July 22, 2015

A Walletfull of Wisdom

 Knowledge comes from learning. Wisdom comes from living. -Unknown

It is a sad truth that the acquisition of wisdom increases in the exact proportion that our influence on those it might benefit decreases - and maybe, that's just as it should be!

It's another sad truth that we may never know someone in life as well as we do after we've lost them. Going through a loved one's "things" brings insight that can be gained no other way and would be a terrible violation of privacy while they're still the keepers of their treasures. Once they've left the treasury however, there is nothing left to do but sort, sift, and decide. The process of doing these things for my deceased mother-in-law have brought a great deal of enlightenment. The first morsel was to be careful what I keep!

What I save will leave an unwritten story for those that follow to write in their own words. It will be left to them to decide the value and importance that each object held for me. They may get it right sometimes  and correctly assess my attachment to and love for a thing. They might also, without the benefit of my input, decide some hideous something I'd picked up at a garage sale, intended as a gag elephant gift, was a precious memento. (Perish the thought!)

Back to the sorting, sifting, and deciding. During the process of "settling the affairs" my husband needed to contact the Railroad Retirement Fund - from which Mom received her benefits. To that end the search began for account numbers and contact information. The place of last resort became Mom's wallet.

Mom's wallet is no ordinary wallet - it's more of a traveling vault. Fashioned like a man's bi-fold, it's devil's food cake brown with small patches of the burgundy red it used to be still showing in areas protected from constant use. It has a small single snap and a row of closure options to allow for expansion. It had reached the end of it's expand-ability. The imprinted - almost Celtic looking design over the snap has a spot that's worn white and nearly through from openings and closings. Its leather is soft and well worn from its years as a traveling Sherpa. Unpacking the contents made me think of Doctor Who's Tardis. There was far more inside than its outward appearance made possible and it felt oddly like unpacking a life. The wallet itself tells quite a tale but its contents contain an epic novel.

Besides the coins from the U.S., Canada, and England, there was also a coin from Cuba. There's paper currency from Canada as well - no surprise since Mom was born in Toronto and visited family there. There are family photos, business cards, and tokens - each a memory of a day spent - and $23.00 in cash - at least before today when I found a secret spot where three $2 bills had been folded and tucked.

Along with all of that Mom had collected a library of philosophy housed on bits of paper, cards, and news clippings containing sayings, verses, and sometimes poems that she'd carried with her everywhere she went. Each of these are windows into her view of and way of being in the world. On a tiny yellowed newspaper clipping:

A Bag of Tools

Isn't it strange 
That Princes and Kings,
And clowns that caper,
In sawdust rings,
And Common people
Like you and me 
Are builders of eternity?

Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mask, a book of rules;
Each must make - ere life is flown -
A stumbling block,
Or a stepping stone.

On a brightly decorated card featuring a smiling sunshine:
A joyful heart makes a cheerful face.

Typed on a piece of red card stock and cut to fit:

Great Spirit; Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins. - Indian Prayer

Another small yellowed clipping contained a reader's note to Ann Landers sharing what her mother had taught her about successful living: 

Wash what is dirty. Water what is dry. Heal what is wounded. Warm what is cold. Guide what goes off the road. Love people who are least lovable because they need it the most.

On a card from a church my husband had pastored earlier in his career:

Faith is the map. Hope is the guide. Love is the way. 

And on another from the Michigan Council of The Boy Scouts of America:

The average of the world's great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations progressed through this sequence:

From Bondage to Spiritual Faith
From Spiritual Faith to great Courage
From Courage to Liberty
From Liberty to Abundance
From Abundance to Selfishness
From Selfishness to Complacency
From Complacency to Apathy
From Apathy to Dependency 
From Dependency back into bondage.
This cycle is not inevitable. Tomorrow's America depends on YOU!

(Scary to think about where we are in THAT cycle!)

Time and space permits me to share but a small fraction of the collection, but I think you get the point. We each travel through life collecting. Some of our treasures are physical, some emotional, and many are snapshots or memories. Each collected item serves to craft the lenses through which we view the people and world around us. It became clear to me that the currency in Mom's wallet held the the smallest portion of its value for her. I'm sure it's the same for many of us as well.

My lenses were polished by the opportunity to peek into a lifetime collection carried carefully in a well worn wallet. Mom's carefully chosen pearls now combine with my own gatherings. Her collection was bathed in a richness and depth that make me want to leave behind the kind of things that will enrich the lives of those tasked with sorting and sifting my things. After all, I have no control over the story that will be written about my life once I leave it, but I can make sure I leave  meaningful material to draw from.

How about you? Where do you store your philosophy library? Do you carry it with you in a well worn wallet? Maybe you keep a journal or create beautiful memory books. I keep mine on this blog!

July 14, 2015

Rebel Without A Cause

 "I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing..." Thomas Jefferson

Go ahead! Call me a rebel - my mother sure does! I can't say her allegations are completely without merit, but I'm with Thomas Jefferson on this one. I do believe that a little rebellion now and then is not only a good thing but a sane thing.

TRUE CONFESSION: I am a rebel blogger. I say this not because I set out to stir people to riot. I say it because I blog when and how I want to blog and ignore what is considered traditional wisdom on what makes a blog successful.

I've read countless articles on the topic of blogging. I've been schooled on how to blog, how NOT to blog, how often to blog etc. I believe there is wisdom in each bit of advice. The problem is what may be wisdom for one person is folly for another and that's where my rebellion kicks in.

  Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. -Albert Camus

Yes, it's probably a good idea to post on a regular schedule. The wisdom contends that followers like for us to be consistent. That may be true but I have a hard time believing that my blog could be so important to anyone that their life would change course if my offering was delayed. My ego would LOVE to believe otherwise but my grasp on reality absolutely refuses to let it go there.

Originality is the best form of rebellion. 
- Mike Sasso

Some experts say the more frequent the posts the better for success. I guess that depends on how we as bloggers define success. Yes, if my blog was monetized and my bills would only get paid if my blog was visited, clicked through, and a sale was being made, I might actually take the more is better advice more seriously. As it is, no one is paying me a dime for the time I spend writing, so meh! (I purposely don't monetize my blog because I want to continue loving it and making it a "job" would suck the joy right out of it for me. There are some things we do for love that we'd never do for money.)

With rebellion, awareness is born.
 - Albert Camus

I've also read that where we blog is what it's all about and if we're not on WordPress we'd might as well forget about being seen or followed.

NO! It's SEO! (Search Engine Optimization) It's all about SEO - except for when it's really all about promoting the snot out of each post or getting "Freshly Pressed."
(I take offense with anyone who wants to press me - freshly or otherwise.)

The freedom we are looking for is the freedom to express ourselves. - Don Miguel Ruiz

So yes, I'm rebellious! Call me crazy but I need to believe something makes sense before I have any inclination to do it. I also don't believe in a one size fits all approach to anything. (Have you ever tried to squeeze into a one size fits all shirt only to find out that one size fits all who aren't you? Harrowing experience!)

Blogging is as unique as each individual blogger. There are so many reasons a person sets out into the blogosphere. Some are strictly about online marketing and making a living. Others like to promote books they've read or written or any number of other products or businesses. 

My reasons are more simpler: I want to. I love it. It makes me happy. It's how I make sense of my life and the things that happen in it. I blog to share what I learn in hopes that someone else may benefit from my experience. I blog because it helps me to clarify things that seem a misty mess without blogging to bring them into sharper focus.

Is my blog a success? It is for me and would be even if no one ever read a word that I've written. It leaves a history of who I've been and how I became that person for me to revisit when I'm confused about who that is. We're all evolving and my blog reflects where I've grown, where I've shrank, and how far I have left to go.

It is both conformity and rebellion that attack you with success. - Amy Tan

So l may be defiant, but more, in my case, would not be better because if I don't have anything worth sharing I can't see the point of wasting readers' precious (and it is PRECIOUS) time. My time is also precious so I won't be held to my keyboard by an arbitrary schedule when being somewhere else in actual time, learning something valuable, spending time in my head or with those I love, would be a better way to spend it. The sand is passing too quickly through my hourglass - and even Amazon doesn't sell lost time! (I've checked!)

It seems some bloggers beat themselves into senseless deadline submission - seeking ratings and numbers - when they could be gaining insight,  experience, and loving it instead. While reading their posts they seem to have made it a to do on their already exhaustive list of things to accomplish. What a harried waste of creativity.

I posted this on Twitter this week: "Somehow I let my real life distract me from my social media virtual life!" Yes, I got behind on Facebook, Twitter, and even failed to check Instagram. I'll bet it cost me some followers! (Meh!)  What I did instead was spend time becoming and learning and loving the people in my "actual" space. I don't regret a minute of it!

Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence. 
- Osho

How about you? Do you have a blogging rebellious streak or are you guilt ridden if you don't adhere to a definite schedule? Do you still love blogging or has it become just another chore?