Day 113: Pat Yourself on the Back

I dropped something on my foot yesterday and today it looks terrible. The whole top of my foot is bruised, swollen, and generally extremely painful-looking. But in actuality, it doesn’t really hurt. I rested today just to be sure there were no major injuries but I am fairly certain its bark is far worse than its bite.

I am feeling unsettled about plans and future and security. The logistics of change are much scarier to me than change its self. And I’m trying to remember that just as with my grotesque looking foot that it easy to look at something and it seem a much bigger deal than it is.

I have had a lot of change in my adult life and I have survived it all. It was always scary in the in-between but it has always worked itself out and usually to my advantage.

So here’s to bruised lives… colorful, sensitive and reflective of the active, risk taker that always chooses life. And here’s to discomfort without prolonged pain because it teaches us we are stronger than we know.

And finally, here’s to us, gentle reader, for trying at all…

A very swollen and bruised foot.

Day #68

I hobbled through three miles today … I think I may be getting shin splints … it was the most painful run on the books so far but I was able to finish it. And in finishing it, I was able to find the beauty of discipline … discipline creates in its own time … it’s creates strength in the soreness … completion in the chaos … peace in the stressful … love in the face of feeling wronged.

We exercise a lot of discipline everyday .. well most of us do … in what we do, say, eat, work, create … and sometimes I forget that in the discipline there is a choosing … I feel dictated at times by the demands, the to-do lists, even the laundry piles … but I am the one who really creates with my decision to disciple myself … toward a half-marathon, a more knowledgeable teacher and counselor, and even an organized office and house. And, at least for me, when I do accomplish, when I see tangible results of a good run, paperwork caught up, grading done, and fresh laundry on the couch I feel good about who I have chosen to be. Industrious, yes. Continuously growing, forever. But always, always choosing and that reminder today felt good!

Day #29

Today was Winter Solstice. The shortest day and longest night of the year. Of course, there are many scientific reasons that today is what it is. But being humans, we have assigned it festivals and traditions, ceremonies and celebrations dating back and back and back. What I love about Winter Solstice is the opportunity to reflect…

I thought–as I made hot beef stew and gluten-free cornbread–about the hours I have spent in the kitchen this year. I love my kitchen, to me it represents nurturing. I cook and play here. I feed hungry bellies good, healthy food. I give life to the bones that live under my roof. Cooking has become such a powerful skill set with allergies and autoimmune deficiencies. I have seen the ability of food to bring illness or energy. I no longer underestimate the importance of food to our bodies. I have learned much this year in my kitchen.

A girl painting pastel colors onto birdhouse sections.
Adalie carefully painting the birdhouse.

I reflected as my daughter painted a bird house to help those little creatures through the winter. I thought of all the hours this year we have observed nature. How it never ceases to inspire awe. How it teaches me lesson after lesson when I tune in and listen. How it changes me, guides me, inspires me to be a better person. Every time I walk in to a quiet moment with nature, I never leave the same. I have learned much this year in the outdoors.

I laughed as we decorated crumbling sugar cookies. But even all falling apart, they were delicious with icing and sprinkles. And isn’t this the way of life? This year is probably one of the first in my life I didn’t have a “plan.” I ebbed and flowed with what came and went. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always beautiful. I have learned much this year in the everyday moments.

And I observed as we walked silently, except for the jingle of bells. A tradition started last year to teach my daughter how to walk quietly (you can’t be louder than the bells). I saw a

A man and a girl acting silly in the light of colorful Christmas lights.
Craig and Adalie before the meditative “jingle bell” walk.

husband that loves me endlessly with no reservation. I saw a little girl wild blond hair flowing behind her, free spirit growing inside her.

The absolute basis, for me, to all life is my connection to others and these two are my foundation.  I have learned so much this year from these relationships and so many others.

And as I sit here now, watching the glow of the Christmas tree and taking stock of my life. I realized something appalling… 2014 has been the best year of my life! In the past, I have always ended the year thinking, hoping, believing that next year “has to get better.”

For the first time that I can ever remember, I will end the year content with my life. While I am excited to see what 2015 holds, I am no longer desperate for it to change my world. I’m not sure if this is so much a reflection on my year or on myself, but either way–I’ll take it.

A platter of sugar cookies in assorted shapes.
Cookies make everything better.

Day #18

“Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
—Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

A cloud-speckled sunset over dormant trees, with a path to the left, leading off into the horizon.
We walk along and “shoot the breeze” and hold hands and just be…

The inevitable comes up… the future… our plans… what to do… who to be… finances… stability vs. dreams… confusion, angst, uncertainty…

We are dreamers! he and I… and I adore it about us. We go on long treks across the U.S. in an RV. We travel to Ireland at Christmas and China, just because. We own land and have a small hobby farm. We have successful online careers that allow us to come and go as we please… In our dreams

Some days it’s a burden on my bones. Because I talk of all the things we could do, should do, would do–and I become so discontent with where we are NOW.

I shake my head a little and we keep walking. I notice a cat and a sunset and a warm hand wrapped around mine. And for now, it is simply enough… until we dream again…A tabby cat looking mischieviously up from the bottom of a concrete drainage ditch in dusk lighting.

Day #10

An inflatible Christmas decoration which says the word Joy.Some days are fantastic–like birthdays and Christmas, vacation days and Saturdays, and then every once in while a fantastical day just sneaks up on you.

Today was one of those days:

  • Plans changed for the better, twice.
  • It was double-punch Tuesday so I got my coffee for free.
  • Lunch with my Love.
  • Appointments cancelled, which gave me free time to get caught up on paperwork.

… home cooked dinner, silly shows, a happy girl who went to bed without a fuss…

Yes, some days it just all seems to come together. It’s like the universe hands you a gift…

As we walked this evening, I thought cheerfully about the warmth of the day. But I also noticed an unconscious thought lurking in the corner of my mind–a small doubt and reservation about good days–and how even at the highest of highs it’s like we are waiting for it to vanish at best, trample us at worst. It makes it hard to really enjoy life when paranoia sets in.

“I’m eating healthy and clean.” But I’ll probably still die of some disease.

“I made some extra money.” But something will probably break down soon.

“He is such a gentleman.” But once he knows me it probably won’t last.

We generally set everything up to fail. We forget to ride the high, enjoy the joy, celebrate the happiness. It’s like we’re afraid that by wallowing in it we invite it to be taken away.

A yard filled with inflatible Christmas decorationsWe walked down a street and made it to the most crowded, silliest, over-the-top Christmas decorated yard I have ever seen. Front to back with blow-up decorations, lights, signs, and toys. And I thought, “This is what it looks like to hoard joy.” People don’t understand it; it costs too much, it’s potentially dangerous, it even seems a little crazy. The longer I stood there mesmerized by each Santa and snowman, reindeer and elf, the larger my smile grew. Joy abandon looks ridiculous, I think, because it embraces the good without tempering it with doubt.

I have no idea what will happen tomorrow or five years down the road, but I know my joy in today and today I’m hoarding joy.

Day #9

“Too much burden will halt your progress. Loosen up so that you can be swift.” –

Alissa Reddy, The Art of Mindfulness for Children

I watched her eyes well up with tears because Mistletoe did not come back this year… he sent a girl elf on the shelf instead. She had been begging for a “girl elf” for two Christmases.

The pain of letting go…

I watched her panic searching for her phone, her clipboard, her anything to take to her after school program as we are walking out the door for school. I encouraged her to breathe, to be creative, to think outside the box about what she could do this afternoon, instead.

The pain of letting go…

I watched her fall to pieces over the realization that her lunchbox sat happily at home on the couch. Even as I assured her I would go back and get it. Even as she nodded in agreement that it wasn’t a big deal.

She cried. Nothing about this morning had gone according to plan.

The pain of letting go…

It was wet and cold so I needed a new walking plan. Instead of my usual scenic route, I headed to the mall to do a lap. It was noisy and distracting and not at all my norm but I rolled with it. And as I did, I thought about my girl-baby and hoped her day was going better. I thought about her rigidness and anxiety that often flairs into panic and irritability. I have been reading a book about mindfulness for children and one of the goals taught is the art of “letting go” as defined by the author Alissa Reddy:

“Letting go entails leaving situations as they are and allowing events to unfold as they are supposed to.”

My beautiful strong princess is not good at this, but I wondered as I walked if I was so much better. Expectations often give way to disappointment, schedule often becomes law, and roles often box people in until they have no room to be themselves. I watch myself take life so seriously-over and over. There are chores to be done, mouths to be fed, money to be earned. I spin plates and plates until it is comical that I think it is achievable. Then, always, one little thing breaks or bobs or goes off kilter, and it all comes crashing down around me.

The pain of letting go…a child sleeping with a stuffed owl

Day #6

Life is too short to be too serious.

Sometimes you gotta let your hair down and dance.

image of shot glass on tableI lived so much of my life focused on the future. Everything for the eternal reward, the appearance of evil, the belief of everlasting. And I missed so much Joy in the process of serious living. Last night we walked downtown after having a few drinks at dinner with family. It was loud and bright and busy and fun. We experimented with flavors and types of beers (they had local brews and such). But we needed to walk before heading home so we enjoyed festive lights, cold breezes, pavement and old store fronts instead of our usual scenic nature walk. We joked and laughed and acted silly and danced.

It was fun.

Of all weakness, seriousness is mine. I tend to over-think, over-do, over-achieve. I like deep conversations, intellect, and meaning. But sometimes there is no meaning, no point to make, and honestly every achievement in my life has been a double-edged sword. We tend to sacrifice so much in the present for the hope of future reward. And that actually turns out to be pretty counterproductive in most instances.

In my first marriage, I feel this was my greatest downfall. I focused so much on the future and setting us up for success — 10, 20, 50 years down the road. But I mostly forgot to love that day with him. My focus was ministry, career, school, and even marriage but I was so worried about doing everything “right” that I forgot to enjoy the doing at all. And I learned that lesson when my marriage crumbled and the smoke and mirrors of my identity were torn away.

And when I got the opportunity to be with my Love (now husband), I repeated two mantras to myself:

1. Don’t worry about tomorrow with him; enjoy today and trust the process.

2. Always choose to move toward him… physically, emotionally, etc.

Almost three years in, this has worked so much better… we have goals and hopes and plans but we don’t get hung up on them. And man do we have fun… every single day… and this is the best gift I have ever given myself.

I live one hundred pounds lighter, one thousand times brighter, and with every part of me. I want to never chose not to be all of me again. To only have a fraction of myself thriving was unacceptable.

I promise myself as I walk amongst the Christmas lights: “I will always choose my brightest.” large lighted christmas tree