A Day to Dream

It’s easy to forget how much I enjoy a day off from work during the week. What for many was a one day holiday on July 4th, I chose to use vacation time and craft a five-day, stay at home weekend. Although not yet contained in MSWord’s spellchecker, it was a surprise to find the word ‘staycation’ has made its way into American dictionaries: a vacation spent at one’s home enjoying all that home and one’s home environs have to offer.

Staycation days are especially good when I don’t fill them up with projects and stuff to do. Being one who is somewhat hooked on activity, it’s healthy to slow down from my usual busy-ness addiction. The only plans I have is to drive with a friend to a nearby city one day to visit a mutual comrade, be true to my intentions to catch up on sleep (eleven hours last night!) and to spent some time outside.

Let us put awhile away
All the cares of work-a-day,
For a golden time forget,
Task and worry, toil and fret,
Let us take a day to dream
In the meadow by the stream.

We may linger as we will
In the sunset valleys still,
Till the gypsy shadows creep
From the starlit land of sleep,
And the mist of evening gray
Girdles round our pilgrim way.

We may bring to work again
Courage from the tasselled glen,
Bring a strength unfailing won
From the paths of cloud and sun,
And the wholesome zest that springs
From all happy, growing things.

From “A Day Off” by Lucy Maud Montgomery,
a Canadian author best known for a series of novels
that began with Anne of Green Gables published in 1908.

Richly decadent is one shade of my feeling within at this moment. Unshaven for two days, I sit here writing at a time I would normally be piloting a desk and driving a computer at work. All in all, I am more grateful than usual simply because I am taking time to relish being alive.

The best cure for an off day is a day off.
Frank Tyge

Improved Means to an Unimproved End

Living in a country where I have been programmed to consume, it’s difficult not to indulge to or even past the point of what I can afford. Things have not always been so in this country. Somewhere in the last hundred years or so American culture went from pursuing our needs to one of chasing our wants. Hence, the concept of a “standard of living” came about which is made possible by all who want to sell stuff at a profit.

It is evident to me I don’t need most of what I have, but have been advertised into a little bit of insanity about raising my “standard of living”; having more stuff, newer stuff, better stuff or more expensive stuff. Like a hamster on a wheel I have gone round and round trying to satisfy an insatiable desire. There is nothing wrong with wanting, but what I do about those desires matters.

As one friend said to me years ago, “having lots of stuff is OK, as long as the stuff does not have you”. Having grown up poor it has been easy for me to grow emotionally connected to my stuff as I have succeeded and progressed professionally. Having “stuff” is part of my “other esteem” issue when things outside me sometimes get substituted for where my self-esteem should be. Just recognizing I do that and accepting it has been a healthy step.

Now days I sometimes finding myself feeling burdened by all the things I have. Moving out of the country for a year a while back I was amazed how much storage space was needed for my stuff. No storage unit was large enough. I had to rent a warehouse!

What I hang on to actually shapes my life to an extent. The stuff determines to a point how I spend my money, where I live, what I do and don’t do and even when I do it. Honestly there have been times when I yearned for the youthful days when everything I owned would fit in my car and the smallest Uhaul trailer I could rent. True or not, I recall feeling freer back then. Certainly youth contributed to that sense, but the lack of things/stuff/possessions/crap/junk, whatever you want to call them, had a lot to do with how I felt.

So what have I done recently? Completed a project of framing items collected for twenty plus years.  My holiday weekend project is to hang them in my home. More stuff to care for and maintain. Alas, my addiction continues, but not without some progress.

I am grateful to recognize my affliction and even understand it a little. Half of facing any issue is coming to realize it exists. There I have arrived and now the difficult work begins over time: making my load of stuff lighter. After all, everything I own will belong to someone else one day. One of the sorting mechanisms I have already discovered for deciding what to keep and not keep is asking myself “I wonder how much this will sell for at an estate/garage sale some day?”

Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys,
which distract our attention from serious things.
They are but improved means to an unimproved end.
Henry David Thoreau

Casting Thoughts Into the World

These days there’s not a lot holding me back from doing most anything I want. I’m single and my son is established and will turn thirty soon. My health is good and my spirits are high for the most part. There is nothing holding me back from having the life I desire. The quandary is what do I want? Or is the life I already have what I need?

There are thoughts about moving out of the country again and enjoying the enrichment that kind of experience brings. I love the experience of a new place and even the discomfort learning a new culture puts me in. It makes the days more memorable and me feel more brightly alive. Costa Rica still attracts me, but there’s a town in Ecuador I’d like to check out that I’ve read has become quite an expatriate destination. Parts of eastern Europe pulls at me as well.

I could retire early and live on a smaller income from investments that would provide for me, but I’d need to live more simply that I do now. Two-years is a retirement goal I set a few months ago, but am uncertain if I will make that far or else just keep on working long past that. Talk about indecision!

I could keep on in my profession for another 10 years but I can’t see myself doing that willingly. The work is hard which I don’t mind, but it is not challenging in a good way anymore. I do enjoy the people I work with and would miss seeing them every day.

Assuming I don’t run way anytime soon, before long I will be able to turn my rec-room into usable space (instead of storage). I am bouncing back and forth between two ideas. One is to set up a game room complete with my pool table, gaming table and all the rest of the trappings I still have from another home. The other idea is to strip the floor to concrete and set up my photography studio gear and make the room work space. I have not had dedicated work space in 15 years for my photography! I like playing pool and a game room is a great place to entertain. However, I don’t entertain often and while I “like” playing pool, I love photography! The photography studio idea is winning as I write and has been mentally on top for a while now.

Looking back over what I have written I can see that one short-term choice has really already been made. I just have to acknowledge that it’s a photograph studio I want most and not a game room. It has been very helpful to read my own words as they caused me to see a little more clearly.

None of what I have written about above previously has been more than casual conversation with a few close to me. Casting thoughts into the world through this blog in a great help. It’s one thing to think thoughts and something quite different cast them into the world for anyone to read.

It has been my discovery that temporary indecision is frequently a good thing. Not being able to decide at any given time just means I am considering my options seriously. I am grateful to have the many options I do!

Remember, there are no mistakes,
only lessons.
Love yourself,
trust your choices,
and everything is possible.
Cherie Carter-Scott

Letting Go and Letting Life

“If it is to be, it’s up to me” was my motto for a long time. However experience helped me to discover that simply letting go and letting life unfold is a key ingredient to a good life. Instead of trying to force every step I take into a self-fixed direction quite frequently the best course to take is to give up control. Some would label it intellectual blindness. Others could call it spiritual naiveté. There are those who might say I am childishly not being responsible. To them my response is, “you just don’t know yet what I know”.

For me it comes to this: When I don’t know what else to do, the ‘secret’ learned has been to simply let go; give it up; release controlling; and let things turn out as they naturally do.  Allowing the forces that exist in the universe and the power of something beyond me lend help when I am at wit’s end is one of the greatest pieces of wisdom garnered so far.

When I was learning to be a private pilot one of the more challenging parts was going through spin training. No matter how much my trusted instructor told me the aircraft would recover from a spin on its own if I would let go of the controls, it was impossible to do at first. Nothing he said could get me away from my instinctive feeling that the only way out of a frightening spin was doing it myself. Little by little I began believe my teacher when he talked ‘inherent stability”. He said ‘it’ was built into modern small airplanes and caused them to recover from a spin on their own as long as you were high enough when spinning begins.  It took MANY tries before he got me to let go my need to control. When I did, recovery worked just like he said. I let go of the controls and within less than two spins the aircraft always recovered. Things turned out far better WITHOUT my control!

It’s that place in our lives where what we’ve been hanging onto . . . clinging to for dear life . . . is stripped away. It’s that place in us where we let go of what we know, what we think we know, and what we want and surrender to the unknown. It is the place of saying and meaning, ‘I don’t know.’

It means standing there with our hands empty for a while, sometimes watching everything we wanted disappear; our self-image, our definition of who we thought we should be, the clones we’ve created of ourselves, the people we thought we had to have, the things we thought were so important to collect and surround ourselves with, the job we were certain was ours, the place we thought we’d live in all our lives. . .

Surrender control to the supreme wisdom… the Divine in your soul. Step into the void with courage. Learn to say, I don’t know. That’s not blind faith. It’s pure faith that will allow… your spirit to lead you wherever your soul wants and needs to go. (from Melody Beattie’s “Finding Your Way Home”)

When I know of nothing else do to and have tried all I know to try, letting go of control and the outcome always seems to allow things to turn out OK. At the very least resolution comes. Such occurrences are good lessons for my big ego that always tries to run everything.  It does not know it all like my ego tries to always convince me. I am grateful to know that with regularity things turn out best when I muster the strength to leave them alone.

All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.
Havelock Ellis

Dreams That Need Completion

What are three things that burn at you to do before time runs out?

Having had a successful career, raised a son who is making his own way in life well, knowing the love of those close and many other wonderful experiences all combine together into a good life.  There have been many adventures and I’ve been able to indulge keen interests seriously, ranging from photography to piloting airplanes. Far more has come to me that I could have ever dreamed or imagined when I was young. There is humble gratitude for all my benefits and blessings. However, here in my late 50’s I am not done!

What are the three things that come to mind I want yet to experience?

To romantically love and be loved, passionately, gently, tenderly, thoroughly through the ups and downs with my last true love.  To bravely hold hands into old age in spite of fear of demise and death. To share the ultimate adventure of fading into the winter of life.

To write and make a difference; to express my thoughts and feelings and have others find them worthy of their time to read. Ultimately I hope to have what began here as a blog to be the building blocks of a published non-fiction book (self published is fine with me). I also want to finish the great fictional love story I began several years ago titled “A Year From Wednesday”.

To travel; I mean really travel. Go places and stay long enough to fit in and know my way around. A week or two there, a month or two in another place; far away places. The more untarnished the better. There’s a whole world out there that I want to see, smell, taste, feel and hear in its variety.

The beginning of making big dreams come true is to tell others about them… and then tell them again and again. I am grateful for the impetus that sharing my dreams here gives me. 

What three things do you want most to yet accomplish in your life?

When we are motivated by goals
that have deep meaning,
by dreams that need completion,
by pure love that needs expressing,
then we truly live life.
Greg Anderson

Often a Sign of Love

Saying “NO” is one of the greatest gifts I can give myself!  That was brought to the forefront of my attention through reading a couple of meaningful on-line articles this morning. I want to share what I came across.

A starter list of the benefits of “no” put together by Ron Edmondson points to just some of the advantages:

  • Saying “no” is the power to help resist temptation…
  • Saying “no” keeps you from the stress of overcommitting…
  • Saying “no” protects family life…
  • Saying “no” provides adequate time for what matters most…
  • Saying “no” preserves energy levels for prioritized work…
  • Saying “no” allows others opportunities they wouldn’t have if you always say yes…
  • Saying “no” permits you to control your schedule for an ultimate good…
  • The value of learning when to say no, and actually practicing it, is immeasurable!

In the “Health and Wellness” section on the website http://www.sheknows.com John Khoury made another list of benefits of saying “no” appropriately:

  • More energy. Not only will you be saving energy, the fact that you are now in conscious control will add extra energy.
  • More time. There are only 24 hours in a day, but from now on, more of them are for you.
  • More confidence. Saying “no” to others can often amount to saying “yes” to yourself. This is a back-handed “I love you” to the most important person in your life. Take it as a compliment and feel good about it.
  • More control. Saying “no” means you are behind the steering wheel and can go wherever you want.
  • More respect. You’ll respect yourself more and so will others. They might not like you as much, but if they were trying to step over your boundaries before, they probably didn’t like you much anyway – not really. At least you’ll have their respect when you show them your clear, no-discussion limits.
  • More fun. Yes, life is here to be enjoyed. When you stop working for others, you start working for yourself and start fitting in the fun.

What I need seems to appear on its own a good bit of the time. All I need to do it remain open and pay attention to what is brought into my path by a power beyond me. I feel no need to quantify that source. It is sufficient to me to instead express my gratitude. Today the message I received was saying “no” is frequently best and often a sign of love.

…there are often many things we feel we should do that,
in fact, we don’t really have to do.
Getting to the point where we can tell the difference is a major milestone…
Elaine St. James

The Road Not Taken

When the great American poet, Robert Frost died I was not out of grade school. While his work went over the heads of most my age when it was brought to our attention at the time of his death, the work touched me. The questioning manner of a good deal of Mr. Frost’s work suited me then during a troubled childhood. Even though his realistic depictions of rural living were about country life in New England the words also seemed a perfect fit for my growing up in the rural south. I adopted him as my “favorite” poet for most of my school years. His work was a good companion during my brooding teen years.

The Frost poem that wrote itself on my psyche most and has never left was “The Road Not Taken”. I resolved as a young man to make good choices and choose the best ‘road’ for my life. It’s  easy to read Robert Frost’s poem now and slide into thoughts of “I could have/should have” taken several different roads all my way.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Recently I found an answer echoing back to my lamenting about what life paths I have taken. William Kite’s sixteen lines came to me as a sort of answer poem to Robert Frost’s original “The Road Not Taken”.

Would things have really been so different?
Would the world really have been so shaken
If when I were a much younger man
I had chosen the road not taken?

Would the days have been any the brighter
Or the nights darker than they are?
Would I still have lived in such obscurity
Or shined brighter than any star?

It does little good to wonder
Of things that might have been
For who, and what I have become
I must live with in the end.

Though life could have been much better
All in all I do not feel forsaken.
I count the blessings that I have
And cry not of the road not taken.

I needed that! It is gratitude for what my living has actually encompassed that matters most and not whether the actual steps, chapters and roads seem now like the ‘best ones’. All of them taken in total “are my life”. Time is wasted by any thought of wishing my past to be different; it can not be rewritten. What is, “IS”.

By counting the blessings in every adventure from the difficult and grievous to the joyful and glad a colorful mosaic of life comes into view: my life. For all it has contained and yet will, I am grateful.

The past cannot be changed,
and we carry our choices with us,
forward, into the unknown.
We can only move on.
Libba Bray

Feet in Your Shoes

Life is beautiful and meant to be enjoyed by all, but does it sometimes feel like no matter what you do, your best is never good enough, and you’re not sure which direction your life is headed? Well, don’t worry because you’re not alone. The bombardment of stress in modern-day society as we know it can be overwhelming, but you’ll be amazed at how wonderful it feels to live a life that’s calm, peaceful, and full of happiness. You too can achieve this by making just a few simple day-to-day life changes.

A sunrise represents the beginning of a new day, and that day can be the day you choose to take charge, take control, and start truly enjoying your life. Come with me and start the journey. Tomorrow is on its way, so if you’re ready for change and want to experience the best life has to offer…let’s get started! (from “Life at Sunrise: A new day to take charge, take control, and enjoy your life!” by Tracey L. McCormick)

Today is your day!
You’re off to great places!
You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
From “Oh, The Places You Will Go” by Dr. Seuss

Sometimes I write here to match a very positive mood I woke up with. On other days you’ll find words intended to pick me up a bit and add to my day. Today is the latter and what is found just about is borrowed. Waking up groggy after 10 hours of sleep (yes, the long weekend wore me out) I needed a little nudge to be reminded of the great gift this new day is. I’m grateful for the ‘push”.

Live every day as if it were your last…
some day you’ll be right.
H.H. “Breaker” Morant

The Exploration of Desire

Choice is the exploration of desire and then the selection of action. In every moment, you are choosing either to align yourself with your own true path or veer away from it. There are no neutral actions. Even the smallest gesture has a direction to it, leading you closer to your path or farther away from it, whether you realize it or not. Cherie Carter-Scott, PH.D.

Studies have found people who make decisions quickly, even when lacking some information, tend to be more satisfied with their choices than those who tediously weight out their options. Some of the difference is simply in the lower level of stress created in making the decision, but a good bit comes from how our brains are wired.

A conscious mind can hold a maximum in the neighborhood of 5 and 9 distinct thoughts at any given time. For most people the number of possible concurrent thoughts is on the lower side of that scale  in the 3-5 range. So generally speaking any considerably complex problem with greater than 5 factors can begin to overflow a conscious mind’s ability to function effectivelywhich can often lead a person to make poor choices.

What’s interesting is our subconscious mind is much better at juggling and working through complex problems. Those who intuitively “go with their gut” are actually trusting the work their subconscious mind has already done, rather than second-guessing it. They don’t rely as much on their conscious mind’s much more limited ability to deal with complex situations.

Whatever process we use to arrive at a choice, the satisfaction with what is picked will depend largely on whether one claims ownership of their choices. Feeling pressured into a choice or those made while feeling not in control are frequently colored negatively, even positive outcomes. Conversely, taking full responsibility for decisions can make even failing feel somewhat successful.  You’ll know you did your best and you’ll have gained valuable experience for next time.

Often I have commented I seem make better choices when I pay attention to what I feel instead of what I think. It is my belief I am naturally repelled by what I should not do and attracted by what I should do. However, it takes an ability to ignore to a degree the constantly yakking, thinking mind that spins all kinds possible scenarios and outcomes, even impossible and ludicrous ones. The knowledge that my feelings are, on average, a more dependable indicator of what I should and should not do has been a sizeable benefit to me. I am grateful for this insight.

The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.
George Eliot