Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bringing the world to Grinnell...

The world got a lot smaller this week as we met an incredible young woman and her mother. My family and I have entered into a friendship with a young woman who will soon begin classes at the college in our town. We are a community host family for this student who is both Irish and American, but has lived in Africa since she was a very little girl. 
The world came together and the distance between Grinnell and Tanzania became shorter.

We went to an event at the college to bring together families and students from all over the world. It was really rather remarkable for us. 

It was more than remarkable, it was downright humbling. 

Students from around the world, some traveling 48 hours to get to Grinnell, introduced themselves, giving their name and their country. 

These extraordinary young people are attending college in another country and often English is their second or third language. And they are majoring in chemistry, philosophy, or economics... 

I had my plate full in college just learning in my own native language, let alone in French, German, Spanish, or Swedish ... all languages I studied, but I can't say I'm fluent. Not by a long shot. 

This new friendship already feels like an old friendship and the distance between Grinnell and Tanzania seems to have gotten a little smaller this week...Oh, the places you'll go...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Don't Worry... It's All Good

Is there anything that puts time in perspective more than watching it pass as children grow? As an adult firmly in middle age, a few years is just that... a few years. 

Until you watch those years pass as a child grows. The difference between a child at age eight and at 11 is remarkable. 

I listened to Kati Marston on "Morning Joe" yesterday and I'm compelled to pick up her new memoir, "Paris: A Love Story." Marston recounts her first marriage to Peter Jennings, the news anchor, which ended in divorce, and her second marriage to Richard Holbrooke, a diplomat working to end the Afghan war. Holbrooke died in 2010. Not only does the personal story of their lives sound interesting, but I am drawn to Kati's perspective, the way in which Kati is emphatic that we live life fully every single day. In an interview with NPR, she shares that the novel is about grabbing onto life after loss... "Because I have a keener sense now more than ever of how elusive life is, and how you can't count on anything, and how important it is to live in the present. And I hope my readers will draw comfort from the fact that there are lives beyond the one that one loses."

When I hear that kind of admonition, I am terrified. What if I run out of time to experience all of it? I can easily become melancholy and the memories of the past and dreams once entertained fall gently around me like snowflakes... 

And then I see the progression of time in these photos and in these faces, and I am reminded that I never envisioned this kind of charmed life that I have. It's all good.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Journey IS the Destination

from the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, via Oceans of Dharma

"The open path is a matter of working purely with what is, of giving up altogether the fear that something may not work, that something may end in failure. One has to give up the paranoia that one might not fit into situations, that one might be rejected. One purely deals with life as it is."

This sounds completely blissful...and terrifying all at the same time. I'm working on finding my balance between working toward goals and aspirations - things I want to accomplish - and just taking life as it comes. I'm at least aware that I need to loosen the white-knuckle grip I have on life at times and I have succeeded once in a while at being able to do just that. Another way of looking at this is really letting go of the fear of not being "enough." Not even trying or venturing out of my comfort zone to attempt something new because I tell myself I cannot possibly succeed.

"Can't do it. No point in trying. I'll just let myself down... again..." The Gospel According to Eeyore...

But doesn't that also save us from the satisfaction of achievement that goes with meeting a challenge?

Watching the Olympics over the past two weeks has been a little contradictory to this, however. Listening to stories of extraordinary young people who have devoted their entire lives to one competition is beyond dedication. Years of training and work toward a single moment is mind-boggling. It would seem to me that not only did they perform super-human feats of athleticism, but also of being too strong to allow anything, especially their own selves, to stand in the way of their goal.

Not all of us are cut out to be Olympic athletes. That's what makes them special. For many of us, just trying to live life without fear of success and fear of failure are enough.

What do we miss when we force life to happen according to our own agenda? We miss dealing with life as it is. We miss seeing possibilities and opportunities. We view our future through a peep-hole, small, distorted, and out of focus. The most glorious opportunities could be visible just beyond your tiny circle of vision. When we are honed in on our own agenda with a tight focus, we can miss the incredible around us that is life.

"This is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great." Willa Cather