Two Words for Tuesday

fruit, flowers, chair

The only difference between an extraordinary life and an ordinary one is the extraordinary pleasures you find in ordinary things.~ Veronique Vienne

Words.

I love words. I cherish and curate them and still use a dictionary every day.

Working with language is my introvert’s comfort zone and an endless, enjoyable safari that has gifted me with poetry, joy, clarity, connection and five different career strands.

I love how words have layers of meanings like the ripples from pebbles dropped in a pond; I love how they feel when they roll around the tongue or dance around the mind; I love untangling threads of meaning, cultures and essence when I translate.

I love communing with people at a slower pace, through words and music and all the silences in between.

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. ~ Anne Lamott

I’ve recently been teaching myself the language of computer code, trying to build a new website theme that resonates with how I want the blog to feel now that its bustling bistro days are long gone. (I’m due a theme update but this one will bScreenshot (1)reak if I update it; I messed with the code in all the wrong places before I realised what I was doing.) There are only a few of us left, so with the new theme, I’m going for something simple and quaint, yet light and airy.

That’s why today’s Two Words for Tuesday are untranslatables; a Danish one and a Greek one that capture the essence of what I’d like blogging to feel like again, in a digital world that’s become much too busy, fast and shallow for me, maybe for you, too.

I’d like my new blog to feel more like the Danish word… HYGGE.

Hygge (pronounced like a cross between hoo-guh & hue-gih) is so multilayered, it’s at once untranslatable yet instantly recognisable. It’s used as an adjective and a noun and it’s an attitude of living in the now with well-being and presence; it’s comfort, cosiness, warmth between people and a heart glow; it’s the art of creating intimacy; it’s pleasure from simple things and the absence of annoying things; it’s what makes the everyday beautiful and special times magical; it’s drinking mulled wine and eating gingerbread by candlelight in front of the fire at Christmas or reading a holiday book alone at a sunbleached table in a warm sea breeze as the sun goes down slowly over the Greek ocean.

And the Greek word? One of my favourites. (Sorry this theme can’t cope with Greek fonts.)

meráki  (mer-AH-kee) When you create, do or learn something out of love, primarily for you, and you leave a bit of your self, your essence and your soul in it.

For me, it’s been my writing and my Greek.

If I stay on track, I plan to share more words with you this week. I hope that’s OK with you.

What speaks to you of hygge? What could you do today to have more of a hygge home and live a more hygge life?

How does meráki show up in your life?

When Things Fall Apart

Caroline's seagull 1Between the harbours of our pain and our joy, the sunlit bays that lull, and the rocky coves where beached whales gasp for breath, is the journey. Learning to navigate through clear waters and perfect storms keeps us learning, keeps us evolving, keeps us awake.

Sometimes all it takes is the right book to help us chart our way.

Pema Chödrön’s ‘When Things Fall Apart’ is one of those books I gift to folk and re-read every year, drinking it in to quench a thirst that never goes away. She takes all of life, wraps it up in a gentle smile and makes me grateful to be here right now… and happy to be me. If you haven’t got the time or energy to read one of my long, rambly posts, skip to the bottom; there are some great quotes.

Awakeness is found in our pleasure and our pain, our confusion and our wisdom, available in each moment of our weird, unfathomable, ordinary everyday lives. ~ Pema Chödrön

A new me reads it every year. Last year, a death in the family changed us all; the year before that, I lost two friends to cancer and four survived. And every year, this book speaks to me like a friend who knows and understands the essential me but is aware of my constantly evolving circumstances, offering relevant advice for each one.

This is no bright white toothed self-help guru, survivor turned writer, making me mutter “Oh, give me a break!” This is a person who gently unravels all the pain, happiness and conflicting thoughts and emotions that make us human, but who points out that there, there where we notice those states in ourselves and in others is the learning, the living, the enlightenment and the loving. In the space between the inbreath and the outbreath, the silence between the notes, the glide between the beating of a bird’s wings, that’s where all of our peace and wisdom reside.

Chances are, if you visit my blog, we’ve a lot in common and you’ve probably read this book. If you haven’t, and you’d like a gentle introduction to Buddhism and an instruction manual for a simpler, kinder, richer life, please give it a go. I reread it last week and today’s the happiest I’ve been for months. I accidentally pressed publish on this post earlier instead of saving a draft; the original detailed some of the challenges I’ve had and dealt with this week, but to be honest, I bored myself reading them so I deleted all but one.

I stepped on and broke my cherished old Kindle and feared I’d lost the hundreds of quotes and passages I’d lovingly curated over the years and all the ‘collections’ I’d organised ruthlessly, even though the books themselves stayed safe in The Cloud. But I trawled dozens of forums, tried what folk suggested, and hours later managed to rescue the quotes, because they mattered, because they were pieces of life that had resonated with me and were already distilled right down to the essence.

Which brings me back to Pema. These passages from ‘When Things Fall Apart’ were highlighted in my Kindle. I was going to share them with you gradually, but life’s too short to hold onto things that cry out to be shared.

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy…

…Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs. To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path. Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior…

…Generally speaking, we regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors—people who have a certain hunger to know what is true—feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.

                                               From ‘When Things Fall Apart’ ~ by Pema Chödrön.

 

Gifts

The following piece first appeared in 2008, in the column I wrote back then, called ‘Coaching Moments’. In my last blog theme, I had a sidebar widget showing some of my own favourite posts and ‘Birdsong’ was one of them. What I like about ‘Birdsong’ is how it still transports me back to that morning, to the overwhelming feeling of peace, joy and clarity I was left with.

Every time I read it, it reminds me of the difference between writing with a clear purpose, for a defined audience, and blogging.

I blog for connection with like-minded folk, for fun and friendship and to capture and curate some of the moments that matter to me, but back then, my writing was sharper, more focused; I wrote for coaches and specifically for those who were aiming to get certified. As a certified coach who’d struggled to get certified, despite living and breathing the concepts integral to coaching, I wanted to help others do what I’d managed to do. Ego was never involved; I never needed an excuse to write, and really just wanted to inspire, to support and to connect. Doing that in a monthly newsletter over which I had no technical or design control and which had no comments, comment numbers or public replies, meant I could simply focus on writing.

All but one of my editors actually liked my work and were supportive and easy to work with, but here, on my blog, I get what I call blank cheque-itis. Too many choices of what to write and for whom; too much design and technical freedom; not enough information about what folk want, need or like to read here. Just doing whatever I want makes me feel like I’m slipping uncomfortably into the realms of ego. But a blog that helps no-one, inspires no-one, supports no-one makes me feel equally uncomfortable. I have regular visitors here who are better bloggers, better writers, better coaches, better photographers and more together people than I am. So why do I blog?

Not being able to answer that question easily, confidently, when faced with sneering, nosey, scoffing cynics – yes, there are people whose reasons for reading my blog are questionable – is one of the many complex reasons I’m a deciduous blogger and often lapse into periods of cyberhibernation.

But what always brings me back to my blog is clarity around one thing: all I’ve really offered over the years, in my column, my blog, my coaching and my life is one message, something I captured years ago in a post about harnessing the power of authenticity:

“Be brave enough to explore the depths, to find a way out and shine a light for others to find theirs. Don’t be scared to live, to hold out your heart in both hands like a trembling bird and say “Here I am, love me as I am or leave me.” Be more afraid to die with your song still in you, to cheat your loved ones, your readers and the world of the greatest gift you have to give. You.”

A friend who visits my blog regularly and who knows why I obsess about themes, CSS, functionality and creating a welcoming feel to the site, recently commented in an email about my new blog theme; what she said, with joking sternness, gave me a heartwarming shove in the right direction… “Give us all a gift and write something instead of worrying too much about the wrapping paper!”

Birdsong

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself. To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving. ~ Kahlil Gibran

I woke very early today, too early to start clattering and clanging in the kitchen so I grabbed a book, a pen and spiral bound notebook and wandered out into the garden, heading for the table,  sipping the glass of blueberry juice I’d poured for myself.

I laid my books on the table, the blue and white tablecloth dew-damp under my sleepy arms, and I sat there thinking ‘These birds are really loud!’ Cheeping, cooing, chirruping, whistling, trilling, tweeting, chattering…I slowly started to single out each songbird’s soaring celebration of a new morning.

The sun, burning off the last few patches of mist, cast shafts of light through the laurels, turning web-hung droplets to twinkling crystals whenever the fresh morning breeze rustled the branches, dark green against a clear blue sky.

I breathed in the fragrance of moist earth and caught the scent of the mock orange blossom by our back door. Feeling more alive than I had for months, I thought about writing some morning pages, hoping to explore and dispel the shadows that have been settling round me.

I opened the notebook, half heartedly fiddling with my pen as I sat listening to the birds.  Soon I would hear the sound of distant traffic; the humming of an aeroplane across the sky; the faint clattering of cereal bowls and spoons; the sound of kettles and radio alarms carried on the breeze. I put down the pen and leaned back in my seat, unwilling to leave the moment even to capture it.

A big fat bee came buzzing around the bushes by my feet and made me smile! I hadn’t seen one for months. So many tales of the bees disappearing; with them would go the soundtrack to my childhood garden memories of damp grass and daisy chains, dandelions and buttercups.

Suddenly, a flash of red and a choot choot choot –  a robin, on the fence behind the berberis bush. He stopped, looked at me, bobbed his head three times  and flew off.

And I knew, knew then as I know now, with a certainty that leaves no room for fear or doubt: I was meant to write this piece. I was meant to write. I was meant to wake up early, to love that bee, to be that robin, to share with you the beating of my “winged heart” on a grateful spring morning.

And you were meant to read this. For without the life and the breath and the experience you bring to these words, they would only be pixels on a screen. Like the bee, you touch the lives of strangers, you’re woven through the fabric of a million memories, you create moments that leave the world a better place. You and I – like the robin – have a message to bring, a song to sing in the eternal dawn chorus.

Today, as you choose to wrap your heart around the moments that make up a life, how will you share your precious gift with the world? You were born with talents, you’ve worked hard to build skills, to create connections – but they’re just the channel.  You are the gift.