I’m feeling a bit selfish and childish today. My husband is off work today, and so is my littlest daughter. It is dreadful out. I had this idea in my mind of us spending a quiet snuggly day together. But it is beginning to look like he is going to have to go to his mother’s to do some chores and repair work. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to take care of our parents. However…I just feel like sometimes my hubby gets taken advantage of, he does a lot and it seems like there is always more that is expected and never appreciated.
It’s been a super busy day today. I had a lot of errands to run, directly after dropping Lola off to school. Then, I had to come home and work, and other than breaking to go back and pick Lola up from school, there’s been no time for anything else, including journaling. I’m hoping that once I get this project I’m working on caught up this afternoon, I will have time for a real blog entry. Busy busy busy!!! I guess it’s good that I have this much work to do!
It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.
Visiting old cemeteries can be very illuminating. They are so still and silent. So quiet. Old cemeteries remind us that until it is carved in stone, realizing our heart’s desire is possible every day if we recognize what it is that makes us happy.
In Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town a deeply poignant scene takes place in a graveyard. Ghosts comfort the young heroine, who has recently died in childbirth. Emily, still longing for the life she has just left, wishes to revisit it one ordinary, “unimportant” day in her life. When she gets her wish, she realizes how much the living take for granted.
Eventually her visit is too much for her to bear. “I didn’t realize,” she confesses mournfully, “all that was going on and we never noticed … Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover’s Corners … Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking … and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths … and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”
This is the season of Epiphany, when the renewal of light and revelation are celebrated in the liturgy of the Catholic, Episcopal, and Eastern Orthodox churches. On our new path we seek everyday epiphanies — occasions on which we can experience the Sacred in the ordinary — and come to the awakening, as Emily finally does, that we cannot longer afford to throw away even one “unimportant” day by not noticing the wonder of it all. We have to be willing to discover and then appreciate the authentic moments of happiness available to all of us every day.
[excerpted from the book Simple Abundance; A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach]
Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?
I have had many really good teachers in my life, but the one that comes to the forefront of my mind was my elementary school librarian – Mrs. Rayburn. Our friendship blossomed because of an unusual situation; my elementary school had a lady come in once a week and tell bible stories in class. Because of my unusual biblical education as a Kindergartner, I often ended up in theological disputes with this little old lady. Because of that, she wouldn’t have me in the classroom when she told her bible stories, so from that point on, I spent those days in the Library with Mrs. Rayburn. I could already read in Kindergarten, and she took that ability and turned it into a serious love of literature. We began to meet before school every morning, to review the book I had taken home the night before and to get a new book for that night. I devoured everything she gave me. By the end of that year, I was already reading James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl and other young fiction. That love of reading has never left me. In addition, Mrs. Rayburn became a fixture in my life outside of school, as I would often be invited to spend weekends at her home with her and Mr. Rayburn. You see, Mrs. Rayburn was estranged from her son, because he had embraced the very religion I was raised in. I feel really good because I helped her understand the religion more, and to become reconciled with her son after she realized it wasn’t bad, like she had been predisposed to believe. She had a real affection for me, and the feeling was mutual. She took on the role of a grandparent to me, as all my grandparents were passed on by the time I was 3 or 4 years old. I stayed in touch with her over the years, even after I moved away from Appalachia and to Cincinnati. I loved her dearly and respected what she did.
A little bit more about Inez (that’s her first name): She was a teacher in one-room schoolhouses when my parents were little. She taught my father in the 40’s in one of those schoolhouses, and she had to travel a long way each direction just to teach there. She was head librarian over several schools and often traveled from school to school visiting the libraries.
Now, as an adult and a parent, I have been volunteering in our elementary media center for three years. Every day that I’m there, helping children find literature to light up their imaginations, shelving books, setting up displays to catch their eyes, I feel Mrs. Rayburn with me. She always went above and beyond her simple duties as an educator and loved all the kids she worked with.
In my life’s chain of events nothing was accidental. Everything happened according to an inner need.
Do you have everything you need right now? What about your wants? Few of us have everything we want, and at times our wants can seem positively all-consuming. Our sensibilities become confused and overstimulated by a mass media that glorifies beautiful people and expensive objects. It’s easy to lose clarity about what it is we need to live authentically. Most of us are hungering for something more in our lives. But do you really think the answer can be found in a glossy magazine or on the movie screen?
If we are to live happy, creative, and fulfilled lives, it is crucial to distinguish between our wants and our needs. Unfortunately, many women blur the distinction and then wonder why they feel so diminished.
Make peace with the knowledge that you can’t have everything you want. Why? Because it’s more important for us to get everything we need. Like infants, we feel contentment when our essential needs are met.
Be courageous. Ask yourself: what is it I truly need to make me happy? The deeply personal answers to this vital question will be different for each of us. Trust the loving wisdom of your heart. It is only after we acknowledge our inner needs that we can harness the creative energy necessary to manifest them in our lives. “It is inevitable when one has a great need of something, one finds it,” Gertrude Stein reminds us. “What you need you attract like a lover.”
There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.
~Robert Louis Stevenson
Perhaps you think you’ll be happy when you get a bigger kitchen, or a new job, or the perfect someone with whom to share your life. But don’t you want to start making happiness a habit right now? Every morning when we wake up we’ve been given a wonderful gift — another day of life — so let’s make the most of it. No one can do it for us. “Happiness is not a possession to be prized,” Daphne du Maurier wrote in Rebecca. “It is a quality of thought, a state of mind.”
Let’s adopt a new state of mind about happiness. Let’s stop thinking that things outside our control will bring us happiness.
Admittedly, remodeling the kitchen, landing the job we’ve been dreaming of, or finding that special someone can make us feel — at least momentarily — happier. But the magic seeds of contentment are planted deep within us. Happiness that the world cannot take away only flourishes in the secret garden of our souls. By tending to our inner garden and uprooting the weeds of external expectations, we can nurture our authentic happiness the way we would nurture something that’s beautiful and alive. Happiness is a living emotion.
Your happiness is not a frivolous, expendable luxury. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence. But we have to be willing to pursue it. Ultimately, genuine happiness can only be realized once we commit to making it a personal priority in our lives. This may be new behavior for some of us and a bit intimidating. Be gentle with yourself. It will all unfold. Today you may not be familiar with the happiness habit. But like any new behavior, happiness can be learned.
I like to use this book – Simple Abundance – A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach, when I’m trying to reframe my thought patterns. I often do not stick to the daybook very far into the year or jump in at different times of the year. What I’d really like to do this year is to actually read the day’s passage each day for this year, and take the thoughts into consideration during my day’s activities. I really like the tenor of this book and I think having a morning ritual where I read the passage and let it be in my mind for the day, could be very helpful to me for keeping myself living with intent and not just letting the days go by.
Today, I’ve been thinking about the things I’ve denied myself over the years that I really wanted — things I wanted to learn, do or become — and I’ve decided that I’m going to tackle the biggest of my shelved-away dreams this year. I’ve always wanted to play a celtic or concert harp. I’ve wanted this since I was 16 or 17 years old and my desire has never waned. I yearn for it, and I’ve never allowed myself to chase the dream because I felt that any expenditure to pursuing this dream would be frivolous and wasteful when raising a family and having so many other things that always seem to take precedence over such things. However, I think that the cost of pursuing the harp and the lessons would be more than offset by my quality of life improving a great deal. I know that my quality of life will improve because although I have never owned my own harp, I have always adored harp music, and I have quite a few times sat at harps in stores or other locations and I’ve already been able to play simple tunes by ear. And the feeling of contentment and happiness I feel with the soundboard against my heart is a pleasure I cannot describe. It’s one of those things – you know you were meant to do something – and I have resisted this gravitational pull for many years. I’m done resisting, I’m going to follow that dream this year, so help me.
Painting by Vered Fishman
It’s been quite a while since I blogged regularly. I have been feeling the urge to share my thoughts again in a venue where I can get feedback from others; and just really feeling the need to express myself in writing, the way I used to.
I have a lot of things to update regarding this blog, but the past week, I have been considering “New Year’s Resolutions”. I’m not really very good at keeping resolutions, but I want to live this next 12 months with some sort of intention and plan. I haven’t really ever done that before. But I really want 2013 to be SPECIAL. Noteworthy. A time of transformation and a new direction.
So instead of making resolutions, I would like to state intentions. Specifically, I am going to state intentions – ranging from intensely personal, to family-related, to finance, to just-for-fun.
So, here goes:
- I fully intend on cultivating more patience and kindness with my husband and children. Lately, I have let my irritability and impatience color my dealings with them, and my tongue has become quite sharp. I really want to try to be more present in mind when they need something from me or want to ask/tell me something.
- I fully intend on cultivating more patience and kindness with MYSELF. I have become such a cruel critic of myself that I often find myself in the throes of terrible anxiety/panic attacks when I am indulging in leisure activities, or trying to take much-needed naps. There is nothing like having a guilt-induced panic attack just because you’re trying to catch an afternoon nap when your kids are not at home.
- I fully intend to allow myself downtime every day without guilt or “woulda”, “shoulda” or “coulda” statements. If my fibromyalgia, SAD, or anxiety is causing me to need to take it easy for the entire day, I need to allow myself to do this without recrimination.
- I fully intend to continue to work on cultivating multiple streams of income. I have two very good part-time work-from-home gigs going on, and I’m going to encourage those employers to send more work my way, and increase my monetary contribution to the household. I will try to be open to new avenues of income as well.
- I fully intend on continuing to work from home, but not more than 35-40 hours a week. For once in my life, I’m going to do my best to avoid getting burned out, as I have so often done with employment in the past.
- I fully intend to continue the progress I’ve made with my dietary choices. I all but eliminated caffeine from my diet this fall. My hope for this year is to seriously cut down on soda drinks, and to drink more water. I also would like to approach eating healthier by picking one unhealthy food choice at a time and replace it with something healthier. When I feel I have overcome that unhealthy food habit, I will tackle another one. Again, trying hard not to get burned out.
- Become more disciplined and organized with regard to time management. I have always tried to come up with these all-encompassing schedules, to-do lists, calendars, systems, etc., and they never seem to last very long. My goal is to really cut out all the things I have always told myself I HAD to include in a schedule/system, and simplify my schedule, so that I don’t feel so overwhelmed with housework, paying bills, etc. I am going to have a far less stringent approach to expectations with regard to keeping house, and decide what the truly important tasks are each week and do my best to get those few things done. I don’t need to worry about dusting every week, or mopping every other day, etc. It’s just silly. I can go a couple of weeks without doing those things and you can’t even tell, so obviously these are just expectations put in my head by my OCD mother’s upbringing! I hate to have chaos in my home, but picking up clutter is one thing – getting down and hand washing the floors is excessive and I need to stop putting that on myself.
- I fully intend on making more time to spend with my husband. We’ve never had the chance to be “just us two”, as he already had a daughter when we got together. We have never had a good support system of people to watch our kids for us so we can go out and be together. That hasn’t changed really, but I am willing to hire some of the college kids that I know well to babysit now that they are grown. I don’t have to just depend on my oldest daughter’s availability to make this happen. My relationship with my husband needs nurturing, and not just once every couple of months. I want to put this to the forefront of my efforts this year.
- I fully intend on taking care of ME: taking more of an interest and pride in my appearance, investing in myself with exercise, spiritual/mental care, and fun and hobbies. I really want to be happy where I am at now, instead of focusing on some far-off time when all will be aligned. I find the most happiness from the simplest pleasures, ones that I have always enjoyed – reading, music, movies, games, etc., and I need to allow myself those things without guilt. Life’s too short not to be happy. And red lipstick and garish eye makeup make me happy too, so I’m going to take more time for myself to vamp it up, even if I’m just gonna be home that day.
- Work on the worrying – I really need to get a handle on my self-talk. My inner dialogue is my own worst enemy. If nothing else happens this year, I have to beat this inner demon that judges me more harshly than all the bully cheerleaders at my high school ever did.
Well, that’s all I’ve got right now. Basically it boils down to: BE NICER TO MYSELF. BE NICER TO MY FAMILY. KEEP IT SIMPLE, SILLY. IF IT FEELS GOOD, LET YOURSELF DO IT. STOP TREATING MY BODY LIKE A TRASH COMPACTOR AND MORE LIKE A TEMPLE.
Have a great week!!