What Bells Ring?

Splashes of gold and red frame the sky. Wilted leaves crunch underfoot. The sun is shining but it’s cold enough that I’m glad I have warm jacket pockets to tuck my hands into. A lot has changed; a lot is changing. I remind myself that this is how it always is, and always will be. Still, I worry about change like the human that I am.

As I stroll down the sidewalk in my clunky leather boots, a gust of wind awakens a wind chime from the porch to my right. It dings loudly and then sways slowly to make a low-pitched rhythm. This question arises in my mind: what bells ring?

What bells ring? I’m not sure exactly what this means, but I’ll take it as a message, as I usually do when something as clear as day states itself from a place deep inside. Could it be alarm bells? Bells igniting purpose or passion?

Recently, I envisioned a giant wave come crashing down onto the shore of myself, only to rise up, hop on the wave, and ride it. Then, last night, I dreamed I was fending off a pack of wolves in an open field. It’s hard to determine where exactly my psyche’s at these days. All I know is I’m riding something big. I’m growing, I’m making mistakes, I’m overcoming challenges, I’m greeting change at the door. If you’re doing this too, then I commend you. You’re fighting the good fight, the only fight there is. And the only way is through…

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A Recipe for Change

Change comes whether we’re ready or not. Sometimes she’s a sly gypsy cat who slips in through the backdoor; we may not notice her until she’s dug up the flower bed or rearranged the laundry into her sleeping quarters. Other times, she’s a mountain lion, leaping from the rock and pinning us to the ground with one swift bat of a paw, just as we’ve rounded the bend and made peace with the distance we have yet to go.

I have a complicated relationship with change. I’m both enamored with her ability to catalyze growth and fearful of her tests of faith. Nonetheless, I’ve always counted on her to arrive just on time when I need her the most, despite my resistance.

Ah, the resistance. That dance we do to try and keep everything at a “perfect” status quo; a delicate balance of comfort and facts – holding fast onto the things we think we know are for certain. Many a time in the past few months, I’ve had to give up the known and barter it for the unknown (which has actually turned out to be much more nutritive to my soul).

And so I’ve been thinking, as multiple areas of my life are currently rearranging themselves, about a recipe for change. You know, like instructions and ingredients with the promise of something edible at the end.

Here’s what I’ve got…

Change: A Recipe

1 part denial

3 parts truth

at least 3 reliable, wise friends

phone calls, lots of phone calls for processing

2 week’s worth of imagining outcomes

4 days of setting goals and intentions

45 days of taking action

a minimum of 12 days of rest and rejuvenation

a bounty of self-care practices (this can include ice cream and/or wine consumption, bolting out of town for a brief escape, yoga class, walks in the park and if available, hugging someone you love)

two handfuls of perseverance and grit

an alarm clock

1 part trust

2 parts surrender

at least a few hours of sleep a night, preferably 5-6 (although now is not the time to worry if your cortisol levels are conveniently interfering with your average Z-schedule…just let it go, and carry on. You will survive.)

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl and stir gradually. Add a sizable pinch of humor, followed by an adult beverage of your choice. As change begins to work its magic on your life, accept the unavoidable emotions as they show up: fear, excitement, anxiety, elation, sadness and doubt. Keep reaching out to friends and loved ones. Notice the plot, the villains, the heroes and the scene, but avoid building narratives in your head about what might, will or could happen. It hasn’t happened yet, and there’s no sure way to predict the future. (This is okay, despite your nervous system’s opinion otherwise.) Keep putting one foot in front of the other, focusing on the actions you can take today. Never give up. Trust that this change will ultimately nourish you, and that the new skills and strengths you are learning in the process will serve a purpose.

Repeat this phrase “There’s got to be a way through this.” Then start believing it.

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The Tiniest Motions

There are many roads we travel just once, and there are others we visit again and again. This afternoon, like so many afternoons before, I heard the sound of a voice abandoned. And as I headed out the door to walk in the park, I felt that familiar tingle of a road I recognize. It is such a good thing to remember it – the call to pay attention and abandon the self. To be absorbed into something greater and to make note of the world unfolding, transforming itself into something new every moment.

I’m reminded that we can also be transformed.

This I know to be true: no matter how far I run, or fly, or hide from the work, it’s always there waiting. The pen calling to be used, the imagination painting meaning, the heart saying, go deeper. How did it become so difficult to record? And so difficult to be still enough?

No matter; this is a post about returning: changed, but ready to work again.

Author Anne Lamott writes, “It is easy to sense and embrace meaning when life is on track. When there is a feeling of fullness — having love, goodness, family, work, maybe God as parts of life…”

And when life feels off track, it is just as easy to lose our way. We can run in circles searching for what has changed, and how to fix it, but that rarely leads us home. Oftentimes, we just have to be patient, and forge ahead a day at a time until we can see the light again.

“Most of us have figured out that we have to do what’s in front of us and keep doing it… Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent, the valuable, it builds, incrementally, to renewal, resurrection, the place of newness, freedom, justice…”

As Lamott writes, it is by the tiniest motions that we can find the road again that leads us back to our whole selves.

Meanwhile, I’ve been attempting to leap and sprint, or build a new road altogether. And let me say from personal experience, it doesn’t do much good to take arms against your life like that. Sure, there’s always a time for fighting the good fight, but not the bad one. Not the self-defeating one that demands “change now!”

“If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching,” Lamott wisely points out.

Wouldn’t life be sweet if we could trust that gentle, slow hand that threads the needle, drives it into the dark fabric and brings it up again, changed and refreshed? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to forget the need of knowing how it all turns out? The truth is that moment by moment, we have the opportunity to be amazed and to stay awake.

So in honor of the tiniest motions, here is a very tiny poem, and with it, the recovery of a stitch:

What more am I
than the observer
of mottled sunlight
casting amber waves
across the kitchen cabinet,
and a bowl split open,
bleeding pink,
revealing the tender ribs
of the sky?

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