with a sense of overwhelm when I last posted, and it only intensified in the weeks following.  Now, however, I’m now on Vancouver Island North, with my spouse and our good friend Richard. In my last post, I described vacation as one of my “other miseries” and yet I am reminded, again, that the worst vacation is better than almost anything else.  And this has been a wonderful vacation so far.

The weather has been spectacular. This part of the world is known for rain – we have been here when it rained every day for a week — and we have been lucky to have clear skies and calm seas. We’ve had great fly fishing for ‘pink’ salmon at the Keogh River, had a few somewhat close calls with bears there just to spice things up a bit, and been smoking the fruits of our labor most of the week. (The picture above is of me and my first salmon, a respectable but not overly large fish. I caught three that day – the limit is four – and the last was the largest.)

I took my standup paddleboard out on the very calm waves on Tuesday for the first time, which was both easy and exhilarating. We’ve also had time to hike and hunt for mushrooms.  Yesterday we found a cache of hedgehog mushrooms, garnish for our grilled chicken dinner, just off the trail to a beach where we found bear prints, those of a mother and cub, in the sand. I am in awe of the bounty and beauty of this place, tripping from one find to another delight. In all of this, there has been peace and ease.

Being away from home, in spite of my resistance to packing up and leaving, has been restorative. We are in comfortable cabins here, right at the beach and surrounded by trees and eagles and ocean waves. I have wanted to find an eagle feather for several years now, and in the last few days have found more than a dozen. Our friend Richard says: “Now they are winking at you where ever you go!”

My main challenge has been to let go of doing, and allow myself to do nothing, or something, as the moment calls. I think of it as being here and now. I’ve had good sleep (and yet still want more!), good exercise and fresh air, and a fair amount of just sitting and listening to the waves. Something about vacation makes it “okay” to do little, or to follow whim; I’d like to be in this place of just being more readily and without the ‘cover’ of vacation. Wherever I am, I want to be here and now.

We pack out of the Cluxewe Resort on Sunday morning, and meet the Hurst Isle in Port Hardy on Sunday afternoon for our trip to God’s Pocket. While others scuba dive this coming week, I will have more time to practice laying low, following my mood and wants, enjoying the beauty of British Columbia. It is my intention to post next Wednesday, and to reflect on what my ‘here and now’ is then.

Love,
Susan

I usually post about once a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday, but sometimes, like today, on Fridays… I’m coming off a month of quiet and hope to post regularly again. Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

Violence, Paralysis, and Hope

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It has been two weeks since I last posted, and I have struggled to identify what to write. My guiding principle is always to write what is on my mind, that way I can always be authentic and try to find a way to put words to even my most confusing times.  Here is what has been on my mind, and what I have wanted to write about… but haven’t.

July 5 – the killing by police of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge Louisiana
July 7 – the killing by police of Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota
July 7 – the killing of policemen Lorne Aherns, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa by a sniper in Dallas, Texas
July 13 – the sight of a pod of 10 orca swimming north through Christie Pass, in front of God’s Pocket, completing sightings of the “big seven” over the month (bald eagle, humpback whale, otter, seal, sea lion, wolf and orca). Later that morning, on our way to check the crab pots, we saw a gray whale swim right near our skiff, passing with a different pace and breath than humpbacks do
July 14 – leaving God’s Pocket after a month for our return to the US, and a few days with our friend Elizabeth in West Seattle
July 14 – the killing of 84 people in Nice, France on Bastille Day by a terrorist in a truck  July 15 – news that the 30 inch hole in the concrete slab in our condo had finally been filled with fresh concrete, after 3 ¼ months
July 17 – the long drive from Seattle to San Francisco: we made it in 12 hours 59 minutes  July 18 – the ambush of police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resulting in three dead: Montrell Jackman, Matthew Gerald, Brad Garafola
July 18-21 – the Republican National Convention, and Trump’s official nomination for the presidency
July 18-22 – the chaos of getting home, our condo still a construction zone, and the intensity of city life on the senses after the quiet and peace of God’s Pocket
July 20 – inconclusive blood test results for our cat Lucy who has lost yet another 1.5 lbs since May, and is down to 7.2 lbs. We had hoped for hyperthyroidism, since there’s treatment for that
July 21 – Lucy gets an ultra sound and has an enlarged spleen. She may have mast cell growth or maybe lymphoma. If the former, there are treatments, including a spleen-ectomy; if the latter, we will love her until she dies
July 22 – Opening 25 boxes of ‘refugee stuff’ from our condo from before the 2nd floor restoration (May 23rd with the expectation that we’d have it back out of storage within 3 weeks) looking for a printer cable from David’s office and the charger for my camera batteries. Needle in a haystack but we found them, and were able to move a lot of 2nd floor things back to the condo. My instinct is to put everything in the dumpster.
July 22 – the killing of 9 people in Munich, Germany by a (terrorist) gunman

I list the names of the dead in the police incidents because I want them to be real for me, to know that all were someone’s child, all loved and were loved by others. I want to honor their lives in this small way, knowing that their deaths would be felt acutely by many.

What has been on my mind is a mix of the quotidian and the basics of my life, and the bigger issues that demand my attention, demand our response as citizens. What to think about the violence that has taken over our national and international experience and narrative? More importantly, what to do?

I found these two recent blog posts, by writers I follow, to be useful to me, so I share them in that spirit:

For my part, I have felt a bit paralyzed, and not just about what to post. I have been deeply troubled by the national and international news, and I keep hoping for a few days of quiet and peace on that front. Personally, I’ve felt stuck: I’ve hardly exercised – except for moving heavy boxes – and have slept poorly. I know that self-care matters even it if doesn’t change the world.  I’ve also had flashes of joy – like Lucy stretched out with her arms over her head between me and David at night in bed in “the valley of love” – and been in awe of nature.  I have experienced quiet moments of peace, and recognize the grace in that; not everyone can say that.

None of those good things came from the Republican Convention. Although I have generally felt it would be wise to stay away from politics in my blog, I find I can’t.  I find Trump appalling, even as I understand the anger and disruption in the lives of some people who have become his supporters. I just don’t believe the narrative and the tone is helpful to progress, or to national unity, or frankly, to a just and civil society.

I was reminded the other day of a moment years ago, stunning in the shame response it created in me, when I expressed my disdain for the reality show “Survivor.” I commented that I thought the show brought out the worst in people, both on the show and in viewers. The husband of a friend of mine, someone I didn’t know well but had respected for his position in academia, said “oh, poor baby – you can’t handle it!” As if “handling it” was better than wishing human nature – human behavior, in any event – weren’t so bald or crude. I chose to hope that we can all be better than our baser instincts.

I’m off to the Russian River tomorrow for a long weekend with my women’s group: stand-up paddle boarding, walks and wine, and generally hanging out and being together. I’m looking forward to it, even it means being away from home (again!). I know we’ll talk about how we each want to navigate our lives internally and in the world in this moment. And we’ll share laughter, wisdom and hope.

Love,
Susan

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