Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Acceptance and Blessing...

Don’t you just love it when something you read excites you, makes you think or totally challenges your intellect for the day? For two days in a row, I’ve had mental meat to chew on when I am stuck in bank lineups or waiting for something to download because of the words that I read first thing in the morning.

Yesterday’s passage was all about acceptance. That instead of being in denial or wishing things were different and getting caught in that stress and anxiety, we have to learn to accept the reality of the day before we can truly begin to change it. We have to accept what the scale is really telling us before we can commit to making it change for the better. We have to accept the demands of our job or the balance of our chequebooks or the state of a relationship before we can truly decide if something needs to change.

Reading this right after spending Monday surrounded by brown envelopes and receipts as I got the last of the information ready for a new person to do my corporate taxes was very humbling and liberating. I was able to look and see how much income from cross stitch had dropped with the loss of the chain store orders, how income from different sources was up or down and see where and what had paid off. When you are just tucking receipts into the proper files and waiting until a set time to look at all the information, it is easier not to see the big picture. Acceptance of a situation or problem is the first step towards changing it.

Today’s meditation is the one I am finding a bit harder to chew on. It talks about moving from acceptance of a situation to being able to bless it. I can think back on many moments or events in my life that I don’t really feel like blessing, but maybe in hindsight, since they helped to form who I am today, that makes sense... but I am still working on the blessing bit. I like a challenge.

I also was reminded today of why I love keeping a journal. Bethany wanted to know exactly when she broke her arm last January, so I pulled out the journal that I just finished filling to the brim on New Year’s Eve and looked up the entry where I’d written about that. I also stumbled across the very tearstained entry that I’d written exactly 365 days ago during a 2 am “pity party” of angst, self-doubt and sadness. The words and the blotches are there permanently anchored in time to those pages, but then I am also able to read how things changed... or see where I am a year later.

‘Here I am at 40, still too afraid to chase that dream of illustrating children’s books- still finding new ways of getting caught up in daily tasks like getting ready for Nashville, Austin and Toronto!’

At 41, I accomplished that dream and worked through the fear and self-doubt while working on the project. It never vanished... I just got stubborn and did it anyway.

‘My life feels as cluttered and as messy as my office. I just feel as if pieces of me are scattered everywhere and I can’t put them back together!’

My office floor has been clear for almost 2 weeks now and most of my desk. I have thrown out an incredible amount of “Stuff” in the past 3 weeks that really wasn’t necessary or essential to my existence. I am also learning to get things put back where they belong as soon as possible instead of just letting them pile up and spill over. I can still see my carpet... it is such a nice blue colour when it isn’t buried under piles of junk and paperwork or projects!

‘Like something precious that gets dropped and shatters- sometimes you just can’t put those pieces back together as if nothing happened. Sometimes you just have to leave them behind or melt them down and forge something new. Maybe I need to stop clinging to the shards of things that might have been... I just wish I knew how to scoop up all of these itty, bitty fragments and pour them into God’s hands without slicing my palms to shreds...’

I am learning that my life is not about a whole or pieces. It is about patterns. Like a kaleidoscope where the pieces keep shifting to make something beautiful and new each time change comes and the tube turns again. It is all about how the pattern changes into something new. We humans have an incredible capacity for change, redemption, courage and transformation. It’s just easy to forget that sometimes in the day to day chaos. One day at a time, one action, one page in a journal, one blog entry, one hug, one kind word, one dream, one moment of courage to take the next step in a journey. That’s how the adventure moves forward. Sometimes I can only truly appreciate that when I look back at where I have already traveled to see how far I have come.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hoarding Gratitude...

Every now and then, there are books that reach out, grab you and speak to you deep in the core of your being. I am experiencing that on 2 levels right now...

The first is in watching Erin discover Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence that so enchanted me as a young girl and having the pleasure of rereading it myself. What fun to totally soak myself in wonderful fantasy about good vs. evil, dark vs. light and being heroic when times are tough. This kind of classic literature never goes out of style and is timeless enough that my own children can read it over 30 years after I did!

The second is exploring the many thoughts that I have while reading my Christmas present from my sister. Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnatch was first written over 10 years ago as a daily meditation/day book. It is perfect for women who feel overwhelmed, unsure of where to head next, in transition, in crisis or frustrated at the sense of chaos that our world sends our way with its “have it all, get it all, do it all, need it all” mentality. As the title suggests, the book helps the reader look at all they have, how to find serenity in having less and how to live more joyfully and gratefully than they were before. Since I read back over some of my posts from last year and noticed that when times were tough, I sometimes tended to get a bit whiny, I think this book may be perfect for me!

One of the tasks that I have enjoyed most from the book so far is the creation of a Gratitude Journal. Anyone who’s ever watched Oprah or listened to some popular motivational speakers will be familiar with the concept of ending each day counting the blessings that it had contained and writing down a set number of them into a journal... I certainly was. What I was not prepared for was the incredible difference it has made in my ability to fall asleep with gratitude instead of anxiety. I am thinking thankfully about what has gone right in the day that has just ended instead of making mental notes to myself about all the things that I need to accomplish the following day. Not that I am skipping around in a daze of non-productivity... in fact another book that my sister sent me is making a HUGE difference in that area as well, but that will be a whole other blog entry.

I am discovering the pleasure of hoarding gratitude. Just picture a dragon curled around a treasure of little glistening, translucent bubbles and sparkling crystals of wonderful memories or special events. Not gems or jewelry that might be stolen by some pesky knight, but precious wisps of things intangible...

I knew that I had a journal in my box of blanks that was perfect for this project because it was covered with little smiling hippos. I had given it to my grandmother about 14 years ago for Christmas and my Mom returned it to me a year or so ago when she found it while tidying out my grandfather’s house. I thought it was completely blank and so did my Mom who glanced through it quickly before sending it to me. Imagine my surprise, delight and slight twinge of sadness when I opened the first page to begin and found two brief entries from her written a few years before her death in October of 2000! Now I think of her each time I sit down at night to write my gratitude list before bed. Since she so often lived this type of simple abundant life and spoke kindly in almost every circumstance... it is wonderfully appropriate that she share those pages with me...

I am grateful for all the wonderful memories I have of her in my life!