Generosity and Generosity of Spirit

epistolary_generosity

Christmas Eve is a time when most people have giving on their minds. Whether it’s unfinished shopping or what tomorrow’s giving will look like. 

We are told generosity is the most important virtue to derive from the holiday season. Are we speaking in volume of gifts given though, or in terms of a generous nature? Though of course not mutually exclusive, the more important thing is Generosity of Spirit - having a preclusion towards generosity always. 

This season marked my first as an adult giving gifts for the holidays. Suddenly I was very conscious of the fact that I was making money- by way of having a full time job- instead of living off of student loans. While I had been knitting Christmas gifts since October, I realized that those people I couldn’t knit for, I could buy things for. Nice things, instead of the limited options at $10 and under.  

Bizarre. Wouldn’t the bought gifts just seem slim next to the handmade ones, I wondered, no matter the increased cost? I was almost embarrassed to add them to the spread of presents I had yet to wrap. Such little effort was expended on those bought gifts. I just found them, and got them. No sizing, no searching for materials, no working on it on my commute. Just ordered, delivered, wrapped, labeled, done. Most people buy all of their gifts. Unimaginable that they could be so distanced from the experience of giving by not having their hand in the gifts given. 

Appearances, of course, are not where truth ends. No matter if the gift is made or bought, it’s the sentiment behind it that matters more. In true epistolary form, I’ve come to the conclusion that the holiday card is truly the most generous of gifts to give. Especially in volume, writing holiday cards is an exercise in generosity. Words can mean so much more than things. Words are feelings, love, understanding, forgiveness. Words can show true care much more readily than a physical gift with all of its histories and allusions. 

No matter what the gifts you are giving or receiving, let’s all pay attention the messages behind them. The little ways in which we are generous with each other. And if you’d care to join me, let’s plan to write more cards for every holiday in 2016. 

Companionship and Commuting

commuting_&_companionship

What we pay attention to goes a long way towards what we can be thankful for. What if complaining was framed as being ungrateful for that moment? There are a few aphorisms that apply here, “Everything is relative,” “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” “It’s all a matter of perspective.”

This morning I was momentarily annoyed with my position on the T. I had a seat, but I was sitting between two people, and the man next to me was much larger than myself so was taking up more room. He wasn’t by any means taking up more space than he should have been, but he was just there, and so was the lady to my right- whose Pantene conditioner was too noticeable for my comfort.

Almost as soon as I thought this though, I realized that I was so lucky to be in a seat, knitting, on a not too crowded train and on track to get to work on time. How dare I complain? Once this mindset had entered my early morning awareness I started to appreciate the people next to me. How funny, I thought, that people sit smashed together, in silence, trying not to squirm too much. I had considerate neighbors, and though we didn’t speak, I felt a companionship with them, a communion in our common trajectories. We all contributed to our space with our consideration, and shared 45 minutes of companionable calm. In most understandings, the term “companionship” is reserved for longer term arrangements, for relationships that are exclusive and serious. No reason though, no reason why companionship can’t be fleeting, yet felt. It was a gift really, to feel like a part of the larger goings on in the city just by meeting elbows with strangers.

May we all find more ways to be thankful in this holiday season and beyond! If there are any ways in which you’ve shifted perspective towards the positive I’d love to hear about it.

Pancakes Are Never Lonely

pancake alone

pancake alone

Making pancakes alone- I’m unsure whether this has been done many times by a happy person, especially in such quantity. Pancakes speak to communal nature, maybe because of the many toppings and variations, or maybe simply because it’s very difficult to make only enough for one. Add that to the Rockwellian scene of a happy family making pancakes together that’s so embedded in our cultural zeitgeist and making pancakes alone just sounds...lonely.

Alone I was, lonely I was not. I knew that people I cared about would be cared for via easy breakfasts when reheating the pancakes I was going to freeze. And my hands were in motion, I was not in front of a screen, I was solidly making- creating. Surprising how creative cooking can feel when it hasn’t been daily, when there has been so much disconnection with physical reality through working behind a screen.

This whole weekend I took things a little slower, tried to be more conscious during my off-hours. The sewing machine came out, mending happened that I had been meaning to do for ages, that I couldn’t find the patience for until sitting in front of the sewing machine was a treat in and of itself.

It really comes down to value systems, and value $y$tem$. Buying dinner on my way home is more time efficient than cooking, and allows me to eat pretty much immediately after working long hours without food since a faraway lunch. But it’s most often a waste of money, and puts the raw ingredients I purchased at the grocery store at risk for being wasted too. And in general, unless Paula Deen possesses me as sometimes happens, cooking at home is way healthier. In the concept of time being money, I’m getting plenty of value in the money sense from an economically priced $8 dinner from Mr. Crepe or somewhere similar, but I’m not getting lasting value out of it. My values are centered around care and attention and presence and staying healthy- or so I’m increasingly finding out.

It didn’t really make economic sense for me to spend 2 or so hours mending and updating a shirt I bought at a Goodwill for $2, but I did it, and it means more to me now. The shirt is cooler now (or at least doesn’t have holes anymore) - and I was able to be creative in the process. This is what I appreciate as an appreciation of value. So make more pancakes from scratch, even though it takes at least an hour and a half if you’re moving at Sunday speed, and invest your time, not in the most monetarily lucrative way, but in the way that will show you the most value.

Care As Honor

the carefully re-knit cuffs

the carefully re-knit cuffs

Virginia Woolf has been in my thoughts lately. I recently finished reading A Room of One’s Own by her and was really struck by her ideas and ideals (even though intersectionality is glaringly absent when read with a contemporary eye- she was writing in the late 1920s). In the expanded speeches that comprise the book she invoked the spirit of the sentence as a thing meaning The Sentence from which a writer constructed prose. All of the greats had a different sentence, one that had been partially written for them, Woolf said, by previous greats- as these great men could think back through their fathers in history. She claimed that women need to make their own sentence to serve our own intellectual and emotional way of describing and building things. How wonderful! Just thinking of how many sentences there might be out there- from all different perspectives and needs- builders learning the word alchemy of creation.

In not writing, I found my own sentence. As I was knitting, and then as I was un-knitting and then again as I was re-knitting, I wondered why I was putting so much effort into my creation. Why did I want it to be perf...okay, symmetrical anyway? Because I cared, and because caring enough to make it right is how I define honor. The title my sentence would follow is Care as Honor.

What is your honor? And what is your sentence?

Apples and the Nature of Abundance

the remnants 8 days later

the remnants 8 days later

Last weekend my roommate and I came back from apple picking with 50 pounds of apples. Now they are almost gone. I couldn’t be happier. This sudden abundance triggered a mass of creative action in our kitchen- we made apple butter, applesauce, apple pies (yes plural), apple muffins, an apple quick bread...and ate apples in lunch every day.

Making baked goods that we used to feed ourselves and our friends really helped bring me through the work week. Instead of staring at a screen I could feel the ingredients in my hands, had the camaraderie of a friend and partner in apple picking crime, and got to eat some great and not so great pie. Because the apples weren’t wasted, I’m more confident in my ability to deal with a lot of material quickly and efficiently. Abundance was received, abundance was shared, so it follows that abundance will come again.

Alone in Public- The Creative Tea Break

transcribed from the back of my tea-receipt, since my journal was foolishly absent:

the network neuron drawing is ready for Halloween

the network neuron drawing is ready for Halloween

ecosystems of place-time-people

→ glances and eyes caught in nets making webs of intraspecies connection

-the by-catch that changes life paths

  •  The Tea Mind-

We must trust in the poetry of the body- leaving value to be distributed safely into its jurisdiction. All we do now is punish it for its tendencies towards lust, but would it even be so if in other/most instances it were listened to? Plus, the intellect will always somewhere fail. If we put all our self worth int under that one heading, we would feel forever threatened, and would behave as small as our assumed margins of error:

-distillations of opinion

revisitings

annotations on experience

The Conscious Exhale

-starting sentence/feeling

(end transcription)

I had the Tea Mind concept- that I know almost nothing about- in my head from reading something about it on the side of a Tea Republic canister in my kitchen. One of their Tea Mind quotes from their blog for you here: “The Leaves take the water, the first sip emanating wisdom’s light. Where Tea Mind is polished, it shines, pervading the universe, is more than it seems. And so are we.” –The Ministers of Travel

 

Recall- Personal Archives and Building a Story of Self

It’s so easy to be blinded by present circumstances. In the post-grad struggle to find balance, and a career, things often feel too catastrophic to handle. What I realized I needed was a check-in with my own archive up to now, my own story. Just in my head, it’s difficult to cast back the net and pull up mid-August 2013, but with my journal archive, where I’ve collected my ideas for four-ish years now, I could find that in fact I was working on a 30-page paper about my experiences working with the First Nations Health Authority in Vancouver. That was a great internship at an even better organization, but wow- I’m so glad I’m not writing that paper right now. Another journal says that in 2012 I was in Vancouver, but struggling with body-image issues. Another says that last year (definitely better than this one on paper) I was on a boat up desolation sound eating apple pie I had baked with my mother from windfall apples. This took some time, and it would have been easy to just fall into old emotions and not take anything but nostalgia away from the exercise, but instead I found that I could see my growth when I looked back. I could see that over this past year, even if I don’t have an apple pie in my fridge at the moment, I have so many new experiences that have shaped me as a person. I can feel that I’m in a good trend- which makes it easier to keep going.

It strikes me that stories of self can be built in many ways. Mine up to now has been primarily through hand-written journals, but moving forward will fold this blog into it as well, and ideally more photos and drawings. How do you build a story of self? Tweets? The Facebook machine? Maybe your own blog or archived text message conversations- I’d love to know

On the Nature of Challenges

The bookshelf in the house I grew up in was long dominated by a set of children’s books my Mom picked for me from a monthly book club thing. It was a whole series about historically significant people that gave me the firmest grasp on historical biographies I’ve ever had. Among the books on Marie Curie and Louis Pasteur- who for some reason was my favorite- was the biography of Jackie Robinson.

Even to my 5 year old mind, Jackie Robinson was impressive. The simply narrated book said that even from a very young age, Jackie Robinson always challenged himself. Since I was a young age, I took this to be directly applicable to me and started setting challenges for myself immediately. Yeah but I was 5, so these challenges were more like never again stepping on a crack in the sidewalk and things like that, they weren’t targeted to affect real growth in any way. I like to think that now the challenges I set for myself are targeted and do contribute to personal growth, but is an inner monologue of constant challenge the most effective way to think?

Though the compulsive challenge setting made me a great student during high school and university, I’ve also consistently struggled with anxiety. How much challenge is the right amount? And does anxiety result more from inwardly set challenges than outwardly imposed ones?