Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmasy things... and questioning

Even though it seemed too warm for Christmastime it was a nice first day of Winter. Another cold front should be blowing in the day before Christmas so that'll be nice. Pretty typical for Texas really. I'm getting used to it. I never thought I'd live in Texas this long but I fell in love with a Texas guy and I'm content to be wherever he is.

I finished the Christmas wrapping and now all the packages look beautiful under the tree! Mailed out the last of the cards. More cookies were baked. I have enjoyed doing Christmasy things this year. Maybe because I started out saying I wasn't going to put many decorations out. I just didn't want to make too much of a fuss. I wanted to keep it simple. In the end I may have even done more than usual, but I didn't have any expectations and didn't feel any pressure. Although putting everything away when the time comes... that's another story! Eek!

Thoughts came to me throughout the day as I bustled here and there. Some serious, some silly, some deep, some thoughtful. It started as I made breakfast ....

Why does making french toast or pancakes... and the smell of butter on the griddle ... bring me back to countless wonderful warm breakfasts in the past when I cooked breakfast for my family? Such a warm cozy feeling that makes me smile, pause, and feel thankful.

Why is it that we get old just when it seems we are beginning to really relax and feel comfortable with and accept ourselves?

Why must I treat gingerbread men cookies as though they are alive? "Edd this one wants to go to work with you today! He has only seen this kitchen his entire life.. now he wants to venture out into the world... " Hahaha!

How is it that my beliefs and searching thoughts are so messy and uncomfortable when they used to be all neatly packed into one box? Truth for me hasn’t changed. Just maybe my acceptance and understanding of it. It’s not easy but it's soo good to question and be open.

Why do people think bullying others will get them to conform or make them change their thinking? There's so much angry debate today. I think taking a thoughtful approach, respecting and listening to others' opinions and finding common ground is a better way to solve problems and find solutions.

I'm sooo tired tonight, but it's a good tired. It'll feel wonderful to climb into bed after a busy full day.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On lists

Another full day. I've never understood those who say they are bored.

This evening I thought back at all the things I did today. I'm a compulsive list maker. I even make lists at the end of the day of the things I accomplished. That is if I didn't have a to-do list in the first place to check off (which I usually do!). Kind of weird. I obviously get some kind of satisfaction from it. It's measurable, clear, and an easy way to gauge my "success". Today I did the things my hubby asked me to do. Call the surgeon's office to request paperwork. Order some medical supplies. Get a prescription filled. Pick up a few needed groceries. Then I did other important things for me like go to my physical therapy appointment to get a painful, yet helpful massage on my hurting neck and shoulders. I also gathered and completed forms and important certified documents that needed to be mailed. It was a good day and yet....

Seems I'm often consciously or unconsciously trying to validate my worth. Am I doing enough? Am I doing my fair share. Am I contributing enough to this marriage? Should I be doing more? What more can I do? I'm tired but should I be resting? Am I wasting time?

No one except me is putting these pressures on me. My husband tells me often how much he appreciates all I do and reinforces the idea that I am doing a LOT. We are partners, a team, and I'm picking up the slack. I'm doing the things he can't. I'm adding stability and making our home a loving, happy, peaceful, nurturing place to be. A place that makes him happy. Maybe it's because of his cancer. I see how much he fights through the discomfort and the pain and the challenges and keeps going ... and I feel I can never quite do enough. I'm never really able to help enough.

I told him to make a list of all the things that make him happy and the things that don't make him happy. He said he'd think about it but quickly added that I'd be at the very top of the list and that the rest doesn't matter. Maybe I should just start believing that I'm doing okay...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Thoughts on happiness and being real

There is never an end to advertisements. TV, movies, magazines, radio, billboards... Celebrities, actors, retailers selling this and telling us what we NEED to have value. To feel good about ourselves. To be accepted. To be happy. To keep up with the latest things. Advertising is designed to keep us wanting more and more and be dissatisfied with what we have.

Happiness is something we are always looking for as though it's a destination and once we get there we will have arrived! Many people feel this time of the year that if their homes and lives don't resemble a Currier and Ives Christmas card or some other ideal then they have reason to be dissatisfied or even depressed during the holidays. I've found that life is too unpredictable for happiness to be a destination because when we find it, it inevitably disappears or changes. I believe happiness comes in little snippets in our lives. We can live in a way which brings happiness. We can choose to do what makes us happy (like having a peanut butter cookie!). We can choose NOT do what does NOT make us happy (like eating a whole DOZEN peanut butter cookies!). It doesn't have to do with a bunch of "stuff". In fact, a bunch of "stuff" can make us very unhappy as it clutters up our thinking, our lives, and homes! I recently heard happiness described as "small rather than big, and always closer than you think." I liked that.

It's as simple as enjoying a warm fire or reading a good book. It's the joy we get from making healthy choices for ourselves or doing a kind deed for someone else. It's cleaning the clutter off the kitchen counter or putting on comfortable shoes. It's breaking that bad habit. It's seeing progress being made or learning something new. It's cleaning out that closet or getting rid of things weighing you down. It's sitting down with someone you love and really listening or giving (or receiving) a hug. It's incorporating as many of these things into our lives that we can.... It's NOTICING. It's appreciating. It's slowing down or stopping long enough to think about life a little deeper than just the next thing we can do to please ourselves. Doing the right thing. None of these things carry a price tag.

Some things in life are meant to be endured. No one is exempt from all suffering. Pain is part of being human. Wrong choices bring consequences that can be uncomfortable and yet, we HAVE to go outside of our comfort zone if we are going to grow and have a character that is of any worth. I'm beginning to believe that's why so many people have such weak characters today. They are only wanting to be comfortable and do what makes them feel good... having personal happiness to be their ultimate goal in life. Gaining "happiness" at the expense of growing in character and being real is not going to ultimately bring what we are seeking.

On a slightly different topic, I had an interesting talk with someone this week that has stuck with me. We were discussing how Facebook and social networks can be a double-edged sword. He said that it's a wonderful place for the exchange of ideas and interacting with genuine people, but it is no substitute for real life. He said "I'm not always the smiling guy in my picture and copying and pasting a Tolstoy quote doesn't mean I read War and Peace." Good point. I like to be inspired and getting out of my own little world sometimes...but mostly I like "real". I think we can be real... and be happy too.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. -- Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross

Just a few somewhat disjointed thoughts....

Friday, December 10, 2010

Taking care of ME!

I was a good girl last week. I was an even better girl this week. You see last week I made MYSELF a doctor's appointment for a physical. And this week I actually WENT!! Got lots of needed tests done, blood work, mammogram ... and found out some things about ME (I am in the menopausal stage. Duh, no kidding! Tell me something I DON'T know). I am one of those typical women who for years has concentrated on caring for everyone else and not made myself and my own health a priority. You know the type. The type who worries about everyone else. One of the forms listed many questions to answer about my health such as whether I smoked, drank alcohol, was ever pregnant, etc. The last question on the page was "Any other bad habits?" I wanted to write "There isn't enough room here to list all of them!" but that would really be an exaggeration because I'm just pretty normal. I could have written... "major procrastinator when it comes to making doctor appointments"... That would be more accurate.

I may have turned over a new leaf though because it really does feel GOOD to learn about yourself and take care of your body! I found out that the pain I experience all the time in my neck and shoulder and back isn't all related to stress like I wanted to think (if that's not bad enough). There is a reason for my frequent headaches! Normally we should have a c-curve in our neck... mine is straight right now. Straightening of my cervical spine is what's been causing the pain... Bad car accident 25 years ago? Repetitive movements? Stress? Spasms? Whatever the cause. It's been getting worse for a long time.

BUT... and it's a wonderful but.... the doctor said I need physical therapy. I went for my first appointment today and didn't know what to expect. Would they just teach me some exercises and send me on my way? (hope not) Would they tell me I had to sleep with traction? Would they tell me I had to wear a neck brace?

My excitement grew when I was lead into a warm, quiet room with a massage table and blankets. Yeah! Now we're talking!! As the massage therapist worked on my neck, shoulder and back I felt myself begin to heal. The trigger points were numerous and it was wonderful to get those areas worked on. The therapist used some interesting equipment that induced deep-layer muscle contractions. The sensation was strange at first since it was felt deep in the muscles in my neck and back but it soon lulled me nearly to sleep since I was left alone for about 20 minutes. Then came pulsed ultrasound therapy.... then massage. My neck feels better already!! Yay!

Do I really have to do this twice a week for a few months!! :-) Well, okay. If I HAVE to.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Desired things

I find this hauntingly beautiful.... words written long ago... but so meaningful for today.

-- written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s --

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Words from the past

I read over an old journal today. One I began over 20 years ago. In many ways I'm still the same. Still struggling with the same things...like in 1989 "many times I refuse to take the risk that's involved to wander out of my safe environment" or in 1997 "today was a difficult day. I'm feeling very dull and like I'm in a fog lately. I pray the Lord will give me a clear mind and thinking.... I cried today about...."

I've been journaling for a long time. Almost 20 years ago I wrote that I wanted to "write a little each day, so I can go back and remember the special memories that happen which may otherwise be forgotten".

I'm glad I have this journal. In some ways it's painful to look back and see what I was thinking about, agonizing over and trying so hard to understand. Because I wrote some things down I can be easily transported back in time to that exact place where I was. It's nice to know my motives were good as I sought God's help in everyday life. I wanted to do the right thing. Make things better. But I did discover that I just didn't have control over everything that happened. That was a bitter pill to swallow. I know I still wrestle with that.

One thing is evident. I did a lot of praying for my family. Why things broke down is a mystery to me. Why God didn't answer all my prayers is unknown. I do know God pulled me out of a very destructive place and plopped me down into a place where I feel safe. For that I'm grateful.

This journal reveals a lot. It speaks loudly of my hopes, and my prayers and my love for family and especially my daughters. It is clear where my heart was... If my love was ever doubted, these written words from the past would erase any uncertainty.

It's bittersweet to read over such wonderful times and also such painful times. Experience is still the best teacher so I will accept both as part of what has molded me into the me of today... The journey and molding continues.