When my husband was alive we promised our grandchildren that we would take them each to Disneyland when they were in 6th grade. Unfortunately for Sage, Steve died when Sage was in the 6th grade. At the time, I broke my promise because going to the Happiest Place on Earth without Steve would be emotionally too challenging. Sage is now in 8th grade and I finally got up the energy to go last week, also taking another grandson, who is now in 6th grade. My son went with me to help out because I was concerned that my bouts of fatigue would be a drag on the fun. As it turned out, I did have to go back to the hotel room a couple of times while they all stayed at the park. Well what can you say about Disneyland? It was SO CROWDED! We waited in lots of lines, got hungry a lot, walked (for 17 hours one day!) a lot, got super wet and cold on one of the rides, had a hotel room that was located like 6 blocks from the elevator, and on and on. But you know what? Those minor annoyances are not what we will remember. We will remember waiting in line TOGETHER, riding those awesome rides TOGETHER, seeing spectacular shows (Fantasmic, Frozen) and having tons of fun together. That must be why Disneyland is called The Magic Kingdom. It’s magical how the fun, wonderful memories will stay with us and the other stuff will magically fade away. Thanks Mickey!
At my tai chi class last week we worked on transitions from one stance (pose) to another. We decided that the transition to the stance was just as important as working on the stance itself, and that we should pay careful attention to the transition, instead of focusing on getting to the next stance. As usual, tai chi imitates life, so it got me thinking about how I have been in a transition ever since 2014 when I had brain surgery, followed by my husband’s death in 2015. I’ve been transitioning from healthy to a little bit disabled, and from married to single. So now I ask myself: Have I been so focused on where I will end up that I have neglected to experience the present moment? I keep thinking that I’m in transition, so it’s like I don’t take my life seriously, like I’m just passing through a stage. Why can’t I just be satisfied where I am now? Well, I really am satisfied, and very happy, but there’s also a part of me that wonders how it will feel when I have transitioned to…. what? My new intention is to enjoy where I’m at right now, and quit acting like it’s just a transition. And even if it is a transition, I intend to value it as much as I think I will value the destination. And really, my destination is unknown and mysterious, but where I am now is concrete and real. So it all goes back to the same theme: Live life in the present. In the now. Embrace it and love it. I can do that! As a matter of fact, I’m going dancing tomorrow night. And if someone asks me to take a risk, I’m not going to say, “I’m not ready.” I’ll say, “Bring it on!”
For the first year after my husband died I got lonely in the evenings. I was used to having him around and it felt empty without him to talk to about the events of the day. I finally got used to being alone and feel like I’ve adjusted well. However, today I finished all of my preparation work for next semester (I’m a nursing professor), and feelings of loneliness came up. It makes me wonder: Does keeping busy with my job distract me from taking a look at my feelings? Do I use my job to avoid feelings? I never really thought of that before, probably because I’ve been too busy! When I was at the bank today I felt the loneliness hit and decided to be mindful about it, like I teach my students. I said out loud, Huh! This is what loneliness feels like! I didn’t resist it, I observed it and felt it and experienced it. That helped a lot. And honestly, it’s not that bad. There’s a lot worse. But I do think I need to get out more. Is that because I want to avoid being lonely? Well, yeah.
I spent time in Atlanta last week, meeting my newest grandson Miles. Last time I was in Atlanta I got stranded at the airport for a few days, and this time my flight was delayed due to weather. While I was there it snowed a couple of inches so the schools and churches were shut down. We had a nice visit indoors. My son and his wife have decided to move back to Utah next year. HOORAY! I am so exited to have them close by. I was very impressed with their decision making. Although they really like Atlanta, they decided it would be in their family’s best interest to be closer to the support and love offered by family and long-time friends here in Utah. Families are here to love, support, and help each other. And friends are here for the same. I’m proud of my son and his wife for making a decision based on what is best for their family. Fortunately, it’s great for me too! Can’t wait to see them again.
The weather here in Utah is foggy and smoggy. The beautiful mountains are hidden in what we call “the inversion layer” of dirty air. The morning fog freezes on all the trees and everything is white. It looks like snow, but without the snow. Yesterday I was walking on campus (University of Utah, where I work) and saw that someone had scrawled a message in the frozen fog that covered a bench. My first reaction was, “Don’t read it! It will be crude or gross! Someone’s mad and they are using the weather to write their thoughts of protest and anger.” I got brave and took a hesitant glance at the bench. It said “Good Morning!” And it had happy face! What a nice surprise. Uplifting and inspiring. I laughed out loud and received the message loud and clear: Life is good and let’s enjoy it. I had a good morning, and a great day.Thanks!
I was planning a class about resilience and emotional intelligence last week when I ran across a quote online: Be interested, not interesting. Apparently, it’s a Dale Carnegie quote used in the customer service field. So all week long I have wanted to implement the quote, because I think it is natural for me to want to be interesting, so I forget to be interested. The truth is I really am interested in what people have to say, how things are going for them, and if I can help. So why do I not just shut up and listen? I think part of it is my personality – I like to be in the spotlight, I like to add to a discussion, I like to make people laugh. There’s nothing wrong with all that, but I can see that sometimes I just talk too much, trying to be interesting, which makes it hard for me to hear, truly hear, what others are saying. I need to slow down and just listen with interest and curiosity. I don’t have to solve things. I think I will make a poster with the quote and hang it around the house and around my office, to remind myself to listen and be interested. I also ran across another quote: To be interesting, be interested. So there it is – I can be interesting if I am interested. Sounds like a win-win.
I taught a mindfulness moment about curiosity last week. I could say a similar thing about curiosity: Be curious, not a curiosity! OK that’s not a perfect fit, but it sounds interesting!
In church today we talked about the importance of service to others, and how helping other people makes us feel better. Plus, it’s the right thing to do. I thought about how I have been served for the past few years. I don’t feel like I can serve others very well right now because of my fatigue and poor vision, and achy muscles, and blah blah blah. I just don’t have the energy. But I’m getting tired of always being on the receiving end, and I’m getting tired of talking about my health issues. It’s time for me to stop thinking that I’m too sick to help others in need. The teacher in church asked us to write down a few things we could do to help someone else. I decided that baby steps were OK. I noticed in class today that my friend looked a bit sad. So I wrote down, “Call her after church.” This seemed like such a small thing and I wasn’t sure it would make a difference, but it is something I definitely had the energy for. Through the afternoon I kept putting it off, and trying to talk myself out of it with thoughts like, “Oh she’s probably fine and I would just be interrupting her day,” or “She might be offended if I tell her I think she looked sad.” I finally gave her a call and it went very well. She told me several times that she appreciated my call, and she said thanks for noticing that she looked sad. We talked for a while and plan to meet for lunch in January. So, yes, serving others makes me feel better, and I hope it made her feel better too. It doesn’t have to be a huge task. A simple phone call can make a difference.
My church has a lovely campaign called Light the World, where suggestions are given for service to others for 25 days. They say it’s “25 ways in 25 days.” I looked at the suggestions, and they are simple (like a phone call), easy, affordable, and doable. What a great way to celebrate the Holidays. I did it last year, and although I didn’t do it every day, it was awesome. I’ll do it again this year. I’m excited!
Thanksgiving was wonderful. My turkey was golden and delicious. Getting together with my family was so much fun. We ate, played outside, ate, and played Farkle. What a day. I hated it to end. I missed my daughter, who hasn’t spoken to me since August, but I heard she went to a friend’s house for the day. I wish her well. One highlight of the day was getting a note from my 16-year-old granddaughter. She said how thankful she is for me. I know that she was fulfilling a school writing assignment, but wow it was awesome! Two pages worth of telling me how cool I am. I can live with that. It’s so rewarding to see her talented, authentic writing skills. My thanks go out to her teacher. Thank you notes are powerful. I think I will go write some.
I just finished reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I read it many years ago and don’t remember it being about positive thinking, but that’s what it is about now. How did that happen? As I read the story about three children working and playing in a secret garden, and coming alive and finding joy and health there, I was sad because my gardening days are over. I have a beautiful garden, and have enjoyed may hours there, watching things grow and being amazed at their beauty. But the energy to tend it has left me. When I finished the book I wondered what I could call my secret garden? Where could I go to rejuvenate and just be happy and joyful in the present moment watching things grow and come alive? (You really should read the book to know what I mean).
A few days later I got home from work and walked out onto my back porch. I took a look at my back yard playground and was overwhelmed with a realization, “That’s my secret garden!” It hit me like a rock. That playground is a place I can watch my grandchildren grow and learn and play and come alive. I didn’t build it to please them, I built it for me – so I could enjoy their laughter, creativity, and pure fun. That’s news to me. A few weeks ago my grandson said, “Grandma, come watch us play!” I told him I couldn’t play right now because I was getting dinner ready. He said, “I didn’t ask you to play with us, I asked you to watch us play.” That was important to him. And now it’s important to me – to just watch them travel through life. Not judging, just watching them play. In my secret garden. I’m thinking life itself is a secret garden. Don’t you just love metaphor?
Here’s an experpt from the book (page 282): So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weakness and… reflected hourly on humps and early death, he was a hysterical, half-crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and spring, and also did not know that he could get well and stand upon his feet if he tried to do it. When new, beautiful thoughts began to push out the old, hideous ones, life began to come back to him, his blood ran healthily through his veins, and strength poured into him like a flood….Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable, determinedly couraeous one. Two things cannot be in one place.
Where you tend a rose, my lad
A thistle cannot grow.
I did it! After asking for guidance from my program chair, I went to my department chair and requested to go part time at work, due to my health. Both chairs were very kind, understanding, and both said they wanted to keep me as a faculty member, and if all I could give was part time, they could live with that. I felt appreciated, understood, heard, and loved. It was great. We decided to drop one course next semester, so I will teach only 2 courses. I feel good about the decision, but guilt also comes up, because I am not fulfilling my original promise to teach 3 courses. When I told my co-teacher of the dropped course, she was very disappointed. I feel bad about that and told her I was so sorry. And now this weekend the guilt is really getting to me. I thought perhaps I could lecture in that dropped course but not do the grading. I think I could handle that. But I made a good decision and why am I second guessing? If I start volunteering to help out, before I know it I will be working full time but getting paid for part time! And on top of that, I have been thinking that I will miss the full-time money. Stop! Health is more important than money! And to be realistic – I feel terrible. The post-viral syndrom has hit my lungs and it hurts to breathe. At church today I talked to my Bishop and he gave me a priesthood blessing so I could feel grounded and clear about this. And a hallway discussion at church with a wonderful woman ended in her saying it’s obvious I should go part time and take care of myself, so I could keep on dancing. That was so helpful. Seemingly small conversations often make big differences and help me make decisions. Thanks to all the great people who surround me.