(--part of this blog is an excerpt from my memoir, Finding Mary: A Journey of Reclamation.)
“I always believed in living for today because I might not be here tomorrow.”
June 17, 1973 was a beautiful summer day. My 16-year-old sister Louise woke up and lived for that day. None of us knew she would not be here tomorrow.
It was Father’s Day, and the compound buzzed with the energy of children – eight of them. I was the youngest at the time, only four, and don’t remember if I said goodbye to Louise that warm summer afternoon.
Louise had her license and a car, and in only a week, she would have finished her junior year of high school. An honor society certificate hung on her bedroom wall, next to an award for perfect attendance. Despite being an introvert, Louise had a large group of friends and eight younger sibs who adored her.
She filled her days with school, work at the shoe factory, trips to the ocean, baseball on the neighbor’s lawn, and mini-bike rides. I recall the smell of eucalyptus and menthol as I stood on tiptoes near the bathroom sink, and she swiped some Noxzema across my cheeks. Of course, where there are teenagers there is mischief and at our house it seemed like someone was always getting caught smoking cigarettes or teaching me to write swears in the sand, but our home was lively and fun, and always felt safe. Until that particular Sunday in June.
That day, Louise pulled on a comfy pair of patched, hip-hugger, bell-bottom jeans, and a flower-print sleeveless blouse. She brushed her shoulder length, straight, blonde hair, sliced a perfect middle part, and tucked each side behind her ears. Just a sweep of Yardley Cheek Gloss would suffice. She wiped the residue from her fingertips and tossed the compact into her brown leather purse. She grabbed her Dr. Scholl’s sandals slid her feet under the red, buckled straps, and bounded down the stairs.
It was just before noon when my pretty, petite, 16-year-old sister climbed into her pea-green ’64 Nash Rambler with her sidekick, our sister Tammy, ready for an afternoon of teenage fun in the 70’s. Peace, love and good vibes.
“Happy Father’s Day!” she shouted to Dad, waving an arm out the driver’s side window as she and Tammy left the yard in Louise’s Rambler. Louise never came home.
I hope I said goodbye. I hope I told her I loved her. But I don’t remember. I was busy riding my big wheel in the driveway, trying to spin out in the gravel like the commercials on TV.
It had seemed like any other day.
The message today is to cherish your loved ones and the precious gift of time you have been given with them. Be in the moment 100% as often as you possibly can – that is where lasting memories are made. Don’t ignore the fact that someday, these memories may be all that you or they have.
The opening quote was printed in the first page of the 1974 Tourtellotte Memorial High School Yearbook -- the yearbook dedicated to my sister Louise. As I write this post on Sanibel Island in Florida, I pick up the phone to call Mom and Dad and tell them I love them. On this day, more than any other, I take care to live for the moment.
It’s June 17, 2021, and it’s a beautiful summer day. I love you, Louise. And yes, I live for today, because none of us know if we’ll be here tomorrow.
Imagine for a moment, that you are a good-hearted, hard-working person who has chosen to spend your life in true service of the public – not with words, but with actions. You are willing to give up your own life at any moment of any day to save the life of another. Now imagine being spit at as you drive down the road by some of the very same people you swore to protect. Imagine having to stand in a “peaceful” protest as “peaceful demonstrators” spew horribly rank and humiliating language in your face, and chant “die pigs”. Imagine reading news about officers being attacked, ambushed, and killed, as you button up your uniform, polish your badge, and kiss your family goodbye knowing any day – that could be you on the news.
Now imagine that happening day after day, every single shift, without an end in sight. Put yourself in THOSE shoes.
I know some of you already have. I know some of you are spouses and partners of police officers and you see their hope, their belief in humanity, fading. You see them questioning why they even put on the uniform anymore. Who are they protecting? Who are they serving? People who hate them? People who won’t take a supportive stand because they are afraid to be labeled a racist? Blue is a community of color too. In fact, it is quite a diverse mix of race, religion, and gender. Please pass this message along to those who need to hear it.
Change will not happen by bashing the innocent. You will never experience peace by spewing hate, filth, and violence toward the peacekeepers. You will never feel respected by disrespecting others. You will never feel safe by dismantling law and order.
I honestly believe Dr. King’s words that people should only be judged by the content of their character. It seems silly for me to state that I do not tolerate discrimination in any regard—because I live my life that way. But remember, and please pass it on: You can support law enforcement AND be against racism in All forms. It does not have to be, as some politicians or the media would have you believe, one OR the other. Actions should be taken to combat discrimination wherever and when ever it exists.
Look at the law enforcement statistics in YOUR state. Particularly all you mask wearers (of which I also proudly wear, because as part of the blue community, I believe in protecting others). There are problems that need to be addressed in law enforcement –YES. ABSOLUTELY. But they are not equal in all states, cities, or towns. You want lasting change? Then stop stamping your feet and spewing nastiness. Stop spreading hate. Stop doing nothing. Start looking up REAL robust, reliable data – you know, like the science stats we use that tell us to wear masks-- and tell politicians to use that data to make sensible, thoughtful, considerate, lasting REAL change in the places that actually need it. Don’t let knee-jerk, political pandering screw things up further. Action is important. The RIGHT actions are paramount.
All communities of color matter. We should stand up for ALL of them. And Let’s be smart about it. I am asking you to take two simple actions. First, please use your circle of influence, your voice, your heart to reach out to those who are tasked to protect us. Let them know without a doubt, that they are still appreciated. Because, trust me, morale is at an all-time low. Second, send a clear message to politicians that actions need to be taken based on the history of each department. Not on what they and other politicians think will satisfy their voters or quell the violence.
Through kind-hearted and intelligent actions, let the world know you will not stand by and tolerate discrimination in ANY form – class, creed, race, religion, or color—brown, black, or blue.
Another black Friday flyer. Dozens line my recycling bin. Small business Saturday, cyber Monday—I’m not tempted to shop on any of these days. What I want for Christmas can’t be bought, it can’t be seen, it isn’t possible. I want my sister Mary to come back.
One spring evening just over four decades ago, an asthma attack woke her in the middle of the night. Mom tried the inhaler, but it wasn’t helping, so Dad rushed her to the emergency room. I went back to sleep thinking the doctors would make her better. Mary died on the way to the hospital, one month before her 14th birthday.
I was almost seven years old at the time, and Mary was my entire world. She loved any excuse to celebrate, and Christmas was her favorite holiday. We started by decorating grandma’s house. Up into the snowy woods we trudged, with a small handsaw to find the perfect white pine. With teaspoons and tiny, sap-covered fingers we dug into the frozen gravel of the driveway, lined a coffee can with cold, grey rocks. We brought the tree into ‘Siberia’, the term grandma used for the lonesome living room that stayed shut after Grandpa died, except when we slept over. Mary and I opened the door, started a fire in the fireplace, wedged the trunk of the white pine into the coffee can, and stood it up, straight and proud, ready for decorations.
We cut red and green construction paper into strips, bent them into loops and linked them together with scotch-tape to form a chain. We popped corn on the wood stove in a cast iron pot and strung the kernels together with a sewing needle and thread. I jabbed my tender fingers so much, that Mary found a thimble for me. We colored scenes from a Christmas coloring book, cut around the figures, threaded ribbon through the tops and tied them onto the thin, rubbery branches of the white pine. Finally, my favorite part --Mary cut out a star shape from an old saltine box, covered it in reclaimed tin-foil, and secured it to the top of the tree with bread ties. Viola!
When my younger sisters were old enough, I rekindled the tradition of the white pine, but ‘Siberia’ always felt hollow and cold, no matter how great a fire I built. Mary was the warmth and light. She crowded out the emptiness that no black Friday sale can fill.
In writing for the past two years, I’ve realized that losing Mary created a hesitance toward trusting the good of life, toward connection. And I’ve realized that I’m not alone. Just this year I’ve met many people struggling with loss, and the shame, guilt, and other feelings that go along with wondering why you survived and your loved one didn’t. And for many, the Holidays are a powerful trigger. Perhaps it’s the year coming to a close – another type of ending, or the pressure to be happy when you are feeling alone and missing someone deeply. This year, I will try to have a little more compassion, a little more patience, a little more understanding for myself and others.
So please, pardon me if I don’t get excited by super sales and holiday bargains. I’ve never found happiness there. Mary and I created happiness with our own hands – not in what we created necessarily, but in the experience of spending time together.
My family never grieved, we never talked about Mary. It was what we needed to do to survive. But at Christmastime more than any other, I remember her. This year I am also remembering who I was when she was alive. Just now I am admiring the small Christmas tree in my living room. At the top of the tree is a handmade tin-foil star that my nieces and I made two years ago. That is what I am reaching for. And if this resonates with you, I hope you reach for your own tin-foil star with both hands. It is something no cyber sale can ever provide.
I wake early, as my body gives in to the relentless tugging of my busy mind. The sunrise brings with it another birthday, some quiet reflection, and perhaps a bit of angst. I grab a mug of coffee and walk down the hill to the beach, where sand hugs my toes like an old friend.
The grains are cool and slightly damp, as this part of the earth is just waking up to enjoy its hours in the sun. As the tide retreats, it litters the strand line with slipper shells and oysters and clumps of bright green seaweed. Small flies buzz about with delight. A large branch of driftwood adorns the beach, a treasure washed up by the tide. This is a perfect place to smooth my tangled thoughts, breathe the salt air, and watch the darting and flitting of the shore birds.
The surface of the sea is bent into subtle folds of steel-blue satin, as it yields to the 30-foot-long, stone groin built to keep the sand from eroding. As humans, we spend significant time and energy to keep things as they are, even when we are unhappy, because the unknown seems more frightening. Several groins are lined up in succession on this stretch of the shoreline; great stone arms of quarried granite reaching toward the sea, trying to capture the beach, announcing our resolve.
Yet the sand moves regardless of our plans, our engineering, or our determination; caught up in the longshore drift, a flow that has existed billions of years before the Anthropocene. I wonder about blockades I’ve placed in my life, driven by a decades-old fear of the unknown or a need to latch onto some stable ground. I wonder if there will ever be a time when we will accept the movement of the sand; when I welcome the changing conditions in my life and begin to see them as potential. That would take courage, trust, and resolve. That would involve the willingness to accept and adapt to unintended consequences.
I can’t speak for the engineers, but perhaps this will be the year I raise the hammer and chisel and begin to dismantle the blockades and impoundments. Perhaps this will be the year I return to the fresh, oxygenated, intuitive flow of life. So I roll up my sleeves as I make my wish because I know without action, wishes vanish like clouds absorbed into the bright blue sky on a dry summer day. On this birthday, I wish for the strength and trust to welcome the unknown as an unexpected guest, investigating with curiosity rather than fear, that which she may have brought with her.
I woke up today thinking about the Beatles song “Let it be”. I’ve heard it many times, but this morning, the lyrics rang loud and true. I’m crafting an intention for the New Year and thinking a lot about ‘letting go’ of things I can’t change. Like many people, I have suffered difficult losses in life and the idea of ‘Letting Go’ is stressful for me. I tend to equate it with abandonment or not caring.
In the course of Mindfulness teacher training, we discussed the concept of ‘letting be’ as a starting point or replacement for ‘Letting go’. We didn’t talk about it in the context of the Beatles song, but the lyrics served as a solid link between the two concepts.
I’ve been putting a lot of energy into self-exploration this past year, and made much progress on the rough draft of a memoir. However this came at the expense of some current family relationships. As I dug deep into the past, I dissolved into a fog of unresolved childhood grief. I learned the meaning of terms like ‘anticipatory grief’ and ‘complicated grief’. Although it is 40 years after the fact, I finally gave myself permission to grieve the loss of my older sister Mary, and all of the memories that could have been. I don’t accept the loss and I’m certainly never letting go, but through patience and compassion, I have taught myself how to let it be.
Life is a balance of Yin and Yang however, so as I drew closer to my connection with the past, current relationships seemed to fall away. I focused so much on the loss of my older sister Mary; I neglected my current responsibility in that role. I am not a perfect older sister. I am a flawed human with much to learn about how to live in the present. The toughest part of this education for me is to recognize that there is much I cannot change, understand, or repair, no matter how strong and sustained my effort. So, for situations when effort is fruitless yet letting go is impossible, perhaps I can recall the timeless message in the Beatles song and find the wisdom to let it be.
This is my intention for 2017 – to be kind and compassionate, to do my best, and then -- to let it be.
I sat in a chair, looking out the window at kids playing soccer in the rain. I could have stayed there—sheltered and warm—and secretly wishing I was running with them. My hair would have stayed dry and neat, my clothes spotlessly clean. But I joined them. Because I have learned that those types of decisions don’t just allow you to live, but allow you to be alive.
I will never regret the dark green streaks that stained my clothes or the bruise on my knee from taking that sliding kick on the wet grass—for in that moment—I was a fifth grader again. Running in the rain. Being Alive.
That soggy day, the adults took the picnic inside but the kids knew the best place to be was still outside. It was an example of how often adults chose comfort over a sweaty face and racing heart. That instance reminded me of other times where I could have taken the comfortable route, but didn’t. Times when I chose to…..
…Leave the warm air along the banks and plunge into the icy water of Angel Falls in Rangeley Maine;
…Face my anxiety of heights (and a massive wedgie), and conquer the ”Geronimo” waterslide;
…Hike ‘Sleeping Giant’ twice in one week, just to feel the challenge of the blue trail in my legs and lungs;
And farther from home, when I chose to....
…Brave the voracious mosquitoes and sleep outside under the black Alaskan sky punctured by a billion stars;
…Spend a month in a small hut in the East African Bush, lulled to sleep by trumpeting elephants;
…Ponder the true absence of sound (and heat), tenting on the ice sheet in Greenland.
Some time ago I ran across a quote by Joseph Campbell and it resonated with me. Campbell wrote “I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”
Perhaps when much of the human, bustling, judging, hurrying world is asleep or day dreaming, their souls try to remind them—to take more risks, to allow yourself to feel the cold on your skin, and the earth under your nails. That being alive is experienced in discrete moments.
It’s about pushing limits and appreciating connections to others and nature. It’s about feeling uncomfortable, so that we really know what true comfort is. Wet clothes and grass stains, tents and stars, mosquitoes and sore muscles. Being alive is about high-fives between muddy girls with decades of numbers between them—yet connected by a timeless bond, an invisible fabric they are woven into. Life, right here, right now.
The most beautiful people I know are the ones who have remembered how to be alive. Because genuine beauty originates from happiness within. Happiness attained not by entertainment, but by experiencing true pleasure. The pleasure that comes from choosing to run in the rain.
Comment with your own experiences….. Do you simply live your life? Or do you savor moments of being alive?
Gratefulness is more powerful than you've probably imagined. It is a tonic for transformation. Don't doubt this before you try it! I challenge you to drink from the spring of gratefulness, and share your descriptions of its flavor.
Begin the challenge by posting a statement of your current feelings or outlook on life, and set an intention for the challenge.
The next phase will take place over the span of a month. For 30 days, at the end of each day, post a bullet list or essay on this blog consisting of all the things you are grateful for on that particular day. The list should be as extensive as possible and should include things, actions, or events that are often overlooked, such as the fact that your lungs are clear and able to breath in the fresh, crisp morning air.
Lastly, after you have completed the 30-day challenge, write a final entry reflecting upon your personal state of mind or outlook, and compare it to your initial post on day 1, perhaps drawing some conclusions about its effects.
To get this project started, here is a statement of my current feelings and life outlook as I begin to quench my thirst from the spring of gratefulness....
Today is a day of grey. A blanket of clouds coats the sky, blotting out the warmth of the sun. Beneath the blanket, I feel the tug of pending deadlines and papers yet to be graded, and I realize my focus is often scattered by things yet undone. Although I believe my outlook on life is generally optimistic and fueled by positive energy, I realize that many days I tend to allow worries and obligations to sap that energy and muddle the flavor of the complex yet subtle spice of life. My intention for this challenge is to shift my awareness to appreciate the flavors of life that are more subtle and often overpowered.
End of day one: Today I am grateful that....
I am able to chat with both of my parents on the phone before going to sleep.....
my mom felt good enough to cook dinner and desert....
my dad's voice had an undertone of cheerfulness and relief.....
I am blessed with wonderful friends who help me when my car battery dies....
I am blessed with friends and family who support my writing.....
my little nephew Thomas grins at me now instead of scowling!
my students at the community college are such hard workers....
the water in my shower is nice and hot.....
there is plenty of fresh food in my kitchen....
at the end of the day, I am tired from meaningful work.
End of day two: Today I am grateful for the vibrant colors of the sky at sunset and the thoughtfulness of my colleagues at the University. I feel fortunate to watch the graceful swans linger on the pond at Lake Street, to hear the birds celebrating spring at the feeder, and to see the sun break through the ceiling of grey. This evening, I am grateful to be able to get into a comfortable, warm bed, and read until I can't keep my eyes open.
End of day three: I am grateful for anger, because it makes me appreciate peace more deeply. I am grateful for the energy of my yoga teacher and the other yogis in class tonight. I am grateful that I am able to move my joints without pain and that my muscles are strong. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel to India in July. I am grateful that my eyes can read and my brain can give meaning to printed words, organizing them into coherent stories and adventures. I am grateful for the night, because it makes me sleepy so I can rest, repair, and prepare for another day full of possibility.
End of day four: Today, I am grateful for....
The smell of fresh cut grass...
My lawn mower, which started up on the first try...
The students in physical geology, who ask thought provoking questions...
A new friend Julie C., who leaves me cheerful messages on my voicemail...
Time spent in the hammock today, listening to the birds overhead...
The daffodils in my backyard...
The kind person who waited across a green light, for me and several others to make a left turn in front of him...
and the neighbor on Fairview Avenue that put my empty trash can back in my driveway for me.
End of day five: I am grateful for a beautiful afternoon stroll in the sunshine at the Tower Hill Botanical Garden with Julie C. We walked, chatted, laughed, and celebrated her birthday. Our friendship is precious and I am grateful to have met her.
End of day six: Today I celebrate the power of laughter. The ability to laugh, and also the ability to make others laugh. At the improv tonight, when brought onto the stage, the delight was not from being in the spotlight, but rather hearing the laughter, and feeling the incredible positive energy in the room. I am grateful for Boston's character revealed in not only its cobblestone streets and intricate, detailed architecture, but in its variety of culture, cuisine, and entertainment. Finally, on this evening, my thoughts drift to my family. I am grateful for my impromptu visit with my brother Richard and little Calvin today, and grateful that my nephew's efforts at work have earned him some well-deserved recognition.
End of day seven: It is perhaps most difficult to be grateful for your own blessings when you are faced with the suffering of others. I remind myself that some life events are utterly mysterious, and defy explanation or reason. There is no turning back the clock, there is no miracle cure, no amount of wishing or praying can change what has transpired. In troubling times when I struggle with feelings of confusion or lack of understanding, I try to sit quietly and let peace settle on my shoulders like a blanket. I imagine being able to share this blanket, wrapping it around those who are deeply troubled, in despair or feeling the sharp pain of loss. Tonight I am grateful to have peace in my life to share with others.
End of day eight: Glancing up at the illuminated, waxing gibbous moon, I am grateful for the beauty and rhythm that nature brings to my life. Tomorrow the high tides will be a little higher, and the moon will be illuminated a bit more than this evening. Change is unavoidable, but there is some comfort in being able to recognize some predictable pattern within that change. Recognizing a pattern or a cycle can sometimes afford us a bit of insight into adjustments we can make or choices we have. And although we cannot alter many patterns or cycles that surround us and affect us in life, just becoming familiar with their progression, can lead us to deeper insights over the things we do have influence over. I am grateful for the power of nature to help me pause, reflect, and shift.
End of day nine: Tonight I am grateful for.....
My fabulous nieces...
The mindfulness group....
The blue Altima that passed me on interstate 84 and was pulled over for speeding...
Banana bread that I baked last night and shared with my parents...
The warmth of the heating pad on my back...
A friendly reminder from my writing group about our upcoming meeting...
All the loud, silly, quiet, chatty, busy, peaceful, happy, still, plain and simple moments that make up this amazing life.
End of day ten: Having a stiff back makes me grateful for the typical pain-free days, and makes me realize how much I take painlessness for granted. Focusing on more pleasant things, morning coffee at the lake was graced by the elegant flight of a great blue heron past the deck. Finches, nuthatches, and cardinals congregated in a lively dance on the feeder, and the dueling, acrobatic squirrels that usually scare them away were absent from the morning feast. I took some time to appreciate the beauty of the sun glinting off the choppy lake surface before heading south to New Haven for work. Traffic was fairly light today, except for the Q bridge and Long Wharf of course, and the students seemed well-prepared for lecture. As I reflect this evening, I sip on a cup of hot tea and I am grateful for each moment of this day. .
End of day eleven: Spending time with family is precious. Tonight I am grateful for the company and amazing energy of my nieces. I'm grateful for our pizza party on the dock, photo shoot, dance party, and coloring a street scene of Paris. I am grateful that we were able to pile into the mini-van and drop by my parent's house for an impromptu visit. We finished the evening by gazing at the moon over the lake and then watching our favorite movie, Midnight in Paris.
End of day twelve: Today the lake showed us all its beautiful moods, from a calm, glassy surface in the morning, to temperamental, choppy whitecaps in the afternoon. We were a flotilla of six (myself and the nieces) paddling around and enjoying the bliss of fresh, warm, spring air and each other's company. We finished off the afternoon with lunch on the deck joined by hungry birds at the suet, and then a 20 minute meditation. I am grateful for this open-minded and kindhearted generation because they give me hope for the future of humanity.
End of day thirteen: On this day, I am grateful for the strong and diverse network of family and friends in my life. I am fortunate to have so many interesting, talented and passionate people to interact with. The positive energy is contagious and incredibly motivating.
End of day fourteen: Today seemed to pass by quickly, although the pace of each moment was unhurried. This was a morning of sipping coffee in the sunshine while watching the birds in their agile dance around the feeder, a leisurely paddle around the shoreline of the lake in the canoe, reclining on the dock-- reading in the sunshine, and visiting with my brother-in-law and his fabulous girlfriend this afternoon. This day was a tapestry of pleasurable moments and I am grateful for each one.
End of day fifteen: On this evening, I am grateful for:
The walking path along the shore in West Haven, and all the people who properly pick up after their dogs....
Clear vision to be able to enjoy reading...
Many good books, yet unread, on my bookshelf....
The time to cuddle up in my down comforter and read....
My good health, which I will never take for granted....
My neighbors in West Haven, who put up bird feeders on their lawn which is in front of my living room window....
Organic raspberry herbal tea...
End of day sixteen: Today I am grateful to have done my part to sign and circulate a petition against the Connecticut DEEP for the unconscionable killing of a swan. I am grateful for the wildlife that share our planet with us and will do what I can to help protect them from ignorant and heartless actions. I am grateful for all the comments that were posted on the petition. It renewed my faith in the goodness and common sense of at least some in our species.
End of day seventeen: Relaxing in the hammock, soaking in the warm spring sunshine, toes in fresh cut grass, pushing against the soft earth, gently rocking in the breeze., grateful for the beauty surrounding me.
End of day eighteen: Today I am grateful for a new group of friends in the UMASS mindfulness program. New directions always bring with them exciting adventures. I am grateful for the time and flexibility to pursue this certification, and I welcome the experience of traveling down this unexpected path. I am in good company.
End of day nineteen: I am grateful for true friends with whom you can pick up right where you left off, even after a decade. I am grateful for dancing like a fool and not feeling self-conscious. I am grateful for having deep roots in a small New England mill town. I am grateful for the fond and vivid memories I have of friends who are no longer in this realm. I am grateful for the opportunity, to rest, recharge and reflect.
End of day twenty: Today was a day of thinking, inventing, imagining, sharing, creating, writing, socializing, collaborating, and networking with other writers. My first official workshop as a member of the International Women's Writing Guild (IWWG) was engaging and inspiring. I am grateful for the opportunity to practice the craft among such great role models as Susan Tiberghien and many other accomplished writers.
End of day twenty-one: I stayed up into the early morning hours and watched the stars poke holes in the black night sky. The lake was so peaceful, and without the city lights to dilute their brilliance, the stars glittered like gems. They have gone into hiding tonight, subdued and shy, behind a thick curtain of clouds. At the lake, I feel closer to the sky. Surrounded by the energy and beauty of nature.... in the woods, the wind, and the water. I watch as the frisky little fox kitts who have just gotten their black socks, tumble out of the fox den, nipping at their sibling's ears. I am grateful for the reminder that to live life is to observe it closely, carefully, savoring each detail.
End of day twenty-two: This evening I am grateful for a clear mind, uncluttered by the dull and droning thoughts that medicine generates. Revisions to chapter three have been a struggle, I used to curse my parent's stubbornness (sometimes I still do) but tonight I celebrate having inherited that quality. It will serve me well as a writer.
End of day twenty-three: As another semester comes to an end, I reflect on the academic cycle which alternates between work and rest and am looking forward to recharging my batteries.
At the end of chapter 3, I am moving on to work on chapter 4 of the memoir before the next meeting of the writing guild. Writing also happens in cycles for me. There seems to be a time of more fluid creation, followed by a slower pace of analysis, reflection, and critique. I welcome all stages in these cycles because they each are interesting, challenging, and offer their own rewards. I am grateful for the thoughtful feedback and encouragement from the members of the 'IWWG-New Haven chapter'.
Today I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to sit and chat with a student at length about her career options. I wish I would have had more guidance when I was at her age (maybe I wouldn't have listened to it anyway), and I feel fortunate to be in a position to help her formulate a good strategy, and arrive at a sound decision.
End of day twenty-four: My eyelids are heavy this evening after practicing mindfulness on the mat for 30 minutes. I realized how scattered my attention has been lately, and I look forward to the opportunity to ground myself. It's funny, when you are a kid, your avoid getting grounded like the plague, yet as an adult it is sought after and elusive. Even in those different contexts, the meanings are more similar than they are different. Tonight I am grateful for my friend JJ who encouraged me to work on a mindfulness certification. I am grateful for the writing advice I found scribbled on a conference notepad as I was organizing my desk today (a veiled attempt at procrastination) "Don't let the story run away with you! Keep control of the story." I am grateful for the atmospheric energy that generated a short spell of thunder near West Haven. I am grateful that my sister is finally getting her house renovated after a 10 year wait. I am grateful for the pesticide and fertilizer-free patch of lawn outside my windows where several robins search for food. And finally, tonight I am grateful for the mental stimulation of the nine-dot puzzle that hopefully my mind will solve as my body sleeps.
End of day twenty-five: Today I was caught up with errands and tasks and keeping track of time. The Thursday night mindfulness group reminded me of how easy it is to get lost in thinking about all there is to do--instead of focusing on what is. The participants shared their experiences with the body scan meditation. Some were distracted, frustrated, enlightened, surprised, bored, calm, tired, or agitated. But we all realized that we share many more similarities than differences. I thought about Victor Frankel's book "Man's Search For Meaning" when we were reviewing stimulus and response. It's been almost ten years since I was last in a mindfulness group, and it was great to be reminded that we can cultivate that space between stimuli and our response to allow for better decision making, focus, and understanding. We can cultivate good listening skills, to others and ourselves, so that we may consider how events, ideas and actions affect us (and those around us) emotionally, physically and mentally.
End of day twenty-six: Scheduling life events, whether they are social gatherings or work obligations is an art that requires finesse and resolve. Some days I definitely over-commit my personal resources and at the end of the day I feel it. Despite poor time management today I am grateful that I took the time to: sip coffee while watching the seven little foxes frolic around the den; visit with my parents; watch a couple innings of the ball game; and make some slow space for writing,
End of day twenty-seven: Seeing my nephew today was a joy as always. He is trying to find his place, his purpose in life and I hope to be able to provide a bit of guidance. Not to steer him in any particular direction, but rather help him make discoveries that are true in his own heart. He has tremendous family support from his mom, sister, and girlfriend, and I know in time he will do great things. Tonight was my niece's prom, and she asked me a few weeks ago to do her hair. I love being a part of her life and being able to share these precious moments with her. I love seeing her surrounded by her grandparents, parents, and friends, knowing she is safe and happy. She deserves all the happiness that life has to offer. She constantly gives to others, and it was nice to see this evening that everything fell into place for her.
End of day twenty-eight: This mother's day, I reflect on the events of the past couple of months and am grateful to have my mom in my life. We could have easily have lost her, but she made it through a rough patch health-wise. Now with my aunt in the hospital, I reflect on how quickly illness can overtake us., and how important it is to let people know the impact they have on your life. I am grateful for life's gifts -- the people who influence us in lasting ways. A kind glance or word, a hand on the shoulder, a respite from chaos. I am grateful for all of the people in my life who have been there for me, and I am also grateful for the opportunity to pay it forward.
End of day twenty-nine: Today I am grateful for hard work. Both the ability to do it, and the sense of accomplishment it brings. Working with dad this afternoon putting chains around huge slabs of rock, and moving them with his backhoe was serious stuff--especially since I had just come from the Chiropractor's office. I am grateful to have an opportunity to pay him back for at least ONE of the Billions of times he's helped me (not with a backhoe, but you get the message). I am grateful for kind and generous colleagues, one of whom gave her time to cover my lecture today so I could get to an important appointment. A pleasant life is a quilt of countless small blessings.
End of day thirty: During a paddle around the lake this morning I saw a pair of geese and five fluffy goslings, heard the water rushing over the dam, felt the wind resist my forward motion, saw a great blue heron spread its wings and gracefully gain elevation, and overheard the conversation of a boisterous pair of Baltimore Orioles. The grey squirrels made two attempts to break into the new bird feeder, and the hummingbirds were enjoying the sweet syrup I cooked for them. I am grateful most of all in my life to be surrounded by the wonders of nature.
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