sqwook: (flame)
Note to myself, uh, literally. :/
Dear sqwook:
This is a note to you, sweetie, for the next time you feel sad. *hug* :)

Time does help to heal. Even if you feel sad today, you will not always feel this way. On those times when you feel hopeless, it feels like nothing ever gets easier, but that's not true. It's a /feeling/ that everything is permanently bleak, but that feeling is not accurate. That's not how the world is. And remember, because this is true: most of the time, it does not feel that way. Even if that's hard to believe, when you are sad. You still see and feel and know the good and the beauty in the world. And if there are some times when you don't, please know that that feeling will not last forever. Love and trust is not gone. It is still there. In the world. For everyone. Everyone. And for you.
I noticed the other day that there are things (memories) I can run across now that a few months ago would have definitely made me sob for hours and ruin a day or two or three. (And I suppose there's a day or two each month where that might still be true, when I need to be extremely gentle with myself.) This very act of noticing this progress, though, can itself start to throw me into the past, into ruminating on all those things that used to make me sob, and why, and all the things that still can, and why. Stop, though. That's a trap. *hug* It's okay. Turn toward now, Look toward now.


PS - Go to the river.<3
sqwook: (flame)
* The river at Banjo Bill
* The river at Red Rock Crossing
* The night-time sky
* Tahquamenon Falls
* The dream of the tree; love and trust
* The dream of weightlessness/floating without struggle
* The dream of running energy
* The dream of going through the obstacle course lightly, quickly, lightly and easily
* The dream of wearing the yellow sparkly dress, and then all the sparkles are bits of crayon, and that is you, and it's okay
* Getaway/vacation w/B
* E & S's place
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"What about a bird, or a cat, or a tree, or a flower, or a rhinoceros?! They are all quite miraculous really. When you really look at one, you can hardly believe it exists; there it is, this perfect thing, just being what it is, complete in itself. Any imaginative child could have dreamed up a rhinoceros, or an elephant, or a giraffe. But they didn't get here as the product of a child's imagination. The universe is spinning these dreams. They come out of the universe, as do we."

"It is always just what it is. That is why dogs and flowers and mountains and the sea are such great teachers. They reflect your own mind. It is your mind that changes... Each is still just what it is."
- Jon Kabat-Zinn

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(Notes to myself, should I need them in the future.)

Stories are important. The words I replay in my mind is important, so I need to notice what's going on, and make sure I'm looking at the whole picture, not just mentally tearing myself apart by repeating painful words and adding my own self-destructive commentary. 

And then the whole list of helpful things: I need to really do them. It's okay to use the tools. It's /good/ to use the tools. Do not let the panic-brain tell you otherwise. It does not make you a failure that you need them - it makes you stronger when you are able to notice what's going on and manage to do them, even when it feels nearly impossible. /That/ is really hard, it is true. You are really worth it, even you. As much as anyone else in this world would be. And you can do it. You can do it.

>>S.! - Break the cycle, halt the brain-chemistry that's going on, right now pick something on the list that will help let light in, and take some of the power away from the things the panic-brain is telling you.

No one will think less of you, and in fact they'll be happy for you if it is able to help you get through what you're going through. (And anyway, S.!, some perspective - what random, amorphous "people" think is not what matters; that's a panic-brain construction - are you putting excessive weight into what others think?)

Once the cycle is a bit broken, books can be another thing that can calm the mind. From saya22, posted here with permission to keep for later. (Emphasis mine.)

Definitely. I turn to books especially when I’m sad or lonely. When my dad had a heart attack a few years back the first thing I grab is my copy of The Tale of Despereaux, because I needed to distract myself from that painful place, and because of the book itself, which tells a story about hope and forgiveness and seeing light in dark places. So to me, it’s a great balance, distancing myself from a terrible place, but at the same time I always read a heart-lifting book to remind me by the time that I resurface back in the real world, that there is good and hope and love still in my life.

I definitely recommend reading as a balm for your heart. Read something beautiful and bright and soothing, but grounded enough in reality that you don’t forget the real world. (...)

My dad got better, btw, still kicking life and taking names =)

Related to tools - my counselor & everyone is suggesting that I consider medication. I don't know why the idea of medications scares me like it does. I understand and know intellectually that it helps many people, and still I feel some fear there. But I promise to consider it if things aren't improving. I know that facing what is going on, and being honest to myself, is important.

Here’s a selection of books I always go to when I feel down and generally depressed, for Sqwook especially but also for anyone interested (some of the books require the characters go through painful journeys, but painful journeys are part of healing, so hang in there until the very end).
1) The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
A fairy tale about a mouse who wants to be a knight, a rat who yearns for the light, a princess who misses soup and the memories that come with it, and a scullery girl who dreams to be a princess. A story of forgiveness, redemption, and going into the dark to find the light.
2) The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
The journey of Edward Tulane, a snobby porcelain rabbit who scoffed at the idea of unconditional love, only to be lost and found, over and over again. In his journey he meets the lonely, the old, the homeless, the sick and the forgotten, and hearts are broken and mended and hope springs eternal.
3) The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Anything by Pratchett will do, honestly, but if I have to choose WFM heals me the most. It follows Tiffany Aching’s quest into Fairy World to save her brother from the Elf Queen with the help of a bunch of irrepressible pictsies, the Nac Mac Feegles. As she travels the illusory world, Tiffany remembers her grandmother, her wisdom and strength, and discover that as long she knows who she is and where she belongs, Tiffany will never be abandoned and alone.
4) The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
My ultimate favourite book. The story begins with David, a boy living during WWII, who lost his mother, gains an unwanted stepmother and stepbrother, and begins to hear the books talking. One day he finds himself thrown into an dark, desolate world where the fairy tales he loves to read comes true, except these are original fairy tales, and David struggles to find his way home while being pursued by vicious humanoid wolves, hunted by a violent huntress, chased by monsters, and all the while being shadowed by the mysterious trickster. Violent, gruesome, deeply layered but ultimately uplifting and courageous,  BOLT is an ode to the power of fairy tales and the inevitable passage from childhood to adulthood.
5) The Horatio Lyle quartet by Catherine Webb
It’s Sherlock Holmes with a heart meets Thomas Edison meets Doctor Who and sets in Dickensian London. Horatio Lyle is a scientist, more at home with chemicals and things that go boom but occasionally finds himself “coaxed” to assist the police with their investigations. When a group of superhuman, green-eyed people terrorizes London, Lyle is morally obligated to stop them. At his side are “reformed” (caught) thief Tess, naive bigwig Thomas and Lyle’s unflappable dog(ish) Tate, who accompanies him as he battle something that science cannot explain. It is worth noting that this is one of the few children’s series that features an adult, but the gradual, tentative development of Lyle’s relationship with the children and ultimately embraces his role as their father figure (or an uncle, in Thomas’s case) is heartwarming. Elegant, witty and well-plotted, my only regret is the series stops at only four books.
6) Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori
The latest offering by the amazingly talented mangaka of Emma and Shirley, Bride’s Story chronicles the lives of several young women in 19th century Central Asia (along the Silk Road) as they embark into the next step of their life: as a newlywed bride. The manga series is a slice-of-life snippets that looks into the life of different tribes on the Silk Road. The art is mindbogglingly detailed and you can just lose yourself staring at the painstakingly detailed woodcarving, costumes, embroideries and land. Also Mori writes amazingly strong women, understated in their endurance and admirably courageous. If you can only read one manga, read this.
7) Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
Because even grown ups need to read read picture books once in a while. This witty and heartwarming story follows the quest of a boy who finds a penguin on his doorstep. Immediately assuming that the penguin is lost, he struggles to help the penguin find his way to the South Pole. But why does the penguin looks sad at the thought of going back? Could it be that the penguin is not lost, and is looking for something only the boy can give? Short but sweet, L&F is a great tale of friendship, unconditional love and belonging.
More books to read:
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Lamb by Christopher Moore
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
The Scarecrow and His Servant by Phillip Pullman
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White

sqwook: (flame)
I have perspective at this moment, and I don't feel like I want to die of seemingly unbearable pain or fear, so I'm leaving this note here as a reminder to myself for when I next feel terrible: While it may feel like you will always feel ruined or hopeless or broken, it is not true. That feeling will not be permanent.

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When I've marked nearly 10% of a book as passages to return to, it's probably a good idea to add the book to the wishlist. 

From 'Comfortable with Uncertainty', by Pema Chodron: 

Read more... )

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Maybe I don't like to rest because since I already have this fear that I'm not good enough, I feel like if I do /less/, then I will never catch up. 

Today felt horrible. Eventually I realized that okay, yes, heartache, but the only person still holding the dagger to my heart is myself.

Calm. Breathe. When the panic and heartache comes, even though it feels like it might become unbearable, just let it come. Pause. Just experience it. Abide it. Relax and feel it and let it be. Without pushing it away. Without judgment or self-blame. And think of the star in the sky, the flowing river.

Oh. This is probably what people mean when they say to be gentle with yourself. Which has always sounded really stupid to me, frankly. And anyway, I feel like I don't deserve gentleness. But, at this moment, I might understand what they mean. "It doesn't help at all to feel guilty about where we find ourselves." Self-blame. Insight is necessary. Self-blame is unhelpful. 

Saturday I think is a day off, which will be good. 

Quotes & such... )

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I hear the evening cornbird calling, 
moonlight floods the fields of tasseled grain; 
wood smoke, drifting veils the distant valleys, 
summer evening’s joy is here for me.

I’m not happy yet no sorrow shakes me; 
but the dark wood’s stillness I would welcome, 
rosy clouds through which the day is falling, 
sleepy breezes from the blue-gray mountains, 
shadows on the water, meadow flowers; 
out of these my heart’s own song I’ll make.

I will sing it, summer hay-sweet maiden, 
sing to you my deep serenity, 
my own faith that sounds a swelling music, 
oak-leaf garland ever fresh and green.

I’ll no longer chase the will-o-wisp, 
happiness is here in my own keeping; 
day by day, life’s circle narrows, closes; 
time stands still now, the weather cocks all sleeping; 
here before me lies a shadowy way, 
leading to a strange, an unknown place.

Eino Leino, 1903 (translation by Aina Swan Cutler)

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"I'd like to stress yet again that the thing we have to be most patient with is when we find ourselves being despondent about our inability to do any of this. For patience to lead to the cessation of suffering, for it to develop into fearlessness and genuine curiosity, we need to be patient with ourselves just as we are."   -Pema Chodron  
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I woke up, wondering yet again this morning, how much longer I'll feel this pain alongside whatever else is going on in my life. Heartbreak and pain and hurt, even though I know intellectually it'll get easier. And then I saw a quote from Chris Colfer's not-yet-released book 'The Land of Stories' (which, on a separate note, spoilers, ugh, but at least it came at a good time for me...) 

Behind an lj-cut in case others are also avoiding quotes in advance of having the book in hand.

Read more... )

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I'll post more photos & details on FB of when M was here last weekend - seeing the eclipse & hiking in the Canyon de Chelly were the big flashy highlights - but I wanted to take a moment to document & remember a quieter third highlight that I hold in my heart.

On Saturday, we meandered along West Fork Trail, with lots of stops to investigate flowers, weird bugs, and the pattern of light in the ripples on the water.

And then we went to Red Rock Crossing with books & a blanket, and we used the stepping-stone bridge to cross the creek, and we found a shady spot away from the late afternoon sun, and we just stayed there for hours, talking or not talking, reading or not reading, watching some little girls splash in the water, discovering a pool filled with tadpoles, getting little tiny seedpoofs blown onto us from a dandelion, noticing the tiny tiny grass flowers blowing in the breeze...

It was lovely. Really lovely. 

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This year has been at times emotionally challenging for the honesty and intimacy and openness it has asked of me -- and also exceedingly amazing for that same reason.

The theme of the year is humility. Or, shall we say, balance. The balance between the black and the white. Between perfect and useless. Between ideal qualities I aim to embody, and those qualities' shadow sides. Between strength and vulnerability, both so vitally important. Of finding a way I can somehow still cherish myself, in the face of my own imperfections. 

My deepest fear, the thing that can crush me with terror in the middle of the night, is that I'm 'not good enough', for some amorphous, impossible-to-attain, glitteringly-perfect value of 'good enough'. And. /Sigh/. That deepest fear is sometimes true, as wrenchingly awful as that is for me. Sometimes I let people down, sometimes I disappoint them, and each time, it tears me apart. Sometimes my actions really are not good enough. And at all times I am human.

I can only have faith that in the grand scheme of things, all is right. I can continue to love those I love, and offer my unconditional positive regard and acceptance. And I can hope they will continue to love me. 

It's New Year's Eve. I'm exhausted and sick and should have taken a nap today. I'm definitely not going to be awake at midnight. But it's not the turning of the clock at midnight. It's not the night, at all. It's the dawn.

I hope there's sunshine tomorrow. I'll be out in nature, on the wooded trail, by a stream, in the sunshine, under the infinite sky. And, okay, even if there's not sunshine, it's still a new year, a new day, a new moment. And I am here. And I'm still a miracle. Despite all my flaws. As are you.

Light, love, joy.
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At Kalamazoo College for Russel & Amy's wedding. 

Thinky thoughts later if I have time. In the meantime, suffice to say, this made me cry, and probably not for any reason you'd think. Unless you know me.

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I made a "Strength" playlist on my music player. WHY WHY WHY did I not do this before now?! It is awesome!!!
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In (dreams) you can remember what it was like to be stupidly happy, when happiness wasn’t something you had to search for, when it knew where to find you by itself. You can remember how an object can be a talisman that you needed to hold close, how that new toy /had/ to be kept on the bedside table so that it would be there when you awoke. You can remember how it felt to have your mother’s arms around you when she was hugging you just because she loved you, and you weren’t too old to be embarrassed. You can remember why you used to run just for the sake of it, how it felt to have all the energy in the world, how it was to know that you would do the same things tomorrow, and the same the day after that, that nothing would ever change except for the better and that there was nothing that couldn’t be put right. For a little while you can feel yourself whole, feel all of your years, feel the child and the adult in you suddenly join hands and stand together, gripping each other so tightly that they melt into one. (…)

What do you think the important things in your life are about, the things that make you happy? Like loving someone, loving them so much that you reach out your arms to hold and be held. (…)

You love because you want to need someone the way you did when you were a child, and have them need you too. You eat well because the intensity of taste reminds you of a need satisfied, a pain relieved. The finest paintings are nothing more than the red head of a flower, nodding in the breeze when you were two years old; the most exciting film is just the way everything was, back in the days when you stared goggle-eyed at the whirling chaos all around you.

-- From Only Forward, by Michael Marshall Smith

I just re-read Only Forward, by Michael Marshall Smith. It was one of my favorites. One of my good friends in college chanced to pick it up at the London airport coming back from foreign study, and loaned it to my best friend Adam & to me in turn. We loved it, read it over & over, stayed up all hours talking about it.

Why did I love it so much then? Do I love it still now? How has my reading of it changed?

I think the way the author describes childhood and the world of dreams in this quoted passage can be seen as a way of describing your inner self. I find myself ‘staring goggle-eyed’ in wonder at the world often enough even now. On a good day, I can get as startled by a red flower as by an exquisite painting. And… love. Yes. All of that is really fundamental to the person I consider myself to be.

I loved the story then, because it starts out funny, silly, and witty, and then shatters all your expectations. My first time reading it, I set down the book after reading almost half-way through. The next morning, I picked up the book again, starting with Chapter 11, and I felt like I must have somehow picked up the wrong book. The world of the book had shifted utterly, to the point that I had to go back to the previous chapter and read through to that point again, because the shear was so profound.

That feeling of are-things-what-they-seem is fundamental to fairytales. Fairytales, or maybe any powerful stories, are not all happiness and light. There is often serious darkness and tragedy. Consequences come inevitably if not swiftly, and they are often severe, seemingly irrevocable, and as arbitrary as many of the circumstances of so-called ‘real life’. Sometimes those consequences are also extraordinarily wonderful. The point is, the consequences are not predictable, and getting different results may require a huge amount of hard work by the protagonist and/or others. 

(The musical ‘Into The Woods’ by Stephen Sondheim has the same motif: life as equal parts magic-and-wonder and tragedy-and-hard-work. And that you can (mostly) get through, if you can keep going. I’m a big fan.)

This time as I re-read the book, it made me cry, which surprised me.  I think this time around, I may have been more focused on the interpersonal tragedy of the main characters as opposed to the wonder and mystery of the world. I found myself thinking that it was more difficult, emotionally, than I recalled, and that I might not be so quick to pick it up in the future for that reason.

So, ‘Only Forward’, fairytales, ‘Into The Woods’, and other stories that stop me in my tracks. What themes do they have in common?*

  • The world can be beautiful & magical & wonderful & powerful.
  • And still it can be dangerous, despite/because of all that.
  • Sometimes you, or someone else, will do something that will have a consequence, wonderful or terrible, that you can’t predict. 
  • We all make mistakes. Dealing with consequences is appropriate. So is compassion.
  • You have the strength to go on. You are beautiful, magical, wonderful, and powerful, too. And you are telling this story.

tl;dr: The stakes in life are high, and utterly worth it.

*Interestingly, my favorite non-fiction authors, Kathleen Dean Moore and Annie Dillard, can /also/ be said to write along these themes. Whoa. Whoa. 

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The simple truth of the matter is this: On Sunday I had a glimpse outside of the house of mirrors, on Saturday I couldn’t have seen my way out of a paper bag. And while I was skiing back toward the truck that morning, a wind came up behind us and swirled the snow around our bodies like a blizzard under blue sky. And I was struck by the simple perfection of the snowflakes, and startled by the hopefulness of sun on frozen trees.

— Pam Houston, from her story “A Blizzard Under Blue Sky”
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Notes, Oak Creek Canyon, Summer 2011.

"For occupation, this: The spreading wide my narrow hands to gather Paradise."
                                   -- Emily Dickinson

"It's all invented... What me mean is, "It's all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us." ...(It) points to a more fundamental notion -- that no matter how objective we try to be, it is still through the structure of the brain that we perceive the world. When you bring to mind 'it's all invented', you remember that it's all a story you tell -- not just some of it, but all of it... We do not mean that you can just make anything up and have it magically appear. We mean that you can shift the framework to one whose underlying assumptions allow for the conditions you desire. Let your thoughts and actions spring from this new framework and see what happens."
                                      -- Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander

Don't think that the only part of your deep inner self is the hurt, insecure, scared thoughts. Your soul is beautiful, strong, and confident, and shining like the sun.

Phoenix - every moment anew.

"I believe in the forest, and in the meadow, and in the night in which the corn grows."
                                   -- Thoreau

Spontaneity & joy in all acts of creation. Energy flows through all things

Spring - Source - Flow - Meander
Star - Light - Shine - Radiance

Spend all day in good company

"There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy. It is the lighting up of the mist by the sun. A man cannot /know/ in any higher sense than this, any more than he can look serenely and with impunity in the face of the sun."
               -- Thoreau

"A cynic is a passionate person who does not want to be disappointed again. The secret is not to speak to a person's cynicism, but to spark her passion."
                -- Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander
Something to think about when I start to fall into cynicism.

To remember:
The way the creek ceaselessly flows.
The way the moist air sinks through the canyon.
The way the sunlight reflected in ripples dapples the overhanging grasses.
The way families have carved out a day together.
The way the shade shifts as the sun moves overhead.
The way the stones under water bend and shimmer.
The way each rock can make a waterfall.
The way the butterfly glides between sun and shade.
The way the conversations of others flow around me in a language I don't speak.
The way the small bird, velvet black and sparkling white, flits through the air.
This is the world we live in.
Jumbled, chaotic, messy.
Changing, in movement, flowing.
Fragile, enduring.
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The enduring forest
The infinite sky
The constant sun
The ceaseless river
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(From a conversation w/a friend on tumblr, saved here for future reference.)

I'm not a fan of over-pessimism, because as you say, I think that events are probably mostly neutral, right? So with pessimism, you feel like crap all the time, and with more optimistic thinking, you feel better. With guarded thinking, you feel neutral, but /also/ there is a great benefit of you are giving the situation leeway to develop in unexpected ways, without pre-judgement. And because of that, yes, I think that what one tells one's self is important.

That's why I don't like it when I'm in a phase of pessimism, and why things flow much more smoothly in my life when I'm optimistic. You're not presuming that everything will go terribly, feeling like crap about that, and then feeling like crap but vindicated if things go wrong, or like crap & like it's a fluke when things go well. Instead, you're kind of open to seeing possibilities in situations.

Geology FTW

Oct. 9th, 2011 05:52 pm
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I've picked out a few of my favorite amazing rocks to sit on my desk and be awesome here with me.  Here are the ones that made the cut this time:
  • Labradorite (two: one with orange, gold, and teal, and one with midnight-indigo and blue. Both have )
  • Goddess carvings (three: one blue-gold tiger-eye, one bronzite with small-sized schiller, one bronzite with larger schiller plates. Note to self: go get that gorgeous lepidolite one from the warehouse)
  • A staurolite cross
  • A rutilated quartz point that's just a jumbled maze of coppery-red rutile
  • A natural double-terminated clear quartz crystal with subtle black phantoms
  • A gorgeous apophyllite crystal full of natural fractures and rainbows. The top point is broken off, but the piece is so beautiful I chose it anyway.
  • A natural aragonite crystal
  • A hourglass selenite crystal that my wonderful sister dug up herself in Oklahoma. :)
#natureisawesome #itsabeautifulworld
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