August 23, 2014

And Then Life Happened

 - Anita Stout

Things were going well! We had friends in town who we hadn't seen for quite awhile. We had big plans - lunch, seeing the town etc. and then the phone rang. On the other end was news that we not only didn't want, but had dreaded coming. My husbands mother, at 95, had fallen and broken her hip.

In an instant, everything changed. We had to say goodbye early to our friends, to our plans and to the "happy" that had surrounded us in the days leading up to that call. We went from the "real" world into the surreal world of waiting rooms, hospital rooms, cafeteria food, and suspended time.

We were brought face to face with another world. A world where people work 12 hour shifts and care for others at great sacrifice to themselves and their families. People who face illness, infirmity, death, and sadness for a living - and the gratitude we feel for them is overwhelming. 

It happens to all of us - the unexpected. We can't plan for it, schedule it, or avoid it. It's not a matter of IF it will come calling or knocking on our doors, just a matter of when and with what. It's LIFE. Not the fun part, I'll admit, but it's life nevertheless. 

These moments shake us from the silly sense of control we believe we have over things. It wakes us up to the fact that our time here and with those we love really is finite - no matter how good we are at pretending otherwise. It reminds of us things like: bodies are fragile, and our health will not always be what it is today. Unexpected things do for us what Mark Twain suggests: Takes out our brains and shakes them up. He says they get gummed up and I'm inclined to believe him.

The reality is that none of us would choose age, or infirmity, or loss but if we're alive, it's a sure bet we will. Not only that, but we can put money on being the cause of someone else getting that call at some point or even several points in our lives as well.

So, does that make life bad? No. It makes life real.

In these moments and days after the call, our focus and attention has been radically redirected. We've been given time - unscheduled, unplanned, and unavailable time - to spend with someone who matters more than many of the other things we would have otherwise been attending to. We have been forced to look inside ourselves and find things that also get all gummed up in a busy life. Things like compassion, strength, sacrifice, and service. We've been given hours to reflect on who and what is important. Those are all GOOD things.

So, that leads me right back to my first statement: All of life is good. Even the bad parts.That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

August 8, 2014

What Are You Looking For?

"Seek And Ye Shall Find"  -Jesus

Those are the most profound five words that were ever spoken and very few of us ever really understand the significance of them. It works. It really works. It doesn't matter what you're seeking. Often it's assumed that it only applies to the seeking of spiritual enlightenment, or answers to life's deepest mysteries. That is the truth - but not the only truth.

Whatever we seek, we will find. Try it. Spend a day seeking what's wrong with everything and see what you find. I guarantee it won't be pleasant. Then, spend another day seeking the good in every person and situation you encounter and see for yourself how good the world and people in it can be - it works.

Seeking is about noticing. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we have total control of our noticing. We can choose every minute what to notice - what to pay attention to. I found this out myself when I married my husband. 

David doesn't seem to be as adverse to clutter as I am. In the beginning, his indifference to it drove me nuts. Everywhere I looked I saw evidence that he didn't care that clutter drove me nuts - therefore, he must not care about me. Once I "noticed" that, I started to notice other ways that proved this theory. Socks on the floor, books stacked on every surface etc. I can tell you it wasn't a happy time for me. Then one day we were driving down the road heading west as the sun was beginning to set. Being height challenged, the visor is little less than a tease for me. I'd left my sunglasses in my car and we were in David's car. Seeing the sun shining into my eyes, David reached over and put his hand under the visor to block the glare. Who does that? Once I "noticed" that kind gesture, my mind started retracing past acts of kindness and consideration. In an instant I became aware that those considerate acts far outnumbered the "offenses" that I believed proved he didn't care.

I was SEEKING evidence to support a preconceived notion and it was there. That's the point...the evidence is always there! If you're looking for a reason to be upset, there is absolutely no doubt that you'll find it. It's right next door to all the evidence for being happy and content. It works every single time!

My question is this: Is what you're seeking worth finding? Will it bring you happiness or add fuel to already blazing fire of discontent? Are you seeking reasons to believe the world is a friendly place or evidence to support your pulling back from life and the people in it? 

How about your dreams? Are you seeking reasons that they can't possibly work as a way to avoid taking a chance or are you seeking every possible solution that will lead to the life you'd love to create?

It's up to you. You are choosing every moment what you will find next. Seek wisely!

August 4, 2014

Life Lessons From A 3 Foot Sock Monkey

What can a 3 ft. sock monkey teach us about life? You might be surprised!

It was a moment that will remain forever frozen in time. We walked into the resale shop (an annual tradition with my 2 granddaughters while here visiting after camp ends,) and Abby, 13, headed straight for the designer clothes section to look for deals. Sydney, 11, bee-lined, as always, to the doll section. I meandered somewhere in between not quite sure where to go. Then it happened. As I turned a corner I was stunned to see, wrapped in the arms of the wide eyed Sydney, a 3 feet tall, red, sock monkey.

Behind the sock monkey I saw something that fascinated me. Something I hadn't  realized until that moment that I missed so desperately - sheer delight. As Sydney hugged and danced around with the monkey, eyes sparkling and begging all at the same time, "love at first sight" totally consuming her, the delight was almost overwhelming.

With suitcases already so stuffed that a flea would need reservations to get in, thoughts of where this monkey would fit, even if I wanted to buy it, tried to pry their way into my mind. Before their first toe had crossed the threshold, Sydney had launched into a proclamation of her undying love for said monkey and her willingness to part with no less than 5 of her old stuffed animals in order to secure this one - which I knew instantly would never happen.

A saner person might have been stronger at that moment. A saner person might have rationalized that it was merely infatuation instead of true love and would soon pass. A saner person might have actually taken time to consider how a 3 ft. sock monkey might be received back home, but I'm not a saner person. I'm a grandma! So heck yes that monkey left with us! As  I plunked down the cash however, I was not buying a monkey. I was buying the feeling that the 3 ft. monkey elicited from my granddaughter. I was buying sheer delight! I'm pretty sure, on my own, I would never have bought a red, 3 ft. monkey at any cost - but who can put a price on what anyone would pay for sheer delight? (Fortunately for me the monkey was a steal!)

While my children were young and living at home, sheer delight was common place. Just making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich or saying yes to a friend coming over to play "Ghostbusters' could elicit squeals of delight. I'm afraid I may have taken delight's magical  powers for granted. I may have assumed it was just a "childhood thing." I severely underestimated delight, it's allure, and it's power to make us do things we'd never do for any other reason. 

As we get older, delight gets squeezed out of the picture with more "serious" things. Important things. Things that responsible adults do - but at what cost? It isn't, as I imagined, a "childhood thing." This became evident as I witnessed it 3 more times that same weekend.

Two of those times happened as we delivered the "year older and much grown" granddaughters to the homes of their great grandparents. Each time a door swung opened, it was there again. The third time came when we stopped at the home of a cousin to drop off some pictures, news clippings, and other mementos of her loved ones. As she sorted through the collection, there it was again, delight, brought about by remembering.

None of these delightful episodes came about by extravagant means. Each were relatively simple, but each had the intoxicating rush that comes from bringing joy to another. Joy born of delight knows no boundaries. It has a habit of spilling over onto whoever else is around when it's unleashed.  The consequences are exhilarating and a bit addictive. It made me want to do more - to find ways to feel it again and again.

Life is serious business. There's so much that has to be done. So much that should be done. With all of that to consider, I think it's easy to lose sight of what could be done. I believe in the end, what could be done, might just end up mattering the most.

When was the last time you witnessed sheer delight? When was the last time you felt it? When was the last time you caused it? Might now be the perfect time?