Pleasures and Ponderings

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Vignettes from my book, Diving Right In

(The following are some of the vignettes in my 2007 book, Diving Right In: Reflecting on Life's Adventures. These were written in 1986-1992, as a parent of teens, a lover, a landlady, a playful inner and outer explorer.)

Bedroom Sprawl
May 24 marked another minor/major change for me. My daughter, 13, did such a miraculous job of cleaning my bedroom (a gift to me) that I knew I could never again let my clothes, books, mail, etc. sprawl all over my room. So I made an agreement with Katie (allowing one day grace/week) that I would keep the room neat or pay HER $5/day. (She hasn’t collected from her mom yet!)

What situation in YOUR life might benefit from a similar commitment? One of the nicest benefits from those agreements: I feel so proud of myself! I’m turning my self-image into “a woman who chooses what works for her, makes goals, and keeps her agreements.” (And more and more, that becomes reality!)
***20 years later, Katie is long gone, and sometimes stuff sprawls. Usually floor and couch in my bedroom, and floor and desk in my office are clear at least once a week. What can I say?

Temp Work
A precursor to May 10 and 24 was my decision early spring to find full time work. I have worked as a temporary secretary at four different City departments in 1986, and my hours for ‘86 are up, so I’m not sure what September will bring. I do know that whatever comes, there are lessons there that I need to learn.

September, 1986
A personal journal of daily happenings and inner reflections (plus some resources) from a mother of teens, a networker, a woman on the grow.
My Wheelbarrow Rides
I want to share each month some things that have given me delight. Since I’ve moved to Seattle from Iowa in 1978, I’ve had three wheelbarrow rides, pushed by three different men, around Green Lake. It started with a lover in 1979 who agreed to do whatever I asked for each week for one hour if I didn’t chew my fingernails that week. (I’d do the same for him if he’d lost 3 lbs. that week). We’d given massages, been read to, etc., but this time I wanted public attention, so I requested a wheelbarrow ride. R. had just climbed Mt. Rainier, and at the end of the hour push around Green Lake, he decided this had been more strenuous than the climb. The reactions made up for it, though, about “women’s lib gone too far”, “what kind of bet did YOU lose?” etc. I was dressed in a Sunday-go-to-meeting dress and fancy hat (I adore incongruities) in the rented wheelbarrow and, when I could keep from grinning, played kazoo, humming “Jingle Bells”, “Camptown Races”, etc.

Hal from the Personals
In 1981, an older man who’d answered my personal ad (which, this time, mentioned wheelbarrow rides) offered to push me when I was reluctant to go out with him because he was 20 years older. That broke my hesitation at once, and I again basked in the grins and amused comments on the three mile trek around the lake. Hal ended up a treasured friend, playing his guitar and singing old songs I’d never heard (which I recorded), reading to me, etc. Special memories include my 1st stop at Surrogate Hostess, with Hal treating. He emphasized, “Eat anything you like”, and he got as much delight at the unleashed kid in me as I did. “I’ll take that salad and that salad and that bread and that roll and that dessert...”

I have sometimes won for my greedy taste buds a piece of raspberry-chocolate pie from Hal when I’ve beat him at racquetball. (ANY occasion is apt for enjoying old and new favorites--marinated artichokes, kiwi fruit, fondue, cream puffs...) Umm, excuse me, I don’t want to resist the turkey-cabbage sandwich I saved for later...

Another time Hal and I gathered brilliant fall leaves at the playground across from my Capitol Hill home (my first seven years in Seattle) with my daughter, then 8. I don’t remember why that was a “primo” leaf-gathering, but it’s forever in my mental scrapbook.

Free Tickets for Nothing
Hal and I still glow about the Fremont Street Fair we attended, me in my rainbow-colored wig worn the three months I delivered balloons as a singing clown, and him in a HUGE sombrero-shaped green foam hat tied with orange ribbons under his bushy gray beard. We had a roll of tickets and we’d go to people walking among the crowded booths and say, “Here’s two free tickets!” They’d beam and say “Thanks! What are they for?’ We’d feign surprise and reply, “Why, for nothing! They’re just free tickets!” And by this time, 96% of them were grinning with us. It was an immediate entree to friendship. (The 4% probably had an ongoing mistaken belief that life should be taken seriously)...

Keeping a Journal
Jean Bryant (Anybody Can Write), has been self-employed for years, and has a great store of native wisdom (common sense) and humor on topics from one’s diet to loving oneself better, etc. (I’ve kept a journal since I was 17, and it was only at Jean’s journal writing workshop three years ago that I felt freed from the compulsion to write every day in order to say “I keep a journal.”)

Seattle’s Parks
A good guide for you nature lovers locally is Brandt Morgan’s Seattle’s Parks. Go out these faIl days and explore a new park. I discovered one nearby with a minuscule stream, totally enveloped by the greens of six or seven varieties of trees. I sat in Me Kwa Mooks park for my weekly two hours with nature, learned the melody of the stream, communed alone, picked blackberries, gloried in the green. It’s on Beach Dr. SW and Oregon SW. What are your favorite parks?

Spiritual Reflections
I’d gotten such value from Brother Tolbert McCarrol’s Spiritual Reflections on the Song of Life that I sent my first tithe to him at Starcross Monastery in Annapolis, California. Some of the many quotes I’ve reflected on are:
a) “If you try to bear fruit when it is time to bud, you may never bud...”
b) “Solving problems is not really important. Finding your true nature is of great importance.”
c) “...All that is required of you is that you learn to be truly quiet…The willow has only to stand still. The wind will move its branches.”

OK, OK, I’ll Do It
I’m still keeping my new habits of a neat room each evening, writing six To Do’s each night for the next day, and two hours each week of just BEING. Now, with the same $5 penalty if I don’t, I have added “keeping my daily schedule current.” What that means, Friends, is that if I got a message from the Dalai Lama on September 1 and didn’t get around to returning his call, under my new commitment, I would transfer that to my September 2 schedule. Now presumably, that’s what most folks do (yes?), but in the past I have carried around up to 28 days worth of my 8 x 11 daily schedule, waiting for the “right” time to make it current. That’s why your call was not returned! The benefit for me was that I had an “excuse” for not keeping focused, for letting some matters fall through the cracks. I was SO busy! (I begin to wonder if my busyness is not a protective armor, just as another person’s overweight or shyness or bitchiness or bravado can be a shield.)

There’s often been something unsettling for me about completed projects or about finished classes or last days of vacation. There’s an inexpressible feeling of a void, probably analogous (though more trivial) to the empty nest syndrome, a feeling of “Now what? Is there still meaning? Am I still needed?” Thus, I’ve realized that even completing my daily schedule and filing the sheet causes a mini-emptiness inside me. It only lasts a few seconds--no big deal, but it’s a clue to me that I may want to explore what’s beneath my discomfort.

I can remind myself that change and completion often provide/provoke growth; and I can forgive myself for feeling unsettled. I’ve found often that simply saying “I forgive myself (for being tired/ slamming the door in anger/ being late/ not wanting to be with my teenagers now/ not having the money to buy this/ feeling lonely)...” is all I need to do to move on. It’s my acknowledgement to myself that whatever I’m feeling/doing is okay. It just IS--no right or wrong about it. So, for now, completions are at times unsettling. That’s all. It’s ok.

What’s “New”
This may seem not worth mentioning, but I get pleasure out of ”new things”, and when I took in my non-functioning Kirby and two other sub-standard vacuums to see what I could get, I was able to get a reconditioned vacuum, at no cost, that operates better than the Kirby, which I’d determined was what I wanted. West Seattle Sewing and Vacuum was helpful, fair, and obviously believed in service. (Our interaction reminded me of the case studies in A Passion For Excellence, by Tom Peters, a super book for businesses that want happy customers .)
I got a chance to question my fixed beliefs (“I want a Kirby”), and make decisions based on my experience (“This one works better!”) rather than on outmoded beliefs.

Belief vs. Experience with my Teens
Another case: This summer my two teenagers were with friends a whole lot; there were some weeks when I didn’t see one or the other for a few days! I knew where they were; I knew they were having a great time, but they weren’t home! Now, I had a belief that a good parent should at least see or keep close tabs on her children, daily. But my experience was that I was loving the loose, unstructured lives we were leading. There was no good reason during the summer, when all three of us were happy, to build in structure just so I could be right about my belief. So I went to lots of meetings and outings, basked in silence, and let my experience be the boss.

I joined the 3-day gathering, connecting with people who care--about community living, spirituality and healing, ritual, inner guides, parenting, music and dance, small business consciousness, citizen diplomacy and planetary wellness, among other things.

You can check out Earthstewards Network at It’s a wonderful way to connect with people/activities toward a more peaceful and loving personal global world. It deals with each of the seven paths of peace: Inner peace, earth as a living organism, planetary stewardship, right livelihood, sacredness of all life, ego transcendence and oneness.

If prosperity (not just money) is something you care about (it is compatible with spirituality!), learn from Edwene Gaines. Read :Finding Your Divine Purpose” from her The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity at Her seminar had a great impact on me. Not only am I tithing (never have before) but this commitment to my journal and its being published in the future came out of her August workshop at Unity.

Still Doing Temp Jobs
Last month I talked about taking the temp job I’m now in. Well, they chose someone who was more likely to stay here long term. I have mixed feelings; this would’ve afforded economic security, but it was not challenging or fun. So now I’m “out there” again. Good friend A. urged me to mount a serious job campaign. I feel a real tug between keeping on with other temp jobs (though I can’t count on them) and going for what I really want (with its greater fears of rejections and discouragement). Tune in next month.

Family Rituals
Friends and 1 shared growing-up rituals. I have fond memories of Christmas Eve, when we’d get up to go to Midnight Mass. When we came home, we’d have cocoa and open a box of chocolates and even drink wine. With my own children, we have gone to an early evening service on Christmas Eve, and had goodies afterward.

I wanted more ritual, so I started one! I rarely buy ice cream (“It’s not healthy”) but we all like it. So the night before the first day of school I bought a half gallon and we pigged out. I told Nick and Katie we’d do that each year. Another tradition is that we go out to eat when they get their report cards, if up to snuff. One thing we’ve done often, but probably isn’t a ritual, is canoeing, with me sitting back and them paddling, which suits us all just fine. I’m in charge of feeding bread crumbs to the ducks. We like picnics too--it’s one of the rare times I’m open to lunch meat and pop and potato chips; junk food wins when we picnic.

Spice Cabinet of the Mind

Do you notice how some days that purple shirt or that spicy casserole are JUST RIGHT and other times--no way! I think mental attitudes/choices are like that; they suit our temperament of the moment. So when I’m feeling some unsettledness or fear, I mentally run through my grab bag/stockpile of “solutions”, and pick one that fits:
a) “How does this (action/feeling) add to the love in the world?” (Thanks, U.V. Family)
b) Breathe deeply; as you inhale, say “Love in”; as you exhale, “Fear out.” (Thanks, Lia)
c) We are always Master OR Victim. “If I were Master now, what would I do/think/feel?”
d) Acknowledge what is; focus on what you want; choose it. Then take steps toward that.

Highlight of the Month – Two Day Retreat
It was at Visitation Center in Federal Way. From Friday night till Sunday afternoon. I had all my meals prepared, and had total use of the adjacent beach and sculptured grounds. Each of the 40 rooms had a single bed, table, chair, plus stool and sink. We heard music or a spiritual talk during meals, which were ample self-serve.

I spent most of the 44 hours in my room, propped up in bed, writing and thinking. I’ve been on a spiritual quest for years, and lately had gotten to wonder what Moreah believed and thought, and what ideas I was just taking over from others. I really gotit. I divided a notebook into “Parenting and Relationships”, “Job/Life Work”, “Self” (goals, freedom, health, what I want, living in the now, “Master vs. Victim”) and “General Musings.” I wrote over 12 pages, probing my consistency as a parent (about TV usage, which I usually limit to 9 hrs./week), (about their picking up after themselves, which I sometimes demand and sometimes hope for and sometimes reward) and about the amount and quality of time we spend together, and how my meetings and other activities affect that. I need to keep reminding myself that my beliefs (about parenting or whatever) can be explored, and that my here-and-now experience often says, “You’re doing fine, Moreah.” Thus, I’d more often have the courage to say “I don’t believe I need to do or be this any more.”

An example: I sometimes get down on myself for not completing projects, for forgetting to do things, for losing one more paper that I “should” have filed right away. I don’t see myself as a perfectionist, and I DO experience others with the same incompletes and memory loss and “misfilings.” I don’t think they are inept or to be chided. My belief, “I need to manage things without goof ups to feel good about myself” is not true and doesn’t serve me. Thus, I choose to be in line with my experience. “I choose to feel good about myself whether I’m “doing it right” or not.”

What I Want from Work
Back at the retreat: Part of the 12+ pages was about what I want from work. I often teeter-totter between “going for what I want with unswerving determination” and “putting on reality tinted (or fear-tinted) attitudes and looking for ANY job I can get that will pay my bills without deadening my spirit. I’m aware that persistence and tenacity will work for me when I get clear about what I want. In fact, clarity + persistence = getting what I want. I hope my December musings wilt announce a job I have and LIKE!

How do you Know you are Loved?
A dear friend her husband and I had driven east to around Snoqualmie. We found a friendly river (lots of rocks and rippling water.) The three of us sat on the boulders eating our fruit and sandwiches. Ahna was sharing some childhood memories with her folks; I asked if she felt loved. “Oh, yes!” “How did you know?” She replied, “He grinned at me!” So simple, yet so rich a statement.

I observed myself the next few days with my children; we talked, we laughed, we went on outings, but the deep intimacy of shared soul-secrets that shows itself in grins was rarely there. I had to ask myself why! I suspect that grins, as opposed to laughs, need the soil of relaxed, unhurried hanging-out time. As several past and present housemates could attest, “hanging out” is not my forte. I’m “Type A” — high energy, task-oriented, desiring results! Nothing wrong with that in a situation where things need to get done, but when the “project” is close­ness, it’s time to shift gears!

I notice I’m more likely to be in a grin-producing situation when I’ve chosen to relax and put aside any need to ”accomplish” things. Thus, when Katie and I are looking at her drawings from Archie comics, or I’m sitting on Nick’s bed hearing about Fire Explorers, my consciousness is THERE, and my unfinished projects are out-of-mind. Then I’m free to be light and relaxed, the perfect conditions for warm looks/ teasings/ grins of camaraderie.
So what else besides grins lets you know you’re loved, that you’re loving? GO for it!

(To purchase Diving Right In (85 poems from 30 years, and 181 pages of vignettes), send $15. + $2.50 for mailing to Moreah Vestan, 5646 42nd Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98136. Join my listserv by sending a blank email to I send occasional humor, resources, links, and reflections. I'd love to share more with you. Moreah


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