The View from Behind

This morning David and I decided to hike in the canyon rather than do our usual walk.  There’s a wonderful collection of trails, and over time we’ve pieced together routes that work for us–ones that alternate between climbing and meandering with beautiful views all around.  We love to feel the unique energy of the canyon walking on the dirt and rocks. We haven’t taken one of these hikes since I started blogging so I decided to take my camera along in case there were shots I wanted to capture for a future post.

To get to the trails, we start out on the road walking side by side. Once we turn off the road we have to walk single file.  With eager anticipation I lifted up my camera  and here’s what I saw:

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Now this is my guy, and I’m happy to be gazing at him from any direction, but this wasn’t the view I was hoping for. This view, however, got me thinking.  I was on the trail bringing up the rear.  And it made me think of a time in the not-too-distant past when I would have been uncomfortable not being in the lead.

When I moved to Scottsdale twelve years ago I started hiking in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  To a newcomer like me the terrain looked scarily undifferentiated.  Plus, I was afraid of the desert wildlife, particularly rattlesnakes.  Armed with the universal warning of “watch where you put your hands and feet at all times” I  cautiously set out.  I hiked mostly alone although occasionally I had company.  I did see rattlesnakes, big ones, and I hiked more than a few times with only coyotes to keep me company. Even as I became more experienced and comfortable with the trails I knew that I needed to be very vigilant in order to be safe.  And that, in a nutshell, was my comfort zone.  I needed to know the route.  I needed to have enough water. I needed to be ready for anything. I needed to take care of myself.

During my childhood there were many ways that the vigilance=safety message was introduced and reinforced in my high-anxiety family.  On the positive side, this led to my sister and me striving to be competent and independent. What I didn’t learn, however, was how to depend on another.  In order to stave off feelings of being unsafe I had to manage everything.  On the hiking trails I had a hard time relaxing when hiking with other people if I wasn’t in the lead, and often my friends knew the trails better than  I did.  I simply couldn’t trust their competence.

When David and I first started hiking together I was often in the lead because I knew the trails a little better, but a big part of me was ready to relinquish my life-long role of “person who knows best”.  I longed to relax and let him take care of things up front–actually what I longed for was for him to take care of me. As soon as David knew his way around he did just that, and we’ve pretty much settled into a David in front, me in back routine.

In truth, the hike is glorious from both perspectives, it’s just a bit of a different hike depending on where you are.  David has the more expansive and lovely view but he also needs to be watching out for snakes and gila monsters as well as calling my attention to things like this:

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and this:

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From the back I have the more limited view, but freed from the need to be constantly scanning I can have a more meditative and peaceful experience.  And every so often I spot something pretty spectacular from the rear:

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Something I’ve learned though is that depending on David (or anyone) is not about losing anything or at any time being less than the thinking, perceiving  person I am.   I bring my skills and strength to our relationship no matter which one of us is leading the way.  The power of this healthy interdependence is far more impressive than any go-it-alone show of competence.  What I do know is that whether I am leading or following, my goal is that we  arrive together and always take time to enjoy the view.

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I Changed My Mind

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Okay, let’s get this out of the way…

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Are you sick of this yet?  I sure am!  And it’s only May 7th.

So when did Me Made May become  Me Made Meh?  And why?

I knew something was up when I was aware of just not wanting to write this post.  This is not about the MMM challenge itself.  In fact I already wear something me-made every day.  So, I’ve got the clothes.  David, my ever-enthusiastic photographer took some flattering pictures.  From a blogging perspective this baby was well on its way to writing itself.  Plus, I had already stated in a previous post (put it in writing) that I would document my progress.

As I reread this paragraph the clues are all there.  First, I already wear me-made clothes every day.  So the “challenge” really wasn’t a challenge.  As such the emphasis shifted from doing the challenge to writing about the challenge.  This reminds me of a comment my daughter made when she was blogging her way through a year in France.  At some point she observed that she was living to blog instead of living to live.  In my very first week of blogging I can hardly make this claim but I can see how quickly that can happen.

Regarding the photos, I’m happy and proud to model my clothes or anything else, especially if I’m trying to make a point.  But I do not aspire to model per se. Endless mugging for the camera doesn’t bring much to my party no matter how complimentary the response from (very kind) readers.  Truth be told taking the daily MMM photo became a chore.  Hardly the kind of energy I want to feel or convey.

And what about the blog “writing itself”?  Since when did that become a goal of mine?  Well it didn’t.  In fact, what I’m enjoying most about blogging so far is the creative process itself.  I’ve been surprised by how engaging and ultimately thrilling it feels to find the mix of words and photographs to convey something to the reader.  The blog that “writes itself” can’t possibly be the best representation of my authentic voice.

OK, so even with all of this,

How Do I Feel About Changing My Mind?

The short answer is “just fine”.  But it wasn’t always this way.  And getting fine with it has everything to do with learning to take my cues from what I know about myself rather than what I’m afraid others may be thinking or saying about me.  In fact, no matter how much I’ve grown around this issue, I still experience a vague sense of letting someone down every time I do a 180.  In case you are wondering whether I am an unreliable flake the answer is “god no”.  I think folks in my inner circle would back me up on this.

Change is happening all the time, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.  What is more freeing than knowing we can change our minds?  And what is more stifling than slavishly hanging on to ideas or behaviors that no longer fit?  Even in this not very important situation I knew that the only thing fitting me here was my me-made clothes.

Onward.

Surviving or Thriving?

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Friends of ours here in Tucson belong to a community garden, and they have been eating produce predominantly sourced from their garden for a while now.  During  a recent visit to their home we sampled some of these goodies and took a walk to their garden.  We seized the opportunity to get some pointers as we had begun gardening ourselves.  They shared many tips but often with the caveat “although there can be a lot of variability”.  I think I’m starting to know what they mean.

This morning’s visit to the garden started me thinking about the variability in our garden-why some plants were thriving and others merely seemed to be surviving.  And that led to thoughts about my own journey from surviving to thriving.  But first the plants.

The most obvious variability in our garden has to do with the two very different growing environments we have.  With temps in the 80’s and 90’s the raised bed is a dry, hot desert environment;  the greenhouse is moist, warm and humid.

The basil in the greenhouse is thriving.  So is the cilantro in the raised bed:

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These plants are at ease in their respective environments with little outward appearance of  stress.  What they need is what they have, not too little and not too much.  Balance and growth.

We also have examples of plant “siblings” that were provided with identical (at least in ways we could control) growing environments, but only some are thriving.  Consider these zucchini plants:

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One is  thriving (getting there anyway) and the other is clearly just hanging on, either not getting enough or getting too much of something.

Or these tomato plants:

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This survivor is making a valiant effort to keep going, leaning toward the sun, taking whatever nourishment is available from the soil and absorbing the water.  But again it’s clear that something is out of alignment for this plant.

As  “master of the garden” I will try to help the survivors start to thrive.  I have the tools at my disposal if perhaps not quite enough knowledge at this point.

So what do we need to thrive rather than just survive? I think it’s pretty much the same thing as the plants-more of what feeds us and  less of what doesn’t and lives that are in alignment with the deepest parts of ourselves.  That sounds simple but it’s anything but easy.   In order to get there we need to be our own master gardeners–no one else can know what we need to thrive.   And once we know what we need do we even have the courage to make it happen?

My journey involved changes in marriage, friendships, where I live and how I spend my time.  These transitions often caused pain for me and people I care deeply about.  I trusted (or maybe just hoped) that understanding would come my way.  Sometimes it has and sometimes it hasn’t.  Through all of it though I believed that I would not only find more peace and joy for myself, but that I would be a more hopeful and positive presence in the lives of others.

Upon starting this blog, a frequent comment I received was “you’re beaming” or ” you look so happy”.  And that’s the thing about thriving.  It’s not something that’s easy to define and it looks different for each of us.  But as with the plants in the garden, I think we all pretty much know it when we see it.