Friday, July 06, 2012

the secrets we whisper in the dark

It's been almost exactly a day and I still can't quite fully believe it. We bought a house. A real house. A house with a front door that isn't hidden round the back, a house with big windows, a house that we can't get kicked out of. It's a house where I don't have to ask permission. It's mine.  It's ours. It's really happening. All day I've caught myself in fits of random giggles.  The happiness just bubbles up like champaign, exactly like champaign, and I just let it take over. I revel in it as it tickles my nose.

There are some dreams we're brave enough to say out loud. The dreams that we'll own up to at New Year's or speak about at parties. There are the dreams we write about in journals. But there are also other dreams, delicate dreams, the secrets we whisper in the dark. These are the dreams that seem too wonderful to belong to us, so far out of our reach that it seems like foolishness, presumption even, to speak of them. But sometimes, on a rare special day these dreams step out of the shadows, they step up and tap us on the shoulder. They take us utterly by surprise.

I have dreamt of a home of my own, one that's really mine, probably ever since I moved out of Mom & Dad's place, 17 years ago. But I have to confess that while I dreamt of it quietly, I never actually prayed  about it. I didn't ask God for it because it felt too big, too much, more than was necessary. And somehow, here on this rare day He has decided to give it to me anyway.  I cannot tell you why.  It's because He loves me, I know that. But He shows his love in much smaller gifts than this. This feels like a fairy tale.

It's been two weeks between having our offer accepted by the vendor and yesterday's closing and during those weeks I tried so hard not to dream. I forced myself to use conditional verbs. "In the house that might be ours..." I'd say, "in the maybe house the windows are lovely." "You know if we did get that house, if it all worked out we could build built in shelves in the living room." The Maybe House sounded about as real as the Wendy house I played in as a child, and about as accessible as that long ago memory.  [Canadian translation: in England a Wendy house is play house] But it's not a Maybe House anymore. It's very, very real.

I remember when we first went to look at the house I noticed that there's a brass lion head door knocker on the door that is my door now. I remember thinking, "Wouldn't that be a fine thing, to own a door with a lion head knocker? " It is a fine thing indeed.  On Facebook last night a good friend of mine asked if this was the house where I'm going to write the Great Canadian Novel. (Isn't that a lovely thing to ask?) It just might be. It feels like a house of dreams and stories.

There's a waiting period now - a couple of months, almost like an engagement, where we are promised to each other but not yet living together. It'll be a time of packing, of sorting through and letting go.  It's a time of transition, which is never my favourite. But it will also be a time of dreaming.  I came across a quote from Walt Mills the other day that spoke of, "running barefoot through the grass without care or knowledge, like Adam and Eve when they were young and innocent, naming the world for the first time." I think that is a perfect description of what happens now. It's time to name the world for the first time and,  I hope,  a time to honour the other secrets that I whisper in the dark.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

preparing for Canada day

There's no sunshine here, no sunshine at all so I haven't been feeling very Canada Day-ish at all.  I decided to put an end to that by painting my nails patriotically (with a bonus nod to England, my birthplace).  Not bad for a first attempt.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

not what you do, or not what you've done?

I keep thinking about this quote from Seth Godin that I read the other day and wondering how it applies to my life:

"The question to ask is: Is this a reflex that's part of my long-told story, or is this actually a good decision?"~ Seth Godin

I’m not looking for radical change (I have someone willing to sponsor me to move to Australia if I really want to change everything) I like my life. But there’s a very fine line between change and growth and you really can’t have the later without the former.  I know that there have been times in my own life when what I’ve told myself is safety is really actually me being stagnant.  Growth is a sign of life. Change, as much as I resist is not only good, it’s vital.

Today at church they were talking about an upcoming conference – the LifeWomen Conference – a conference that has been stalking me these last few weeks.  Some women that I really respect are heavily involved with it.  I kept hearing about it.  Even at small group someone asked me if I was going and I quickly said that I couldn’t because part of the conference happens Friday during the day while I’m at work. “That’s ok,” she said.  “There’s a bunch of people who come Thursday and Friday evening and for the day on Saturday.”

The thing is, it’s not a scheduling conflict that was ever the real reason in the first place.  The truth is: I don’t like conferences.  I’m not a “conference person”. I don’t like the rah-rah, the standing around trying to make nice with strangers, the scheduling, the groupthink that breeds in places where there’s a theme.   It’s not that I think I’m above them, just that they seem geared for people who are far more social than I am, and far more type A. I’d really rather just read a book.

Today as I was driving home from church I felt like God was being pretty persistent about signing up for this conference.  “God,” I reminded him, “I’m not a conference person.  You know this. It’s just not what I do.”

The answer came swift and sharp, as it sometimes does when God speaks.  “Is it not what you do Claire, or is it simply not what you’ve done?”


And that looped it back around to Seth and the idea of a behaviour, a choice, that is rooted in a “long-told story”.  I like to think that certain things fall inside or outside of my personality.  People come to me for advice all the time and I willingly step into that, even though it means listening some really hard stories.  It’s not a problem; it’s what I do.  But ask me to fill in for someone on your beer league baseball team and I’d rather have a root canal. I just don’t do that.  I’m used to thinking that these things are innate, but I’m wondering how much of that is actually carved in stone? It’s extremely unlikely that I will be a concert pianist.  But is it equally unlikely that I could never enjoy a conference?

The fastest way to change, the only way to change really, is to choose differently.  In the big things and the little things it’s our choices that direct our steps.  Wanting to change, while important, isn’t enough. You have to do the work of change.  You become different by choosing differently.

If we want to change, if I want to change, then I have to be willing to enter into uncharted waters.  That’s the whole gig.  So the question becomes not, “Why are people asking me to do something I don’t want to do?” but rather, “What might the world look like if I tried it?”

Objectively, this conference is low risk.  It wasn’t very expensive and it’s local so if I go the first night and absolutely hate it I will have lost a couple of hours at most.  But what could I gain if I go and hear something I really need to hear, or meet someone I need to meet? To be honest, from everything I’ve seen so far, it doesn’t look like something I’ll hate. It looks awesome. It looks like a conference filled with people that I would like to emulate. All I have to do is show up, which, it turns out, is almost always the case.  If you want to change, there’s only one thing you have to do: show up.  Find out. See for yourself.

When I got home today I signed up for the conference, quickly, before I could talk myself out of it.  It’s not what I usually do, and if I’m being honest, I’m a little nervous about it.  But there’s a part of me that’s excited to, and curious, and I wonder what my story will look like on the other side.


(And hey, if you want to come too, sign-ups are still open. Register by the end of the month and you get a discount AND a chance to win the type of bicycle people ride through Paris in the movies.)

Monday, January 02, 2012

just one word

I often find myself inspired by Idelette McVicker (can I be her when I grow up?) especially when it comes to writing.  It’s actually her fault that this blog exists at all.  Years ago I was having coffee with her and she asked me, “So tell me, what are you writing, other than for work?” No one ever asked me that. I stuttered and stammered and made noises about time and focus and finally confessed, “Nothing.”

She looked right at me and in one of those moments where someone gently but firmly takes you by the shoulders and turns you toward the truth she asked, “What do you call a writer who doesn’t write?”
That was almost eight years ago and in the time since, I’ve kept up this blog, I’ve journaled more, and the last two years I have participated in, and won, National Novel Writing Month with it’s “50 000 words in 30 days” challenge.

The challenge from Idelette this today is much simpler: lay aside those new year’s resolutions and instead pick a single word, just one, that you want to focus on this year.  Sounds easy right? It is and also it isn’t.  (Remember the words of van Gogh, “How difficult it is to be simple.”) But it's right up my alley.

I had planned to think about think about this, to really chew on it and take my time with it.  But no sooner had I read Idelette’s challenge when a single word announced itself loudly in my head.  Really? I asked.  Are you sure? I remembered something I heard recently, in small group I think, where someone said not to dismiss those thoughts that come out of nowhere, because sometimes that is the voice of God.  So I took another look at the word. The more I thought about this word, the more sense it made.

So here goes.  My word for 2012 is SAVOUR.

I’ve been thinking about timing a lot lately.  Timing in the sense of feeling like the pace of things is wrong and timing in one particular circumstance where the timing is not what I wanted.  I am taking an amazing trip this year, but to do so will mean using almost my entire allotment of vacation days just six weeks into the year. I thought I'd made arrangements to make it easier, but it didn't work out. Now I worry that I won’t have time to do the other things I want to do. There won’t be a summer vacation this year and what if family comes to visit? What if the friends I went to Boston with last year decide to meet up again? What if there's an out of town wedding? What if there isn’t enough time?

So my word for this year is savour.  I will savor those weeks in Australia and not taint them with worries of enough. I will look for the good that’s right here in my life in the place I’m in right now and not dilute that joy by wishing for something different. When there isn’t a whole day to play I will look for play in the moment.   Webster's defines savour as to "taste and enjoy it completely". I want to do that.

I want to take the time to taste the day, to roll the words around on my tongue, to drink in my surroundings. I want to sink deep into the moments of this year until they come up over my shoulders.  I want to cuddle in, lean in close and really catch the details of what is going on.  I want to make memories and tell stories.  I want to be the kid on a swing who leans all the way back so she can stare at the sky. 

Savour.  What a delicious word.  It's scary and also exciting - just what a new year should be.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

making room

At church on Sunday Pastor John talked a little about generosity. He said that he often hears people say that if they had more money they’d be generous and his answer to them is, “No you wouldn’t. Generosity has nothing to do with your money.” He’s right.  Generosity has nothing to do with what you can afford; generosity it all about what you make room for.  

I remember when I was about 14 or 15 and I reached that age when my parents didn’t make me sit with them in church anymore. All of us “youth” would grab a pew together, usually the second one from the back and there we’d sit reveling in our autonomy.  The pews in that church were oldish, solid wood and what I remember most about them is that you could always, almost always, squish one more person in.  

There would be times when I’d get to that pew and it would look full – chockablock, hip to hip full – and I’d be crestfallen until someone said those magic words, “I think we can make room.” All the way down at the far end of the pew someone would shift over releasing a tiny little piece of space, half an inch, maybe a little more. The next person would scrunch over, the guy that had his eye on the girl next to him would be extra generous and move all the way over plastering himself to her side in the process.  Piece by piece the row would move, each one making a little space until low and behold there was a spot for me.  It always felt so good to tuck in beside them, to be included, to know that my being there was worth a little of their comfort. 

More often than not, five minutes later another person would come along and somehow the miracle would happen again.  There it would be, like the oil and flour in the story, a little more room.  I think that’s what generosity looks like.

Generosity is not about the extra, the left over, or surplus. Generosity happens when I say, “I was going to have this, I was planning to spend it on me, but here, I want you to have it instead.” Generosity comes out of our own comfort, our willingness to squish a little to make room. It doesn’t have to be dramatic – most of us are not called to sell our cars and homes and give it all away – but for the person standing on the outside, those tiny inches can really add up.

When I see a Christmas pageant and it gets to the part where Mary and Joseph arrive at the inn it always bothers me that the innkeeper doesn’t even leave to go look properly. “No room in the inn!” he declares from the doorway and I want to say, “Could you check again? It’s cold out here.” I need to remind myself of that.  Check again.  Look closer. It’s easy to think that what we have isn’t much, not enough to be of value, not enough to go around.  But so often God can take our little bit and stretch it out like taffy.  He can make it enough.

Generosity doesn’t start in my wallet, although it often ends up there.  Generosity starts in my eyes.  It’s that moment when I see a need and notice it instead of turning away.  It’s in that heartbeat where I ask, “Maybe I could….” It’s in my feet when I make the decision to help, and then it gets into my heart, usually right around the time I’m taking action.

It’s such a simple thing really, making room - a slight adjustment, a butt wiggle and you’re already there.  What are you making room for?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What else?

And suddenly there is was, out in the open as if it had always been there.  Unmistakable. I didn't approach it at first, I didn't want to scare it away.  So I smiled instead and very quietly said, "hello".  It turned to face me and stretched a question out between us, fragile as a spider's web and just as strong.  "Would you?" the question asked and without meaning to I found I had taken a step toward it.  I think I saw it smile.

"What do you love?" It asked me. 

"People," I said.  "And words and the ocean and skipping and horses."

"Horses," it repeated.  "It's been a long time since you talked about horses."

"A very long time," I agreed.

"But you haven't forgotten?"

"No, never." I shook my head, grinning.

"So, horses then. There could be horses.  What else?"

I could see all of the ideas spread out like a candy buffet at a summer wedding and for the first time in a long time, I reached out a hand toward them.

* I wrote this a few weeks ago. It feels like it belongs somewhere, like there is more of the story that I just haven't quite found yet.  But at the same time it is so very much all about today because on Saturday I go for my training as a volunteer with the local equestrian therapy center.  As of this Saturday there will be horses again.  What then, I wonder? What next?