Tag Archive | joy

The month where it seemed as though nothing went right.

Where have I been, you ask?  Maybe you have not asked, but I sure have.  I am right here, waving at all of you!  This has been the month where it has seemed as though nothing has gone right, and I am still recovering.  Actually, it began before Christmas, but who is counting, anyway?  I haven’t written in many weeks and yes, as much as I have been dying to do so, it feels as if there is just so much emotion that has been trapped inside of me I am afraid I just might blow to bits, or cry.  It will likely be the latter, so you can all relax now a bit.  I still have not entirely pinpointed what caused this disturbance in its entirety, but that is probably because it was just a myriad of “one thing after another.”

Prior to, and during the Christmas holidays, every plan that took me weeks to construct seemed to fall apart within a minute’s time, and need to be reconstructed in even less time.  Visitation schedules were confused.  When you are working to two former spouses, and seven kids, it is hard to begin with to get everyone in one place at one time.  Things just kept changing and changing and changing, and while I am so much better now at rolling with the punches than I used to be, I felt as if I were rolling, and ducking, and jumping, and side stepping, and having to give up a lot in the process.

My Christmas Kid

My Christmas Kid

Many things simply did not happen, or if they did happen, I had to let a lot go just to get it done.  As much as I loved having all of my kids home, and as much as many, many good things did happen, like my younger daughter getting engaged on Christmas Day, and wedding dress shopping with my two girls the day after, I was dizzy from all of the rolling and I felt that everything was helter skelter.  I felt that I had lost control…the control that I wanted, anyway.  I could not find my joy.  Looking back, I think that I had lost it somewhere even prior to all of the going with the flow.  I still feel sad looking back, as if I missed an event that I had attended.

After New Year’s, my little man returned to school for a couple of days and I looked forward to life returning to normal, whatever that is around here.  The following Monday, he came home with a bad sore throat and by Thursday night, I had fallen ill.  This was no ordinary cold.  Nope, this was an honest to goodness siege of influenza that had befallen us, causing him to miss more than a week of school, and causing me to miss more that a week of work.  No work, no money.  No money, no way to pay the rent or bills.   We had suddenly become like lepers trapped in our own little germ filled colony.  No one wanted to be anywhere near us, and I do not blame them.  I didn’t really want to be anywhere near us, either.  I totally lost whatever good humor I had and I was a less than delightful person to be around.  As is so often the case, the little man was starting to feel better just when I was at my worst.  Visitations with his Dad were cancelled, ah, but we finally made it back to school and work, only to have me relapse with a bronchitis/asthma thing.

Add to all of this snow, and bitter cold, and school holiday, and teacher work days, and a car misbehaving, gastroenteritis this past weekend, and more missed visitation, my computer broken down for over a week, and finally on Monday, my car broke down.  That is what it has been like day after day and it has been hard and draining and then some.  Every day, I would pray, and every day I would try to find my gratitude–to count my blessings, but my blessings felt limp in my hands.  I knew that I had so much to be grateful for, but trying to hold onto the gratitude was like trying to get a tight grip on a handful of Jello.  I felt awful for not feeling grateful.  I felt lonely, too, as well as sleepy, dopey, and grumpy.

Today, I am not working because my road is an ice slick.  I will work tomorrow and I dearly needed this day to find perspective.  At no point during any of this was I ever truly alone.  I have God, my family, and my wonderful friends. My rent did not magically pay itself.  My rent got paid because of many kind, wonderful, and generous friends around the world.  I have never met most of them in person.  One of my son’s took care of my electric bill.  My first ex-husband got us an Omaha steak gift pack at Christmas that gave us a lovely New Years dinner and many breaks from pasta.  My beloved probation officer and friend has put me in touch with a woman who runs a counseling service and she is pursuing me for a job as a case worker, working with people with substance abuse issues, and coming out of incarceration situations.  It is a dream job if it works out, and as my P.O. said, “You know, I don’t just do this kind of thing for just anyone.”  Oh, yes, I DO know that!

When my car broke down on Monday, a friend was a phone call away and there to pick me up in 10 minutes.  I had AAA within the hour, and my car was towed home within two.  A friend is coming over to fix it this weekend, and my son fixed my computer.  I am loved.  I am so well-loved that it is crazy and now tears of joy and gratitude are rolling down my face.  I do not know why I could not see this, or feel it sooner, but I think it has a lot to do with not being able to write.

I get my footing back when I write.  I find my hidden emotions and bring them out into the light when I write.  Something overtakes me, and the blur of life totally disappears and it is just me and God when I write, and when I write, even if my hands may tremble, and my eyes may cloud over with tears, obscuring my earthy vision, I see much better when I write.  I may have to stop at times to let out a long-held sob, pain mixed with joy and hope, but I find release when I write.  I find hope, and joy, and gratitude when I write.

I need always to write.

My Life is an Embarrassment of Riches

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the past day or two, and it has been a rather eye-opening experience.  (Yes, that is all of the smoke you have been seeing—my brain is smokin 😉 While I have known what I am about to tell you for a while, today I am feeling it all very intensely.  Sometimes it takes a while for important tidbits of information to make the long trek from my head all the way down to my heart.   As much as I am a true “feeler,” I am also highly intellectual, so I can intellectualize a lot of things for years before I actually feel, believe, and know them at the heart level.  I am having a full heart day today.

Today, I am feeling absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude, and love, and pure joy that is simply bubbling out all over the place.  I have the best life in the whole, wide, world.  I know that sounds rather cocky, but it is true.  For me, I have the best life I have ever had.  I am the most blessed person that I know, and I am also the most blessed woman alive today.  Again, I am fully aware of the cockiness of these statements, but for me, they are so inherently true that I literally ache inside with happiness and joy.

Look at that glorious sunrise! Look at those than less than stellar picture-taking skills!

I got out of prison, after a six month stay, on September 15, 2011, so it has been a little over a year now since my release.  While it became very apparent to me while I was in prison that the reason I had to go there had little to do with me, but something much greater that God had in mind, there was still a lot of fear and trepidation coming out of the prison doors.  On one hand I firmly knew that the rest of my life was going to be the very best of my life, and that was very exciting.  Over on the other hand, though, there was a lot of trembling going on.  I was walking out to a child and a car that I could not drive yet and a bag of clothing.

I had a place to stay with some lovely people, but I was technically homeless and penniless.  I was also walking out into the middle of a very yucky divorce and custody battle.  That was a very scary place to be.  I was not especially helpful to open the trunk of my car to get into some non-prison clothing only to find that mice had taken up residence in my car over the time I was away, and much of my clothing was ruined.  I have never cared for mice and this did nothing to change my opinion of them, I can tell you.  I craved a place to call home, but how would that happen?

I will tell you how that happened.  My adult children, anticipating my need, all pitched in and suddenly I was far from penniless.  I had enough money to find a place to live and to get some essentials, to boot.  No mother wants to take money from their adult children, but I knew that this was something that they wanted to do for me badly and it was my job to humble myself enough to accept their gifts.  Before I had even been out of prison a week, I had secured the perfect place for my son and I to live, with landlords that have been nothing but kind to me, even knowing my background fully.

Home!!

I realized this morning, as I prepare to sign the lease for another year, that we have been here now for a little over a year, with another year in front of us.  That is the longest we have lived in any one place since we left my marriage, and the house of horrors.  Do you know how good that feels—to have a home?  It feels absolutely wonderful, that is how it feels!  It also feels absolutely wonderful to know that in the three years since we left, we have never been cold, have always had running water, and a fully functional bathroom, and we have had those things every day since we left.  We had not had those things for a very long time prior to that.  That feels super fantastic, too, as does not having had to do a single load of laundry in the kitchen sink.  Last year, I got many random firewood drops from people just because they could, and they cared.  I was beginning to see that coming out of prison has not made my world smaller, it had made my life become much bigger than it had been in decades.

I had employment cleaning houses almost immediately thanks to a friend and word of mouth.  My writing career, which I thought would disappear while I was in prison, had only grown, expanded, and gotten better.  We have not wanted for one single thing in the past year.  New people to love and care for us were entering our lives at an amazing rate.  These are people who I can call at 2 a.m. for any reason, and sometimes I had to do that due to my inability to drive for 9 months after my release.  The people who I work for were more than happy to pick me up so that I could clean for them, but more than that, they we also happy to take me to the grocery store, or ER with a sick child, or anywhere else we needed to go.  My son now has many surrogate grandparents who adore him and spoil him and treat me like their own child, too.  Love was, and is, everywhere, and that is an intense feeling in the best possible way.

The whole fam-dam-ily, Christmas 2011

I had all seven of my children with me last Christmas.  I think it was the best Christmas of my entire life.  I will have all seven children home this Christmas, too, plus my new son-in-law, who I love.  I get all weepy just remembering seeing them all walk in the door last year.  I got all weepy then, too.  I love them so much, and they are the best children on the planet.  Smart, accomplished, yes, but much more importantly, they are kind, loving, generous, and funny as all get out!  They are all also safe after Hurricane Sandy, and all I can say to that is Thank you, God!  I love you so much!

My lovely daughter and her husband.

My oldest daughter got married last summer.  She was the most beautiful bride in the history of mankind.  Her wedding will go down in history as the most perfect, fairytale, wedding the world has even seen, and she did it all on a tight budget, too!  My son-in-law is the best son-in-law any woman has ever had, or ever will have—that is until my younger daughter gets married, then I will have the two best sons-in-law God ever created.  The wedding was a blast, and another chance to have all seven of my kids all in one place.

Don’t bug me! I am on vacation!

My little boy and I had a three-day vacation at the beach this summer.  It was a gift to us from one of the women I clean for who owns a little cottage with the most spectacular view in all of  Maine.  It was the best, and first, vacation he and I have ever had together.  We caught tons and tons of crabs who promptly ran back into the water, but when you are seven years old, that just never gets old.

Last night, I took my little zombie trick-or-treating.  There was no random, pick a neighborhood and go there, element about it this year.  We had many stops to make and we had many people we had to see—people who would have been so disappointed if a zombie had not shown up at their doorstep, or their floor at the hospital.  When you are a kid with a ton of surrogate grandparents, you get some surrogate older siblings to stand in for the siblings who are not around to go with you on Halloween.  Life just gets richer and bigger and swells with so much love that I feel like I might burst right open.

Be very afraid!!

Best of all, among all of the glorious, wonderful, fabulous things I see, I see one very happy child.  I see a child who has been through so much in his little life and he has triumphed over it all at the tender age of seven.  It was a hard-fought battle, but everyone sees the triumph now.  His principal at school sees it and tells me how happy he is this year.  He comes skipping off of the bus every day.  He is making friends.  He tells me all of the time now that he loves life.  I think he had the best Halloween of his life last night.

One very happy zombie!!

Last year at this time, I was still very much getting back on my feet.  I did not know what the world would think of a woman who had just gotten out of prison.  I started learning quite quickly that, amazingly, the world could and would think no less of me.  In fact, my world has grown in ways words cannot express, all because I went to prison.  Soon after I got out, I wrote a three-part series for Yahoo! Shine! about my prison experience.  I wrote it fearlessly, as if called to do so.  However, when I shared the first article, the fear did hit, for as many people who knew where I had been for those six months, there were many more who had no idea where I had been.

I did not know how all of those friends would react.  Those people who did not know read that article, and rather than turning away from me, I was hit with a love avalanche unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life…love and admiration.  I think it goes without saying that I have the best friends and family in the entire universe, and more and more keep coming!  The avalanche never ends, but who would want a love avalanche to end, anyway?

Once or twice in the last year, I have had someone who is just getting to know me say something like, “Oh, what a terribly tragic life you have had!”  When I have heard this, inside I was shouting, “Oh, pah-leeze!”  My life is not tragic—not one bit.  I have had some pretty intense life experiences, but God has taken each and every one of those experiences and He has woven them into something magnificent.  My life is an embarrassment of riches, and I would not trade a single one of those crummy experiences for anything in the world.  If that is what it took to get me where I am today, then all I can say again is, “Thank you so much, Lord!  I love you for everything!”

I am the single most blessed woman alive.  You can try to fight me for the rights to that title, but I am not giving it up!  I worked hard to earn that title.  In my world, I am the most blessed woman alive. You can be the most blessed person in your world, and I hope and pray that you are!  You earned that title, too!

Joel 2:25-26

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm[a]
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.

Following your own path–How to be a socially acceptable non-conformist

Part of being an inspirational page owner on Facebook, for me anyway, is trying to convince people that they can become authentic and they will still be loved.  It means sending out messages, often in poster form, encouraging people away from that life of quiet desperation and towards a life of their own making, full of love, joy, and happiness.  I work very hard to plant seeds that give people permission to be themselves even if it means not totally conforming to what most of us seem to think society wants from us.  I am hoping to let people know that you can become a socially acceptable non-conformist, but few people seem to trust that.

Follow the road only you know exists.

I often hear, “I would love to do this, but…,” or, “I wish I could do that, but…”  These statements are always followed by why they cannot do this, that, or the other thing, and in the end if comes down to their fear of bucking what society and the media feeds us, telling us all what we should be doing, and wanting, and attaining.  It would seem that we are all supposed to be working ourselves into the ground, squeezing our families in when we can, and most definitely, we should be trying to please everyone even if it means denying ourselves.  I used to buy into that, too.  In fact, I owned the company.  I cannot buy into it anymore and I so wish that more people understood that life is all about choices, and we DO have them in nearly every part of our lives.  The real question is, are we willing—are we brave enough to make choices that others might not agree with, or see as a little too different to fit into their comfort zones?  Are YOU brave enough, if you are living a life of quiet desperation, to make serious changes, and not to follow the pack?

I have a friend who is in her mid 70’s and I do not think she has ever known real happiness and contentment.  She worked herself silly as a younger woman and stayed in a marriage that made her miserable.  She lives in a large, gorgeous, home that is decorated within an inch of its life.  You cannot find a single surface, floor included, where there is not some piece of brick-a-brack every six inches.  Her deck has lovely patio furniture with cushions that must be brought inside every time there is a threat of rain, and under the patio furniture are rugs that get soaked when it does rain.  She is constantly on the go, doing for others at the drop of a hat, never able to relax, or just to say “no.”

If she leaves the house without being well dressed and in full make-up, she worries that people will talk about her behind her back.  When she entertains, even a barbecue, no one can relax because she cannot relax.  She has a grandson who is an absolutely wonderful, kind, giving, and grounded young man and of him she says, “Yes, but he’ll never be rich.  Not enough ambition.”  What must I look like to her, I wonder?  I wonder, but the thing is, I do not care.

She looks tired or scared a lot of the time, and every night she drinks too much.  I know at this point in life chances of her changing are slim, but how I would love to see her relax and just find the joy in herself and in life.  I would love to see her just plain happy, and yet, I used to be just like her.  I was constantly on the go, chairing this committee, or that one, or serving on this board, or that one, or more often, all of them. At the same time, I was raising a lot of very young children, and married to a surgeon which meant frequent entertaining, and when I entertained, my goal was to out do those who had gone before me.

I had to be the best at everything and as much as I truly cared about all of the things that I was doing, the reason I was doing them was to feel better about myself.  I had been raised with the notion that perfection was the only acceptable result, and I constantly missed the mark.  It got to the point, shortly before we moved from the community in which I was the go-to person for most everything, where I was out of steam completely, but found myself yelling at my husband who had already moved, “I will not leave this town with anyone thinking I am anything less than perfect!”  He had suggested I drop a thing or two and I could not conceive of doing that.  And just like my friend, I drank every night after I got the kids to bed to ease the pain of another day of being less than perfect.

Of course, that desire to be perfect was a swell cover for many pains that were far deeper, and in the end, that drive to be perfect took me into some places darker than black, and deeper than any bottomless pit, and it very nearly killed me.  However, I had to be knocked down more than a few times before I became willing to make changes in myself, and how I lived, and to be true to myself, and my temperament, and to get to the core of the pain I was hiding from with the need to appear perfect, and the drinking, and the excessive activity.  It took a lot of work, and massive amounts of courage, and a real commitment, and a long, damn, time, but I have found a place where I fully accept myself and am happy in my own skin.  When you get to that place, anything is possible, but far fewer things seem attractive, necessary, or even close to acceptable.

It is no longer attractive to me to pursue perfection.  I would be lying if I said I was totally over the need to be perfect.  The word perfect is one of my favorite words to hear, especially when it comes to my cooking, or writing.  However, I can now easily accept the phrases, “very good,” and “nicely done.”  Before, those would have been seen as insults.  I no longer find it necessary to please everyone to the exclusion of myself, nor is it necessary to say yes to every opportunity that is offered to me.  I derive my sense of self-worth from within—from God and from how I operate in this world.  It is no longer acceptable to me to strive beyond what is healthy for me, nor is it acceptable to have things I do not need, buy things I cannot afford, live somewhere that is far too big, or act like I am anyone but me–the genuine, essential, flawed, imperfect, happy, joyful, me.

Some may view me as lazy.  I know that I am anything but lazy.  Some may think that I need to acquire more things, or have more of what people think that everyone needs, like cable TV, for instance.  I do not want or need cable TV, nor does my son need anymore exposure to vile programs or inappropriate media stories than he already gets other places.  I do not need anymore things, or shoes to match this, or a handbag to go with that.  I now know exactly what I need and that is God, to love my family and friends, to work to pay the bills, and to write to honor God and the gift He has given me.  I have goals for the future that I pray will be a blessing to many, and dreams that I know I will see fulfilled.  God did not create me to be perfect, or run myself ragged in the pursuit of an illusion, or to deny myself and what He has placed in me.  Add a bit of solitude and quiet and my life could not be better.

I live a life so simple and honest that it is hard for many not to see it lacking in some way.  Yet, I know from what they tell me, that they want the same things.  It is just too scary.  The path to get there just looks too scary to take.  I had to go very far inside myself to find my path and it is only the right path for me.  Today, I encourage you to be brave enough to find your own unique path, even if it does not conform to what society wants for you.  Have the courage to go deep enough inside yourself to know who you are and what you really want and be willing to get rid of all of the rest, even if it hurts.  I encourage you towards a life of simplicity, joy, peace, and genuine happiness.  How badly do you want it is the real question?

Taking time to acknowledge the past in order to truly celebrate the now.

The past week or two I have been a little out of sorts.  I could feel something within me that needed to be birthed, but I could not put my finger on it.  It has been a busy summer, full of lots of fun activities, and plenty of work, too.  I have been feeling tired, not in a physical way, but in an emotional way.  Because there has not been a lot of time to think, or write my way out of whatever it was, I felt stuck.  Last night, it finally dawned on me.  The last few years, or more honestly, the last decade has been a really tough one, and while I have made it through to the other side and into a comfortable way of living, and loving others, and myself, I realized I had done what I have always done.  I got through everything the Walt Disney way–“Keep moving forward.”  When I stopped to look at everything that I had been holding inside of me it became abundantly clear that I had every right to be fully exhausted.

From childhood, it has been my habit to keep moving forward, making my way from one trauma to the next, with varying degrees of success, without ever really taking the time to stop and acknowledge what I have been through.  I can stay it out loud, and know it intellectually, but all of that is done quickly, sweeping the dirt under the rug so that I do not have to see it anymore, or feel it.  I clean houses for a living and I never sweep dirt under the rug when I clean a house, but I am the master of sweeping my own feelings under the rug, and moving on as if whatever it was had never happened.  It has been a survival mechanism for me, but it has left me weary.

Certainly, there are benefits to going through life this way.  I have had to start over many times, and move beyond some pretty huge things that might waylay many people for a very long time.  I bounce back up from every knock that life gives me with the resilience of one of those blow up clowns weighted with sand at the base.  You can punch them and punch them and punch them and they just spring right back up, seemingly indestructible.  So, I bounce back up, I let go, I move forward, and I also pretend like nothing bad ever happened.  I never take the time to honor the battle I have fought, feel the pain I carried silently throughout, or acknowledge that I have every right to be tired, or hurt, or angry, or sad.

I know now that I will continue to be tired until I allow each trial to be fully seen, felt, and honored for what it was at the time for me, and what gifts and lessons I gained from each hurt, and difficult experience.  To continually deny all of the exceptionally hard experiences of the past decade is to deny a huge part of myself, because it has been those experiences that have brought me to the happiness and joy I have today.  Through those pains and knocks, I learned to love myself, and to love and rely on God in a much deeper way.

My little boy is helping me to learn how to do this honoring in order to truly and fully release and heal.  The child has a memory that is truly amazing, and so much of what he remembers are thing I would prefer under the rug.  He has been speaking frequently of our dog, Tanner, who we left when we left the “blue house,” the house of horrors, and my marriage to the sociopath.  Tanner was not a young dog, and I imagine Tanner is no longer alive.  I have no idea what my ex-husband did with him, but my son wants to talk about Tanner and about all of the other animals he loved on our farm.  It hurts me so much, and far too deeply to think about what may have happened to the animals we left behind, but do it I must now.

After I found half of our herd dead, and piled in heaps in a barn the winter before we got out, I shut down.  Twenty-five or more animals starved to death, all the while I was being told they were “fine.”  I will never really know what happened to those animals, and I thought I had shielded my son better, but he remembers so much, and now, three years later, he wants to talk about it.  He needs to talk about it because he has been carrying the horror of all of that around for three years in his little seven year old body.  At first, I was inclined to change the subject when my serious little boy brought awful memories up, but now I let him talk—we talk about it.

He is a much different child now than he was when we left three years ago.  He is far more relaxed, and he is extremely resilient.   He feels things very deeply, and now he needs to talk about those feelings, and as he finally does, there is less of what little anger he has had left every day.  He is letting go the right way, and I will not hinder that process anymore by not being brave enough to feel the hurt myself.  I will not teach him to sweep things under the carpet.  Together we are learning to bring the dirt out into the light so that we can sweep it away for good.  He is a brilliant teacher and a very kind and caring soul, wise way beyond his years.

So now I must stop, and look at it all, and give it all due space and honor and light—the dirt.  I have to feel the hot tears rolling down my cheeks as I think of the awfulness of my drinking, and the arrests and jail time and the time away from my older children, now grown.  I have to feel the pain of the relapses, and the rehabs, and the halfway house.  I have to look at my marriage and the abuse we endure for far too long.  I have to honor the time I spent in prison, having to leave my little boy for six months, and the sadness that brought me, which I hid from.  I have to feel the weight of rebuilding a life from the ground up in the last year, single parenthood, and surviving the mother of all nasty, long, drawn out divorces and custody battles.

I have to feel that crushing pain and heaviness in my chest…the full weight and size of it–and I have to feel the hurt, and the anger, and the sadness.  It has been in there for years now, slowly pushing its way up to the surface.  Now that it is bursting out of me like hot lava flowing out of a long dormant volcano I can already feel the release of pressure.  I have no plans to wallow, but I have no choice but to let it flow.  The flow is all of the pus from wounds suffered but never treated properly.  I am finally really healing and so I am going to treat myself like someone who needs quite a lot of tenderness and care for a bit.  I want to make sure all of the dirt gets swept out for good this time.  If I need someone to talk to so I do not impede my own healing process, I know where to go.

As happy as I have been in recent years, it has not been complete and now I know why.  It is impossible to relax fully into joy and contentment and authenticity while you continue to deny a part of yourself.  I am on my way now to a higher level of all around health and happiness.  No more dirt under the rug for me.  Yesterday, I took my serious, yet wacky, son to the playground.  He sailed down one slide, landed on his feet at the bottom, threw open is arms and shouted, “I love life!”  Do you know how long I have been waiting to hear him say those words–to just feel unbridled joy?

I hugged him hard and kissed him.  Then I said, “You know what?  I love life, too, and I love you!”  It is all true.  I do love life and I know for a fact that were it not for all of that dirt that has scared me so, I would not know the happiness that I do now.  The dirt has served its purpose now.  I stand, with broom in hand, ready to sweep it out as it continues to unearth itself.  A clean start, and cleaner, lighter, fuller heart.  We are really healing this time and we are doing it together.  Yes, I love life!

Living in the moment–a harsh reminder.

Monday on my Facebook page my theme was living in the moment.  Living in the moment is something we should all aspire to be better at, but every day life can be so distracting.  I try my best to live in the moment and fail often, and some days it is just plain easier to be in the moment throughout the day than others.  Yet I keep on trying to get to a place where I live in the moment every day, and cherish each moment in a day without labeling them good or bad, but instead precious and a gift.

On Monday morning I had said that we should cherish each moment because this one single moment is all we are guaranteed.  I meant that sincerely and I believed it fully.  However it was said and meant from a purely intellectual standpoint.  Intellectually, I believe that being fully present for each moment and being thankful for every moment in each day is the most fruitful way to live.  I do believe that with all of my brain.

It wasn’t until that evening that I understood what it meant to believe it and feel it with all of my heart and soul.  The feeling was extremely poignant and painful and very necessary to get the concept of living fully in the moment from my head down into my heart.  On Monday night I learned that a dear friend from high school and college had been killed instantly that morning when the car she was driving was struck head on by another vehicle when the other driver entered a roundabout going the wrong way.

One moment she was alive and well with so much to look forward to and one single moment later she was gone from life here on earth, and from the world’s of all of those of us who cared about her.  I don’t believe that she had even a split second to know what was coming, and for that I am extremely grateful.  She was a lovely woman who married her high school sweetheart and stayed married to him.  I sang at their wedding.  She had two daughters, one expecting her first baby and the other just having graduated from high school.  She loved the Lord so she is safe in God’s arms now and that is what brings so many of us comfort in spite of the pain.  We all are praying her family.

It is human nature to wish away painful or unpleasant moments.  Often we wish away entire days and weeks.  “I cannot wait for this day to end!” or “Is this week ever going to end”?  Don’t ever wish away a single minute, because we just do not know how many minutes we get in this life.  I know that it is hard to be thankful for each moment and day when times are tough, but there is always something to be grateful for, even on days that feel miserable.

The people in my life know how much I love them.  I tell them a lot–every time I see them or talk to them– because I’ve had that intellectual knowing of lack of permanence for a long time and I never wanted one single “I love you” left unsaid.  I dislike unresolved conflicts for the same reason.  But there have been times in my life when I have though, “I’d be so happy if I never had to see that person again.”  At the time I meant that also, but time does have its way of healing and now I’d be devastated to see those people gone.  It’s unfortunate that there are one or two people now that I often feel that way about now, because at one point I cared very deeply for one of them.  I am working on that with efforts redoubled now towards forgiveness and letting go fully.

My sister has a friend who is a very caring man and when you are around him you feel that.  On one occasion he told me that his motto was, “Wherever you are, be all there.”  I think he succeeds at that, and it is truly excellent advice.  In the midst of this week that has felt like one giant roller coaster ride I am working very hard to take his advice and be all there wherever I am, and with whomever I am around.  I am so much better living in the moment now than I was in my youth, but I have a long way to go.   I am committed to cherishing every moment in my heart and my head because those moments become memories for everyone involved and at some point memories are all that we are left with.  Go make some good memories today.

Celebrating life every day

Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!

 Amanda Bradley quotes

Today I am celebrating life because life is good every day, and God is good every day.  As a culture, we tend to wait for a holiday or a certain event to feel as if we are allowed to celebrate, but this way of thinking robs us of the opportunity to celebrate every single day.  We need to give ourselves permission to find cause to celebrate each day no matter the date, or the reason.

Perhaps you are thinking right now that there is no real reason to celebrate–that you have nothing worth celebrating.  That sort of thinking usually stems from a lack of gratitude for the miracles present in each moment of life.  It can take practice to develop an attitude of gratitude, but it is something that will change your world, and your view of life in general.  Even on a day filled with annoyances, distractions, and unfortunate events, there are things for which you can be truly grateful.  Start small by making a list of five things that you are grateful for and do this every day.  Over time you will find that your list begins to grow and then it will grow again some more.  Look around you, wherever you go, specifically searching for often unseen things to dazzle and amaze you.  As you begin to notice more, your gratitude will increase yet again, and as your gratitude increases, so will your desire to celebrate life daily.

Certainly, there are many conscious choices that you will need to make if you are not in the habit of celebrating life.  Deciding to feel grateful is one of them, and deciding to be responsible for your own happiness is another choice you will need to make.  You will have to choose to slow down and look around.  You will have to choose to begin to work towards becoming someone who sees the positives in life more than you see the negatives.  You are going to have to let go of grudges, and complaining, and blaming, and feeling sorry for yourself.  Those are big choices filled with huge responsibility to yourself, and others, and it will take work.  Begin by believing that, step by step, you can do it.  Choose not to get discouraged, or berate yourself if you have to keep starting over.  Just begin again and keep moving forward.

As you make headway with these thought changes you will find that you will begin to celebrate life without having to force yourself to do it.  Sometimes you will find yourself swept over by random gratitude waves so big they nearly wash you away.  You will feel joy and wonder for reasons others cannot quite comprehend.  Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.  Go on and celebrate anyway!

What does celebrating life look like in practice?  That will differ for each individual, so be creative and follow your heart in how you celebrate.  As you become a happier, more grateful, and celebratory person, do not hide your sparkle and shine, not that you really will be able to hide it.  Imagine what a gift you are giving your family and friends with your new way of life!  Think of the many excellent and valuable lessons you are teaching your children each time you dance with them for no reason, or bake cupcakes just because it’s Friday, or watch a special movie together just because you are so happy to be with them.  Your personal changes will have a huge ripple effect on the people around you, and you will find more and more to celebrate effortlessly, and so will the people around you.

For me a celebration can be as simple as painting my nails, or watching a movie, or dancing in my living room with my son, or outside under the stars by myself.  It may mean making a nice meal, or baking cookies, or cupcakes, or counting Lady Slipper’s as I walk up my hill.  I counted 43 yesterday.  I think that is cause for celebrating life, and I am doing that today, all day.  How will you celebrate this amazing life that you have been given today?  When you think about it, there is no reason not to celebrate!

The theory of enough–The (sweetened) condensed version

There is a theory out there that is known as the theory of enough.  The theory of enough basically says that if you have enough that is all that you need, no more, no less.  The Amish practice the theory of enough and it is the basis for a life of simplicity, which I believe is something that could be practiced a whole lot more in our world.  Unfortunately, few of us believe that having enough is really enough.  We always seem to want more.  In countries like America, we have so much few of us have any idea what enough even is in reality.  It has been said that people will strive for more, and getting more will go on to desire even more.  Yet, once they lose it all, they will finally realize that a little was more than enough. That statement is entirely true, or it has been for me.  I am someone who lost it all—what most people would define as “all,” meaning possessions, reputation, and even my freedom.

It was when I had nothing, by society’s standards anyway, that I came to a realization.  I realized that I had my integrity with God, and I had my integrity with myself, and integrity within my personal relationships, and once I knew that one thing, I suddenly realized that I had everything that I needed for a happy and successful life.  I had more than enough, and I had always had more than enough, even at the lowest points in my life. I was loved.

But how does a person even begin to understand enough without losing everything?  Begin by asking yourself if you’ve had enough to eat today—maybe even too much.  Every minute, it is estimated that 15 people in the world die of starvation.  That is around 50,000 people a day, many of them children.  If you had enough to eat today you are blessed, and if there is food for tomorrow and the next day and the next day, then you have more than enough.  I have more than enough food.  I am blessed.  I also chronically cook too much, so I share with others.  I was raised to always cook more than enough in case someone dropped by, then I went on to raise a large family.  I cannot cook for two, so I share my extras.  Since I live a very simple life, it is what I have to give to others, and it is always appreciated.

Do you have a roof over your head, even if it leaks, or you think your house is too small, or it is in the wrong neighborhood?  In the United States there are over 600,000 people who are homeless, and that includes many, many families with children.  If you have a home and food and clothes on your back, even if they aren’t the latest style, you have enough.  Most of us have more than enough clothes, and shoes, and toys, and books, and stuff.  So much so that we have to work harder to buy bigger houses to store all of our stuff.  As a result, most of us have way more than enough stress in our lives, so we eat too much, or drink too much to try and cope with having to keep up with keeping up.

Now, lest you think I am going to tell you to sell all of your stuff and go live in a little cottage in the woods because if you don’t you are a greedy, selfish, glutton, or you are thinking that I have never had anything more than a little cottage in the woods so I have no idea what I am talking about when it comes to the greatness of having lots of stuff, let me tell you that I have lived on both ends of the spectrum.

My first husband is a surgeon.  He made a lot of money. He probably still does 😉 We lived in a 4500 square foot house filled with expensive furniture, and knick knacks, and doodads, and a very expensive Victoria art glass collection.  I had lots of lovely jewelry, mostly diamonds, and we had nice cars.  In my second marriage, for reasons I cannot fully comprehend, we lived in abject poverty, with no heat in the winter, no working bathroom, no washing machine, and in the end, no running water.  At one point, I had one pair of pants to my name that I had to wash by hand in the sink every few days.  I have truly looked at life from both sides now…  There is a middle ground in there.  There is a balance we can reach and it is called enough.

Not only do not think that we have enough, at the very root of it, we do not think that we are enough.  We are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough, thin enough, liked enough, and the list goes on and on.  We wouldn’t have a “not enough” list if we didn’t compare ourselves to others so much, but we do it relentlessly.  Our eyes are always focused on others, and the exterior things in life.  This draws us right into the cycle of striving harder to have more because certainly you will finally be enough if you have more cool clothes, or drive a nicer car, or have a bigger house, or get thinner, or work harder, and have more fancy stuff right?  Wrong!

You will be enough when you look inside of yourself and decide that you are enough already.  You will realize that you are enough when you stop comparing yourself to others and begin to love yourself for who you are now.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t, and shouldn’t, make improvements if they are needed, but knowing that you are enough will give you the strength and courage to make those changes.  Once you realize that you are enough, some truly amazing things will happen.  You won’t be so busy looking around at everyone else, comparing yourself to them.  That will free your eye, heart, and mind up enough to look around you and see all of the people in your life who love you for who you are, and you will have relaxed enough to love them far better, and more honestly.

As time goes on, you will also begin to know that you have more than enough and you may reset some priorities.  You will worry a lot less, and care about others a whole lot more.  You will begin to take notice of all of the people who really do not have enough in their lives, be it food, housing, clean water, clothing, love, or attention, and you will want to reach out and share with those who do not have enough because suddenly your life has become an embarrassment of riches.

Your world will become much bigger, and far more colorful, and happy, and filled with joy.  Life will simply feel lighter and less burdensome.  You won’t need as much from the outside because you will be at peace on the inside.  You will be enough, and have enough every day, and love enough every chance you get.  You will live in the moment, because each moment we are given to love God, and ourselves, and others will become a precious gift.  Isn’t that really the heart of enough?