Luck, Life, and Inspiration

My mind is working at a frenetic pace, bouncing from thought to thought, image to image, idea to idea. It almost feels like my brain is full of thousands of fireflies, butterflies, and hummingbirds racing around in a magical dance whose meaning I could understand and interpret if only I knew the secret language of their nearly silent song.

Despite this chaotic dance, I feel the need to post. Writing for me is a way of making meaning, yet, even as I write I still feel confused. So today I want to share some of the fleeting thoughts and images that have added to the mental disarray.

This week the world offered me many messages. So I will share with you the glimpses of meaning from signs around me:

  • A friend posted an article (which I can’t find at the moment) that questions the possibility of ever finding true happiness–because the definition of happiness (as it exists in modern times) is unachievable. Whenever we get what we think will make us happy, we look toward the next thing that will make us happy. This article has me thinking, perhaps rather than looking for happiness I need to work towards living joyously on a moment by moment basis, no matter what life brings.
  • Teresita over at The Incredible Lightness of Seeing never fails to touch me with her photography and reflections on life. But this week it seems that almost every photo she takes has a message for my soul. Below are some of her images that have spoken to me this week. Click on them to link to the blog posts so that you can read her beautiful words.

This entrance to a garden seems like the entrance to a world I cannot see, but can sense on my horizon. It is the entrance to a world of possibilities waiting for me to discover them. I need to take a few steps forward without fear, and then I will uncover something wonderful. I know it.

I can't quite explain what message this image has for me, except that somehow it gives me a sense of hope and a sense of peace.

This image, partially because I love these colors, had many messages for me. It my made me think about what colors I love, and why. What scenes I want to have in my life, and why. What makes me feel at home, and why. This image also led me to another image by a different blogger who I had never visited before, but whose image also fed this mix of inspiration swirling around in my head. That image follows, with a link to her blog as well.

This image spoke to me for a number of reasons. I love the colors, which to me are the colors of fall. But more than that, it led me to think about the colors of my life. What colors do I surround myself with, and why? What colors do I want to fill my life with, and why? What world do I want to see in a place that I call home, and why? These thoughts float around in the swirl in my brain, helping me understand what I am looking for. Someday, I will understand. This image also led me to the next image from Sahlah, a blog I had never visited before.

To me this image shows the swirl of possibility and beauty that is in my head as well as in my life.

  •  I am so grateful for the above images, as they helped me open my eyes differently in a week that has been full of highs and lows, stresses and joys, and a whole lot of fear of the unknown. The final thing I wish to share with you today are some pictures I took the other day, as I tried to be open to the present moment in a new way. Enjoy.

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Today’s Quote: 

The Search for True Beauty

beau·ty

–noun, plural -ties.

1. the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).(dictionary.com)
We can find beauty in nature if we keep our eyes open and look. We can hear beauty in music or in nature if we allow ourselves to truly listen. We can sense beauty in the delicate aromas of flowers or the scintillating taste of spices. All of this beauty is available to us if we only open ourselves to the search.

Underwater beauty

 

But true beauty in a human being seems to be a rare commodity.
I’m not talking about the perfection of appearance that can be defined as beautiful depending on “the eye of the beholder.” That form of beauty changes at the whim of a photographer, a culture, a style, or a personality.
True beauty that emanates from the heart and soul is the rarest form of beauty to find. I don’t have it. Deep inside me there is a ball of ugly–a place that holds hate, anger, frustration, jealousy and any other negative emotions that add ugliness to this world. I would like nothing more than to lose that inner ugliness and become a truly beautiful soul.
I have only met a few people who carry that inner beauty with them in such a way that it emanates outwards gracing all the people they touch. Sometimes, or perhaps most of the time, these people don’t even recognize their own beauty. I met one of these people several years ago, and learned of her true beauty as she battled breast cancer while she lost her daughter to another, even more aggressive, form of cancer. The following is a poem I wrote about them and posted on my other (ignored) blog, Life Without Tenure:

MOTHER AND DAUGHTER FACING THE BEAST

(TO CATHIE AND SAM)

Mother strength

Daughter wisdom

Woman/girl

Motherwisdomdaughterstrength.

Facing malignancy

Life mounds attacked

Throat constricted.

Consuming cells, consuming all, but . . .

strength, wisdom

power, purpose

Pain-filled power.

Knowledge-power

Love-power.

Mother strength

Daughter wisdom

Mother/Daughter wisdom/strength.

They are one.

(lak 6/13/07)

Despite the fact that this beauty is so rare, it is possible to find people with true beauty.  I have met them in the strangest places: at a hotel in Bali many years ago, in a Hebrew School classroom as a child, and even through the words of a fellow blogger  over the past through months. I’ve never met Sara or Kathy, but, with every word Kathy writes I recognize two truly beautiful women. (NOTE: I have since had the honor of meeting these two wonderful women, and they are indeed truly beautiful.

Have you ever met someone who is truly beautiful?

This is my response the The Weekend Theme at Viewfromtheinside’s blog.

Return to Simplicity

We make everything so complicated. I make everything so complicated. When in reality life should be simple.

We are born. We eat. We drink. We sleep. We feel. We work. We dream. We love. We smile. We cry.  We live.  We die.

Truly, very simple.  All the rest–the drama, the hurt feelings, the angst–comes from a bizarre desire for human’s to make it more complicated. Even the least dramatic of us thrives on moments of drama and excitement. Our forms of adventure may be found from different sources, but we still seek them out. Or at least I think most of us do.

But I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to embrace the simple. Think about it,  how much more joyous could we be if we just faced life in terms of simplicity?

I thought of this reading Tori’s post at The Ramblings yesterday which reminded me that the stories I enjoy reading are the ones that simply share someone’s perspective of life. Yes, sometimes the form of that perspective (at least in terms of fiction) might take me on an unexpected adventure, but the stories I love the most are stories about people. Simple stories. Simple feelings. Simple life.

I thought about this more as I read Kathy’s post called “In Praise of the Pathetic Palate” which reminded me how often we, in America at least, focus on the ridiculous like the best diet to stay thin, when there are people out in the world who have no choice but to be thin because they don’t have enough food to eat.

It really is simple.  We are born. We eat. We drink. We sleep. We feel. We work. We dream. We love. We smile. We cry. We live.  We die.

Keep it simple everyone. I’m going to try.

B is for Being, Believing, and Becoming

Fonts-B

Image via Wikipedia

 

Epiphanies. I know, that doesn’t start with B, but it is relevant.

The dictionary definition of epiphany (according to dictionary.com) includes:

. . . a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely,
or commonplace occurrence or experience.

Yesterday I had several simple moments of the reality of my life right now, and those epiphanies have led me to a few decisions. Or maybe it was one long epiphany brought to clarity by simple moments.

Part One

I drove alone through the flat fields, of Kansas a gray mist washing my car with the last (we hope) of the miserable weather. I’d never been to this particular town before, or even on this particular road. I knew I had a 40 minute drive, but I wouldn’t have minded longer. I sometimes like long drives in the car alone, since it gives me time to think and be completely alone.

I chose music rather than NPR, and as usual my mind focused in on songs and phrases that connected with my heart in some way.  Often I sing along. Even more often a certain phrase or song hits me where I’m feeling, encouraging me to think about something that I have been avoiding.

I don’t even know which song did it this time, but I suddenly found myself thinking out loud (in other words, talking to myself). 😀 The conversation went something like this:

“You’ve really had some cool opportunities this year. You’ve had more theater based opportunities sent your way here than in Durango.”

“Yes, I know. I should feel lucky.”

“So, what’s the problem? Why aren’t you happy?”

I couldn’t answer. I don’t know if I simply won’t allow myself to feel at home here, or if my soul truly does not feel at home here.  Perhaps I have a dream ideal of “home” and this does not match the ideal. I wish I could explain, but I cannot put it into words.

But that wasn’t the epiphany. I kept thinking about the questions, “Why aren’t you happy?”  And it hit me, I’m still stuck in the mentality that I am a failure if I don’t have a title or a full-time job with a prestigious institution.  Yes, I’m Dr. Kramer. But I’m not DR. Kramer, Associate Professor. Or Lisa Kramer, Artistic Director, or Lisa Kramer published author. In other words, my life is not what I pictured and so somehow that seems like a failure.

But that is ridiculous? Why should a title matter? Why shouldn’t I be content just being Lisa Kramer who does pretty cool things?  Why do I equate success with large-scale recognition?

Part Two

I take notes during the workshop on Drama Therapy, feeling proud that I basically know this stuff, but am also learning some new things which will   help me create some interesting programming for a group of Adults with special needs that I am meeting for the first time next week. This workshop focused mainly on Drama Therapy with Alzheimer’s patients but much of the discussion is applicable to other needs. I sat and absorbed, but also had moments of struggle, because the Alzheimer’s focus made this personal–as the realities of my Dad’s condition came forward in living color.

I look around at this room full of about 40 or so amazing people, all who work in some capacity with the elderly or adults with special needs.  I was the only one there alone. The only one there as a theater educator rather than as someone who regularly worked with this population. I could never do their job, I thought to myself, but I can help them provide creative opportunities for the people they work with. Then it hit me, the world is full of these small opportunities; of groups who are looking for connection in ways that I, Lisa Kramer of no title, can help provide.

Part Three

When I got home, after racing back to pick up Sarah and then take us both to piano lessons. I decided to catch up on WordPress. I started by replying to the kind comments on my post yesterday. Then I started reading other posts, and I couldn’t focus. It wasn’t the posts. It was me. I didn’t have the energy to give them justice and respond fully. I felt guilty. I felt conflicted. Then I read this post at Broadside where Kaitlin (who I have been following for a while) asked “Would You Rather Be Productive or Creative?” This was the response I wrote to her:

As one of the guilty bloggers who have written recently about being overwhelmed by blogging, I am realizing that I need more creative time. Post A Day has been good for me, because it has allowed me to give myself permission to write. But, I also realize that I want to write something more. I don’t know what that is yet, but I feel it coming. I technically took yesterday off from blogging, and I’ve been busy most of today. I started trying to catch up, and I find I don’t have the energy for it. I only want to read a few that catch my eye and interest me. I always find your posts interesting, and this question intrigued me. . .  I think I lean towards wanting to be creative so that I can produce something really quality, rather than being productive and continuing to produce mediocrity.

That’s when I realized that, as much as I love this community, I need to refocus a little. If I want to create a reality where I am truly happy, I need to do three things:

  • Be where I am now to the best of my ability. That doesn’t mean I have to settle, but I need to acknowledge the good things that I am doing. If we stay here longer than I hoped, then I have to continue doing good things and enjoying the journey rather than focusing on the future.
  • Believe in myself and be open to possibility. I still have dreams even if they are unclear. I have to believe that the world provides opportunities for me to follow those dreams.
  • Become what I want to be through a balance of creativity and productivity. I cannot just keep producing with no goal, or creating with no product. I need to do both.

So what does this mean? It means, dear blogging friends, that I need to get organized. I need to spend less time in the blogosphere, and more time creating and producing. It means that, while I will still follow you and interact, and will still post, I may do it a little less frequently. It means that I am going to try to start following the advice from Pet the Dog from a while back, about organizing my time better and staying focused on one task at a time.

I hope you will all understand if I am a little less active, but I promise I’m always here if you need me. I feel very close to many of you in this strange community of ours, and I’m not going to let that go.

So here’s a toast to Being, Believing and Becoming! May we all find meaning and happiness in our journeys.

What If . . . ?

3D Character and Question Mark

What if you woke up one morning to discover all your dreams had come true? Would you create new dreams? I would, because life without dreams sounds boring to me.

What if you found out that everyone had only 6 months to live? That is the premise of the book I am reading, On the Beach by Nevil Shute, a post-apocalyptic story that takes place in the early 1960’s after the entire Northern hemisphere has destroyed itself through nuclear war. The radiation is slowly making its way South while the people there wait aware that their time is short. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? Well, in a way it is, in a way it is also very beautiful. Reading this made the words “what if” pop into my head, leading to this post. So what if this really happened? How would your spend your remaining time?

“What if . . . ?” is the basis of all stories, large and small. It is the basis of understanding ourselves.

What if the world came to its senses and stopped trying to destroy each other in ways big and small? Would we actually have a peaceful existence? I don’t think so. Part of the joys and pains of being human is that we have the freedom to think and believe as we want. So while I daily wish for some sanity in the ranks of government, or for sense that allows people health care and equal marriage rights, and all that; I recognize that we will never all agree. If we did, we would simply find another battle to fight, another argument to wage, another “us vs. them.”

The question “What if . . .?” opens worlds of possibilities, while at the same time uncovers hidden truths.

“What if . . .?” is the question. Writing, is the answer.

The Perennial Student, A Collector of Experiences

Join me at a table in a restaurant set for eight. One empty seat for the woman who does not show. The rest of the seats filled with people who seem to have one passion in common. Well, maybe two . . . the most obvious is their passion for theatre, but the one I am interested in is their passion for experiences and for learning. To this group, I believe, that is the meaning of life. Or perhaps I should say, from this group, I am learning the meanings of my life.

On the end, the youngest member of the party, seven years old with a personality all her own. Bright, energetic, and embracing everything as if it was new. Because it is new. Through her eyes, I re-learn the discoveries of childhood, and begin to learn the truths of parenthood.

Next to her, her father. My partner. A talented man with a job he likes, and a dream he’d love. Through him, I learn about relationships and struggle, as well as how to live embracing simple joys.

Next, after the empty seat, a man who lives his life passionately.  Whether it is raising the child that is his theater company, or helping his family, or fighting for justice and democracy, or saying goodbye to his father (who passed away last week) he throws himself in 110%. From him, I learn the power of passion, but also the necessity of balance.

Next, an actor who is recognized for his work. He has a thriving career, but more importantly he has the desire to share his experiences with others. I don’t know him very well, but listening to him talk I recognize a kindred spirit, one who believes that creating an atmosphere where everyone feels involved is crucial. Through him I learn the value of making choices and committing to them, and that teaching and sharing is part of the journey and the joy.

Across from him, a director who lived through the 60s and evaluates life and belief systems in everyday conversation. He is silent when he has no opinion, but that silence speaks volumes. Through him I learn the subtlety of questioning and experiencing in order to find meaning that rings true to your heart.

Next to him, a man in his 70s who lives and breathes Shakespeare, but is even more than that.  I have been watching him create character in  a way I cannot describe. He takes each word written and uncovers more meanings and variety in ways that I have yet to discover, both as a director and as a writer. Yet, his humble quietness is as powerful as his use of language. From him, I learn to trust the words, because the answers lie in them.

Next to him, a playwright, who writes whatever she is passionate about.  Love. Religion. Tango. She seems to look at the world as an opportunity for learning and questioning. What about this moment, this time, this place is interesting? What can I learn from this person’s story?  What story can I share with others? These are questions that I think she asks herself regularly, and then she tries to answer through words.  From her, I am learning my thoughts matter and that it is time to put them out there,  in my own way.

Finally, we come to me. A well-educated woman who is still searching for what I want to be when I grow up.  At this moment in time, I’m also experiencing an odd layering of life. There is the me who is knowledgeable and professional, who knows a lot about her field. Then there is the me who feels like a student next to these people, and recognizes that is okay. There is the me who feels like a novice, and is afraid of doing something wrong. Then there is the me who is a teacher and a mentor, for my students and my daughter; that is the me of responsibility. Finally, there is the me who simply is.

As I pursue this week of multiple layers, or this meal of multiple moments, I realize that the experiences I have, the learning that I do, is who I am. I am a perennial student.  When I try to be the expert, I feel uncomfortable in my skin. When I embrace the unknown, and admit that I do not know everything, then I feel joy.  Sometimes the unknown is scary and uncomfortable, but what I learn after that is filled with energy.

My work is learning. My work is sharing.

My classroom is life.

National Arts and Humanities Month

 

Human Rights

Image by h de c via Flickr

 

Have you ever noticed that we have a month or a day dedicated to celebrating things that should just be part of every day life? For example: National Arts and Humanities Month, National Book Month, Universal Human Rights Month, African-American History Month, Women’s History Month etc. Of course, there are some pretty strange things that are honored with months as well (Prune Breakfast Month, National Macaroon Day???) For a list of these strange celebrations, check here http://www.quamada.com/months.html.

Now, I’m not complaining that October is National Arts and Humanities Month. I think it is wonderful that the government is encouraging people to celebrate arts and humanities. I obviously value them in my life. Nor am I complaining that there are months dedicated to African-american history, or Breast Cancer, or Women’s History or any of those things. What I am concerned about is the fact that we need to have months like this declared. Shouldn’t we be concerned about Universal Human Rights and Breast Cancer on a regular basis. Isn’t an  understanding of history of all sorts valuable to our understanding of modern times?

October is National arts and Humanities Month. Humanities relates to human culture, and is the study of philosophy, arts, literature, etc. as opposed to the sciences. So, by nature, don’t we all have something to do with humanities every day? I know everyone does not love literature or arts, but just thinking about life in any way is part of humanities. Then we come to the arts. Aren’t the arts just a natural part of human life? Art is not something separated from who we are. Watch young children for proof of that. One of the first ways they communicate is through art–whether it’s the mess they make with food or finger paints; by moving furniture or putting toys where they belong. They rearrange their world to express themselves, which to me is a sample of art. Then, when they get older, they express themselves through creative play and role-playing. Even the child who is going to grow up to be a scientist, mechanic, athlete, or the next math genius expresses those future roles in games and playing. Art is a part of who we are.

Why, then, do we need to set aside a special month to celebrate this thing that is fundamental to human existence and communication? It seems like something has shifted us away from valuing things that got us where we are today. So I declare this year, no century, as National Arts and Humanities Century!  As far as I am concerned, that incorporates a celebration of all that it means to be human. That includes history, health, literature, human rights, women and everything else. Yes, it even includes prune breakfasts.

The So-Called “Real World”

Universum - C. Flammarion, Holzschnitt, Paris ...

Image via Wikipedia

What is the “real world” of which people speak?

When you graduate from high school, people say now it is time to move into the real world. But then you go to college, and that is definitely not real.

When you graduate college, people say “welcome to the real world.” But then, if you are like me, you search for the job, the life, the home, the career that makes you feel real. My search continues to this day, and I’ve been out of college for a long time.

Does the world become real when you get married? Or have children? Sometimes I feel that those facts are the most surreal of the real. For me, while family is comfort, it is also this bizarre commitment to be with people even when sometimes that may not feel right. Watching my daughter grow sometimes feels like watching a stranger infused with growing and learning magic. Some days seem real, but others seem like I’m walking in a story of somebody else’s making. This does not mean that I don’t love my family, I do, but if this defines reality than I don’t know what is real.

Is going to work part of the real world? There are days when it feels like all we do is eat, sleep, poop, and work. The work never ends. Even for someone like me, who often has multiple short-term projects going on, it sometimes feels like an endless cycle. Is this what reality is all about?

I don’t believe in the real world, anymore. I think it is a term created by people who want to define reality in one certain way. Just like those in our country who believe that we all have to live  speaking the same language, believing the same things, not deviating from the “norm.” I’ve never agreed with those people. I’ll never be normal. Actually, I think that here is no norm. There is no reality.

As of this moment, I am embracing my non-real world. I don’t quite know what that means, but I believe that I have to carve out a life for myself (and my family) that truly makes me happy. I cannot let “real world” things, like work, money, etc. suck all of the joy out of living. It is simply not worth it.

Letter from My Future Self

 

Downtown Durango, Colorado

Image via Wikipedia

 

March 2010

Dear Lisa,

I wanted to write to you to tell you that, in the end, you live a life worth living.  I know that right now you don’t know what the future holds.  Will there be a job, a home, safety and security?  Where will you end up next fall? What does your future bring? What do you really want to do with your life?  These are the questions looming in your head, making you unable to sleep at night. Making you fearful.

Well . . . I’m not going to answer them for you except to say that your life is going to work itself out. If I tell you all the answers now, then you won’t live the adventure.  And part of what makes you Lisa is the struggle, the journey, and finding your way into the unknown. I know, sometimes you wish the answers handed to you, written in the sky. But I also know you (because I am you) and I can tell you that you will look back on this time, and use what you have learned from it, to become the person you truly want to be.

Why don’t I come out and just tell you what happens?  Remember how you used to love the tv show Charmed, and they always warned you not to mess with the past because you don’t know how it will affect the present or the future. Well, that’s true. And if I tell you too much, I may not become who I am today.  You are now asking yourself, who are you? I am a woman who has lived her life to the fullest, followed many dreams to completion, and touched many lives. That’s who you’ve always wanted to be, isn’t it?  I know you’ve said that you want to be someone worthy of remembering, and I think that’s who we’ve become.

So, in all this vague nonsense, what advice do I have? Keep holding onto the dreams, and trust that more will come.  Know that you will get through this tough time, and will move on to better things. Life does not end in Durango, CO.  Hold onto your friends, but more importantly hold onto your family.  And keep writing, it will help you get through this.

Love from the future.

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