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Of Winter, Bob Dylan, and Martha (My Dear)

January 25, 2011

First I need to say how grateful I am to you for sticking with this often-less-than-joyful-project, and for coming along with me on this sometimes-rocky journey.

What I’m noticing right now is how there’s something inside me that seems to be struggling to be born, something good that needs to be watered with time and attention. Something as yet unnamed.

And I’m also realizing that  lately I’ve been caught up again in an old cycle called overwork-isolation—loneliness, and not reaching out for what I need, which right now is some support and nurturing. Part of this cycle entails taking the deprivation simply because I can. Until I can’t anymore.

Also that, just there beneath the surface, and yearning for air, lie wounds half a century old and fresh as yesterday. Childhood wounds of rejection; humiliation; loss and grief, that are being triggered again and are looking to be healed for good this time.

Ah yes, it’s winter.

And you know those recent posts where I’ve been talking about a hunger for something more in my life? A new adventure, goal, dream? I’m beginning to think this yearning for “something more”, while negating what I’ve got, is a kind of boredom, the kind Buddhists are referring to in their saying, “When bored, slow down”.

I tell you this – one way I’m getting taken care of is by you. Listen to what one reader recently wrote me:

“…Maybe you already have all your goodies, and don’t know-feel-it. Maybe ‘enough is as good as a feast,’ but you’re not ready to see that. Maybe you need to slow down…and find ways to savor what you have.” This was from my friend Ellen, who met me some 35 years ago when I was in my 20’s.  This woman knows me well. She goes on: “It sounds like so much of what you’ve dreamed of having is in your hands. Maybe you should think back to yourself at age 30 and 40…”

I’ll tell you something, Ellen, one thing I wanted all those years was a friend and a sister like you who has known me so well, and could kindly and gently wake me from a funky stupor like you have helped me do with these loving words.

Another thing I’m finding out: What can help me see the glass of my life as half-full is something I would like to call graterosity, defined this way in the New Wiki-Wininger Dictionary: “To be grateful, thereby triggering feelings of generosity, or vice versa.”

So instead of my old bugaboo of feeling envy for the young, for example, and arguing with reality, and complaining that growing old is something I shouldn’t be made to do, I can nurture my graterosity and feel, first, grateful for my life, and for a youth I didn’t waste; and then generous: Now it’s their turn. I’ve had mine! **

Which brings me to Bob Dylan, who once wrote a song (one that happened to be called Forever Young), which includes this line…

“May you always do for others;
                        And let others do for you.”

This is one thing I’m starting to see: How being receptive is a subtler form of generosity. And more difficult. I may open myself to give; but I have to open wider to receive. Specifically, this means opening the door of humility, and also of vulnerability  (an ability I’m still cultivating) which means having less control. Not as easy on the ego as giving. It’s easier to steel myself and focus outwards.

Reaching out gives others the opportunity to give. And what could be more generous than that?

So blogging for me turns out to be a kind of circular giving; a givceiving.

So right now, I’m in that spot where I wake up, again, to find I’ve been asleep, again, in a trance of overworking, over-reaching, and under-reaching-out. And here in the midst of a freezing winter, I am slowing down a bit and learning how to, as suggested long ago to Martha (My Dear), when I find myself in the thick of it, help myself to a bit of what is all around me.

** (Thanks, Shelley, for helping me realize this!)

Today’s Joygasm: Take a moment to read this wonderful and heart warming article from yesterday’s Times (you’ll probably want to share it with your friends)…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2011 1:39 pm

    This should cheer you up, for about 6 minutes:

    “60 is the New 8”:

    Charley, I think by making Joy into a “Project” you’ve simply added it to your To-Do list, yet another project to get done, like:

    1) fix leak under the sink

    2) buy Shelley a birthday present

    3) call my Tuesday 3 pm client to re-schedule;

    4) become joyful…(and write about it)

    5) if above doesn’t work, write about why I’m not joyful

    6) clean bathroom

    See what I mean? How about surprising all of us with a brand new, 2011 title for your blog that is a more accurate and kind container for where you are on any given day?

    ANd meanwhile, you owe me about 29 comments on MY blog!

    love, El

  2. January 25, 2011 6:55 pm

    Hi Charlie,

    As someone who is dealing with big career changes and the post trauma of death, I hardly have answers; but do offer the following ideas for conversation about the balance of fullness and emptiness or of doing and being as they may be similar to related metaphors:

    One “aspect” of my challenged life, without sounding too compulsive, is that there is a comfortable place inside of myself – when I am accomplishing two or more things at the same time. For example, today I am learning a musical repertoire for my choir at the same time as working out on my yoga ropes and then follow that with some writing for that needs attending Or, I am having a lively, if not loving, conversation on the phone while walking the dog and shopping.

    When working at home, sometimes I like to focus on three projects at a time alternating from one to the other as I go through a bunch of cycles by completing one, going to the next, to the next and then returning to the first and beginning again. It used to be math and music with painting, writing then reading the n.y. times with a cup of coffee…back and forth maybe a half hour each. As a consequence I can also include “guiltless floating time” with memories of surfing waves in my youth out in Rockaway Beach or Long Beach.

    On a larger scale, with regards to your exhaustion, boredom and/or emptiness, I find that having a strong present tense with a larger dream or hope works best for me and especially “creating hope in some form everyday.” Striking a balance, as they used to say when I taught DMA, between current reality and vision and the ability to hold structural tension in between. Dropping either current reality or vision is not an option and makes the structural tension flaccid.

    When I worked as a mathematics educational consultant making five times the money I was used to making and getting more thank you’s and appreciation than ever before, I still got into a rut trying to develop crusty teachers who found change labor intensive. I became miserable even with all the perks. Now, as I begin developing an online math product with a high powered multi-media guy as my champion of redemption, I have to say that, makes me feel great with a sense of hope for which I am grateful and for which I am scared of losing.

    In general, as much as I enjoy working with my own thoughts and initiatives, I really get much fulfillment these days collaborating with smart, warm, talented individuals who inspire me. I can give to myself only so much.

    Getting the word out about Dreamstreet (see is satisfying to a point and being heard is satisfying, but to quote J. Mitchell, “don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” seems accurate, as well as Sondheim’s “somebody teach me to love” and “vary my days.”

    Charlie, I have to say that if the love doctor took off nationally, for example, and you had a bigger venue for others to obtain valuable information of mind and heart on this larger scale, with accompanying travel and media interviews, the influence and interactions of your days would or might include a fullness of true potential and redemption; hardly a feeling of being under-used….perhaps.

    When mothers of kids with special needs cry in joy that there kid is in Dreamstreet, I am so moved…and then it is not enough for my insatiability. Yet, the Thursday night rehearsals have a consistent open heart that moves me to the core in comparison to the caution humans necessarily have for each other.

    Unquestionably, when my daughter is joyfully successful about something in her life, I am filled.

    Lastly, this past week I sat with a legal pad in front of me for fifteen minutes without being able to write a single word. Then I did some prana-yama breathing and breath of fire with sixty second intervals of holding my breath; after which, I wrote four pages of thoughts that just poured out of the voice, “my voice” that suddenly was there in an integrated palpable way. The writing was for a conference call regarding “A Return To Living,” the story of my first memorial year, that has surprisingly given those suffering from loss and grief so much comfort. Working with those who experience loss and grief is to share an inevitability that could be a spring board for your self-search.

    Music and singing has saved my life twice.

    Let’s get lunch some Tuesday afternoon, say.


  3. January 29, 2011 7:43 pm

    I like the above idea of considering re-naming the blog and cutting yourself some slack on the “to do” list. I relate to being over-burdened with “chores”: life choices which I want to do and love to do- but when accumulated become overwhelming because I haven’t given myself enough down time or fun time or reflection time…. (although sometimes too much self-reflection can leave me twisted and I need a break from THAT).

    When over-busy, (and I’m in a “giving” profession) I’m filling the “gaps” because if I get too quiet, the old pain might re-surface- but that is perhaps exactly what needs to happen, in order for me to let go, grow and further evolve….

    For me lately, it’s FEAR that raises it’s stormy wind lately: inevitability, mortality, time slipping by even faster when I try to catch up with it.

    I also agree with the other post that staying “present” is the challenge, the task and the cure for my often morose and even morbid pre-occupation with future demise. If that means traveling through fear, than that I must do, hoping I will emerge out the other side of it, having fully experienced and released it. Easier said than done…

    No answers here, only shared attempts at describing a wonderfully terrifying life at the peak of a proud and uncertain age to a dear friend (that’s YOU Charlie) who journeys through truth and communication to help us all unravel these puzzles of existential gloom, joyful acceptance and recovery.

  4. ellen permalink
    February 3, 2011 7:52 pm

    How lovely that you acknowledged our long friendship, Charley; we do go back so far, almost into our first childhoods [we sometimes shared our second childhoods, and that was wonderful?].

    I keep thinking about you and your ongoing discomforts of the heart and mind. On one level, I think it really is the wintertime [have you ever tried one of those sunlight bulbs?] I don’t meant to demean what you’re feeling or trivialize it, but winter disaffective-whateve- it’s-called could be making you feel worse.

    These feelings have been with you for so long by now, that I want to prescribe something radical: volunteer. Help other people. Just for an hour or two each week. [I know you do it within your practice, but that is very complicated. I’m thinking about something very simple.] Serve meals. Visit a hospital. Read to children in a shelter, just for an hour.

    I hear that you are having trouble receiving, though I know how much you give. Maybe the giving needs to be on a very very simple level. And maybe you need to do it just for a little while. Give it a try. I hate sounding like a buttinsky, I don’t mean to, but you sound as if you really do need to feel gratitude. And you will get it.

    And when you get it, you feel it, in a weird alchemy. As you already seem to know….but don’t seem to be experiencing fully….

    Let me know what happens?
    word you made up.

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