A Time to Rest

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a doer.  Motivated and driven by accomplishments, often times regardless of their size or apparent value.  Whether it’s folding 5 loads of laundry, making an hour’s worth of photo copies for my son’s teacher, or running a business – my natural tendency is to create or produce something.  I’m at my best when I’m in action;  moving, thinking, working, organizing, planning, DOING!

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While this attribute has afforded me much success in my life, it has also proven to be a double edged sword.

Thirty years ago, sitting in the wooded banks of Lake Champlain with my college roommates, we sat for hours contemplating the concept of doing versus being.  It was philosophy 101 in the forest.  There may have been a little mind altering influences that prompted the conversation, but nonetheless, it was a long, thorough and intense discussion that resulted in more questions than answers.

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I never thought thirty years later I’d still be entertaining the differences between these two concepts.

Maybe it’s age?  Maybe it’s the stage of life, with its impending transition from every day mom to only when I need you mom.  Maybe it’s the M word (menopause – gasp?!)  Maybe I’m like the Energizer Bunny and my batteries are running out of juice?  Maybe I’ve concentrated on the art of doing for so long, and it’s simply time to rest, and practice being?

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Dwelling in this concept, I notice an aversion to the word rest.  It conjures up visions of being lazy, useless, inactive and weak.  Clearly, if I’m to surrender and accept this time of rest, I better adopt a new belief system.

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Rest has been defined as to cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself or recover.  It is the peace, ease or refreshment that results from the cessation of an activity.  That’s a good start.  But while reading The Religious Values of Rest and Leisure, I ultimately found the real clarity I needed to embrace the concept.  This article shared that we should “value mindful rest more than mindless rest. Taking a break does not mean the primary value is to turn off one’s own core unique human faculties but the opposite. Mindful rest, where we engage our mind, heart, and soul in different and meaningful ways from the norm, is not only more effective to recharge, it also ensures that our rest helps promote self-actualization.”

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I can wrap my brain around the concept of mindful rest, but honestly can’t envision what it looks like in actuality, in my day to day life.  As the signs continue to point towards this being a time to rest, I will find freedom and joy in discovering what it means to live from a place of mindful, intentional, purposeful rest.

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

A Brutal Game of Tug-O-War

I wish someone had told me the dirty truth about marriage, childbirth, and being a mom.  It’s easy to share our joys and accomplishments, but life is a bumpy ride filled with pot holes and road blocks.  Exposing the challenges, the fears, and the pain that accompanies the journey, not so easy!  However, the alternative is to live a life of half truths, and although that may feel safer, it leaves us living in isolation.

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The isolation is making me feel like I’m going crazy!  With only 190-ish more days left (plus or minus a few) before my first born leaves for college, time feels as though it’s slipping through my hands like sand in an hour glass.  I want to flip it upside, start the clock over again.  Or better yet, lay it down on its side, temporarily pausing the progression of time.

I’m trying to stay present in the moment, to embrace, absorb and be grateful for my relationship with Ben.  But the truth is I’m white knuckled, desperately clinging to our current reality, knowing it will soon be just a memory.

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Although at times this thing called “be present” seems to be an impossible feat, we are truly at our best when we live in the moment.  Relationships grow in the present.  Joy is tangible in the present.  Love is given and received in the present.  When we surrender to really living in the present, getting lost in the moment, the regrets about the past and fears of the future cannot exist.

Yet I worry that if I don’t allow my mind to wander both back to the past and forward into the future, I may be blindsided come mid August as my first born begins to pack his belongings for his new home.  It’s a mental game of tug-o-war.

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My mind begins to meander down memory lane, and instantly my eyes fill with tears.  I can’t distinguish if they are tears of sadness for a time I’ll never get to experience again, tears of regret for mistakes I made, or tears of joy for the gift that Ben was at each awesome stage of his childhood.  Perhaps there is such an overflow of tears because it is all of that and more.  My greatest regret as a mom was my inability to be really present with my boys.  My body was there, but my mind wandered uncontrollably, which left me feeling disconnected from my own life.

When I fast forward, imagining life without Ben in our home, I’m overwhelmed by loneliness, which is surprising because my life is filled with amazing relationships.  But this loneliness isn’t really about being alone, it feels more like an emptiness, as though a piece of my heart will be missing.  I just can’t comprehend the thought of having this amazing person in my life, every single day, for eighteen and a half years, and then suddenly not!

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As the tug-o-war intensifies, so do the tears.  But I keep this secret, from everyone, because I feel guilty (or maybe crazy) for my overwhelming depth of emotion.  Other moms share how happy they are for their children, how excited they are for this next stage, how capable and prepared their kids are.  Blah, blah, blah, blah……..

YES to ALL of that!  I know!  I know!

Well, my head knows, but my heart doesn’t think like my head.

My head knows the truth.  But my heart is in mourning.  My head knows how much there is to be gained from this next chapter.  But my heart feels like it is losing something.  My head knows the limitless possibilities of the future.  But my heart is aching for the past.  My head knows to be grateful for each day we have left together.  But my heart is stuck, counting the last of everything.

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All that’s left is to drop the rope, for there is no winner in this game of tug-o-war.  I may struggle, but it will be a struggle to stay present, to live fully in the moment where both my head and my heart can experience joy, gratitude and love!

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with joy, gratitude & love,

We Are All Connected

Writing was not in my schedule for today.  But as life would have it, I had a simple yet profound experience at the grocery store that must be shared!

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After forty-five minutes of walking up and down every aisle, with pen in a hand and my nose buried in the grocery list, I finally made it to the front of the store.  I scanned the checkout stations from left to right, searching for the shortest line, but was distracted by an older lady unloading groceries in the line directly in front of me.  I say older only because of her gray hair.  Everything else about her screamed young and cool.

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She had a short but contemporary hair cut, was sporting fur lined Merrell clogs, denim jeans with a cute cuff and the clincher was her heavily tie dyed hoodie sweatshirt.  Oh yeah – she had me at the tie dye – took me right back to my college days listening to The Grateful Dead in Burlington, Vermont!

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I no longer cared how quickly I could escape the confines of the grocery store.  I just wanted to meet this hipster grandma.  Item by item I unloaded my grocery cart, barely taking my eyes off her in the hopes that she would turn my way and make eye contact so I could tell her how much I loved her tie dye.  Sure, the sweatshirt was the connection, the thing that drew me in, but what I really wanted was to learn the story behind this gray haired woman who moved with the agility of a fit 50 year old and wore swirling bright colors with confidence and ease.

We never made eye contact.  Not once did she turn her head even slightly to the left so I could catch her attention.  I bent down to grab the items under the cart, and when I stood back up, she was already heading through the front door towards the parking lot.

With an audible sigh of disappointment, I realized I had missed the opportunity…..

Then he appeared, standing as though trying to maintain his balance, right behind my grocery cart.  He was the cutest old man, overdue for a shave, dressed in a suit too big for his frail body, holding nothing but a bunch of bananas.  I would have gladly let him go before me, but the cashier had already begun ringing me up.  I glanced back towards him repeatedly, each time feeling a need to offer him a seat, or a hug….or something.  Finally, I gestured to take his bananas and place them on the counter so he wouldn’t have to hold them any longer.

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As though my thoughts and actions were being guided from above, I handed his bananas to the cashier, asked her to ring them up on my tab, and place them in a grocery bag.  As I turned back to give the bananas to him, he mumbled something about needing to get cash.  It occurred to me that he was unaware of what just happened, so I told him I paid for his bananas and he didn’t have to wait in line any longer.  He looked at me puzzled and softly uttered “You did?”.   I gently placed my hand on his shoulder and told him to have a wonderful day.  As suddenly as he had entered my life, he was gone, shuffling out the same door my little old hippie lady had previously departed through.

With an audible sigh of relief, I realized I had created the opportunity….

The feeling of making a difference, of being a contribution to another human being, is almost indescribable.  At best, it is an experience that one must live through and feel to truly understand.

I will never know the difference my banana purchase really made for that sweet old man.  What I know for certain though, is the impact it had on me, affecting me physically, emotionally and spiritually!

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In our world, introductions are just a formality.  We are all connected simply by virtue of our humanity.  Yet we typically live our lives with our heads buried in our grocery list, so to speak.  We proceed through life within the boundaries of our own individual world, thinking about and interacting with only those things that appear to directly affect us.

In so doing, we miss the opportunity to experience our connection with others, to both make a difference and be contributed to.  We miss the magic, the beauty, the gift, the awesomeness that life has to offer!

It’s really so simple.

Choose to interact with the world.

Be intentional about making a difference.

Open yourself up to the possibility that you will receive back twice the gift you give.

Create the opportunity to contribute.

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As I was loading my groceries into the truck, the mini van to my right began to slowly back out.  I glanced over, only to see my hippie grandma in the driver’s seat.  Without a second’s hesitation, I stopped what I was doing and approached her car.  I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity twice!  As she rolled down her window I blurted out how I’d been admiring her tie dye sweatshirt in the checkout line.  The rest of what I said to her was a blur as my words poured out fast and furiously, seizing this opportunity.  She smiled with both her mouth and her eyes, saying more in that look than words could ever capture.

As we parted, I was left with a sense that we had both experienced a simple, almost inconsequential moment….and yet we had given each other an undefinable gift that still lingers with me.

We gave each other the gift of LOVE.

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

Love Letter to My Dad

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Dear Dad,

I’m sitting down to write you a love letter.  I’m sure that sounds strange, but let me explain.  LOVE is my word for this year, it’s the word that will give my life focus and direction for the next 349 days.  I can’t say I chose it, because I didn’t.  It chose me, for a few reasons I understand, and many more that I’m sure I’ll discover as the year unfolds.

So I’m thinking about love, wondering about love, and talking about love.  I’m feeling love, giving love, receiving love.  I’m seeing love, testing love, immersing myself in the meaning of this word love.  In so doing, I’m discovering that it’s everywhere.  I can’t escape it, even if (and when) I want to!

In the grocery store today I saw this most adorable, plush and cuddly stuffed tiger.  He’s got these long dangling arms with velcro on the paws, intended to wrap around your neck and give you a hug.  As much as you LOVE tigers, I’m sure you don’t need one more stuffed feline in your house.  So I walked past him twice,  but just couldn’t resist the urge to pick him up and give him a big squeeze before I added him to my grocery cart!

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The grocery store clerk casually tossed him into the bag with the bread, not realizing that she was being way too rough with my inanimate symbol of you.  He was the first thing I unpacked when I finally carried the last load of groceries in from my car.

This silly little tiger evoked an overwhelming feeling of love for you.  Standing in my pantry unpacking groceries, the thought hit me, do you know how much I love you?

I mean really know!  Not just the “I’m your daughter and I’m supposed to love you” kind of love.  But do you really know, both intellectually and in your heart, the depth of my love for you?

I lost all four of my grandparents suddenly, without an opportunity to say goodbye, without a final hug, without telling them how much I really loved them!

A love letter is not meant to be morbid, but the truth is, regardless of our age, we never know when our final day will be.  The pain of my past, of losing so many that I loved without notice, inspired me to write you this love letter, to tell you NOW, so I know that you know, without question, how much I love you!

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I love you to the moon and back

I love you when I see tigers

I love you as I eat Lay’s potato chips and onion dip…..or a late night bowl of ice cream

I love you when I sit in the same spot on my sofa that you always sit

I love you when I have a hammer in my hand

I love you when I watch the Steelers play

I love you when I think of Grandma

I love you every single time I try something new

I love you when I drink coffee

I love you when I fold the paper grocery store bags with perfection

I love you when I venture into the guest room and see your artwork hanging on the wall

I love you when the boys find a Star Wars movie on tv

I love you when I put my raincoat on

I love you when Ben or Peter speak your name, with a smile on their face

I love you when I hug you, and neither one of us lets go

I love you every day

I love you….

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My love for you is so embedded in my everyday life, I can’t count how many times a day you cross my mind and I am reminded that I love you.

My love for you is pure!  For me, there is nothing unfinished, nothing incomplete in our relationship.  You are simply easy to love and so I do, with all my heart and soul!

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

A Conversation With My Soul

Sometimes I find it so challenging to just sit and write.  What will I write about?  Why will I write?  Who will I write for?  Driven by accomplishments, validated by the outcome, defined by my results – that is who I have been for as long as I can remember.  The intellectual me.  The perfectionist me.  The child me.  The not good enough me.

There is this pull, like a toddler grabbing on her mom’s skirt, this subtle tugging, somewhere deep inside.

What is that?

It’s a feeling, but not an emotion.

It’s an unsettling, yet everything appears to be fine.

It is my soul.  With the patience of a saint, gently tugging at my heartstrings, until I stop, long enough to notice it begging for my attention.

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But how long will this take?  Because I really don’t have any time for this.  I don’t have extra time.  I don’t have free time.   I don’t have time to sit around waiting for you.

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Patience and quiet

Patience, quiet and faith

If our soul is the part of us that is true and pure, that is all knowing, that comes from love, that desires nothing other than for us to fulfill our purpose – why is it not jumping up and down, waving its arms in our face, screaming in our ear all the answers that we seek?

Why isn’t it leaving us a list of directions on the kitchen counter, like a recipe for life?

Why doesn’t it fly a banner high in the sky off the back of an airplane, with instructions?

Why does it seem to play this cat and mouse game with us, making us work so hard to discover all that it knows?

Because we verbally vomit on our souls.  Displaying the selfishness of a one sided conversation.  We beg and plead for the answer.  But we don’t stop, we never stop long enough to give our soul the chance to have a conversation, not just listen to our monologue.

Patience.  Patience to learn and grow, search and discover, fail and succeed.  Patience.

Quiet.  Quiet because it speaks at a different frequency than our ears can hear.  We have to learn to listen with all our senses.  Quiet.

Faith.  Faith that with patience and quiet, we will receive the guidance, the direction, the message that our soul is meant to deliver to us.

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My soul is both weary and ready.  Weary of battling the intellectual me, the perfectionist me, the child me, the not good enough me.  Ready for me to seek the quiet, allow the quiet, embrace the quiet.  Ready to give me all the answers I have been searching for, if only I’d listen and have faith.

My heart flutters.  It’s that feeling from inside, like that tugging of the heartstrings I’ve grown so accustomed to.  But this time it’s different.  I can feel my soul dancing on my heart….and I know we are having a conversation.

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

 

My One Word Is…..

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Love is my one word.

I most certainly did not pick this word.  It chose me, jumped right into my lap and said “well hello there – I’m your word for 2014!”.  But it didn’t just sit in my lap, like crumbs I could brush off as I stood up.  NO – it attached itself to me like glue.

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I am truly dumbfounded.  Lost in the complexity of this one word.  How am I supposed to focus on and live from this thing called love, when I can’t even define it, distinguish it or determine exactly what it is?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – we aren’t supposed to have this all figured out the first week of the year, are we?

My head is fighting it, but I can hear my heart whispering….

Just live in the space of LOVE, be intentional about LOVE, practice LOVE.

Still, I shake my head in confusion.

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Immersing myself in LOVE leaves me with so many questions….

What is love?

How do we know we are experiencing love?

What’s in the absence of love?

Do we feel love first, then act on it?  Or do we act from love to create the feeling?

How do we distinguish degrees of love?

Is it true – that all we need is love?

Who should we love?

Is love a noun, adjective, verb….or all of the above?

If it doesn’t have a heartbeat, can you love it?

How do we practice love when we aren’t feeling love?

Can we choose love, even if it isn’t present?

WHAT THE HECK IS LOVE???

This word scares me!  Makes me feel vulnerable, overwhelmed and exposed.  I have no idea where this word will take me, but I know with certainty that if I embrace it, commit to it and trust it – living from this word LOVE – I will be forever changed.

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 with Joy, Gratitude & Love,