Monday, December 26, 2016

"We should probably all be more like those turtles sometimes."

I was standing at the kitchen sink today, tidying up as one is want to do, when I saw a tiny little soap bubble floating over the sink.  It was small and perfect and clear and made me think of Glinda the Good Witch floating around in “The Wizard of Oz”. So, I stopped and watched it as it floated up and down, then out of the kitchen entirely (this was a very active soap bubble) before coming back in and then vanishing. Ok. So maybe I had too much time on my hands, but that was kind of the point. Sort of. Maybe. I realized looking at it made me smile, so I decided to keep watching until I couldn’t see it anymore. And I smiled the whole time. Totally worth it.
A few years ago, in another city, when I owned a home, I sat on my driveway one day after mowing the lawn and watched a bunch of balloons float up into the sky. I thought about where it had come from and where it was going and just watched. It gave me a nice sense of peace that I often find so lacking in my daily life these days. Oh, I’m mostly happy these days, but I can’t always say I’m peaceful. I don’t know how to simply pause and exist and soak up the moment I’m in, but I’m working on it.
I took a long walk along the riverfront last Thursday since the weather was so lovely. I enjoy walking when it’s crisp and cool, but it’s a struggle to get outside when the temps are higher. We lucked into sunny skies and highs in the 60s so close to Christmas and I’m definitely not going to complain.
When I walk with friends I will go further, but when I walk alone it’s a chance to get inside my head. To sort through whatever is going on in my life that’s not making sense or time to pray. Lately I’ve been praying for understanding about some things going on in my life, but no answers have been forthcoming. Since I am a champion at overthinking everything, I’ve struggled with not trying too hard to make sense of things life has thrown my way of late, but I thought a little time in nature would be a nice way to spend part of the day. And once again, the beautiful weather certainly didn’t hurt for motivation.
With clear, blue skies and bright sunshine, I had a lot of time to look around and enjoy the scenery. One of my favorite colors is the orange in an autumn leaf and they were plentiful. I passed the first one and thought I should stop to take a picture, but continued on as I knew I had 2 miles to go one way before I could turn around and head back. Didn’t seem to make sense to stop so early in the walk when I could surely stop on my way back.
I passed a few other things that made me want to stop and take a picture, but my mind kept telling me to keep on walking. Get to the end and turn around, then I could take pictures on the way back if I still wanted to.  The trouble with that, I realized, is that when I’m walking back the opposite direction, I’m not going to see the same things in the same way that I did before. And what about the leaf? What if it was gone when I came back? What if I couldn’t find the things I’d seen on my way?
Mulling over it all in my old noodle, I tried to divert myself once again into prayer, asking God to please provide some clarity and understanding about some things going on in my life. Then I heard a clear voice in my head saying, “Just be in the moment.” Perhaps I was so busy looking for answers that I was failing to really see what was around me. Oh sure, it’s all kind of hokey and not the first time something like this has been said, but it made me pause and realize I was pushing once again. I push when I don’t get the answers or responses I think I should. I don’t let things happen – I try to force them to happen. Because that always works out so very well, right? 
After that, I stopped to take some pictures. Of silly things, I suppose.
Spanish moss hanging so lovely from the trees.
The way the two bridges come together over part of the river.
Turtles sunning themselves on logs.
Debris from last year’s floods and this year’s hurricane.
Whatever I saw that made me happy, I stopped and took a picture. I even stood still a few times and turned my face to the sky to enjoy the sun and the breeze that was blowing. I think the turtles really had the right idea. We should probably all be more like those turtles sometimes.
It may have taken me a little longer to walk those 4 miles, but it suddenly made more sense to stop. Because I was right…I couldn’t find the leaf again that I liked so much. I had to look much harder for the things I’d seen on my way because my perspective was different. I found most everything again, but it wasn’t the same as the initial moment of discovery.
I’m still trying to sort out some things in my life (and aren’t we all really doing that, all the time?), but will keep that subtle nudge and reminder with me (I hope) as much as I can to stop and be in the moment. Enjoy what is happening ,while it is happening, and stop putting so much thought into the past or the future. Easier said than done, but a worthwhile pursuit nonetheless.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Hush up! I don’t talk too much. I’m just a storyteller.

I often think about how everyone has a story. Every person you meet on the street or pass in the grocery store has a story. Something is happening to them – good or bad – and if you talk to them long enough, the story may come pouring out.

Recently a friend asked me what was going on with me. A pretty simple question or so it seems, but clueless here replied with something like, “Eh. Nothing much. My life is pretty boring.”

Um…excuse me? Did I just say that my life is boring?? Have I been living my life the past year? I thought I had been, but if I said my life was boring or that I don’t do much of anything then I’m terribly mistaken. My life is so UN-boring sometimes that I crave dull moments. And if my life was so boring, why do I talk about it so, so, SO very much?

I like to talk. Anyone who knows me for even 20 minutes (or less, really) realizes that. I can take the simplest communication and somehow make it infinitely more complicated than it has to be. One sentence becomes a paragraph because you have to have all the details, right? That’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

I’m fortunate enough in my volunteer work that the gentleman I spend most of my Saturday afternoons with, Jack, is quite a loquacious fellow. Usually if either of us are telling a story, we have to tell you two or three backstories before we get to the main event. I mean, otherwise how will you truly understand what is happening? Makes total sense. To us. Not necessarily to other folks.

Mostly I figure I ramble and I appreciate of the friends who allow me to do so. Yesterday, however, I realized that maybe I don’t just ramble. Maybe I’m a storyteller.

I was out walking with my friend Shelley this weekend on a glorious autumn Saturday afternoon and we were playing catch-up on our lives. It had been a while since we’d chatted so we had a lot of ground to cover and as anyone who has talked at length with me in, say, the past 6 or 8 months knows, I tend to have a lot to talk about (and sometimes that’s why I pay a professional to sit and let me talk to them). I was relaying some details in a story and kept going, “Oh, but there’s another layer…” There always seems to be another layer.

Thankfully, Shelley seemed to appreciate and be entertained by my crazy life and I am grateful for that. Although maybe she’s just really, really glad the crazy is in my life and not hers!! Cause y’all, the truth is stranger than fiction and don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise. You can’t make this stuff up.

Chatting yesterday with my friend DD, I believe she’s the one who said, after I talked about all those layers to the story I told Shelley, “Well, of course [you had so many layers]. You’re a storyteller.” 

Huh. Me? A storyteller? And not, y’know, just a blabbering loudmouth? Hmmmm…interesting. 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “storyteller” as:

a teller of stories: as

1.      a relater of anecdotes

2.      a reciter of tales

3.      liar, fibber

4.      a writer of stories

Hmmmm…well, ok. I guess maybe I qualify. Except the liar and the fibber part. I’d never tell a fib. Maybe a fliblet, but never a fib.

I do enjoy having an audience and especially making people laugh. I walk into physical therapy each week, look at my PT and go, “Have I got a story for you!” Truly. Every single week. She actually seems disappointed if she thinks I don’t have one. 

Life is nuts and if there is a way to make a frustrating or sad or otherwise difficult situation better through humor then I am all in favor of it. Actually, I’m in favor of making any situation funny if I can. I do so like to laugh. But I’ve never thought of myself as a storyteller. Not in a positive way, at least. 

Now, however, I think I’ll embrace that idea. Yes, I do like to talk at length, but perhaps that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The challenge going forward, however, may be to learn to listen more to other people’s stories rather than focusing so much on telling my own. On the news program “CBS Sunday Morning”, Bill Geist used to do a segment where he’d pick a name at random out of the phone book (do they still make phone books?) and call the person and find out their story. I always thought that was pretty cool. Everyone had a story to tell when he talked to them and everyone I know has a story to tell, just like I do. If you ever want to tell me yours, I’d love to hear it.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sometimes a broken bowl becomes a life lesson

I realized today that God has been testing my patience this week and I’ve been failing every time. I’ve been moody, cranky, mean, and downright ornery most of the time (as opposed to my usual sass and snark, that is). I’ve directed it at others, at myself, and possibly worst of all, at situations over which I have no control. Nothing says “big fun” more than stressing yourself out over a situation you can do nothing to control or change. That’s a big one with me. If I am not stressing over something, I’m not sure what to do with myself. I never pray for patience though because that’s how you end up in a body cast for 6 months. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Monday kicked off my anger and frustration when I walked into my office. Oh, going to work wasn’t causing me heart palpitations, but once I got there I noticed that a bowl on my desk had been broken. My favorite bowl. I was very attached and starting the day off like that wasn’t my idea of a good time.

A few years ago I took a pottery class. I wasn’t good at it and to be honest, after the first class I really wasn’t into it. I was content to make a couple of bowls, say I’d tried something new, and move on. In the end, I made about 5 or 6 pieces and was glad I’d tried, but also realized I wasn’t going to be one of the ladies in that class who kept coming back to each session and learning more and making more. They were so into it and I love that, but it wasn’t for me. I’m not a particularly artistic person, but I enjoy dabbling now and then.

The broken bowl on my desk was one I had made in that class. It was the best of the lot. My favorite piece and the one of which I was most proud and some nighttime cleaner has smashed it and left the rubble on my desk. They didn’t even have the courtesy to leave a note of apology or any acknowledgement of what had happened. 

To add insult to injury, this person also decided it was alright to throw the broken pieces into the trash so I couldn’t even try to repair it. I’m convinced that I could put it back together again. Maybe I could and maybe I couldn’t, but I’ll never know that for sure because I was never given the chance. I’d rather have had the cracked and damaged bowl that was glued back together than to think about those pieces being unceremoniously tossed into the trash. 

I was so angry that a co-worker commented on how she’d never seen me that mad in the 7+ years I’ve worked here. I just wanted to sit in my office and cry and to be honest, I did cry a little bit. That was MY bowl! I made it and I was so proud of it and someone else was careless with it (it sat on my desk in that same location for several years without a problem). I was heartbroken. Now, I realize full well that it is just a thing. An object. I didn’t lose a loved one or a vital body part or anything like that. But I still wanted to cry.

As the week has gone on, I’ve thought about that bowl every day. I can’t bear to throw out the remains of it. It would be a knife to my heart.

Yesterday, I held it in my hands and just looked at it. Ran my fingertips along the rim, careful of the broken pieces and sharp edges. I started trying to picture in my mind what the bowl could become, now that it couldn’t be a bowl anymore. I knew deep inside that I wasn’t willing or able to part with it.

I thought about how sometimes we have to take the wreckage and remains of whatever it is and turn it into something new. Look at it from every angle. Explore all the possibilities. Then create that new thing, whatever it is.

When there is no way for something to be what it once was, do we take the time to imagine what it can become? Or are we like that cleaner, who decided to throw away the pieces without a second thought?

I’m trying to focus on what the bowl can become. How it can be transformed with a little smoothing of the rough edges. Maybe a little paint to cover the broken places. I love that stupid bowl and I’m going to love whatever it morphs into. I’m grateful for the times God takes a few minutes to smooth my rough edges, pick up my broken pieces, and help me figure out what I can become when it’s clear I can no longer be what I once was.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A year of living...

I hate trying to find titles for my blog posts. It's a pain if one doesn't readily jump to mind. I once thought of titling my blog "The Year of Living Stupidly" just because it would make me laugh. Hmmm...I might do that or change the name to something - anything! - else because I'm not fond of the name, but that's a worry for another day. And not at all what this post is supposed to be about.

Last year I declared the time between my 44th and 45th birthdays to be the “Year of Yes”. Last week I decided that perhaps the time between 45 and 46 should be the “Year of No”, but hadn’t fully defined that. I still haven’t, but the more I think about it, the more I think I’m on the right track with that idea.

Reflecting back on the past year, I re-read the blog post I wrote and the last lines caught my attention: "... but hey, it's the Year of Yes. Anything can happen, right? Maybe just about anything at all if I'm willing to take a chance and say yes." Honestly, that really seems to sum up the last year. Anything can happen if you are willing to take a chance and say yes. 

Forty-four was a lot of fun. I’ve tried to chronicle what happened – both good and bad – so that I could feel like I had a tangible list of what I accomplished, but I’m not sure I could remember everything even if I tried. I know I had some fun. I know I had some UN-fun. Life isn’t perfect and neither was my year, but it was right. It was the way it’s supposed to be. Good or bad, right or wrong, this is how it was supposed to be.

At times I found myself straying from the idea of saying yes to things and had to pull myself back around, but for the most part I did what I wanted to do and I think I challenged myself at times which was great. I needed that. Heck, I still need that!! I’m not giving up the “Year of Yes”, even if I’m morphing it into a little something different this time around. It’ll just be the “Life of Yes”, which sounds like a lot more fun to me!

I’ve thought about what “no” means to me and right now, I think having a “Year of No” will be about saying no to the things that are hurting me. The negativity. The excesses (have I mentioned that I like cake?). Saying no to self-doubt and self-blame. Saying no to beating myself up all the time when things don’t immediately go the way I want them to go. Being aware of the negative ways I treat myself or allow myself to be treated. There are really so many things that “no” involves and they don’t have to be negative things! Tell yourself “no” sometimes is the best, most positive thing you can do.

So I’m off to embrace the “Year of No” and muddle along as I figure out what that ultimately entails. I realized the other day that God is testing my patience with several things lately and I am failing miserably. It's time now to try to do better. 

Oh, to hell with that! It’s time to DO better. Period. Because not only do I know that I can, I want to and that matters a whole hell of a lot.