Staying Grounded in Gratitude

Today is a cold and blustery day. A couple days ago we were savoring the sun and letting it pour into the windows and shine on our faces. Today we are bundled up and seeking out home improvements. Usually in the summer it is the landscaping and the yard that gets most of our attention. When it is unseasonably and unexpectedly cool we start updating the interior of our home. This weekend we will be stripping our closet and taking out the current organization system – a couple of rods and shelves. And while this is progress, it is not lying on the beach. That said, I try to stay grateful for where I am in this moment. Everything I have was once a much longed for dream. While I do have hopes that go beyond this project, I am firmly grounded in gratitude to be here now.

This week has been full of dramatic rises and falls in the family mood and energy, just like the weather. Fortunately we are feeling more at ease. New opportunities and exciting prospects are leveling out. We are not down but we are calm and we stay grounded in gratitude. A friend once described life like a wave. The goal is not to be either riding the crest or in the hallow feeling depressed. The goal in wave riding life is to find comfort in the middle and seek balance. It’s a good idea to stay in humility and humbleness because either you are in gratitude or the universe is on its way to remind you to be.

As I release my second novel – Treading Water July 2022 – I am humbled by all of the hard work and dedication that went into this book. The novel is one that I have read, re-read, edited, and thought through exhaustively for five years. It is ready to launch. I am so hopeful to see the lives that it will touch and how it will reshape the world with its existence. I am eager to hear your thoughts on it too!

But even as I get excited I am staying grounded in gratitude that I have made it this far. I am grateful that I get to write books and that the tools exist so that I can create them on my own terms. It is a joy and an honor that readers let my words into their lives. To choose to invest your time and energy in reading something I have created is a privilege I do not take for granted. When you look at or choose a piece of art I have painted for your own collection, it thrills me. I can’t imagine what you will see, read, or take away from the art I create. It is a joy and an honor to be a part of that process. I am truly grateful that I get to do this work. 

On this windy and chilly day I hope you’ll take the time to do whatever comes next for you. If it’s some small home projects, a gratitude exercise, or simply cuddling up with a good book. I hope wherever you are you feel fortunate and grateful for all of the wonderful gifts you enjoy. I know I am grateful for you.

What dreams have you seen blossom in your own life? What are you most grateful for today?

Making Time for More Breaks

I recently read an article in the Atlantic about the importance of many short breaks rather than only taking long vacations every so often. Basically correlating brief repeated experiences with having higher value than a few extended breaks. Taking regular time to nurture ourselves and our relationships, rather than only doing so sporadically, makes sense.

While on vacation I took a break from my journaling – my morning pages. Every day I write three pages first thing to pour out all of the persnickety and intrusive thoughts, day dreams, and ideas that percolate in my mind over night. Once the ideas are out of me and on the page I can process them, determine how I want to proceed, and move on. They’re no longer bouncing around in my head like a bucket of pingpong balls dropped on a gym floor. They are now in the shape of a list. Or simply by writing my emotional labor of processing is complete and I am able to release the anger, frustration, or whatever energy was attached to those thoughts. 

My vacation was necessary and important but it was also exhausting. We were outside, on the beach, and in the sun for several days. We walked everywhere, splashed in the surf, and crashed into bed each night by nine. Did I mention we were also sick? It was a beautiful experience but also draining. And even not writing my pages, while it was a break, it gave me the feeling of being stalled out despite having a full tank of gas. My energy was devoted to making dinner plans and chasing children to wipe runny noses. And in the midst of that joyful and somewhat restive chaos I ended up getting sick too. 

My take-away from this experience is that we waited too long to take our vacation. We pressed ourselves so hard and for so long that we were all run down and exhausted by the time our trip came. We needed more short weekend breaks in the middle of our work – what the British call a, “mini-break.” A night or two away in the country, something different to break up the monotony and try something new. We need more joy and sporadic rest throughout our regularly scheduled lives, not just on a special occasion. 

The lesson is hard-won but a necessary and worthy understanding. As I nurse this illness with doctors appointments, teas, and rest I am also grateful that it is reminding me of this very important lesson. To take time for myself to heal, to savor and enjoy life. It is not the vacations that are our only highlights. We need more magic in our every day lives. Sharing and celebrating with the people we love most yields the most wholistic, healthful, and delightful results.

Tonight, I think we’re going for ice cream, we have sore throats and need a little joy. The first day back to work and school after a trip is a hard one. I think we deserve some sweet treats and a little love in our days. I hope you find a way to bring some sweetness into your own day today too! And plan more small vacations not just big ones!

It’s also good to remember we can always vacation at home – taking a break for recovery doesn’t always have to mean travel.

Modern Day Grace

I have felt so benevolently full of grace lately. Full of grace for myself, my family, and the world. I have held this grace honestly and openly, feeling benevolent, patient, generous, and kind. I have walked in euphoria for days on end – blissed out on the beauty of the natural world, the people in it, and how blessed my life has been. And then I took a writing class, insert discordant record scratch here.

The class was good, deliciously good. It was deep and raw and had all of us unearthing trauma and processing it so that we could turn that vulnerability, shame, and fear into gold. Write it out and hopefully find the true essence or nugget of universality in our pain. Mold that darkness into something useful and create art. 

The exercises were effective but now having scratched open our scabs the course is done. We are left bleeding out in the world. The life we return to, the normal every day world, is what we were hoping to protect these pains from – exposure.

We were ready in the class to feel and dive deep but now that the class is over we need closure, a little second skin to cover what we have opened up inside of ourselves. Those dark and crusty things that we fear and feel more deeply than anything daily life has ever handed us. 

This is where we are all dark and dangerous. It is terrifying and as you’d expect painful to be so open to the world. But here’s the trade off, I couldn’t feel the glory of sunshine with the sensation of holiness blessing my very core if I didn’t embrace this vulnerability too. This conflicted feeling of being so wide open and almost unwisely exposed to the elements of relationships and life. Because life is both that shining light of afternoon sun that warms some of our rooms like a sauna and it is the dark and scary loneliness of confronting our deepest and darkest fears. If I don’t look inward and stop staring at my phone to distract myself from these hard and real sensations I won’t feel that sun as brightly. The sun will still shine on my face but I won’t feel it in my soul. It won’t warm my heart to the same depths because my heart will have been walled off, protected from the deep darkness and also the blinding light that just might help my heart to heal. The sheltered pieces of myself might never see that perhaps I need not be so walled off, so sterile, so trapped in solitude. I might learn that perhaps the world is bright and lovely on some days. Other days it’s hard and cold but if I do not open the drapes to let in the sun it is never completely dark and it will never been completely day.

I’m mixing metaphors but you get the idea, to be that grace filled generous soul who sees the hurt in other people and takes the time to reach out and connect I must also be the angry wounded animal that nurses her wounds and occasionally lashes out to protect herself because she hasn’t finished the work she is doing to heal. Oh, being alive is such a dangerous thing. To survive we need only coast on the surface but to live, to really live, we have to feel all the pain, the dark and twisty elements, and then we get to really enjoy the light.

And all of it takes bravery. We get to embrace the beauty only if we embrace the pain and know that it exists to show us where we have work to do, something to heal, tenderly and gently. What a gift to be so alive and feel all of it so brutally and beautifully.

Reconnecting in the New Normal

When you believe in something or someone you do something about it. 

Today I wrote an email to a friend I haven’t spoken to since high school. I was inspired by another friend who reached out for ideas on how to cope with the various plagues of 2020 and entertaining herself in long winter months. First, for this woman I have nothing but praise, she is planning for her future and investing in those things that will sustain her through the long months – new ideas and old friendships. If that is all I took away from her reaching out, it would be a gift. But that is not all, I also was reminded of a dear friend from many years ago. A vulnerable, beautiful, and talented author who may not be writing – so I wrote to her to find out. 

Why was this important? Well, to me when I believe in someone I tell them, I tell them deep beautiful truths out loud. I do this intentionally, because I do have a gift with words and I write often but my work comes of labor, effort, and refinement. That is not the way with talent. With talent, your words will silence a high school classroom of overachievers and lead the teacher to ask your friends if they know how you did it. Talent, is twenty years later someone remembering the lines and the power of your writing. Talent, is touching people’s souls.

While I’m sure I gave support when we were younger and close, I haven’t given support to this woman in a long time. I don’t know what her life looks like, the shape of her days, or where life’s journey has taken her. All I do know is that she has, “It,” whatever it is. While many aspire to that gift, to have it and not use it would be a loss for humanity. Not for her, I imagine she lives a happy life that is fulfilling and rich – but the rest of us who need to listen and learn, we would only know the absence or the feeling of an unfulfilled longing. I cannot put pen to paper on someone else’s behalf, but I can show up, I can remind her of her gift and that I am eager to read her words. I don’t know how the message will land but I do know that my gift to humanity today was to inspire her to write, to share her words, and to trust herself and her talent.

As a creative, I suddenly am completely clear on the need for patrons of the arts. Because artists like Cathleen Collins and T. S. Eliot go to work each day, and make dinner, and pay their bills, and might never have the opportunity to craft the stories that move our civilization, our species forward.

As I write it also occurs to me that I write these words for myself, to align my priorities and to say these words out loud. It reminds me that I have these gifts too. I am not on her level, I may never be, but I have witnessed greatness and I am capable of greatness and I am willing to try. I am willing to show up and give it my best. I hope you are too. 

Has anyone sent you a message of support or encouragement that landed just as you needed it? Would you find such a note presumptuous or invasive? My hope is that it lands as it should or upsets you enough to do something about it. Do you like love notes from long lost friends? Do you send love notes to long lost friends? Will you now?