Does this really matter?

Does this matter?

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There are different types of weight that we carry around with us, both on the frame of our body and in our mind, heart, and soul.  Yes, there are those few extra pounds of body weight that remind us every time we step onto the scale and then there is the weight of our responsibilities, worries, and burdens that slow us down and drag behind us as we attempt to carry them through the day.  One way to lighten up our respective loads is to ask ourselves:

 Does this really matter?

This question can apply to many different things, events, and encounters throughout the day and is of greater benefit for your quality of life than simply checking to see what number shows up on the bathroom scale.  If there were a scale that quantified how heavy my heart is while carrying the various burdens and responsibilities that I lug around with me throughout the day, I would fear even stepping onto it.  Perhaps the sheer possibility to acknowledge such spirit weight would prevent me from getting out of bed in the morning. 

In an effort to lighten my spirit along with my body weight, I have begun asking, “Does this matter?  I mean, really matter?”  Here’s a good example of a recent situation where I am actively trying to turn a Yes response to this question into a No.

Yesterday, my neighbor came over to inform me that she had “accidentally” trimmed all of the beautiful green vines that laced and encircled my mailbox on my property.  I loved this entwining greenery and have admired its lushness every time I walked out to retrieve my mail.  This neighbor since moving in next door has adopted a scorched-earth policy and has been mercilessly hacking away at any living plant in her yard.  As disheartening as this has been to observe, I have accepted that it’s her yard and she can do with it as she wills.  But my property and my mailbox?  I wanted to scream!

When she came over to tell me that she had mistaken my mailbox for hers and that she had stripped away all the beautiful vines and plants to bare earth, I wanted to come completely unglued.  As I walked out to the mailbox with her so she could show me the carnage she had wrought, I had to quickly ask myself, Does this matter?  I wanted to shout, cry, and say bad words to her about the death and destruction that she has wrought on the neighborhood.  I wanted to tell her that she was a bad human being and that she had no business messing with my property.  That she had some kind of obsessive death wish on anything growing and living and that she should move to the desert.  That I was super hurt and angry.

But being a believer in the power of allowing my rational brain to catch up with my emotional brain in order to avoid an emotional hijacking, I surveyed the damage and told her that I wasn’t in a good place to talk about it at that time.  That I was going into the house to absorb.  And then gently told her to kindly stay the hell away from my property, my mailbox, and all growing plants that are between our two houses . . . and that if she had future intentions of annihilating any plants on our shared property line, to come talk with me first.  

In review, I handled the situation pretty well.  I actually delivered my message with an admirable deadpan that contained all of my frustration, hurt, and anger.  All because I paused to ask myself, “Does this matter?”  In the big scheme of life and its real global problems, the hacking away of some greenery by an obsessive neighbor is neither a global threat nor a personal tragedy.  It bugs the hell out of me, but I have to hope that I will eventually get over it and that Mother Earth will heal and replenish the victimized plants.  Amen.

One way I try to ultimately deal with annoyances of this kind and move on is to ask,

“At the end of my life, will I still be obsessing over this?”

At the end of my life, will I still be obsessing over the crazy neighbor lady with the pruning shears?  Chances are the answer is “No,” so I will let it go.  I have to let it go.  Or at least I will continue to work on letting it go.  And if I want to live an authentic life that is true to my beliefs, I have to let it go.  Otherwise my life will be predicated on another’s thoughtless actions and not on my own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and actions.  I choose peace over strife, love over dislike, and forgiveness over a grudge.  Let the healing begin by answering, “Does this matter?”  And I send up a prayer: Please, Mother Earth send up some healing green vining shoots from this offensive massacre.  

How about you?  The next time you find yourself getting super annoyed by the daily coffee grounds scattered all over the kitchen counter by your house mate . . . does it really matter?  Or when that annoying co-worker steals the credit for your creative idea – again! – and makes it his own . . . does it really matter?  Or when you finish off that pint of chocolate ice cream at midnight while standing over the sink . . . does it really matter?  Go easy on others and on yourself.  

What is it that really matters to you?  Align yourself with your beliefs and your awareness of what they are.  Revisit them.  Journal about them.  Live them.  Share them.  Write a manifesto or a mission statement that represents your beliefs.  Know thyself and imagine yourself getting on a quantum-physics scale that weighs your spirit.  Do you want it to read “light as the air found in a bird’s hollow bone” or do you want it to read “denser than a ton of blue whale blubber”?  (No offense to the beautiful blue whales of the planet that grace our oceans with elegance and beauty, but they sure are heavy.  And the amazing thing?  They float!)  It’s your choice, your process, your control, your letting go, your destiny.  What do you want this quantum scale to read? 

When you catch yourself getting caught up in the petty, annoying, silly frustrations of life, ask yourself “Does this matter?”   If you are able to answer with a “No” and add a laugh to your answer, you just lost an immeasurable weight from your mind, heart, and soul.  Be one with your mindfulness, and do not ally yourself with another’s thoughtlessness.  Forgive and move on.  You are the ultimate recipient of any forgiveness that you are able to give. (I know.  It can feel like a hard thing to task yourself with but it’s worth your focus and effort.  Promise.)

Time for some journaling.

Be still for a moment and relax.  I mean really relax.  Sit down.  Lower your shoulders from your ears.  Empty your hands and put your hands in your lap.  Take five deep breaths. 

What matters to you?

Make a list of people, pets, qualities, things, circumstances, events, dreams . . . that matter to you.  Just go for it.  Don’t filter yourself.

Now go back through your list and circle your top three or top five or top ten, whatever circling activity that makes you happy.  Let these circled items guide your decisions, shape your beliefs, inform your reactions, and create your relationships.  Let them become the things that matter.  Embrace, nurture, and live what matters.  

a brand new year

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Our Subsumed Lives

to subsumeto include or place within something larger or more comprehensive;   encompass as a subordinate or component element

When you were a child, what did you want to be when your grew up?  

seashell-754015_960_720If you are doing something quite different from what you imagined you would be doing, what happened? What swerved you onto a different path that led you away from your childhood dreams?  Or maybe you are still very much there, living the dream, without even realizing it?

There are many subsuming elements that our lives encounter, embrace, deny, or challenge.  Elements that distract us from who-we-are and steer us onto paths into what  feels to be a foreign country where we don’t speak the language and we don’t understand the customs.

When I was a child, I wanted to be Continue reading

Salad Spinner Mindfulness

grow your mindI caught myself fretting this morning.  Fretting about nothing, really.  In an attempt to distract myself and put all of this fretting aside, I now sit here in one of my favorite coffee shops and, the same as most days,  put words on paper.  Rarely do I sit here and do nothing.  Mainly I think.  Ideas and memories and perceptions are tossed around in some Binary Amphitheatre of the Surreal and the Real, whirling them around and shooting them out onto the page in salad-spinner style.

I find myself in this divergent universe . . . Continue reading

Secret Passages

a-writers-life-passage

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A writer’s life is spent entering secret passages and opening doors.  If the passages are too dark or dim, I might take the time to turn around and go back to look for a light.  And if re-tracing my steps feels like it is too long ago, I might simply feel my way with my senses in the darkness.  After all, I might trip over a flashlight and kick it into life or develop human sonar or spy a flicker of light down one of the corridors or develop a seventh sense.  Anything could happen in these secret passages.  After all, I am the author.

If doors are locked tight, I may start to hunt for a  key.  Or not.  If looking for a key feels too time-consuming or futile, I might resort to one of those battering rams that you see in movies that involve crooks and the FBI.  Boom.  Open sesame.  It’s up to me.  I am the author.

[pas·sage (ˈpasij/) noun: the act or process of moving through, under, over, or past something on the way from one place to another.]

There are just so many remarkable words in this sparse definition.  Act.  Process.  Moving through, under, over, or past something.  On the way from one place to another.  Sometimes I forget  or take for granted or don’t pay attention to the ponderous weight that each word in our lexicon — any language’s lexicon — bears.  These varied words that writers place on the page bear a nuanced message that goes far beyond the symbols and morphology that transcribes experience into imagination.

Writing.  Socrates believed that writing was detrimental to the mind — that by writing something down, we have essentially dulled the mind’s ability to remember what is important.  Being a writer, I look at the written word differently.  Writing allows me to see my soul reflected back to me in a way that other experiences and relationships can’t.  It is a solitary journey perfect for the exploration of secret passages.  And my muse seems to like the secret passages the best.

 

Lillian Rose 1945 Mini Typewriter, 10 by 9.75 by 6.5-Inch

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GreatBIGCanvas Photographic Print with Black Frame, 36″ x 26″

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GreatBIGCanvas Photographic Print with black Frame, 36″ X 27″

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Finding Your Own Quiet Center

your-own-quiet-center-of-life

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img_3375“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.” – William H. Gass

“You can make anything by writing.” – C. S. Lewis

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”               – Flannery O’Connor

“Start writing, no matter what.  The water does not flow until the water is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour

Today, have fun finding your own quiet center of life and writing your thoughts, if only written by tracing the words across the clouds in the sky.

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The Things I Thought I Wanted: a diary with a lock and key . . . and the thing about secrets

diary-1449287_960_720Oh, how I wanted a diary when I was a girl.  You know the kind . . . a beautiful girly girl’s diary with a lock and key.  And I was simply ecstatic the Christmas when I was ten years old and I received one.  Mine had a navy blue cover with gold embossing and “1 Year Diary” gold-stamped into the cover.  I simply loved it!  I can still remember the sound that the gilt-edged pages made when I opened it for the first time . . . It felt like that crinkly sound was opening its pristine, glued-together pages to the secrets I was about to share with it.

Well, that’s the thing about secrets.  No matter how much we try to preserve them or hide them from the prying eyes and inquiring minds that intersect our life, they are [sometimes] doomed to be discovered . . . paraded . . . maybe even disrespected.  We feel violated when our secrets have been made public without our permission.

It takes a lot of risk and guts to commit a secret to the page . . . a lesson that I was quick to learn at this young age.  My hopes of finding my true self via those gilt-edged pages were temporarily dashed when my big sister read my diary entries aloud — pages that detailed my first big crush [Dean W.], in front of said crush, who was my big brother’s best buddy.

maple-leaf-638022_960_720I learned a lot that day about secrets and sisters and writing and locks and keys.  I learned that just because something has a lock on it, doesn’t mean that it can’t be jimmied open.  I learned that secrets can be made un-secret when they fall into the wrong hands.  That, although it can be risky, it’s okay to be honest with my thoughts.  That what someone else chooses to do doesn’t define who I am.  That although I might feel a wee bit discouraged, I am going to keep writing.

It took some time to view things from my sister’s perspective.  I learned that people do things that they don’t really intend to be hurtful in long-lasting ways.  That what might seem funny at the time, never really was in the first place. And that sisters somehow stick together, even when they do things that aren’t very nice.

french-1040839_960_720I am happy to have survived the awkwardness, and — now all the stronger — I have maintained my love and discipline of writing.   And in the ways of true forgiveness, I have since pardoned my diary-reading, secret-disclosing sister.  We are still the best of friends.

But you know how writing is.  It liberates us, even when life sort of sucks.  Writing asks us to pay attention to the details, even when it hurts.  Little does this sister know that she is the muse for an extremely unattractive, glowering villainess who gets her payback comeuppance in one of my current short stories.

But this is the way of writing.  You can change what is now by writing it into a different room or even onto a different planet.  Does reality change?  I don’t know how to answer this.  I only know how to live it.  And write it.  And tell my sister that I love her dearly, because I do.  And keep my journal hidden when she comes to visit.

Your choice. Choose you.

door. lock. unlock your dreams

theunseenwordsproject.com

Greetings, lovelies.  Today is a great day to Choose You.  

  1. Grab that key.
  2. If you can’t find the key, teach yourself how to pick a lock.
  3. Open the lock and swing the doors wide open.  You might be surprised to discover that you have actually, all this time, been the one who has been locked inside — not the other way around, with all this time thinking that your dreams are the ones that have been locked up and inaccessible.
  4. Step outside into the world of possibility and let your hair flow in the fresh breeze.
  5. Open your arms and embrace the many opportunities that are all around you.
  6. There are so many that are designed especially for you.  For you.  Believe.
  7. Step forth and choose.  You only have to choose one to make a difference in today.  Like choosing a puppy from a darling litter of adorable choices, pick the one that picks you.
  8. Nurture your choice.  Let it know that it is loved.  Feed it, water it, walk it, clean up after it.
  9. Groom your choice.  Brush it, bathe it, pick the sticks and burrs that get stuck when it is out running around and exploring.
  10. An opportunity is a choice.  You are worth the time and care that making the choice to choose you requires to nurture it.  Love who you are.  Believe in yourself.  Choose well.

Stumping Miz Grammar

We learn best

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It was once my privilege – and challenge – to take over teaching mid-year in a 7th/8th grade grammar class at a very small public school.  This school was the classic one-room schoolhouse, located in a remote, road-less area in the North Cascades of Washington state.  The children there had grown up navigating the trails of the high country, floating the rivers, jumping in the glacial-fed lake, and tearing up and down the dirt roads on their bicycles.  It was a land of no cell phones, video games, and Facebook – a place of isolated enchantment that could not and would not be fully appreciated until these students grew older, moved away, and worked in cities that involved the many technological trappings now associated with modern living.

You can well imagine that the students did not feel a passion for this grammar class – my predecessor having resorted to dry lectures and long homework assignments, and it was my job to take over and to inspire some interest for the subject.  Being a grammar nerd myself, I wasn’t prepared for the level of apathy that the students expressed.  I remember telling the students on the first day of class that I loved the subject of grammar so much, I took grammar workbooks with me on vacation so I could relax and just enjoy the fun of language.  They thought I was weird, maybe a little insane . . . but that was all good because I was committed to understanding why they weren’t more interested in the foundational components of their native language.  After all, this is grammar that we are talking about?!

We started the class by getting to know each other a little better.  Every Monday, we would each recount stories from the weekend while I grabbed key words from their telling and then write these words into the eight parts of speech grid that I had graphed out on the board.  Then we would play The Synonym Game and erase the word on the board with a different word that might convey the story’s meaning a little more vividly.  They began to see how word choice mattered – how you could use the adjective great and maybe use the word fabulous or resplendent instead.  It was a small step but it made sense to take what they knew – their experiences – and translate them into a Grammar Stew on the board that they shared.  I knew that we were growing stalwart grammar-ites when one student used the adjective ebullient in his re-telling of how happy he was that his grandma had come to visit.  It made me feel positively ebullient!

For homework, each student was to bring one question each day to stump me – Miz Grammar.  I wanted to demonstrate how remarkable grammar actually is . . . that no one has all of the answers – not even Miz Grammar!  I wanted them to see how language is an evolving work in progress.  Just ask the Apostrophe Protection Society!  We can’t stop language!  The biggest advantage in Stumping Miz Grammar was that this was a rural school and there was zero access to Google or the Internet.  This meant that the students had to use their textbooks to find the questions and answers to stump me.

I don’t know how I managed to stay ahead of the students, but it quickly became apparent that it was going to be tricky to stay ahead of their questions.  The students would see me at the post office on mail day and ask, “Miz Grammar, what is a gerund?”  “What is a dangling preposition?”  “What is an antecedent?”  They were becoming a team of grammar experts without the students even knowing it.  And how could they know if I knew the answer if they hadn’t done the proper research and found the correct answer themselves?

I kept all of their questions and, at the end of the school year, the students compiled the questions into categories and organized a community-wide, grammar-themed game show.  Parents were the contestants and prizes were donated.  In an effort to alleviate grammar anxiety – which was prevalent, I might add, what with their children being grammar experts by this time – the parents wore costumes and adopted various personalities as game show contestants.  It was a bonding experience for the community, and it was a source of great fun and pride for the students as they led the community down the road of grammar enlightenment.

It is funny how one little crazy idea can grow into something larger than imagined possible.  One of the students went on to become a published poet.  Another student majored in journalism and was the acting editor of a Chicago university’s newspaper during his tenure as a student.  Another student went on to become a freelance writer.  The pleasure that these students took in dissecting language into its most primitive parts gave me great joy as a teacher and as a grammar lover!

Learning objectives are important.  They are the brass ring on the carousel, the t-shirt at the end of the marathon, the cake from the cake walk.  But what I had intuited as necessary at the beginning of this grammar journey proved to be true: you have to build a learning community before learning can happen.  These amazing students created a Culture of Grammar.  They built a team first and then, without even realizing it in the process, mastered the actual objectives of the course . . . and had fun while doing so.

Am I proud of these students?  Yes!  It is our goal as educators to infuse a love of learning while learning.  Like metacognition, or meta-anything for that matter, it’s all about being within the moment while being in the moment.  These students taught me far more about life than I ever taught them about grammar.  They taught me about community and to trust myself when in the midst of a challenging and seemingly dismal situation.

It’s good to know that we don’t know everything.  We are refreshed and invigorated when we enter the unknown territories in which we find ourselves and embrace the evolution of learning and growing.  Just ask Miz Grammar!  She knows!

13 Steps to take when you don’t know something that you’re expected to know:

  1. Just say it.  Admit that you don’t know.
  2. Research. Find your answer.  
  3. Look for new sources and ask experts.
  4. Lean on your community.  Like a 3-legged stool, every “leg” in the community is essential.
  5. Learn more than you started out wanting to know.
  6. Share your knowledge.
  7. Share your passion for knowledge.
  8. Offer your knowledge and experience to someone else.  
  9. Be a mentor.
  10. Laugh a lot.  Laughter doeth good like a medicine — especially when you are feeling stressed about a deadline or an expectation.
  11. Don’t give up.  There is likely an answer available.
  12. If you can’t find the answer, create one based on all of the above.
  13. Become The Expert!   
become the expert

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The Sunday Share: A Perfect Way to Spend a Sunday Morning

coffee. sunday morning. journal. coffee cup

It’s Sunday morning and what better way to enjoy a Sunday morning than to grab a cup of well-brewed coffee (with some raw sugar and organic half-and-half added to it) and a journal.  I just ordered this new journal (see below) that I simply love.  It is one of those super cool organizers that has dream-planning and monthly goals built into it.

I can easily answer each of the questions below with a resounding YES!
❶ Need to Transform Life With Yearly Goals ?
❷ Want to Set Motivating Monthly Goals ?
❸ Ready To Make Every Day Count ?
Boost Quality of Life by Investing In Your Future Now:

Tools4Wisdom Planner 2016 2017 Calendar July to June – 4-in-1: Daily Weekly Monthly Yearly Goals Organizer (8.5 x 11 / 200 Pages / Spiral / Academic Year)


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You can click on the image (or on the hyperlink) to take a look at it.  I love sharing things like this and have already ordered another one (with a different cover) for a friend who is in the midst of re-defining her life by starting a new business.

I sometimes feel like a Goal Nerd because I so enjoy mapping out my many dreams and ideas on paper.  The great part about this book?  It lets me step away from my scribble-y white board in my office and actually organize what it is that presents as the next steps.  I truly appreciate innovative people who create organizers like this.  I have been trying to find one exactly like this for several years . . . and here it is.

I so wish you a happy Sunday and happy planning as well. I sometimes think that planning gets a bad rap from those who think that too much structure creates its own brand of chaos.  While I can agree with the thought behind this opinion, I know that I always feel an added benefit to writing down my creative ideas so that I can see them, rather than just think them.  I am ready to make every day count!

follow your dreams. they know the way. IMG_0704

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What phrase best describes your year so far?

This is the prompt that popped up in my 5-year journal today:

Write a phrase to describe your year so far.

journal and penBeing a person who enjoys words and writing, I was hoping that some neat turn of phrase might bubble to the surface. Maybe something profound or appropriately witty or, even better, both.  Something that would neatly sum up all of the many memorable events that have marked the calendar these past six months . . . experiences that stand as fence posts upon which I have strung the minutes, hours, and days.

It has been a year of many blessings and a year of loss.  I believe that there is much that I have appreciated as a result of the many blessings and also much that I have learned as a result of the loss.

My Top 9 Fence Posts

  1. Long and Short: I have learned that life is not always as short as others write about it being . . . that life can also be long — and sometimes even too long — especially so when it is marked by sadness and sorrow.
  2. Beginnings and Endings: Realizing a dream is not an endpoint unto itself . . . it is just the beginning of newly-found dissatisfactions that grow a new dream.
  3. The expense of poverty: Observing, living, and understanding the truth behind James Baldwin’s words: “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”  Not fun.  Just saying.
  4. Simplicity and Complexity: Teasing apart the complexity of a simple life and the simplicity of a complex life and recognizing the differences and knowing that they are both the same at different times.
  5. Grieving and Celebrating: Feeling the exact same at the same time.  On certain days, the co-existence of these two puzzles me.  On other days, the co-existence makes perfect sense.  It is possible to feel what are thought to be two contradictory emotions at the same time.  Like there is this mélange of real and true emotions that thickens up like a stew and threatens to burn the bottom of the pot if I don’t keep my awareness active . . .
  6. Thoughts, Feelings, and Things: [a continuation of #5] . . .Which leads me to wonder about the practice of intentional living . . . and how feelings become thoughts and then how thoughts become things . . . and how I now know why my life feels so conflicted at times [see #5].  Or wait a second.  Do I have this backward?  Do our thoughts become feelings which become things?  Or do the things in life dictate how we think and how we feel [See #3]?  Dr. Wayne Dyer once said, “What I think doesn’t become things; who I am is what becomes things.”
  7. Confusion and Clarity: [See #5.]  Thank you, Dr. Dyer.  Advice to self: Be who you are.  Give it your best shot.
  8. Moving and Standing Still: The fact that I have moved three times in the last year does not mean that I still don’t experience feelings of stuck-ness.
  9. Success and Failure: Many have written and spoke on this subject of success and failure in life.  We are bombarded with ideas and quick fixes about how to jump start our motivation, our drive, and our success.  We also read of the power in turning failure into success.  But I keep wondering?  Where is the measuring stick that tells me that I have arrived at a place of success?  I do believe that there is an internal sense of reward that tells us we have just driven in another fence post of Accomplishment through the hardpan of our memory’s land bank . . . but then what?  Is feeling “successful” enough? Is it a myth?  Just wondering.  See #2 and #4.
  10. Giving up and Persevering and Granting a Degree of Self-Permission: I know that lists like this shouldn’t end with 9 items (the norm being “The Top 3” or multiples of 5) but I can’t think of anything else right now.  I give myself permission to stop at #9.  [See #9]

So, how about you?  What phrase best describes your year so far?  

If you feel like sharing, please, do so in the comments section.  I would love to read what you have to say.

To conclude . .  What phrase did I write in my 5-year journal?

Looking Both Ways

country roadIt’s the first thing that came to mind and now, after re-reading my list of Top 9 Fence Posts, it makes sense.  Looking Both Ways implies some sense of caution, like what our parents tell us before crossing a street: Look both ways!

Answering this prompt has given me time to pause and to reflect.  To exercise some counter-intuitive caution . . . not with where I am now heading but with where I have been.  More advice to self: Don’t let where I have been determine where I am going next.

The 2nd half of this year is just across the road.  I have Looked Both Ways, and I feel ready for the uncharted territory over yonder.  Maybe I’ll leave my work gloves, shovel, and fence posts on this side of the road and let my tracks leave a trail.  Thinking of this metaphor makes me wonder what I want my Phrase to be for the 2nd half of the year . . .

Click on the sky-blue link below for a free journal prompt that will get you thinking about your year’s Phrase.  Happy journaling, as always.  You are an interesting person.  Take some more time to discover who you are!

Free Journal Prompt: Click below:

 Looking Both Ways. journal prompt