Friday, December 28, 2012

Living in the First Person, Present Tense

2012 was the year of KINDNESS for me.  It changed my life.  It changed me.  An entire year focused on one thing.  Kindness.  It was beautiful and glorious.  And while I will carry kindness forward with me, I am ready to move on.

This coming year I want to SEE.

I tend to be task oriented.  I get so focused on the task, the thing I am trying to accomplish, that I miss a lot.  I want to see more. 

I want to live in the first person, present tense.  I want to be truly present in the events and moments of my life.  I want to spend less time in the second person, worrying about what others do or should do.  I want to spend less time in the third person, observing life happening around me.  And I want to spend a lot less time in the past tense or future tense.  I want to be here.  Now.

Life is about moments.  It's about people.  It's about beauty.  That's where the glory of life happens.  But too often I miss it.

Instead of seeing the 360 degrees around me, I get stuck in tunnel vision.  Instead of seeing the technicolor of life, it becomes a grayish blur in my peripheral vision because I can't take my eyes off what's in front of me.

I want to see the beauty of a moment.  I want to rejoice longer as I watch my children enjoy each other's company.  I want to mourn deeper with my friends who are struggling.  I want to look more people in the eye and seek to understand.  I want to see progress in myself and acknowledge it and be proud of it instead of focusing on all the things I still need to fix.  I want to see purpose in the things I do by rote every day.

When I chose the word SEE to guide me in the next year, it felt so right.  It makes complete sense in my mind and heart.  It's about practicing mindfulness.  It's about making moments mean more.  It's about opening my heart wider.

I want to see with new eyes.  I want to see divinely.  I want to see as God sees.

I've had glimpses.  I sense that there will be times when my heart is overwhelmed.  I sense that I will cry more.  I will admit that I am a little frightened to completely open my heart and feel fully.  But I trust that this is the right next step.

And so, in faith I leap.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Year of Kindness

This last year I decided to let KINDNESS be my guide.  The one word that would be on my mind and in my heart as I lived my life.  And I learned a lot.

I learned that any time I make something a chore it becomes less fun for me.  I did okay tweeting every day for a long time.  Then it got a little more erratic.  I think I pretty much stopped all together around July.

I also learned that choosing one word, one idea, to focus on for the year is awesome!  I loved it so much more than I ever liked setting goals or resolutions.  It works for me.  Plus, it gave me plenty of time to really internalize things.  Change takes time.  Usually a lot longer than we think.  A year allows for effort, failure, correction, learning, and more effort.

And I learned that I am so much happier when I am kind.  I'm a pro at the quick, sarcastic quip, but I don't like being that person.  It feels false.  I like being genuine.  I like saying what I mean.  I like telling people how wonderful I think they are.  I like choosing to ignore things that bug me so that others feel uplifted in my presence.  And the more I choose to ignore those things, the less they bug me.  The more kind I choose to be, the more beautiful the world becomes.

I can't speak for the entire world, but in America we live in a society that praises both kindness (openly) and unkindness (subtly).  News stories of service and giving capture our interest and sometimes change our behavior for a while, but we sure do like our sarcasm and teasing.  Our entertainment is filled with biting remarks.  The verbal slam is what gets laughs and praise.  There are entire tv shows dedicated to pulling pranks on people -- the soul purpose of which is to embarrass someone else for our entertainment.  Political discourse is less about discussing a point of view and seeking to understand the other side than it is about tearing the other argument (and often, the other person) to shreds.  We seem to say we want kindness, we like kindness, but our actions so often support the opposite side.

I've learned to keep my mouth shut more.  Since my brain still isn't fully converted, I have to control what I can.  The unkind thoughts still enter my head, but I can stop them from leaving my mouth.  I'm not always successful, but I'm doing so much better.

And I've learned that listening is one of the most kind acts I can perform.  So many people just need someone to listen to them.  Not to fix things.  Not to give advice.  Just to listen.  We all need our hearts to be heard.  Honest listening, with support and love and an intent to understand, sends value to the speaker.  There are just too many people who have no one to listen to them.  Taking the time to truly listen fills my heart in a divine way.  It makes me more than I was.  It enhances me.  It strengthens me.  Listening is a good thing.

I've also learned that being kind sometimes means speaking up.  Maybe it's the compliment I thought in my head but wouldn't always say in the past.  Say it.  It matters.  Or it's asking others to stop or change the conversation when it becomes unkind, even if it's about someone not present.  It may not ever get back to that person to hurt them, but staying silent hurts me.  Staying silent is participating.  It's passively saying that behavior is okay.  And it's not.

And I've learned that as with most things, it's more difficult to be kind with family.  And it's more important.

I notice kindness so much more.  There are so many kind acts every day, everywhere I go.  I notice unkindness more as well.  There's still way too much of that.  And I notice how my efforts to change and be more kind make a difference.  I am changing the world.  One person, one moment, at a time.

Kindness will go forward with me.  It is a part of me now.  It's in my heart.  But I've already chosen my word for next year and can't wait to get started.  More on that next week.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Simple Joys: Tiny Bubbles

Since we got rid of most of our dishes over a year ago I do most of my dishes by hand.  It's a more pleasant experience.  The warm water.  The suds.  Instant gratification.

And the tiny bubbles.

I don't remember seeing these before.  I've done dishes by hand many times in the past.  I think it might be the bottle.  Nearly every time I pick up or set down the bottle of dish soap, tiny bubbles shoot out of it and float around the sink.  About the size of my fingertip.  And it makes me happy.

Bubbles are one of life's miracles, if you ask me.  They're just magical, no matter how old I get.  Watching them float.  Wondering if they will survive the landing.  Trying to catch them without popping them.  They are a wonder.

They take me back to a simpler time with my children.  Every time I see them I remember the summers spent blowing bubbles so my children could chase them.  I remember helping my children learn to blow them.  I remember when the magic of bubbles was enough to solve most unhappy days.  Long before dating woes, driving stress, and worries about grades and graduation and college.  Just me, the kids, bubbles, and sunshine.

They also take me further back in time.  Every time I see them I hear the song "Tiny Bubbles" in my head.  I remember the first time I heard that song.  It wasn't Don Ho.  It wasn't on a ukelele'.  It was an old man on a guitar.  With his partner on a banjo.  I went camping with my grandma to an annual gathering called The Blackhawk.  As the summer evening was winding down, people were socializing and relaxing.  People were playing music together, rocking in lawn chairs by their trailers, singing.  And these two old men created heaven.  A moment that still brings me peace when I think about it.  Just a still, quiet summer evening filled with the beautiful harmony of two old friends.

A time when I had no worries.  There was nothing left for the day except to enjoy the company of those around us until it was time to go to bed.  I was with my grandma, my angel on earth.  And with people who had all the time in the world just to be.

Washing my dish makes me happy.  It brings me joy in a most simple way.  (And just in case it is the bottle -- it's Dawn and it works best when the bottle is mostly empty.  I want you to find happiness washing your dish, too.)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Simple Joys: My Bed

I was the only girl in my family, so I was the outlet for anything feminine for my mom.  Decorating.  Shopping.  Clothes.  Whatever.  And that's why I grew up with a beautiful canopy bed.  Dark wood.  Yellow and white canopy, bedspread, and pillow sham.  It was beautiful.  With or without the canopy, it was the only bed I used from the time I was four until I got married.

When we first got married we tried using his twin mattresses and my twin mattresses to make a bed on the floor.  That didn't work out very well so we ended up buying some very used queen mattresses (kind of gross now that I think about it).  We were grateful for them, even on the floor. 

Through the years we got a frame, a headboard, new mattresses, and eventually a big beautiful bed.

This bed was glorious!  Queen size mattresses, but the bed itself was larger than a king size.  I remember when we saw it on the showroom floor.  Dark red wood.  Very regal.  Throne-like.  Imperial.  I liked it; my husband loved it.  Then we got it home and realized our bedroom was no where near as big as a showroom floor.  It fit, but there wasn't much room to spare.

It kind of became an albatross around my neck over the years.  But my husband still loved it so we kept it and just tried to arrange the room around it.

A few years ago when we decided we needed separate rooms, I wanted him to have that bed.  But his room is in the basement and there is just no way it would fit.  So I kept the bed I didn't really like because it seemed the practical thing to do.

And then I finally came to a place where I was ready to be true to myself, practical or not.  I didn't want the bed.  I still wanted to use my queen mattresses, but wanted something much less gaudy.  Something you could barely tell was there.  And I remembered an old bed in my parents' basement.  My bed.  My first bed.  The one before the canopy bed.

It's iron, painted white.  Chipped.  It was a full-size when I had it as a small child.  At some point it had been given to a neighbor who promised to give my parents first dibs if they ever got rid of it.  A few years ago they were ready and contacted my mom.  She said she'd love to have it back.  And it turns out that they'd altered it so it was now queen size.

My parents used it for a while in a spare room, for when family visited.  But they have since downsized and didn't have a place for it.  It was just being stored.

My mom was thrilled when I asked for it.  I think it belonged to a great-aunt or something (the story is debated).  And it's perfect.  A supportive iron frame connected to a sparse, white iron headboard and footboard.  Almost invisible in the room.  And I recently acquired a chenille bedspread similar to the one I remember stroking as I lay on it as a child.  It brings me tender joy every time I see it.

Fortuitous, destiny, divine intervention.  However it came to be, I'm just glad to have my bed back.