When I am still and quiet my mind, I take a look up at the grand sky. If there are clouds they often take shape in my mind’s eye. There is a dragon with its pointed tail and craned long neck. There is a bird with wings that seem to engulf and span across the whole sky above me. I feel so little like I’m a worm in the earth about to be gobbled up as prey. Then I see sea creatures. Mermaids dancing with their magical tails as fish clamber around to find their own space. I breathe deep. I try to share what I see. My favorite times are when my mind is busy and away with thoughts and then I catch just a glimpse of the sky and the cloud is shaped like a heart. Finding hearts randomly around nature is my symbol. I’m always grateful of the reminder that I am love and loved whether it’s the cloud up above like a large heartbeat in the sky or the dried up and grayed gum on the sidewalk that shares a similar shape or the lotion just pumped onto my palm. And the heart makes me smile and pause for just a brief moment. That’s all it takes really. Though the clouds and heart shapes may disappear, the image is contained in my mind and my heart. I am grateful. Alive. I am not so small. When I am present with the sky or the sidewalk, I am in awe and connected to the universal magic that is always surrounding us.
In winter sunrises always take my breath away. A return to the light. In summer it’s the opposite. We are surrounded by light. The humid sticky air combined with the sun does not provide reprieve. We all walk, jog, bike, scoot, drive or wait for the bus under its unrelenting rays. How quick we get accustomed to complaining. Too much sun. But then after a few stretch of rainy days, we once again greet the sun almost like a stranger staring into our eyes. No escape. We love it. We miss it. We wish for shelter away from it. Each day, regardless of where we are and how our life is shaping that day, the sun appears. Our very lives depend on it.
The water needs to be evaporated so that the clouds can form. It’s a cycle and it never complains or takes a day off. The stained paint on the gate dries and fades over the years. The gate would rust and fall off its hinges from weather and wear. Yet the sun shines on. The lettuce, the soy, the garbanzo and pea, the wheat that forms my sandwich once stood open wide under the sun. It sustains us all and I am forever grateful.
The sheet is spread across the warm grass. Little ants climb on to see what’s for dinner. I find a shady spot but I’m never too far from the glorious sun.
If I only had five years to live:
I would let the small things go: That argument with my husband; that misunderstanding that eats at me when I get quiet; that car that almost rear-ended me as they sped through the yield sign. It doesn’t matter. The annoying sound that usually puts me in a tailspin when I’m trying to focus. I will let it go. It won’t become an ingrained memory that I look back on. It’s not a part of my legacy.
My mind and energy deserve more than this. If this is all I got, then I’m making the most of it. I would cherish and savor all the moments. I would linger a little longer outdoors no matter the season to slow down and touch the ever-changing ground as it goes through its seasonal cycle. I wouldn’t hurry and live in my mind of to-dos and being driven by tasks and lists, which leads to a hurried, stressed out, overwhelmed, rushed, fatigued day that beads into weeks and a lifetime.
I will seek out to experience life to the fullest for each day is truly a gift. I will be grateful for my loves and my life lessons. My time will not be squandered. Do I want to travel while I still can? Do I want to get caught up on what matters most? Conversations with my friends. Walks with Jeff. Coffee dates. An easy morning to set me up for an easy life.
In the end I know it will feel brief. I will wish I had more time. But ultimately I will feel fulfilled and that I had a life worth living. That I sought out my own happiness and didn’t get caught up in dread, fear, worry, or future tripping.
The future is uncertain. We do not have a timeline or our lifeline set in stone or guarantees of when and how it will end. We just have today and our breath and our hearts to beat. I will be here taking stock, creating memories for my loved ones, feeling that my time and energy is focused on what truly matters to me. At least with this choice, I will feel whole and complete.
I want to thank my husband for challenging me to think and blog about this topic. His blog is here: https://amorereasonablemind.wordpress.com/ If you were told you only had five years to live, how would you choose to spend your days?
I love to borrow books from the library: ones that inspire me to keep on learning; that expose me to new authors, and I love to try new recipes from the many vegan cookbooks available to borrow. There’s a recommendation bookshelf at our local library that I like to check out. That’s where I found Gabriel Bernstein’s “May Cause Miracles,” Austin Kleon’s “How to Steal Like an Artist,” and Carrie Bloomston’s “The Little Spark.” Now I follow Gabriel Bernstein’s work and have bought most of her books. I even attended a workshop she led earlier this year.
Last week I found “We: A Manifesto For Women Everywhere” by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel. The inside jacket read, “How much more effective and powerful would we all be if we replaced comparison with collaboration, cooperation and compassion?” I was intrigued. There are four essential practices that lay as a foundation for the nine principles in the book.
I am starting to incorporate the essential practices into my daily life: gratitude, gentleness, responsibility, and meditation. I acknowledge that I’m just starting. Doing the practices with perfection is not possible or attainable. Perfectionism has been a roadblock of resistance for me. I get so enthusiastic when I find a new book and gung-ho to follow the program. And then I get sidetracked and that energy fizzles. Or I absolutely love the library book, but once I actually purchase it, the interest has waned. I believe there’s magic in holding a hard-cover book. If I buy the soft-cover version, I instinctively know that there’s something missing. Maybe it’s the texture of the pages or the weight of the book. For example, in Dani Shapiro’s “Still Writing,” the book had thick paper with rough edges. It had an earthy feel to it. When I bought the paperback, it felt neutered and too perfectly smooth. I was disappointed and couldn’t continue where I left off from the library one. I seriously want to replace it with the original hard cover.
But I don’t feel that “We” is a program with concrete steps and rules. A manifesto is a declaration. And the principles are the guideposts. Although the nine principles should be done in order, it feels fluid and organic. I can approach each one on my own terms. There’s no set deadline or sense of urgency.
To help me incorporate the practices, I created a summary for ease of reference, so I don’t have to flip through the book for the main points. Although it seems like a lot to tackle, and I’m feeling a sense of overwhelm, I equally feel the desire, the necessity, and power and potential for change that is needed in today’s world. To start, I have decided to focus on one essential practice a week, while incorporating the ones before it. Then I feel I can move through the principles authentically.
This week I’m focusing on gratitude. I pasted the summary I created from the book below:
“When we focus on gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.” Kristin Armstrong, Olympic gold medal cyclist
(Keep a small notebook or space in your journal for your gratitude list. Use it as a spiritual remedy to either kick-start your day or get a restful night’s sleep. And you can always refer to it halfway through your day if you need an instant hit of positivity)
- Write down ten things in your life right now that you’re grateful for (find at least one thing you’re grateful to your body for)
- Read it back to yourself aloud and say, “Thank you for …..” to each item on the list.
Action: Today I will notice all the nice things that happen, and I will say thank you. (Find ways to say thank you to your body through your actions)
Affirmation: I am lucky, and I am blessed. My life is full of wonder.
I would love to meet up and chat with other women as they are working through the book. I am going to blog my progress in a later post to check in. My hope is to inspire other women to join me as we “replace unhealthful habits with a more positive, peaceful, and rewarding way of living.”
Will you join me on this journey?
(Here is proud mama and the amazing Dr. John Morton)
Whenever anyone asked me when was my baby due, I would state matter of fact, “Valentine’s Day.” I knew I was due around the 13th, but Valentine’s Day had a lovely ring to it. I had my heart set on having a VBAC. We were having our baby at the same birthing center and with the same OB I had with my first pregnancy because it was an incredible experience. (See Waiting for baby girl – part 1)
I only had two ultrasounds during this pregnancy. One to confirm that yes, I was indeed pregnant and the other when I was almost due. The birthing center was also a teaching hospital and I made an appointment for my ultrasound there. The residents could learn and I could bring my then 3-year old too. She even got to hold the “magic wand” around my belly.
We were having another girl and were just waiting for natural labor to begin. On Wednesday, as I was getting ready for my OB checkup, my water broke a lot. I called my OB right away, and he said to stay at home to wait for active labor to kick in before going to the hospital. Because I was a VBAC, I’d be constantly connected to a fetal monitor. So I followed my doctor’s instructions. We sent our daughter over to my sister’s to await the arrival of our newest edition.
I felt a lot of back labor and my water was continuing to break. I checked in with my OB the next day. As long as I felt fine and didn’t have a fever, we could stay home. It was the same scenario on Friday too. We did go to the hospital that evening to check in. But I didn’t feel comfortable in the tiny labor room they had available and my husband didn’t like the duty nurse. We went home with the promise to return the next day if nothing changed. I was grateful to sleep in my own bed that night. But I was growing weary of the back labor and not progressing. And my daughter was with my sister for three nights already, going on the fourth, waiting for baby.
So we went back to the hospital on Saturday. I was given a somewhat larger labor room. They hooked me up to the fetal monitor, and the baby was strong and perfect. I was having sporadic contractions. Active labor never arrived. On Sunday, Valentine’s Day, we had another gentle cesarean. My OB was my support as I got my epidural shot. I felt grateful and comfortable, knowing that I was in good hands.
When my pink baby arrived, she let out a snort first instead of a cry. She was here, my Valentine’s Day baby, just as I foretold.
Like most people, I come from a dysfunctional family. My older brother was addicted to drugs and was physically abusive toward me and my younger siblings growing up. It was like walking on eggshells whenever he came home. You didn’t know who was going to walk through the door. Was he going to be in a good mood today? Was he going to be belligerent? Was he going to blame me for his bad day? And boy was he mad when he didn’t have any drugs. It was a moment of uncertainty, where you suck in and hold your breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
We were raised by a single-mom who couldn’t control her son. She had her own physical disability and pain to deal with. You don’t know any different growing up in that environment or that it is not okay. My brother probably has borderline personality disorder. He was not in treatment and he was abusing drugs. We celebrated the day he moved out and felt anxiety whenever he would visit.
I’m amazed and grateful that my story didin’t follow a similiar destructive path. I surrounded myself with my friends and I journalled a lot. I worked part-time and enrolled in college as a commuting student at Johnson & Wales. I wanted more to life than this.
During the hard times, I focused on school and had a very supportive boyfriend. I moved out when I was 20. I graduated summa cum laude with my bachelor in science degree in court reporting. I found a rewarding career, and I’ve been fortunate to work in that field for the past 19 years. I found my amazing husband at age 29, and we’ve been in domestic bliss since.
But I’m still fragile.
If I run into a hostile environment, if there’s an aggressive driver, if I encounter a very drunk person, if I’m confronted by an angry crazy maker, I’m re-traumatized all over again. It will bother me for days. I cry. I feel wounded and defeated. I hit my bottom. Then I find my way once again. Talking to my husband and his support has been my bedrock. I journal. I go out in nature. I take deep breaths and try to meditate. I try to play and engage with my children and their sense of wonder and joy. I try to read something inspiring. I start to re-emerge again. I feel stronger. I feel that I’ve learned the lesson from the encounter. I vow to be better equipped next time.
But I’m still fragile.
Life will continue to be moments of bliss, love, and contentment. Life will be a series of ups and downs. There will be crazy makers in my path. They can’t be avoided. Just like housework, clutter, a roadblock, or a detour. It’s how we cope with the setback. It’s a reminder of my power, my grace, my stamina. It’s my ability to bounce back and to accept the inner wisdom of each difficult encounter, to not be sucked into other people’s bad day or drama.
But I’m still fragile. And that’s okay.
I was introduced to BRU by a friend in high school. I was into The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Nine Inch Nails. Here was a radio station that played my music: alternative rock. From then on, I tuned into BRU to listen to my favorites and be introduced to new artists that would become my faves: Stone Temple Pilots, Poe, Cake, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Blur, Sound Garden, The Cranberries, Weezer, Tori Amos, and Beck; and new artists today like Portugal the Man, The Killers, Paramore, Lorde, and K. Flay.
I am flooded with memories of my youth and young adulthood. I attended BRU’s Birthday Bash as a senior when Belly headlined the show at The Met when it was next to Lupo’s. Twelve Cuts Above the Rest would blast out of the radio on Fridays when I worked at Bess Eaton. As I got older, I looked forward the The Retro Lunch, where BRU played retro music from the 80s and 90s. In December around the holidays, there would be a whole week devoted only to 90s music. And I took advantage of their Big F’in’ Deal where you got $50 gift cards for only $25 from local restaurants, which included my favorite Julian’s.
I’m regretting that I wasn’t able to attend all their summer concert series, birthday bashes, or even their Nothing But 90s Party this past December. I always assumed they would be around like Del’s lemonade or Providence Water Fire.
I am filled with sadness that another RI institution is about to close its doors for good, especially because future generations like my kids won’t have BRU around to listen to. It serves as another reminder that nothing is permanent, ever. Everything does and will change whether we want them to or not. I wish I could start a petition to save BRU or get BRU connected to another alternative rock radio station that shares their philosophy of community, provides a supportive venue to play new artists’ music, and teaches future radio broadcasters. I wish I could do something more. I don’t want a feeling of depression to set in, a sense of helplessness, or anger to seep in. And I’m terrified that I’ll turn on my radio dial to 95.5 FM, and there will be static or worse.
I’m going to listen to BRU today and as long as I receive its broadcast signal. Tomorrow it could be gone. I’m forever grateful that BRU served as the soundtrack and background music of my life.