Comfort

Reading is not a luxury for me, it is a necessity. As I age it takes longer for my eyes to focus in the morning so I can read the small font on my phone. Some mornings my eyes work after about five minutes, other mornings its hopeless. Today, it was as soon as I woke up. I knew it was going to be a good reading day.

I spent the summer reading a lot of stories that took place on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Escape and travel are my needs. Some years, I spend my summer reading memoirs or intense historical fiction. Considering the state of the world in 2020, obviously I needed some safe place to retreat to. Now that autumn has moved in, summer escapes are not really where I feel like hanging out. But I am not yet ready to forage away from escapes. Seeking comfort in books is like a soft quilt that wraps her arms around you. It protects me from the stress of work, sadness from the news or drama from relationships outside of my tight circle.

Often, I start three or four books until I find the one that holds my interest. I am not that girl that will stick with a book for the sake of finishing it. Life is too short. The day my medical team found an acoustic neuroma living in the left lobe of my brain, I learned very quickly what I like and don’t like. I say yes to awesome and no to awful. Honestly my life is a higher quality and incredibly peaceful since I made that decision. Yes to delicious wine and high quality chocolate, no to broccoli and relish. Yes to real sugar and carbs, no to cauliflower pizza crust and bunless burgers. I say YES to a captivating read or engrossing movie and I walk away if it is boring. I applied this to people and jobs including pharmacists and doctors. People and professionals need to make the cut or I walk and look for something or someone that is a better fit. As a result, my life is really good. I think this is called boundaries.

Lately I remember special characters from books I have read years ago. Like Ria in Tara Road. She is one of those characters that feels real enough to call and pop over for a cup of coffee. I reread the book and realized how much I had forgotten. I learned or paid attention to a different aspect of the story line because I am coming to it from a different perspective. I am older now with more life experience. The messages felt new. It was like reading a completely different book. I have read this book at least a dozen times, I read it three times before Oprah thought it should be a book club selection. I revisited Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. This time I looked at it from the confidant character rather than the protagonist. I first read this in 1998 when it was published. I was still in young hero mode and related to all of Judy Blume’s protagonists. Not this time. It was a lovely trip down memory lane and did two things for me, 1.) Made me curious about Martha’s Vineyard has a holiday destination and 2.) Made me think I should revisit her children and middle school genres.

The comfort I feel from books I read as a child is off the charts. My first novel reading experience without an adult assist was Charlotte’s Web. I read that to my kids when they were young. The animal conversations were chaotic and fun. I forgot about that. I liked how Charlotte made Wilbur feel safe and loved. As a mom, my relationship with Charlotte was stronger. She was some spider.

I have been looking for copies of books that are now out of print. I wish I still had them but our family culture was to trade in books so you could purchase new books or visit the library. Sadly, the library doesn’t keep all the books either. Finding Apples Every Day by Grace Richardson or Mom, the Wolf Man and Me by Norma Klein is an ongoing project for me. I scour every used bookshop I come across. So far with no luck. I still think about those characters and wonder if I would still see what I liked about it in the first place.

This morning I picked up a book I had been meaning to reread for a while. I have only read it once and that was during my dark time – depression had hit me hard. This was before I figured out about boundaries and how important that was for my peace of mind and true happiness. Eat, Love, Pray by Elizabeth Gilbert made a big impression on me. It helped me figure out some things and started my introspection to figure out things. Eat the good food, meditate daily, and surround yourself with people you love and WHO LOVE YOU BACK…not those other douches.

EAT: When I first read it, I was still deep in eating disorder mode. Yo-yo dieting in an effort to seek approval. Fuck that. I now eat to nourish me. I still find myself emotionally eating but I recognize it for what it is. The damage has been done but I accept that. My beloved Great Grandmother was round a squishy like me. She gave the best hugs and her shoulder blades never once cut me.

LOVE: When I first read it, I don’t think I knew what love was. I could say it but I didn’t really understand it. I was still doing things to get people to love me. Since then, I learned no one will love you as much as you love yourself. Sounds corny but its true. If I am not going to be good to me and treat me well, I cannot expect anyone else to (sounds a lot like boundaries). Negative self-talk stopped. The dialogue that runs through your head like a mantra… I am not….. (fill in the blank). I learned about Sankalpas – an intention you repeat until you realize it. I am kind, I am loved, I am forgiveness, I am healthy, I am valued… Fill in your own blank but make it positive. Your mind is easily tricked into thinking negatively. Show yourself loving kindness – for real. It is a life changer.

Pray: When I first read it, I had meditated occasionally, usually when I was in a bad way – like going through a divorce – I rolled my eyes at it when I read the Pray part. Who meditates every day? Who has time for that? What good does that do? Well….six years after I began reading Eat Love Pray, I meditated for real. I needed a place to let go of anger and seek peace. Today I have meditated 1379 consecutive days. I started in 2016 with a challenge to myself to go 30 days in a row. Then I expanded it to 365 days. I thought it would be hard but I looked myself in the mirror and and said “Robyn – you are worth it. Do this for yourself.” So I did. It didn’t matter that I was late, everything could wait until I took 30 minutes of me time because I was worth it. Meditation has changed everything. I am calm. I can sit in chaos and watch it with a detachment and problem solve. I am not quick to anger. I see things from a multitude of perspectives. Mostly I love the way it makes me feel. I cannot explain it other than I feel connected to everyone and everything. As if a part of me is in everything and a part of everything is in me. If you meditate you know what I mean. You enter the collective WE and are no longer alone. It took me a year of daily meditation to feel connected. Now it is like breathing. It is a knowing.

Reading Eat Love Pray for a second time should be interesting and I hope comforting. Something that resonates with me in a “I totally get you” way.

Stay healthy friends and keep finding comfort in something meaningful for you. Most of all, be good to yourself.

Sankalpa

IMG_9040

I have been trying a lot of new things lately in an effort to find my tribe, my people, my kindred spirits. If you watch Anne with an E on Netfilx/CBC or have even read the book or series by LM Montgomery, then you know what I am looking for.

kin·dred spir·it
/ˈkindrid ˈspirit/
noun
plural noun: kindred spirits
  1. a person whose interests or attitudes are similar to one’s own.
    “I longed to find a kindred spirit”

     

I have always been the odd duck surrounded by people who want to hang out with me. I am the stranger in a room full of friends. Since forever I have looked for people who think like me and who share the same values.  Sharing the same interests is nice but not a requirement. I have always wanted to feel or experience a connection knowing they were the person or people who belonged like me. The tricky part is allowing this to happen and to force the situation.

I have tried out various groups and types of people and this has resulted in a very large group or base of people I like to spend time with on occasion. Allowing the situation to unfold is harder for me. I want to influence the direction in an effort to find my tribe.

Have you ever met someone that you feel an instant connection with? All you want to do is spend time with them or think about them a lot. Sometimes their life circumstances don’t match yours so you need to be apart or they are surrounding themselves with people who don’t fit with you. The hard part for me is not controlling the situation so they align better with me. Just allowing it to happen is hard for me. Maybe they will return to me or maybe they won’t. Either way, I value the time we had together and miss them when they are not in my life.

Recently I met a woman whom I connected with instantly. We share a common interest and enjoy spending time with each other. Our friendship is new but I have a good feeling about this. She is part of my Tuesday meditation circle and I look forward to attending regularly for a lot of different reasons, allowing life to unfold is a major part of why I want to attend. It has taken me 52 years to figure the art of allowing. Sitting in allowing is a new thing for me. Saying yes when an invitation arises is part of that and saying no when I feel uncomfortable is also important.

I have reached 1050 days of consecutive meditation using only three Sankalpa during that time frame. I was meditating irregularly since 1992. I started a daily practice on December 13, 2016. I sit in meditative silence for 30 minutes a day and an hour and a half when time allows for it – like weekends and vacations. I recite my Sankalpa three times to begin my meditation and offer gratitude. I end each meditation with my Sankalpa and an offering of gratitude. Three years ago, my intent was to be less angry or at least have somewhere to put the anger. I began every meditation with ‘I am forgiveness’.  Over time the anger subsided and I began to feel calm or neutral towards those who I felt anger towards. When I could think about those people without emotion, I knew I was able to move onto the next Sankalpa. That is not to say I don’t experience anger because I do, but it comes and goes like a leaf on a stream. I watch it as if I am detached. I see the anger and ask myself, what do I need to learn from this. It has been transformative and I am grateful. 

My next Sankalpa taught me about self-love and self-care. I cannot believe in me if I don’t care about me. I had a lifetime of believing what others said to me or about me. The greatest advice I ever received was “It is none of your business what other people think about you.” I sat with my Sankalpa ‘I am loved‘ since February 2019. The biggest change I see in me is boundaries. I don’t let bad things happen to me because I say no. I put me first and take care of me. This allows me to take care of others because my well is full. You can’t be kind if your well is empty.

In July a big change happened. I went back to my Sankalpa of forgiveness briefly and then resumed I am loved because I needed boundaries and I wasn’t going to let myself down. I think about 5-year-old me and she needs me to do this. So I sat daily. I found I needed a longer time in meditation. I gave myself that gift of time and went longer. I can’t explain what goes on for me during meditation because it is an experience that no one else has. Your experience will differ from mine, but we are all connecting because going inward is where all the answers are.

I began my ‘I am allowing’ Sankalpa about mid-September. I watch things float on a leaf down the stream. It is calm and peaceful in allowing. I am detached from anger and hate. I experience joy and happiness at a rate and volume I have never experienced before. I have no idea what is around the corner for me, but meditating daily for the last 1050 days has provided me with a gift I cannot explain in words. I seek out things and people that bring me joy. I allow situations I cannot control to wash over me. I ask myself ‘What do I need to learn from this’ when situations become uncomfortable. The inner me always has an answer. I trust my intuition and I know I got this. On my desk, I have a note I look at daily, “I am meant to live in peace”. You are too. It’s awesome living in peace. I want it for you too.

I am pretty sure it all starts with forgiveness.