Not just ours…

We watched it.

Mesmerized by it’s glow. It’s charm.

Its seemingly languid way.

Of slipping away.

Until it was gone.

Kind of like it was teasing us with a childlike chant…

“now you see me, now you don’t”

The afterglow was proof enough that truly we hadn’t just imagined it.

It really had been there.

But.

If we had blinked, we would have missed it.

We watched it slip behind the horizon, slip off the edge of our today.

A new thought washed over me.

We think of the setting sun as ours, the closing of but just one of our many days.

I, for the first time, realized…

that final slip, that closing…

…is not just ours.

It is now the beginning of something altogether new.

For someone else.

It is not just ours

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Those Rocks. That Tree.

As time passes, and life happens to and around us,  we are not necessarily the same people year after year.

And, it seems, to me, that we shouldn’t be.  Without compromising who we are at the core; we learn and grow. As a rock erodes into a pebble and eventually into sand over time, we have the potential to change in seemingly invisible ways every day. Our minds can change. Lord knows our bodies change. Relationships come and go and add rich layers of memory and story and sometimes hurts and forgiveness.

Our kids, the people we are raising, leave us changed daily.  Responding to the struggle(s) of the day, whether it’s the 7th grade math, freshman year jitters, college goodbyes, first heart breaks, puberty, or the teething and diapers – it all becomes part of our core. Like cooking from a recipe made so many times we feel it more than we can explain it. It just is. We just are.

My son is on the early cusp of puberty, my father has dementia. I am still a mother and a daughter but what that means and requires of me is changing as they change. Some days it looks no different than the day before, and then suddenly it’s obvious we are all different.

That said, among all that we juggle – the balls we manage to catch, and the ones we simply know are hovering in the balance, seemingly invisible but so very present – comfort can be found when we return to a place that does not change. A place that is somehow a constant for us, a landmark in both the metaphorical and concrete kind of ways.  A place that somehow soothes our soul, beckons us to memories that we can smell and feel from visits gone by, but it’s as if it were yesterday each time we return.

When you recognize a tree in the forest like an old friend, and know the one rock on which to sit by the lake.  They are unchanged and exactly where you saw them last.

That.

A place where the soul settles and rests.

And exhales.

We should all have that kind of place.

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.  – John Ruskin

A place where we are sure of who we are, excited about possibilities we perhaps can’t even fathom (but like those balls hovering in the balance, we know they are there…) and revel in all that has been.  From good to difficult and everything that lies between. A place where –  no matter the season,  no matter the weather  – gives us just exactly the moments we need. No matter in what direction the winds may blow, to have and find comfort in a place that we are so very lucky to know.

And I’ve been lucky enough to learn that when someone you adore adores the same place as you – well, that’s one sweet exhale.

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Ps…thanks to Lori for the Ruskin quote!
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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

 

Pieces | Does it Matter?

When you find something that resonates with your spirit,
does it matter where it comes from?

First, read the following three comments (there might be a quiz):

“Knowing there is a world that will outlive you, there are people whose well-being depends on how you live your life, affects the way you live your life, whether or not you directly experience those effects. You want to be the kind of person who has the larger view, who takes other people’s interests into account, who’s dedicated to the principles that you can justify, like justice, knowledge, truth, beauty and morality.”  – Steven Pinker, cognitive scientist


  “In the theater you create a moment, but in that moment, there is a touch, a twinkle of eternity. And not just eternity, but community. . . . That connection is a sense of life for me.”  – Teller, illusionist


“Joy is human connection; the compassion put into every moment of humanitarian work; joy is using your time to bring peace, relief, or optimism to others. Joy gives without the expectation—or wish—of reciprocity or gratitude. . . . Joy immediately loves the individual in need and precedes any calculation of how much the giver can handle or whom the giver can help.”  – Erik Campano, emergency medicine


Then, ponder: What do these all have in common?

Other than being reflective, positive, thoughtful and other-centric?

All three are responses to questions posed to Atheists about their moral values and motivations…what gives them joy and meaning.


In reality, when asked about their moral values or what motivates them in life, atheists use words that sound downright spiritual, very much like the words religious people use in fact, with a few noteworthy differences. To create his book,  A Better Life, Photographer Chris Johnson asked 100 atheists about what gives their lives joy and meaning. To some Christians the question is equivalent to asking an elephant where he gets his chocolate ice cream. The answers might surprise them even more. Themes include love and connection, compassion and service, legacy (leaving the world a little better), creativity and discovery, gratitude, transcendence, and wonder—all heightened by a sense that this one life is fleetingly transient and precious.


Another piece in this interesting, slowly forming puzzle. One that clearly requires an open mind.

For more thought provoking responses, you can read the entire article or dive deeper and get the book.

This has me intrigued. I’d love to know what you think, when you find something that resonates, does it matter where it comes from?

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Bat Cracking Crystal Clarity

When I was much younger, I sought out the insight and guidance of a counselor/therapist to help me sort out a significant relationship that had crashed down all around me, taking me with it. I was in the throes of picking myself up off the ground, trying to decide if I believed the sky was blue because people told me it was, or if I truly knew that. The betrayal and disappointment of the crumbled relationship left me feeling the expected sad, heartbroken and angry mixed up emotions; but I also felt so disoriented and unsure. My foundation felt as if it had been rocked and it took me quite a time to inside out and right side up myself.

In this process, I remember distinctly, in one of the sessions; we talked about about choice. About connection. About trusting self. The therapist waxed eloquent about many things; she was really good.  That conversation is mostly, now, simply an essence in my mind these many years later. But what I can still hear, crystal clear, is a statement she made. I can hear her to this day, with the clarity of clinking wine glasses or a bat and ball connecting on a grand slam. She simply said that we must look for and choose people to surround us who ‘inspirit us’ and to selectively limit those who ‘disinspirit us’; then we talked for awhile about what this meant and how to recognize it going forward.  To seek out those who breathe life into us, and to be cognizant of those who leave us feeling deflated.

I return to that idea, that template if you will, often. It’s one of those moments that rang so true for me, made sense on such a foundational level; it was a pivot point in the right-siding-up process for me.  In crisis, is also an opportunity to begin to see things in new ways.

Like many good life lessons we collect along the way; it stayed with me but I will be honest and tell you that it was and is not always top of mind; we lose perspective. We get distracted. We get lazy; complacent. With healing, comes too the risk of receding from the active state of intentional growth. It’s hard work. Life delivers so many lessons to us; it seems fair to say that they can sometimes feel like a rolodex, spinning from one to the next.

At a point in my life where I feel drawn to think carefully, choose as wisely as I can – to be intentional in all things – I once again find myself bumping up against this way of thinking.

The life-rolodex has spun me back to the letter I…intentional, inspirit.

Flash forward some twenty years and over a recent lunch with a treasured friend who also happens to be a gifted therapist; and while deep in conversation about marriages, friendships, partnerships, relationships – all of the people we bring into our lives – she eloquently rolls off her tongue the idea, this truth, that when any relationship requires us to be small, remain small or somehow get small in order to sustain the relationship, to keep it alive – we have to ask ourselves if it is worth it. Is it right?

I made her stop. Say it again, and then again, so I could write it down. There was that ringing clarity again.

I also see now that if we have to be small, we cannot feel inspirited by another – for implicit in the idea of being inspirited is a sense of expansion, taking in oxygen and feeling filled with life and joy.

No, the two are contrary to each other.

But, to be intentional about who we invite into our lives, as friends, business partners, lovers, spouses, friends, requires that we identify and know what we need to feel inspirited. And, that we also have the capacity, yes, to be inspiriting to others?  I read the other day that

Over time, as we grow, we have to remember that we gradually learn to be less focused on personality and to identify more closely with essence, the true nature of ourselves and others.   – Wisdom of the Enneagram

In my never ending and seemingly bottomless-pit quest for understanding, peace and direction, I found myself nodding and finding some resonance in a comment on a blog where the person shared that after much hurt and consternation when things in her life were just not going right, with time and careful discernment it came clear to her that she wanted someone –  companions – friends –  people in her life – who feel like a warm sunny summer morning.

someone who feels like a warm sunny summer morning.

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The way I see it, that’s a great way to frame it!   The feeling of those words echoed a true and clear resonance.  They remind me, in their own way, of choosing a word to guide our year. Allowing essence to guide our connections.

Click. Clink. Crack.

The words leaped off the page and into me and answered questions I didn’t quite realize I had already begun asking myself.  And connected themselves readily to these ideas of inspirit and taking up the space of who we really are. Not shaving off corners and bits here and there.

If we are really paying attention to the quiet still parts of ourselves – not always easy to do – perhaps we can learn to better recognize those who inspirit us, those who make room for us no matter our ‘size’  and who feel like a warm sunny summer morning.

Or maybe for some of us it is a clear spring day?  Or a crisp autumn afternoon? Or a cozy fireside seat on a brisk blustery evening? For each of us the essence will be unique; what’s important is finding out what it is.

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Happily Simple or Simply Happier

“Every increased possession loads us with new weariness.” -John Ruskin

There are people, we all know them and we call them “they’ and it is they who say that less is more. I think they know what’s going on, really going on.  They seem to know quite a lot, they do.

I had been noticing, and pondering, this new sort of reality I have found myself in, when Lori from DonnaandDiablo shared this quote awhile back. It caught my attention and I loved how it resonated with thoughts that have been bumping around in my mind, and my notebook, and my conversations, over this last year or so.

Those little moments where little light-bulbs pop to life and I hear my mind say, ‘hmmmm…’

Change, with it’s multifaceted ways and ever-reaching tentacles of both joy and grief, peace and anxiety, comes with much turbulence.

Thankfully, change can also bring clarity and focus.

This change in my life included an actual move to a new location and initially in any move, the primary focus is simple: find the underwear and the toothbrush, and everything else follows in time.  I’ve learned, after many moves, that knowing for certain where those two items are located in the piles, can make the rest of the chaos a little more bearable. So, in this settling in period, as one might call it, this period of transition, some things have become more clear to me once I found my spiritual underwear, so to speak.

Or at least slightly more in focus. fog As I have found my way in this new space I now call home, I realize that without even realizing it, less truly is more. Or is it that there is more to be said about having less? Possessions, that is. Because I truly think that I have more now than before. [I am thinking that Dr. Suess would probably like this post, and that just makes me, well, happy].

I have noticed that…

…where, in my previous location, it seemed I never had enough kitchen cabinet storage, and I had overflowed to a re-purposed cabinet in the garage, I now have honest-to-goodness extra space. Like, empty cupboards in the kitchen. Seriously!

…where I used to be constantly running out of space on my DVR, ever agonizing which un-watched recording could get deleted without ever being viewed, my new DVR has exactly seven programs waiting for me. And of those seven, two I am saving for the kiddo. 

…that I often was consumed by the next purchase, desperate in my attempt to acquire, to fill so as to avoid the void;  and that now I shop with intention for what is truly needed and appreciated. Time spent in good company far outweighs things, ten to one. So does saving for a rainy day. Or a sunny trip.

…where before I went after the fancy kitchen remodel, I find more peace in a nearly one hundred year old house that leans a little but has more good juju than a box of juju beans.

And, I have noticed that while once full of secrets I was too fearful of sharing, I now understand how the truth really can be freeing. 

I will be honest, and say that sometimes I look around and see all the people with all the stuff. And I wonder, am I missing something? Am I fooling myself?  Will I change my mind at some point (other than the fleeting moments when I walk through the Nordstrom shoe department of course) ?  We are programmed to want more, bigger, better; it feels foreign to go against this grain.

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I had a conversation the other day – one of those proverbial conversation that goes like this:  ‘what would you grab if your house caught on fire and you only had a few minutes’ ?  

For my companion, there was much angst and indecision. I could hear him taking inventory in his mind and feeling the pressure of the imagined decision.  For me, I realized that my answer was so much easier than his. My list was short and clear. Things are just that, things. When we lean into change, we have to make choices. When we lean into change, we invite clarity into our lives.

It occurred to me in the days since that conversation, that the possessions, all the stuff, can take up so much precious space;  and that isn’t it possible that the more space I make for me, the less I need to fill up that space?

What about you?

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Note Of The Day…

“My mother… she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.”  – Jodi Picoult

My mom was just that, soft and nurturing,  yet small and oh so mighty.  We went toe-to-toe in my childhood and adolescence – my strong will matched so completely by her inner strength; a power that I suspect she never quite fully realized.  It’s what I channel to this day as a mother of my own mini me.

To grow old and be like her would be an honor.

My mother lived what unconditional love looks like; she was forever my number one champion and the evening she quietly slipped to the other side marks a most striking contrast; a before-and-after moment in my life, unparalleled by nothing other than the birth of my own child. The stories I could share to make this clear are endless. My mother knew me in ways I am still yet realizing. She saw me in a way I can’t even quite yet, standing here in the middle point of my life.  She accepted me despite my many attempts to push her back, because I always needed one more test to know that she really and truly was always going to love me.

She always passed.

Today marks the day she left our world, sixteen years ago.  There will come a day, when I will know more years without her than I do with her, but thankfully we are not there yet. Even if so, her essence, her spirit really, is etched deep within; she is part of me. If life is aligned as it should be, we do not forget our mothers, and I think that we never stop needing them. At least I don’t, and in fact, the older I get, the more I realize just how much I need her. I wasn’t yet a mother myself when she passed on, and it’s my deepest sadness that we didn’t get to share this profound part of our lives.

Anticipating this milestone, I have been thinking of her more than usual, if that’s possible. Not too long ago, I unearthed a box of old journals – a Pandora’s box of memory and emotion.

In the box, I found – among so much else – something I wrote in October of 1995, while taking a creative writing class. It reveals, and reminds me of an exquisite part of her character, her everyday presence. That look between us in our photo above.  Her gift of constancy; I always knew I was at the top of mind for her.  What I wrote 19 yrs ago  – which turned out to be exactly two years before we started to say our goodbyes, my memorial to a most gracious soul  – is really my post for today.

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Here’s to you mom,

you are missed

in every way,

in my every day.

xo

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