Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Ordinary Life

I was afraid of living an ordinary life, and I realized that’s what we all get. We all get an ordinary life. And it’s good enough.  ~ Garrison Keillor

Recently, my husband and I finally got around to listening to a PBS special we had TiVoed some time ago, "Garrison Keillor: Man on the Road in the Red Shoes."

Even if you’re not already a fan of A Prairie Home Companion, this is a slice of Americana you won’t want to miss, especially if you’re an American, a reader, a writer, or an old radio lover. As all four, it hit a home run out of the ballpark with me …

… but Garrison’s closing punch line about the ordinary life stuck in my craw, demanding I digest the contents and share any emotional/spiritual nutrition I derived. That quote is turning out to be one of those health food drinks with a shelf full of vitamin additives.

I never saw myself as ordinary, nor do others see me that way. I definitely don’t see Garrison Keillor as ordinary, and I’m sure most other people don’t either. So, my question to me—now to you is: Just who are you on the continuum of ordinary to unique? Why does “owning” both of these seemingly opposite designations matter?

Ordinary Dilemma

A deep truth struck me in the moment I heard Garrison say this. The ordinary life is what we get for starters—but in order to express extraordinary skills and talents, there are often huge impacts on the ordinary life—a big price to pay. That is, until we can learn to hold both of them at once, which we must, each in our own style and way. This is what it takes to achieve balance and happiness.

We doubt this balancing act is possible, yet many celebrities model this achievement for us every day. President Obama talks about how one of the benefits of his job is the ability to have dinner with his kids most nights, something he often could not do as a Senator. Certain stars leap immediately to mind as putting family first. Bon Jovi, a true family man, attends his kids’ parent-teacher meetings, just like any other mere mortal. Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick alternate working, so there’s always one parent who is primarily at home. You probably know dozens more examples.

I have always sensed that I could never achieve my ultimate success unless or until I had a grounded, happy home life. Now that I have it, I sometimes fear that I sabotage how far I can go, because I am afraid of losing my warm nest and grounded routine. These are the very things that nurture me down to my toes and up through my soul. They give me the springboard for going out into the world and doing great things.

Yet, I am still sometimes afraid to leap. I do not want to lose the ordinary things I treasure: my husband’s warm hugs and teasing (alternating between endearing and annoying), kitty whiskers rubbing my face, watching our ritual mystery movie on Saturday nights, getting the mail, or our teamwork on gathering and putting out the garbage one night a week. While some of these things sound boring, they are also the stepping-stones that mark our days and help them feel solid. Breaking out of this routine sometimes feels like throwing off the down comforter on a freezing cold winter morning and forcing myself into the shivering dawn and discomfort for no good reason.

Hints from the Other Kind of Stars

Astrology has helped me understand this dilemma. It offers several planetary and mythical metaphors to help all of us sort out and blend our internal mix of ordinary to extraordinary parts of ourselves.

Saturn represents foundations, structure, and responsibility, as well as wisdom and being grounded. Permanence and self-sacrifice are also its domain, all together, the stuff that solid daily life is made of—or any long-lasting “institution.” However, if that were the entire substance, marriage and/or the family and home life would drive many of us crazy enough to belong in an institution of another kind.

Uranus, on the other hand, represents the opposite archetype—originality, uniqueness, the unexpected, freedom and independence. You can probably sense right this minute whether you’re more Saturnian or Uranian. I thought I started out more Saturnian and grew more Uranian, especially when I moved to The Left Coast in 1973 at the height of the counterculture movement. On viewing my first wedding photos, more than one person has said I looked like “a hippie princess” in my old-fashioned muslin dress and crown of wildflowers. By contrast, back when I was growing up in the 1950s, I thought I was Happy Days typical. I’ve been stunned, quite honestly, to have many people tell me I was “a free spirit” from a very early age. So, when you’re mulling over where you start on the Saturn/Uranus symbol curve, you might also want to get a second opinion from those who have known you for a long time.

Chiron is my astrological specialty, the composite planetoid/comet called a centaur, just like the mythical half-horse, half-human character after which it is named. Chiron is an integrating energy that turns our wounds into blessings, our handicaps into our vocation, and asks us to make lemonade out of lemons. Just as mythical Chiron groomed many famous heroes like Jason of the Argonauts, the powerful Hercules, and Asclepius, the Father of Medicine: Chiron asks us to bring out the best in ourselves by resolving opposites within us. How do you like this metaphor? Chiron is located in space between Saturn and Uranus and acts like a bridging function between the two planets and what they symbolize.

Roots and Wings

There’s a wonderful saying I love:

Two great things you can give your children: one is roots, the other is wings. ~ Hodding Carter

(I’ve also heard it attributed to the famous inventor of the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk. You can tell it’s a great quote if people argue about who said it first.)

I think this never stops being true; adults need roots and wings as much as they did as children. When either of those forces becomes too overdone, the other energy demands reckoning.

I agree with Garrison Keillor that the ordinary life is a gift we all receive. If I were forced to choose one or the other, I’d have to take the ordinary life, even though the free spirit in me would begin to wither and die without expression.

From Either/Or to Both/And

Fortunately, we are not forced to choose. But this is something we often have to discover for ourselves. It reminds me of the game my parents played with me as a child. Little did they realize how potentially damaging it could have been to my sensitive psyche. “Who do you love best, Mommy or Daddy?” If I said Mommy, Daddy would pretend to cry. Vice-versa if I said Daddy. Asking children or adults to choose between roots and wings would be like asking them to pick Mommy or Daddy when they need both.

We are actually charged with integrating the opposites within us, including roots and wings. Chiron—and life itself—teaches us that joy exists in finding out where we are on a continuum. Everyone has this charge. The baby boomer generation perhaps has had the most stark life experience with it. Boomers grew up in the Ozzie and Harriet ‘50s only to have those ideals blown away as irrelevant, as we reached young adulthood in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Somewhere, we had to figure out where we fit between Doris Day and Janis Joplin.

Personally, I think the deeper our roots, the higher we can fly. We just have to be willing to face that initial discomfort of coming out from under our warm, down comforter on a freezing winter morning.


Photo credit: © Dolnikov |

Want to learn more about Chiron and astrology? Joyce's new e-book is beginner-friendly and full of hints on how to turn lemons into lemonade, contribute your special gifts (vocation), and achieve fulfillment. Read more and/or purchase Chiron and Wholeness: A Primer on The Radical Virgo.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Autumn Equinox: Harvest Your Thanks

If you’ve been following Hot Flashbacks for any length of time, you know autumn is my favorite season. As I say of myself in my poem, Happy Birthday:

Born on the cusp of fall
Of woman in spring of life…
Seven pounds some of cosmic energies.

Even in utero, my mind was apparently going faster than my body. I feel so at one with the season of harvest and thanksgiving, yet I was actually born just hours before the equinox when the cosmic clock turned fall. I wanted to be born in autumn so badly; I arrived at its doorstep ahead of time.

In autumn, we harvest the bounty of the things we have been working on since the spring growing season. Figuratively, they could be hopes, dreams, projects or changes in attitude. One thing is certain. The cornucopia is gratitude. The container that holds all of life’s gifts in our hands, even for a moment, is our willingness to say thank-you often for the magnificent cycles of life. Think of the seasons you have lived and breathed for whatever number of years you’ve been here on Earth.

This autumn, I reach a very special birthday. At 62, thinking of myself as middle aged isn’t exactly accurate. If this is the middle, I’d have to live to 124! Not that I’d mind as long as my body works, but it has definitely been making noises like a car that’s pushing 100,000 miles without having had all its regularly scheduled maintenance. I’ve been getting out the oil can and looking at tread wear. I’m beefing up my efforts to keep running at optimum despite a few dents, nicks, and worn parts that have been replaced. My youthful face and active mind is housed in a classic vehicle. It’s impossible to deny it, but I don’t think I want to dwell on it.

Due to a number of those cosmic nudges I always talk about, I will be applying for Social Security early at the end of this month. What a milestone. While I still think I’m too young for such things, I am so grateful for the option—a door that has opened as another one closed—my part-time job. I don’t know what to make of being more officially “senior” than ever before, except to be grateful that I’m still here, alive, and kickin’! When Tim and I got back together after 38 years, one of my favorite oldies that said it all was, Still the One by Orleans. These are some of the lyrics:

I want you to know
After all these years
You’re still the one
I want whisperin’ in my ear.

I feel that way not just about my husband, but also about myself. I want to hear my Higher Self whisper in my ear more than ever.

I like who I have become, and I’m glad I’ve had an opportunity to expand my spirit during this earthly sojourn to become more Me. Every harvest season is a tryout for your final harvest, the time you get to leave earth for a new adventure and leave behind the riches you have acquired in a lifetime. I believe we just become another life or energy form. Our light just looks like it’s burning out. It’s really pulling in to gather force before it explodes--an energetic burst to catapult us to the next plane, to shoot us back to the stars.

This autumn, when you’re writing your gratitude journal or giving thanks at a big turkey dinner surrounded by loved ones, be thankful most of all for your own evolution—for this incredible Earth walk. Give yourself a flashback of your whole life—let it pass before you—and enjoy a preview of that white light experience at the end where you “get” what it was all about. You don’t have to wait till you go to the light to know! Ask for a preview. Share your cool insights about these hot flashbacks in the Comments.

Life is for living all the way to the finish line and for expanding your spirit if you’re 16, 45, 62—or 90. I want to end with one of my favorite quotes in Richard Bach’s, Illusions:

"Here is a test to find out if your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t."


Photo Credit: FALL HARVEST © Lulu2009

Want more autumn reflections? Read these past posts: Autumn EquiKnocks and Happy Autumn Equinox.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Boomer Survey on Love, Sex, and Intimacy

Boomer readers! Got something to say on these subjects?

This is a between-the-posts announcement to alert you to some exciting happenings on my friend Eileen Williams' blog, The Feisty Side of Fifty! Eileen recently interviewed and posted information about a love, sex, and intimacy survey being conducted by Suzanne Braun Levine. Suzanne is the founding editor of Ms. Magazine, who worked there for 17 years, a friend of Gloria Steinem's. Suzanne has written several books on boomer women and related topics.

She also has created a questionnaire to get you thinking about marriage, partnerships, and other relationships you’ve experienced over the years. So take a few minutes and let her know how you’ve grown and changed since you hit midlife. You can email your answers to


Visit the link to Feisty Side of Fifty for the complete text of the questionnaire. As a thank you gift, the first 10 respondents will receive a free copy of Suzanne's best selling book, 50 is the New Fifty, so be sure to include your name and address. (Your responses to the questionnaire will remain anonymous.)

May you learn more about love and life in the process!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


When I took training in collaborative decision-making—a way to get groups to come to consensus—it became obvious to me that this is the only kind of solution that actually works. It involves giving up only what didn’t really matter to you, anyway, and becoming open-minded on how to get what does.

Solutions That Work for Everyone

In problem solving, if everyone doesn’t get something they can live with, they will sabotage the plan or simply not play. They’ll take their ball and go home. Nothing will improve. Status quo. Much ado about nothing. Time wasted.

Of course, we all know that finding common ground isn’t as easy as it sounds. It takes maturity—none of that dropping the ball stuff. Getting better at finding commonality, over time, is one of the gifts of experience. Success, joy, and happiness in life depend on learning to see where we intersect with others, where we can agree or design a new way to do things that’s OK with everyone involved.

Us ‘n’ Them is so much easier. No one has to put forth any effort except to dig themselves deeper into the rut they’re in and not move. Very little work is involved, especially of a mental or spiritual nature. You don’t have to expand your ideas, entertain the notion that you might not have the only—or even the best—solution. You get to sit on your butt. You don’t have to grow or worst of all, grow up.

Not only does this lack maturity and creativity, it is boring. It is so same-old, same old. Who needs it?

Imagine, instead, starting this chain reaction of vision, all around you: Now the highest part of everyone concerned, in whatever dilemma or challenge, will come up with a fabulous, creative solution, because you’ll let that essence of him and her out to play.

How do we create that environment?

A Safe, Creative, Comfortable Atmosphere

For starters, believe in the best in everyone—that we have a Higher Self able to do amazing things if s/he is simply set free. Identify the goals you want to achieve, and then trust that order will come out of chaos if you just allow group process to reveal itself without any help from you, thanks, especially if you’re the boss, parent, or a controller by nature. Chaos to order seems to be one of those odd pairs of opposites that occur in causal order when left alone. Think of the cacophony of potential sounds that blare in the head of a musical genius before they ultimately become a symphony. If you believe in the Bible, think of the original order out of chaos that only took a week.

Everyone has true genius when goodwill and a good setting are provided for troubleshooting. People love to solve problems and grapple with issues when they are safe, fed, comfortable, and their capabilities are held in high esteem.

One of the greatest gifts from my parents was their trust in my ability to figure things out for myself. “We know you’ll do the right thing, baby” was one of my mom’s mantras. I lived up to it.

In contrast, one of my friends had parents who didn’t trust her as far as they could throw her. They even had her followed and spied on. She lived down to their opinion of her.

Create environments with big intersections, places where people can easily discover their commonalities or become stimulated to consider new ideas and expand themselves till their lanes cross. I remember my excitement when I first learned the word synergy, the idea that the sum is equal to more than its parts. If two heads are better than one, imagine a room full of minds dancing. This atmosphere is best achieved where deadlines are reasonable, the stakes are high, and everyone stands to benefit from the best outcome. Comfort and ambience help-- anything that builds trust and bonding among the team members before or during their solution sessions.

This model can be applied between two people in a marriage, several in a family, lots in an organization—wherever two or more are gathered.

Where in your life can you build a road where intersections are plentiful and people get to a green light together?

What an alternative to road rage or gridlock.

Photo Credit: © Rudyumans

Thursday, September 3, 2009

IT’S A SIGN! No Soliciting: Religion and Religious Literature Included

Normally the “signs” we talk about on Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights are figurative. Things like dream symbols, synchronicities, and signs of the zodiac.

Today, I’m here to announce that you can buy my sign! No, I don’t mean Virgo. (Not too many people would take that one on by choice, much less pay for it. Too much work, one of the things Virgos are famous for!)

I’m literally talking about the no soliciting sign on my front door, which I wrote about in May in the post, The “No Soliciting” Sign. Turns out it was my most visited blog post of all time—hundreds of visitors each month-- and the most discovered by key word searches. Seeing those blog statistics made me realize that my personal sign could fill a need. It cried to become a product to be shared.

With the help of my graphics guru, Terri Dennis of Graphica Design—we’ve made updated version of the original sign ready to print and frame—and a new one, displayed on this post.

Both can be viewed in larger, watermarked versions on the Spirited Products page of my website, You can download a watermark-free and image-credit-free version to print out through PayPal on my website, linked in the first line of this paragraph or in the sidebar of this blog.

Availability and Pricing
Each is available as an 8.5 x 11 PDF download for $3, which you can color print on the paper or cardstock of your choice, then frame it yourself. Alternatively, each can be purchased as two side-by-side 5 x 7 prints. The pair on one sheet are ready to trim, print out and frame—also $3. Pop them into an inexpensive frame (the Dollar Stores are great resources)—and voilĂ ! You, too, will be freer of doorbell—including dogma—interruptions.

Please e-mail me if you have any questions, comments, or feedback. The prints for framing are a test balloon. If the products sell as well as the blog traffic suggests, I’ll explore offering a ready-to-hang product as a plaque or ready-framed in the future.


Image credits: © 2009 by Joyce Mason, All Rights Reserved. Art by Graphica Design.

Text underneath watermark: Please don’t ring. /We can’t talk or buy, /Survey, give, or get saved./ Here’s why:/ We need one place to retreat …