Gratitude in a halo

by Susan Robinson on November 19, 2014

A while back Charles and I were going through a tough financial time – the kind of time where you sweat the mortgage and dread the credit card statement. I can still remember the feeling of constant anxiety.

And right in the midst of that, I woke one morning with a strange smile and a single thought:

“I have everything I want.”

You have to understand: Gratitude doesn’t come easily to me. Smiling doesn’t come easily to me. Focus, yes.  Smiling, no.  Charles is the peaceful one.  Unperturbable.  I’m the passionate one.  Fiery and impatient.

This was not a time when I had everything I want.  This was a time when gratitude was so far out of reach that making a list of “things that don’t suck” was a stretch. I was frustrated and angry and scared.

And yet here it was.  This pure and ridiculous thought.  This expansive contentment.

I’d been working the night before with a woman who was in chronic pain. She’d been through a series of spinal surgeries, one after the other. Putting metal hardware into her neck, hardware failing, neck collapsing, pulling hardware out.  And here she was, in a metal halo – drilled into her skull resembling some kind of medieval torture – here she was telling me how grateful she was to me.  And to God and to Life and to her husband and to her doctors and to…it was endless.  Her gratitude was endless.  And it wasn’t just words. It wasn’t a script, and she wasn’t reaching for anything. It was just glowing from her. Filling me.

I know what it’s like to come through a crisis and be so glad that the worst of the pain is behind you, and you survived it, that you praise all that’s holy.  But what does it mean when you’re still in the middle of it, still struggling, still in pain, and feel so blessed?  It’s winter but you feel so warm.  Where does that kind of gratitude come from?

It felt like love.


Time management

by Susan Robinson on October 7, 2014

“Only through time, time is conquered.”
– T.S. Eliot

I live my life as if my time is limited. You can only do so many things, fit so many things, into a day, a month, a lifetime.  I don’t want to waste a minute on what I HAVE to do – I want to spend it all on what I WANT to do.  I have no energy to spare on thoughts that pull me down. That’s time management.

The passage of time has turned my hair a charcoal gray, an ashen shadow that summons the threat of losing all these things I am meant to do – the creativity that hasn’t yet turned into expression – and the urgency of holding onto time with the people I love. Demanding a future. The right to be here, to cherish and adore and protect them.

Fleeting moments.  My past is filled with them. My daughter turns 18 next week. And I want to be here for all the rest of it – all those sparkling moments.  There’s a myth about independence.  We really do need each other, even when we’re grown.  I want to be here, for her. And for Charles. Just to be with him. For no other reason than that simple comfort. And the knowing that I am that for him. Without me, he has no anchor.

My yearning for transcendence comes, at least in part, from my sense that my time is limited. And the need to find a way to get beyond time while I’m here.


Kai Chi Do with the Chicago Police Youth Summer Program

by Susan Robinson on September 2, 2013

Instructor Francine Brown brought Kai Chi Do to the Chicago Neighborhood Youth Corp, a Chicago Police Department Summer Youth Program, and the results were amazing.  The Youth Corp is designed to break down barriers and encourage trust, build community, and inspire service.  Those goals are in perfect harmony with the purpose of Kai Chi Do – to help people to experience the feeling of Connection, to Source, Self, and others.

I think participant Shavell Franklin said it best when she described the value of the Youth Program, “It unites us and that’s what our city needs the most.”

We are so proud that Kai Chi Do was a part of this program!  Thank you, Francine!

Take a look!

{ 1 comment }

The poetry of Deb Genatossio: A Sense of Place

by Susan Robinson on July 28, 2013

The Lake by Deb Genatossio

The Lake is unruffled
reflecting a few clouds above it .
The silence is broken by the quick call of the Chickadee,
then lay again like a calming hand on the air.

Relaxed I roll on my back to enjoy this perfection.
The grass is soft and smells fresh.
Overhead the Maple offers a half shade,
its black branches touched with young tender leaves.
Through the spreading cluster of trees, Dogwood bloom white.
I almost forget there’s any place else in the world.


Learning to be brave, or at least learning

by Susan Robinson on July 23, 2013

That pool is just as freezing every morning and it’s just as hard to get naked and dive in.
— Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

The truth is: I have to muster my courage every day.

I want to do things that I don’t have the skills for, so every day I struggle.  To learn.  To take the risk to try things I don’t know how to do.  To ask for help when I’m pretty sure I have stupid questions.  And then ask stupid, quite possibly annoying, follow up questions.  I take calculated risks about things that wouldn’t be risks at all if I knew what I was doing (email me if you know anything about changing Permalink structures and transferring activation keys to subdomains.  I’m a nurse, for goodness sake!).  And so I make too many mistakes.  I consume way too much time researching to try to understand the risks and avoid the mistakes, but I also seem to evaporate time in the daily exercise of overcoming my avoidance.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love to be productive.  Which is probably why it’s so hard for me to work so slowly, to have so little product to show for my efforts while I’m trekking through the valley of the shadow of the learning curve.

But I do keep hiking that curve.

Avoidance would lead me down the path of complacent contentment.  No one can really argue with contentment, which makes it very tough to resist.  Contentment is so serene.  (Maybe a little boring, but) so peaceful.  So easy like Sunday morning.

But complacency, now that’s another story.  That’s a kind of resignation that makes the creator inside me rebel.

You can see my dilemma.  Steven Pressfield eloquently calls it The War of Art.  But because I’m more of a plodder than an artist, I just call it fear.

I’m good at some things.  Things I’ve done a long time. They’re easy for me now.  I can drive a car without thinking about all the coordination required between my eyes, my hands, my feet and the steering wheel —  which are all things I used to think about, especially after I hit a tree on my first driver’s test.  (Well, it was a parallel park, what can you expect?)  I’ve done my day job so long it’s like a vacation from what I put myself through on my days off.

But I keep trying.  Because there are things I want to accomplish that I don’t know how to do yet.  Things I want to build.  To share.  To create.  I keep learning because I know from experience that once I do a task 3 or 4 or 100 times, it gets a little bit familiar and there’s not quite so much to overcome.  And one day, some day, it get’s easy.

And I take the risk of writing this because maybe, just maybe, you can relate.

Kim Doyal inspired me to write this post – because she’s a self taught WordPress expert, and she sent an email to her universe of readers today that said to stop waiting for permission to put yourself out there and speak in your own voice.  And she added a link to Sara Bareilles song, Brave.  I love the song and posted it to Facebook, but if you haven’t seen it yet (because you still haven’t found the energy it takes to overcome your resistance to learning how to use Facebook), you’re in for a smile.

(I really don’t know if I should categorize this post in Inspiration or Mental Health.  Maybe they’re the same thing.)

And in case you’re wondering, what I’m currently building is an online training program (using WordPress with WP Courseware plugin) that will help more people who want to become Kai Chi Do instructors.  And I think that’s worth the effort it takes me to be brave.