Friday, May 30, 2008

Money, Money, Money

I was up very early this morning. I woke up thinking about money, and it wasn't the I-can-roll-over-and-go-back-to-sleep type of awake. It was the time-to-get-a-handle-on-this-money-thing type of wake-up call. As I lay there I observed the words going through my head, and I knew I was playing the same old tapes. But armed with Eckhart-motivated insight, I know I am not my thoughts. I wanted to go deeper than my thinking.

Then I asked myself where this worry over money was coming from, and I waited. It comes from feeling there will never be enough. This isn't true, but when I'm under stress it is my default setting. I put myself under stress yesterday when I met with a financial advisor to see if she is the one to trust with my retirement savings. Bingo! My mind then went to all the old places to dredge up the tired tapes of my childhood. Of all the positive places my mind could go it chose to go to the most negative message board. Smack! That's your ego, Sharon, that wants to keep you small and scared. In the words of John Hiatt, "Old habits are hard to break."

The irony is that Ken and I have never fought about money, no matter how much or how little we have. We both grew up with the dark cloud of finances forever hovering overhead. Whether real or perceived, it was a problem that tormented our families. One of the first things Ken and I promised each other was that we would not fight about money. We actually prioritized our spending: food, a roof over our heads, bills, savings. And we have always worked together to meet these goals, through lean times and times of plenty.

The talk yesterday about planning for the future took me out of the present and launched my mind on a magical mystery tour of finances for the rest of my life. I did not prepare myself for the conversation. I jumped right in as if I was living in the future and could figure out a payment plan during a one-hour conversation. Silly me, that I believed that was possible. Sillier still that I thought it was the right thing to do.

Yes, I need to trust someone to help me plan for finances in the future. More important, that work needs to stay in the planning realm and not invade my present space. Today I have enough.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Painting with Eckhart

The week-end was busier than I expected, so six days later I am still painting the laundry room. I went to bed last night overtired, and I woke up this morning overwhelmed. I needed an Eckhart fix, but I also needed to paint, so I tuned my laptop to the webcasts and set to work. (Note: The "A New Earth" webcasts have been buried in's archive; the commercials have been removed but periodically a webcast would reset itself to an earlier time in the conversation, which made for interesting listening from the other room.)

It was just the right thing to do. I moved through the day with the feeling that I was in the right place at the right time. I found a natural break for lunch and dinner, and I even took a walk in the afternoon. The anxiety I woke up with dissipated as soon as I started painting. I was able to pay attention to my work while Eckhart reminded me of how to accept the present moment. I have accepted that my process is not about "getting it right the first time" but about what I learn along the way. And that is a "first" for me....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Remembering Linwood

In Maine, this is the time of year when the threat of frost has passed and the promise of summer is real. It is time to rake what remains of last fall's leaves and breathe in the air of spring. With crocus and tulips in full bloom I think of Linwood and his flower gardens.

I met Linwood the year before Ken and I married. They were old friends who met in Maryland when Ken moved into the same apartment building. Ken, age 12, dug up Linwood's bulbs to plant his own flowers, and Linwood decided his best defense was to get to know this boy. Linwood's family home was in Maine, and he invited Ken to go with him to visit one summer. One summer turned into many summers, and a lifelong friendship was forged.

Ken and I were invited to Maine for Thanksgiving in 1976. By then Linwood had retired and moved back to his family home. In the summertime he opened his antique shop. Year-round he was active in local politics and had a busy social life. Though he never married or had children, he had a large extended family that loved Uncle Linwood.

On those summmer vacations as a boy Ken learned to love Maine. Ken wanted me see this special place. He didn't know that I would love it as much as he did. In Maine I felt like I had come home ~ I felt like it was where I belonged.

Linwood owned a cottage on a pond and invited Ken and me to spend our honeymoon there. We woke each morning to the sound of loons on the water. Each night we marveled at the clear, dark sky and more stars than we could count. During the hours in between we traveled the state with Linwood, who knew the best places to eat and the most beautiful spots on the coast. Ken and I dreamed of someday living in Maine....

Six months later we couldn't think of a reason not to make that dream a reality. In starting our life together we wanted to be in a place where we had a chance to find out who we could be. Maine was that place, and sharing that time with Linwood gave us the solid footing we needed. He believed we would make it, and he respected our decisions even if he didn't always agree.

Linwood was important in our family's life. He held our children as babies and celebrated their birthdays. Our children knew his yard as well as their own. We spent Christmas at his house and celebrated New Year's over his lobster stew. In the summer we sat on his porch and admired his beautiful gardens.

We lost Linwood much too soon. Many things remind us of his life, his laugh, and the gleam in his eye. We loved him and are better for having known him.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

When in Doubt, Paint Something

When we bought this house we knew the entire inside would need to be painted, despite the fact that it was newly constructed. The family room was Creamsicle Orange, the kitchen Apple Green, our bedroom Celery Green, and the living room Daffodil Yellow (which was the color I wanted in the kitchen). Every other room needed at least one more coat of paint because there were streaks and mismatched tints that needed to be covered. What we didn't know was that most of the walls would need to be spot sanded and/or patched in places that were low or lumpy. Some of the ceilings also needed another coat or two, not to mention all of the woodwork. There was a lot of work to do.

We were optimistic. The day after closing we bought many gallons of paint and started right in with energy and gusto. Two weeks later I hadn't even started on the woodwork. We decided that the laundry room, which had been left white, would have to wait.

Well, I have decided it's time to tackle the laundry room. When I learned that my youngest son would be in Florida this coming week-end, it made sense to tear things apart in his absence. This is also a good time to test my new attitude about when children come to visit: I cannot always change my plans. My oldest son said he's coming home, and he knows painting will be underway. He's okay with that. We will see if I can stick to my guns and keep working....

Today I took the paint we bought over a year ago back to Home Depot for a professional "shake." I've done loads of laundry, as if we'll run out of socks and undies in the next three days.

For me, painting is therapeutic. A different part of my brain kicks in to give the thinking part a break. I can change the look of a room with just a roller and some elbow grease. Any apprehension about the end result is unwarranted. A friend's mother said philosophically, "It's only paint. You can always change it again if you want to."

The space will be more pleasant when I'm done, and it will feel good to get one more room finished.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Time to Write the Next Chapter

I went to bed exhausted late last night. Then I couldn't sleep. My body tingled and could not get comfortable. I focused on my breathing. I got up twice. Then I repeated "be still" over and over, in a plea for quiet and insight. This morning I felt that things had shifted and unwelcome tears tell me that I am in a different place. I asked for help, which did not mean that the insight would be easy or what I wanted to hear. It does me no good to ignore what I now see and need to face.

Four things have happened over the past five days that have led to my feeling so out of kilter:

1. On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the college graduation of my oldest son's girlfriend. Earning a college degree is always a big deal. It is hard work and deserves copious amounts of celebrating. After the ceremony we were invited to a party hosted by her family, three generations of people who like each other and have a good time when they get together. We met many members of this family at the party they hosted for my oldest son when he graduated from college, only six months after my son started dating the girlfriend. This family knows my son and likes him as much as we do. *Congratulations again CTH ~ we love you*

2. My daughter the doctor called Monday morning and I had no good advice to offer. I was in a funk and still not dressed, and I could not muster the energy to join her for lunch. I was no help at all.

3. My youngest son is flying to Florida tomorrow morning, and he needed no help from me whatsoever. His steel bridge team from NEU won first place in the Northeast, so they are going to Florida for the national competition. He didn't need my help with the planning or the packing. My contributions were limited to buying him apples for the trip, reminding him a dozen times where the snack bars are kept, and asking him if he charged his cell phone.

4. I have been reading mommyblogs, particularly svmoms and dooce, for hours at a time this week. I am reminded of what it was like to have children whose lives were inextricably intertwined with mine. Oh, the tears come with those words....

The contradiction for me is that I loved every stage of my children's lives as they grew into the independent adults they are now. They are three individuals, different in many ways and alike in others. I wanted them to make their own decisions, take care of themselves, and have their own lives. I didn't think past that ~ I didn't think about what my life would become.

My children did not join my life ~ my children helped me create my life. My husband and I started our life together from scratch. We call ourselves "The Maine Mitchells" because we moved to Maine to start over. Our family is not like any other family either one of us knew growing up, including our own. And we like our children. They are our favorite people.

And though we love our children, we didn't want them to live with us forever. Ken and I enjoy our time together as much as we enjoy our time as a family.

I've never felt like my nest was empty ~ this isn't about physical space or close proximity. My children are still a part of my life. This is about me as the mother of grown children. This is about the most important job I will ever do coming to an end. This is about no longer doing what I love most with the people I love most.

I loved being a mom. I never for a moment regretted our decision to have children. I shaped twenty-nine years of my life around my family ~ their needs and schedules determined how I spent my days, what jobs I took, and when I had time to do the things I wanted to do. I grumbled at times, yet I knew that I would never get that time back and what I did would impact the rest of their lives. I wanted what was best for my family because that was what was best for me. My husband and children loved me and stood by me through good times and tough times.

There are women my age who have young children at home, like kids-who-haven't-started- school-yet young. That boat sailed a long time ago for me, not that I want young children in the house again. If I could still have a baby, that might be a good fall-back postion....No, there is not any instance where that would be a good choice for me. That chapter has been written.

Now it's time to write the next chapter in the book of my life. This is about staying present and letting go. It's about the hard work that makes life great. It's about taking a long, honest look at who I am and liking what I see.

Monday, May 19, 2008

One Confident Woman

There is an interview with Jamie Lee Curtis in the May/June Issue of AARP Magazine. She is one woman who knows who she is and what she wants. And I love her hair! Maybe when more well-known women celebrate their graying hair, those of us who keep our gray will not be such a rarity. Jamie Lee will turn 50 in November.

I admire her confidence. In the face of all that is Hollywood she is making her own life, doing what is best for her and her family. Jamie Lee is active, eats healthy, and goes to bed early. She has simplified her wardrobe. She looks and sounds happpy.

I would like to talk to Jamie Lee about how she got to this place in her life. I wonder if she ever second guesses her decisions or finds herself stalled as she wonders what to do next. How does she find clothes that fit and feel good? What do she and her husband talk about? The interview hits the high spots ~ I want to know how to live that life day to day and not repeatedly question my decisions.

I am at a turning point in my life. My clothes don't fit right, and I don't like my shoes. I'm not unhappy about my weight, but my body is shifting and changing without my permission. I can no longer eat anything I want in any quantity I choose and still feel good or sleep through the night. I love coffee ~ straight, black, hot-from-the-pot coffee. For the first time in my life I have to think about how much coffee I drink at night. I never, ever thought the words, "I better have just one cup" would come out of my mouth.

I want a good healthy dose of Jamie Lee Curtis confidence. If there is a pill or procedure, sign me up. But I don't think it works that way. I think confidence comes with self knowledge and hard work. I think it comes with staying present and letting go. I think it takes tears and time, trial and error. I think when you get there you know it, and I'm not there yet.

My mantra this week is compliments of Coach Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own. When Dottie complained, "It just got too hard," Jimmy replied, "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard makes it great."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In Over My Head?

Today is one of those days when the ideas swirl and my mind races. Before I know it I am in over my head. I finally took off for a walk and thought just about putting one foot in the other, literally. Then I translated that to making plans ~ I can only take one step at a time. I cannot create answers out of thin air.

Many irons have wound up in the fire this week. There are things that I've wanted for a long time that seemed like they would never happen, and this week some of these things look possible. I think the transition has more to do with changes I've made than the world deciding I am worthy. The questions that have come up and the doubts I've faced are products of my own thinking (i.e. my ego). Smack! This "staying present" only works if I practice it!

I need a little bubble over my head with words of wisdom or a little person in my pocket who pinches me when my thoughts take off. Or maybe it's time to buy that neon sign....

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

IntiMats® for Life's Intimate Moments

Present Day ~
I have a project that I have been working on for 4 years. At every point along the way I have taken the next step when I felt the time was right. I feel that it is time to share my product with my readers, so today I am announcing the sale of IntiMats® at

Below is the story of how IntiMats® came to be:

The Tale of the IntiMat® ~
On a lovely spring day in April 2004, Sharon came racing into the kitchen.
"I've got it! I will make and sell love towels!"
Laughing, her husband and daughter asked, "What are you talking about?"
"Well, there are times when people need something to keep the sheets clean. We've always called them love towels, and I can come up with another name, but everybody needs one."

Two weeks later Sharon shared the idea with her good friend and her mother over a glass of wine. Winks and giggles followed. If nothing else, Sharon thought, this is fun to talk about. Sharon and her friend shopped for fabric and talked about packaging ideas. They surfed the net to look for a similar product and found none. By the end of the month Sharon had talked to a lawyer about the process to trademark a product name.

The first name she wanted was taken. There was no product to be found, but the woman still owned the name. Sharon talked to the Technology Law Center at USM about trademarks, patents, and intellectual property issues. Sharon loved this stuff! She felt compelled to go forward. The fact that she couldn't get her first-choice name was a blessing in disguise: not everyone who is intimate is in love. She changed her focus and the IntiMat® was born. Now, how to make this happen....

In March Ken had asked if he could have the federal tax return money for the down payment on a Harley. Sharon said sure. In April she added a condition: Ken could have the federal money if she could have the tax return money from the state. A deal was struck. Sharon had the money if she decided to apply for a trademark. Then she waited for the idea to go away.

It didn't. A year later Sharon filed an application for trademark registration.

In the meantime she made up sample mats and shared them sparingly with a few people. Feedback was positive ~ people liked the idea of a soft mat that was pretty, practical, and washable. Fleece was soft but not very absorbent. Organic cotton terry cloth fit the bill for softness, absorbency, and washability. Sharon couldn't get the terry as wide as she wanted, but she did buy a few yards from a company her daughter found online. And she found the perfect satin binding for the edging. Then she waited for the next "aha" moment....

As often happens, life got busy. Sharon got a letter that the conditional trademark was approved and the product needed to be put in commerce, or she needed to apply for a six-month extension. She went for the extension, with the thought that if this was meant to be something would happen to move things forward. It was October 2006.

Then something did happen. Sharon and her husband bought a new house. Now she needed to take action or back away. Sharon put the IntiMat® for sale in a local hair salon and sent a sample to the lawyer, which was required to finalize the application. Sharon was in it now, but she would think about that later. Her days had taken on a life of their own and there were more pressing issues to think about....

Fast forward to autumn 2007. Sharon had sewn up the few yards of organic terry she had. She decided she wanted to create an inventory and actively pursue sales of her product. She contacted Cotton Plus and learned they no longer had the orginal terry she bought. However, they did have a different, wider organic terry cloth available in 50-yard rolls. Why not? Well, the size and weight of the roll for starters, but she didn't know that at the time. When the heavy, six-foot long roll of fabric was delivered Sharon thought it was a carpet for Ken's work, and when she got the bill for delivery she wished that was the case. She remembered her commitment to see this through and went on with what she had started.

Cutting, washing, pinning, sewing...cutting, washing, pinning, sewing....There was a rhythm to the process that Sharon enjoyed. The material felt soft and luxurious, perfectly finished with the satin binding. The product met her standards.

Sharon met with an accountant to get the basic information needed for a small business, and she had business cards printed. From the beginning she liked the theme "IntiMats for life's intimate moments." At that time she didn't have the official word on the trademark, which was still pending.

By January 2008 there was a basket of IntiMats® at the hair salon. Sharon's contact said women thought they were beautiful, but they seemed embarrassed to buy one. Now what? It looked like it was time to explore the options of listing the item online. As with the search for organic cotton, Sharon's daughter took the lead in research of sales options. She determined that was the answer.

Then a major turning point: On March 10, 2008 the lawyer sent the letter that notified Sharon that the certificate of registration for the INTIMATS mark was final. She owned the trademark. It was official. It was time to take this project to the next level.

On March 23 Sharon's daughter helped her open a "store" on On April 2 Sharon listed the product, complete with pictures taken with a digital camera. Filled with anxiety that the product wouldn't sell, and equal parts of anxiety that it would, Sharon started telling people one at a time that the product was listed for sale online. What to do next would come to her....

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Sometimes life feels wobbly. The last 24 hours have felt that way, like things are out of sync. It's one of those times when I wish I knew about astrology because I'm sure the planets are out of alignment. Or mercury is in retrograde. Or something has gotten out of place and jammed up the system. I think the recent cyclone, tornadoes, and earthquake are harsh manifestations of this cosmic unrest....

At times like these I'm grateful for the routine chores of running a household. There is always laundry to do - yesterday everyone got clean sheets. There is always a meal to cook - fresh salad and fajitas for dinner last night.

And by some stroke of luck I was able to go grocery shopping yesterday. That's usually the last thing I want to do when I feel out of sorts. However, with the youngest son home and packing lunches we needed sandwich fixin's. It was as good a time as any to practice breathing and staying present because I really needed sliced ham. And I used the time to recycle an accumulation of plastic bags - clearing out the clutter is something else that always needs doing.

So because I had to go out yesterday I had to figure out how to make it work. First, I had a very short list and if that's all I bought I would have accomplished my mission. Second, I made eye contact with people, smiled, and said hello. That's when I ran into the realtor who helped us buy this house, and we had a good chat. I felt better afterward. The connection with another person made the rest of my errand a lot more pleasant.

If I had stayed home I would have missed out on that interaction. I get into a rut. I stay home thinking I will stay out of trouble that way. Instead, I shut myself off and keep myself small. I am not doing myself any favors. Maybe I'm not helping anyone else either. There may be times when someone benefits from connecting with me.

My day yesterday ended late because I continued to feel unsettled. I read through a variety of mom's blogs and watched late-night tv. I climbed into the shower with only a night-light on and felt like I could have stayed there all night. It helped and I slept until early this morning.

It still feels like shift is afoot. There's more change comin'.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hibiscus: Repotted

This story is for everyone who knows my history with plants:

I have a hibiscus that will not die. My daughter gave it to me four years ago, and it looked beautiful on the patio. I brought it in over the winter, at the end of which it looked like it was on its last leg. The plant came back to life when I returned it to the patio in the spring. The next winter it lived with my daughter where she was house-sitting. I told her to leave it there, hoping the owners wouldn't notice. They did. Not only that ~ they returned it to us after it spent a sunny summer day in their closed car. It looked like it was done for. Fooled again. Lots of water and summer breezes on the patio produced fresh leaves and flowers.

Then it survived another indoor winter, this time in the kitchen. When we moved I tried to leave it with my daughter. No luck. It sprouted sparsely-leaved limbs in every direction. I was ready to call it quits. A friend's mother said to cut it right back. I did and new leaves couldn't wait to burst forth. So I guess the plant is here to stay. In an effort to show my concession to its life force, I repotted the hibiscus this past week-end.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

To my children ~

Thank you for giving me this day to celebrate being your mother. That gives me the rest of the year to celebrate having you for my children. From the moment each of you were conceived I loved you. From the moment you were born you exceeded my expectations.

You made me a mother, it's true. More than that, you made me want to be my best me because you deserve the best. I wanted to do right by you and that meant lots of changes in the way I did things. When the going got tough, a hug from any one of you would get me back on track.

I didn't know how much I had to learn until I had you. You taught me patience and persistence, pride and humility, how to listen, and how to stand strong. You loved me and challenged me and made all of it worthwhile.

Our relationship has changed from mother and child to mother of grown children. We talk and laugh and share what happens in our lives. I respect your decisions. I love that you call and still want to come home. You've made my life better than I ever imagined it could be.

I love you ~ MOM

P.S. It's okay that you haven't made me a grandmother yet. I'll be ready when you are.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Long Distance Is Not the Same

I talked on the phone yesterday with a friend who lives across the country. We told stories and laughed and wished we were sitting down over a cup of coffee. We have known each other for almost forty years and haven't lived in the same state for the last thirty. We stay in touch through phone calls and emails, and we do see each other every year or two...but long distance friendships are not the same as being friends in person.

There is something about being in the presence of a friend ~ there is shared energy. When I'm with a friend I read their facial expressions and body language. I know how they are feeling before they say a word. Not everything can be said with words.

Being in person also helps me place the conversation later. I forget what I've told people over the phone because I just remember me on my end, not where we were having coffee or what she was wearing or what the weather was like when I traveled to be with her. "To be with her" is the essence. Time spent together is what I miss.

When my children were little I had many friends "in person." We got together for lunch, had potluck suppers, joined story hour at the library, started a mothers' group at church, played in each other's yards, and often spent time together talking about how life was going. There was a quantity of time, and quality was found within that. Like with children, we can't always pick the moments that will matter. We need a quantity of time for ideas to come to the surface and feelings to find words. I miss that time together.

I have friends in every corner of the country and many places in between. Some I communicate with regularly. With some, long periods of time go by. We still love to hear from each other when the letter, phone call, or email does come. And a visit is something to be treasured and remembered for a long time.

I like to play the lottery, in part because I like to think about what I will do when I win. The first thing I'm going to do is travel the country to visit my friends.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Looking for a Team

Last night I attended a screening of Kick Like a Girl, a 25-minute documentary about a girls' soccer team. I highly recommend it if you get a chance to see it. It's about a team of 8-year-olds who can really play soccer. They are so good that coach Jenny McKenzie, who is one of the mothers, signs them up to play in the boys' league so they can be challenged. The story behind the film is of a woman in the midst of changing careers who is coaching soccer and attending film school. Her project is about the value of being part of a team, and the film itself illustrates the process of social change. The girls know they're good because they work together, and some of the boys begin to realize that too.

I left inspired. I need to find a team.

So last night I continued my search of the blogosphere. Earlier this week I watched mommybloggers on The Today Show and checked out a few. If you're curious, a good place to start is with Dooce, one of the best known. For a broader view, check out blogher. I found the sites interesting but not what I was looking for...until last night when I found the 50-something momsblog. There are women like me out who are writing about their lives in their blogs. Who knew? Well, my daughter says she's been telling me about the possibilities, but it took me a while to get there from here. Maybe I wasn't ready to know yet, not to mention that it takes me forever to find anything on the web. Then you should see me try to find it a second time....

Anyway, I think I may have found a team I can join. And I bookmarked them so I can find them again.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Where Do I Go From Here?

My favorite television series of all time is "West Wing." When a situation was resolved, President Jed Bartlet would ask, "What's next?" It was a way to shift gears. It was time to move on. He made an immediate request of his staff to tell him what was next.

In Oprah's magazine "O" she has a column each month called "Here We Go." She introduces the theme of the issue, shares a tidbit of background, and highlights articles in that issue. Oprah lays the groundwork and the reader takes it from there.

First of all, I want to ask "what's next?" and have the universe give me an immediate answer. I have threatened to buy a neon sign that flashes OPEN so that the powers-that-be know I'm waiting for direction. I would love to have someone tell me what to do next. So far, no luck.

Secondly, I have been here before at this precipice of change so I know what it feels like to say "here I go" and jump. It's always scary in the beginning and worth it in the end.

In February 1986 I started counseling. It was a compromise I made between being hospitalized and taking lithium, neither of which was okay with me, depressed or not. I tackled my issues from the first session, and the result was that I got healthy. I had started counseling to save my marriage and keep my kids. I stayed with it because I found out I was worth the trouble. Life got good again. Ken and I bought a minivan; then we had another child; then I returned to college.

In 1993 Ken and I came to an impasse in our marriage. We could not agree on anything, we did not like each other, and we were angry. For the first and last time we tried couple's counseling, which opened the door for communication but did not resolve anything. Then we waited. We waited for months - it was a long year. Then slowly things started to shift and we began to see ourselves and each other with new eyes. Ken had a job he liked that took a lot of his attention and energy. I wanted a full-time teaching job and worried about what that meant for my family. In the beginning we stayed together because we didn't know what else to do. In the end we built a relationship that survives the changes that are part of life.

I started teaching full time in the fall of 1994. Again, be careful what you ask for because you might get it. I found the situation so stressful that by mid-October my neck was so stiff that I couldn't turn my head. Desperate, I started seeing a massage therapist, an act of grace that saved me. She gave my body, mind, and spirit the support I needed to do what I had to do. Things began to shift. An opportunity for a church retreat presented itself. Then I started talking with the interim minister, who taught me about forgiveness and introduced the idea of living in the moment. I was able to accept the job situation I was in and let go of my expectations. Instead of losing everything, I found my voice.

I started graduate school in January 1998 because I needed to find people to share ideas about teaching. I left one job and took another that, unbeknownst to me, would provide the basis for my master's thesis. Then I had a dream year of team teaching; a year of homeschooling my youngest; and a year of teaching that convinced me I could not change anything outside my own classroom. I worked for a year in an alternative community school. And then I knew it was time for me to leave the field of education.

All of these transitions have been difficult. The answers did not come from my mind but from my heart. I often felt compelled to take the next step without knowing why or where the idea had come from. The risk was always worth it.

So with this history, I ask "what's next?" And with faith that things will work out, I say "here I go."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Gift of Grace

A few weeks ago I was visiting a friend who recently moved to Bangor. We first met when she started cutting my hair ten years ago. I like her honesty and value her insight. She said to me, "Sharon, you were always looking for something." I chuckled and agreed. We talked about how unhappy I was with my hair when I first started seeing her and how hard she worked to find a style that worked. In the beginning she wasn't sure she would be able to help me, which I didn't realize. I am glad she stuck with me. I think grace stepped in.

Early this week I revisited Anne Lamott's thoughts on grace. In Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith she writes, "[Grace] is unearned love - the love that goes before, that greets us on the way" (p. 139). Then Anne shares, "I do not at all understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us" (p. 143). I love that I don't need to understand grace to have it enter my life.

Grace has been at work in my life again. The first clue was last week when I had a full night's sleep for the first time in months. This happened after I started watching the webcasts of Eckhart Tolle with Oprah about A New Earth. I began to focus on my breathing. With each chapter I was better able to observe my thinking and stay present.

Yesterday came the shift I have prayed for - I could feel it.

A year ago I lost all that I thought I was: my function as a mother, my role as a student, the home I had known for over 28 years. I was not any of those things. I also was not the racing thoughts or extreme emotions that seemed to take over my life. I knew something had to change but I couldn't make it happen, no matter how hard I tried. And now I know why.

Eckhart Tolle writes in A New Earth, "The initiation of the awakening process is an act of grace. You cannot make it happen nor can you prepare yourself for it or accumulate credits toward it. There isn't a tidy sequence of logical steps that leads toward it, although the mind would love that. You don't have to become worthy first....Only the first awakening, the first glimpse of consciousness without thought, happens by grace, without any doing on your part" (p. 259-260).

I am grateful for this time in my life. My days of doing, doing, doing did not get me anywhere. It is only through stillness I have caught a glimpse of who I am. Again, quoting Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth, "So while you are perhaps still waiting for something significant to happen in your life, you may not realize that the most significant thing that can happen to a human being has already happened within you: the beginning of the separation process of thinking and awareness" (p. 262-63).

The journey continues.