Stop, Look, and Listen

Last year I wrote a post about Christmas titled “Whimsy and Wonder.” (click here to read).  Recently, I read in The Sun magazine this quote from a Rachel Carson excerpt titled “The Sense of Wonder”:

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement.  It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.

If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength…

I am a besotted grandmother of an almost-2-year-old.  She lives her life mindfully, in the moment.  She is thrilled to find sticks in the backyard.  She is stopped in her tracks by airplane noise and then says “We’re ok, we’re ok.”  Going to Earth Fare or Costco is always an adventure (and an opportunity to flirt, especially with men).  I learn so much from her.

I like to people-watch sitting on a bench surrounded by plants and flowers at Bicentennial Garden.  Christmas decorations delight me as much as they do little kids.  I’m learning to savor a cookie rather than gobble up as many as I can.  And to really taste the first tomatoes of summer.

I walk around the Natural Science Center with my zookeeper daughter.  She tells me about Bear, the coati, her first mammal love, who is aging.  We watch the lemur moms and dads;  she says they are her parenting models.   (She could do worse.)  And we check out Ruby the multi-colored parrot who isn’t responding the way she used to.  It might be my daughter’s pregnancy, but more likely the male parrot who moved in with her a while back.

My holiday hope and New Year’s wish is that we all slow down enough to feel wonder and awe, to sigh and relax and say “Thank you.”  It’s good for our souls. Maybe we can change the world.

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Write To Soul (a workshop/retreat)

Nobody knew everybody.  Some didn’t know anybody.  One is 20.  One is soon to be 40.  A couple are almost 50.  Two will soon be 60.  There were two more: one who admits to being in her mid-70’s and her friend who never did share her age but looks cool even in velcro sneakers.  (They had great hats!)

We are complex, vibrant, funny, spiritual women.

We are writers.

And we came together for a weekend in the mountains.  We wrote about a time we felt free and alive and then used some of those words to create a poem.  We made a timeline of the “teachers” in our lives and then wrote about one we left out.  Sometimes we just wrote randomly whatever came to mind and sometimes we answered a question like “What mountain do you need to come down from?”

We shared our writing and learned how our words touched the others.  We were gentle and supportive and we listened.  Some words painted pictures, some phrases sang a song and some stories made us laugh.  We wrote about our pasts (how do you not?), our nows, our dreams and our fears.

We worked hard, we ate well, and we became friends.

We savored a weekend of writing in the mountains.

Published in: on November 29, 2011 at 5:23 pm  Comments (8)  
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Girl Power

“GIRL!!” came the text last Friday from the doctor’s office.  We have another grandchild on the way!  Stephanie and her husband, Will, are due in January.  They had an ultrasound and saw her moving her hands and crossing her ankles like a proper lady.  Wow.

A week ago I woke from a dream at 4:30 am unsure of where I was or even what year it was.  In my dream I was again a young mother of two preschoolers on a really bad day.  Everything was out-of-order, me most of all, and I was spiraling down in anger and frustration.  I wasn’t seeing me at my worst.  I WAS me at my worst.

I wrote down what I could recall and later that day wrote about the power and the feelings in the dream.  I can’t let go of this dream. I feel the out-of-control-ness.  It still scares me.

I was anxious during my second pregnancy about my ability to manage 2 kids in diapers in 2 car seats.  They were both very much planned and welcomed, but the second happened quicker than I anticipated.  They are 26 months apart.  Our grandchildren will be 23 months apart.

I know I’m not that young, overwhelmed woman any more.  And neither are my daughters.  I’ve worked hard for years to understand and learn from that time in my life.  I hope I’ve passed some of my wisdom on to them.

I am wondering, though, why that dream now?

“Always do your best,” they said.

I read this chapter-title in a book this morning:

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

I ate lunch downtown with a friend today. When I got home, I moved my laptop to my office to write.  I spent the next hour checking email, catching up on the other blogs I read, and trying to figure out if I’ve already written about procrastination.  I don’t think so.

I have lists of things I want to do. Where and how to start is the easy part. At least 7 “How To Organize” books sit in random bookcases in my house.  I’ve read them all.  I even have one called Making Room for God, Clearing Out the Clutter.  It lives in the pile of books beside my bed, I think.

I know about purging and sorting and donating and “when did you last wear/use this?”.  I pulled clothes off hangers and out of drawers.    Should I take them to Goodwill, Salvation Army, the Disabled Vietnam Vets’ thrift store or the halfway house for moms with addictions?  What’s the best thing to do?  They’re still on the floor of a closet in my bedroom.

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

I explored The Container Store in Raleigh for the 1st time in April.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I drooled over the elfa (“Everything Can Be Organized”) Storage System.  It can be custom-designed for closets, pantries, drawers, and offices.  I bought a few (cheap, not elfa) boxes and containers for my office shelves and drawers.  What’s the best way to use them?  Some (not all) are still in the bag behind the closet door.

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

My husband has very little patience with people who put things off.  That’s not his way.  One way he deals with stress is to reorganize the garage.  He used to do the same thing to his office.  He retired 2 years ago.

Now it’s my kitchen.  I organized my kitchen 20 years ago.  Cooking tools always lived in the same place and I didn’t have to think much to cook.  Now, like a stupid cartoon, we fight over where my casseroles and pot lids are and whether I ever actually use loaf pans (“I might”, I say.)  Random items completely vanish.  I am not in control.

I’m really afraid he will go to my office next.

Carolina Beach, March 12, 2011 Random Observations

I set the clock ahead one hour last night so I was up early enough to see the sun rise this morning.  It peeked over the horizon with an orange edge.  I blinked, and it was all the way above the water line.  How did that happen so fast?

The fisherman moved the blue trash can away from the dune and closer to the water.  He stretched, facing the sunrise.  I thought he might do yoga.  He fished.  He never did put the trash can back.

I glanced up from my book.  I saw the feet first.  A surfer in a wetsuit was riding a dinky wave doing a handstand!  He did it again.

I want to squat on the beach like the 3-year-old toddler and then stand back up with a hop.  She was wearing a vivid blue dress.  Curiosity, wonder, flexibility–she was happy digging a hole and throwing sand into the wind.

An “older couple” walked down by the water.  Grey hair, loose shirts, a long floaty denim skirt, sensible sneakers.  They smiled.

The bright yellow kayak rode on top of a wave like a skilled surfer.  Where were his legs?  He had one oar with a flat paddle on each end.  He dragged the kayak across the sand when he was cold enough to quit.

The dad pushed a red stroller on the hard, wet sand close to the water.  The mother strolled alongside.  The wee baby hid from the sun.  How did they get through the soft, squishy sand?

He rode a bicycle down the boardwalk.  A little girl in a pink helmet and bare legs sat behind him.  What if she fell asleep?

A pale, skinny girl in a bikini walked down the beach with a tall, skinny guy.  She ran out in the cold water, got really wet and smiled.  He kept walking and she caught up.  No t-shirt, no towel.  She did it again, smiling.  He kept walking in his dry t-shirt.

Little dogs walked with their people.  They took busy steps while the people strolled.  That’s what happens when your legs are short.  It’s hard work to keep up.

Published in: on March 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm  Comments (4)  
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Broken Body, Healing Spirit

Have you seen the commercial for a rheumatoid arthritis drug that talks about the life you have and the life you want to live?  It is shrewd marketing.  Inject this powerful drug and you can do anything.

The hidden cost of chronic illness, because pain and fatigue are invisible, is that I pretend to be living the life I want to live rather than being honest about the life I am living.  As Mary C. Earle writes in her book, Broken Body, Healing Spirit, there are sometimes two people living inside me and one is a liar.

What fear or perceived defect do you hide from the world?

Have you had the flu or bad allergies and gone to work anyway?  Do you have back pain?  Grief?  Migraines?  Fatigue?  Paralyzing anxiety?  Fear of what others will think?  Are you in recovery from addiction?  Or unsettled by the signs and symptoms of getting older?

Substitute your secret for “illness” as you read this quote from Broken Body, Healing Spirit (italics mine):

…a body that has been overwhelmed by illness is also a body where life dwells.  Disruptive, distressing, and acutely confusing, illness calls us to a deepening awareness of the wonder of the body, an awareness that we did not bring ourselves into being, and that it is through our embodied life that we encounter the presence of God…

Through illness, the embodied nature of our lives grabs our attention, and forces us to befriend the very flesh we thought betrayed us.  The body that we had taken for granted turns out to be a rich and varied text, full of layers of meaning and symbol.

Always, it comes back to powerlessness vs. control.  And I most want to control what I fear.  Until I have faith and trust, I will be afraid.  And I will miss a lot of fun stuff.

My husband has a big, yellow BMW motorcycle.  He rode it cross-country and back, alone.  He wants me to ride with him.  Once, I said yes; we rode around the neighborhood on quiet residential streets with no real traffic.   I trust my husband.  I know he would never deliberately hurt me.  All I could see from that rear perch was my body shattered into painful pieces.

New experiences are fun and invigorating for me–teaching a class, being in Paris alone for 5 days, going on a week-long silent retreat.  For Mike, riding the motorcycle is a form of meditation.  For me, it is like white-water rafting or parachuting.

I’ve lived with chronic illness for over 20 years.  Rarely have I said “I can’t”.  I can usually find adaptations and compromises that let me do most anything.  I want to be the free spirit that sees a lovely day and says “Let’s ride!”

I think it could be a prayer–“Your will, not mine be done.”

Where’d It Go?

My granddaughter is learning about “Where’d it go?”.  Yesterday she was on my husband’s lap and he showed her the cross he wears on a chain inside his shirt.  She, 10 months old and teething, wanted to put it in her mouth.  So he dropped it back inside his shirt.  She pulled the neck of the shirt and looked down inside.  There it was!

That’s how I feel about my week.  Where’d it go?

I had plans and goals for this week, mapped out on a nice chart given to me by Elaine, a spiritual coach.  It breaks each day into 3-hour blocks. You fill in one to-do for each block.  The hope is to get that one to-do completed in each 3-hour block.

None of my blocks got checked off.  We had snow and ice that I wouldn’t drive on.  My inner child had a “snow-day” mentality. We babysat Wednesday and Friday and I (choose to) get nothing done if Adaline is here.

I learned recently there are three possible responses to stress/anxiety.  I knew about “fight or flight.  The third response is “freeze”.

I need to plan for a class I start teaching on January 19.  I’m out of my comfort zone with this project, which I volunteered for.  I’m afraid of not doing well.

In my family of origin we dealt with distress or fear by shutting down emotionally and getting lost in something to read.  We are all good readers, but not very good with feelings.

I read a great book this week.  I didn’t work on my class.

Now I’m more anxious than before and writing this instead of working on my class!

Help me!

Whimsy and Wonder

Where are whimsy and wonder this time of year?

I used to have a very hard time seeing anything but angst and grumpiness and things that made me sad.  Over the years it’s gotten better.

I like to go the mall in December.  Not to shop and not on the weekend! I go to look at the decorations and watch the children visit Santa.  We saw a rough-looking Santa at Crabtree Mall in Raleigh the other day–too many days outside without sunscreen or too many Jack Daniels, I think.  The harried parents get my sympathy.  The excited children feed my soul.

(One of my daughters was afraid of Santa.  The other asked me before she got to kindergarten if Santa was real.  I promised myself when she was born that I’d never lie to her.  I didn’t.  Sigh.)

I like Christmas music.  The classics, of course, but I have 2 country cd’s that make me smile every time I listen to them.  I even like “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer“.  It’s good to laugh and be silly.

Our church has a candlelight service at 11 pm on Christmas Eve.  It’s quiet and peaceful and reverent.  My brother and our grown children won’t stay up late enough to go, but Mike does.  Then we drive through the neighborhood that has these amazing light balls hanging from trees.  (Here’s are some pictures.) It’s magical.

This year we’ll have Adaline. She will be 10 months old on Christmas Day.  I think she’ll like the blinky tree lights.

Does your holiday include any whimsy and wonder?

Have you looked?

Gratitude

My friend, Lisa, asked me to write about gratitude for her blog. (Here’s the link: Lisa’s Cheap Therapy Blog. ) Please check out her website–Cheap Therapy–she makes really cool cards and posters and then gives away a good chunk of any money she makes.
Here’s what I wrote for her blog:

The Gratitude List comes up a lot at 12-step meetings in November. Enough to make me groan sometimes.

Listing the good stuff is easy:

1. my granddaughter laughing and flying in her swing

2. being a cancer survivor

3. a perfect fall day—sunshine, slight breeze, 68 degrees with low humidity, colorful leaves

4. lunch out with a group of smart, laughing women friends

5. a quiet awareness of God’s presence surrounding and protecting me.

What about the hard stuff, though?

1. Illness–mine or a loved one’s

2. Pain–physical and/or emotional

3. Powerlessness–my inability to make it all okay for other people

4. Letting go–not enabling and letting others learn from the consequences of their choices

I rage at God sometimes about the hard stuff. My spirit aches as I watch my adult children struggle with life’s challenges. I ask WHY?

Then I surrender. Trying to change or control people and situations takes too much energy. Because it is impossible.

So I learn:

1. to lean on God

2. to trust that those I love also have a God who loves them

3. to resist my urge to isolate and instead share my hurts and griefs and struggles.

When I was learning to throw pots on a pottery wheel, my hands could only make lopsided bowls. They were goofy-looking. My teacher explained that the beauty of handmade pottery lies in the imperfections that make each piece unique.

So it is with us, I think. We are the clay and God is the potter. It is our imperfections and cracks that make us real. That’s where God’s light gets through to our hearts and where love and compassion flow out from us to others.

Joy and beauty are in the good stuff. Gifts are in the hard stuff.

And so I am grateful.

The Pleasures of an Ordinary Life by Judith Viorst

I’ve had my share of necessary losses,

Of dreams I know no longer can come true.

I’m done now with the whys and the becauses.

It’s time to make things good, not just make do.

It’s time to stop complaining and pursue

The pleasures of an ordinary life.

 

I used to rail against my compromises.

I yearned for the wild music, the swift race.

But happiness arrived in new disguises:

Sun lighting a child’s hair. A friend’s embrace.

Slow dancing in a safe and quiet place.

The pleasures of an ordinary life.

 

I’ll have no trumpets, triumphs, trails of glory.

It seems the woman I’ve turned out to be

Is not the heroine of some grand story.

But I have learned to find the poetry

In what my hands can touch, my eyes can see.

The pleasures of an ordinary life.

 

Young fantasies of magic and of mystery

Are over. But they really can’t compete

With all we’ve built together: A long history.

Connections that help render us complete.

Ties that hold and heal us. And the sweet,

Sweet pleasures of an ordinary life.