THE CHOICE IS YOURS

I received some very gentle feedback on my last post . Something to the effect that since I am retired and no longer raising children, I have a lot of time on my hands.   (What does that phrase mean anyhow?) I do have more discretionary time. Time to STOP, SIT and LISTEN. To carefully make choices instead of just going with the flow. I agree, I have more time. That means I also have more time to waste.

I’ve been know to ignore a well organized “TO DO” list and to do crossword puzzles for hours. I’ve also given up chores in favor of reading a good book, or having my grandchildren over, or talking to a friend. The “things” on our lists seem important. Are they the most important things?  Grilled cheese sandwiches and popcorn is a great dinner. Dust bunnies on the floor will not runaway. I know because I’m waiting. A missed bath will not make the children sick. A day spent in pj’s could be a memory forever and certainly a rest for the body, brain and soul.

The word CHOICE means picking between options. It doesn’t mean the most mature or productive choice. It could mean the most fun, relaxing or loving option. The key here is balance. (A book about that in the works.) Balance between what is good and what is best in the whole of our life,  I think that is people.  The choices we make to spend time with  people are the important ones. Time is a commodity we cannot expand nor replace. When it’s gone, it’s gone and so are those exact moments, those people, those situations, those gifts.

I use the words deliberate, conscious and intentional to imply that each of us is responsible and accountable for how we use the gifts of time, intelligence and resources. We have the ability to control ourselves, mind, body and spirit. Whether we take control or give control to others is our choice. I’ve done it both ways and LOUDLY AND ASSERTIVELY recommend you play a large part in deigning your own life. Each of us must take the wants and needs of others, our individual responsibilities, our phase of life and God’s will into consideration.

I am responsible for what I think, how I react and what I do. I am the one who will experience the consequences of my actions. Thinking “I don’t have time” is an excuse to abdicate responsibility. Blaming others is too. You can find three minutes, three times a day, and use it to refresh yourself and decide how you want to spend your gift of time. IT’S YOUR CHOICE! Make it wisely.

THE ENERGIZER BUNNY

Some days I feel like the “Energizer Bunny” You know, the little pink bunny, beating the drum, that “just keeps going”. From feeding the dogs breakfast, until I turn off the lights at night, I am in constant motion. There is nothing wrong with being busy and productive. The sticking point for me is that what I do, both physically and mentally, is automatic. I move from morning devotions through a routine until I leave the house to run errands and keep appointments. Later it’s household chores, dinner and the evening routine until the day is gone and I don’t really remember making conscious decisions. After I make my “TO DO” list in the morning,I do not stop to make choices about the next activity, then the next. My day evolves and I follow it with blinders on.

I wonder if I would make better choices if I actually stopped, breathed deeply and slowly, and consciously decided “What should I do next?” Running on automatic pilot I may miss a chance to help someone, spend time with a friend, hear God. How much beauty do I miss, especially the beauty and joy that comes from people? The people in my life I overlook because I am occupied DOING IMPORTANT THINGS. You know — the child tugging at you pant leg repeating “Mommy”. The teen in her room and maybe you’re glad to have her there. The phone call you do not answer or return. These are not only chances to hear but be heard, to love and be loved.

The importance of each day is NOT what we DO, but what we MISS. Interactions with people, enjoying or just noticing the natural beauty around us, resting our bodies and minds, being conscious and deliberate in our actions and gratitude. For me, it means taking five minute breaks during the day to STOP and LISTEN: to the people around me, to my heart, to my body and to God. We make a lot of dust as we busily complete the tasks on our lists. Who knows what will surprise us if we let the dust settle and look around. We might see Beauty an feel the JOY.

Don’t worry, those things you planned to do will still be there, OR maybe they won’t seem so important.

INSIDE OUT

Yes, I am writing about the new Disney/Pixar movie. Went to see it twice: once with grandson and once with granddaughter. Cute, fast moving, perky and a story to tell. We all liked it. The importance of the movie for me was it’s illustration of one of my core beliefs about people: WE ARE WHAT WE THINK. During the film, viewers meet five characters that reside in the “brain control center” of Riley, the 12 year old main character. Each one represents a feeling/action/response pattern: JOY, FEAR, ANGER,DISGUST and SADNESS. Whichever character gets to the control panel and speaks first into Riley’s brain directs her response to whatever is the current situation. If Joy gets there first Riley is happy, if it is Anger—you get the idea.

This is the process (very simplified) that occurs in my head and yours. I hear the alarm clock. I think:
1. Guess I’ll get up and start the day. (neutral)
2. I hate that lock. (negative)
What I DO next and how I FEEL is directly related to my thoughts. Humans are not cartoon characters created and controlled by animators. We can have control over our thoughts and actions, if and when we make the choice to be in charge. When we don’t make the choice, an automatic habitual response takes over and we float down the familiar path of least resistance, again. The mood of our day is set into motion by a thought we don’t even remember and wouldn’t think very important if we did.

Obviously I have used a simple example so it is easy to break down. You can see the cause and effect relationship between the thought, and the feeling and behavior that follow. Try one of your own. Pick a recurring activity you have a negative response to: laundry, cooking, cleaning, exercise, paying bills. Think of your normal response and then rethink it to make it as positive as possible. Let’s not get crazy and say “I love cleaning toilets”. Instead of “I hate doing laundry”, you could say “It only takes a few minutes to put the laundry in”. Another example is “I am so glad I have an automatic washer and dryer”.

Taking control of thoughts takes a ton of work. The implications of changing our thoughts, thus your feelings and behavior are unlimited. Being the master of my thoughts is the first step in being the master of my behavior. It brings JOY to be positive and we can see more beauty when we’re not grumpy.

HOPE

First, a recap of the last two posts. When I actively seek and find BEAUTY, acknowledge it and am grateful to God for all of it – I GET JOY. Joy then grounds me with an inner sense of peace and well-being. Knowing there is so much blessing leads me to have HOPE that whatever is going on around me will be resolved.

The daily discovery of beauty and the sense of safety that springs from that knowledge creates a hopeful spirit in me. Hope is a feeling and a belief that what we want, need or that which will be good will happen. Hope contains the assurance that whatever happens will be for the best. It requires faith in the outcome and acceptance of the reality. Hope is not magical thinking, wishing or delusion. Real hope is looking at “what is”, doing what we can and believing in the best possible outcome – which may not be what we want.

I have a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words “IT IS WHAT IT IS”. Here is where hope begins, in reality. Not defeated, nor an excuse to give up, but accepting what the circumstance is right now. Only when I accept what IS, remember the beauty in my life everyday, and feel the joy it brings, can I then begin to DO my part to secure the outcome I hope for. I do the footwork and leave the results to God. It is the best sort of partnership. I am part of the solution and He know what He’s doing and where we’re going. Can’t beat that.

Hope springs eternal because it is built into our hearts.

BEAUTY PRECEDES JOY

In my last post I shared about losing my joy and getting it back. Today I want to talk about the beauty that precedes my joy. Beauty is defined as “the qualities of a person or object that give pleasure to the senses, mind and spirit.” Beauty is a specific and individual perception. Each one of us gets to choose what is beautiful to us, what brings pleasure to our days. The critical concept is that we all have beauty in our lives.

There is an old adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. We have to look for it, seek it out, pay attention or we miss what is pleasurable. This is specially true of those people, places and things not automatically thought of as beautiful.  The type of beauty I am describing is not just perceived by the senses, but by the spirit.  It grabs our heart and we are in a state of awe – no words necessary, no words enough, no words to share.  It is our experience alone with God.

There are multiple times in each day that our sous can be grabbed, then nurtured:  babies, sunsets, flowers, laughter, touch, music, pets. Others are less typical:  smiling at someone, a car letting us into traffic, time with someone you love, learning something new, remembering something old.  I wonder what beauty and pleasure I miss as I rush through my activities?  What has been provided for my blessing that I ignore or overlook?   It takes a deliberate decision to stop, seek the blessing, acknowledge it and move on.  Each time we are aware and grateful we build up our joy.

What are the beautiful things in your life that can feed your joyful soul?

OMG!

OMG! Oh My Gosh! I have no joy. Since when? Why not? What happened to it?

I always have joy. It is an inner peace, a sense of well-being that is independent of my circumstances. I’m not always happy, often edgy, a lot tired and still I have my joy. It is a spiritual calm that reminds me that I am not in charge and “it’s all good” even if it doesn’t appear so. The last few weeks have been busy and stressful. I thought I was doing OK until I had this insight and realized I was not.

Joy is part of a trifecta. First I notice the beauty and blessings in my life and acknowledge my gratitude. The gratitude builds a constant stockpile of joy. The supply of joy creates hope. Cannot live without hope.
Joy is not merely an emotion, it is a cognitive process. What we think and believe is crucial to how we feel, therefore to how we act. When I realized my joy was gone I took time to check what I was thinking. There was worry, disappointment, fear, sadness all mixed with physical exhaustion. All these thought patterns were based on circumstances in my life BUT did not represent the WHOLE TRUTH. I let the negative aspects of each situation, coupled with my exhaustion, overshadow the positive ones.  Now what?

Each negative thought was replaced by a truth that was realistic and accurate.  Each projection of doom was put in perspective for today, letting the situation develop as it will anyway.  All “What ifs?” were banished.  The feelings of disappointment and sadness were acknowledged.  I caught up on my sleep, went to the gym and ate less sugar.  I focus intentionally on the beauty and blessings.  I pay attention to what I’m letting in my mind.

My joy is back.  Circumstances haven’t changed, what I think about has.  This process of paying deliberate attention to what is good is a lot of work.  It is so worth it.  I have to work and struggle for other things I want –

! WHY NOT WORK FOR JOY!

GOD BLESS AMERICA

In 1912, My great grandmother and her three children left Germany to emigrate to the United State where her husband and son were working and waiting. My grandmother was the eldest child. That was 103 years ago and the love they had for America was given to me through their lives of gratitude for living here.

This Memorial Day, my gratitude was for specific freedoms I have solely because I am an American. I want to share my list, as I give thanks to all who serve stateside and away, all who die, all the families who serve behind the scenes and to my GG and Grandma for showing me how truly great our country is.

I am blessed with: the silence of peace
clean water and indoor plumbing
fresh, healthy foods
a home that shelters and protects
education and healthcare
choices
freedom to move, travel and work
the absence of daily fear
free to worship openly

Many of these freedoms I have come to understand as I learn about those in other countries who do not have them. I am acutely sensitive to the reality that all who live in America do not yet experience these blessings. It is our job, as those who serve at home, to work to make sure all of get to be free and feel free.

GOD BLESS AMERICA and all who serve.

BEST JOB EVER!

My twelve year old granddaughter and I were blessed with an afternoon together, without little brother, parents or friends, It is unusual to have her to myself now days and I wanted to take advantage of the time to remind her I was fun and we enjoy each other’s company. I picked her up from school and we drove thru Starbuck’s to take advantage of their 50% off deal on frapaccinos. (See I am fun.) Chatting and sipping she shared her day as I drove to Birkdale, a cute and trendy shopping area 25 miles away.

First stop, Barnes & Noble, always a satisfying and expensive experience for me. We relaxed and wandered in separate directions. She enjoyed the freedom she has to be on her own and finds me when she needs to connect. I enjoyed being able to browse in the sections I like. We took our purchases to the car and walked to the restaurant she chose. As she was eating her Bento box of sushi and Thai chicken, she looked at me, grinned and said, “This is soooo fun”. My heart jumped and I could feel the moisture behind my eyes. I grinned too and nodded YES.

As my children, and now my grandchildren, grow I miss outgrown behaviors they shared with me. I often lament the loss of my granddaughters company on weekends, weeks during the summer and sick days. I miss her when I visit and she’s in her bedroom. I miss her when she visits me and is in her bedroom. I miss the little girl who thought I was perfect. It’s all good! She’s growing up as she should – becoming the girl God intends her to be. Trying on new ideas, looks, music, activities, and friends. Developing independence. Needing approval from peers. Cuddling and being silly right before a “mood” strikes. All healthy and normal.

How am I adjusting? I pay attention. I have a gift in each member of my family. When we’re together I watch, listen and soak up all I can of who they are. We live physically close and I see them often, but we have boundaries and separate lives I have the freedom to love and play with my grandchildren without parenting. To spoil, to send home when I’m tired, to pray for, to watch them grow-up, to be part of their lives. I get to be Nana.

BEST JOB EVER

WRITER’S BLOCK

“Writer’s Block” is a term used to describe a state where nothing gets written OR where nothing good gets written. Writing nothing good is where I have been for the last three weeks. Pen-check, paper-check, glasses-check, idea, begin. Words go on the paper, they become sentences, which become paragraphs, then a closing. Not worth editing. Try again tomorrow.

After several tries I saw a pattern that may apply to you. IT DOES TO ME. We make lists of various activities we need to complete:-books to read
-places to travel
-activities to try
-recipes to cook
-house repairs
-decorating projects
-chores and errands
On every list there are things we will do quickly and others that never ever get done. Though, we may keep putting them on new lists like we really intend to do them some year.

What blocks our ability to complete things we want to do? What keeps the idea from becoming a reality? Several factors could interfere with our intentions: difficulty of the task, needing help, cost, urgency.  Popular psychological suggestions would be “Perfectionism” and “Fear”. The first is the need to do something perfectly or not at all, the second is the fear of either failure or success.

In my case, I think its tied to the adolescent desire for “Immediate gratification”. I want to write(or any other activity). I want it to be good the first time I want it to be done  so I can move on to something else. I don’t like to struggle. Struggling includes perseverance, frustration, and the time and energy to finish and finish well.  BUT – it is the finishing well that satisfies, that brings pride in our work and appreciation for the effort.  When a task is easy for me I don’t pay much attention to it, like doing the laundry or grocery shopping.

When a job requires thought, effort,  time, even struggle, I feel good.  When I know I have done MY BEST I can let it go and enjoy the results of my energy.  JOY, that’s what I feel.  That is a good thing.

Find something you want to do.  Do it well.  Feel the joy.

HEAD and/or HEART

(written April 15,2015)

Slumped on my couch, I am sobbing harder and louder than the rain pouring outside.   The, “I’m going to have a major headache if I don’t stop this” kind of crying.   What’s wrong with me?  My head and my heart are on opposite sides of an event that is occurring in my life.  Logically it is a good thing.  Emotionally I am devastated.  Let’s go back a few months.

My daughter and son-in-law decided they needed a larger house with some property for their dogs.  They were in the right place in their lives to make this happen and everyone was excited.  Their current home went on the market in March and sold in three  days for full asking price.  They had already seen a new home they liked and when they started to talk seriously a deal fell into place.  I was so happy for them.  To see your children grow up, do well and be settled is a glorious feeling.

Driving to the market today I passed the house they are selling, which is six blocks from my home.  The “under contract” sign is up, as it has been for three weeks.   There is a huge U-Haul truck in the driveway because today is moving day.  I started crying.  Seeing the truck made it all real.  While shopping  I sniffled and tried to stay calm.  Driving by the house again on the way back I lost control.

Now I’m on the couch, gasping for breath and mad at myself for falling apart.   I know this is a good move for them.  I want what they want for themselves.  I am really glad it went so smoothly.  My head is doing fine.

My heart is sad, grieving, devastated and missing them already.  We don’t see each other everyday or even every week.  I go down and take care of the dogs when they’re going to be late from work.  My son-in-law stops by to make “welfare  checks” when he hasn’t seen me in awhile. They drive-by and honk or stop in for a minute when they are out walking.  I know they are close and it is a comfort to me.

My head knows my reaction today is out-of-proportion to the circumstance.  My feelings are not logical,  but very real. Feelings are not right or wrong: they just ARE.   Well, I’m sad about this move and so today, and whenever I need to, I’ll cry and feel lonely and wallow for a little bit.  Then I’ll stop and remember how glad I am for them and how grateful that their dreams are coming true.

P.S.  The new house is only six miles away.