“…Growth of a Purpose.”

” I began to have an idea of my life, not as the slow shaping of achievement to fit my preconceived purposes, but as the gradual discovery and growth of a purpose which I did not know.”

Joanna Field

Joanna Field was the pseudonym chosen by Marion Milner when publishing her books. Her first book, A Life of Ones’ Own (1934), was a chronicle of seven years of her life as she traced what made her happy and what she wanted from life.

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It seems that some people (how many do you know) appear to be born into their purpose while most others stumble along trying to discover their purpose. And even if you have a sense of your purpose, few people actually get to live from that knowledge. You have to consider “Can I get paid a living wage to live my purpose (or passion)?” Do you wait until retirement years to do what you love and answer the call that you always knew was there but didn’t quite fit in with your parents’ or society’s notion of what was an acceptable profession and/or would earn you a comfortable income?

Human beings on the whole are a study. And we continue to be studied and analyzed and categorized across the various genders, cultures, belief-systems, how we govern ourselves and you-name-it categories. And we study ourselves by other’s criteria typically in the form of self-judgment, self-criticism and self-denial. I have an acquaintance who mirrors this to me on occasion. She reflects on herself and her choices and her dissatisfactions. However, in her reflections she continually finds fault with herself for not landing on her specific purpose or getting to the root of her discontent. In self-criticism, she can’t rise to an occasion of celebrating who she is and what she brings to the table. “WHAT DID I COME HERE TO DO?” she wonders as she wanders through her life, estranged from herself.

I sometimes note that this friend has really good qualities of cultivating her friendships. Is that a purpose? Hmmm. Why not? Because you don’t make money at it or it’s not a profession or a career. However, it is an essential and prized quality, often overlooked as a life purpose. If she could look at who she is as a friend, what she brings to it, how she celebrates others, perhaps, within that there is a life purpose, one she could even make money at if she translates the qualities it takes to be a good friend into something marketable. I don’t like that word a lot. However, as women, and as a single woman, it is important to find what you love and then figure out how to make it into a deliverable service that others want to give you money for.

I tend to witness the “gradual discovery of a purpose” over the course of my life. Someone once suggested that you return to your childhood likes and recognize in that your purpose. What did you lean towards almost organically? If your dreams, hopes, desires, natural tendencies weren’t vandalized by parents or authority figures, perhaps in there you can see where you purpose lies. What I enjoyed doing always revolved around making things–learning to cook gourmet meals at a young age, crafts delivered in the mail monthly that my family enjoyed once I put them together. Playing school–teaching. If I rummage through those early years and into my young marriage, I can see the woman in whose salvation lay in how I took the broken pieces and wove and rewove my life through making things, through writing, through painting.

Maybe my purpose has more to do with qualities of resilience through creativity, through art, through cooking and each one of these isn’t complete unless I find a way to share them with others. That’s a key piece of the purpose behind any gift that you may have…how do you share it with someone else. The benefit for me is in the process of creating. the completion of that process is in some way sharing it with others…whether through a blog, through an art exhibit, through a dining adventure.

Valuing our gifts in a world that doesn’t…that’s another topic entirely!

Loneliness and Creativity

Observation on a Buddha Rock

I know loneliness
a rock separated from a streambed
My particular glamour
is less appealing here
Like this displaced rock
am I commonplace
or too old

This rock
a misshapen Buddha
solitary Bodhisattva
witnessing the cleaving
remembering the whole

What dissension shattered humankind
into separation
Lonely and separate as this scarred rock
perhaps once praised for its cool detachment.
Who cares to take the time
to decipher the untold encrypted story

A star has fallen
to the bottom of the sea
fossilized
while a starfish rises
in the darkening sky
experiencing
alternate realities

God is in us–
is all right with the world
Has the solitary rock learned compassion
Is that the panacea for loneliness

by Christine O’Brien

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In her book, Freeing the Creative Spirit, Adriana Diaz guides the artist/reader/ creative explorer, into many exercises that enable creativity. The subtitle of her book is: “Drawing on the Power of Art to Tap The Magic And Wisdom Within.” One of these exercises invites the reader to find a rock. And then, to sit with the rock, examining its many surfaces. To see the rock as a living being and to become in some way intimate to its experience. To draw it from its various angles and perhaps to write about it as I’ve done in the poem above.

We seldom do this, stop and be present with an inanimate object. Who has the time? I certainly didn’t when I had a bustling household with children, husband and pets, a part or full-time job, extended family. I wonder though, if I had taken the time, even once-a-week, if I wouldn’t have been more present, more grounded and more available to myself and others if I had paused to deepen a connection to myself and to something in nature.

I titled this blog Loneliness and Creativity because when I feel lonely and venture into the creative space, loneliness disappears. In the naming and writing of this poem, the feeling of loneliness dissolved into “art.” Have you experienced that? It’s almost magical, in fact it is magic. It’s an alchemical experience. The base ingredients of one’s loneliness, feelings of isolation or separation blend with the pen, the paper, the paint, the brush, the clay, the camera–whatever the medium that you are using–and are changed into something higher and lighter.

I’ve experienced this more than once. And I know that I’m not the only one. When Covid hit the headlines in 2020 and we were told to isolate, I began to post photos on my Facebook page of the beauty that surrounds me living here in the mountains. Those of us who live here see it daily. However, I have family and friends who don’t live here and since I believe that beauty lifts the spirits, I made a commitment to do this. In this way, I connected with others indirectly. And, I also allowed myself to be the witness with the camera who recorded this beauty. And this beauty was a salve for me too.

All of this to say, we each have creative resources. Regardless of what any former teacher or person of influence in your life might have once told you, we are all artists and our unique way of expression has value for oneself and others.

Doing Your “Ministry”

Last week, I watched the film, Hallelujah, about the life of Leonard Cohen and the journey of the song that he wrote, Hallelujah. A documentary, I was drawn quickly into the film. The soulful closeups of Cohen were mesmerizing. His deep bass voice seemed to touch a chord that my whole body responded to. And the words, his words are soulful. When I left the theater, the thought that rang true was
“He was doing his ministry.”

There was a period of five years when Cohen lived in a Buddhist Monastery. It was during the end of that period that he discovered that his manager had embezzled most of his money and sold the publishing rights to his songs. This forced Cohen out of retirement to recoup his losses. Those last years of touring around the world to sell-out crowds, in my estimation, brought out the quintessential minister/entertainer that he was. There was an added profundity, humor and presence to his performances. The audiences responded to his charisma.

All of this to wonder…how do I do my ministry? How do you do your ministry? What does that look like? In previous blogs, I’ve written about my Conversations with Daniel…a man with whom I had extensive intimate conversations about male/female relationships. For three months, we met weekly. I recorded our conversations and gave him a copy of the recording to review before the next meeting. The intention, was that we could witness how we communicated as a man and a woman in conversation.

Daniel quickly established himself as the teacher and that left me in the role of the student. However, in reviewing the recordings, he witnessed his ways of dominating the conversations. He made his best effort at being less imposing. He also had a lot of knowledge, wisdom and passion and a strong desire to impart that. It was challenging for him not to interrupt and insert himself frequently. Towards the last of our twelve weeks of conversations, I noted that I was doing at least an equal amount of talking and there seemed to be more of a balance.

Daniel passed away yesterday, suddenly. I got the news last night by telephone from an acquaintance. It was like dropping a mini-bomb in the midst of my bumpy life. Today, the day after, I can’t quite believe it. I was listening to one of our recordings last week. I put his name on my to-do list “Call Daniel!” I got so busy preparing for an upcoming art exhibit that I didn’t call him. And then the finality of the news, the phone call– “I’ve got some sad news. Daniel died.” The shock and immediate protest on my part. “No!” I wanted to turn back the hands of time by even one day so that I could call him without hesitation and without an excuse.

The reason I bring Daniel into this is that he was doing his ministry. His life was his ministry. His journey and sharing it with others was his proclamation. “I’m here!”
In the last ten to fifteen years, Daniel became a quieter man, following a spiritual teacher and doing a daily meditation. He was himself always, through his various stages of evolution. He was a poet, a writer, an actor, a friend. And likely more that I don’t know. His lived life was his ministry.

I sometimes collect quotes. This one appeared in my paper pile yesterday:

“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you,
and that you will work with these stories from your life–
your life–not someone else’s life–water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.
That is the work, The only work.”

author unknown

This quote reminded me what a ministry might look like. Being you is your only purpose and a brilliant one at that.

I dedicate this post to my friend, Daniel.

“…I Use Both”

“I have a brain and a uterus, and I use both.”

Patricia Schroeder

In these times, and probably throughout time, women are called upon to show that they are more than wind-up dolls who look pretty in a box on a shelf or as foldouts in men’s magazines. And, to prove that they are so much more than a free labor force solely intended to care for a man’s needs and their children’s needs. Also, in my opinion, women are called upon to re-value themselves in whatever capacity that they show up in their lives.

That seems to be at the core…the ways in which we value ourselves, the beliefs that we hold about our value as human beings are central to our forward evolution as women in these times. My mother, through her lived life, believed in her second class status. Her parents, my father, her religion and the world of her era reinforced this belief. That’s nothing new.

In my generation, we found ourselves trying to break out of the well-crafted muzzles and find our voices, singly and collectively. We had to prove that having a monthly cycle didn’t mean that we were less capable at that time of the month. Nor did it make us less wise or under-the-influence of escalating emotions. We had to prove that what we were contributing in the workforce was at least equal to what any man was contributing and that we deserved equal remunerations for it. And that we could advance in the workplace and hold our own. Today, we continue to strive for this. And we’ve discovered that any forward strides that we might have made regarding our rights are not set in stone. What is given can be taken away.

The quote above, “I have a brain and a uterus, and I use both.” makes me consider testosterone-driven men. How does the level of testosterone influence high-powered executives or political leaders? Have there been scientific studies? Should this unharnessed hormonal influence be considered when we vote for our leaders? I haven’t heard that this governing male hormone has even been taken into consideration over the course of history. Men advance in their jobs and we applaud their forward thrust. When we see that in women, there is not necessarily scorn, but it isn’t valued in the same way…because it doesn’t fit within the box where a society continually tries to place women. Men are hormonal most of their lives. With women, our hormones are cyclical.

This last paragraph is written tongue-in-cheek (or not). It’s just so ridiculous not to take the wholeness of our masculine and feminine natures and apply them to the challenges that we have created for ourselves today. A collaborative effort is a way to go…if only we could learn how to effectively collaborate. Matching the driven nature of the masculine with the tempering effect of the feminine. Each one bringing their own genius, wisdom and expertise is where we would ideally be going. A marriage of sorts.

Basically, value yourself, do your best and carry on.

Getting to “the bones”

I read Women Who Run with the Wolves many years ago. It was one of those books that, when I spied it standing solo on a little pedestal at the East West Bookshop in Palo Alto, California, I felt compelled to pick it up and open it. It was a new release at that time (1992) and only in hardback and expensive for my budget.
I opened to any page and read a paragraph and was surprised to see the relevance to a current situation in my life. Yet, that wasn’t reason enough to spend $28.00 on it! I walked around this very engaging shop and all sorts of book covers caught my attention. However, I gravitated back to Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book. Again, I opened the book to any page. The words jumped out at me and I was riveted.

Recently, I had met a stranger at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. I was weaving in and out of the water as the ruffled waves washed gently on the shore. A man’s voice behind me inquired “Isn’t it cold?” I replied that “Yes, it is and I love it.” He asked if he could walk with me. I agreed and we walked and talked on a very deep level for the next several hours. It wasn’t like we were strangers. It was as if we had met lifetimes ago and then designed to meet each other at this time and place and share our life-findings so far.

As we talked, we became vulnerable to each other. The sharing was personal, sometimes intimate and philosophical. As the sun dipped behind the clouds, I began to shiver. He casually placed his red hooded sweatshirt over my shoulders. He was a handsome man, slender, blonde hair cut in a stylish clip for the times. He gave me a large rose quartz stone to hold in my hand as we walked beside the sea. “To calm you,” he said. The entire experience felt comforting, as if I was walking with my Guardian Angel.

We had walked a length of beach and then, finally, turned around to return the way we had come. When we got back to our cars, he gave me his phone number and softly, like a butterfly, brushed a kiss across my cheek. I thanked him and went home feeling loved, guided, protected. I was married and although there was tension in my marriage, I had no intention of leaving my husband at that time. I wasn’t planning on calling the phone number. There was nowhere this relationship could go. Although, I did call it once and got his message machine. I never called it again.

When I opened the book in the bookstore that day, this was the quote that I read:

The Passing Stranger

“…The person who might take us out of the ice, who might even psychically free us from our lack of feeling is not necessarily going to be the one to whom we belong. It may be…another of those magical but fleeing events that again came along when we least expected it, an act of kindness from a passing stranger….Then a something that is sustaining appears out of nowhere to assist you, and then disappears into the night, leaving you wondering, Was that a person or a spirit?”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes from Women Who Run with the Wolves

I bought the book.

Things Change, People Die

We know this…Most of us can name things and people that we’ve lost over the course of our lives. I certainly can. However, it really came home to me (again) yesterday when I was continuing with sorting and discarding “stuff.” There is a normal accumulation of things that we do as humans. In fact Stephanie Vogt in her book, A Year to Clear, says that clearing our stuff is a lifelong process. We can count on accumulating and releasing things ad infinitum. However, I believe that I would feel better if I had that sense of spaciousness that she offers in her book. I’d like to look out over the landscape of my little cottage and feel more order, beauty and space now or at least a year from now.

Yesterday, I pulled a couple of boxes of old check registers from the closet shelf. I googled how long do I need to keep check registers. One answer was one year followed by other answers that said at least ten years or perhaps five years. So I decided on seven years. I would hold onto these for seven years. One bit of logic from the google exploration was that they take up so little space so it would be fine to hold onto them forever. My thinking is that it would be one less thing for my family to have to deal with when my time comes.

I started with registers from 2009. The Bank of America branch that I was with in 2009, had dissolved, closed and left us without a B of A locally. So I transferred my account to another local bank. The registers were bound by circular wires. I removed them from the wires and shredded the papers. As I did so, I read who the checks were paid to…I decided to list the people and the shops, cafes or businesses that no longer existed. I came up with at least forty (40) businesses and/or people who were no longer here. The businesses had closed and the people had either died or moved away. It sort of shocked me to realize this. I frequented many of the businesses more than once in 2009. And these people who passed or moved, there were varying degrees of connection to them.

So you adjust, adapt to these losses or changes or find a way to get the need that was once met by them in another way. And sometimes, you just miss them. A sort of nostalgia surrounds them. Like New Sammy’s restaurant in Talent, Oregon near Ashland. Before I had ever been there, I had heard that it was truly a gourmet restaurant with the highest standards. And that the chef was a woman with a Ph.D. who turned to a career in cooking par excellence. That her husband was a wine connoisseur,  a sommelier, who matched the perfect wine with any dessert and entrée. And to have the fullest experience, it was wise to allow his recommended pairings.

I put off going there because I didn’t have anyone to go with, the waiting list was three months out, it was expensive. Then, one day, I was in Ashland and happened to run into this handsome young man that I had met casually in Mount Shasta where we both lived. In the course of our casual conversation, he told me that he was going to New Sammy’s for lunch! I said “I’ve always wanted to go there.” He invited me to meet him there in half-an-hour. I was a believer in serendipities and spontaneity so I met him there. I had what I would say was the best dining experience of my entire life! I agreed to the full meal experience with a most delicious risotto that sat in a broth that I spooned into my mouth until the plate was almost dry. I don’t remember the wine that her husband paired with this dish, but I do remember the satisfaction, the complementary quality of the wine to the risotto.

Then came the dessert, a heavenly chocolate soufflé also paired with a dessert wine. The complete pleasure that I felt at the end of this meal, comfortable and happy cannot be described in words. Gastronomical delights is the phrase that suddenly popped into my mind.

Gabriel, the young man that I was with…the conversation flowed and there was an ease about the whole experience. He was a regular customer there, so he knew the routine and I felt guided by his expertise. Gabriel had stomach ulcers…and he delighted in fine dining which, at times could exacerbate his condition. Being a gourmand, an appreciator of fine dining, this was a bind for him. Yet he allowed himself this pleasure on occasion. I noticed, in my 2009 check register, a couple of checks made out to him. I could only imagine that it was connected to me repaying him for our shared meal. Did we go together a second time? I can’t quite remember. I know that I went by myself one more time. And I vowed I would go again.

However, since then, the sommelier husband has died and recently, the chef closed their restaurant. I knew that cooking was a love of her life as was her husband.
All of this by looking through check registers. Gabriel has died also. A few years ago, I stopped by a friend’s house to say a brief “Hello” and make a delivery…I often shared cake or pies that I baked with friends. Gabriel was sitting on the front porch talking with this friend. I didn’t want to interrupt, made a brief apologetic hello in his direction and left. Gabriel died a few days later–he crashed his car into a tree late one night.

All of this and more stashed in my memory as I shredded some old check registers. There are so many stories that we carry within us. It’s surprising what is invoked by the act of clearing some clutter. It’s no wonder that we put it off. Stephanie Vogt says that is one reason why clearing clutter is so hard…there are the attachments we have ascribed to things. They conjure up so much. I’m taking it slow.

What are you clearing, releasing, saying farewell to? How’s it going for you?