A RED HIBISCUS

Finding beauty, joy and hope could never be easier than in spring. If you have missed what’s happening outside – STOP reading. turn off the computer and use this three minutes to go outside and see the miracles happening. Even if it’s a gloomy, drizzling day you cannot miss them.

From the chair where I have my coffee every morning, outside most of the year, I get blessed by just sitting and moving my head. Two wee golden Day Lilies are struggling to open for their one day showing. There are at least fifteen shades of green from the lawn to the top of the giant Sycamore four houses away vying for my attention. Red Maple trees, that budded rust this year after a late frost, are now sharing branches with the chartreuse buds of summer. Pink blossoms on the Red Bud turned into garnet leaves overnight and the flowers of the Plum tree have been purple leaves for almost a month.

Glossy olive and rust leaves of a Magnolia wait to share praise with the large white blooms that will soon appear and stay all summer. From my vantage point at the top of a slight rise, a score of Crepe Myrtles stand like stick figures naked after an early and severe pruning in March. They wait to dominate the landscape with their size and colors through the dog days of summer in the south.

There are two potted, red Hibiscus bushes next to my chair on the lanai (we called it a patio in California). The vibrant blooms, six inches wide, open perfectly each morning brightening the scene as no other color or flower can.Two days of life per flower and three to four opening per day keep me amazed every morning. They will bless me all summer but cannot live through freezing temperatures. I will replace these and the geraniums (which were almost weeds in California) next spring. The only annuals I splurge on.

The other trees, bushes and flowering plants will return, in their cycle, next year. They will bud, leaf out, bloom and remind us that all of life has cycle and variety. Our task is to stop, notice and be grateful. It is from the awareness and thankfulness that we see beauty, feel the joy and renew hope.

ABOUT ME

Today I finally added the “ABOUT ME” section of my blog. I was told, by my daughter, that people might like to know something about me before they decided I was credible. I hope you decide for yourself what you like, but she does make sense, so here it is.  This was also another victory over technology as I figured it out by myself with numerous attempts that didn’t work.  Not failures, just steps leading to success.

My background,  personally and professionally,  impact and influence what I believe and practice.  As a matter of fact, they color everything I write, think, say and believe.  That’s true for all of us.  We are products of our heredity and out environments.  The wonderful aspect of being human is that we have the choice to change.  I can decide that I need to grow in a certain area and then decide to take action to give myself opportunities to get new information, try new activities, meet new people and open myself to new experiences.

Blogging provides me an outlet for sharing what I know and also allows me to get feedback from others who may or may not agree with me.  BUT, I must choose to be challenged.  I am attracted to books, movies, people and activities that I feel comfortable with.  The key to personal growth is to move, just a little at first, out of that comfort zone and take the risk in exposing yourself to newness.  You don’t have to like it. JUST TRY IT!

ATTITUDE equals ALTITUDE

The title of today’s post refers to the process, where our thoughts determine our behavior, that I wrote about on April 6. A definition of “ATTITUDE” is: manner, disposition, feeling, position, etc. with regard to a person or thing; tendency or orientation especially of the mind. “ALTITUDE” generally means the height above or below sea level. In this case since we’re discussing people it refers to our mood above or below neutral.

I leave my house at 10:00 am, driving to an appointment at 10:30 that usually takes30-40 minutes. “You’ll make it on time,” I reassure myself, except I won’t because another car pulls in front of me as I leave my neighborhood and I am stopped at the first light. I get on the freeway to find it backed up for who knows what reason. “Why are all these cars here, they should all be at work already?”, I grumble as I give the lady next to me a dirty look as I pass her. The cycle continues as I interpret every lane change and safely driving motorist as a direct threat to my punctuality. At 10:50 I arrive at my destination, hurriedly find a parking place and run into to the office.  I am friendly, calm and ready for my appointment?  NO! I am angry, irritated, heart racing, blood pressure up – classic stressed-out nut-case.

This a short, but realistic, example of how our “Attitude equals Altitude”. What we think directly determines how we feel physically and emotionally, how our body functions and how we behave, which in turn circles around and reinforces how we think. In this case a negative cycle is in place. It could have been different if the thoughts had been different.

The words “think” and “thought” in this context do not mean random or fleeting ideas.  They refer to those concepts we dwell on, focus on, and escalate by finding other events to reinforce and continue the pattern.  It happens with positive thoughts too. A car pulls out in front of me and I am grateful there wasn’t an accident.  Traffic is backed up and I breath deeply and focus on staying calm.

We are in control of more in our lives than we accept.  Blaming others seems to be a way to avoid responsibility for our own behavior.  I am in control of what I think and therefore my actions.  I am responsible for my thoughts and my actions.  I will happier, calmer and easier to get along with when I accept this truth.  I will have higher altitude.

NOT EASY but WORTH IT! Try taking your thoughts captive.

PITY PARTY at my HOUSE

Self-pity sucks! It really does. It uses up valuable energy and scarce the resource of time, accomplishes nothing and takes enormous effort to extricate myself from it’s power. But, here I am, three hours into my PITY PARTY and no movement toward relief as I sit and sink deeper into the pit.

For two days I have tried to get to the YMCA and a yoga class. For two days I have failed: unexpected errands, headache, stomach upset, someone needs help. too tired, etc. Everyone has days when plans are thwarted and everything and everyone takes priority over self. “It is normal”, I keep telling myself. Usually, when these days happen, I can relax, go with the flow, adapt, be flexible, chill-out. !NOT TODAY!
I cannot get control of my thoughts, so I cannot accept the interruptions and proceed gracefully with my day.

Today, my brain, the primary organ of attitude is especially rebellious and refuses to calm down. Refuses to release the “poor me” message I am focused on -therefore escalating the very ideas that created my self-pity. Thoughts literally direct what we feel emotionally and physically. Then they determine our behavior: words, actions, expressions, posture, heart rate, respiration, all of it. The human body is engineered to work as a unit. A “well-oiled machine” as it were. What happens in one part (i.e.negative thoughts) effects it all eventually (stress. anxiety, anger, etc.)

WHAT I THINK = ATTITUDE = BEHAVIOR

What do you think of that equation? We will definitely discuss this again soon.

OUT OF MY ELEMENT

Last week I played the role of an urbane, cosmopolitan women living in a 1939 high-rise apartment on Connecticut Avenue in the heart of Washington, D.C. The building, eleven stories and sporting art-deco aesthetics, had the amenities I’ve seen in movies: doorman, concierge, mailroom, cleaners, workout room and pool, elevators.  I was there at the invitation of a long-time friend (I’m learning that the phrase “old friend has negative connotations). As any respectable city dweller we walked miles everyday. She is in shape for it I am not. When absolutely necessary we took the Metro, city bus or the train. Only once was I in a car and that was transportation home from the theater. Amazing experience. Amazing town.

I rode Amtrak nine hours both ways on my trip and really enjoyed the ride.. I  upgraded to business class and it made a huge different in comfort and service. While in D.C. I saw sites tourists don’t often explore. In the city four full days, and with a savy guide, I went through: The Building Museum, which itself has amazing architectural features; The Capitol Building; The Botanic Gardens; The National Cathedral, which is as interesting and beautiful as any in Europe (plus we had tea in the tower after the tour)and The National Zoo, on a cool day when all the animals were moving. On my last night we dined at a great restaurant and then attended the play “Blithe Spirit” with 89 year old Angela Landsbury.

So what is the point of this travelogue? My life has been lived in suburbia. I drive everywhere, live in a neighborhood of other families with schools, shopping, churches and parks close-by. My walks are within the neighborhood, usually with my dogs and never to get to a destination. I have no sense of direction and slowly learned to navigate the small town I live in-though I still get lost occasionally.  I have deliberately developed a calm peaceful lifestyle full of security and predictability.

I came home from my short jaunt to the big city exhausted, happy, full of new experiences, new ideas, new information and challenged to be more adventurous here in my hometown. Every weekend my friend reads the papers and circles the events she would like to see. Daily she goes out into the city to explore something new. Every week I read the local paper and notice events I would enjoy seeing. I very seldom follow through and attend any of them.  I’m not sure why not but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I start doing something new, something out of my comfort zone.  This town may not be Washington D.C. but there are certainly things to explore and learn here.  I know because I read about them in the paper.  Let me know if you try something new.  We may just find out we like adventure.

DEFINITIONS ARE IMPORTANT

Today I present the first annual “State of Stewardship” report for 2015 as it pertains to managing my time. Further reports will follow(I hope) about money and health management. TIME – the one gift I get each day I cannot work or scheme to get more of – 24 hours, that is all! Each midnight today disappears. No do-overs.

Stuck on this topic for several days I finally saw that my definition of good time-management was productivity. It is the measure I have always used: how much I do, how busy I am and how stressed I am tells me if I’ve made use of the time I have. I was reminded by a reader (Mickey, mybashfullife.com)that activity is not the same as productivity. How much we do is not a reflection of how well we do it. How much we do is not a reflection of how valuable we are either. The woman who has the longest list of activities and appointments is not the winner. Quality, not quantity, in the use of our few hours a day, is the yardstick to measure by.

My new definition of wise time-management is: The use of time in activities that improve the health of my mind, body and spirit; enrich relationships; meet the responsibilities I have for myself and others. This is a work in progress, but far better than the old definition.

So, how am I doing? I am PAYING ATTENTION! Amazing how much that helps to choose what to do next. I must know what I am doing with my time now, before I can change what I do with my time. Knowing what my priorities are guides my decisions. Do I take a walk or a nap? Paying attention helps me decide which is better for my health in that moment. Do I eat cake or carrots? That one’s too easy. But, you get the idea. I have to know where I am before I can get to where I want to go. AND I HAVE TO KNOW WHERE I WANT TO GO!

Where are you now? Where do you want to go in a specific area? How will you get there? Start by Paying Attention. Let me know how you’re doing.

STUCK

Do you ever get stuck? Half-way through a project you just hit a wall? You get all the material for a new idea and it sits on the kitchen table (or in a closet) untouched? Well, I’ve been trying to write about STEWARDSHIP, my word of the year, for ten days. I want to review my progress at better managing my time, money and health, but the words are not coming together to convey what I want to say. So I scrap that draft and try again. Right now I am ready to give up and try a new subject- but I’m wondering if it’s really the topic or me?

When I think about this “stuckness”, I remember other times in life I have been stalled, immobilized, apathetic about activities I once had great energy for. I discover this pattern repeats frequently – I start something and soon it is unfinished, a thing of the past, in a bag somewhere. Writing is at the top of my list of activities I love to do, want to do, begin to do and abandon. NOT THIS TIME!

I will overcome the inertia. I will break the pattern of decades. I will write and post today. I will:
1. PAY ATTENTION-recognize the momentum has been slowed or stopped. Acknowledge I am STUCK.
2. FIND THE REASON-am I bored, too busy, lazy, distracted, is it too hard, not fun any more?
3. FINISH ANYWAY- No matter what the quality, or reason,the only way to break this habit is to finish what I
start and not start anything new until this is complete.

So, there will be one or more posts about how I’m progressing, or not, with my time, health and money management. Maybe I’ll find I don’t want to write because I am not doing as well as I hoped. We’ll see.