Ready or Not.

Ready or not, here it is. A new year, a new cycle, a refresher course in day-to-day life. It’s been my annual practice to reject the making of a new  year’s resolution and instead embrace the choosing (or, as I maintain, being chosen by) a word that embodies what I need, where I need to be, and in what direction I must head towards.  A mini mission statement of sorts.  I learned it as ‘choosing an intention, or choosing your own personal theme to guide your year.

Over the last few years with this as my practice, I have seen over and over that this is the right choice for me. I am solid in my belief that new year’s resolutions are anything but resolute, they allow too much opportunity for failure. They are too specific. Too rigid. For me.

Choosing a word, or letting the word emerge has been transformational for me in the last few years.  I started with the word Nudge, it was perfect and over the course of that year I let the subtle nature of life’s little whispers be my guide and in the end, beautiful change occurred.

“I desired to move in a new direction and knew that I needed, well, a few nudges to get there. I wanted to be pushed. But gently.”

From there, Nudge made a new friend and we added Give.  The year of Give was full of surprises, the biggest being that in my need to make room for this, I found that in the end I received so much – and learned about the very act of receiving. It is an act. And one that requires a conscious decision most of the time and not always easy or comfortable.

“As I glance back over my shoulder at this last year; I realize something important was quietly occurring all along.  I see that in giving we also receive, and that I had some big lessons to learn about this.”

From there, Nudge and Give welcomed Intentional and together we formed a small gang.  It was what I needed, truly on levels I really could not have ever anticipated.

I realize as 2016 begins that in all technicalities, I skipped a year. Trust me when I say that was not Intentional. Or was it?  I had no word chosen for 2015 and there were no knocks at my door, so to speak.  When I thought about it, it became clear that Intentional was not done with me yet. Not ready to open the door to someone new.  It chose me again, so quietly and deftly. So we kept at it and in the mind’s rear view mirror where objects are never as close as they appear, I see how being intentional has yielded unexpected, but necessary, important and right, results. So for the combined course of Intentional 1.0 and then 2.0…

I look back and see an intentional spirit around co-parenting so my son is secure, even when it’s most uncomfortable for me.

I see intentional actions with my finances and getting things in order. The question marks are slowly being replaced with dollar signs.

I was super intentional in the midst of of a contentious process called mediation. I may have less enamel on my teeth from gritting them, but I chose intentionality at each turn to save my own soul. At least my sense of self. At the end of the day, we may no longer have to live with that person, but we will always have to live with ourselves. I wanted that to keep going well!

I see a list a mile long of tedious tasks that need to be tackled. And they were. Now if I can just muster the fortitude to finally paint the bathroom?

I set my mind to making peace with and letting go of choices made in ‘yesteryears’, so that the noise of then would not drown out what I need to be paying attention to – and enjoying – in these days.

I see the intention of planning a trip to DC + DE + VA  for my son and I, something I’ve wanted to do with him for a few years. I made it happen for us and it was monumentally successful and fun. And memorable.

I got intentional at work and it was noticed.  Changes started happening. Opportunities appeared. New ideas began to spring up and I was intentional about what I created from those ideas. And on the opposing side, when the unpleasant occurred, I chose to be intentional with my rebuttals, and choosing which battles to fight. Sometimes, being intentional means being quiet: watch, look and listen. I did a lot of that too.

I became intentional on where I stand, or sit, or kneel – or rather, where I clearly don’t and cannot – on faith and religion.

I was intentional about the holidays and this may seem trivial in light of all else, but last year I was Scrooge, Bah Humbug and the Ghost of Christmas past all rolled into one. I was miserable because I didn’t plan well. I just wanted it over.  I identified where the breakdown(s) occurred that led to such an unnecessarily disappointing and exhausting time, and from that I chose with purpose and made changes where things had failed – and it worked. Magically. And, this year?  I was legitimately bummed when it was all over.

So, with just those highlights, I see that Intentional knew what she was doing.  What a smarty-pants!  As 2015 rounded near the bend and 2016 was within view, I started to feel a shift. I wasn’t sure yet what or what it meant exactly.

At work, we have to change our log-in pass-phrase every so many months. And it has to be a certain number of characters at a minimum.  Like a lot. Along with my word for the year, I also choose a pass-phrase that has meaning to me. I’d read of a guy who changed his life with his pass-phrases and got over a broken heart, quit smoking (e.g. ‘Quit@smoking4ever’) and saved for a dream trip – each one month at a time, because he’d chosen pass-phrases that he had to type Every.Single.Day and as the days passed these desired outcomes became part of his consciousness.  It changed his life in significant ways over each month based on what he chose to focus on. What a cool idea I thought, so I’d started doing similar a few years ago.  But, as the reminders kept hitting my inbox recently, I was stumped at what to choose.

Until.

Until one day it appeared. There it was. It just stood up and said, hi!

I obviously am not going to tell you my pass-phrase. That would just be silly. And intentionally stupid. Intentional would not be happy with me! But I really want to because I really like it!

But I will tell you that in the midst of my pass-phrase also appeared my word for 2016.  I love the collaborative spirit working here!

It chose me. Again. It always does.

Are you ready?

I’ve actually already told you.

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The word is ready.

The gang’s all here: Nudge, Give, Intentional 1.0 and 2.0, and now we’re saying howdy to Ready.

The way I see it, when we allow the influence of what the word is, what it means (to us) and why it showed up in the first place, we allow ourselves to move, to bend, to grow, to change. You become all of that, and because it happens incrementally, slowly (and almost) effortlessly, you just are.

And, that becomes you. It shows. It looks good on you.

Here we go, ready or not!

Oh, and I can’t stop myself. If you choose a word, I’d love to know what you choose or what chose  you!

Happy New Year!
Happy 2016!
Happy Words!

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A Dearth of Words

Dearth.

Yes. A scarcity of something. Words. Here.

And it’s noticed, I know. A few folks I know have commented, casually, ‘uh, you haven’t written anything in awhile….’

And, then leave the comment trailing…

All I can seem to muster in those moments is a quasi-quizzical look and a mild sigh. Then, I try to explain what I haven’t yet sorted out for myself.

They know all that you all know about the the circuitous and yet full circle path I’ve been on, and so when they say….

Maybe you don’t need to anymore?…”

… I am – every time – simply silent with no real meaningful response.  You might say, a dearth of wit in those moments.

In my silence, however, I am uncomfortable. Not at rest. Maybe even slightly agitated.

But – and because – I am unable to articulate why. Even to myself.

Until the other night, or rather very early morning, when I should have been sleeping snuggled and sound; instead my mind was busy. No dearth of 3 a.m. thoughts, of that I can assure you.  In that vast, wide open space otherwise known as the middle of the freaking night, I circled about, eyeing this notion like a bird preying it’s lunch down below.

I thought of something Mimi wrote in her last post about “becoming a paean to gratefulness.

I thought about how much that resonated with me.

I thought about why that is.

I thought about how as a young girl, I was drawn to writing my thoughts and how when I look back at my old diaries, I see many starts but not as many finishes.

I thought about the idea of why we write. Why I write.

And then…

I thought about all this thinking.

And then…

I thought about the satisfaction that comes from writing.

I thought about so many issues sorted and unraveled because I wrote.

I thought about the community of friends and writers created and curated here, over time.

I thought about how it feels when I do write.

I felt it.

….

I kept circling back in my thoughts,  back to the comment, ‘maybe you just don’t need to anymore…’

Like writing was simply a temporary friend during a lonely and unsettling time.  (You know ‘that friend’ who constantly cries on your shoulder about this, that or the other thing, and never lets you know how things turned out? )*

A band-aid to put on during something that hurt.

A salve to soothe an an open wound.

….

And then I finally landed on the morsel.

But I do.

I do need to write.

I need the writing.

It is part of me that I (re)discovered during all that. The silver lining, so to speak, in the mess of of it all.

maitriser-le-web-reseaux-sociauxIt’s how I distill meaning from what’s in and around me.

It’s a way of thinking that makes sense to me.

It’s like the friend who totally gets me. *(And I don’t want be ‘that friend’ to writing.)

….

And, I fell back to sleep, but not before imprinting this in my mind’s eye, to come back to. Here.

Because, I need the writing.

Even in the absence of angst, without a glaring problem to solve or sort. There will always be – the way I see it, the way I want to see it  – something to distill.

So, what does this mean? I am not sure yet; I just know that the next time someone says, ‘oh maybe you just don’t need it anymore?” I know that I will say, ‘oh but I do…”

And while it’s true, life as I know it now is so much brighter, full of promise and love and possibilities limited only by infinity, it’s ok to still need the writing.

I need the writing.

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Abundantly Inadequate

We are all readers or writers here, and in some cases, both.  In short, we are no strangers to words. Their power, their play and their partnership when we need or want to express ourselves in some way. We write blogs, books, poems and songs; we pen memos, letters, missives and lists. Daily.  We engage in witty banter, endless text threads, singing song lyrics and reciting movie lines.

But, sometimes we come face to face with a situation where it seems that the right words, or any words for that matter, are on par with the amount of water here in California.  Simply not enough.

We’ve all been in the situation with someone who’s facing a tragedy, or they have received terrible news, enduring a heavy load with no end in sight, or grieving, missing and mourning when someone is no longer. Simply lost.

Face to face with these moments, we are moved. We feel deeply and when our emotions course through us and rise up out of the belly, we can find that the words are absent. Simply not there.

A light bulb flickered for me this morning while getting ready for work. A different way to think about this. While standing in front of my bursting closet I had that all too familiar and frustrating feeling of, I have NOTHING to wear!

emptyFor all of the infinite possibilities afforded us by the English language, sometimes it’s like that feeling of standing before your first-world over-packed closet.  Hanging there are all of those blouses, cardigans, shirts and pants.  In those fraught face-to-face moments, hanging there are all of those verbs, nouns, adjectives and prepositions, yet somehow it feels abundantly inadequate. Simply not enough.

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A Little Bit Back to Center

As with most of us, the weeks in between Thanksgiving and the holly jolly holiday can be likened to either a sausage or a can of sardines; in either case too much is constrained in far too small of a space.

Work demands seemed to ratchet instead of dwindle and we lost a bright shining star long before he should have ever gone shooting across the sky.  Losing a dear and trusted colleague is never easy, and especially the peak of the season.

On the home front we switched from cleats to high tops and a whole new game schedule.  I really need the coaches to check with me before signing up our team for extra scrimmages and tournaments.

As such, it was a push to get Christmas on the table, so speak.  A naked tree stood vulnerable in my living room for too many days before it finally got it’s well earned bling and blitz.  The flour and sugar and mixer remain tucked away in cabinets this year and I did not support the US Postal service this go-round….

(I was kind of feeling like the elf who barely made it in for the night and just kind of hanging on….)

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…and the gift list was whittled and all through the house; this nearly bah-humbug mama slowly began to exhale.

An almost stolen (but not) purse, a few unusual conversations and all the requisite daily pushes and pulls, and the edges began to fray.  I found myself needing to respond to a particular situation, make an important decision, and I realized that I felt so far from center. So far from my own self that finding the inner voice of reason and the all-important gut check seemed akin to the journey to the center of the earth; a really long way away.

***

Last night, kiddo and I spent the evening with dear and long time friends who came into town for the holiday.  To help welcome them, the friend hosting them also hosted an evening gathering with friends and family who also wanted to be with them.  There we were, the atypically warm December night found the women gathered on the generous front porch sipping wine and talking like there is no tomorrow, the kids running free between basement and front yard and the men tossing back a few beers in the kitchen. And of course, any mix and mingle of all peppered the evening.  Before I knew it, jackets and santa hats donned, wine glasses re-filled, we walked the neighborhood which some would liken to a modern day Mayberry and took in the light strewn homes, horse-drawn carriages transporting families and friends doing the same as us, and pick-up trucks filled with carolers. As we walked, conversations were easy, natural and changing depending on who walked next to whom. Kids ran front, center and in between.

At one moment, while I had the three biggest kids in my reach, I let them go ahead a bit, and ahead of them were the smalls and other adults.  I hung back, I lingered, wine in hand, and took it all in.

I exhaled deeper. A lot deeper.

Bright lights in my periphery. People I love in direct view.

Cheerful sounds filling the air.

A sip of my wine.

Exhale.

This. This right here. This is Christmas.  I exhaled fully and smiled.

I caught up to my kiddo and draped an arm around his shoulders, not far below my own now,  and said, this is good, eh?  We are good. We get this.  He was quiet and I said, this is a moment to just be.

 

***

This morning, as I woke, I thought of last night.

I realized. That was a little bit of coming back to center.

***

Merry Christmas. Holly Jolly Holiday.  Blessings.

My wish for you, each of you, is that moment to just be.

To exhale. To find center.

***

Peace & Joy

-Bonnie

 

Hi Honey, I’m Home

I have shared before that when I started this blog, I really didn’t know why I was, other than I thought I was supposed to, to support another creative endeavor.  I started with such uncertainty and trepidation. It took me a long time to really feel at home here, but something in me said to keep going, even when I wondered, “What’s the Point” ?

What’s ironic (and irony is never lost on me…) is that I have had to put that other endeavor on the shelf, indefinitely for now, perhaps permanently, but yet this blog remains and has come to be something central to who I am. It has allowed me to become more honest with myself.  This honesty breeds direction, understanding, confidence and contentment, within myself.

I trust myself more.

I have learned to pay attention and attune myself to the quiet subtle moments that are rich with insight and import.

Stories once long forgotten are sometimes my teacher in these moments.

I can now sense the shift that occurs within me when the writing needs to happen, and how much I miss it when too much time has gone by.

I would have never guessed that this blog would persist, and that the other project, the original activity, would recede. If you had asked me then, I would have for sure predicted the inverse relationship between the two. I have written about the stunningly rich community we have here, how blogging really takes place in the comments and this amazing opportunity to develop and share a voice.

We have all talked about how these elements have impacted us as people, as writers, as friends – in ways we could never have predicted and likely would have never even believed if someone had tried to tell us. To be seen, to be understood, to be accepted through this, is a gift of epic proportion in my estimation.

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The days I am kept away from blog-land – reading and/or writing – are not preferable in my opinion. When I am here, when I log-in to Word Press, I feel as if as if I have walked into a room full of friends – the virtual community is real. It’s the online Cheers, where everybody knows my name. And so much more.

The power of two.  So, its somewhat confounding to me to think of where this all began and realize that time has snuck up on me; and sit back and appreciate that over two years have gone by.  Over 200 posts I have written. How is it possible that I have had over 200 things to talk about?  Two road trips have been taken with you along for the miles.  I have met two of you in person and wow the looks I get when I share that.  And I know that two is not the end of that list!l

My life has changed, my kid has grown. This blog has changed me, in ways I could not have foreseen, but were necessary. I have grown. There has been a Freshly Pressed in the mix but to be honest, the honor is far greater when one of you is moved enough to share something of mine in your own space. That we know each other’s lives and stories because we dare to share them here, is moving to me, and something I hold closely.  I love how we have a sense of the essence of each other even though we have never met. We get each other’s humor; my days feel much more complete when I see a response to one of my comments and the reply simply says: “laughing”. Somehow a connection has occurred in that moment.

This feels like a second home in many respects.

So, I am sticking around, it is just way too much fun here!

But, I now have a much better idea of what the point is. What the point is for me. When I started, I chose the name PaperKeeper because this blog was meant to play second fiddle to that other endeavor. As time has passed, I have a better understanding of what I want to do here, why I am here.  That it is really about this endeavor.

So…

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I am ready to make some changes, and here’s how that is going to do down. We are going to start first with:

voice-girl-makeover-mondays-editA new look – it’s time to spruce things up around here. Times have changed, so we have to update our wardrobe and hair style.  In the next few weeks, or maybe days, you will notice things looking a little different. Everything on the inside will stay the same!  I have some ideas for new types of posts, but nothing radical. It will feel just like it does right now.

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babynameAnd then, once that step is taken, the next phase will be that this blog is getting a new name! I have been thinking for a long time of what I want this blog to be called. It needs to reflect why I am here, not why I thought I was supposed to be here.  It’s probably been over a year and I was waiting until it just came to me. I am a ‘I will know it when I know it‘ kind of person, and I percolate in the meantime. The best part is that a great friend of mine helped me see what was already right in front of me.  The new name will be revealed soon, but I will give you a hint, I have used the phrase around here already! If you think you know, no spoilers!

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And, then the last step will be a new address.  The www will change. No more paperkeeper.wordpress.com.  It will be http://www.somethingsomething.com!  WP assures me that everything will be seamless, but course, like with any move, it’s making me a bit anxious.  I want you all to come with me, of course, so when I get ready to load the truck, I will tell you ahead of time what my new address will be. If anyone has gone through this, please let me know if you have any good tips/tricks you learned in the process.

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It’s going to feel a little like being in WITSEC at first;  new look, new name, and a new address, but the important difference is I won’t be in hiding, or without all of my friends!  One step at a time, but change is exciting, its keeps things fresh and new. It seems impossible to convey my gratitude to all of you for making this everything that it is.

Amazing. Remarkable. Safe. Challenging. Fun. Home.

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How Will I Be Changed?

This time last year, to the day, I wrote about how I had begun engaging in the process of choosing a word instead of resolutions to guide my year. I was resolute about giving up the habit of making new year’s resolutions; and how they had little sticking power in my experience. For the year of 2012, I had chosen the word ‘nudge’ and at the end of that year, I realized, with stunning clarity, how big changes and new understandings had their genesis in a word of such gentleness. To be nudged is not dramatic or even perceptible in some cases, but over time, a series of nudges allows for great change. I let myself be pushed.

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As 2012 rolled over into 2013, I began my reflection on what word to choose. I invited Nudge to come along for the ride, with me, into the year 2013 and asked her to help me with my new word of Give which again, I must say, chose me.  It was a word that admittedly, kinda made me a little nervous! I tried to say no and convince myself that it was a different word that just hadn’t appeared yet.

I was wrong about that; ‘give’ just wouldn’t give up. It wouldn’t go away. I know, only now, that I really needed the push in that direction.

It turned out that it was the right word after-all.  And for reasons I couldn’t have fathomed. I assumed that the idea was for me to be the one to do all this ‘giving’ and I was ambitious enough to initiate the task of composing a long list of ways that I could give during the year. I will be honest, though, and tell you that deep down, I was squirmy and uncomfortable with this task and as such, never really was completely successful in accomplishing that mission. I was just too embarrassed to tell you.

Instead, I found that in quiet, ordinary, every day life, I would hear the word whispered to me in simple moments:  give that car the room to merge ahead, wave them on nicely; give that person your full attention – remain quiet and let them talk; spend a few moments in conversation with the building custodian when leaving work, give that compliment to the woman in line ahead of you with the gorgeous hair; tell the person who helped you that they made an impact; express gratitude to the ones who are there for you all the time; give a moment a chance to happen instead of taking over.

As I glance back over my shoulder at this last year; I realize something important was quietly occurring all along.  I see that in giving we also receive, and that I had some big lessons to learn about this. I was afraid of the word ‘give’ but not for the reasons I thought.  It’s not always easy to receive.  To allow in love and support from unexpected sources, when you are expecting judgement and shame? Being able to receive the giving of that is large.

Were there moments when I did not give, or give in?  Of course.  It would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise. The push-pull and tug of war of me-vs.-them was ever-present in so many moments.  But I can also see, now, that the times I remembered to give, are ironically when I also received the most in return. Peace, Gratitude. Understanding. Laughter. Knowing.

It felt different. I wish I had written down every time I commented how the Universe just seemed to have my back, when I was most vulnerable and most uncertain about what was coming next. I’d have shoe boxes full of notes to myself.

I didn’t complete a check list of ‘giving moment’s that I thought I was supposed to do, and yet, I think I am able to accept that. It feels far more authentic to weave the idea of giving and receiving into quiet, simple and gentle moments. At first, my logical brain needed it to be a project: linear and attainable. My spirit needed it to be fluid and meaningful, never finished but instead, simply a way of being. Sometimes it happened in the hardest and most painful moments. Sometimes it was just something so simple. When friends I had not met in person would text, when I somehow needed it the most, and say, “you got this, girl!”, or listen fully to every detail of an unraveling of one life and the beginning of a new one. Or when my son showed me his resilient and adaptive soul, over and over again. Or when honest conversations brought me closer together with those I already held close to my heart. Or when giving myself over to the snail’s pace of a 93 yr old mind with dementia and I receive more stories, more layers about what I know as family. Or when giving in to a moment and a new friendship is formed before my very eyes.  

Yes, it seems fair to say that the word “give’ chose me for reasons I could never have anticipated and I feel changed because of it.  The year had not yet concluded when I was presented with the loudest whisper of all, when something inside me said ‘we have to help her‘ and we did. Again, I was on the receiving end and was graced by my beautiful friends and their unbelievable generosity and compassion, but more importantly, by their faith in me and willingness to take my lead. But even more so, I received the gift of making a difference in not one but two lives. A mama and her still-on-the-way baby boy. I received the gift of being richly rewarded and affirmed for taking a risk.

Nudge and Give were working in tandem and what an awesome team they make.

A new year has begun and it’s time to choose a new word, or perhaps be open to what chooses me.  Like when naming a child or a pet, it takes time to see if the word and the year are a good fit. This one just won’t leave me alone; it even started showing up early.

For 2014, I bring along Nudge and Give, they have been so good to me and by now we are such close companions. We travel well together and this year we add to our growing word family:

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done on purpose. deliberate. intended. conscious. 

In the process of reflecting and writing this, I came across this sentence:   You have to want it more than you are afraid of it not happening.
Bam.  There it is.

And yes, just like other years, it scares the shit out of me.

What will this require of me? What path(s) will this lead me down? What changes will I need to make? What sacrifices? How will I be challenged?

How will I be changed?

There is only one way to find out. Let’s go.

Happy New Year and what is your word? I would love to know.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

What do the beginner’s mind, an organized desk, a new year,
and a bird about to take flight all have in common?

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Hope for a new beginning.
A sense of possibility.
Anticipation of something new.

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