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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

A Birthday, What’s Not Wrong, & Looking Into Each Other’s Eyes

 A note from Erin:

Before I dive into today’s writing, here’s a reminder of a few upcoming events:

  • Join us for an afternoon Feldenkrais Workshop on Dynamic Transitions October 28th. Details and sign-up link below.
  • Women Embodied: Live and Online – registration will be opening soon. Women Embodied- the online version (which will include weekly live video meetings via zoom) will begin in November. Women Embodied Live in Salt Lake City will begin in January. I’ll have more details on how you can apply to join in this one-of-a-kind opportunity very soon.
  • I’m putting the finishing touches on “Things to Do When You Can’t Sleep” a new free offering coming to you soon!
  • An update: I’m so inspired by the beautiful reciprocity. Thanks to your donations, we raised $500 for Puerto Rico recovery efforts with Tending the River of Grief. Thank you to all who contributed your money, your hearts, your words and your tears. I’m profoundly grateful.

This morning, I’m glad to be reminded there’s room for it all.

When I woke up my chest was so tight, reflecting on the details and repercussions of this strange “new normal” we seem to be inhabiting. One disaster after another. So much suffering. In one group I’m a part of that’s orienting around diversity and dismantling racism, there was an implosion this weekend of so much reactivity and fallout. I’m so disheartened by it.
There’s a part of me that wants to take a vat of chocolate pudding, a spoon, and a bottle of whiskey and go hide in a dark closet under a pile of blankets until things get better. I still might. :)
But in the meantime, I put my hand on my heart, send care to the one in there who is suffering. I snuggle on the couch with my guys, and celebrate that our boy is learning to read. He read us a book today, all by himself, for the first time!

But wow, my heart still hurts.

My phone fell in the toilet earlier this week and I’ve been experiencing the strange and wonderful disorientation of remembering how it used to be to live without a device always nearby. The first day I drove to pick our son up at school without a phone, I had waves of anxiety. What if I needed it? I didn’t. And besides, everyone else has one. I spent most of my driving years without a phone in the car.  I’ve loved being undistracted. My day feels spacious in the way it usually only feels when I’m in the wilderness without cell service. I’m not sure I want to get another one. Or if I do, I want to keep it off my body and locked away much of the time.

Last night I went to pick up takeout and as I couldn’t text Carl, I left him a note on the counter. Remember notes? “Grabbing dinner. Be back soon. xo” 
I got in a hilarious and dystopian tech-loop where I had cleared the cookies on my laptop and I couldn’t recall the password to log into my email or facebook pages – and the security key to recover them was sent to my phone, which, having been in the toilet, wasn’t having it.
No email. No facebook. No phone. Just my life, which is so simple and so RICH when I’m not showing up in it distracted by these other things.  Somehow, in the last few years, they have had me under the illusion that they are very important. That I should keep checking in often. Ha!

So, this morning, after our boy went to school, I took my phoneless, clenchy-hearted self on a walk. It was cold and beautiful. Every time I came to a place between the orange-leafed trees where the sun shone through, I paused to face the glow and absorb it. It was lovely. I couldn’t even take a picture of it. I just enjoyed it.

But I still felt so overwhelmed by the suffering in the world, by this foreboding sense that it’s only going to get worse. I stopped at a picnic table and took out my journal. I reminded myself of one way into a gratitude practice… My dear friend Nan recently shared that she does this inquiry with her family over dinner, especially when someone’s feeling depressed. The question is this: “What’s not wrong?” I started listing in my journal.

It’s my beloved’s birthday. He’s amazing. Not wrong at all. The golden leaves surrounding me. These gorgeous October days. My son is having his first sleepover at his Yaya’s house tonight, and for me and Carl – it will be our first night alone together in more than 7 years. That’s not wrong, that’s a freaking miracle! My cat. My beautiful friends. The sound of the creek flowing. My nieces and nephews. Sexual harassers exist, but at least more are getting busted. I can walk, see, hear, smell, taste, laugh, dance, speak, read, learn, love. My son’s school. The class I’m taking with Bayo Akomolafe. Again, another wave of gratitude for my friends. There are so many things not wrong.

And then I felt a bit lighter and decided to write my love his birthday card. Earlier I’d been so distressed I could hardly pull it out of my worried heart. But now, I began to write to Carl about his birthday. About all that I love and celebrate in him. About the privilege of sharing life with this beautiful man, watching him grow, ripen, mature in such an inspiring way. And suddenly, lavishing written praise on my beloved, my own heart was aglow. As one of my Buddhist teachers used to say, caring for others is your greatest protection. When you send lovingkindness toward others, you can’t help but get it all over yourself. 

I share my story with you this morning to say:
Are you feeling distressed at the state of the world? Me too. Big time. I’m with you.
Would it help to put a hand on your heart and send care to the one in there who is suffering?
Would it help to ask, “What’s not wrong?” and discover that there’s actually a LOT?
Would it help to turn in the direction of someone you care for and sing their praises, send them good wishes?
The love and warmth might just get all over you too.
Perhaps I could even invite you to send some good wishes Carl’s way. :)
Would you join me in celebrating this deeply good man?
Isn’t he wonderful?

Joanna Macy’s words are in my heart; “We may not make it… as a human community we may be extinguished. Snuffed out by whatever is keener than us, stronger than our survival. But at least, we can go down looking into each other’s eyes.”

No matter what else: Love matters.
Let’s love each other up. Let’s look into each other’s eyes.
Let’s keep envisioning a beautiful future.
Whatever happens, I’m so grateful we’re in it together.
Grateful for your heart.

With love,
Erin

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Leslie October 12, 2017, 11:37 pm

    You have warmed my heart, Erin, with the beautiful way you hold it all. I’m with you — stressing and grieving and loving and in-awe-ing and worrying and wondering and blessing and feeling blessed and grateful for you and Carl and eyes and hugs and your beautiful, touching writing…

    Happy Birthday, dear Carl 😘

  • Nicole October 13, 2017, 1:28 am

    My heart needed this. Thank you Erin. ❤️

  • Caren October 13, 2017, 1:56 pm

    Thank you so much for writing, and posting, this. I’ve been reading the work of Rick Hanson, learning about creating new neural pathways with gratitude and positivity, trying to find my way out of depression. This was a beautiful reminder.

    Happy, Happy Birthday Carl!! I’m so glad you were born.

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