writing

Mine.

Unofficial titles I’ve had at work over the years. Levity Lady, Head of the Fun Committee, Social Activity Coordinator.

I like spending some of my work hours planning social outings, celebrations, and bringing humor to the office.

Some other words to describe my impulse to want to make people feel happier – encourager, coach, mentor, supervisor, friend, writer.

Whisperer of beautiful things.

As I work and I process and I heal my childhood wounds of the confusion of complex emotions, I realize just how many of my coping mechanisms involve trying to fix other’s happiness levels.  It comes out at work and it comes out in my family and I am wondering if it’s coming out here too.

I wrote this post at the end of 2016 about how hard it can be to encourage others. How challenging it is to look for the light. How lots of people prefer to yank us out of our seats and into the stinky mud on the ground. There is always more mud on the ground.

Because I feel for people, deeply, and I have trouble not dragging my empathetic toes into the circles of others. Because I care. And I want you to see the light. All of the glorious light that exists when we lift our chins.

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A beautiful friend boldly told me to start saying, firmly in my brain, “that is NOT mine.”

That grief, that conflict with your co-worker, that gut wrenching diagnosis. The government shut down, the fight with your mother, that unemployment and dashed dreams. All NOT mine.

It’s a new tool for survival. A safety shield for the ever-feeling heart.

Anne Lamott wisely says,

” there is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of lasting way, unless you’re waiting for an organ. You can’t buy, achieve or date serenity and peace of mind. This is the most horrible truth, and I so resent it. But it’s an inside job, and we can’t arrange peace or lasting improvement for the people we love most in the world. They have to find their own ways, their own answers. You can’t run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero’s journey. You have to release them. It’s disrespectful not to. And if it’s someone else’s problem, you probably don’t have the answer, anyway. Our help is usually not very helpful. Our help is often toxic. And help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everybody.”

This quote got me thinking. Is that what I’m trying to do here? Acting out my need to save others by sharing what’s good. Sure, I hope my words cause epiphanies in your lives and spark you to think about small, simple blessings that dance through your days.

But I’m not sure it works, and that shouldn’t be the point.

The beautiful, beautiful point, is I do this work for me. I look for the beautiful to make me feel sane. And if it works for you too, my gosh, let’s cheers with some bubbles. I don’t want to be toxic, I want to be balm. I don’t want to be controlling, I want to be free.

And looking for the beautiful helps me, me, me, my, MINE to do that. That process of healing, of unhooking from other’s drama, of allowing me to stand on my chair, chin up, arms open and up, tears streaming down my cheeks.

I also read this funny article about writing on Medium today. Poet James Avramenko writes about what he’s learned from writing a poem every day for the last six years. I love this nugget of truth that he shares,

  • The ones you like often get no play, the ones you think suck often explode

My most visited post on this blog is about the tv show Friends. I’ve poured out my heart and talked about grief, and shared bravely about MY own stuff. And the light hearted post about my obsession with Friends is most frequently read. The deep stuff gets glossed over and often ignored. I thought last week’s post was awesome. No comments. Crickets. Doubts. Temptations to press delete.

As an artist, that’s frustrating. But James is right. We don’t get it, we just write. We don’t know what’s going to stick and we can’t anticipate the impact. Maybe there is none.

So for this year, I’m changing my intention for the blog. I don’t want to get my help all over you. I want to help myself. Help myself heal, love this magnificent, magical world, build gratitude, dream bigger, and experience new things. I’m going to write about it.

If you feel it’s beautiful, consider sharing. As James also says, “Once it’s in the world, it’s out of your hands.”

Thanks for joining me.

 

 

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January Favorite Things

Hooray! I can put up my new calendar today! Never mind that I ordered it in November when Shutterfly was offering a deal for free ones. I love turning the page on a calendar and I like New Year’s Day. While I struggle with changes outside of my control, a new year feels fresh, hopeful, and promising. I get to start over on my attempt to read 20,000 pages in a year and I can dabble in my resolutions like writing a draft of that book inside my head and learning to play the ukulele that I was gifted for Christmas. If you know anyone who teaches this beautiful instrument let me know – so far I’ve got one chord under my belt.

Here are some of my other favorite things this month. Happy New Year! May 2018 bring beautiful things your way.

1. The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George

I read this book over the holidays. Compassionate to grief and a clever application of how books soothe the soul. I highly recommend it to anyone who delights in the power of story.

2. PG tips Premium Black Tea

I’m turning over a new leaf and trying to cut my vanilla latte habit. This is going to be hard – maybe you can help hold me accountable. I’m switching to tea instead. I’ve been told this is the best there is. Hoping this turns into a new favorite thing.

3. Happy Birthday to Me

My birthday is coming up! I like having a birthday that closely follows Christmas. It gives me something to look forward to after the post-holiday let down. Not sure how I’ll celebrate, but I rest in gratitude for another year around the sun.

Oh, thank you for asking! What’s on my birthday list? Here’s a few ideas.

Rabbit Original Lever Corkscrew , Ukulele for Beginners: How to Play Ukulele in Easy-to-Follow Steps or most things from J.Crew

I also want someone to send me a box of wine from Wine Awesomeness. Because really, wine in the mail? How awesome.

4. T-Shirts with Dogs on Them

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I didn’t realize that I’ve sorta got a collection of t-shirts with dogs starting in my closet. My momma gave me this one for Christmas. I also like this one and hope to grow my odd collection.

5. Write it Out

New year – a new place to capture your beautiful thinking. If you want to start a journaling practice in the new year, I recommend these great tools.

Moleskine Classic Notebook and these pens with this coffee.

Shoot, I forgot I now drink tea. I recommend this tea.

On Doubts

Oh yes, I have them too. Big, fat, ugly, warty doubts that sit on my heart and squash my finger’s desire to type. Little wispy doubts that wear tutus and dance among my strands of hair, swinging along and whispering as they pass by my ears. “You shouldn’t write” they say. “Your stories, your truths – they are going to keep you from getting a job, or make your friends run the other direction. Give it up, no one tends to give a damn.”

I wonder, almost daily, if it is worth being vulnerable on the internet. I doubt the sharing of my tears, my heart, my hopes and my grief on this space. I filter my failures and minimize my successes.

And then, beautiful people like Anne Lamott give a Ted Talk and post on Facebook and I remember, once again, that I’ve got to. I’ve got to write.

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So today, my beautiful thing is Anne Lamott’s reminder that she shared. Take that world, I’m going to continue telling my story.  I don’t want to feel like hell.

I personally like #6 on her list. Take heed world, take heed.

Survived by….

Olive, our dog, got a new toy for Easter. Meet Cerdito (little piggy in Spanish) as we affectionately call him.

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Looks the same, but Olive’s is green. As I sit here, Olive is chewing and the little toy grunts away. It has this odd sound mechanism that makes me feel like I’m sharing my bedroom with a baby boar. Her zeal for this creature makes me laugh.

Sometimes it’s the little things that are enough to get you up and out of bed and writing.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

I was reading my dad’s obituary yesterday. It’s still online and when I miss him it can be helpful to look at the long list of memories that other people shared on his site. I stopped when I read the phrase, “… is survived by….” 

I wrote his obituary with my mom, an ugly obligation when you are the writers in the family. I remember being in her bedroom. Mom sat on her blue upholstered couch, I across the way perched slightly higher on her four poster-bed. With rounded shoulders and our chins in our hands we asked each other, “Do we have to include that phrase?”

“I hate that saying,” I’m pretty sure I murmured. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

I never used to understand that phrase. Survived by. I mean sure, that makes sense if we were all in a terrible accident. If the cause of death was a storm, or a bus, or a tragedy that we were all involved in. If we were the ones to get out of the car and walk away scratch free. I didn’t survive his heart attack. I didn’t survive anything in the few days, weeks, early months of loss.

We included the two words.

Roy is survived by his wife, Christine Christman; daughter, Katie (Dylan) Huey and son, Sam Christman.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito. Olive continues to chew away.

I think the impact of those two words makes sense to me now. Thirteen months out, I have begun to survive Dad’s death. My family has begun to survive loss.

As humans, all of us are going to have to at some point – sorry Charlie.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

I went to Good Friday service last Friday. This year the death part of the Easter story hit me differently. The pastor gracefully explained how deeply Jesus suffered on the cross – not in brutal, gory detail, but rather in focusing on the emotional exhaustion that comes from death.

Jesus experienced it too, hanging on the cross, crying out to God “Why have you forsaken me?” He experienced how breath becomes shallow, how head hangs low, how heart and spirit feel ripped away from the Creator of the Universe.  Jesus died. In dying, he felt the things that feel very much like grief.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

Grief can be unbelievable lonely, even when walking with people who lost the same person as you. On Friday, sitting in church in the dark, listening to Jesus’ final seven phrases, it hit me; Jesus has been through death too. This made me feel just a little bit better, a little closer to God, a little more hopeful, less lonely in the beginnings of survival.

On Sunday, I yelled “He is Risen” with enthusiasm. For Jesus rose again to take on our suffering, to walk with us through the dark, to say to ME “I get it. I’ve been there too.” This common ground never made sense to me until just this week. What a beautiful thing.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt, ” says Cerdito.

I think survival is an interesting concept. Day to day we, as humans, are surviving. By breathing air and eating food and drinking water we make choices to keep on going, despite hardship. Death can be hardship, so can a million other things.

Yet choosing to find joy as the thread that connects all of the horrible can be a beautiful thing.  I’ll end my thoughts this week with a list of the beautiful threads of joy that have helped me begin to be a survivor of death of a loved one.

It is a new identity I’m tentatively beginning to put on – one arm in the sleeve of a scratchy sweater, not yet worn enough to be soft on my skin.

Those silly grunts from a pig, and tears, and communion in individual plastic cups.

New jobs for my husband, and naps, and spaghetti.

In meals cooked by my brother, breakfasts at the lunch counter at The Silver Grill.

Afternoons spent at my in-laws.

In Easter baskets, and morning light, and endless text message threads.

In acknowledging that we all, at some point, are going to survive something.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

 

Coruscate – A Challenge

My mom sent me a text this morning with the word coruscate.

 

Coruscate-Turn on the stars.

She loved its definition and I do too. The way this word creates a beautiful image in its own meaning makes me feel all tickled inside.

When I stop and think about word-play, how we use word upon word to define our vocabulary, it can be dizzying to think about the power of language. And there are so many beautiful choices for how we want to describe our worlds.

I’ve started a Pinterest board with some of my favorite words and phrases, definitions that bring me joy. I want this board to grow.

So out of my own curiosity I pose to you this challenge. Help me grow my list of beautiful, tantalizing, delightful, intriguing, special, heart-warming words.

What is your favorite beautiful word and it’s definition?

If you email me your response at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com I will create a meme for you with the word and post it on my Pinterest page. I will send you the image, and put your contribution in my collective list that will get shared at the end of the month.

Get out those dictionaries, search your minds, share your heart. Accepting entries until March 31st.

 

When Life Unravels

Beautiful power exists when we share our stories.

I have had the honor of writing for Invoke Magazine again, and today another installation goes live. For those who are interested in the beauty of sharing truth, being honest, and vulnerable in online spaces, here is my article.

3 Ways to Cope with Grief and Uncertainty (from Someone Who’s Been There)

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Thank you to Anna and Emily for the privilege of contributing again.

With love, bravery, courage and hope.

 

Mess of the Middle

Whew. I’m exhausted. Being that it is a Monday evening, most would say that is not a good sign. I’ve got mixed feelings, because this kind of exhaustion results from productivity and the after effects of throwing myself into new learning situations. Starting anything new can be taxing.  I spent the first week of 2016 jumping into a new job, and continue the diligent work of learning new tasks and databases. I hope to lay the groundwork for new relationships. I have spent so much time thinking about tone of voice communicating in email. Do I need a formal introduction to this brief question about business cards? Do I send the emoji with this instant-message and do I insert a joke here or there or wait….. until I come out of my shell – as the infamous extroverts ask of me. For some, this process of new may be invigorating and easy. Me, I need to ease.

As we complete the first week of 2016 I challenge you to ask the questions of Jonathan Fields, ‘What am I cultivating that is new and challenging? What am I maintaining that is rewarding, and what do I simply need to let go of?’ I had a friend send me a podcast by Jonathan Fields sharing his exercise on finishing out the year. I encourage you to take some time to listen to his advice on “Closing the Books”  . This podcast promotes a beautiful pondering experience that I turned into a journal prompt. His questions allowed me to process 2015 – to get my grievances and successes out on paper. Thank you, Jonathan, for reminding me that while our past influences our present, we get to choose to what extent that rings true.

I’ve been pretty stuck in my head the last few days, and am trying to remember to breathe, to meditate, to stop and drink some water while the thoughts of this new chapter swirl around in my head. Authors are supposed to catch the audiences’ attention within the first chapter of a book, or readers get lost, bored, lose interest. If I am viewing 2016 as a brand new book – this week’s first chapter has me hooked. What will continue to unfold as I try to negotiate these new routines, duties, evolutions of me?

Today I am awed by the beautiful cotton candy sunsets that the Colorado skies provide. It IMG_3350may be freezing outside, but the melding oranges and pinks soothe my soul as the sun dips beneath the snowy mountains across the way.

Too, I got a card of encouragement in the mail from my best friend from college. Snail mail is such a beautiful, delightful treat. Or maybe I should call her correspondence whale mail, as the card was covered in charming little gold whales with happy tails and bursting blow holes. It means a lot to me to have love written down and send with intention from town to town.

What beauty will you find when you wrap up your year and turn to face the new? Are you feeling delighted or overwhelmed? Supported or disconnected? Or maybe, like me, living a little bit in the beautiful mess of the middle.