The mornings are brighter; the days, longer. Hope steals into my life.
My last entry was dark. I think it is important to note the dark and I think it is worthwhile to sit in the dark when you know you have the strength to stand and turn to the light. Leave some breadcrumbs, both ways.
I do have some resolutions for the new year. Let me speak your name. I have intentions for 2021. Anyone with a past in sales is accustomed to goal setting. Several of my notable goals will be achieved in 2021 because of work I did last year. I have additional goals for this year. I have stretch goals, too. Stretch goals are there for additional challenge and additional reward. You won’t get fired if you don’t hit your stretch goals, but you’ll be rewarded if you do. I have Pandemic stretch goals. I have Holiday stretch goals. With my CRB days gone, rewards might be harder to generate; though actually, the attainment of these goals manifests its own reward.
Resolutions are not stretch goals – they’re straight up targets. Not that I can get fired from the job of living my best life if I don’t hit my targets. It’s important always to recognise that these targets are flexible, editable, subject to change. I do not know where I will be working or living at the end of 2021; this makes visualising harder. I will trust that my family, social, spiritual, financial, and artistic lives will take care of themselves without goals or resolutions.
Lose net 10 pounds, which brings me to a healthy maintenance weight. In 2020 I gained 10 pounds, and I lost 15.
Develop a plan by which to gain the strength needed to prevent injury. I’ve noticed that it’s easier to hurt myself now, and harder to heal. Again, and always, I am so glad I reveled in my youth when I had it.
Open my psychotherapy practice and have one – or more! – client. It sounds like a small goal but there are ten times a kabillion things to learn before opening such a business.
Related; drop the “Qualifying” from the ‘Registered Psychotherapist’ designation I have just applied for.
Have Valentine certified as a therapy dog. We both need training.
Develop an Obsidian practice that incorporates books read, lectures intended, process journal, research notes, and more.
It is the end of the year, in the way that we mark time and define years in Canada. I’ve always marked the turning of the year, while also believing that time is an invented construct and essentially meaningless. Holding and celebrating opposing points of view is how I do life.
By the time I finish writing this I hope to have thought of a photo to take that somehow summarizes how I feel in this moment. I thought of taking a picture of the truly excellent pizza I had DoorDash bring me, but by the time I had this thought, the pizza was no longer intact. Yes, I ordered in dinner this evening. We’re asked to do so, to help support local business. We’re asked to buy our drinks from local producers – my Milky Milk Stout is from TWB. We’re asked to stay home, which is pretty easy when DoorDash delivers and I can play an online escape room with my family. Doing the right thing is so easy, eh?
I mean, it is if you have privilege. If you work from home and have sufficient funds to pay people to cook food and bring it to you, it’s so easy to do the right thing. I tried and tried to think of light new years thoughts but right now people with ample privilege are predrinking before new years gatherings, and the callous, selfish misuse of privilege enervates me. I don’t KNOW this is true, that revel rousers are gathering, but whenever we’re asked to not gather, cases of COVID 19 go up anyway. In 2020 I put down my rose coloured glasses and because I’m in my fifties, I can’t remember where I put them.
I am enjoying my pizza and beer. I will enjoy an online escape room, and I will marvel at the fabulous technology that makes it possible. We are so blessed. We are some of us so blessed.
Posts are appearing denouncing 2020 and anticipating 2021; I do not feel this. There is no magic to the new year. Tomorrow, the CBC will report on the toll of unfortunates who did not live to see the turning of the year. As I type this someone in Canada is dying of a preventable disease. Still, I will make merry, if quietly and alone. I have always been skilled at appreciating the little things and enjoying the moment. This year that became more difficult – not because the moments weren’t there, honestly, there is an ever present abundance of beautiful moments – but because in 2020 I became much more aware of the tapestry of suffering these moments adorn.
In 2021 it won’t be magically easier to live as a BIPOC citizen in our country, nor in the chaos state below us. Women will still be raped and abused in shocking numbers. Opioid deaths will keep making news but somehow this news will not effect change. Generations in Indigenous communities will still wonder what it would be like to have clean tap water.
2021 will also bring vaccinations, and stories of people helping each other heal and recover. Everywhere, life is full of heroism. The Earth will keep spinning and summer will return and it will be safe to sing and dance once again. 2021 will hand us back our baskets of all we have been missing, and smile, and tell us it is safe to be the way we once were.
I want to hold each item in that basket and ask myself if it sparks joy. Will this relic of the beforetimes bring joy to my life in the After, or will it only distract me from the truths 2020 exposed to those not living them? With great power comes great responsibility they say. With great privilege comes great obligation. We have learned that the responsibility and the obligation are by choice only; nobody requires you to be a good person and there are rewards for discarding any sense of requirement.
I’m simply a changed person and the things in that basket might not fit. I am a changed person from before starting grad school; that isolation and that education changed me. The isolation of the pandemic has changed me that much more. I am perhaps simply more myself and I feel changed because I had been so accustomed to my many social masks. If we have not spoken for a while, we may need to be reacquainted when all of <<this>> is over. Some time next year, maybe.
It’s been a year since I dropped all my fucks; has it ever been a year. Not that I DNGAF about anything. I donate monthly to a fund supporting the legal costs of Black citizens in Toronto. I strive to minimize my environmental impact, and I am putting my all into building a career of helping people suffer less. I just might not start shaving my legs again.
That’s the lightest note I can muster. Stay home. Shop local. Be kind. I love you.
Can we tell where our journeys begin? Did this journey begin on my first day of Grad school, excited, nervous, and unsure of where to park? Was it during the application process, with me attempting to generate a sample of academic writing after being out of school for over two decades? When I quit the bank, when I graduated with a BSc in Psychology, or when I asked my childhood therapist “So is this what you do all day, just talk to people?”
No beginning and no end… ah now where is that from? Yes, yes – it’s a Hawksley Workman song – lalala “don’t dive shallow, in deep dark waters…”
No end because they need to accept my application and that takes months. No end because I have one more term of school, because I need 225 more client hours to drop the “Qualifying” from the title I’ve just applied for. No end because I want to grow in this career until I die. Are we going to get literal here; are we going to get metaphysical? There is never an end when your work lives on as hope and happiness that will radiate, radiate, spread and grow. There is no end, there is no beginning. No shallow diving here.
It’s a significant trail marker. I made it this far. I’ve got the next bit of the trail mapped out, waiting for Christmas to come and go, a breather in the expanse of middle ground. Time for some metaphysical GORP and holiday cheer.
In the story of the Pentecost, I am drawn to the experience of those who received the flame of the Spirit and then, suddenly, they could converse and praise their God in languages formerly not their own.
Before being licked awake by flames from the divine, were they praying with eyes closed? Were they heavy lidded and desiring knowledge and understanding? How does this feel in their brains, this wash of knowledge and ability? I think it would be akin to how some psychoactive drugs must feel.
Or how about Paul who used to go by Saul? He was blithely on his way to persecute more followers of Jesus and then, “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him” (Acts 9:3). He falls down blind and Jesus speaks to him inside his mind. Saul/Paul is instantly changed. Jesus tells him where to go and what to do and he is obedient and dedicates his every remaining day to serving Jesus.
Life will never be the same. What was happening in HIS brain? Here is the moment of his change; before this was he laughing? Telling a joke about Jesus freaks? After the flash of light and voice of Jesus, did Paul have a moment of “What the…?” Did he have to try to accept his changed state, or was he so changed, that it seemed obvious that this would be his new reality?
One thing that did not change for Paul is a near obsession on Jesus. He thought about Jesus and his followers all the time before the conversion. He thought about them just as much afterwards. Similarly, those present and affected at Pentecost were already followers of Jesus. In both stories, those affected were focusing hard on the thing that eventually changed them.
Now to be even more flippant and irreverent. I think the same applies to the concepts of flow, and about my learning juggling. I’ve been thinking about juggling, using my mind and my body-mind. It’s been weeks of thinkinging juggling juggling juggling.
This morning I picked up the balls and then, suddenly caught 53 throws of a three ball cascade.
Yesterday I was trying to connect to the emotional state of a client and I opened my mouth, not knowing what to say and then, suddenly, the right words fell out.
It’s not a flash of divinity – but I think it lands in the same spectrum of experience. And in a thematically beautiful flash of inspiration I recalled these images of Paul and of the Pentecost. Now, I have this paper to write that is actually past due because in a flurry of changed due dates, I got confused. Maybe though, maybe I needed this small dose of divine inspiration to finally get me writing.
I must have blinked once or twice; July is almost over. Classes are over I haven’t written anything remotely academic for two weeks. I’ve been learning new skills and engaging in almost daily new challenges. I volunteer for the Crisis Text Line once a week. I have psychotherapy clients over phone or video through my internship. I’ve been practicing juggling for the theology class that ended <time has lost meaning> months or weeks or ten years ago. I get afraid the new skills won’t stick – I’ll forget to write a paper when I try to write the juggling / spirit / community paper.
My puppy Valentine has been learning new tricks as well. Some of them are not entirely welcome; he has recently learned the trick of barking incredibly loudly without stopping at anyone who stops by to visit in the backyard. But he has also learned to jump through a hoop!
Which is to say I taught him to jump through a hoop, meaning I learned how to teach my dog to jump through a hoop. When the hoop and the kibble come out, he concentrates his energy on waiting for the command and then jumping through the hoop, and then getting his reward of kibble and praise. Nothing else matters. He’s a dog of course – what else could matter? I find I learn best of perform best when I can get into that single minded focus. When everything else drops away and nothing else matters and the essence of my mind and being is aligned with my purpose. Since COVID, and the requirement to learn and achieve all things in the same space, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to get that keen focus. That Mind of Dog. In the juggling, in my classes, in my job, internship, and volunteering; it is so hard to prevent the stressful elements of one from distracting me while I try to engage in another. I need a hoop and some kibble I guess.
What I need is community, and not online. I need a variety of spaces to live my life in again. We all need these things, to differing degrees. I find that this is another area where spirit and community are entangled. As community recedes, it is easy for spirits to fade. In our course we learned that for many cultures, community was needed to fully engage with the Divine, as each community perceived the Divine to be. Maybe this is true for reaching transcendent states in learning or arts or psychotherapy. Maybe we can’t always do our best work alone. We need someone to hold the hoop for us, so we can focus on the jumping.
*I wrote this last night but was so tired I forgot to hit publish twice!
Video four done and we are ALMOST at the point of juggling with three balls. The rest of the videos aren’t up yet though, so I will have to get my daughter to teach me the rest in person. I just checked; my three-ball cascade has not improved. It’s something I learned years ago and just do the same way, when I do it. I think my core skills of throwing and catching are better, but now I’ve added thinking about it which negates the improvement in core skills.
Thinking about it is the challenge. Thinking about the ways that we do habitual actions can be a stumbling block, but it’s one we need to acknowledge and challenge if we want to change our behaviours or thoughts. If I want to get past 28 catches in a three-ball cascade, I am going to think about how I throw and catch and build better physical behaviours around those skills. If I want to lose weight as a middle-aged human, I’m going to have to think about my eating and fitness behaviours and understand them to rewrite them.
By the time I submit this assignment, I will not have mastered this skill. I’ll still be thinking about it. When my proficiency is such that I can perform the three-ball cascade with few drops and without thinking about it, I believe I will experience this as transcendent. I will have reached beyond effort and struggle by going through effort and struggle, and will have arrived in a place of flow. This flow state is one of “optimal experience” which author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as “when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (Flow, 1990. Harper & Row, New York: NY, pg 5). I have enjoyed such optimal experience before in writing, acting, providing counseling, sports, and other arenas.
My experience of flow state has been akin to the spiritual state of transcendence. It is a mind state, a spirit state, an internal space where we touch Spirit, as we conceive Spirit to be. It is a state of harmony and ease; it is being one with everything. Which leads to the inevitable question:
What did the Buddhist monk say to the hot dog vendor?
I’ve taken in another instructional video and I continue to practice throwing the juggling balls to the appropriate height, and having them land <thudthud> in my hands. The videos are at a two-ball cascade right now; I tested my three-ball cascade to see if it has improved through my efforts. It has not. I’m OK with that. My life continues to be busy with counseling clients in my internship, getting back to working my actual job, and volunteering for the Crisis Text Line. Throwing and catching balls <thudthud> is a rhythmic escape.
I’ve been wondering if this academic adventure was going to skew more to Spirit or to Community. I honestly suspected community, as there is an active and vibrant juggling community. My daughter engages with her juggling and circus communities at least weekly online. For me though, the throwing and catching of balls <thudthud> blends well with isolation. I mostly prefer to spend the bulk of my time alone; I’m adept at entertaining myself.
I’m generally also skilled at keeping my spirit buoyed. This pandemic is challenging. Increasingly, clients are having panic attacks. People call in not knowing if they are angry or depressed; their emotions are confusing and scary. The ambiguous loss of not knowing when we will hug our friends again has gone to a more threatening despondency of accepting we might never. Sometimes, out of nowhere, I am angry, or frustrated, or hopeless. I’ll have a good flow happening, keeping my spirit up and pressing onward, throwing and catching my ambitions and intentions and then <thudthud> one fumble and they tumble to the ground.
In the instructional videos, to perfect the throws, you deliberately let the balls land on the ground. The placement of dropped balls gives you information of how they were thrown, and the transit they took before falling. When our spirits drop, can we learn from how they fall and where they land? Tracing their path from their drop spots, we might see what tripped us up; perfectionism perhaps, or maybe a tendency to doubt ourselves. “I should be exercising more with this free time” “They probably wouldn’t pick me for that job anyway.” <thudthud>
We can pick those balls back up. We can try again. We’ll drop them again. We can keep trying.
It might not be the Holy Spirit, but it’s sure the human spirit – and by my reckoning, that’s divinity enough.
Today we had rain which is notable, so notable. The temperature dropped and for the first time in over a week, it seemed perhaps the town was not about to catch on fire. I celebrated with Prosecco, music that was suggested by a music-knowledgeable friend, an online improv showcasing another friend, and text conversations. A reasonably solid COVID Friday. But, still, there was a to do item hanging over me.
OK. To be honest, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve tackled theology homework after some wine.
Interestingly, my left hand is throwing less erratically. I think this might be that sweet spot that happens in pool halls – sufficient alcohol to stop overthinking, but not so much to lose track of your hands. I have a tendency to think too much.
Twice in this video Morgan emphasized listening to the sound of the juggling pattern and that was helpful. It was like unfocusing my somatic awareness, and instead leaning into the auditory component of the juggling pattern, the thud thud of the balls landing, hopefully in my hands but more often on the floor. The expectation was set that more balls would land on the floor than not. That reassurance allows for a personal non-judgement of my own performance.
On a more singular note, my puppy Valentine has fully accepted that the juggling balls are not for him to play with. He’s somewhat uncertain as to why I am throwing balls *not for him* but has relinquished the management of these particular balls to my care.
Soon the juggling practice will arrive where I thought I was starting from, but with more thought and rehearsal. Maybe I will up my three ball cascade count?
I mean, no. Of course not. That seems implausible. But to be honest if someone got shot down the street I would just shake my “get off my lawn” fist at presumed firework noises. The incessant private firework demonstrations have made us complacent to the sound of explosions. How can that be a good thing?
Obviously I want to sleep through the night and not wake up with a start because of explosions outside. I want my dog to have a run of evenings where he isn’t panting with anxiety because of the crashing bangs. But also, I don’t want our already COVID-burdened hospitals to have to contend with the inevitable burns that come from inexpert firework use. And with our region in the middle of a drought, I want our local fire chief to follow the lead of those in Tay Township and surrounding area by banning fireworks before the whole town catches fire.
Everyone is on edge. The physical world is tinder dry and firebrand hot. The masses are set to erupt, unable to withstand the hideous inequity of our constructed reality. There are loud, loud calls to dismantle the police forces so they can be restructured with serve and protect at their heart, and with racism rooted out. In the meantime, a citizen was beaten in part because the police mistook the sound of fireworks as gunfire. Trying to right society’s ills will take time. For now, could we please require people to cease igniting explosives for fun?
This is my left hand. You’d think after fifty years my left hand would obey me better. But here I am, trying to learn to juggle properly and I’m repeatedly bending to pick up juggling balls on the left of me because my left hand is disobedient. I need to show my left hand the instructional video so it knows what to do.
My puppy Valentine finally believes me that the juggling balls are not for him and that this is not a fun game of keep away. Valentine can jump very high so I’m glad he’s got the message.
Each video starts with stretches. After a day of client conversations and studying and running online groups, it’s good to be reminded to stretch. I’m also finding that having the juggling balls around provides a quick stress relieving break in the day. These balls are like round bean bags; they make a satisfying thud noise when they land, almost like they are airborne drums playing themselves on my hands. I can see juggling being very meditative if you can get enough of a rhythm going. For now it is an exercise in non-judgement and equanimity. Actually juggling would make for a good mindfulness / Buddhist activity. It’s very somatic in that your body is focused and necessary, but it also engages the mind fully. One can not ruminate on what their boss is going to say tomorrow while one is focusing on making the spheres move from one hand to another.
Tomorrow I’m going to practice what we learned today. I need to figure out where my hands are more reliably!