Category Archives: Musing out loud

Things I see when I stop to look. Things I hear when I stop to listen. Things that make me take up a pen to write. And things I don’t want to keep to myself. “Musing out loud” is about life and death and many of the bits between.

“Hygge!” Coziness, comfort and connection for what ails us.

There are lots and lots of things I believe to be true that I later discover I was partly or utterly wrong about. You may think me odd, but the realization that I could be wrong fills me with something like (but much better than!) hope: a sense of possibility.

Imagine how many of my limited (and limiting) ideas about such and such might not be true? Conclusions I’ve drawn about people I don’t like? Interpretations I’ve made about what something means? Decisions I think would turn out in disaster? Thoughts that have started solidifying into beliefs about who and what is wrong and who and what is right? Whew! What a relief, not to mention a fantastically surprising and possibility-filled turn around, to realize I was wrong.

Similarly, and possibly in a slightly easier way to understand, there is an endless number of good, remarkable, surprising, comforting, life-enhancing or all of those creative things I’ve yet to discover, things that at this moment I don’t even have the faintest idea exist. Whoa. Realizing the vastness of examples I’ve yet to discover of where I’m wrong and amazing things I don’t even know exist, fills me with an eager, yet effortlessly patient (because: I don’t know what I don’t know!) and welcoming sense of anticipation. This means that even getting up on the darkest of days and foulest of moods, it is possible for me to say:

Wait! I don’t know. I just don’t really know.

How about you? Imagine all the fantastic songs you’ve never heard, let alone knew existed. Same goes for books. For paintings. For poets. For encounters. For gadgets. For new variations in paint color. For places. For hilarity. For foods. For ingenuity. For ideas & concepts. Imagine!

Two days ago this time, there existed a word in the world that I did not yet know until my sweetie told me about it, explaining that it’s a Danish word that doesn’t have any perfect translation in English but that it’s about coziness, comfort and connection. “Hygge!” he kept saying. (It’s pronounced “hoo-guh.”)

And now I can’t get hygge out of my head! 

Hygge is about sensual pleasure in simple, gentle, soothing things. Oh my. What’s not to love? It’s also a form-shifty word that can be used as a noun, adjective, or verb, or compound noun, “like hyggebukser, otherwise known as that shlubby pair of pants you would never wear in public but secretly treasure.” (From The New Yorker, 18 Dec. 2016: “The Year of Hygge, the Danish Obsession with Getting Cozy,” by Anna Altman.)

Multifaceted that it is, hygge can also be used to refer to a state of mindfulness, which allows you to enjoy that sweet little thing you might not otherwise give a second thought, even though it is and always was oh so worthy of a second or even third and fourth…

On Saturday, after watching “Abstract,” the design show on Netflix that taught my sweetie, and me by extension, our new word, he and I went thrifting. And for everything we looked at, we considered whether it passed the “hygge muster.” Then we came home with a set of The.Most.Delicious.Bowls you have ever laid your eyes upon. And later we made coconut milk-cherry ice cream and ate it from our new-to-us blue bowls. Nothing was wasted. Afterward I warmed up two rice pillows, one for his freezing hands, and one for mine — rice pillows like the ones I use in my office and the ones I sleep with all winter, rice pillows that always were all about the wonderful qualities of the word I didn’t know until 2 days ago even existed: hygge!

And here, in no particular order, are some pictures I snapped of hygge in the place I call home. And yes, those are the bowls, on the hygge-bench my sweetie made and sits on when we meditate, which is just a fancy way of saying: to pause and notice, among other things, the hygge right under our noses.

Loneliness. (Not what you might think!)

Loneliness. (Not what you might think!)

Have you noticed that there are times when being alone is the most delicious thing in the world…Loneliness? What loneliness! And then there are other times when you are with people, maybe even people you love, and you feel incredibly lonely. Hmm…

It’s Valentines Day. And today I want to talk about loneliness. (Because, why-ever not!) And about beginning to meet our very own dear selves with curiosity and tenderness.

Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, scientist, and prolific writer among other things, knew a thing or two about human feelings and motivations. He said:

“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.”

In other words: loneliness isn’t so much—or necessarily, at least— about the who but about the what… With the what being what’s important to you, for starters, and then for purposes of not feeling lonely, being able to communicate that what.

So, my dear, what’s important to you? Do you know? Do you even know where to look? No worries if you don’t. We all start somewhere, and loneliness is certainly as good a place as any to start on the journey of getting to know the one person you are guaranteed to fall asleep and wake up with, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part!

Now, depending on where you are on this journey of knowing you, what I just said may make you gulp or roll up your sleeves or jump up and down excitedly. That’s OK. Any of those? Totally OK.

How can you listen for and put yourself in the frame of mind-heart to hear at very least the stirrings of what’s important to you today? And once you hear something, is there a way you can express, even if just one tiny part of whatever it is that stirs you? (I talked about some possibilities for how to do that a few days ago here).

Art by Leah Piken Kolidas

Dreams are one of my favorite ways to listen for important, just under conscious surface, things in me. When I write down my dreams, especially the ones that wake me up in the night or the ones that stay with me upon waking in the morning, it is my way of practicing being curious and turning toward what is important.

Dreams speak in the language of images and metaphor, which is why sometimes (actually, quite often!) they can seem very odd. And often it’s the disturbing dreams that catch our attention. “I had a bad dream last night,” you might find yourself thinking or saying in the morning. But if you turn toward the dream, no matter how seemingly odd or bad (even or especially if it feels like a nightmare!) with curiosity and a wanting to have it open up for you, you might be surprised by what treasures you find.

I’m not talking about dream interpretation here, not per se. But rather an openness and curiosity toward whatever your dream has brought to you.

Years ago —around 20, actually!— I read a little book by Gene Gendlin called “Let Your Body Interpret Your Dreams.” It was the book that first introduced me to Focusing, which is a wonderful and very learnable process of listening to and getting to know ourselves. Incidentally, I count Focusing to be among the 2 or 3 things that most has helped me come into kind relationship with myself over the last 20 or so years (after waking up from a failed attempt to check out of life). Changes in my life have not happened overnight, so to speak, but a lot of them DID happen, and certainly started happening, in the night and in my dreams.

Just last night I had the strangest dream. And this here is me showing you how I turn toward whatever it might be bringing me…

First I relay it. Usually this happens by me writing it down. Sometimes I tell it to my husband or to my Focusing companion, with whom I meet once a week, but not always. Even just writing it down for myself counts.

In my dream I’m visiting a hospital like McLean Hospital. In my dream I’m going there for business, though not exactly business, and also not exactly personal affairs either, though of course I have feelings about these kinds of hospitals, having been in a psych hospital when I was just 18. And again 26. Anyway, in my dream I go round the bend to the entrance, which is in the back of the hospital rather than right on the street, and I am met with a very very steep and paved driveway. Incredibly steep. Steep like I don’t know however one would ever go down it, let alone climb it to leave! But I do. Somehow I manage to get to the door and in. The place is welcoming and organized. People who know what they are doing work there and they are neither cagey nor secretive, nor overly solicitous: just straight up decent, smart and doing their jobs well. Someone is showing me around. Then, in the next part, a girl-young woman —not a baby but neither a fully grown woman— wants me to pick her up. And so I do. She gets in my arms and falls asleep there. She is so close to me, right up against me with her head nuzzled into the crook of my neck, and I notice how much comfort and how comfortable and how comforting it is for both of us. She was in this hospital, this girl-woman-baby, and when I arrived she jumped into my arms. A woman who works there keeps showing us around, leading us down maze-like hallways and into and out of offices and rooms here and there and everywhere. The last room we enter in this dream, after which I wake up, has a huge window overlooking a wide and shimmering ocean.

That’s it. That’s my dream. And this is how I get curious about the dream, open toward understanding what it’s showing me as important right now in my life, open to hearing what help it might have for whatever is challenging or “up” for me these days. (For dreams always bring help, always, even if they are just showing us something we otherwise don’t see).

So the hospital in the dream is not unlike the psych hospitals I found myself in when I was 18. And 26. At which time I really was rather alone, literally, and, oh god, lonely as hell. I didn’t have myself, and certainly didn’t know what was important to me (other than finding the next sweet food to binge on!). And I didn’t have much in the way of family or other people.

OK. There is that. That feels resonant. The kind of hospital in my dreams is familiar to me.

But… the one in my dreams is also different! I am arriving to visit it, not to stay in it. I am there on business, though my interest is also personal.

Could this be about the work I do with clients? And the work I am doing much more of now as I focus on helping people with anxiety and depression?

Yes, maybe. Certainly not no, but not quite a full hit of YES. Let me stay with it… What else… What happens next?

There’s that girl-woman who gets in my arms and whom I end up walking around holding while the good people who work there show me around. Ah… that bit, I remember now when I was writing it, that bit choked me up: not a baby and not a woman. Something like me when I was 18. And 26. Feeling so lost and alone in the world. Excruciatingly lonely. A lot like that. And, at the time, in that kind of hospital. Yes. But the part specifically that made me cry is the bit where that girl-woman trusts me so much. And how much comfort and comforting there is when she is in my arms.

There it is. The nugget. The important bit. The bit I wanted to tell. There it is. She is me-then. She is me-then who is still, often, with me now. And at different points in my life I’ve had such shame about her. And I’ve tried to pretend her away. Or hide her, certainly. But not in this dream. I am walking around holding her, holding me, close. And, goodness gracious, could it be? Even telling you my dream about it, about me.

So, my friend, my client, my dear, what’s important to you today? When you turn toward yourself with curiosity, what do you find?

See if you can make room for whatever, for whoever is there. EVEN if (and maybe especially if) what you find is a part of you that’s afraid to look. Because that is often the case when we start turning toward rather than away from ourselves.

Go gently, go kindly, and go ever so curiously. It’s SO worth it! ❤️ Happy Valentines Day, love.

Lastly, I leave you with this poem by Derek Walcott:

Love After Love

The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,

And say, sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you

All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.


Featured artists: Leah Piken Kolidas and Emba

A case for crying: Reflections on homesickness, birthdays, and going back for parts that got left behind

A case for crying: Reflections on homesickness, birthdays, and going back for parts that got left behind

Dear Ones,

For me, birthdays are always a time for thinking back, and in the last years when I have thought back on other birthdays the needle invariably has settled around the memory of one birthday in particular… There is something incomplete, unfinished about that one. Probably me-then is still needing something. This here is me-now, years later, going back for her…

Three weeks shy of my twelfth birthday found my parents standing on the roof of the airport in Chile waving goodbye to my brother and me as we set off for Quito, Ecuador to board at a school dedicated to educating (and keeping in line!) the children of missionaries, which we were. My youngest two siblings remained in Chile.

As the oldest, I had always done my fair share of taking charge and taking care of things I thought needed caring for, tending to, or fixing. Some would call that flair for care “bossy,” but isn’t there always more to those things than what an easy label implies? “Besides, what’s so wrong with bossy?,” I say with a hand on my hip: I’m a helluva good at knowing what’s missing, what’s broken and what needs fixing. I can look at something and see what’s broke before you even register what the thing itself is. Anyway, where was I? Ahh yes…

When Karl and I boarded that plane on that 22nd day of January 1980, the mothering and care I knew so well to extend to others served me not one bit: I had not the first clue about directing my superpower onto my own dear self. Also, Karl who would be living in a separate wing in the dorm from me, understandably wanted nothing of a barely-older-than-he sister taking care of or fighting any battles for him thankyouverymuch.

On the plane I cried and cried, quietly, mind you, as secretly as possible, but still. I would cry plenty more at school also, but always —if it could be helped— alone and, I hoped, out of sight and sound of anyone. Apparently I believed there was something wrong with crying and with a person who cried. Oh dear. Oh, dear…

The dawn of my very first morning at school found me awake earlier than my roommate and rummaging as quietly as I could —sense a pattern here?— for a notebook and pen. That was the day I began writing letters as if my life depended on it. I’m sure my letters home contained agonizingly detailed accounts of this that and the other and not much mention of how I felt. I wrote almost every day but I don’t think I ever fessed up to crying and how homesick I was for Chile other than the usual sign off of “I miss you tons” or “I love you.” If you read between the lines, though, it was there: a homesickness so constant it would cry me to sleep most nights, while I tried, as best I could, to keep it quiet and secret.

Year before last when I met the man I would fall in love with, one day he saw me crying. I let him see me and it didn’t scare him. It did not make him turn away. It did not even make him try to make me stop crying. He just sat with me while I cried. Later, I forget if that day or another, he would say to me: “You are the quietest cryer I have ever met. How come you don’t make noise when you cry?” That was the day it started dawning on me that maybe I did not have to cry alone and keep it a secret. I had a lot of things to cry about and he wanted to be with me while I cried. (Wait, what?!) And sometimes he even cried with me.

I’m not sure when or why I picked up the belief that crying is shameful, but I had. Back when I was 12 I must have thought: Whatever would people think if they found out I was so homesick? Me-now replies: That I was homesick?

“Be strong,” people say. All the time people say that. Have you noticed?

Thing is, there is a lot to cry about and the more we try not to cry when something in us wants to, the more brittle and hard we become. And brittle and hard is not actually strong anyway! Brittle and hard takes a toll, especially on the body. I know. I know from my own body’s experience and from the bodies I touch every day. Brittle and hard is much more likely to be injured. Soft and supple is flexible and bendy, giving here, taking there and allowing for the support of the ground and the support all around us, rather than trying to keep it all in and hidden and pretending all is fine when it isn’t. The body really does not when we pretend things are different than they actually are.

I turned 12 in the days before e-mail, when snail mail letters —especially the ones that had to cross a border or two— took what seemed like forever, which is exactly how long it took letter #1 from home to arrive at school. In actuality it was probably somewhere between one and three weeks —like I said, forever. I turned 12 also in the days of outrageously expensive phone calls, especially international ones, and especially on my parent’s missionary “allowance.” But on the morning of February 10 I was woken up by a knock at my door and the dorm-father’s voice saying, “Heidi, there’s a phone call for you.” It was my mom and dad calling to wish me, their oldest daughter, a happy birthday, singing it to me, I’m sure, followed by three minutes in which four of us —for bleary-eyed Karl had joined us by then— would exchange the quickest of quick I-don’t-know-whats. To this day, I am not a fan of talking on the phone but I remember not knowing what or how to say anything, certainly not as fast as I knew I needed to; all I could see in my mind’s eye was a picture of the place called home where my parents were, surely, huddled around the one and only, black, rotary-dial, rope-chord phone in the living room in the house where I wasn’t in Temuco, Chile. And anyway, what can be said in 3 minutes?

“Three minutes is just not enough.” I said this once to a friend as I recalled this birthday memory. And she, playful and wise soul that she is, replied: “Wouldn’t that be interesting to test?”

I was a bit puzzled but said, “Sure.” And then she proceeded to tell me, for 3 minutes, all the things she loved, including, yes, the things she loved about me.

Three minutes. What can be said in 3 minutes?

Today, in honor of me-then who, in writing this I go back for, and in honor of all of us who cry or want to cry or can’t cry or are embarrassed to cry, and in honor of anyone with a homesickness or a longing for something which they may not even have words for, in honor of us all: What can be noticed and said in 3 minutes? Set a timer. Ready, set, PLAY!

Maybe you’ll write it down. Maybe you’ll even put it in a letter to someone: What do you hear? What do you see? What do you sense? What do you remember? What’s it like around you? What’s it like inside you? What feels good? What feels OK, so OK even that you get to take it for granted? What feels hard? What makes you cry? What do you miss?

Ahh, the presence of what’s missing…the space left by what’s not here… But, funny, that! Because the moment we notice that we miss something, aren’t we then, in the noticing, experiencing it ever so intensely? And in some way then isn’t what is missing even more present?

Maybe missing is just be another word for love.

Missing you. Wishing you were here… Oh wait–!


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