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!” (Wherein I learn a new word for comfort and coziness)

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.

Alone or lonely? (An important distinction!)

Alone or lonely? (An important distinction!)

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

The man at the pond

What moved you? What made you laugh or cry today? What did you notice?

Sometimes I ask myself those questions. They help me not take my life for granted. They help me feel more connected. And sometimes they make me bow.

But yesterday morning these questions were the last thing on my mind. In fact, not much other than a very grumpy mood was on my mind as I set out on my run. But that was about to change… And last night, remembering my questions, I bowed to the man at the pond. And then I gave my memory of it all a pen:

The pond has been frozen for several days now. Yesterday afternoon there were many children and puppies and peoples skating and slipping and sliding gleefully around on the ice, but this morning, it being Monday, a work- and school-day, not so many. This morning, after my run, I stopped at the pond again.

In the distance, a handful of skaters: one skating in smooth circles on a cleared patch to my right; in the middle distance to my left two others skating on another smooth patch; and closest to where I stood, on the right, a man and his boy simply laughing and rolling around on the ice. It was all quite enjoyable to watch in an absentminded, daydreamy way, but the person who really drew my attention stood a mere few feet to my left, doing nothing more than gazing at the skaters, and in particular one girl-woman who was too far for me to be able to tell her age, but by the way she moved, I’d say she was, at most, in her 20’s and possibly even, still in her teens.

The man was short, Latino-looking, and somewhere between mid-age and going-on-oldish age. A couple of feet behind us, on the bench, sat a very quiet boy, sucking his thumb, wrapped in several jackets including a woman’s coat. I wondered if the girl-woman was the boy’s mom. I wondered if the man who’d captured my attention was her father. Maybe he was watching the boy so she could skate. Really, I had no idea.

I watched the skaters, but mostly I wanted to watch the man watching the girl and so, as often as I could without being obvious, I cast a surreptitious glance his way only to find his eyes, still focused in the distance, on the girl. Mostly he was serious, though always his eyes were soft, and sometimes the edges of his mouth would venture up into the ever so slightest smile, which usually happened when she fell and quickly got up, or when she did some little twirl or wobbly pirouette.

His manner was shy, self-contained. Very quiet. And caring. At one point he turned and, seeing that one of the coats had slipped off the child, he went over and, with a tender touch, tucked the coats more closely around the boy before stepping back to his spot to take up gazing at the girl in the distance.

In this country, at least around here, when I see men of the ethnicity, the heritage, of this man at the pond, they are often wearing custodial clothing, mopping a floor here, cleaning dishes there. Not always, certainly, but often. This man’s clothes were in good condition, and he wore a baseball cap. He was neither poorly nor well dressed.

I am not sure why I was so taken by him. We never exchanged a word, nor did our eyes ever meet. I have no idea who he was or what in the world he does, but what I felt watching him was a kind of swelling in my chest, as if my ribs had suddenly become far too tight for my heart. I can feel it in my body, even now, just remembering. I could try to name what that is, that feeling in my chest, but words fall so short. A name, a label, wouldn’t even come close to doing it justice. My body knows better.

I realize that if my little scene here, the one I’ve just told you, were a movie, it’d be sorely lacking in plot. What can I say! Sure, I can’t help wondering about the man: what are his hopes, his dreams, his fears, his loves? Really, I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure I am right when I say that two of his loves were there at the pond this morning. As well as a woman —a stranger— with a rib cage too tight for whatever was happening in her heart.

I tip my hat to the man at the pond. And to you. Thanks for reading. I hesitate to even post this for I wonder: did you have to be there?

Ah well. It’s just a blog. But tell me, if you want, what have you noticed lately?

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