Thursday, January 31, 2013

Laboring at Keeping Clean

Impersonal Hygiene

When I Must Clean-Up More Than My Act

I hope my hands don't look like this when I get the
"Mom, I'm in labor!" phone call.

I knew I was a slacker at what FlyLady calls getting dressed to shoes every day. Until recently, at 9 a.m., I fumbled my way to my desk still wearing last night’s sleep clothes—baggy shirt, yoga pants, flip-flops, my hair clipped back in its ever-present barrette.
I can edit without make-up. My brain doesn’t need an ironed blouse to function. Should I shower? No. I might decide to garden and two showers in one day would be downright excessive.
If I needed something from the store, that wasn’t a problem. I sent my son inside and hid my slovenly self in the car away from the public eye.
All that has changed. My daughter’s first baby is due in nine days. She wants me to be her labor coach, patient advocate, Mom-in-charge, and keep her fiancé from repeatedly saying, “Everyone just keep calm now. Just keep calm.” She knows he’ll be trying to keep himself calm. However, she wants someone to hush him should his mantra have the opposite effect of keeping her calm.
She’s shown signs of readiness for a week now. My bag is packed with lip gloss, soothing lotion, mints, soft cloths, socks—anything I can think of to keep her comfortable during her labor.
Babies are so darn unpredictable, though. I’m staying close to home, keeping my cell phone charged, and getting daily updates.
I also have had to clean up my act—literally. No more slacking in the personal hygiene business. I shower and get dressed first thing most days but not every day. My son called Monday when he finished work for the day and asked me to pick him up. I was just about to garden, so I was wearing less-than-presentable clothes. My misshapen gray shirt’s sleeves had stretched almost as wide as the shirt’s body from me pulling them up, getting them wet, and then pulling them up again. What was once the tiniest of tears from my cat’s claw in the front of that shirt had become a gaping hole. My ragged-hem ancient Levi’s were covered with paint splatters from two summers ago. I won’t even talk about what I had on my feet.
I looked at my clothes and thought, “It’s just a quick trip. She won’t call.” I then pondered the what-if aspects of getting “the call” on my way to or from fetching her brother. Part of that whole unpredictable thing about birth is not knowing just how long labor will take. If I were to get “the call” while in transit, I didn’t want to have to say, “Have baby chill for another hour or so. I’m a mess and must go home, shower, and put on some decent clothes.”
I became the master of the quick-change art, put on a decent shirt, clean, nonsplattered jeans, brushed my teeth and hair, put on real shoes, and went on my way. Of course, because I was presentable, I didn’t get that call. I imagine that I’ll get it after I finally head outdoors to plant the shrub that’s been sitting in my driveway for six months. Its roots have formed a forever-circle inside its too-small container and it probably has about another week of life in it before it croaks from neglect.
I imagine myself covered in dirt, nails blackened, hair mud-splattered, sweat and grime clogging every pore of my body.
The phone will ring and she’ll wail “Mom!” as I survey the mess that is me. I’ll just have to put that quick-change art to the test, grab the nailbrush, scrub, scrub, scrub, and be on my way.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Put Down That Q-Tip and Step Away from the Window

The Blue Sky Jeered: “Nanny, Nanny, Boo-Boo”
Setting Priorities on a January Day

I don’t know about you, but the first thing my houseguests check is the windowsills. That’s after they’ve inspected the bathroom corners, which, of course, I have disinfected to the point of being surgery-ready.
This is precisely why on a recent Sunday I spent an hour cleaning the windowsill in my bedroom. It’s a north-facing window that gets no sunshine, and when I opened it the other day, I spied mold. “Horrors!” I thought. “I have to clean this right away. I have company coming in three weeks.” I opened the window wide and the area behind it where the screen is attached had corners globbed with black goo. Dots of the foul stuff were festering on the screen frame. I got to work.

Bleach spray in hand, I sprayed and wiped. I couldn’t reach the corners and I couldn’t get into the edges where the screen met the frame. “This is a job for Q-Tips,” I said aloud. I got out a fistful of swabs and set to removing every spec of grime, dust, dirt, and spider web.
I knew the job would be much easier and quicker if I simply removed the screen. I would have easy access to every nook and cranny because the screen created each of those nooks and crannies. However, I remembered that my screens are part of a Mensa-inspired puzzle; once the screens are removed, they cannot be refitted properly. It makes no sense, but it’s true. I have the mosquito bite scars to prove it from past failed attempts.

It was of utmost importance that I get the area cleaned. I was positive that at one point three weeks from now, someone would go into my bedroom, move my rocking chair, part the curtains, open the window, and spy the mold. It was a dirty job, but it had to be done, never mind that stain on the living room carpet the size of Rhode Island. I have my priorities.
Even on a beautiful January day in Central Florida, I have my priorities. Unfortunately, I was looking through the screen, so I saw that beautiful Florida day. I saw the blue sky, I saw the poufs of clouds. I felt the warm air. I sprayed some more bleach and picked up another Q-Tip. I felt harassed and heckled each time I lifted my eyes from the grunge and looked out the window. The blue sky started jeering “Nanny, nanny, boo-boo,” at me for being inside and cleaning.

“I’d Like to Buy a Day.”
“No, You Can’t.”

The day was so perfect that the frigid folks in New England would be dancing in the streets, flinging aside coats, hats, mittens, some even stripping down to their long Johns. It was the kind of day that if a Wheel of Weather game existed, someone with a huge stash of cash would say, “I’d like to buy this day.” But this day was so spectacular, they’d be told, “Sorry, you can’t afford it.”
I ignored the taunts and plunged ahead. I decided that if only I had a bamboo skewer from the kitchen, I could make short work of the job. I could get into the tiniest of crevices and be certain every centimeter was clean, really clean.
I got up and started to turn toward the kitchen. As I did, I heard a mocking voice coming from the window. “Nanny, nanny . . .”
“Oh, hush!” I said. I tossed the cotton swabs, paper towels, and blackened, bleach-soaked rag into the trash. “I don’t have to buy a day. It’s mine for the taking. I win.”
I got dressed, left my room, left my house, and went out to meet that sky.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Editing Lance Armstrong

Editing Lance Armstrong

Dishonesty and Deception Change
More Than We Think

Resistance is the enemy on which I’m waging war these days. Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, is my chosen weapon, so I study it every day. I close the pages, start shoving Resistance out of the way, and do my work. (Resistance is pretty much whatever keeps you from your calling—your art.)
Resistance and Rationalization, Part Two on page 55 marked the end of Sunday’s reading. In it, Pressfield warns that Resistance is armed with justifications that give us a reasonable escape hatch from doing our work. Pressfield adds that even valid excuses don’t cut it if they keep us from our work. He notes that Tolstoy managed to write War and Peace in spite of having 13 children. He also cites Lance Armstrong, who, although he had cancer, “won the Tour de France three years and counting” (at that writing in 2002).
“No, he didn’t,” I say aloud, with a shudder of disgust. It’s January 2013, and everybody knows Armstrong did not win three Tour titles; he didn’t win seven races. He didn’t win a single one. He didn’t do his work.
Pencil in hand (I keep one handy when studying Pressfield’s books), I strike through that that sentence. I delete it as if I’m stripping Armstrong’s framed yellow jerseys from his walls.
Editor is my job description, but my real work is what I’m doing right now—writing. I usually edit manuscripts or PDFs. In already-published books I read on my own, I’ve made limited brief edits and then for only the most egregious errors. Deleting an entire sentence was a first. Afterward, I thought how Pressfield or his editor also must delete that sentence for reprints of The War of Art.
I also thought about dishonesty and how its tentacles have such an immense reach. Armstrong’s deception even weaseled its way into my room where I was studying. I thought of all the books that must be edited to delete his lies. Magazine articles, photographs, sports histories, web links, and more must be edited, rewritten; the non-victories must be deleted. I viewed his deception only from an editorial perspective. The level of treachery he breached caused disillusion and emotional and psychological damage on a massive worldwide level.
Armstrong’s lies ripple to tens of thousands of us—perhaps even millions. His deceptions descend into the category of big lie, the whopper.  The deception of a solitary fisherman casting his rod in a deserted stretch of river with neither cell phone nor digital camera close has limited exposure when he brags about the fish that got away. Armstrong’s fish tale was disseminated on a grand scale. And for years we bought the lie, even though we felt the annoying tug on our collective legs.
Most of us lie. We tell the big lie (not usually as big as the bike story), we tell the white lie, which generally is a kindness, and sometimes, we simply lie. Like the reasons we might use for not doing our work, sometimes the lie is reasonable, it’s plausible, even if by telling it, the person we hurt most is our own self.
Armstrong fell and we must now edit him from so many aspects of our lives because after all, he did not do the work and he lied about it. But even his fall has some value. It reminds me to stay honest, to others, but especially to myself. It commands me to get off my rationalizations and excuses and to focus not only on telling the truth but also living the truth. My truth is that, unlike Lance, I’m going to stop rationalizing and get to work.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Slipping to Conclusions

Seeing Isn’t Always Believing
Thinking Something Does Not Make It True

Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills.
~ From As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

Inner voices argue: "Careful! That's ice."
 "No, you ditz! It's paint." 
“Watch out! You might slip,” inner Voice One commands every time I approach the green sidewalk in front of the Sebastian Goodwill store. For frugal me, that’s once a week. I stop short when I step onto that sidewalk because white dots are scattered across its surface. As I look down to gauge my next move, I usually see that I’m wearing flip-flops. A shuffle of conflict ensues as inner Voice One and inner Voice Two argue:
“Look at that! It’s salt. That means ice!” says Voice One.
“If that sidewalk were icy, you would be cold. You’re wearing flip-flops. You aren’t cold. That’s paint, you ditz,” says Voice Two.
“So it is,” I mumble and I adopt the quick steps I use since I have come from the land of ice and snow.
Yet for a few seconds, my eyes (and my memory) tricked my brain into believing, knowing, that I was about to step on ice. I changed my behavior and became cautious, poised to prevent a fall that wasn’t likely to happen.
Seeing is believing, isn’t it? No, it isn’t. Just because I see something, as when I see salt on that icy sidewalk, doesn’t make it real. Just because I think something, such as when I think, “I’m about to step onto an icy spot,” doesn’t make it real. However, for those moments I see the ice, those moments I think the ice, it is real. My next action could well be to pull my nonexistent wool coat closer to my chest and tug my hat tighter over my frozen ears.
Seeing my unfettered, exposed feet is the reality check that brings me back to Sebastian, back to warmth—back to the present. Past experiences such as seeing salt and ice can provide present wisdom to keep us safe, but it’s important to know when to leave those experiences in the past—where they often belong—lest we slip into the present unawares.
Just as thinking I was about to step on ice didn’t make it true, thinking many somethings doesn’t make them true. I try to stop myself when I think something and decide, on only the basis of my busy brain, that my thoughts are reality. It’s particularly “unreal” when I think, “I bet she/he thinks _____________” or “I bet he/she said ______________,” or “I bet he/she will __________” as if I am clairvoyant and have a working crystal ball.
When I languish too long inside my own head, whatever scenario I conjure, real or not, is real because I experience it; it’s what I’m living, even if it’s happening only behind my eyes rather than in front of them. I can get so involved in a memory, a future projection, or an imagined discussion, action, or experience, even someone else’s, that it might as well have occurred. I enter the danger zone when imagination takes over and blocks the awareness that not one thing has happened in real time.
Imagination is an enriching, sparkling part of life, but it’s not a good path to let our neurons take when what we imagine causes us to surmise what other people think, how they behaved, reacted, spoke, believe, or anything about their future actions or thoughts.
It’s called jumping to conclusions. I do it. Many people do it. It can cause real harm, especially when we create negative thoughts, emotions, or actions that have no basis in reality. Jumping to conclusions harms us even during the moments our imagination dives into whatever worst-case scenario it has devised. Shaking off that descent into my darker side, I often attempt a switch-up. I say, “________ probably will not happen” and I decide to hope for the best.
Rather than hope for the best, perhaps a better course of action is to think for the best. It would be too bad if by slipping to conclusions, I really did get hurt, or worse, hurt someone else.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reaching the End of the Line

Finding My Place—At the End of the Line

 Lack of Kindness Has No Legs to Stand On

It might seem so, but this story is not about me. It’s about the me-first culture and how to get out of line and change it.

Quaint, rural Fellsmere, Florida is a small town a bit north and west of Vero Beach. It holds a place in Florida’s agricultural history and has some of the best bass fishing in the country at its Stick Marsh/Farm 13, but it’s not on most must-see lists.
Each January, however, the town jumps to the top of those lists when it holds The Fellsmere Frog Legs Festival. At that time, they serve up crisp fried frog legs that tumble to the edges of plates piled with grits, coleslaw, and hushpuppies. You prefer gator tail? It’s on the menu, too.
Sunday afternoon we set out to sample some amphibious delight. Rain all day Saturday meant the festival’s last day was packed, so when I spied a sign for shuttle bus parking I pulled in. At eight months pregnant and counting, I knew my daughter would appreciate the ride.
The shuttle bus left just as we arrived, so my daughter, her fiancée, his six-year-old daughter, and I snagged a spot about tenth in line for the next bus. We waited. We waited. The parking lot continued to fill. The line got longer.
Children aren’t great waiters. After 20 minutes, our six-year-old member got antsy, so I took her for a walk in the parking area and invented a game of count the Florida license tags versus the out-of-state tags. She tired of playing “tag” just as the bus approached, so we returned to the line.
But wait. We still had to wait for riders to disembark on the other side of the parking lot.
I looked away from the bus as an elderly couple approached from my right (elderly meaning older than my 60 years). The husband’s steps were tentative, and he took care to maintain his balance. We said hello and I saw them look toward the end of the line—the long line. It seemed too long, too far for him to walk, so I stepped aside and said, “Here, go in front of me.” In an instant, the man whose back I had faced the previous 25 minutes turned and glared. Aware he was going to protest, I flashed him a pleading look, and to avoid embarrassing the couple, mouthed the words, “They’re elderly.”
He sneered and demanded, “What about all the other people in line behind you?” I was stunned but gathered my wits and said, “I’ll go to the end of the line.”

Go to the End of the Line
I walked to that far-away end and took my place, last in line. As passengers far ahead of me boarded the bus, I worried I might not make the cut. I did and even got a seat, although several people behind me had to stand in the aisle. Our young charge sat in her dad’s lap, making us two for two regarding places in line.
After the shuttle dropped us at the Festival, we stepped into the land of fried amphibian parts, country music, and carnival rides. As we entered, I noted a couple making their careful way ahead of us. The woman turned. I recognized them as the folks to whom I’d given my place. She radiated gratitude and said, “Thank you so much.” I replied, “You are welcome.”
We had a great time. My system rebelled from the frog legs, gator tail, ice cream, cotton candy, and sweet pickled jalapeños, but I plan to attend next year. (I might skip the cotton candy and the jalapeños.)
What I will not skip in this intervening year is seizing every opportunity to do one small kindness. Too much of life as we know it requires lines, waiting, and a patience that can be difficult to muster. We often are crowded, stressed, and busied to the point of abstraction and certainly to irritation. Because we feel like we are just another number, another dot on a trajectory to we know not where, we sometimes stake a claim on our space, our place, whether it be a highway toll lane, a coveted parking space, a place at the deli counter, a place in line.
Staking that claim, the temporary owner declares, “This is mine.” Crossing the line, and in particular, cutting the line, regardless of the reason, is most often met with anger, scorn, and far too often, road rage being a foul example, violence that has even led to death.
And all that fuss is for a place, a spot, the tiniest dot that really matters so little in the grand scheme of what we call our lives.

Lines, Lines, Everywhere Lines
In our culture, we’re taught to toe the line and about a fine line. We are told where to draw the line and we are warned against the evil act of cutting in line. Sometimes, and those can be the best of times, we must pave a path of kindness and just get out of line.

The Fellsmere Frog Festival is held every January. You can find out more here:
Fellsmere’s Salt Marsh is famous for bass fishing:

Friday, January 18, 2013

You Might Be a Racist

You Might Be a Racist . . .

An Everyday Action That Is
Hurtful and Demeaning 

Some Things Really Are Black and White

You’re female—teenaged or older—and you’re walking, perhaps at an outlet mall, in the grocery store parking lot, on a sidewalk toward a restaurant, into a doctor’s office, to a movie, to a play, at an outdoor carnival or concert, on a downtown street.
You see a black man approach. He could be any age, but for illustration, let’s assume he’s a young black man, late teens, twenties. He’s walking toward you from the opposite direction.
You’re smart. You read. You know about personal safety. What do you do? If you aren’t already wearing your purse pulled over your shoulder and across your body (a rather dumb, dangerous thing to do), you tug that purse ever-closer because, after all, you see a young black man and you have been conditioned to be afraid—to be very afraid.
Until a few weeks ago, I was one of those white women. A young black man I know, and of whom I am not the least bit afraid, recently discussed this purse-protection measure with my son (who also is white).
“You want to know what is one of the most racist things white people do?” he asked. He then described how every time he sees a white woman, she hugs her purse closer to her body because she just knows he is going to try to steal it.
He then went on to say that if he wanted said purse, he could and would take it, no matter how tight the woman’s grip.
He does not want any white woman’s purse, but he has grown angry with the assumption that he’s itching to steal every one he sees.
My son and I discussed how this scenario makes his friend feel. Being guys, he and his friend go right to the testosterone-fueled emotion of anger. Stepping into my motherly role of armchair psychologist, I went to the root of that anger emotion—hurt. I know that in the seconds before this young black man—and thousands of others—feels anger, he feels the pain of being branded a thief (or worse) just because he’s walking toward a white woman carrying a purse.
I’ve never experienced that emotion, but I have experienced pain when confronted by negative assumptions people have about me. Even so, I cannot compare what I felt to what happens to these black men every time they cross a white woman’s path. I can only imagine that it’s gut wrenching. I can only imagine what it does to their self-image to have to deal with the thought “You might be a thief” directed to them on a regular basis.
I mentioned that pain to my son, and in typical guy fashion, he said, “No, it just pisses him off.” With a powerful sense of remorse and regret, I admitted to my son that I, too, was guilty of that purse-protection action and vowed to never do it again. He looked at me and said, “How about the next time you see a young black man you just smile and say hello?”
A simple smile and a hello—an action so ordinary so as to seem almost mundane, but how life-changing and how affirming that hello could be to someone who is accustomed to being feared. How affirming that hello can be to simply acknowledge the basic humanity inherent in each of us—young black men, too.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Time to Uproot Clichés--and Excuses

Uprooting a Cliché
“Bloom Where You Are Planted”

Clichés, clichés. “Bloom where you are planted” languishes in the nether world of clichés because of its ubiquitous presence on Mary Engelbreit notecards, artwork, and refrigerator magnets. (It is not an original Mary Engelbreit quote.*) I have seen it so many times, it’s rather ho-hum, “Oh, there’s that saying (cliché) again.”
Considering the saying, cliché or not, uprooting it so to speak, is, however, worth the tiny bit of effort it takes and I did just that.
The particular blooming process that sparked that consideration began months ago. After a busy night feasting on insects, my patio’s resident frogs again broke several pieces of my Christmas cactus. I am grateful they keep the pest population in check, but sometimes I wish they’d tone down their exuberance.

Frogs on my patio swing and jump from the hanging
plant chains, eating insects and leaving
broken plants in their wake.

With little thought and having no clue as to their color, I scooped up the broken pieces and stuck them in the closest pot with available soil. A few days ago when I spied the abundant cactus blooms brightening the pot, I said, “Yep. They bloomed where they were planted.”

Once broken, the Christmas cactus now blooms.
As a gardener, of course I know that if I planted crocus or snowdrop bulbs in my Central Florida yard, they probably would not bloom where they were planted without significant manipulation on my part. That’s not the point.

Spider Lily that took hold, grew, and bloomed--in a vacant lot.
Too often, I, we, do not bloom where we are planted. On this January day, still early in the New Year, it’s a sure bet that many of our blooming resolutions have already dried out and withered from lack of attention and commitment. Conversely, in this time of resolution and reinvention, the excuses/reasons we cannot bloom flourish.
Bloom 1: I can’t keep up that exercise regimen because . . .
Bloom 2: I can’t go there because . . .
Bloom 3: I can’t eat well because . . .
Bloom 4: I can’t ______________ (fill in the blank with your chosen creative endeavor) because . . .
Bloom 5: I can’t because I don’t:
Live in the right place
Have enough money
Have enough time
Have any support
Have a relationship
Bloom 5: I can’t because I have:
Too many children
Too many responsibilities
Too much to do
Too much weight to lose
Too much debt
A demanding job, family, schedule
We have abundant reasons/excuses for not blooming where we are planted. Refusing to bloom is a choice—we refuse because, after all, most of our reasons/excuses are more about choice than anything else. After we have met our basic needs (and I mean basic, not some consumer-culture-dictated nonachievable lifestyle), we have no good reason not to bloom, in whatever form that takes.
Toss those limiting “I don’t haves” and “I do haves” like so much weedy yard waste. Consider where you are planted and what you need to bloom and do so.

*The Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was first to use the quote, “Bloom where you are planted.” Salesian spirituality is a practical path for life in the modern world. It provides a roadmap for the spiritual journey as people embrace the duties of their individual lives. Salesian Spirituality also is a universal call to holiness, to, in Sales’s words, “Bloom where you are planted.” This “spirituality of the heart” is as relevant today as in the time of St. Francis de Sales himself and is an all-embracing, down-to-earth spirituality. You can see more at:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dirt Therapy—Getting Grounded After Loss

Filling the God Hole—with Dirt

New life: purple salvia, yellow Tecoma, and Pandora vines

God holes—those empty places in our heart, our spirit, any hole in our lives that yearns for spiritual connection, for wholeness—are something we Americans, with our consumption-focused society, attempt to fill by shopping. A hole in my spirit opened yesterday at 3:30 a.m., when Rollin Raimer Smith, my former husband’s father and the grandfather to three of my children, died. Their dad and I have been apart for ten years, but I remain close to his family, so I, too, grieve Rollin’s passing, which has rent a hole in my life and the lives of many whom I love.
Putting aside my daily tasks, I decided to spend the day with two of my children who live close by. I felt an urgency to get out of the house, to put aside my to-do-list, so I asked my daughter to join me in a search for some things I hoped to get at area thrift shops—to go shopping, of all things. My son, who as a general rule does not like such excursions, joined us because he didn’t want to be alone with his thoughts.
Our shopping was far from enthusiastic. I could not find the curtain rod, shelves, or “new” wallet I needed, so we headed home empty-handed, with the exception of a colorful tin rooster for which I’d searched for almost two years. I was happy to find it after such an extended time, but even that feeling was subdued.
Once home, they settled in to watch a movie. I felt at odds, my energy level low, grief still pulling at the back of my psyche.
We had failed to fill the God hole. We had neither diminished the loss nor soothed the empty feelings we had. We failed to assuage our keen sense of lack—lack of a life we cherished. That hole could not, and will not, be filled, and I knew it before we even journeyed out. We all knew it; we had simply distracted ourselves. Back home, that much was clear, but it was easier to carry that loss with a simple Saturday afternoon movie and the slight sound of black beans simmering on the stove, their scent filling the air with garlic and cumin goodness.
While those beans bubbled toward dinner, wilting Pandora vine pieces beckoned to me from the patio. My daughter’s neighbor was gracious to grant my request for those few snips earlier in the day. My search of garden centers for a Pandora like theirs had been fruitless so I was grateful for the chance to start one of my own. Previous failures after procrastinating on rooting cuttings nudged me toward getting them in some dirt to give them a better chance at living.

Life and science, forever entwined

I’m no scientist. Gardening for me is pure pleasure, but even I know that biology and botany are involved, so I admit to gardening’s inherent science. I also admit that I feel like quite the scientist whenever I get out my bottle of rooting powder. The powder has growth stimulators and hormones that mimic a plant’s own rooting efforts. After giving the Pandora (and two others I decided to root—yellow Tecoma and deep purple salvia) stems clean cuts and removing extraneous leaves, I dunked the stems in the powder. Next, I placed them into moist dirt, where I hope they will form roots and grow.
Three pots are now filled with cuttings that will be plants in a month or so if the process works. I will be attentive, keep the soil moist, and remove wilting leaves so the new plants can thrive.
The planting process ended just as I heard the stove timer ping. The yellow rice to accompany the black beans was finished cooking. I still had to fry plantains and corn tortillas to a crisp golden brown before serving dinner, so I bid my plants goodnight and went inside. I felt enriched by green plant matter, fresh air, the last rays of the day's sun, black earth, and water. As I scrubbed the dirt off my hands at the kitchen sink, I knew that part of me wasisstill grieving, but I also knew that the God hole was not quite as deep. The part that holds the memories of Rollin will always have a bit of an open edge, but I had begun filling some of those other empty places by putting plants in holes in the dirt, by nurturing new life while at the same time mourning one that has passed.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Just Say "Yes!"

Just Say “Yes”
Saying “No” to the R-Word

I say “No” far too often, particularly when saying “Yes” interferes with the R-word—responsibility. Saying “Yes” doesn’t make the R-word go away. In fact, not much makes the R-word go away once we reach post-teen, early adult years.
That R-word was foisted on me at a too-young age, so I feel it keenly. It’s ingrained, too ingrained, and prevents me from saying “Yes,” even when Yes is reasonable and even warranted.
Earlier today, I said “No.” No, I would not spend some time with my son sitting at the Indian River Lagoon’s edge, even though as he said, “It’s such a beautiful day.” I said “No” to one R-word—River—and “Yes” to that other R-word—responsibility. I noted the disappointment on my son’s face, but feeling rather grown up, I went to my office and sat at my desk. I had no deadlines to meet. My objective was to write. Still thinking about the River, I wrestled with myself, and I recalled that prolific author Steven Pressfield says “No” to golf and pretty much everything when he’s writing. So I would write. I didn’t have a detailed writing plan, however, and I felt rather uninspired.
I then remembered that Pressfield also goes for a walk every day, whereby he recharges his creative batteries. I noted the charge on my personal creative battery was flashing, like my cell phone or my camera, just before it’s ready to die out and turn itself off.
R-word aside, I realized (another R-word) I wouldn’t get much writing done, or desk clearing, or paperwork accomplished in the hour I’d spend at the Lagoon. I also realized that an hour at the Lagoon would replenish (one more) those batteries as well as nurture my creative spirit and my psyche.
I tucked in the iMac so it could have a good “sleep” and told my son I changed my mind. He was surprised and happy, even though I had to define carpe diem for him.
Saying “Yes,” stepping away, stepping out, spending only slivers of time at the water’s edge revived me with a touch of salt in the air, shore sounds, pelicans diving for a late breakfast, blue sky, blue water, sunlight shimmering, sitting, talking, laughing.
Renewed—one more R-word—but that’s how I feel, also relieved I loosened the shackles of that not-so-great R-word simply by saying “Yes.”

Pause, for just a moment, the next time you feel the urge to say no. What might happen if you were to say “Yes”?