self improvement, self love

IN THE MOMENT

I woke up at four am this past Monday morning and lounged in bed for what seemed like two hours only to discover that just thirty minutes had passed. Every day this week four am has been an unintended alarm so I indulge its inner ring and get up. Why not, may as well enjoy the quiet sound of the morning.

I put the coffee on and grabbed my pillow lowering myself to the floor for another round of While the Coffee Perks Meditation acknowledging myself with a brief mental clap for sticking with this practice. I started this over four months ago and have barely missed a day. The rewards from this are countless and though hard to define them with words, I am a much calmer and focused soul because of this. It makes me feel good and I want to feel good so I march forth.

As I sat cross legged on the floor and began breathing, the sounds of the rain storm and wind surrounded me. I haven’t heard a good thunderstorm in a while so when the electrifying bolts of lightning came along with the thunderous booms I breathed them in. How often does one get to be meditating and at the first breath in have thunder and lightning join you in the party? Wake up! They yelled. And I welcomed the reminder to pay attention. I am. More now than ever.

And it is a conscious daily choice I make to pay attention. In the luscious moment that is right now. Not tomorrow, not yesterday, but right now because really this is all any of us have. The older I get the more I realize that RIGHT NOW is all we ever have. We take time and tomorrow and next week and next month for granted. Or at least I have, all ingredients for fretting and worrying and anxious thinking that doesn’t serve me and my creative self well -ever. I am confident that many reading this today would agree, it seems like this is just one of our traits of being human. When I reflect back on anything in my past that I excessively worried about- like actually lost sleep over- it is virtually insignificant today. As I review these temporary struggles of yester year I realize the value in their lessons in the countless hours I wasted.

Finishing my deep contemplative breathing that is now part of my morning routine, I got myself set up on the couch for my other morning ritual, writing. Trying not to be persuaded by the calls of checking Facebook and email, I dive into my happy place that always keeps me locked into the NOW. I start thinking about the moments this past week that I lived in the actual moment. I am fully aware of the irony of this as living in the actual moment means not headed backwards, but for the purpose of drawing the examples to illustrate when IN THE MOMENT works for me, I must head there.

This past #noplanthursday, I am attempting to add to my list of IN THE MOMENT moments, has been an interesting experiment. Three Thursdays later, I have learned that I struggle with not making plans on purpose. I had to return books that I took out at my new favorite spot I discovered on my first attempt three Thursdays ago. The Redwood Library in Newport, RI founded in 1747 with this as part of its mission statement. Nothing in View but the Good of Mankind. Has an old fashioned ring to it, doesn’t it? This library isn’t just any old library, it is a subscription library and the oldest community library still occupying its original building in the United States. You need to have a separate library card for it and must sign up as a member which I promptly did. The Redwood Library is a magical space to sit and do nothing except read or write or sit and stare in silence. There are lectures and music events as well as special exhibits and I was lucky enough to catch one on Claggett Clocks. This may sound like a big yawner to some, but honestly, imagine walking into a dimly lit room with over forty grandfather style clocks made from as early as 1716, many working and ticking and gonging just as the noon hour hit. This is the thing about not planning anything and finding something without looking. Juicy for sure.

I have this list in my head of the places I have said I am going to get to. Like so many women I know who say, I’ve been meaning to get there, the museums, the walking trails, the kayak trips, the flower shows and the exhibits. Those endless lists of interesting things to do, but somehow the endless lists in our head prevail and the days go on as do the exhibits. What better days than getting to these then on these no plan Thursdays?

I walked there from my partner’s house to return the books after having lots of mindpseak trying to convince myself I didn’t need to leave the comfortable couch with my laptop. What is it about that mind speak saying NO instead of YES? Thankfully, though, the books I took out had to be returned on this very day so I had to get up and go. Books in hand, I made my way outside to a glorious day of sunshine and cool breeze, the ocean at my back and the sounds of nature as my private symphony. It was amazing how quickly I moved from the lists to the moment as soon as the first bird chirped at me.

The smooth and vibrant siren sound of the cardinal rewarded me on my walk. As they always do, causing me to look up and look for him. And her. Vibrant sharp shrills calling me, walking with me, following me the entire way to and from. Making me stop in my tracks with my two books in my arms and look up in search for their beauty. And there they were. Again and again. I was reminded of how happy I am to recognize their sounds so easily and to look up searching for them, eyes trying to follow their calls until they land on that familiar bright red spot in the bare oaks and maples with barely a bud on their branches in this early April. Rewarded by my simple walk to The Redwood Library on a beautiful afternoon just because I “forced” myself to follow my plan of wandering.

Our lives have come to the need to actually schedule a day of not planning and in this itself is actually a plan, but be that as it may, this no plan plan is important for this busy active chick. Cardinals, nature, books, writing and maybe topped off with a dish of Peppermint Stick ice cream reminding me again that the moment, this moment is the very best vacation spot.

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TAKING A BREAK

TAKING A BREAK

If vacation does one thing for me, it is the reminder to slow down and take stock of my daily life when I return. From what and how I eat, and where I shop for the food I have to have once I return, ( Azorean butter for example) to how I exercise and go through my day to contemplating the busy-ness and the friends I surround myself with, getting away makes coming back have a different outlook. Vacations in new countries adds one more layer to this and as I have returned from my three week venture away from almost all things alayne, I have found myself calmer, more relaxed and more humbled and way less digitized.

What I noticed also is that there is so much to read online, everywhere I turn, from Pinterest to Medium and all of the news sites blasting their stories, I have started to feel a bit inundated. Why does anyone even want to read what I write? There is so much out there now. “Three ways to feel better,!” “Ten things you can do now to change your day!” Five steps to get healthy, NOW!” Non fiction after non fiction piece, blog after blog, story after story. I feel almost a little burnt out from all of this digitizing of writing and need to get back to the basics. Like reading real books and writing on real paper.

This has changed my daily writing habit to a daily reading habit because the fact is there is only so much time in the day to get everything in that I love and something has to give. I have found since I have bought my typewriters that I love typing on them and I have taken a dive into almost daily typing. With that comes added time to my already jam packed mornings. The interesting surprise about typing on a manual typewriter, besides the frequency of errors, is the different way I have been writing. What I have noticed mostly are my limitations, especially when it comes to the fiction I have been attempting.I have a lot to learn and this excites me. I realize I need coaching or a creative writing class or writing group that challenges my vocabulary and I have found myself at a bit of a standstill.

Any great writing book I have bought has said a few basic tips. The top two repeated over and over again are write every day, (check) and read a lot. Reading definitely helps my writing and I realized that this was something I definitely needed to add to my daily list. Typical of my personality I have read five books in three weeks and am on number six as I type this early am. So I have decided to read and read and read rather than write and post and write and post for a bit. I am still writing every day, but just typing on Old Bess and giving my one page stories away instead, old school on vellum paper mistakes and all. Reading with the intensity I have allowed myself is showing me how much I have to learn and what better way than a book at a time at the library around the corner.

Vacations and time away brings me to awakenings and awarenesses, challenges and hunger for learning in a way that staying put doesn’t. I love being home armed with this new outlook and at the same time, I can’t wait for my next trip. I’ll be writing and posting again, I am sure, sooner than later, but for now I am taking a break to get caught up on all of the books I need to catch up on. Perhaps this short hiatus is in the good time with my one year anniversary of my final surgery coming in September, maybe I have poured out all of the non fiction in my body as it is reaching its one year of final healing. Who knows if the timing is as perfect as it seems, but for now I lean in to what my mind and soul command. Vacations, especially solo ones, do this for me, reminding me that this one life is a fragile one and there is so much to do, to see, to read and all of it that lies ahead is my oyster to do what I want with.

As September approaches at a rate that seems to accelerate as I get older, what I appreciate is the ability of choice and how I want to direct my life is totally up to me and me alone. This is what vacation is about and this is what life is ultimately. As Wayne Dyer said perfectly, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Yep.


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ODE TO THE LIBRARY


ODE TO THE LIBRARY

It has been almost four full months since I embarked on my no shopping decree that was going to be a month at a time and here I am. I have saved money for a rainy day for the first time in my fifty three year young life, followed a reasonable budget and had money left over to spare on a weekly basis. I have always been great at saving for retirement since I was in my late twenties. My grandfather barked his wisdom at me telling me to buy mutual funds and invest in the company 401k that was fortunately available at my young age and ultimately led me to the discipline of saving for my future. Fifty three came fast and I was really happy that I listened to him especially when it came to saving for my later and for my son’s education — I had enough saved to completely pay for his first two years of college. My nemesis was the rainy day fund. I never learned to save for the now, the present, the what if, living by the seat of my pants for most of my life and for the most part it has worked out for me, but not without a lot of stress and worry.

My grandmother, Kitsie, the one of Hot Fudge Sauce fame, my mother’s mother, was a perpetual money worrier, my mother and father were spendthrifts always having the latest car, kitchen gadget and not really teaching us much about the value of money and the self worth it inscribes when handled it with care and attention. Like food, money for me has been one of those go to soothers when the going gets tough. Eating a hot fudge sundae or going on a shopping spree at Williams Sonoma or Lululemon detoured me from the hole of emotion making it easy to avoid the bump in the road. In the throws of these outings though, the thrill of the spend or the indulging in the fudge covered up the hole like a sewer cap on a street, unbeknownst to this traveler as I didn’t notice the gaping crater as I blasted my way to the shopping center.

Amazon Prime changed some of this routine. Now at a moment’s notice I could Search! Find! and Buy Now with One Click! in less than two minutes all in the comfort of my flannel pjs warmly coated on the couch in my other more sensible grandmother Isabelle’s (aka total saver) lighthouse sweater. In two days voila like magic, a store could be brought to me. The thrill of seeing the UPS or FedEx truck pull up felt like a perpetual Happy Birthday to Me. I would eagerly open up the smooth and well packaged boxes emblazoned with the Amazon Prime label reminding anyone around me that I too paid the one hundred extra dollars per year for the joy of shopping from the glory of my couch in my pjs. The convenience of the Amazon store credit card tied this neatly into a glorious consumerism bow so I could rack up points to gather for more more more purchases.

When I decided to stop shopping for most things, and going instead the old school style of weekly outings to the bank to write myself a check and divvy the money up into neat little envelopes, it was a personal challenge to years of over spending, freely buying whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and wondering why I never had any rainy day fund money at the end of the month. I always admired my female friends who were on a budget, I never really could wrap my head or my wallet around the discipline. I came from the school of thought that everything happens in the divine right order, that all is well in my world, (thank you Louise Hay for giving me permission to blow cares to the wind). I believed that if you said things like I choose not to afford this rather than I can’t afford it somehow this would create the magical abundance that The Secret and all of the Tony Robbins twelve cd sets guilefully in his 3am informercials promised that I somehow found myself watching one early morning in Killington Vt. on an awkward ski trip in my former life when my son was about two.

Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression that I totally gave up shopping at Amazon Prime, not at all. I do have to buy many items for my business (wink wink) and the fine line between giving up shopping for my personal life in contrast to my business is a perpetual tightrope walk. But I have for the most part prevailed and book purchases were the first to go. When I did my last major purge, I couldn’t believe how many books I had amassed; clearly I love to buy books as much as I love to read them. As I contemplated my son standing in front of all of these books trying to decide what to get rid of, what to donate, what to keep, on the day of my funeral (cancer has this affect on you like this- the constant visualizations of your child having to make decisions about all of your crap), I was struck by how overwhelming it could be. I made a prompt decision to donate, sell or give to my friends most of my books. I don’t need to have them on display in my living room to demonstrate my literature worthiness, that is all my own ego and of all of the parts of my body I am happiest to free myself from, ego release is the bonus breast cancer gift that keeps on giving.

I decided to give the library a try. My Hot Fudge Sauce grandmother Kitsie was an avid library attendee. She was a teacher and read constantly always going back and forth from the from the Newton library to drop off and pick up another book. My grandfather too was a regular visitor to the library spending afternoons reading in the quiet space. (probably to get away from my grandmother’s incessant vacuuming and was a better alternative to the former hangout for this sober Irish Scottish drinker).

In my beautiful town of Bristol, RI we have a lovely library and it is within walking distance of my house. I am ashamed to say that I had only taken out books a handful of times usually returning them late hence making the library more of a magnifier of my weak spots of irresponsibility then the joy it should have been. But that was then. With this new direction of not shopping, going to the library and learning how to use it has become a source of great enjoyment for me. I learned that I could go on to the Ocean State Libraries network and basically type in any book and just like Amazon it would become available to me with a simple email to let me know when it was ready for pickup. I look forward to reading the Sunday NYT Book Review and it doesn’t cease to surprise me when I type in the book on the site and it is there, just like Amazon and it’s free! I am laughing at myself wholeheartedly. I have had to make the small adjustment of typing in the author’s name last name first. This has taken me some getting used to and you can see my annoyance when I repeatedly typed in Hannah Arendt and the library was telling me there was no such author. Ahhh, of course, the correct non Amazon Prime way, Arendt, Hannah. HOW EMBARRASSING. Was anyone looking? No! because there is no algorithm tracking my every search! Another bonus!!!

I have found myself actively finishing every book I start because there is a time line of when the book needs to be returned forcing me to turn off the television or put down the phone to check how many likes one of my writings recently received (yes I reveal my truth of shame here, embarrassing, but true and I really have to consciously force myself to not take part in the silliness of the eight grade world we now found ourselves in). I actually laid on the couch yesterday and read an entire book because I knew I had to return it this week.

There is a lovely old fashioned ritual to using the library that makes me connect to my grandmother. The crinkling sounds of the plastic protector covers on the books, the date due stamped with all of the previous dates in the inside cover, nameless but quantifiable. Taking care of the book, being more conscious of preserving its pages because it is borrowed not owned, walking down to the library and engaging with the volunteers by talking about books. I love watching the new mamas traipsing in with their little babes in tow hoping to instill a love of books before public elementary school gets a hold of their little minds and forces them to record the number of minutes they read the night before sucking the joy of the book right out of them. Yes really. There is the activity wall listing all of the endless events going on and looking around at the patrons who are either working on the free computers, reading the free newpapers or just sitting like it is a café without the wafts of coffee aroma luring you to stay and think you need to buy rather than borrow.

And The Quiet.

The quiet of the space, the people, the technology, the voices, the sounds. It has been a welcome bonus in my new land of not shopping and what I have noticed is how much I have learned to love the little joys that have come my way unexpected. And for the first time in my young life have saved money for a rainy day in less than four months. I actually look at my checkbook each day and I know exactly how much is in there because I didn’t spend any money the day or week before. Those twenty dollar debit charges “here and there” add up to enormous mountains of spending and what I have noticed is by not using my debit card ever and using cash instead always, I don’t have to play the incessant catch up in my check book that is inevitable with these constant miscellaneous charges of a lunch here, a pair of sneakers there, a scarf or a hat, the list never ends.

What I have learned from my depression era grandparents is that wealth is not spending, wealth is a maturity in knowing you value yourself enough to value the money that you earn. That by spending it willy nilly on every whim, I am in many ways not honoring the importance of its energy. Money has an energy of great purpose, but it can also lead to terrible outcomes. As women especially, we are often taught from an early age that when in doubt, go shopping, eat a bag of chips or a tray of cookies. But by all means, spend. By not spending for almost four months, I have had to face the inordinate amount of time that miraculously became available to me. I couldn’t believe how much time I had given to shopping, or thinking about buying something. The liberation came from releasing it and the library became my detour. Thank you Benjamin Franklin who had the foresight and brilliance to think that a library was a possibility.



“And now I set on foot my first project of a public nature, that for a subscription library … this was the mother of all the North American subscription libraries, now so numerous. It is become a great thing itself, and continually increasing. These libraries have improved the general conversation of the Americans, made the common tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen from other countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the stand so generally made throughout the colonies in defense of their privileges.” — The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

http://www.libraryhistorybuff.com/librarycompany.htm
http://www.libraryhistorybuff.com/librarycompany.htm