Sunday I celebrated a solstice of sorts. Twelve weeks until Christmas. The glorious season of HallowThanksmas is upon us.
Sunday I celebrated a solstice of sorts. Twelve weeks until Christmas. The glorious season of HallowThanksmas is upon us.
In my last post I spoke about “simply living”. It’s a phrase that resonates deep within me. However, it’s just a couple of words to most people that see it in my writing or on my business card.
The two words melded into a way of life for me in 2002 when my entire life dissolved. Yes, dissolved, liquefied into a state of chaos and nothingness simultaneously. Within a few hours, I lost my home, my job, my car and everything I owned. It was a horrific experience.
It was also a godsend. The greatest gift ever.
The first night was the hardest. My mind wrestled with the grief of my losses, and then the anger that it happened to me. That little voice in my head spewed out survival options. Then it argued that I didn’t have the resources or the strength to put any of those ideas into action. And finally, it pointed to the source of all this calamity — me.
You see I had taken a step back from my faith during the two years prior to this day. Before then I trusted that God would see me through anything, and true to his word, he had. He gave me what I needed. But I wanted the American film version of everything. I wanted more. I always wanted more.
So I stopped relying on him and took matters into my own hands — or so I thought. I wanted a better job, and I got one. I wanted a bigger better home, and I got one. I wanted more prestige and a wealthier community, and I wanted to be the star of that community. That happened too. And then it all vanished. Where had I gone wrong, and how was I going to get it back?
Flash forward six months and I can tell you that none of it mattered. In those six months I became wealthier than I ever imagined. My life changed the instant I changed my mind from wanting it all back to letting it all go. And that’s when “simply living” began.
That American film version had tricked me. And I imagine it’s tricked a few of you as well. It’s not what it’s cracked up to be. It fills us with stress, and anxiety, and worry. It takes away our joy, and our sense of wonder, and even our health if we’re not paying attention.
“Simply living” is far better than the American film version. It’s about focusing on what is real and true and joyful instead of what is glitz and glamor and good lighting. To me, it is a spiritual path, but it doesn’t have to be. It can simply mean decluttering your home and calming your stress.
Let me show you what I mean. These are just some of the ways I simply live:
I don’t sweat the little things. Did you know that an adult makes about 35,000 decisions in a day? A child makes about 3,000. I choose to be childlike. I limit which decisions I make and how long I will deliberate my options.
I don’t squander my energy on semi-important things. A friend of mine once suggested that I think about what will matter when I am 85 years old. From that perspective there are a lot of semi-important things in my life that are easy to let go.
I avoid fighting for anything that is not really worth it. Guess what? It really is better to be happy than right!
I say “no” more often. There are lots of ways to say no without using this “n” word. I practice all of them on a regular basis.
I don’t gather much. I don’t keep much. And, I get rid of a lot. I started living this when my 2002 life dissolved. I perfected it when I lived in my motorhome. It is truly unbelievable to me how little we all need to live and which possessions we cherish out of those few we really need! It’s the message that I was put on this earth to cry out until the day I die.
I live in gratitude. As I said in my dreary day post, one of the best things you can do for yourself and others is to appreciate what you have. Focusing on the positive decreases any negative, I know that for sure!
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But sotre up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and hwere thieves do not break in and steal. For hwere your treasure is, there your hert will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Now stick with me here. We’re going to talk about spiders. Yes, one of my least favorite things on this planet….or so I thought.
I rarely saw spiders in the 20 years I lived in Arizona. And in Colorado most spiders that I came in contact with looked totally harmless. So it was easy to “live and let live”. But, that’s not the case here in North Carolina.
Not only do the spiders here appear more frightful, they are far more plentiful than any other place I have lived. And, they aren’t the only insects here either. There are beetles, and roaches, and inch-long thick, slimy, curly worms that crawl into the apartment at night, birth inch-long skinny, slimy, curly worms during the night. In the morning there’s a community of these little guys inching their way around the apartment, only to dry up, die, and curl into Cheeto puff-like shapes all over the floor by noon! (Imagine taking a quick trip to the bathroom in the dark with that going on under your feet!)
Anyway, now that you have a little idea about how active the insect kingdom is here, let’s get back to the spiders.
Truly I am not a big fan. So, when a fairly large, hearty-looking spider settled at eye-level on the entry wall outside the door to my apartment my first thought was to shoo it away. (I try not to kill anything unless it is absolutely destroying my peace of mind or my property.) But I was busy that day and figured it would make it’s way down the hall and out to the sunshine as I trekked in and out of the apartment tending to last minute pre-travel errands.
Each time I went in and out of the apartment I saw that spider. I must have taken 10 trips in and out and it NEVER moved. Not one inch! So, logically (at least to me) I concluded that this must be God’s way of getting me comfortable with the darn things. It was outside. It wasn’t harming me and the fact that it was sitting still was a much better option that trying to track it down with my specially designated “bug-catching cup” on a very busy day.
I slept well that night. Well, except for the creepy crawly curly worms that is.
The next morning I walked out of my apartment door and look what I saw.
It had turned into a She. She was busy building a nest all day yesterday. (Ha! God had snuck in a reminder: it’s not all about me!)
Arrrrrgggghhh! Now it wasn’t just a spider. It was a Momma spider. Now I was in a real predicament. I was a mother looking at another mother. And that little puff ball of a nest was the equivalent of nine months of pregnancy in human time. I couldn’t disregard the miracle of birth that I was witnessing.
I knew that leaving my home for three weeks without destroying this nest would mean that those little babies were bound to be born and migrate right into my home to welcome me when I got back. Not exactly the welcome committee I wanted. (I was appreciating the dead cheeto puff worms more with every passing minute!)
What could I do? I knew that the bug-catching cup couldn’t relocate mama spider and her babies without harm, and I couldn’t separate momma spider from her babies without feeling great guilt about creating orphans — regardless of my feeling towards such family types.
As I contemplated my options she moved her leg over to the center of the nest as if she were reading my thoughts and weighing her own options on how to defend her babies should I strike.
She left me no choice. I decided to live and let live. If I had to come home to an apartment full of spiders so be it. It was better than living with the guilt of destroying the home of the innocent young within.
Flash forward three weeks, and voila! Tiny holes where the baby spiders had crawled out.
I know some of you have favorite baby animals that can’t possibly be as cute as I imagine these baby spiders were. Just think and compare: baby hippos, baby eagles, baby pugs, how about baby gold fish — ever see one of them? We sing songs about itsy bitsy spiders, how bad could they be?
I dropped my luggage inside the front door and began to search the apartment. Nothing…. except for the dead, curly cheeto puff worms here and there. Mamma spider had politely birthed her babies and escorted them down the hall, off the patio, and into the woods.
I settled back into the apartment, and after the rain finally stopped today I stepped out on to my patio. Below are the images of what I found — 2 spectacular fully intact spider webs.
Those spider webs are traps for flies and all sorts of other insects that would pester me if they didn’t stop them there. (I wish they would catch some of those cheeto puff worms!) At any rate,their little insignificant spider lives matter.
A call has gone out across our nation. “All lives matter.” Those chanting the phrase may be referring to human lives, but these spiders gave me a starting point.
Ever meet someone that you disliked? As much as I dislike spiders? In a few short weeks my attitude towards spiders has turned from despise to appreciation. All it took was a little empathy. Seems like the same could be true for the people we may dislike or misunderstand. They, like me, like the spider, like you, are simply living.
Look at these stunning spider webs. Look at the intricacies of their design. Can you pull something that beautiful out of your butt?
Look at how they enhance the sunshine that pours through them. How could anything that makes something so delicate, and so intricate be anything but a blessing in my life.
It’s a dreary day here in North Carolina.
Not as dreary as South Carolina where residents are facing another day of unprecedented flood conditions. Not as dreary as the Bahamas where residents are cleaning up the mess left from Hurricane Joaquin.
Not as dreary as Oregon where families and friends are mourning senseless losses.
All of that dreariness dampens my spirit. Writing about it floods me with guilt. There’s enough sadness in these stories without me bringing attention to them in yet another blog. But I am compelled to write.
I see the bad news on television, the reporters perfectly dressed and prompted to present the dreariness with poise and professionalism. Their program is dotted with commercial breaks advertising products that will make our skin prettier, our bowels more regular, and our sex lives more active. Later in their program those same reporters will laugh about the entertainment headlines or show us the latest decorating trends to maintain their ratings and lift our moods.
They transition us into another day of living. Yes, bad things are happening. But if they’re not happening to you, then it’s just another day. Don’t worry, be happy.
I doubt that we are unaffected by the dreariness. We may appear not to be, and even reject the idea that we could be with all the great things happening in our own lives. But we are not wired that way.
We are human beings, capable of compassion and empathy. Depending on your beliefs, you may even call yourself your brother’s keeper. How can you look at these stories without feeling the dreariness of these situations?
I bet you do. And, if you’re anything like me, a sense of helplessness follows the sadness found in empathizing with these victims. What can I do? My own obligations require my time and attention, and I wouldn’t know how to help these people even if I could.
I know of something. How about starting with not forgetting about them? How about recognizing that your day is a little sadder because someone else is hurting. They didn’t wake up in the comfort of their own bed. They didn’t have the luxury of stumbling into their kitchen and making the coffee they way they like it. They don’t have to go to work, but that’s not a good thing in their situation.
How about taking a few minutes throughout the day to acknowledge how bad we feel for them, and to pray for them? How about asking God to remind them that He is there with them, even though you can’t be?
How about being grateful for your blessings and asking God to bless those in the dreariness? How about remembering in the big scheme of things that having to deal with traffic, or maybe a job that is not exactly what you want it to be, or your kids fighting with each other as you rush out the door are all things to cherish, not to complain about.
How about honoring those lost in the dreariness by recognizing all that we have instead of what we don’t have?
We may not be able to help those people whose homes have been washed away by the floods, or damaged by the hurricane. And God knows how few of us can even imagine the pain brought on by a senseless massacre. But we can acknowledge our feelings about it, and empathize with those around us affected by the same stories. Deep down each one of us is feeling the dreariness of these situations. Why not use that connecting point as a tunnel into each other’s hearts, a place to build a foundation of hope and strength in the community that surrounds us.
In the wake of these dreary stories the reporters inevitably find evidence of miracles, heroes in the chaos, and confirm the power that compassion has to heal the dreariness. Doesn’t it always come? So can’t we stay focused on that? Can’t we see that for them and ask a high power to let them know that we do?
It’s worth a try, don’t you think?
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” — 2 Cor 2:3-4
|Georgia O’Keeffe’s Inspiration: Abiquiu, New Mexico|
Today marks the 30th day I’ve been on the road and away from home. I’ve travelled through eight states and logged over 3,500 miles. I’m road weary and homesick.
I long for the personal comforts that even the most luxurious hotels cannot offer. Comforts like the weak shower head in my bathroom, sitting on a squatty beach chair on my patio, and the sound of the school bus cruising through the neighborhood promptly at 8:15 each morning.
I’m not complaining. Everywhere I go I meet people that tell me how much they would like to be in my shoes, to escape their daily routines and wander. I am grateful that I don’t have a regular job and a daily routine, but I think they are all romantics.
Great cinematography is somewhat to blame for glamorizing life on the road. Landscapes captured on film don’t capture the smell of excessive motor heat, the eye fatigue caused by incessant sun glare on the dashboard, and the effect a crippled car engine can have on your sense of security.
It’s not as glamorous as it appears.
In fact, it’s work. Mapping a route, arranging lodging, managing a travel budget, driving for hours and hours in unfamiliar territories all takes concentration and effort. And take a wrong turn or have a mechanical difficulty and your best laid plans could be gone with the wind.
Twice in those 3,500 miles my 14-year-old german sedan begged for additional coolant and oil, hardly unexpected considering the length and temperatures of the drive. However neither were readily available in the far western reaches of the great state of Texas near the New Mexico border. Tracking down the necessary lubricants for the foreign car was like participating in a scavenger hunt. Eventually I found the shops and supplies needed to do the job and get me back on the road, but not without ingenuity, flexibility, and plenty of patience.
This morning I am grateful that I have nearly completed my journey. The last leg of it is scheduled for Tuesday morning when I will board a plane from here in Texas back to North Carolina.
Even road weary I am so grateful for this life full of spectacular vistas, new adventures, and shared time with family and friends. And most especially I am grateful for returning home to my shower, my beach chair, and the neighborhood school bus. It is so true, there really is no place like home.
Is there a road trip in your future? Check out the Independent Traveler’s 20 Safe Driving Tips before you leave home!