Monday, March 24, 2014

Celebrate: 2 Years of Sitting

There is a group of us that gets together on Fridays.  We move a little, read a little, and sit a little.  It's not much really--one hour out of the 188 that accrue each week.  And even that tiny slice of time, sometimes we miss it.  We even let ourselves take the summer off.

In our 24/7, always on environment, such a part-time occupation hardly seems worth mentioning, and yet, that 1/188th of the week, repeated over the course of two years, has become a nourishing habit for a small group of us.  If one of us is sitting on a Friday, we know that we will have a partner to sit with.  We are in it together, and that feels good.

We celebrated with yin yoga, zentangles and pink champagne.  Someone who had never led before, took a turn being "in charge."  She was lovely--her voice sounded like a flute.

We'd never done zentangles before.  Our leader showed up with a library book and some supplies:  square paper, pens and pencils.  The instructions were simple.  Using the pencil draw four dots, one in each corner.  Then four lines connecting the dots to make a border.  One pencil dot in the middle and then three pencil lines dividing up the interior space.  Using the pen, you filled in each of the quadrants with whatever kind of doodle struck your fancy.

What amazed me was how beautiful these pieces came out, it is the same way with our sitting.  One of the biggest surprises, to me, of our weekly meet up has been just how beautiful it is.  Always.  No matter what.  Someone arrives with a stem from their garden.  We try a new move.  We light a candle or two, read something sage or gorgeous, and then we sit quietly.  The zentangles seem to capture this kind of beauty too.  A few lines and some doodles on the same sized paper--in black and white--done by a group of folks who are not visual artists--who would have thought it could be so beautiful?

I think both the zentangles and our weekly sitting are pointing at something about creativity.  Both practices suggest that holding a specific kind of space (a simple paper square, or an hour in the week) and showing up with open willingness results in something.  To me this something often looks like beauty.   I think it is related to what Suzuki Roshi calls "nothing special."

"So if you continue this practice, more and more you will acquire something--nothing special, but nevertheless, something."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What else should we ban?

I recently read the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by Sheryl Sandberg and Anna Maria Chavez.  Their new initiative, you've probably seen it, is now the Twitter hashtag #banbossy, a social media campaign aimed at preventing girls' and women's strength being pigeon holed into the label bossy.

A lot like she did with Lean In, it feels like Sandberg is calling it like she sees it from the c-suite.  She communicates from her own perspective about the challenges she herself has witnessed.  She participates in a corporate paradigm--and writes and thinks from that point of view.

The corporate paradigm is an aspect that throws up issues for some of us.  Not all of us sit in the c-suite (or want to), not all of us got pigeon holed as bossy.  And so it's can be easy to discount her message, to think it's not for us, or worse to imagine that her point of view diminishes our own choices.

I, for one, am an opt-outer.  I left my corporate job before I even had children.  I thought briefly about going to graduate school before having my third child, but bought a sewing machine instead.  It was right before Christmas.  That fall Gwendolyn had just learned to write her letters, and so for Christmas I had her write each of her grandparents' names in magic marker on a piece of off-white cloth.  Then, in tiny bright stitches, I embroidered over her writing.  Following her hand, I imagined myself crafting a tiny piece of history.  I took those little scraps and sewed them into custom Kindle covers for each of the grandparents.  They were sweet.  And for one Christmas my girls' new words were the gift that mattered.

Clearly not the c-suite.  But there were labels, definitely.

The ones I encountered as a girl were:  oversensitive and emotional.

And then just recently, I took our second daughter to the pediatrician.  For a couple of days she had been phlegmy and coughing.  The next afternoon her face looked a bit ashen, kind of like it did when she had pneumonia last year.  So I called for an appointment.  The receptionist heard my story, and commented that I was using my "mothers' intuition."  

That's a label I seem to be encountering lately:  intuitive.

I must admit, I prefer intuitive to oversensitive or emotional, but it still has an off-the-grid  feel to it.  I'm not sure I want to ban the word intuitive, but it has been interesting to think about other words that could be used instead.  

If I just use a couple of synonyms, my labels sound a lot different:

I am perceptive, connected and smart.

Girlfriends, whether we sit in the C-suite or not, regardless of how we relate to the corporate paradigm, we have been labeled.  Worse than that, some of our most important strengths have been diminished by the words others use to judge and describe who we are.  This labeling thing is about our voice, our visibility, our relationship to our own strength.  It is about the possibility that the culture around us has underestimated the usefulness of our gifts, and that we have, from time to time, accidentally followed suit.

The question #banbossy has raised for me is, what other labels should we be banning?

If it strikes you please share.  We need to be out there supporting one another.

Friday, March 7, 2014

On Birthdays

It came to me clearly on Thursday during my first yoga class in awhile.  It was two days before my Birthday, and I was trying to imagine what my mother was doing two days before I was born.  Suddenly it hit me, a picture from nowhere, simple, like a frame in instagram, this snapshot of nine tiny pounds of pink flesh, trailing a magnificent, ethereal fan, vast and absolutely complete.  By all accounts the thing is invisible, but I swear to you, I got a glimpse.  And it was beautiful enough to make you cry right there on the yoga mat.

By no rhyme or reason that the mind could ever figure, my own Birthday was reborn, eight years ago when Chloe pushed her way through the passage on March 3rd, two days after my March 1st.  And from here on out, my Birthday will always be marked as two days before a birth.

This odd bit of numbers and comings and goings of souls pointed out to me that in some regard, I knew exactly what my mother was doing two days before I was born, because somehow, it is always the same--the anticipation, the fullness--my doctor says all us mothers become like over ripe strawberries, weepy to the touch.   Who wouldn't be two nights before touching the mystery?

 And then we arrive, tiny and vulnerable, glittering in cosmic dust.  Our bodies will run and grow and stretch, trying to catch up to the vastness that we could be.  Until we learn the trick of being still.  And even then we will run and run some more, because we just can't believe it could be true, that we arrive complete, trailing a fan of magnificence that is our birthright.  Who would have imagined?