I spent most of the morning wandering around and easily distracted. I decided to make a cup of tea to “center” my thoughts.
I went to fill the tea kettle and it had mineral build-up in it.
I went to the cleaning cabinet to get the vinegar and realized my feet were cold and I wanted to put on a pair of socks (I was in the laundry room so there was a reasonably logical train of thought going on).
There weren’t actually any warm socks in the laundry room so I went to the bedroom…and forgot the vinegar…
And so on and so on…I will spare you the entire journey that ends with me (just now) realizing (as I sip my ice water) that I never actually turned on the tea kettle (now cleaned) to make a cup of tea.
Anyway, back to what I started writing about…
I like “signs”.
Not the actual, physically present signs – like stop signs or street signs – although those are indeed important.
It’s not that I don’t like them. I’m just not writing about them now.
Well, I am writing about them, but that’s not the point.
This is what I’m trying to talk about -signs, omens, coincidences, serendipity – things that are randomly happening and then “magically” come together in a way that makes it all seems planned and purposeful and meaningful.
Let me explain…or try to because it’s obviously going to continue to be one of those days.
I wrote a blog about saying hello…
And then I followed that blog with a post about serendipity.
And today, since nothing else was going the way it was supposed to, I decided to write a couple of letters and follow through with what I suggested.
I decided to say hello.
But I wasn’t sure who to say hello to.
I went and looked in my email files to see who I might have written to at one time that I hadn’t written to in a long time.
And I found an address for someone in Lithuania that I shared some snail mail with over two years ago. Actual mail once. Not a close friend. Just an encounter.
But hey, I’ll write a quick hello. She might think I’m a little crazy, but that’s okay. Today, I feel a little crazy.
First, I decided to go check out her blog that I used to follow, but now realize doesn’t show up in my inbox anymore.
I’m reading her last post and about midway through I run across a word that I love, but don’t use very often.
Until a couple of days ago.
In a post about saying hello.
A post about writing a quick note to someone.
You may say that it’s just a coincidence.
You may be right.
I’m going to choose to look at it another way.
I believe that God sends us direction and encouragement in signs that we often fail to see…mainly because we quit looking or are looking in the wrong direction.
You may not believe in signs or you may not believe in God.
Or perhaps you believe in signs but have a different belief system that helps you understand them.
This could turn into a theological discourse if I chose to get distracted, but not today.
(other than to say that quibbling over terminology and names and minutiae is unbelievably distracting and pointless, so I don’t think we all need to agree about everything in order to meaningfully communicate)
Today, I am choosing to have joy in what has happened.
A sense that I am connected to and participating in something bigger than myself.
A hint that I am doing something I am supposed to do.
Something as simple as saying hello.
And building community and social contacts and friendships.
If I had to name the top 10 most influential people in my adult life, there is one person who would certainly be at the top of the list. She was a spiritual mentor, a life coach, an encourager (this word flags as misspelled, but I like it so it stays), and a partner in my creative endeavors.
She was a pastor at a church that I used to attend. As our relationship developed, she learned that I was an artist – although at that time I was just somebody who made stuff. She started sharing her sermon plans with me and I started to create art that illustrated the sermon. Some of it was pretty bad, but she hung it on the wall anyway. Eventually, it got better and she hung that too.
Sometimes she would come to me with a sermon and verse and we would find that I had already started the canvas that went with it.
I would sit and draw her sermons on Sundays. It’s how I learned that art is my form of worship…a lesson that I still value today. I did a complete book of sermon drawings for her. When I visited her a month or so ago, I saw that it sits on her hearth along with some other things that she treasures.
We rarely see each other any more as we live on opposite side of Austin. Though our lives no longer intersect as they once did something interesting is starting to happen.
I faithfully read her postings on Caring Bridge as she chronicles her experiences with metastatic Stage IV colon cancer. Lately, her posts are becoming more and more applicable and relative to my life – just as her sermons often seemed to be written just for me.
A couple of days ago she wrote something that inspired my post, “Doors”, which turned out to be one of the most popular things I’ve ever written here. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get a “big head”. By popular, I mean that more than 10 people read it. It’s all relative, right. I favor quality over quantity any day.
Today, she wrote about going through the interview process to try and get selected for a clinical trial of a new treatment. Although our situations are totally different and I would never try to compare my struggles with hers – when I read the words she had written about being overwhelmed, I could identify with her completely.
First, it put the circumstances of my life right now in perspective. I’ve reminded myself that the problems that I am facing are manageable and most likely solvable. The challenges to come are not insurmountable.
Second, her words helped me gain my footing again. She wrote that “sometimes people who are overwhelmed don’t do anything because they can’t do everything.”
She added that we should “acknowledge it (the situation) , pray, and just do one thing at a time.”
I can do that. I can acknowledge that while my situation could be worse, it’s still hard and I’m both tired and overwhelmed. And while I can’t do everything, I can do something.
So here’s what I accomplished today:
I went to work
I visited my sister in I.C.U and initiated a discussion about what her discharge plan might need to look like
I spent time with my husband although I did forget to make his lunch
We started planning what needs to be done to fix our second bathroom so that it is easily accessible for my sister as her recovery continues – I did not figure out how to pay for said renovations – that would be too much for today and would lead to feeling overwhelmed again.
I am committing to filling one bag with trash as I begin to catch-up on housework. Some (most) of it will just have to wait.
I took a short walk in an effort to get back to walking two miles a day so that I can lose the weight I have gained. A long walk just couldn’t happen. That’s okay.
My daughter and I are going to do one math lesson as we work on getting caught up. It won’t solve the problem, but it’s something.
I am going to sit and prepare the bag of worn out T-shirts into strips for my rug as I watch a stupid T.V. show and allow myself to rest. Oh, and by the way…here’s my efforts so far. Barret, the dork dog seems to like it just fine.
Perhaps most importantly, she reminded me that I’m not alone. I have friends that are thinking of and praying for me. I have people that I can call on if I need to (even if I’m too stubborn to admit that I need help).
Just because people are no longer physically present in our lives doesn’t mean that the lessons we learned from them, or the experiences we shared with them aren’t still valuable resources that we can draw from when we need to. Special people who have once been in our lives never really leave us. They become a part of us…often the best part.
I’ve thought about writing many times over the past days, but was busy with the festivities and then recovering from them.
But, I’m back (sorta).
We had a great Thanksgiving celebration. We sat nineteen celebrants at one long feast table that my son helped me create out of tables, desks and a door. The food was plentiful and almost all good. Nothing is ever perfect, but it was close.
It was a fun mixture of family, old friends and new ones. We played games, watched football, may have decluttered the inventory in the booze cabinet and…
for entertainment we had a guy breath fire and twirl a fire staff. Betcha can’t top that!
I was fairly successful at keeping my perfectionism at bay and controlling my stress level. Lots of cleaning didn’t get done and the house is a fair disaster now. I do think the decluttering helped a lot.
I think I’m going to continue on with the game of decluttering five items. There is definitely stuff that I have in readiness for a big meal or lots of guest that I never used last week: dishes, linens, towels and the like. Those can probably go. And now that we are fully into cold weather, I’m finding some clothes that I don’t wear. I pull them out, try them on, and take them back off again.
My health is moving to the forefront of my attention now. Over the last six months or so I’ve been paying less attention to what I eat and one day of not walking become two and then a week and then a month. During the holidays I ate whatever I wanted and can really tell the difference in the way I feel. The fitbit is back on. The veggies are back in the fridge. The carbs are going into someone else’s mouth. I miss feeling good. This tired, sluggish feeling sucks.
Celebrations are good. Normal (boring) routine is also good. I’m actually ready to cook a small meal, do some school, make some art, and read a book. And definitely take a nap.
But first, I need to go finish the Thanksgiving dishes – don’t judge. Most of them are done! There’s just the odd glass here and maybe a few pans that needed to soak. Maybe not for five days, but hey, I’m trying. Remember, we are all works in progress. Imperfect, but making an effort.
3 sweaters that are itchy (and ugly)
2 dessert plates
some socks with no matches
a wooden gate that is missing pieces and therefore doesn’t actually work as a gate at all.
Hmmmm…been a long time away from here and it is ever so hard to start writing again. Lots has happened and there is a small component of guilt as well. The perfectionist in me struggles with not doing everything well…if you can’t do it perfectly, don’t do it at all… That’s the “old” me, or rather the me that I’m trying to outgrow. But old habits die hard – especially if we stop paying close attention and start living on autopilot…
…which is what I’ve found myself doing a lot of lately.
I simply stopped looking for the joy.
Honestly it’s not been the summer that I dreamed about – full of fun, memory making activities and lots of restful time to prepare for the school year ahead. It started off well enough, but somehow snowballed into one challenge after another.
But there was plenty of joy to be found. It all depends on how I choose to look at it.
We did get our back mortgage caught up with all of it’s late charges! Without a doubt that was a joyful thing indeed. And we’ve been working through the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover so I even managed to set up our emergency fund.
The dryer died. Dead. It’s been coming on for a while. Remember the crazy noise and the on-line repair tutorials. Not this time. Thank goodness for that emergency fund, right?
Then the thermostat started going out on the oven. Guessing temperatures, anyone? Hubby found a great deal on one at work. A great deal! Okay, we’ve got the emergency fund and we need an oven. Done.
Then…the BIG one. The “what-the-hell did I do wrong to deserve this crap” break-down. Our central air-conditioning unit quits working. In August. In Central Texas. Three service calls and estimates later, we have a price for replacement. The general consensus is that it can’t be fixed as it’s over 10 years old and is beyond repair. Cost: around $7000.00. No emergency fund for that, my friend. We’re “camping in a few rooms of our house with some loaner portable A/C units.
Then, there’s the vacation at the beach that came with it’s own set of issues. Two car break-downs that resulted in repairs and a trailer rental to haul one home. A trip to the minor-emergency clinic and a case of bronchitis that turned into an asthma diagnosis, and…. Well, you get the picture. A vacation to remember, right?
But, that’s where the title of this story comes into play. “Choosing to look for the joy”. I’m not going to lie. I’ve been in a bit of a depressed mood. (That may be an understatement) I haven’t been choosing to look for the joy. I’ve been sad. I’ve been “down”. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself. I’ve wondered where you can turn in a resignation letter to life and just quit.
Then…yesterday, this story start writing itself in my head. And I stared seeing the bits of joy that have happened this summer. Quiet moments for the most part. They didn’t shout out their arrival like the A/C breakdown did. The joy just sort of happened and waited for me to notice – and appreciate. I just got so busy running from one problem to another and worrying that I never stopped to be grateful for the good stuff.
Bad stuff has happened aplenty this summer. Lots more than I’ve shared here.
But…here’s a small listing of the joy that’s come along for the ride…
a solid roof over our heads to shelter us and a caught-up mortgage to keep it over our heads
new knowledge about money management that I am sharing with my kids so that their life can be easier and they can learn from my mistakes. Knowledge can be powerful.
Health insurance that made medical care available for us when we needed it.
The most beautiful beach weather I’ve seen in all the years we’ve been going to Corpus Christi. Calm winds, bright skies, moderate temperatures, no seaweed, and clear, clear water.
A lovely card in the mail from someone I’ve never met in person, but who sensed that I need some love
A new, part-time teaching job at a private school close to home. I’m teaching art once a week and am already in love with my kids. Such talent and enthusiasm!
Friends that have been there along the way and have helped out when we need a helping hand.
A successful first week of school for us. One week in and we are only two days “behind” schedule.
A fun field trip to the art museum that included my hubby.
Children who are finding their own way in this “big ole world” – making decisions, making mistakes, trying new things and discovering their own joy.
It does seem that life has been “one step forward and two steps back” for too long around here. So many things are broken and need to be fixed (literally and figuratively). I get tired. It can seem hopeless. And pointless. Like I said, I can’t figure out where to turn in my resignation…to life.
But, I don’t have a lot of “quit” in me. And, I’m not going to “plod” through one step at a time.
I am going to take it one step at a time, but I’m going to choose to “step lightly”. I’m going to look for the joy…I’m going to search for it. I’m going to do whatever it takes to find it.
This is the life that I have. I am grateful for it. I’m going to choose to look for the joy.
Being normal is hard work – today it’s not the “holding it all together” kind of work, but actual physical labor.
I’m definitely feeling better and have been toiling in the great outdoors. Our yard/land is not the worst looking in the neighborhood, but it’s not the best either. I’m not trying to win “yard of the month”, but I definitely have improvement written in on my list.
When we moved our home in we didn’t have them clear the whole lot. I thought I would prefer a slightly natural look. Slightly natural around here quickly turns into overgrown and a fire hazard. We’ve had a really wet spring, but most years we have to be wary of wildfires. I’m hoping to eventually get all the cedars and cactus cleared off and our beautiful oaks trimmed up. That takes more money, skill, and effort than I’m capable of so right now I’m working on mowing down the tall grass, shrubs and grape vines. Yesterday we hauled off the last of the big scrap metal pile and earned $50 dollars. The big mess on the side of the house is gone. I mowed the weeds down today and burned a huge pile of debris.
So much progress – and a lot more to do. But, it already looks so much better.
The chicks have been moved outdoors so all twelve are scratching around and being happy chickens. The oldest ones are transitioning to scratch grain instead of starter feed. We are supplementing with kitchen and yard scraps. The coop is right next to the compost piles and garden so we have a great little eco-system going. A great combination of clippings, scraps, food waste, manure and egg production. Well, no actual eggs yet, but we’re getting there!
Yard work this morning. Errands with my daughter this afternoon and a bit of de-cluttering thrown in for good measure.
One of my readers suggested that there might be a bit of fear involved in my change plan and strategy. Fear of what change might bring and look like in my life. I have definitely been giving that some thought and am including it in my future plans for decluttering and simplifying.
I do struggle with change a lot. I’m going to start thinking through what might change for the better if I get rid of something…for example, dishes. We have a lot of guest/family we share meals with and that’s definitely important to me, but the dirty dishes are always out of control around here. That doesn’t promote simplicity at all when you can’t easily prepare a healthy meal because of the mess.
What would it look like to only have the dishes we need for the standard number of folks around the table – 5 family almost always here and 4 sometimes family here. 9 plates, bowls, etc. Any folks over that number and we switch to paper. I know it’s not environmentally friendly, but it might be an equitable trade-off for right now. The paper plates would be stored seperately and we would encourage each other to wash a dish when you need one. A no-brainer, I know, but I seem to be challenged when it comes to the obvious stuff.
I think it all comes down to peeling off layers of belongings. The change is slow, but I just gotta keep trying. One day it seems as if I’ve totally gotten rid of everything I can in an area. Then a bit later I re-evaluate and assess and clear out some more.
Small steps equal progress towards the home and life I hope for…
I think I’m coming back to the land of “normal”. I also believe it and I am quite certain that thinking and believing are two different things. So, I’m going to conclude that there is a definite improvement in my “being-ness” since both thought processes are in play.
We had a fun Fourth of July celebration at the home of old friends. They are friends that we have known for a long time and are not necessarily old although not as young as they used to be. It was going to be a smallish celebration, but as most good parties do, it grew and grew… There was laughter, food, beer, tension, fireworks (mostly the actual physical kind, not the human interaction kind) and more food.
I was stressed going into it all, but by the end of the night was doing pretty well. Time spent with folks you know and who know you can be healing. And I did not kill any small child who threw loud noisy things to the ground behind me. I don’t know what those explosive devices are called AND the small children will never throw them near me again, but I didn’t permanently harm any of them…I promise.
Today saw us dropping my oldest daughter off at her summer job. She is working a Renaissance style childrens’ summer camp. She’s the daughter with culinary school and an in-process degree in Food Service Management. She’ll be working in an unairconditioned kitchen in July in Central Texas. Fun times…
Did I mention we helped her convert our old trailer into a Vardo type habitat for her stay. She decided that a tent might be too rustic for her for a month (Gee, you think?).
She did almost all of the work herself with some manual labor assistance. She got an air-conditioner and everything….pretty sweet. I totally forgot to get a photo of the finished dwelling…a description will have to suffice. Corrugated metal on the ceiling, a sari-fabric hanging light, a full mattress covered in pillows, fabric lining the walls, a desk/table with storage underneath, and a chair. Very snug, cozy and climate controlled. I’m almost jealous…except for the whole kitchen job thing…been there, done that.
I followed up our morning excursion with a three hour nap. I definitely feel better. I woke up to a quiet and empty house. I took a moment to wander through and assess the level of untidiness. On a scale of one to ten with ten being complete chaos, I think we’re hovering around a 13.
It’s pretty “lived-in”. That’s okay. We’ve done a lot of living so far this summer. I love a challenge. I will start out tomorrow with my list in hand and start to tame the beast.
I live in the Texas Hill Country (U.S.A.). Previously in a drought, we have now been hit with seriously serious weather. Day after day of thunderstorms, wind, more rain and recently tornadoes and flooding.
Personally, we’ve been lucky and blessed. We lost our driveway, washed out. We don’t have the money to fix it, but still not a big deal in the scheme of things.
All around us, people have lost things to the weather. Homes are damaged or destroyed. Some have lost everything they own.
And there has been loss of life. Friends, family members, whole families gone.
So much loss that is hard for me to comprehend…to take it all in. The devastation is so widespread and complete.
It leaves one with a helpless feeling. And perhaps a slight feeling of guilt that some lost so much and we were spared.
All in all, it has led me to further contemplation about the space that material things hold in my life versus the spiritual things.
As I look around my home, I think about the material things I own and what I would miss the most. What would I need to replace? What is irreplaceable?
Our home (a home) is essential. We need clothing and food. Toilet paper is high up on the list of “needs vs. wants”.
I have photos that are important, but the memories would remain if something happened to them. I would grieve their loss, but I’d be okay.
I have artwork that I would miss, but I’ve become more and more comfortable with giving it away as well. My kids’ artwork…that would be a big loss for me.
I’ve noticed that, in my life, as the material things have decreased, more space has opened up for spiritual things: personal reflection and growth, the building and strengthening of relationships, and creative pursuits.
I think it’s time for another evaluation and round of de-cluttering.
I am so grateful that my transition has been voluntary. I am choosing to get rid of material things at my own pace. The decision isn’t be made for me by circumstances.
You are loved just for being who you are, just for existing. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. Your shortcomings, your lack of self-esteem, physical perfection, or social and economic success – none of that matters. No one can take this love away from you, and it will always be here. – Ram Dass
I am embracing imperfection today. Doing what needs to be done, but not more.
Friends are coming over. Sweep up the big stuff off the floor. Don’t mop. Pile the dirty dishes by the sink. Don’t wash them. Take-out fried chicken is just fine. Every meal doesn’t have to be homemade.
Outside finishing the chicken coop. Hoping the rain holds off for just a little while longer. Friends and family.
Allowing myself to actually slow down, then stop and really feel the contentment. The happiness. Is this what joy feels like?
For too long I’ve allowed myself to be distracted by the minutiae of everyday life…and missed the joy. Always seeking perfection and the approval and validation that will accompany it. Striving for that which only I can provide for myself.
Change is slow, but good. And today is an accomplishment for me.