slow down

The other day while driving home I found myself mentally racing into the future. I’d had a conversation with someone very close to me, and my feeling was that she wasn’t pleased with me, and this thought left me feeling ungrounded. I was tired and overwhelmed, which is not a good time to think about anything, much less make plans, but I was doing it anyway. My head felt like it was packed with cotton and it was talking non-stop as it tried to get me to grab onto a plan that would make life feel more manageable. It wanted safe ground. It wanted the relief of a solid plan. But I know better. No plans that I have ever made when in this state were ultimately good ones. They always involved moving away from anything that felt challenging…they always ended up too small. I finally said to myself,

“Slow down. I need to slow this mind down.”

Within a few miles, I saw a bunch of police cars up ahead. As I got closer, I could see police officers standing in the center of the road talking to the drivers of each car as they approached. Many cars were then directed to the side of the road to wait for “whatever”.

When it was my turn the officer said, “Are you aware of the speed limit?” I said, “No. Was I over it?” and he said, “Yes”. But instead of feeling anxiety I felt an odd relief. Somehow the universe had done for me what I couldn’t do for myself: It quite literally stopped me in my tracks.

I waited until the officer said, “What’s the hurry?” I actually thought before I answered, taking the time to ask myself, “Why are you rushing, Mary?”, and no good response surfaced so I looked at him and said, “There is no hurry at all.” I noticed a little laugh in the tone of my answer that prompted the same response in him. He smiled at me and said; “Just slow down”. I said, “Thank you”, and slowly drove away. I was still tired but I wasn’t racing into a “solution” and I wasn’t running away from my feelings, which were less overwhelming but still present.

What I have noticed about myself is this: when I am in distress, my mind goes on a search for the cause. It wants to blame someone/something for the discomfort and then it wants me to make a decision that will minimize the chance of ever feeling that way again. I cannot even count the number of times in my life when I’ve ended relationships for the simple reason that someone said something that made me uncomfortable…so many opportunities missed to expand my world.

I’m not talking about unsafe or toxic relationships where almost from the beginning things were off…and I knew it. If I am in a relationship that mostly leaves me feeling less than, inadequate, or confused and distressed, then I am probably getting guidance to move on. But if this isn’t the case and on balance I feel “more myself” and expanded in this relationship, then when we experience a “glitch” or an uncomfortable interaction, my running away from it will diminish me.

The voice inside my head that says, “You don’t need this!” and makes me want to run or fight when I feel uncomfortable, is as familiar as my own hands. I used to listen to her, believe what she said, and then act on that belief…no more. Now, maybe not in the moment, but always within a little time, I say to her, “Oh yes I do. This is exactly what I need. Thank you.”…And she never argues, as a matter of fact, I can often hear her almost chuckle, just like the officer in the street, and say, “Good for you, you brave thing…you couldn’t have done that a few years ago.”

“While control makes us strategize, trust lets us experience a larger set of resources. To move from controlling to trusting life is like exhausting ourselves by trying to put our arms around a river until we realize we have to enter the river and let the current take us.” The Endless Practice: Becoming Who You Were Born To Be, Mark Nepo

 

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Newest mixed media piece, The Other Shoe 2….Victorian baby shoe mounted (floating) in old drawer. This was such a fun piece to create. I wanted to convey the thought that the other shoe isn’t going to drop…all is well…no need to worry! (this piece is for sale on my artwork page or you can email me for details at mmuncil33@gmail.com)

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replacing the old guard

It’s been almost 3 months since I made the decision to say yes to whatever was asked of me. During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with a number of people about this decision. Many have responded with questions about how I’d react if I were asked to do some outrageous stunt…some have expressed concern that I will be taken advantage of, and these were concerns of mine as well…before I began this adventure of opening myself up to the unknown.

The experience of being open to whatever was/is presented has put me in what I can only describe as an exquisite flow. The biggest change for me is this: I am no longer afraid of being overwhelmed or harmed in any way by showing up for life…as it presents itself to me. I didn’t realize how much energy I’d used up by trying to protect myself: weighing, over-analyzing, and dissecting every opportunity/request that came my way.

By committing to saying yes, it feels as though the Universe/God/Spirit has orchestrated opportunities that are tailor-made for me. It has been an exercise in Trust, and for someone who professed to be a big believer in trusting Spirit, I’ve been surprised to see the areas in my life, hidden away by justification and over analysis, that needed to be challenged. I feel so much less guarded about life. I want to experience it all: touch my boundaries, challenge me to be my best self, offer me opportunities to try and fail…I want to experience it all.

A few months ago, someone asked me to submit a story, to the organization, Expressing Motherhood. I said yes, did it, and let it go. I was genuinely surprised to be chosen as one of the participants, but my surprise has turned into delight…I don’t know what to expect and I like that feeling.

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TICKETS: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3440196

http://www.expressingmotherhood.com

This entry was posted on May 23, 2018. 5 Comments

shall we talk about sex?

One of the challenges that I had to face, when Jack and I decided to really give our marriage a chance, had to do with sexual intimacy. After menopause, I really didn’t care if I ever had sex again. The physical urges were all but gone and that was fine with me…it even seemed like the natural course of things. It was a relief.

I’d never had a healthy body image, even when I was young, firm, and fit…and sex…what a loaded issue. Growing up Catholic, sex was at best, a necessary evil if you were married. Otherwise it was considered dirty, disgusting, and a sign of moral depravity and weakness.

Even though I left the church when I was in my 20s, at some level I still carried these beliefs about sex, and by extension about myself. I thought I’d finally banished these beliefs when I no longer felt like a sexual being, and I wasn’t being “challenged” at home; Jack had felt rejected so many times that he gave up asking. What I didn’t recognize or should I say, what I didn’t want to see was how Jack felt about sex; how it meant acceptance and love to him.

So when we “reconciled” a year and a half ago, I knew that I’d have to face a part of myself that was painful; namely an aging, sagging, bagging, body that didn’t look or feel at all enticing/sexy, and these old beliefs that sex was somehow wrong.

I didn’t jump back into sex with full abandon: inhibitions suddenly gone, free and open at last, but I did, to the best of my ability (sometimes with inner trembling) open myself up to be present in this way for Jack. What I came to see was that my apparent rejection of Jack’s advances was in fact a rejection of myself; I really never believed that I could make peace with sex or myself as a sexual being.

Does sex sometimes feel “obligatory” to me? Yes. Could I turn away from it and never give it another thought? Maybe…but maybe not. I’ve been surprised by how wonderful it is to not be fit and firm, buff and sexy, but to feel deeply appreciated…to talk about our insecurities and apprehensions about sex and to see them met with such tender understanding.

A part of me that I had relegated to the past, is now opening, growing, and pushing me to live more fully in the present, and these old beliefs are falling away. My softer body is mirroring my softer inner self who is willing to be more vulnerable, less in control; more open…and I welcome her with a soft, wrinkled smile.

 

 

Several days ago, a friend sent me a wonderful article from the New York Times entitled, “What sleeping with married men taught me about infidelity”, the link is below. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/06/style/modern-love-sleeping-with-married-men-infidelity.html

the experience of saying yes

Three weeks ago I decided to say yes to whatever was asked of me…for one month. It has been a life-changing decision. One of the things that has surprised me the most is how saying yes, has relieved me of the burden of my over-analytical mind, and simultaneously freed up time.

I used to be a big fan of saying that I’d pray about something, turn it over, see if I got any direction in my dreams, blah, blah, blah, before I would commit to saying yes. I hadn’t realized how much I was stalling Life and putting It off.

Saying yes has freed up something inside of me. I have a new enthusiasm for simply getting up in the morning. I literally can’t wait to see what will be asked of me; what new thing, that I couldn’t even have imagined, will show up.

When I first wrote about saying yes, four people recommended the book, The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer, so in the spirit of saying yes, I put in my request at our local library. I thought that I’d open it, read a few pages and return it the same day, having fulfilled my obligation to say yes. Luckily (and I don’t believe in luck) Jack picked it up for me while I was out of town and he began reading it…and he couldn’t put it down…. then he asked if he could read it to me. I said yes. I had the same reaction to the book: I didn’t want it to end.

This began our week of taking every opportunity we could to drive and read…I drove and he read. We’ve visited galleries, cafes, museums, and Indian grocery stores, all in distant places, so we could do this and it has been a magical experience.

Several days ago, someone asked me if I thought I’d continue this practice after my month was over and my immediate thought was, “I am only just beginning this…I am a novice, I am being taught by life something so exquisitely simple yet profoundly life-changing, why would I ever go back to the prison of thinking I knew better than Life?”

I’d love to hear your experience, if this is something that you are doing and I am also open to any questions that you might have.

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“oh brother!” new mixed media assemblage (available on My Artwork Page)
Turn of the century wooden dried fruit box with 1900s cigar box (threads showing where lid was removed) mounted inside. Back of cigar box has map from 1950s book, “My Father’s Dragon”. 1850s ambrotype of brothers (looking very unhappy) attached to vintage child’s block and then attached to wooden box. 1940s insert to military binoculars underneath.
This assemblage, on the outside reminds me of all of the things that boys (and all people!) get into, but the faces on these boys really seem to spell trouble…and yet what is inside?…of them…of us all? With this thought in mind, I asked my sons and other men whom I respect, to give me words that represent “brother”. I then printed these words onto old school paper and lined the inside of the binoculars with these strips that say: loyal   bond   faithful   trouble   fun   friend   adventure   love  protect  respect   trust   cracking up  support   helpful   home  family  encourage   inspire.
At the back of the binocular inserts are small mirrors, which beckon us to always look for the good inside of us (no matter what is happening on the outside). Needless to say, I had a lot of fun creating this piece.

This entry was posted on March 21, 2018. 8 Comments

welcome those guides…

Over the past year or so, a lot of people have asked me if Jack and I have moved yet…and this is a reasonable question. I’ve talked, dreamed, wished, hoped, intended, focused on, let go of, took back again, prayed for, and puzzled about moving for a number of years….and still we have not moved. How can I account for this? Of course there are rational explanations but all of these feel hollow.

I’ve come to see the true reason for not moving…and it is rather simple: there was other “work” to do first and moving would have been a distraction. Those of you who have read my posts over the past year and a half know what Jack and I went through… and are still processing. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions and feelings that has left me more certain than ever that I cannot know or control anything outside of myself…or at times, even my own life. I’ve also begun to embrace this uncertainty in a new way.

Sometimes it takes having our well-planned lives turned upside down or ripped apart before we enter into the stage of spiritual development so crucial for inner peace…. trust. I’ve begun to trust in a much deeper way the divinity that is all around me and includes me.

I always thought I needed a plan and felt like a rudderless ship without one. I don’t have a plan anymore…I have ideas about what I’d like, but I hold them very loosely. I’ve grown much more interested in seeing what happens when I think that I want something.

The other day Jack and I visited a museum to see the work of Joseph Cornell. After, as we walked through the gift shop I saw a pair of earrings that I liked a lot, but didn’t buy. Instead, I came home and started looking on-line for modernist, sterling, handcrafted earrings. I became a little obsessed so I stopped.

The next day we decided to take a ride to donate a bunch of things at a thrift store. As Jack brought the items to the back, I browsed the tiny shop and spotted a gorgeous sterling silver modernist handcrafted pair of earrings…for $2.50. I didn’t see a signature on them but it didn’t matter. They were exactly what I wanted. Only after we arrived home did we discover the mark of Ed Levin.

This was such a small thing, but it felt like a wink from my higher self…I hadn’t wanted to go to that particular thrift store but Jack really wanted to, so in the spirit of saying YES, I agreed.

I don’t’ think that we need to suffer huge traumas to grow. I believe that opportunities to change and expand are constantly being presented…and that they can be as gentle as a nudge or a whisper to awaken out of our sleeping, troubled, mind-directed way of living. But if/when those traumas do happen, like they have in my life, can I welcome them? Can I see them as missed opportunities that have come back again to help me? Can I see them as “guides from beyond”?

 

The Guest House

This being human is a guesthouse.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

Jalaluddin Rumi

from Rumi: Selected Poems, trans Coleman Barks with John Moynce, A. J. Arberry, Reynold Nicholson (Penguin Books, 2004)

 

This entry was posted on March 12, 2018. 9 Comments

clearing…

After publishing yesterday’s post, I expected to hear from people…I didn’t realize that I had this expectation when I wrote. As the day unfolded I did receive a few responses…but none were saying what I had anticipated. None were asking for time to talk or work out some past issue with me…all were expressing gratitude in one form or another for our connection.

Another thing that surprised me was how I felt and how I knew that someone was expressing a lot of negative emotion as they thought about/talked about? me. Late in the morning, I was driving and suddenly felt a wave of crushing energy coming at me. As it hit my chest I began to panic a little and suddenly realized what it was.

My thought was, “Open and let this flow through you.”

I imagined the space inside me being clean and clear. I imagined the connection, with the person who was experiencing pain around me, being cleared/healed. Instead of withdrawing into thought/worry or tying to “protect” myself, I welcomed it.

After this experience, I could see, not with my conscious mind, but with a deeper knowing, that everyone…everything is showing me a facet of myself: a tiny facet reflecting back what I think and do.

This entry was posted on March 4, 2018. 4 Comments

forgiveness

Forgiveness.

I’ve thought a lot about forgiveness lately.

I’ve watched myself struggle with it…not wanting to forgive, at times, and yet wanting forgiveness from everyone and every situation where I have been the one to cause pain.

I’ve noticed my tendency to rationalize, to an absurd degree, my part in situations and events that hurt others and realized that if I spent even one tenth the effort in trying to “rationalize” (or look with self-reflective understanding) the other person’s actions, I would find no blame.

To be fair to myself, I do this…often. Yet I’ve also become aware that there is more to do. A part of me has been afraid to open up and hear what others have to say about me…about how I have hurt them or negatively impacted their lives.

It feels odd to say that I am no longer afraid of this…that I feel an open and welcoming energy about it, but it is the truth.

So, why am I writing about this here on the blog? Could someone reading this right now be feeling hurt by me? If so, then I invite you to a conversation…please. I am open and willing to hear you…fully*.

I’m writing this today because the idea came to me early this morning and I said YES to it….

 

 

 

*my email is mmuncil33@gmail.com and this is a good place to begin

This entry was posted on March 3, 2018. 4 Comments