Enjoy The Loss [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

We laughed heartily when we read this phrase in an advertisement. I had two immediate responses: 1) Immortality is not really a thing. No one wins the race against aging. Even vampires have unfortunate sunny days or meetings with silver bullets and so ends their quest to win the race. 2) The best way to win the race against aging is a) to get out of your chair and move, b) laugh a lot. You’ll lose the race either way but mobility and a joyful heart make for a more enjoyable lap around the track.

This life is a temporary, passing thing. I lost the race against infancy and couldn’t wait to blow through those teenage years. I took my twenties and thirties for granted in a festival of unconsciousness. I puffed myself with importance and thought I knew things all the way through my forties and into my fifties. Now that I can spot the finish line I admit to undertaking several measures to slow things down a bit. I’m specifically not entering races and I’m especially not going to try and be something that I am not. Like, for instance, young.

I actually delight in the experiences that life has provided. The lessons learned. I’m especially fond of the needle that life used to pop my inflated notions. I’ll never be a hero. I live in some people’s story as their villain and some people play the role of villain in mine. I’m finding that more time on earth brings greater capacity for compassion and forgiveness. I never meant to be a villain and I suspect the same is true for those I’ve cast in my hall of monsters.

Beaky used to say that aging is not for wimps. We regularly compare our latest wrinkling skin discovery or make up excuses why our clothes no longer fit. It is sometimes a shock to wonder where the time went or to discover that I’ve lost my gazelle-like movement when running across the street. Taking a realistic look at your self and slowing down seem to me to be gifts that come with age and should not be hidden beneath any cream or stretched away by a surgeon. I have learned – and continue to learn – that it is infinitely better to be who you are than to pretend that you are something that you are not. Happiness does not easily nest in illusions.

External motivators might bring the illusion of youth but I guarantee that there’s no way to regain your gazelle. My vote: recognize that the race is made up, like Valentines Day, to sell chocolate and greeting cards. It’s better to love every day of this miracle life rather than pack your love into on a single day called ‘youth.’ There’s nothing like an achy joint to make you appreciate how great it is to be able to move. There’s nothing like seeing the finish line to make you appreciate the first sip of coffee in the morning or kissing your wife on the forehead just-because.

My advice: enjoy every moment of the loss.

read Kerri’s blog post on THE RACE AGAINST AGING

Evolve And Laugh Heartily [on Merely A Thought Monday]

I find the notion of evolution to be hopeful. Evolution of species. Evolution of consciousness. I assume in my wild idealism that the evolution is toward betterment. Reading Ken Wilber’s thoughts on our chaotic and troubled post-truth times, we are, he suggests, in the throes of an evolutionary step. Evolution is not a smooth stepping dance. It’s more a stumbling forward drunkard.

Last week I posted about the lake in my studio and how the clean up facilitated a life-work review. I was surprised by how many notes I received from life-long friends asking me not to burn my paintings this time. I’d forgotten that, after my move to Seattle, I took most of my paintings and drawings to a fire pit on a beach and burned them. I had so much work that it took three days to complete the purge. That life-work-review ended in fire. This latest life-work-review began with water. I actually loved, post flood, going through my paintings. The paintings that went to the fire felt like a burden, a weight. From heavy burden to love; not a bad progression in my personal stutter-stepping evolution.

We drove to Colorado last October to see my parents. In his dementia, my dad cast me in the role of his college roommate and took me on a tour of the basement. We stopped in front of a large photograph taken at his parents 50th wedding anniversary celebration, a photo of the whole clan. He pointed to my twenty year old face in the photograph and said, “Now, I don’t believe you ever met this one.” It was true. As I listened to his description, I had the overwhelming feeling that he was right. Later, I returned to the photograph and visited that version of myself. I thought, “I think dad’s right. I don’t believe I ever met this one.”

The months that followed set the stage for my flood-inspired-work-review. I’ve discovered that I am more apt to be kind, more given to the positives, than I was a decade ago. Evolution has softened me. Or, opened me.

I’m not alone in reaching back, in sifting through the evolutionary drunken stumble to the present. This pandemic era serves as a marker-in-time as well as a great disrupter of pattern and path. It has inspired many a life review among those in my circle. Together, we ask the questions that have no answers, Quinn’s big three: Who am I? Where am I going? What is mine to do?

There are no answers but from time-to-time it’s necessary to ask.

There’s a fourth question that kept Quinn in stitches every time I asked it. What’s it all about? He’d howl and snicker and snort whenever the question came up. I am now the age he was when that younger version of me sat in his study and wrinkled my brow, disconcerted at his hearty laugh. Now, I know without doubt what’s so funny. I find myself laughing to tears when I hear the un-answerable-fourth-question. It’s about what you make of it as your illusion drops away in the course of your own personal evolution.

What else?

read Kerri’s blog post about EVER EVOLVING

Understand That Little Is More Than Enough [on Merely A Thought Monday]

I think that maybe\ I will be surer\ of being a little nearer.\ That’s all. Eternity\ is in the understanding\ that that little is more than enough.” ~ R.S. Thomas [via Anam Cara by John O’Donohue]

And so our dear H is gone. I have written about him before, about how I learned from him how to age well. To “have a wonderful urgency to live life to the full” [John O’Donohue]. H was a study in wonderful urgency. He did not grow cranky as he grew old. He did not darken his sight with what he could no longer do. He gently pushed the edges of what he could do. He was a master of focus-placement.

I have known many people who proclaim a spiritual life. They are quick to advertise their illumination. They live to stand on the mountain top and call attention to their heights. H was not one of those. He simply lived his faith as he lived his life – without need for acknowledgment or recognition. No trumpet necessary. I suspect that his why I was drawn to him. He was simon-pure. Genuine.

“We’re afraid you’re going to take her from us,” H said to me, more warning than salutation, when I sat next to him in choir. It was my first rehearsal in my first choir and, as an avowed non-singer, I was intimidated. Kerri was the director. She’d recently asked H, at 87 years old, to rap Via Dolorosa. He’d jumped at the challenge and, as I heard the story, performed brilliantly, complete with costume and bling. He and Kerri were thick as thieves.

He guided me through that first rehearsal, laughed when I honked a bad note – which was often, and, by sweet example over time, steered me through my confusion until I found more joy than fear in singing. At the end, as he was moving into his 94th year, just before the pandemic made rehearsals impossible, it was my joy to help him find his place in the music. A perfect circle.

This morning, just before we received the news of his passing, I spent some time in the final pages of Anam Cara. The last words are a Blessing for Death and this phrase struck me: May you live compassionately and creatively and transfigure\ everything that is negative within you and about you. When the news came of his passing, I was certain it was H who’d tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Pay attention to this phrase.” It describes him perfectly. It encapsulates what I believe, H, without words, was trying to teach me. Through compassion and creativity, transfigure everything that is negative within you and about you. That is how to live well and age with wonderful urgency. No trumpet necessary.

read Kerri’s blog post about H

Drop The Condition [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Anyone who tells you that people are not fond of suffering has either 1) never experienced love or 2) never loved an experience. Kerri assures me that giving birth to her children was at the same time the most painful and most joyful experience of her life. It is why humanity, throughout its diverse cultural variations, all bandy-about some version of the phrase “unconditional love.” As they say, love is a sword that cuts both ways. Or, to use a weapon-free metaphor, love is a lemon, both bitter and sweet. All inclusive.  No conditions.

If we are lucky, we do what we love. Whether climbing to the mountaintop or walking the path of an artist, both come with a fair amount of suffering. They also come with an inordinate amount of elation. Moments of passing fulfillment. It is just as I have been taught: the secret to happiness in this life is to  do what you love simply because you love it. Walk toward your love and the suffering will make sense. It will make sense because the suffering-in-love is always transcendent. All inclusive.

Walking toward your love with an added layer of condition (i.e., it has to make money) and you lose what you love. It contorts or goes to dust.

The Buddhists have a phrase: joyful participation in the sorrows of the world. This world is filled with sorrow and suffering and injustice. To be fully alive is not to protect yourself from feeling the sorrows or from experiencing the suffering, but to stand in them. Participate. Engage. Drop the notion that life is an achievement and you will open to the full experience. Colors on the palette.

This is not an abstraction or a dose of idealism.  If you are not walking toward your love you are, in all likelihood, walking away from what you fear. With fear as a motivator, the natural destination is a fort. Separation. Self-preservation. Exclusion. Living in a fortress makes for a very small world, a narrow band of  experience, lots of rules and a multitude of dull and angry days.

We are living in a time of overwhelming challenge. This pandemic mountain is steep. There is undeniable suffering. Fear is being fed. Conflict nurtured. Division fueled. Fear drives people to gather at the governor’s mansion and demand to open the economy. In their blind-fear-madness the protestors rave about acceptable losses. The mind can be a dull angry fortress when the heart is lost in the conditional. Souls twist.

Love, on the other hand, brings nurses and doctors, after attending to the sick and dying, to stand silently in the midst of the fear protestors. Their message is simple. Go home.

Do not doubt that these nurses and doctors are suffering, climbing a very tall and dangerous mountain, but it all makes sense because their love is without condition. They are asking all of us to do no more than think of the suffering of others. They are. Love without condition is simple. All inclusive. No loss is acceptable.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SUFFERING GLORIOUSLY

 

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Ripple [on KS Friday]

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“you make a difference in their life, even though they don’t know who you are, you make a difference.” ~ Kerri Sherwood, You Make A Difference

I catch myself in webs of my own weaving. There are things that I know to be true but willingly ignore when I am feeling blue and indulge in a warm bath of self-pity. For instance, my move to Wisconsin brought me to my great love but also came as a career killer. I have, in the past few years, spent inordinate amounts of time pondering my worth to the world. Beyond “husband,” who am I now that “no one” finds value in my work?

When my eyes and heart clear, I know that I have willingly stepped into the single greatest trap plaguing the Western world: investment in the notion that my experience – my life on this earth – is a product. That I must, as John O’Donohue writes, “…strive to garner a quota of significance from the world.”

How isolated we are, searching for purpose, trying to make a mark, seeking an experience, trying to find our voice,…have value, like so much property or stocks to be traded. Reduction. People as bottom lines. What is my value? What is yours?

I’ve decided that my favorite movie is ABOUT TIME. The main character, Tim, is afforded the opportunity to live each day over again. The second time through, instead of grinding out his task list and exhausting rush to achieve, he pays attention to the little things, the relationships he has all throughout the day. He is afforded the opportunity to shift his focus from “life as a product” to “life as relationship.” He makes a difference, not because he makes millions or wins the case, but because he smiles at the clerk of the convenience store. He pays attention to the “space between” and realizes he is nothing more or nothing less than a relationship. Ultimately, he has no need to live each day twice because he ceases throwing the first chance away. He releases the life-dulling-I-am-a-product-mentality and embraces the life-giving-I-am-a-relationship reality.

Sisyphus, in his first trip to the underworld, watches as a thousand souls wander the river bank, so lost in the fog of their own stories that they, each and every one, believe that they are all alone. Finally, their manic little stories play out, the fog surrounding them dissipates, and they see each other. In that moment, they return to their natural state, their most powerful state. They blend together into a single, vibrant mist (relationship). In that moment, Sisyphus is forever changed. He comes alive, returning to the upper regions, knowing that the real vitality, crackling life, is available if he looks beyond his isolating story-fog.

Instead of reducing his life to a measurable value, a few gold coins extracted from the world, Sisyphus expands beyond his little story-prison of worth-seeking to paying attention to what he brings to the moment, focusing on the shared space between. His life ripples and those ripples have no end. In fact, he understands that his life is a ripple.

Instead of trying to be somebody (separation) he simply recognizes and fully inhabits the utter miracle of his being (relationship). In that simple, profound shift, the difference is made.

It’s in Kerri’s song. You make a difference in their lives, even though they don’t know who you are. Your life, and their life, are one and the same thing.

 

YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE is available in iTunes& CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE

 

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you make a difference ©️ 2003 kerri sherwood

Learn The Single Lesson [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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At the end of each day, with great enthusiasm and mission, Dog-Dog herds us into the living room. Because it is hysterical to see how many different strategies Dogga can pull from his Aussie bag of tricks, it has become a game for us to give him several false starts. We step toward the living room and then return to the kitchen. We say, “Let’s go!” and he races away with fervor while we remain firmly planted. He returns moments later with a wildly wagging tail. He never gets frustrated. He only gets more clever, more lively in his intention. He is eternally hopeful and more excited by the chase than the finish.

It is the single lesson I hope to learn from him. He is an excellent teacher and I am a very slow student.

It is the last day of 2019 and it has been, to put it mildly, an exhausting year. We are making special preparations to launch the good ship 2019 into the annals of time-gone-by. We might wave a polite so-long as it departs but most likely we’ll turn our backs on the passage, and, like Dogga, we’ll run into the next year with hopeful-tails a-wagging.

We know it is an imaginary line, a made-up calendar distinction. We don’t really expect a clean break, a new, fresh start. Or, perhaps we do expect it. Or perhaps, we desire it in the same way Dogga desires us to go to the living room. It’s the game of chase!

Perhaps the coming year will be less exhausting and more fulfilling if I learn the single Dog-Dog lesson: drop all expectation of outcome, all fear of circumstance, all investment in things that exist only in my too-active-imagination, and love my people whether or not they meet me in the living room. Love my people when they send me on a wild goose chase, not once, but many times. Love them because they love me and it’s fun to be alive and, after all, the circles I run will bring me back to them. Or to myself. Why not laugh?

Perhaps in this new year I will at last learn to fully live what I preach and enjoy the chase simply because it is ALL a game of chase, even the parts that look momentarily like completions. Even the parts that look overwhelming. They pass, too.

The mantra many years ago was to cultivate surprise. Expect surprise. The truth is, I don’t know what will happen in ten minutes or two seconds or in ten days. Do you? Why do we pretend that we know? I think it is the key to Dog-Dog’s delight, he doesn’t pretend to know. He lives in the truth of surprise as opposed to the preconception of boredom or fear or fulfillment. He leads with his heart and his heart is bursting with hope (another name for the expectation of surprise). It is why, after his people-sheep have ambled to the couch [what?! A surprise!], he can sleep so soundly, so completely unburdened by resistance to the day gone by or trepidation-stories of tomorrow.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE END OF THE YEAR

 

 

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Enjoy Your Dance [on KS Friday]

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Standing on the deck, looking out over the water at the setting sun, he said, “Why is it that you have to grow old before you realize that life passes too quickly? You’d think that would be important to know when you were young.”

These days we’re hanging out with lots of parents whose children have grown up and flown the coop. Kerri is one of those parents. The conversation always includes a variation of this phrase: it went by so fast.

A little girl in a ballet class. Not just any little girl. Yours. Learning how to lean into her dream and bumping into a funny adult words: practice. Repetition.

This ballet is indeed sweet. And, as I’m learning, the dance is over in the blink of an eye.

 

SWEET BALLET on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post on SWEET BALLET

 

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sweet ballet/released from the heart ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood

Enjoy The Hallway [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Arnie’s mom was wise. She used to say that when one life-door closes another door will always open. But, the time in the hallway sucks. There’s nothing to do but enjoy the hallway.

Once, in a seemingly endless period in the hallway between life-doors, I wrote my friend Rob and complained that I felt like I was completely lost in the forest. He told me to sit down and enjoy the forest.

Sometimes it seems that life is one big location joke. Doesn’t it strike you as odd how much time we silly critters give to trying to locate ourselves. Who am I? What is my purpose? Where am I going? Life as one long episode of House Hunters. Gut job! In looking for location, in trying get somewhere else or be someone else, we miss the obvious: I’m right here.

At a seminar I heard a participant complain, “I thought I learned that lesson! I thought I was done with it. It keeps coming back!” The facilitator laughed and said, “That’s why it’s called a life lesson.”

Have you ever noticed that all of these life-doors only open into other hallways? No one promised that this maze would be easy. If I were me (and I am), I’d listen to Arnie’s mom.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about TUITION.

 

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Step In The Box [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Jen told Kerri about it. Make a square on the floor with blue tape. It will act like a siren call to your cat who will NEED to sit inside the square. I was a doubter. Worse, I was a loud doubter.

During one of our famous Sunday night dinners, Kerri told 20 about the blue tape square and its kitty magnetism. I remained a stalwart disbeliever. After a glass of wine we retrieved the blue tape from the studio and slapped down a rough square on the kitchen floor. We poured more wine and waited. I scoffed.

In a few minutes BabyCat (lovingly known to me as Sumo) thump-thumped into the kitchen, went directly to the tape, circumnavigated the square (counterclockwise) and like a kitty in a current, was  pulled as if by a force into the square. He sat down. Kerri roared with triumph and took a picture for proof. She knows I am capable of denying the undeniable so she was quick to get photographic proof. 20 shook his head at me and said, “I thought you’d have learned by now that she is always right.” I am, as previously reported, a slow study. Very slow.

BabyCat sat tight in his blue tape square throughout our turmoil. He seemed oblivious to our antics, He was content. And, to add further insult to my injury, he laid down. He closed his eyes. He purred. He fell asleep, safe and sound in his blue tape box.

DogDog runs in circles. Circles are in his DNA. I suppose box attraction, real or imagined, must be encoded into BabyCat. It was true. He couldn’t stop himself from stepping into the box. I imagine the defined space made him comfortable. It made him feel safe.

I found myself wishing that somewhere in my DNA was the coding for box attraction. Or, at least a balance to the chain-of -command written into my coding: box avoidance. I wondered what it must feel like to see a defined space and not want to stir it up or redefine it. To open it up. I wondered what it must feel like to see a box, step inside, and give in to contentment. To purr with confinement.

20, watching me move through my troubled thought process, laughed. He sipped his wine and said, “You’ll never learn.”

True. Too true.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the BLUE TAPE SQUARE

 

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Enjoy Your Ride [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Navigating a transit system can be confusing. The skill is knowing where you are relative to the end-of-the-line and which end-of-the-line is the direction you wish to travel. It’s a process of orienting. Here I am now. There is where I want to be. Inevitably, learning the system comes from of getting on the wrong train a few times.

It turns out that navigating life requires the same skill. Knowing where you are relative to where you want to be. Getting lost, getting on the wrong train is a necessary part of the process. Who hasn’t looked out their window and thought, “This isn’t where I wanted to go.” Or, “I’m not doing with my life what I wanted to do.” The real challenge, so I’ve  been told, is not in the knowing of where you want to go but in being honest enough with yourself to recognize where you are now.

Recently, climbing the stairs to catch a train in Chicago, we saw this helpful guide. Loop. This train will take you to the downtown loop. I laughed. Transit-Life-Lesson #2: whether you recognize it our not, learning lessons in life happens in loops and not lines. They call them “life lessons” because they come back around again and again and again…. There is no wrong direction in a loop. So, I suppose, whether you know where you are going or not, it’s best to enjoy your ride. Your unique life lesson will most certainly come back around.

Of course, in any case, in every case, asking for help is always…helpful. So, if you don’t mind, please tell me again, where am I?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LOOP

 

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