Saturday, July 30, 2011

Forgiveness: Five Sentences—July 30, 2011

Perceived faults, unkind words, and dark deeds of the past too often spring to the forefront of my memory. I wish memory were more of a blessing and brought only the happiest times to mind. Can I remember and refocus on one kind act or positive aspect involving someone who haunts my past? Can I emphasize that kindness until my perception and my primary memories are the happiest ones? Can I change the focus of some memories by forgiving and remembering, rather than forgiving and forgetting? 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Forgiveness: Four Sentences—July 29, 2011

Keys unlock doors, solve puzzles, open electric circuits, and even symbolize love when someone holds the key to our heart. Each time I use a key to unlock a door, can I use that key to remind me to forgive? Can I use the symbolism of the key to open myself to the lightness inherent in an unlocked heart? Today, and in future days, as my key turns the tumblers in the lock, I will say, “I open my heart to forgive.”

It’s Called the Week-End for a Reason

Dusk moves in late Friday afternoon. The sun’s rays fade from golden to pink, palest orange, and lavender as it sets in the western sky. Cooler air signaling day’s end brushes lightly against our skin. Sweet relief—even if momentary—tiptoes into our work-weary psyches.
In spite of the overgrown lawn, overfull laundry hamper, handprints on the walls, sandy kitchen floor, and piles of paperwork, it’s important to remember that the week has ended.
During the next two days, can you join me and create a time for yourself, for your family, and for your friends to relax, rest, and renew your body, mind, and spirit?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Forgiveness: Three Sentences—July 28, 2011

Hands that continue to be held for years and years must have offered forgiveness countless times. How would my life look if I offer my hands in forgiveness countless times? I open my hands and heart to forgiveness today.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Forgiveness: Two Sentences — July 27, 2011

Judgment is an activity for which I need no additional practice. Forgiveness, however, merits my attention and practice until I embrace it with comfort, joy, ease, and grace.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Forgiveness: One Sentence -- July 26, 2011

I wish I were as quick to forgive as I am to judge.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tired? You Are Not Alone

Tired? I'm Tired. She's Tired. He's Tired. We Are All Tired.

Put It on the To-Do List: Time for Rest and Renewal

Tired to the bone. Weary. Beat. Exhausted. Worn out. I’m tired. She’s tired. He’s tired. We’re all tired. The clock ticks within each of us. I wake at 6—or earlier—and often feel like I’m shot through a cannon as soon as I hop out of bed. The to-do list begins. Today’s is already so long, I know I will not do most things on it. I stopped after item 8 because because everything on the list must happen after I achieve my daily commitments. It’s Monday, 7:09 a.m. and I don’t even want to look at the list, much less tackle it. I’m tired because I think about everything I have to do and no end is in sight for the entire day, much less the entire week, which looms long for the next six days.
The list and the week loom long because I know the list will get longer as each day passes and I imagine myself tired; I get more tired thinking about being tired. But what if I knew the list would end? What if I knew the endless activities would stop? What if I knew I could rest, that I would rest? Would I feel so tired? I think not.
A day of rest is tempting. By rest, I don’t mean a day off. I mean rest, real rest. I don’t know much about other cultures, but in most of America, a day off simply means a day when someone does not attend to their job, whether that job’s location is an office, a classroom, a construction site, a retail business, a restaurant, a mine, a field… A day “off” means doing everything else that isn’t done on workdays. That day “off” means shopping, cleaning, cooking, home repairs, landscaping, bill-paying…. Like me, most Americans have an endless to-do list, and that list gets tackled during the hours away from paid employment.
Leisure time: What’s that? It, too, is going the way of the dinosaur, because what many Americans call play is just another version of work. That play might be fun, social, physically stimulating, health-enhancing, certainly, but too often our play is strikingly similar to work, and even has work in its name: working out, working at our “golf game,” working toward a goal of running a marathon, artwork, needlework, working in the garden. Sailing, skiing, tennis, beach volleyball, a pick-up soccer game, all are worthy physical activities in themselves and provide social contact and stimulation, but they don’t provide rest.
What would a day of rest look like? My day of rest looks like the following: I wake leisurely, without a glance at the clock. A day of rest means I step away from my “work”-day world. On that restful day, I do not work. I attend to my spiritual needs. I stop. I nap. I eat well. I look at the flowers, but don’t trim or weed them. I read a book. I turn off the computer. I reflect. I stop.
Yesterday, I was bone-tired, weary, sleepy. My hands ached from gardening earlier in the week, so I knew if I trimmed one flower or pulled one weed, I would push my hands past overwork and into injury. Other than being physically tired, I was spent emotionally and spiritually. When I told my daughter I was going to church, she said I was “good.” I corrected her: “No. I’m selfish,” I said. “I‘m going because I want to be filled spiritually.”
Sabbath was the sermon topic. It is not exclusive to believers or followers of a faith to observe a Sabbath. Sabbath is religious in connotation, but Sabbath, the word, means “a day of rest.” I was exhausted, so I decided to take a Sabbath. I left soon after the service’s end, came home, put on comfy clothes, and climbed into bed with a book. I napped. I read. I ate. I talked with family. I didn’t avoid the computer completely, but I turned away from the television when I felt anxious and afraid as I watched a few snippets of the movie others were viewing in the living room.
Did taking a day off make any difference? Honestly, it didn’t yesterday because I was too tired to do anything else.
What does make a difference today as my to-do list plays in the background of my mind is that I know this week will end. I have decided I will take a Sabbath next week. Knowing that the list will stop, work will stop, shopping will stop, cleaning and gardening will stop, gives me the energy I need to begin my week. Knowing there is an end in sight makes me less tired. My to-do list for this week has a new, important item: Stop, rest, and renew on Sunday.

What would a day off look like to you? Does your week loom long and burdensome when you view it from a perspective of no end in sight? How would your week look if you knew you would rest, truly rest, on one of the next seven days?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

To Yoga or Not to Yoga

Yoga or Not?
Will I Still Have Stories?

Sink sprayers are tricky beasts. The sprayer in this house has some quirks, like not turning off and routing the water so it flows through the faucet. Woe to the person who forgets that proclivity and turns on the water. Instant shower—in the face, on the clothing, all over the kitchen counters, and on the floor. My saturated t-shirt is testament to my forgetfulness earlier today. It’s a warm summer morning, so wearing a damp shirt for an hour or so is not a problem. Had it been a winter New England day, I would have changed an hour ago lest my chattering teeth shake my head into a migraine.
I dried my glasses, my face, my arms, the counters, the sink, and the floor. I then reflected on last week’s klutziness—a notebook washed with the dark load, a climb through the bathroom window because I locked myself out, walking like Quasimodo because my hip is sore—and I know I’m not as mindful in my physical (or mental) actions as I would prefer. I also reflected on some past klutz actions, like walking into a glass wall at Crabtree and Evelyn’s Quincy Market store. I smacked my head so hard my friend almost dialed 911. I forget to put in my front tooth and start conversations with people, and then realize they must think I’m a yokel.
Climbing ladders and moving heavy items are only a few things I never do when alone. I know it’s time to stop what I’m doing when I imagine headlines: Woman Drops TV and Breaks Leg (while troubleshooting over the phone with Comcast Cable); Woman Falls behind Bookcase while Dusting; Bookcase Falls on Woman; Woman Electrocutes Self while Cleaning Carpet with Frayed Cord; Woman Gets into Fight at Laundry after Putting Clothes in Wrong Dryer… My “headlines” have saved me from certain broken bones and worse.
I have an almost-endless supply of stories about casualties of not paying attention. But as I reflect, I worry. I haven’t done yoga in weeks, nor have I exercised. I’m unsettled physically. I know emotional and psychological unease will soon follow if I don’t start moving and stretching and, conversely, settling down. I also worry that if I become too centered, I might have fewer klutz stories to tell. Of course, I have other stories, an endless supply, so a journey toward more mindfulness via yoga might center me enough to sit my butt down at the keyboard and write those stories.
Yoga practice also can generate stories, though. I recall one time when I put my legs one way, my arms another way, and faced forward. My yoga teacher gave me a rather puzzled look. I looked to my left and looked to my right. I don’t know what I did, but it differed from what everyone else in the class was doing. My teacher shook her head, I laughed, everyone else in the studio laughed. I put myself in simple seated position and waited for the next pose. There’s a story in that.
To yoga or not to yoga? I have answered my question. Yes… even if my middle name of Grace is not always quite appropriate, I will sit, I will focus, I will become mindful. Maybe next week I’ll use keys to enter houses, write on notebooks rather than wash them, and insert my tooth when I feel an intellectual moment coming my way. And I’ll have the necessary focus to sit and write, and share my stories, mindful or not.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mindfulness, Gratitude, Beauty

Reflections on a New England Summer Morning
Benefits of Paying Attention
Day lilies always remind me of the Sermon on the Mount
when Jesus tells us not to worry about what we will wear and
says, "See the lilies of the field..."
Mindfulness, gratitude, and beauty… when I pay attention, I reap the benefits of all three. Beauty exists in abundance in my New England garden. This morning, I took a few minutes to pay attention, to stop and listen to the hummingbirds buzz as they approached the feeder. I traipsed through the dew-saturated grass and took photos of some favorite flowers. I am blessed with such beauty and abundance. Life is good. God is good. Flowers, bugs, and birds make me smile. I am grateful.

For years and years, I drove down Clematis Street in
West Palm Beach, Florida, not knowing,
not ever having seen--the spectacular Clematis flower.

Sweet indeed, sweet peas...
Gloriosa daisies--and glorious they are!
Yellow coneflower gets almost six feet tall.
Bright yellow spiders often perch on its petals.
Bellflowers and sweet peas
Alyssum self-sows and sprouts among the bricks on the walkway to the door.

What will you see on your journey into the world today?
Carry mindfulness, beauty, and gratitude, and life will surprise you with the bounty available to each of us, if we simply notice.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Locked Out! More Casualties of Not Paying Attention

She (That Would Be Me)
Came in Through the Bathroom Window

Breaking into a house could be crossed off my bucket list if I had one. Does it count if it’s your own house? I say yes, when it’s 6 a.m. and you are locked out—locked out with only one person inside in a deep sleep.
It was worse than a deep sleep. I’m in Massachusetts and the summer heat upstairs reached the unbearable point yesterday afternoon. When my iMac had to be put to sleep every 30 minutes to prevent spontaneous combustion, I knew it was time to install the window air conditioners. Tarah’s guy schlepped the unit two floors up from the basement and put it in the window. Blessed relief. Not only was the iMac cool, the rivulets of sweat stopped flowing down my face. He also put the other unit in his and Tarah’s room, so we were assured of cool, refreshing sleep.
Cool, refreshing sleep it was, too, and I woke sweat-free at 6 a.m. Five is my usual time, so I was a bit late and have a deadline to meet early today, so I went into quick mode. I needed a reference book from the car, so I stepped outside and retrieved it, anticipating my first cup of Keurig-style coffee in just moments.
Locked out! Cannot be true! No way! Trying the doorknob fifteen times does nothing when locked out, but nonetheless, I kept turning it, in dumb hope that maybe it would magically unlock itself. I tried the deck doors and, of course, they were locked. No problem, I thought. I rang the doorbell, but the battery must be dead because it was silent. I banged on the door about 45 times to no avail. Window air-conditioners are noisy. Combining the hum of the unit with the closed door to Tarah’s room upstairs, and knowing she didn’t get in until late, I knew banging on the door was futile, futile! Nonetheless, I kept banging until I realized I was going to cut my fingers on the glass or bruise myself.
Neighbors (except for the duplex inhabitants, who aren’t “neighbors”) are few in bucolic Groton, and anyway, it was 6 a.m. and, worse, I didn’t have my front tooth in. It’s bad enough to seek assistance from a neighbor who is likely sleeping without wearing my idiot look, which, come to think of it, was rather apt at that point.
Rock tossing at windows always works in the movies, but those must be special rocks. I tossed a few small ones at Tarah’s window, but was afraid I would break something and still be locked outside.
I walked through the damp yard and tried to go in through the bulkhead, but it was locked. I again tried the door: Yep. Still locked.
I am height-challenged, only 5’2”, so reaching most of the windows was out of the question. However, the bulkhead leans away nicely from the bathroom window, which was open. I again schlepped around the back of the house and walked up to the screened window, which was open. It was easy to get the screen out; I didn’t even wreck it. The opening was only about a foot and a half, but I figured I could squeeze through. Headline flash: Woman Breaks Neck Breaking and Entering. No, I can do this, I determined. I climbed up the sill, swung my leg over and into the bathroom, put it down on the toilet seat, swung my other leg in, and I officially joined the ranks of burglar!
Whew! Other than sore hands, and dirty feet, and waste of a precious hour of work time, I was fine. I walked to the door, unlocked it, and then I made my coffee.
Sheesh! I hope this was not a sign of how the balance of the day will unfold. Then again, I was successful, so maybe that’s a good sign.
And those casualties of not paying attention: I will be certain the door is unlocked the next time I venture outside and I might even hide a key—just in case.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Stepping Out of the Garden

Alexa at age six, before her illness

I stepped out of My Sister's Garden today. I was asked to write a blog about pediatric cancer for The story is about my child, Alexa, who died at age 7 from brain cancer. You can access the story here:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Resistance Is Out to Get Me

You, Too, So Watch Out
If You Have Work You Love

Black is black.

Resistance is out to get me. Do the Work! and The War of Art, both by Steven Pressfield, warned me how insidious it is. Today, I am determined to fight the malevolent Resistance, and it’s putting on a show to rival the Fourth of July fireworks I will see tonight.
Cool, damp air beckoned me outside at 7 a.m., the perfect time for summer gardening. Stories were running through my head, so I took Pressfield’s advice and put a small notepad and pen in the back pocket of my Levi’s—no pencil because I figured I surely would get stabbed in the butt. I gave air and light to weed-choked perennials and paused from time to time to jot down a few phrases. I felt accomplished because while I played in the dirt, I also wrote.
The morning progressed quietly; the family was in New Hampshire, and not expected to return until later in the afternoon. My foot was poised to step into my room and write when shrieks ricocheted off the latched door downstairs. Desperate to use the facilities after a two-hour drive, my arriving family almost tore the door off its hinges. “Desperate” doesn’t do it justice: There would have been blood if we had only one bathroom.
I recovered from that shock and longed for my time at the keyboard, but listened to their weekend in review. I ate breakfast. At an opportune time, I sneaked away to start my laundry. I would finally begin writing while it was washing. I offered to wash my daughter Tarah’s black Apple business team shirt because I was doing a dark load. “Thanks,” she said, “as long as it’s dry in time for me to go to work.” No way would it take three hours, so her shirt joined the rest of the darks.
Ah… time to write. I started my story—about garbage, trash on the curb, rotting matter, junk, items that require disposal. I got a good start, after, of course, checking e-mail and Facebook, listening to voicemail, and answering a phone call. All Resistance with a capital R.
Keyboard time arrived at last.  I remembered some notes from earlier, but typed them quickly because I didn’t want to go downstairs again for my notebook. I completed a page and then my other daughter Vee called. She recently spent nine days in a 24-hour-a-day futile effort to save a too-tiny puppy. She is mourning, so I took the call. The call ended and I wrote another paragraph, but it was time to put the wash in the dryer.  I pressed save and trotted down the two flights of stairs to the basement.
“Huh? What’s this? Must have been a tissue in my pocket,” I mused as I saw huge chunks of white fluff on the clothes. My waterlogged pen was the next thing I retrieved from the washer. I then remembered the notebook—now dissolved and splotching every square inch of the darks. “Uh, oh.” Tarah’s work polo looked like a papier-mâché project on black cloth. I shook everything—hard—and put most of the load into the dryer, hoping for a lint-trap rescue. The blackest items went back in the washer with a prayer that the bulk of the paper would wash off.
I trotted back up two flights of stairs to resume writing. I got two more paragraphs into “Garbage” when my phone rang. I checked the ID and noted it was my other daughter who’s caring for the house in Florida while I’m in MA. “I’ll make this quick,” I thought. Hysterical cries seared my left eardrum. “I have a migraine,” she wailed. Problems of other sorts abounded as well. Mommy response runs deep in my veins. I could not, would not, hang up with the words, “You know, I’m writing right now. Can you save this for later?”
Fifteen minutes passed, I ended the call, and returned to writing. Knock knock on my door. Tarah wanted to discuss home renovations.
“Groan. This is Resistance!” I said to myself. “This is the real Resistance.” I knew its face well after reading Pressfield’s book yesterday. It is insidious. It will do anything to keep me from my work, my real work, my life work. I was determined to fight it even though this is when I usually give up, when I say, “Forget it. Why bother trying to write?” This is when I usually go scrub a floor, do another load of laundry, wash dishes, or, why not, check e-mail for the twentieth time. Not today. But… time to check the wash… again.
I removed about a quart of white stuff so the dryer’s lint-trap magic was working. I checked the washer and, blessed relief, the black polo is black; all the black clothes are black. I decided the lint trap would eat anything that remains, so into the hot dryer they went to spin dry and spit off the balance of the lint. Tarah’s shirt was ready in time. I finally accomplished something—no writing, but life, err… Resistance calls.
I again exercised my calves trotting back up the two flights of stairs, sat at the keyboard, and pondered Resistance. The phone rang again. Hysterical daughter is doing better; the migraine is now a simple headache. I put off discussions of travel to conferences and new tires and said, “I really have to get off the phone now.”
I wrote. I wrote about Resistance. If I didn’t believe Pressfield before, I do now. It’s more than just the internal stuff—the voice that says I suck at writing, I’m no good at this, I’ll never be a success. I put the internal stuff on mute yesterday when I committed to writing today. I would ignore the wretched voices that belittle and damage me and keep me from my work. I won that particular Resistance battle.
Resistance, however, used different tactics today—external ones. People clamored for my attention, crises of the family kind engaged me, laundry beckoned me, papier-mâché projects on black clothing vacuumed up my time.
In ten minutes, the dryer will be done. In another five minutes, my plunging blood sugar level will signal that it’s time to eat. In a few more phrases, this story will be near completion. The ongoing battle with Resistance, however, will never be over. In the future, I will look for Resistance not only within, but also without. Resistance is in here, but also out there, and I’m not going to let it get me. After eating lunch and finishing the laundry, I will turn off the phone, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, and write—about garbage—Resistance be damned.

If you want to know more about Resistance (and how to fight it), read The War of Art: