A new definition of courage

We must take on our existence as broadly as we possibly can; everything, even the unheard of, must be possible in it. This, underneath all, is the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most inexplicable.” Rainer Maria Rilke

I met with my brother, Bob, yesterday to deliver clothing to a half-way house that he has been a supporter of for years. I was originally going to meet with him on November 22nd, but a few days ago, we decided to move the date up. My mother and I had done a lot of shopping for these clothes with the only parameters being to purchase nice clothing for men, women and children under 5. We pretty much stuck to these guidelines except for one item. As my mother and I made our way through the Salvation Army thrift store, I spotted a new (with tags) Gymboree jean jacket, size 10, for $12.00 that was 1/2 off that day, so we decided to buy it.

Bob and I arrived at the half way house and were greeted by a wonderful woman who very happily took the clothing that was on hangers and I began to unpack a large container that I wanted to keep. Within a couple of minutes, I noticed a young girl had come out to see what we were up to. I said hi to her but she didn’t say a word so I continued to unpack the box. Suddenly the girl said, “Today is my birthday” and I said, “Happy birthday! How old are you?” and she said, “Ten”.

In that bag, was a size 10 new girls, jean jacket that I had also put in a gift box (the only item that I had boxed up). I handed her the box and said, “This is for you”. She opened it, took out the jacket, and ran down the hall to room where she and her mother were staying. Then she ran back and said “Thank you! Her mother came out with a smile and thanked us too. The little girl took off the jacket she was wearing and put the new one on. The new jean jacket had little red bows over the pockets and she was wearing red pants.

As Bob and I drove away we just looked at each other, shook our heads, and smiled at the wonder of what we just been a part of: synchronicity, the inexplicable, Grace.

my newest painting needs a name

my newest painting needs a name…..I want to paint the name of an actual book on the book in this painting. The theme of this painting to me feels like the call to adventure. The little mouse looks somewhat apprehensive like he/she is thinking, “Should I do this?” but his/her little hand is holding on and she/he is about to fly. If you have a suggestion (the title of a book) I’d love to hear it!

Hello everyone and thank you so much for your wonderful suggestions! You’ve given me a number of great ideas for future paintings as well. I decided on “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens. I needed to paint a fatter book first but that was the easy part. The lettering was much more of a challenge, but the impression of the title is there.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

What makes you happy? Do that.

Fred (looking like The Thinker)

Fred (looking like The Thinker)

My mother decided that she wasn’t going to buy anyone in our family Christmas gifts this year, but instead wanted to donate money to the Salvation Army. She’d done some research on-line (she really is using her iPad) and came to the conclusion that the Salvation Army made the most of donations. I suggested that she could double her contribution by shopping for winter coats, hats, etc, at the Salvation Army thrift store and then donate those to a half-way house that is always in need of good clothing. I also offered to shop with her. She loved the idea and we had our first buying trip last week. We checked out a cart full of great clothing and the total bill was $36. My mother was utterly surprised. We’re going to need to make a number of trips for her to reach her donation amount.

Every element of this project is fun. Because we are not looking for clothing for ourselves, or anyone in particular, all we need to do is focus on buying good stuff. All of the size 2, 4, 6.., adorable women’s clothes (that I never gave a second look at in the past since I didn’t have a prayer of fitting into them) we can now happily buy for “someone” and imagine how happy they will be to get these great clothes. I’m also trying not to over-think this. Will these clothes be wanted? Liked? Who knows. All I can really know is what I am feeling at any moment and the older I get, the more I think that being happy is what we are here to do and be.

There is a lot of talk about “service” in the world of spirituality/religion, but so much of it is grim; carrying the dark undertones of the suffering, selfless, servant. Many of us carry the burden of guilt that we are not doing enough, so we try to do things that we hope will be helpful but we struggle to do them. I don’t enjoy being with people who are not enjoying being with me. If I think that someone is motivated by guilt or a sense of obligation in our interaction, I’d rather they stay away. So I have to extend this reasoning to the world and believe that others can sense my motivation too. If I could wave a magic wand over the world, my wish would be to see everyone as happy. I cannot give what I don’t have, so if I want the world to be happy, I must become it first.

 

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

 

 

my latest painting

my latest painting for sale on MY ARTWORK page

This entry was posted on November 3, 2014. 8 Comments

Don’t forget to laugh…especially at yourself

Luke in the yard

Luke in the yard

A while back I had a serious discussion with one of my sons about our relationship. I’d like to say that I’ve always known that he loved me, but that wouldn’t be a true statement. There have been plenty of times when I doubted it and thought that probably both of my sons would be relieved to have me out of their lives. I don’t know if my mind took it to the extreme of thinking this meant they’d be relieved if I died, but that wouldn’t have been out of the range of thoughts I’d had. I didn’t doubt his love because of anything that he did or didn’t do to prove this, it was just my feeling. It came to a head one day and I said something like, “I know that you love me (which wasn’t quite the truth) but I don’t think that you like me.” Again, I could give no evidence for this but at least he listened. I also know that what I feel about myself, I project onto others. I know this in my head but at times I forget it when I feel insecure, especially around people who are very important to me.

My parents never talked to me this way. They never told me of their insecurities and short-comings. I certainly don’t blame them for this, hardly anyone of that generation did, but I’m so glad that I can. I’m so glad that my sons see me as a whole human being. I believe that they see me as a woman who has gifts to offer the world and one who also can be challenging at times. I truly wish that I wasn’t challenging.

So, back to the serious discussion; me telling him that I didn’t think he liked me and him rolling his eyes in exasperation and frustration (of course I didn’t see him do this, we were talking on the phone, but I am pretty sure he did). He finally said, “The truth is, I love you and I like you.” So I asked him if he would periodically text me saying that he liked me. By this time, we were laughing, but I was also serious. I just thought how much I’d love to get a message from him once in a while, telling me that he liked me. I didn’t want it to be an obligatory thing, like “You must call your mother every Sunday”. I didn’t want him to feel guilty or to do it out of a sense of obligation, but the idea (which seemed to come from out of the blue) felt like a fun one. An hour later I got a text from him saying, “I like you.” 15 minutes later, another one came through that said, “I still like you.” and I just started to laugh.

I love those, “I like you” texts.  They are like a very private (not anymore) joke/communication between people who really do love each other and they help me to keep a sense of humor about my (at times) insecure self.

“A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It’s jolted by every pebble on the road.” Henry Ward Beecher

One of my newest paintings for sale on MY ARTWORK page

One of my newest paintings for sale on MY ARTWORK page

 

 

 

This entry was posted on October 26, 2014. 18 Comments

“Know your own happiness” Jane Austen

Fred

Fred welcoming me home with a cute pose

I recently went to the Adirondacks for three days with my siblings and our 87-year-old mother. I can’t remember the last time that we were together without anyone else (spouses, children, or animals) around, and I think that most of us felt at least a little apprehension about what it would be like. Half way through the weekend, I found myself exhausted. The home that we had rented was perfect; a grand old place with a large cozy living room, lovely fireplace, spacious porch, and great location on a lake. The setting couldn’t have been better but it wasn’t the outside stuff that mattered…it hardly ever is.

Even though I grew up with these people, I realized that I didn’t know them now. We’ve all developed comfort zones with the people in our immediate lives, and these unique ways of communicating don’t extend themselves to people who we don’t spend a lot of time with. A couple of times, I said things in what I considered to be a normal, straight forward, manner, and they were taken as offensive. Although my siblings and I have the bond of love, the little daily routines and nuances of life (that are accepted and naturally become a part of relationships with time) were not there, so at times it felt oddly “formal and stiff”. On the one hand there was a feeling of utter familiarity and on the other was a feeling of needing to explain myself, watch what I said, and not step on toes.

Returning home on Sunday night, I went to bed at 6p.m. and slept until 7 a.m. the next morning. I was so happy to be back with Jack and the animals and I knew that my siblings felt the same way about going back to their homes and lives.

In the final scenes of the movie, Home the Holidays, after the craziness of the gathering, each member of the family (who all seemed equally nuts in their own unique way) joyfully returns home to their families and the lives that they’ve created apart from their family of origin. It is one of my favorite movie scenes. It seems to say, “It’s OK to create the life that speaks to you as an individual. You do not need (nor will you probably ever get) the approval of others to be yourself and to love what you love, so just do it… and let everyone else do it too.”

 

 

One of my favorite quotes, "Know your own happiness" Jane Austen

One of my favorite quotes is,  “Know your own happiness” by Jane Austen  (this little painting is for sale on MY ARTWORK PAGE

This entry was posted on October 21, 2014. 16 Comments

our creative minds

“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.” Ovid

 

I love that quote by Ovid and I keep it on my computer desktop so I can read it often. I’m not sure if it will ever happen to me or not….wake up one day to find that I have ceased to worry, but it might. It is possible, and this quote reminds me of that fantastic possibility. It also helps me stay aware of how my mind often seems to find a kind of perverse pleasure in thinking up new things to be afraid about.

I was shopping last week and found a gift for a friend that I just knew was perfect, so I bought it thinking I’d send it to her rather than waiting to give it to her when we met in November.

All was well as I drove home feeling such delight about my purchase. Then at some point (which I didn’t catch) I imagined her telling me that it was nice of me to think of her, but she didn’t really like it. In my imaginary, unhappy, scenario, I even heard her say that she was so sorry but she just needed to be honest and tell me. I began to feel bad and also think she was ungrateful.

I went to bed that night and forgot about my story but the next day, I saw the gift, wrapped and ready to be mailed and I had a huge desire to unwrap it and look at it again thinking maybe I’d been wrong to buy it. Then I caught myself and backtracked to the first thought, so I tried to change the scenario to seeing her opening the package and loving the gift, but it felt like I was in a tug of war with my mind: one part was trying to imagine a happy ending and the other was holding tightly to an unhappy one.

I decided not to mail the package out until I could stop being concerned (concern, worry, and anxiety are all just words that describe fear) that it wasn’t wanted, and could clearly see happiness all the way around. I eventually did mail the gift, and she loved it, but by the time I mailed it, I realized that the gift was really for me. The entire situation had helped me to see, once again, the power of thought and the power of choosing thoughts.

Not letting my mind dictate a story and have me blindly follow it, believing it to be “the truth”, is a wonderful step to take.

It sounds like such a small and dumb thing when I retell it. I mean, what the heck?! A 59-year-old woman still fretting about such trifles? But the thing fretted over isn’t the heart of the issue. It could just as well be the 2 a.m. thought that a headache is probably brain cancer or the sound of a siren means that someone I love has gotten into a terrible accident. When my mind is creating a sorrowful, frightening, or unhappy scenarios, it wants me to take it seriously. It doesn’t want to be questioned or, god-forbid, laughed at.

One of my funniest examples of this (I think I’ve written about this before but it deserves to be retold) was years ago when I was writing out affirmations. A suggested affirmation for financial success was, “There is no reality in lack”. I wrote this out with a bunch of other affirmations and somehow Jack saw the paper. He was devastated and confused. He thought I’d written, “There is no reality in Jack”. I still laugh when I think about this, but if he had just read it, said nothing, and let his mind run with it? Who knows what would have happened.

Don’t believe every thought you have, especially if the thought makes you feel awful. Imagine happy endings, beginnings and middles…..life is a lot more fun that way.

One of my newest little paintings for sale on MY ARTWORK PAGE

One of my newest little paintings for sale on MY ARTWORK PAGE

This entry was posted on October 13, 2014. 9 Comments

Getting off my high-horse!

Jeezum Crow is a real north country (upstate NY, VT, and Maine) saying...this is my latest painting and it is for sale on MY ARTWORK PAGE

Jeezum Crow is a real north country (upstate NY, VT, and Maine) saying…this is my latest painting and it is for sale on MY ARTWORK PAGE

“The only truly humane person is the one who admits that he is a rascal.” Alan Watts

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a problem with people who considered themselves to be “good”, blameless, or spiritually advanced. To me, they were the ones who always seemed the most critical, judgemental, and also the most humorless. People who believe that they are holding the rest of us to a higher standard of conduct, always seem a bit menacing below the surface. This is one of the reasons that I generally don’t get involved with groups of clergy. I’ve tried that, and it seemed like a gathering of people all hell-bent on convincing everyone else in the group that they were the most selfless. I believe that it was Jung who said that we are all capable of great good and great harm.

There is an expression, “Get off your high-horse.” I’m not sure where this originated but I like it. I began watching a TV show called, Once Upon A Time, and found that the characters who I enjoyed the most were the ones who were not so sugary sweet or apologizing constantly for not being good enough. I think it is time to be real, to laugh, to play with life and to drop the hard and fast rules about who is good/bad, nice/mean, kind/unkind. If I have to be the good one, then in my mind, I’ve created a bad one. I’ve created someone to fight.

I’m not advocating indulging those petty, mean, or vengeful thoughts but admitting them, at least to ourselves? Bringing them into the light of conscious awareness so we can notice what our minds conjure up? Being real? Laughing at ourselves and admitting that we can be rascals? I say Amen to that!

This entry was posted on October 8, 2014. 8 Comments

World Smile Day

this is a page from my 2015 calendar featuring the work of artist, Erin Smith. I love her sense of humor and cannot wait to put this calendar up!

this is a page from my 2015 calendar featuring the work of artist, Erin Smith. I love her sense of humor and cannot wait to put this calendar up!

I opened up my emails this morning to find one telling me that today is World Smile Day*.  It made me want to smile and that’s when I realized that I probably hadn’t smiled yet since it felt like an effort. I am actually trying to smile as I write this and it still feels forced. So I have my assignment for today: I am going to smile as much as possible. I am going to write, “Smile” on my hand to remind me to do this as well.

I love the idea of World Smile Day and the ripple of happiness, kindness, and love that the creators of this “event” wanted to get started.

* The link to this very sweet blog, Reading With Rhythm (Book reviews from Rhythm the Library dog), is here http://wp.me/p2DxrN-1eA