Thankfulness for the Simple Joys

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“I have learned over a period of time to be almost unconsciously grateful–as a child is–for a sunny day, blue water, flowers in a vase, a tree turning red. I have learned to be glad at dawn and when the sky is dark. Only children and a few spiritually evolved people are born to feel gratitude as naturally as they breathe, without even thinking. Most of us come to it step by painful step, to discover that gratitude is a form of acceptance.” ~ Faith Baldwin

 

Today woke me to a somber mood that mirrored the gray Ohio skies outside my door. The wind is blowing away the temperate climate now by beckoning and ushering in the cold that will last for days on end. We won’t see sun until the end of the week, I’m afraid.

How might I feel an ounce of gratitude on such a dismal day? I light an autumn-scented soy wax candle and allow the glow of the orange flame to warm up the house with its ambiance and fragrant aroma. I answer a phone call from a sibling and feel gladdened by the goodness of spirit in the sound of his voice, and pleased we’ve made plans to be together on Thanksgiving Day. I sit with a steaming cup of tea and conjure up a dinner menu that will include my favorite roasted vegetables. I journal through my anxiety, type away the fear, and continue editing my essays that remain in-progress by diligently writing closer to completion.

My gratitude today is rooted in having a creative craft to focus on, noticing the plain and uncomplicated blessings that cultivate joy, and that my eyes, mind and heart are made open-wide by the gifts of simplicity.

 

“Forget about the money for a moment. Lose yourself in the wilderness, listen to the music of the softly blowing winds, feel the rain on your bare skin, let the mountains take the burden off your shoulders.” ~Kiran Bisht

 

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Expressing Gratitude for Unfailing Friendship

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The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. ~William Blake

 

Spending time on the couch this afternoon confiding in a dear friend about the woes and triumphs we face was time well spent. Wise beyond her years, my friend seems to always know what to say in a thoughtful and confident manner. She offers perspectives that are enlightening and encouraging, with empathetic words that affirm, restore, and uplift. Somehow, we get each other and always have been able to see the truth and value in the other. We pray and involve one another in our deepest of sorrows, most appalling revelations, and haunting moments of grief. Our rejoice is pure and exuberant for each other when happy times and blessed events are shared. Never do we take for granted the other, nor hold a grudge or make assumptions when long periods of absence by phone or visit are necessary. Although there is a great distance between us in calendar years, the gap is seamless. Over the years, we have grown in appreciation of and dedication to our friendship with one another and acknowledge that the companionship we’ve cultivated only continues to beautify with age. How utterly grateful I am to know a dear friend who accepts me as I am, and whom unceasingly blesses and nourishes me with her pure existence and genuine presence in my life. 

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. ~Henri Nouwen

Thankful for the Promise of Tomorrow

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Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful. ~Buddha

 

My morning started with a broken dish and burned bacon, unfortunately setting the tone for the rest of the day. Still, I’m thankful that I have a cupboard full of dishes and plates to use, and in the refrigerator plenty of food to prepare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

I’m thankful that Baby Boy was eager, for once, to participate in his music therapy class. Today was the first time he showed delight in being there this fall session. He has a new teacher and is part of a larger, more boisterous class than the summer group. Accompanied today by his beloved Snoopy stuffed dog also aided in his comfort level.  Even though there are only two more classes left to attend before the holiday break, I was thrilled to see him relax and enjoy himself more. 

Additionally, I am thankful that I realized, albeit late in the day, that he had left his irreplaceable Snoopy behind and quickly thought to return to the local church where the music class is held. My heartfelt gratitude extends to whomever it was that found Snoopy unattended and placed him in a safe spot where we were able to retrieve him hours later! The tears that my Baby Boy shed in relief when he saw Snoopy broke my heart, and I’m so thankful we were able to find and take Snoopy home this afternoon. 

Losing Snoopy only added to the ill-will of this no-good day and the stress Baby Boy has felt over the past few weeks by enduring a litany of tests, procedures, blood draws, and hospital stays. Today’s scheduled blood draw wasn’t successful at all. After being stuck a few too many times, he was fighting every way he knew how to get that needle away from his tiny body. His wriggling, wrestling, spitting, and struggling to release my hold was too much. Crying profuse tears, my sweet son was overheated and sweaty, wounded and clinging to me in a panic. At this point in the day, I was overwhelmed by the heaviness of our ordeal and needing to keep it together for him. My concern and heartache for my son and his rapidly growing, elevated fear every time we pull into the Children’s Hospital parking lot now has reached a level that crushes this sensitive mama’s spirit. This afternoon, Baby Boy had enough. So, I begged the nurse to stop. Further stating that we would just try again another time. (Preferably with another phlebotomist.)

Yes, it has been “one of those days” at the tail-end of “one of those weeks.” And we all have them, that’s for certain. Thankfully, my monthly restorative yoga class is tonight because I am craving the deep release and stillness. My mother-daughter book club meets tomorrow afternoon, for which I am pleased. There will be ample time this weekend for relaxation and reading, as well. To top it off, the sun is finally shining again! Therefore, I am now going to take advantage of this high-five from nature and get outside with my kids fueled by the attitude of blessedness for having both the time and energy to do so, while looking toward tomorrow with a hopeful heart.

 

At the age of 18, I made up my mind to never have another bad day in my life. I dove into an endless sea of gratitude from which I’ve never emerged.  ~ Patch Adams

 

In Gratitude for Love and Marriage

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“I heard a bird sing in the dark of December. A magical thing. And sweet to remember. We are nearer to Spring than we were in September. I heard a bird sing in the dark of December.” ~ Oliver Herford

 
Increasing our gratitude efforts in the month of November can allow us to reflect back on moments that have strengthened and blessed us, or forward thinking to events and anniversaries that fill us with a happy light. Next month, my husband and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage, and for this phenomenal event, I am eternally grateful. Today, I am giving all thanks to my wonderful husband. For without him, I’d be devoid of the feeling and experience of unconditional, sacramental, true love.

We were married on a snowy evening in mid-December. It was magical, ethereal, lovely. My fondness for the month of December runs deep. When the snowfall begins lightly and lovely, as soft flakes of iridescent beauty swirl and float with ease, a sparkling backdrop to the darkened sky, I am filled with a special sort of nostalgia–an essence my husband and I wanted to emulate and capture as we pledged ourselves to each other for a lifetime on our wedding day. 

The beauty rooted in the winter season brings forth quiet stillness, gentle peace, and a warmth discovered by being wrapped in the arms of your beloved. Despite the cold and the dark, there remains an elegance in winter if only we will ourselves to set forth and seek it out. As long as life gets cold and gray or seems bleak and frozen in despair, it helps to have a loved one by your side for all of the ups and downs life inevitably brings. The holidays in the month of December allow ample chance for us to give and receive thoughtful gifts and greetings of love, peace and joy that will ease the burdens and struggles with pure reasons to hope and annual opportunities to partake in spreading love. For me, each December represents all of this and more, most importantly, a purposeful reason to rejoice for the love burning deep within my heart for my husband, my beloved, my number one.

I’m one lucky lady.

In terms of my marriage, you know, falling in love with my husband was by far the best thing that’s ever happened to me. ~ Caroline Kennedy

Grateful for the Challenge: #30DaysofThanks 2017

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Gratitude is the mother of the virtues. ~ Cicero

An icy cold November rain casts its melancholic tune outside my windowpane this afternoon as I ponder my blessings and sip hot tea from an ordinary mug. November is devoted to the #30DaysofThanks challenge, and I’m heeding the call again this year. 

If my focus remains just on this dreary day, I reveal gratitude for my Baby Boy sleeping soundly in his toddler bed, safely tucked away upstairs this afternoon as I write, since he has been phasing out of his naps recently.

My thanks can be given for a late morning mass time on this Holy Day of Obligation that allowed me to give a wave and a smile to The Boy and Baby Girl in attendance with their schoolmates, the rare opportunity for me to be present inside church without chasing around a two-year-old, and the ability to sit with a friend. The mass was scheduled perfectly so that I could arrive soon after preschool drop-off and ended with just enough time for me to run an errand before returning to my Baby Boy at his preschool pick-up time.

Looking forward to this evening, I am grateful to begin the next session of my newfound favorite exercise class.

I call this a win of a day–one filled with recognizable blessings once I stopped to reflect and contemplate, a practice I adhere to by mindfully implementing the elements of intention throughout my daily life.

“When one has a grateful heart, life is so beautiful.” ~ Roy T. Bennett

Please join me over the next thirty days in counting blessings, practicing gratitude, and focusing on giving thanks. To read my past posts reflecting on graciousness and thankfulness, click here.

I’d enjoy hearing from you about how you are learning to cultivate an intentional heart, finding new ways to be thankful, and discovering the joys of gratitude in your own life. Please, comment below, and go forth giving thanks.

 

 

Motherhood and Finding the Time to Write and Create

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“…there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.” ~ Anne Lamott

 

The local library where I live brings to town many well-known and accomplished authors. A few years ago, I was one of many in the crowded auditorium at the central high school mere miles from my neighborhood where these literary events are held and the author of a favorite novel was the guest speaker. My memory serves that this author’s talk on writing was exceptional, especially the bits about how her stories came to life and how her writing life came to fruition. She was gracious in her answers during the Q & A, one of which I posed, a version of, “How did she find the time to write with children underfoot?” In so many words, she prescribed that you must write any chance you can get, master writing to the background noise and chaos, scrawl away during short spurts of free time, and urged not to wait for the ‘perfect’ conditions conducive to writing because they will rarely appear and the writing will never happen. What I took from her eloquent answer (more precisely delivered than I am reiterating to you) is that if you are a mother longing to write (or create in any artistic endeavor) then you must accept that you must write to the cadence of the season you are in, and weave the craft into the fabric of your daily life, willing to adjust and change your writing tempo as your children change and grow along side of you.

If you are a mother-writer and struggling to find the time to write, here are a few simple suggestions to help you carve out more time for your writing and that have worked for me:

Take a break, and give yourself a break.

There will be days, weeks, and even months that you won’t be able to carve out one minute for writing, and that’s alright. Don’t berate yourself. Embrace the peaks and valleys. Invite the rest in and allow the time off to invigorate your senses. It’s quite allowable to take time off from writing, and preferred, if I might add. After all, living your life and experiencing the world around you will only improve your creative abilities.

Quite by choice, summers are the most challenging time in my writing calendar. Since I don’t employ a daycare facility, a part-time sitter or nanny, the warm summer months around my house are full and well-enjoyed, even on days when camps and classes aren’t on the schedule. Along with my children, I prefer to soak up as much sun as possible while we are blessed with the Vitamin D producer, and the vibrancy of kids enjoying their months of freedom is something I don’t want to miss out on–especially while they are still so young. This is where personal journaling and keeping notebooks nearby come in handy. When there are chunks of time that I don’t feel like powering up the laptop, though want to record my thoughts, ideas, recollections, observations, and experiences, then I journal. I find that the break from typing also helps to refuel my creativity in pertinent ways. Never once have I felt regret for relishing in the days off.

Write at a time of day that works for you.

Although I would love to tell you to set your alarm an hour earlier than your first child wakes up, this has never worked for me. I’m not now, and doubtful ever will be, a morning person. When I was on a writer’s retreat, I insisted I wake up at 5:00 AM every morning to start writing, and I did. However, I did not have the pressing urgency of a child to attend to that week, either. I was there for myself and had only myself to take care of during five, blissful, writing-centered days. It was my opportunity to utilize as much time to write–and I took the gift of being there seriously, not wanting to waste the opportunity. That was three years ago, and I have yet to replicate that early morning habit so easily enacted on an island miles and miles away surrounded by other women-mother-writers. What I have continued is the discipline and confidence earned, and the ability to be flexible with both myself and my writing process.

Please, do not feel obligated to wake an hour earlier than your family does if the extra sleep is vital to your emotional, physical, and mental well-being–especially if you have young toddlers or school-aged children as I do. In this time of my life, it is more important that I sleep in after nursing Baby Boy in the early morning hours. After we rise and ready for the day, eat our breakfast and clear up, then I can think about some writing if our schedule permits. Don’t neglect your health and essential needs, nor those of your children, for the sake of your craft. It’s a recipe for failure. Instead, take care of yourself and children first, and pockets of writing time will appear, I promise. (Just my two cents.)

Let them see you write.  

If you have young children at home able to entertain themselves for a while, take advantage of late morning play time and make that your daily writing time. After I have finished in the kitchen, and perhaps have even started a load of laundry, I set my toddler up nearby with some favorite toys and I write in my journal while sipping my first cup of tea of the day. This has become my almost-daily practice of emptying my head of the noise and clutter inside, or when I may flesh-out ideas for the book I’m working on, conceptualize upcoming blog posts, or even free-write. I keep my journal nearby for reference, and it’s a daily practice I’ll never reject. (By the way, these are my favorite ones.)

Cultivate ideas during their nap time.

If you’re lucky enough to have a child that still naps, I’d love to know your secret! When The Boy was younger, he was a champion napper. It gave me ample time for freelance projects and personal, creative pursuits. Baby Boy is rejecting his nap time most days, I’m sad to say. So for now, I take a midday walk with him and use this time to commune with nature and let my thoughts run free. I highly recommend an afternoon walk for some fresh air and the chance to gather eclectic ideas for your creative endeavors. During most of these walks, my son will doze off for a short time. By the time I return home and transfer him out of the stroller and back inside, I have only a brief time for writing before the older children arrive at their bus stop at the end of the school day. This is the toughest time for me to write. Nevertheless, I strive to utilize that time for me and my writing, if even for thirty minutes, or less. Thirty minutes spent writing is better than writing nothing at all.

Burn the midnight oil, but only if that works for you.

During my younger days, I was a night owl. In my forties, though, I am slowing down in the evening and feel that my writing time is wasted after a certain hour. My wonderful husband will handle baths and the nighttime routine. If given the choice, I honestly choose to exercise most evenings rather than write because a brisk walk or fitness class helps me to decompress in a healthier way. Though, if the weather is uncooperative, or I’ve had ample time to exercise during the day (which is rare), I will plant myself at my desk to scrawl or type away. On the nights I write (like tonight), it’s usually time well-spent. Anymore, I like to have my computer turned off by 8:00 PM so that I can unwind with my husband and rest my mind. I am confident that the writing pieces swirling around my head after hours won’t flitter away into the abyss of forgetfulness, and this schedule helps me to acquire the essential sleep I need to meet, God-willing, another full and challenging day of motherhood.

Designate and schedule one, non-negotiable chunk of time per week for creating.

Lastly, I have declared the mid-week morning that Baby Boy attends nursery school for two-and-a-half-hours as “Sacred Writing Time.” Sacred Writing Time is designated and guaranteed; the only moments in my week that are non-negotiable, set aside for writing and only writing. During these couple of hours, I do not take phone calls (except from my children’s schools), nor do I read, shop, set appointments, clean, etc… Making this time a priority and only for writing has been a gift and game-changer in my life as a mother-writer. Knowing I will write at least two hours a week takes the pressure off during my busiest weeks taking care of all the essential motherhood tasks, caring for sick kids, running to and from appointments, and more. “Sacred Writing Time” is just that, sacred, and I take it quite seriously. Once I return home from preschool drop-off, I am eagerly at my computer without delay.

For further inspiration about how to carve out the time to write while entrenched in the glories of motherhood, or distracted by your presently busy life, please look no further than to these, more seasoned and reliable writers than I:

http://www.sunset.com/travel/anne-lamott-how-to-find-time by Anne Lamott

https://jamesclear.com/daily-routines-writers by James Clear

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-menkedick-literary-value-of-motherhood-20170416-story.html by Sarah Menkedick

https://www.creativenonfiction.org/online-reading/writing-motherhood  by Marcelle Soviero

If inspired to, please comment on how you carve out time in your week for your creative pursuits. As always, thank you for reading and happy writing!

 

“We are all carrying so many things in our life and inside ourselves. Often it feels there is no place to put them down. Where do you place the questions you carry” ~ Sabrina Ward Harrison, Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself

 

Strength in numbers and my personal #metoo

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“Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men’s eyes when deciding what provokes it.” ~ Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

 
My father was a traveling salesman for a book publishing company. Part of his compensation package included a leased company vehicle that he would sign for every few years. We had recently moved from Hopkinton, MA to a rural Central Ohio town in the summer of 1986, and I remember the day he picked up his new van like it happened only moments ago. Inside the car dealership, the lights were so bright it hurt my eyes and the air smelled of stale doughnuts, burnt coffee and chemical-laden air freshener. While my father signed paperwork and smoked a few Marlboro Reds with the representative, outside, my siblings and I were restless for being there so long and stayed with my mom waiting in the parking lot for our father to return with the keys and drive the new ride home.

As if they’d know one another their entire lives, my father and the sales representative sauntered outside in the afternoon sun, smiling and laughing, probably sharing stories of the sales trade. My father introduced each one of us and the salesman kept his sideways glance fixed directly on me, when out of his mouth came the words I will never forget, about being a knockout of a redhead, those long legs of mine, advising my father he better watch out with me and the boys that would no doubt be hanging around, and maybe he’d bring me back in a few years for a test drive with him and my own car?

I was ten-years-old when this inappropriate salesman thought it was funny and completely allowable to take note of my young-girl looks and dream of my future physical stature, giving no regard to my blushing face, nor my father beside him. His lingering gaze bore holes of shame through me and his unflinching smile was sinister sweet. Back then, I was too young to understand the implications and innuendos spoken that day. After all, I was only in the fifth grade. Yet, the entire presence of that tasteless salesman–including the outfit he was wearing, his moustached and confident face, smug demeanor, and crushingly detrimental words–have haunted me for over thirty years.

My late father was a good and decent man–absolutely not perfect–but, good, decent, and protective of his children and he handled the embarrassing situation with dignity. And you can be assured that we never saw that salesman again. Though, a few years later, when it was time to exchange company cars, I begged to stay at home and read my book, to which my father did not argue, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Fueled by the news in Hollywood of harassment and abuse that too many women have sustained, I’m sure you’re aware by now of the hashtag #metoo that’s swirling around social media and inviting women to share their personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse. Within my own circle of friends and family, it is disheartening to learn how much pain has been inflicted and endured in the name of sex. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, in solidarity with my sister-friends, that at ten-years-old, that sleazy car salesman without filter nor decency nor couth, was not the first male to assert his sexual advances or desires over me, nor would he be the last. Though, there are some stories I am not willing to share, and this is my prerogative, while willingly choosing to not let their egotistical, sick, dominating power clutch hold of me forever. I have forgiven, but it’s difficult to forget.

As a caveat to my story, I feel compelled to write and say to all of my readers, that despite my personal stories, devastating experiences, and real struggles with the type of boys and men that harass and abuse, I have known more boys and men in my lifetime that are good, kind, decent, loving, protective, and respectful. Let’s not forget that for as many abusers there are in the world, there is still abounding love, light, and hope around us, and boys and men who will work with us to fight against the social and moral injustices of sexual harassment and abuse.

If you are struggling with your own story of sexual harassment, abuse, or violence and are in need of help, please contact a local therapist specially trained in this type of trauma. You may also contact RAINN or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE.

 

“You are stronger than you know.” ~ Lori Osterman

 

Lighting the way for those children lost too soon, never forgotten, remaining forever in our hearts #waveoflight2017

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“There is, I am convinced, no picture that conveys in all its dreadfulness, a vision of sorrow, despairing, remediless, supreme. If I could paint such a picture, the canvas would show only a woman looking down at her empty arms.” ~ Charlotte Brontë

 

A flicker of light,

a ray shining through,

cast out the shadow of loss inside my heart

warm the chill of remembrance within me.

 

Annually on October 15th, grieving parents around the globe light candles that illuminate their homes in solidarity, united by brilliant luminance and the heartbreak entrenched by the grief over the children they have lost prematurely or in early infancy. The seven o’clock hour on this day, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, ignites the sorrowful hearts and minds of those whose lives have been tragically impacted by the loss of a child from miscarriage, stillborn death, and SIDS.

It’s alarming to read that ten to fifteen percent of all confirmed pregnancies will end in miscarriage. (Source: https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/miscarriage.aspx)

Even graver, to learn that over 23,000 babies each year are stillborn. (Source: https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/stillbirth.aspx)

A grim report from the CDC states that 3,700 cases of SIDS were confirmed in 2015.(Source:  https://www.cdc.gov/sids/data.htm)

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” ~ A.A. Milne

 

Most every year, I write about my shared grief on this day. (You can read my past blog posts related to miscarriage here.Miscarriage and baby loss has affected me distinctly and most profoundly, and these incredibly difficult experiences were, in fact, the initial driving force behind starting this blog years ago. Writing through the lingering grief in hope of discovering new sources of joy in motherhood, my intent in offering up these deeply personal stories of mine was, and still remains, rooted in wanting to reach a grieving mother (or father) at the right time in their own journey of grief founded in miscarriage or infant loss out searching for understanding, compassion, and hope. Some brave voices and compelling stories of strangers, comprised a sorrowful circle of mothers who had known loss like I had, were discovered by me in quiet desperation for answers, community, and reason. Through the melancholic melody of their words, these women offered my grieving heart comfort, validation, and most importantly, hope. I only hope my stories will be the same beacon of light for someone in need.

On that note, I would like to recommend a few well-written blogs penned by authors, much like myself, gravely affected by the loss of their own children:

https://www.freckleeyefancy.com/

http://www.glowinthewoods.com/

https://grievingoutloud.com/

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

 

Tonight at 7:00, my family and I will be lighting a candle to honor and remember the six children we lost in miscarriage, our angels: Agnes, Julian, Max, Catherine, John, and Francis.

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Please join me in this special lighting ceremony, from wherever you read, to keep the light of remembrance aflame, and honor the hearts of their grieving parents and families.  #waveoflight

 

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” ~ Buddha

 

Seeking joy in the present moment

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“If you carry joy in your heart, you can heal any moment.” ~ Carlos Santana

 

When you feel anxious waiting for a call from your child’s doctor with his or her test results, what eases your stress? When a family member, living hours away, is sick again with the symptoms of his or her chronic mental illness, what can you do to effectively help them through the trial? When you’re feeling less confident in your abilities to weather the storms of motherhood while the days, weeks, years go by, how do you pick yourself up from your bootstraps and carry on for the good of your family? How do you decide to embrace all the hardships of your life, acknowledging tough days and challenges are here to stay, while attempting to seek joy for yourself in the present moment?

~

Today, I was overwhelmed by fear. (Rampant fears are the dirty little lies our minds tell us.) No matter what I did nor where I went, this nagging fear tracked me down. I couldn’t be rid of the mountainous despair despite my multitude of attempts to diffuse the lingering smoke surrounding me; I was left gasping and choking for breath. Acknowledging the named fear magnified the cloud; it clung to me. I wrote down the characteristics of my fear, though the words remained locked inside my core. Busying myself with mindless tasks only increased the solitude of my thoughts. Walking it out only intensified with the raciness of my heart, and the fear chained itself to my ankles, slowing my pace. Praying through it all was having ill-effect, opposite of what usually occurs.

Having had enough of this misplaced, ridiculous lingering fear, I ultimately chose to leave my Wednesday routine and unnecessary obligations to see if getting out of my rut would help at all to wander about my hometown for sunny solace and a change of pace. And you know what? Treating myself to an organic smoothie and favorite dish at a hip, local restaurant; writing in my journal amidst the hustle and bustle of other adults meeting and eating; feeling alive to the beat and vibrations of indie music and conversations surrounding me was the exact distraction my worried mind needed to reset and be relieved. Scrawling away while I awaited my delicious food, the entrapped words came out free and fluid, and I was able to write past the illogical thoughts I was harboring. A quick trip to my local library for a heap of new reads and to leisurely browse the stacks at-will only continued my newfound, released, inner-peace and I was overjoyed for the mental break.

On my way back home, refreshed and renewed, I realized it took such little effort to put myself first, for once, yet the benefits were tremendously rewarding and necessary. Especially in the darkened, tumultuous times of our personal lives, giving back to oneself is vital to maintaining the reserve and strength needed to weather the storms of the present day, and to face those unexpected, wrathful patterns no one can predict.

~

Please, find a concrete way to honor your heart today and you will feel the joy creeping back in–of that, I promise. If you’re going through a tough season, even if you’re feeling a little run-down or stuck in a rut of your own, try to remember to be kind to yourself and offer as much love to yourself as you shower upon those closest to your heart, for, you matterevery bit as much.

 

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow.” ~ Rumi

Don’t let the suffering break you

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“If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” ~ St. Teresa of Calcutta

 

Needless, senseless, unbelievably gut-wrenching, horrific suffering defines the week we’ve had in America. I think we can all agree on that point. Closer to home, closer to my own heart, it has been a week for terrible and tragic news, as well. A dear friend of The Girl’s was admitted to ICU with pneumonia related to her chronic illness. A family member went into premature labor, just shy of 21 weeks pregnant, knowing her daughter would die in her arms. A child of mine is having seizures, and so a litany of tests loom on the horizon for us at Children’s Hospital, and my resolve is weakening. More suffering, that I’m not at liberty to share, has occurred to others I love, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of it all; to endure, to persevere in hope.

Certainly, I cannot be the only person feeling like I have been trudging through a deep, glutinous mud, fighting my way to get beyond this week, reaching out for someone, something to pull me up and out of the mire? So, I pray. I walk. I write. I read. I get outside. I find extra moments of solitude. I pour love into my family. I eat chocolate. I seek joy. Winding myself back down to remember the simple pleasures of life, I can reign in my rising anxiety, and keep calm for the time being.

Though, when enormous, life-shattering events, like Sunday’s massacre happens, how do we keep moving, one foot in front of the other, when our legs are shaking, bodies tense with stress, minds weary with anxiety, and hearts so heavy with anguish for ourselves and our fellow Americans? We question and fear—that’s what we do. We become irate and upset, rightfully so. We recognize the fear we feel for our children and the future of our country. All of these reactions are justifiable and necessary, absolutely so. We must allow ourselves to grieve these great losses, sorrows and sufferings and then find a way, even when innocent lives are taken so dreadfully, to move forward on in love and peace. Or, the lives lost to such an epic crime will have been taken in vain, and moments for healing and forgiveness will be missed. And we can never, ever let Evil break us down, take hold, nor win.

Although heartbreak may linger for quite some time, the cracks can’t define us. It would be easy to lose heart completely, give into despair, and forget all hope that remains. Whether the sufferings we witness are felt near or far, we must try to commit ourselves to the greater good, be a light, offer prayers and assistance, move forward in love and hope, do better for each other, and reach out in sincere kindness. At least, that’s my goal– to continue moving forward knowing that we make our own choices: between hope or fear, light or darkness, evil or love. I know which road I’m constantly seeking and plan to plant my own two feet there, with courage. Please, won’t you join me on the right path?

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” ~ St. Teresa of Calcutta