RE-Vision: A New Year To Play With

Here’s what I wrote on FaceBook early in this new year:

I usually come up with a personal theme each new year, a guiding thought. This year, it’s “Do what you love.” As I regroup after a hectic holiday season, I think about the 5 a.m. wakeup tomorrow to get my dear daughter up for her first day back to school. Blechhh! I don’t want to leave my cozy holiday cocoon–morning coffee in the glow of Christmas tree lights, pondering the lyrics of seasonal music, the warmth of connecting with so many dear people these past weeks. Going back to the old and usual doesn’t feel much like doing what I love, but isn’t it, really? And, if not, what will I do to change it? So, tomorrow, I’ll make it my good pleasure to wake up with my daughter. It’ll be my joy to sit down at my computer, work on my blog, pay bills, and put in some hours at my job. Do the dishes, plan dinner, solve some personal problems, take down the Christmas tree. All in peace and comfort, and with joy. Until God sends me to do something else. That’ll be something I love, too; I know it.

Ah, so sweet and peaceful was I…

Here’s what my FB post, had I written one then, would read a mere three days later:

Peace and comfort and joy? Yeah, right! Getting my teenager out the door for school after a long holiday vacation is like waiting for molasses to pour out of a measuring cup and into the bowl. The last time I signed her into school late, I wrote in the Reason For Lateness column: “Ask her!”  The Christmas tree’s needles are crunchy and brown and falling off in waves, and why did I feel compelled to put so many dang ornaments on it?!? Our kitchen counters aren’t cleaned off all the way yet, and the laundry is piled high in the bedroom. We need groceries, and my dear mother needs a ride to the dentist. I have work (the kind that pays) to do.  I’m tired!  Next year, I’ll handle Christmas differently…

Uh-huh. Maybe. But, instead of getting on my own case about what’s done and what needs doing, I’m deciding to let it all the heck GO!  And be easy on myself, for heaven’s sake.

In October, I revised my list of goals/visions from last year, labeling it “REVISION.” Here’s a piece of it:

REvisionList

I jotted this on a tiny piece of note paper in about 6 minutes.  A very inspired and inspiring woman encouraged me years ago to write a list of what I wanted down on paper, to create a  vision for my life, in detail. She’d done it and wound up achieving what she’d envisioned.  I didn’t attempt mine until years later. Recently, to my surprise, when I looked over the things on my first one, almost everything had been achieved, acquired, or improved. (Cool, right?)  So I had to write a new one!

Why don’t you try writing a vision list? Here’s what I did:

  • Sat in a coffee shop, alone, having hot coffee and an egg sandwich.
  • Realized how right and good it is for me to eat a decent breakfast.
  • Looked at my FaceBook notifications on my phone.
  • Realized it might be better for me to put the dang phone down and enjoy my food and the atmosphere and the freedom I have to just be there in that cute little coffee shop.
  • Felt cranky because it was too warm for October in my neck of the woods.
  • Felt cranky because I thought I would know by then what I was going to do next with my life.
  • Realized it’s good to be in touch with my feelings, and even better to do something about them.
  • Eventually started to notice what I was thinking about.
  • Put what I was thinking about on paper, using one of my favorite pens. Plus, the paper was from a note pad that one of my favorite peeps gave me.
  • Realized for the zillionth time that, noticing is important, starting with noticing how I’m doing, if I’m hungry, what I’m longing for.
  • Realized I felt extremely grateful.
  • Whispered “Thank You” to God.

FYI: I wrote this second list in October. Now it’s time to write the next one.  Because all but one thing on this list has happened.  Exciting! Top of the next list?  “Do what I love”–my aforementioned theme for this new year. I’m pretty sure I’ll be posting some day about how that’s going.

If you write a vision list for yourself, I’d sure like to know what it was like for you, how you did it, and/or how things are happening in your life as a result. You can comment on this post, or send a message. And, always, I appreciate getting “Likes” on my posts, if you’re so inclined.  Thanks for reading!

BTW:  The talented and kind woman who inspired me to write my first list is Kathy Dempsey. I read her first book, Shed or You’re Dead 31 Unconventional Strategies for Growth & Change, which tells her hard-to-believe personal story and how it inspired her to achieve mucho success inspiring others.  You can get to her web site here.

 

Eating, Praying & Loving Through The Holidays

The celebrated and movie-fied book Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert lived in the dusty back row of my bookshelf for over a year.  I tried reading it once before, but got hung up on this sentence in the introduction:

“Sincere spiritual investigation is, and always has been, an endeavor of methodical discipline.”

I’m not a big fan of the D-word: discipline.  (If you know me, you are probably shaking your head vigorously in agreement. Stop it! 😙)  Anyhow, my spiritual path has been guided more by J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Not all those who wander are lost.”

I’ve started reading Eat Pray Love again, because I had the movie on recently while cleaning out my side of the bedroom 😷 in preparation for Christmas.  I found myself cleaning only during the commercials and sitting on the bed watching when the movie came back on.  So, I decided to read the book as a sort of meditation, a focus, for the month of December.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s story speaks to some Very Big Questions with which I’ve been wrestling for years.  In particular, why am I, a so-called cradle Lutheran, steeped in church tradition and Bible-reading and such–so extremely uncomfortable with the idea that the only path to the Divine (whom I call God) is through a rigid script that goes something like this:   1) Realize you’re a sinner.  2) Repent from all your sin.  3)  Confess your sins to Jesus.?

I mean, what about the person sitting on a rock somewhere in Jabip in the mountains.  What if they don’t know the salvation formula?

I know; I know: Paul said in the book of Romans in the Bible that here’s how you are saved.  Please don’t get your Christian panties in a bunch.  Couldn’t we just entertain the idea that people need to embrace living in Love and then share that Love with everyone?  Wouldn’t living in Love be our salvation?

Okay, I’m not looking for a debate here. I’m a big fan of Jesus. He has shown me the way to heaven, although I’m not talking about where I go when I die; I’m talking about where I’m already a citizen and where I can learn how to act like it.

But I digress.

Two-ish years ago, my husband began a before-mentioned (in another post or two) cancer-curing journey. Three months before that was the surgery on the back of my teenager’s skull to give her brain enough space to hang free. Before that, five emergency trips to the hospital in two months for my mom.

They all got better, thank God!  Except for me.  I got worse.  I’ve spent the last year-ish recovering from the worry and hurry of addressing my loved ones’ needs. (FYI I’d do it all again for them.)  I’ve been learning lots and, in the process, shedding a whole lot of stuff that has weighed me down for years, stuff that had become a habit.  Fear. Worry. Dread. Hopelessness. Guilt. Toxic Shame. Hesitation to act on my own behalf. Caring about what people think about what I’m doing or how I look. Self-Criticism. Wondering endlessly about getting it right spiritually.

That last one is the latest to go.  Worrying about my questions about Jesus’ purpose and plan for me and all people. You see, I noticed that Jesus did something amazing for humanity, yes, and also said that we would do greater things than he did.  There are so many places in the Bible that hang me up, that make the God of the Universe that I know so unrecognizable that I’ve been known to toss the whole notion of God right out the nearest stainglass window.

You see, I see God (aka Love) in people who don’t profess Jesus as their savior.  I’ve seen God in people who do bad things. (Ahem! Like, all of us.)  I saw God in a dog the other day. Really!  Here’s her pic:

Gloria Closeup

And let me say here that I know the hackles of many a Christian will be raised by these notions I’m putting forth. I know that they will point to the Bible and say, “It says right here that…”  But I have a problem with that.  I think that, perhaps, we’ve gotten the Bible a little wrong here and there. I can’t see God excluding anyone, for any reason, from His/Her Love. I can’t. It’s too capricious. God isn’t capricious. The Universe is designed to be good to all, isn’t it, no matter how we act? God The Father & Mother Of The Universe is loving, supportive, perfect, inclusive, forgiving. Right?

Or, perhaps we can lovingly agree to disagree.  And we can pray for each other.

Back to my story. What I’m reading in Eat Pray Love is resonating deeply in me. It’s about emotional and spiritual and geographic journeys.  It’s about leaps of faith. I relate to so much in what I’ve read so far.  Five months ago, I left my job of umpteen years. Didn’t know why at the time, but I needed to.  Since then, I learned that I’d been living with lung-restricting stress from all those family emergencies, and that I needed self care in a way I’d never needed it before.  That realization has brought me to mind-blowing heights of insight and inspiration, and down to my knees as I surrender, one by one, my need to hang on to unhealthy habits of thinking and doing and being.  I know I’m loved by the Lover Of Everyone In The Universe.

Today I see madness in my city, country and all over the world. I’m shocked, as I’m sure you are, at the daily news of bloodshed, political shenanigans, unbridled greed, and…but, wait!  I remember to stop daily, breathe, and I see what I have, where I’ve been, and that Love is with me.  I’m eating good spiritual food. I’m praying for and consciously loving everyone, including the people I see as enemies. I’m terrible at it, sometimes.  I don’t let that stop me, though.  Please don’t let it stop you.

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I’m an Amazon Associate.  If you want the book, click here: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia  by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Signs and Symbols, and Paris

Recently I went for a mammogram.  It was my  third medical appointment in two days, an effort to catch up with myself after a couple of challenging years.

(BTW, Click here for info about low cost or free mammograms)

On the way to the appointment, I found myself humming and suddenly feeling grateful to be past those tough times. I simultaneously understood that there’s no guarantee of a trouble-free future…

On the side of the road, I saw a lone fiery red maple tree, branches parallel to the ground as the wind whipped through its leaves.  I understood right then and there that taking myself to these appointments signals to my inner self loud and clear,

You’ve hung in there. You are taking care of yourself. Go, girl!

I connected somehow to the fierce color and strength of that maple tree, holding on to its blazing leaves. Bending as the wind tugged. I spoke out loud in the car, “I know the feeling, maple tree! Hang onto your colorful self!” I was laughing.

Symbols, signs, and certain gestures help me deal with life, in times when I’m full of life and color, and in times I’m navigating dark gray storms.

I often wear this necklace.  It reminds me to stop and breathe for a moment, to take care of my needs, to remember who I am.

IMG_4606

I use lots of verbals and visuals to encourage myself.  One time, when I was in the middle of an unpleasant disagreement with a friend, I deliberately wore the shirt she’d given me so that I could “wear her” around with me, reminding me to think of her as a human, with a beating heart.  Rather than as a monster.  Earlier this year, I bought these socks:

beautiful socks

That is one heck of a good message!

I’ve read books (see below) and articles and heard speakers say that what we expose ourselves to, we become. The “garbage in, garbage out” idea. People, objects, music, art, and places have big effects on humans. When  I saw that maple tree, I realized that I’ve absorbed this truth as my very own, and can use it to my advantage.

What symbol, then, can I wear or post for Paris, for the world, for the future of the human race?  FaceBook was full of profile photos bathed in the stripes of the French flag.  I’m touched by the response of the world to the horror that happened there. I’m also touched by the posts that remind us that Baghdad and many other places have also suffered terrorist attacks.  Here’s an extraordinarily loving post from a man who lost his wife in the attack at the Bataclan concert hall:   Antoine Leiris.

As for the symbol I’ll hold up to cheer myself and others on?  I haven’t found one yet. I think it’ll be about renewed commitment to answer the clearer-than-ever call to act when I see a need I can fill from my own basket of skills and resources.  Maybe I’ll find a piece of jewelry to wear or a meme that echoes a scripture I found once, a while ago:

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated.”*

For me, Love needs to be the ultimate goal, even to the point of loving our enemies.  The passage continues:

“Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”**

So be it.

So, be it!

In the meantime, here’s a symbol I can wear for strength and alertness:

IMG_4608

🙂

*(The Message, Deuteronomy 31:6)
**I prefer not to use masculine-only language for God.  In this case, the message was so good that I quoted it directly from the book, which meant that I had to quote it as is.

To Find Items Alluded To, Mentioned Or Pictured:

Book:  The Power of Positive Thinking

Affirmation Calendar:  I Can Do It® 2016 Calendar: 366 Daily Affirmations

Book:  You Can Heal Your Life

Book:  Gratitude: Inspirations by Melody Beattie

Book:  The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language

BE necklace (bought it a LONG time ago, so may not be available): Delaware Art Museum Gift Store

You’re Beautiful socks:  Blue Q You’re Beautiful dont change Socks Womens Shoe size 5-10

Coffee/Tea Cup Charm:  Dirt Road South

 

For You, Reader, When You’re Overwhelmed

Hello.

Today’s not the day for you to entertain overwhelm for more than a minute.

Go ahead; feel a little sorry for yourself and all the things you think you have to do RIGHT NOW.

Now, do the exact opposite of that.

Do nothing.

That’s right. I mean it.

Do nothing.

You might even leave the space you’re in now and go sit somewhere with a nice view.

Then, take a nice, deep breath, just like all the gurus urge. Do it a couple more times.

There, now, listen closely:

You’re ok.

Good things will happen, are happening even now, just for you.

Maybe there are things happening in your life which are causing you distress.

That’s part of life. But I promise you this:

It won’t help you to push the panic button. All that does is make a tough situation worse.

That is why you can work on doing the opposite of what your distress dictates.

You can get quiet for a few moments and get some perspective.

You can slow time down like a supernatural zen ninja Buddha. The rest of the world can wait a minute.

While you’re sitting there breathing, you could do some other simple thing to ease your stress.

You could pray. Hum. Notice colors. Close your eyes. Listen. Write. Feel. Smile. Cry.

It’s ok. It really, really is. Even if you don’t feel ok and circumstances may not be ok now.

There’s an absolutely capable, totally powerful person there inside you, underneath the chaos of the moment, and NOTHING can change that. You have access to that part of yourself whenever you want or need.

Don’t beat yourself up about what you are or aren’t doing right. No one knows exactly what it’s like to be dealing with what you’re dealing with right now.

Please, just take excellent care of yourself, without guilt or hesitation. You are worth it, and others in your life will benefit from it, too. Sit a minute, and start breathing.

I love you.

My Survival Toolbox When Facing An Emotional Meltdown

A great post on a great blog called “Emotional Sobriety: Friends & Lovers.”

Emotional Sobriety: Mind, Body, & Soul

16111868174_d5d684d63b_zI use the following resources when I feel I have lost my way:

1.  “The Guest House” by Rumi (check out his other writings):

“This being human is a guest house, every morning, a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness. Welcome and entertain them all, even is they are a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house empty of all its furniture. Still treat each guest honorably, they may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice: meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.  Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

2.  From 10 Simple Solutions for Building Self-Esteem (author-Glenn Schiraldi:

“S.C. Hayes reminds us that we all carry burdens–perhaps memories, partially healed wounds, worries, self-doubts, or fears. Rather than trying to ignore, deny, or hide these, you can…

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Tools For Slogging Through Mud

I was SO attached to the summer.  And now, it’s over.

I use the change of seasons to learn again to adjust to things I can’t control. My latest railings are against, among other things, aging, cancer, fall allergies, and government gone amok.

And rude people.

So many people seem to have big control issues. (Never me–ha!) Why do some folks have to drive like maniacs so they can cut in front of me ONE SPACE?  What’s going on with those who are constantly IN MY BUSINESS, telling me what I ought to do as if I’m four years old?  Those people.  And, what about the ones who decide who and who cannot come worship the God of love in the same space as they do?

Rude.

But, then I remember.  I am like them sometimes, and so are you.  Perfectly imperfect humans. Unless you’re the Dalai Lama.  Or Jesus.

Dang!

With lots of help from many sources, and because I was in so much emotional pain way back when, I learned mostly the hard way about the fragile balance of controlling: what’s mine -vs- what’s yours to take care of.  As a codependent type, I still sometimes struggle (despite all the growth I’ve experienced) with trying not to steer someone else’s ship, or, conversely, letting them steer mine.  Then there’s the way I can avoid people (instead of having a conversation) when they’ve overstepped my boundaries.  It’s complicated.  But I have come really far and generally am free of the huge, hairy, codependent thingy tugging at my heart.

As always, the keys are to keep at it and find (and frequently use) tools–books, meditation, videos, humans who listen, stickies on the mirror, connecting with my inner Artist–anything that helps, because working on your issues should, IMHO, never be done without the perspective of connecting with someone or something outside your messed-up self.  I have a growing list of proven (i.e., in my experience) tools here.

There have been healing tools I’ve tried which haven’t worked for me, so my sterling advice is:

Use what works for you

Again, I say: use what works for you. It sounds trite, but I spent too much stress-producing time trying something that I sensed was not for me–another codependent behavior.  So, yeah, use what works for you.

Be good to yourself!  I’d love to hear about your own journey. Just comment below.

Here are links to a couple of books on my shelf and/or iPad® that have helped save me from myself and from Mother Nature:

          

COLORING BLUE

A FRIEND BROUGHT ME TWO COLORING BOOKS  when I was hugely pregnant at age 39 and suffering with tree-trunk ankles.  My particular (read “peculiar”) emotional state could have been described, I guess, as “touchy, stressed, and a little crazy.”

My relationship with my husband was, at the time, very strained.  I was filled with fear about how to have a baby and what to do with it when it arrived.  Oh, yeah, and my father had died just months before the baby was due.

So, I guess I had a lot to be stressed about.  Ya think?

The coloring books my friend brought were nothing like I’d seen before.  They were printed on translucent, plasticky stuff, and the drawings were beautiful, one book of angel pictures, and one of butterflies.  Along with the books, my friend gave me a brand new set of colored pencils.  She gently told me I could color and relax while I put my swollen feet up.  It was a small act of great love, and I did as she suggested.

And it helped me through.

Self care is a litany I recite often and practice slightly less-often.  I always come back to it, though, as I do in my posts.  Coloring is in my Self-Care Toolbox, along with doodling with pencils, good pens, or Sharpie® markers.  It doesn’t matter if you’re good at it.  I pride myself on coloring outside the lines, actually.

Go ahead and find something to do with your hands that frees your mind from worry and fear for a little while.  While you’re at it, you may find yourself praying or meditating or even hearing from God. (It happens to me!)  Washing dishes does it for me.  So does showering or driving or cutting up vegetables for dinner.  But coloring doesn’t ever feel like a chore.  And it’s COLORFUL.  I need more of that in my life, don’t you?

Oh, FYI:  colored pencils didn’t work well on the translucent pages, so I switched to my trusty Sharpie®s.  Crayons worked, too.  I suggest you check out what kind of material the book is made of and use what works.

Here’s one of the books my friend gave me. You can click on it to buy from Amazon, if you’d like.  They have loads of other ones, too.

And here are a couple I’m putting on my wish list for Christmas:

Click On Images To Purchase

Art-Starved

A friend once told me that she doesn’t watch TV, except for football games, because the shows are mindless, crass junk.

This irked me.

At first I thought my irritation came from a sense that I was somehow wrong and maybe uncool to want to watch TV.  It took me a minute, and then I realized something else was bugging me.  I agreed with my friend about the alarming abundance of television awfulness. “But you know,” I said, “Movies and shows can be seriously moving and entertaining, creative and magical.  That’s Art!  We need Art!”   She thought about it a minute and, inspired, said she’d never thought of it that way.

I remembered that conversation because I watched two movies on TV the other week, Unbroken and Wild.  Both of them triggered deep feelings. I winced, I cried and I shouted right out loud in my living room, “Yes!”  I identified with the themes of loss and bravery and triumph.  Those movies made me think and feel when I needed something to move me, when something had to be done with the walls I’d erected around my heart. Those movies, with all the brilliant writing, acting, directing, and all the other creative movie magic within, helped me feel human again.

A million years ago, I worked at a mind-numbing job in a corporate office and felt like I was slowly dying.  Twelve years into it–I’m no quitter!–I left on a lunch break, headed to a bookstore, and returned with a stack of books about career change, which I placed in a prominent place on my desk for all to see.  On the top of the stack was “Kiss Off Corporate America.”  That one made me feel really good. 😏  But the best one in the stack turned out to be this:

Creating a Life Worth Living

Carol Lloyd, the author, wrote it for creative types who are trying to find a way to do their Art and afford food and shelter.  She writes in a way that artists think.  Amazed, I remember reading this book slack-jawed, with absolute wonder.  And joy.  Eureka! It was as if I now had permission to accept my artist self and actually pursue a life that might not look “normal” to others, but would make perfect sense to me. Relevatory!  Life-changing! Important!

I’ve been pursuing a life worth living ever since.  In July, I left my job leading a worship band.  I’d been doing it for 14 years.  The job itself and the leaving were Revelatory! Life-Changing!  Important!

This fall, I saw a friend in an amateur production of Memphis: The Original Broadway Production and watched Kinky Boots on Broadway.  Revelatory! Life-Changing! Important!

And I started this blog, which I hope is, say it with me: Revelatory! Life-changing! Important! in some way for not just me, but also to you.  I’ve come through a rough few years, and now feel an undeniable craving for all things creative. For beauty, devastation, joy, bewilderment–whatever Art has for me to see, hear, taste, experience.  I need to feel.  I need to marvel at the technique, the talent, the expression of emotion.  I need Art!

Support the Arts, Enjoy the Arts, Make Art!

(It helps in so many ways to know your thoughts and experiences.  Please take a few moments, if you can, to comment and “like” and maybe even follow this blog.  Thanks for reading!)

 

“The Tao Of Pooh” By Benjamin Hoff

I’m so cranky right now I can’t even stand myself.  Life went from this:

IMG_4022  toes in the sand

to this:

Leaf On Carthe audacity of falling leaves.

I know, I know. This happens every year where I live.  Yeah, I know it’s natural and good.  Each season has its gifts.

Sweater weather.  Low humidity.  Candy corn.  (gift! gift! gift!)

Every year, though, I get older and watch my teen  grow up and slightly more away.  My dear mom needs more help. My knees ache and my shoulder is weird.

People I know die.
ME NO LIKEY.

Thank goodness I’ve been learning for a while what life’s true gifts are. Lots of books walk me through acceptance of life’s passages (AKA “going with the flow”) and appreciation of its gifts. One of them is The Tao Of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.

Get it here, if you wish:I’d LOVE to get your comments!