Friday, February 16, 2018

HEALTHY ATTITUDES, PART IV


Part IV is about a healthy attitude toward sadness and coping, versus self-promotion.  And whether sadness and coping, and self-promotion, may be like oil and water, not meant to mix.   

First sadness.  I mean the kind of sadness that can become despair. The kind of sadness a parent might feel about their child who spends more time in the hospital than out.  Or a young person might feel who won't live to raise their child.  The kind of sadness that strikes at random and feels like a bayonet in the belly.  That kind of sadness.  Perhaps we cannot each think of those kind of sadnesses, but it is more likely that we can.  This week we have the horror of the shooting at the school in Florida.  Too, too many weeks when we can write that sentence, "This week we have the shooting at . . . . "  Our flags again are at half-mast. 

Now coping.  Coping is accepting care from friends and family and even strangers.  What happens in hospital waiting rooms in the dark when strangers under blankets share their reasons for spending the night.  What happens when family comes every weekend, the minute their work day ends, and then begins to take time off work, and finally moves in.  What happens when friends bring food and offer rides and pick up your kids and lie in bed with you to talk when you can't get up, and leave when you need them to but soon come back.  What happens when your father dies and you hold his dead hand and call your brother and he says a prayer over the phone for the three of you, two lives and one spirit.  Even a long life can seem too brief for readiness.  The transience of life has always been part of its loveliness.  This is most certainly true. 

Designed by Charlotte Day (www.calmmoment.com)

Coping can also be something creative.  Carly Simon wrote a song after her mother died:  "I'll wait for you no more like a daughter.  That part of our life together is over.  But I will wait for you forever like a river."  It's beautiful.  The "forever" is drawn out, like life after death is.  I think of my mother always when I play it.  

John Crowe Ransom (1888-1974) wrote an elegy when his friend's daughter died, "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter,"  where the mourners are viewing the little girl's corpse as they wait for last rites.  The difference between the life and the death of a child is no where more vividly expressed:

There was such speed in her little body,
Such lightness in her footfall,
It is no wonder her brown study
Astonishes us all.

In this poem the consolation is grief itself, not a remonstrance against harsh fate. The poem is worth reading, if you do not know it already by heart (I only know it well enough to know I want to read it again.)  In life as in this poem, sorrow is assuaged by its own expression.  It will not be thwarted. 

Many write books to cope.  Joan Dideon (b. 1934) wrote The Year of Magical Thinking (2005) after her husband died and Blue Nights (2011) after the death of their daughter.  Actress Vanessa Redgrave did a reading from the book after the death of her own daughter Natasha Richardson in 2009 ( the wife of Liam Neeson).  

Designed by Charlotte Day (www.calmmoment.com)

All these creative endeavors are coping strategies.  Resilience.  We set up scholarships, begin foundations, plant memorial gardens, march for causes, volunteer at hospice, donate "in memory of," find ways to incorporate our grief into a life that is still well-lived.  And if we are the one facing death or chronic illness we do the same.  As a medical malpractice attorney I have seen this many times.  A young mother writes a diary for the son she won't raise, leaves him her voice, secretes away years' worth of gifts for him.  This helps her.  It is good. 

What has this to do with self-promotion?  Usually nothing. Usually our consolations do not involve promoting ourselves.  Until recently I had not seen self-promotion in circumstances where we might not expect it--marketing of one's self so to speak. "Because I am sick I know the ten things sick people want to hear and the ten things they don't want to hear.  Buy my book to read more."  "Here are the links to your favorite bookseller."  "Share my book on your web site for a chance to receive an autographed copy."  "If you missed my interview--ah, what an opportunity--here is the link."  

Designed by Charlotte Day (www.calmmoment.com)
When we face the abyss we must choose our way.  Always, always the person facing the abyss must find their own consolations. If one's health is tenuous, a success in another area of life may be of great comfort.  Everyone loves my song, or book, or painting, may translate into everyone loves me.  Surely a solace when the flip side is uncertainty or what may be worse: certainty.  

But I wonder whether self-marketing one's personal tragedy for commercial success or a modicum of fame is the healthiest consolation.  Not the writing itself, which is known to bring peace and clarity, but the marketing.  Could that be the antithesis of healthy?  Does wrapping our story in our faith make a difference?  Does anyone even have the right to raise the question?  

I knew the wife of a dying man who decided he would wear only cashmere.  Cashmere robes, blankets, sweaters, scarves, even trousers and pajamas.  He found comfort in these expensive, soft things.  His wife worried because they were too poor for these luxuries. She wished he would find consolation in her and the children. 

I don't have an answer.  I only have a question. 




Friday, February 9, 2018

THANKS, ROBERT FROST




Do you have hope for the future?
someone asked Robert Frost, toward the end.
Yes, and even for the past, he replied,
that it will turn out to have been all right
for what it was, something we can accept,
mistakes made by the selves we had to be,
not able to be, perhaps, what we wished,
or what looking back half the time it seems 
we could so easily have been, or ought. . . 
The future, yes, and even for the past,
that it will become something we can bear.
And I too, and my children, so I hope,
will recall as not too heavy the tug
of those albatrosses I sadly placed
upon their tender necks.  Hope for the past,
yes, old Frost, your words provide that courage,
and it brings strange peace that itself passes
into past, easier to bear because
you said it, rather casually, as snow
went on falling in Vermont years ago.  
by David Ray (b. 1932)


On August 19, 2017 I posted "We Can Never Change the Past; It Changes Us."  But I'm also going to trust Frost as much as I am able.  This is too hopeful not to embrace.  Part of the dimming of hurts.  So important. 

 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR LIFE FOR VALENTINE'S

Yesterday I saw a simple sign in a vintage shop with these words: 
 Fall in Love with Your Life
It was lettered in beautiful calligraphy on a piece of white-painted wood.  A plaque to hang  somewhere as an invitation I thought, a Valentine's day invitation, kind of like, "Be your Own Valentine" in a very un-lonely happy way.  

There is so much to love about our life, I bet you love yours already.  I love mine. Of course, there are things I wish hadn't happened, and things I wish I could change.  I have to admit that.  But not my whole life itself; not my life for someone else's, someone else's history, thoughts, being.  No. Never. So I'm thinking for Valentine's Day 2018 it's time to fall in love with our life all over again.  

💗💗💗💗💗

What might this entail? Well, of course it could include falling in love again with the people we depend upon and letting them know.  Valentine's is perfect for that.  Making someone a special cake, or giving flowers, or knit socks or a hat. There are as many ways to show appreciation as there are creative people.  I found a tiny train for my granddaughter for her dollhouse.  Theatre tickets for my husband and me.  I owe my cousin a special phone call.  

But falling in love with our life also means loving our homes, our pets, our hobbies, the objects around our house that help define us.  Our talismans.  I love my house when it's clean.  Here is a very clean room: 


I also--sometimes--even love cleaning my house, attacking dust curls with the Swiffer and then relaxing. 

Time-out after Cleaning
I love my dog, Mr. very sweet Wiggles.  Here he is luxuriating on a blanket.  


But to love our lives properly we also have to love our comfort zones, our ways of doing things, our ways of coping and ourselves.  We have to love not only people, but also the things that tell the stories about who we are.  This might be our first painting, a childhood toy or doll, a photograph of a sad or a happy time, something our mother gave us (I have Nina Naomi's wicker dresser, some of her quilts and antique plates, and her jewelry. . . .), something only we would know has meaning.  We have to appreciate our skills and our knowledge, how well we do at work, how good a family member, spouse or partner, parent or grandparent we are.

What else can we love about our lives?  We might love our opportunities to pray, think or meditate. 

Otje van der Lelij, Dutch Illustrator

Many of us love being alone, especially with nature or art.  Dutch philosopher Mieke Boon says that nature and art can give us a feeling of transcendence, can make us feel like we are rising above our daily troubles. We gain insight into how we think, feel and observe.  If we are in touch with nature and art we can love that about our life.  

First Orchid of the Year, Banyan Rd., Vero Beach, Florida
We can love that we are able to find things that are absorbing enough, interesting enough, or exciting enough to hold our full attention.  We can love and appreciate the ways we have learned to cope with fear, sadness, anger, stress and pain. We can love that about ourselves.   

So, my Valentine's wish for myself and everyone is to just to love our lives--all the good things, all the hard things, all the beautiful things, all the mismatched and shapeless things, all the transcendent things, all the people who give us what we need and even the people who don't. Let's have a wonderful February 14, 2018!  With love, Nina Naomi












 




Friday, January 26, 2018

INSPIRATION

Sometimes with the ease of Google I wonder why I bother reading, seeking, looking . . .   .  For example, my husband and I like Film Noir. My father did a stint in Hollywood as a props man. He filled me with a love for old movies. So I google the film we're watching. Instant gratification. But from my college days (when I studied without benefit of search engines) I know there's something wrong with this picture.  I've noticed that when I google something I almost always forget it. I remember more of what I learned in my Art History course Junior year than I remember about the actors I googled last night.  Or even the name of the movie we watched last night! 

So, for inspiration you could google quotes.  And maybe remember them, maybe not. Your brain may be better than mine.  I'm not counting that out. 👩 But instead, I have compiled some inspirational quotes for us all.  Not by googling, but by reading, remembering, searching my cluttered library. . . .  

If you have a favorite quote please add it as a Comment if you like.  After all, one of the best all-time quotes is by E.M. Forster (1879-1970):  Only Connect

I hope the quotations I've chosen resonate with you. First,

I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say
Flannery O'Connor (1925-1964) American author 
O'Connor wrote short stories, short novels and letters.  No one else writes like she does.  We all write for a reason, amateur or professional.  I write (journals, diaries, prayers. . . .) because there is something I must say that can't necessarily be said to another.  When things are confusing, or just plain bad, I write.  Maybe you do too.  Sometimes saying things out loud would make everything worse.  By writing instead we have preserved the option of speaking for later.  Private writing preserves our thoughts.  It lets us express ourselves without any ramification whatsoever. This is good. Second,

  Some people who seem benign are toxic.  Trust your instincts.

No need to explain this.  But it is important. Toxic people are not that easy to spot.  They draw people in, often with flattery.  If we let them, they harm our healthy relationships. We may be the person drawn to them, or someone we love may be. Toxic people are narcissists.  It's all about them.   What we notice when we or a loved one get rid of them is that our life is exponentially better.  Immediately.  What more proof could we need?  Third,

Everybody is creative. 
If you never discover what your real talent is, you won't know who you are or what you could become.     
Sir Ken Robinson (b. 1950) International Advisor on the Arts 
My brother is a wonderful example.  After years as an educator he found his own natural confidence in his creativity.  He is an artist.  Picasso said,
 Every child is an artist.  
The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.  

I think my brother would agree.  We went to his gallery opening in Vero Beach, Florida on January 5 of this year. He is an abstract expressionist.


Attendee at Opening

So how are you an artist?  Painting, crafting, cooking, drawing, building, designing, writing?  My mother made prize-winning quilts.  I read an article in PROJECT calm✱: Mindfulness through Making about solo adventures as a way to unblock our creativity.  The adventures can be big or small.  A class, a visit to an art gallery, a trip, anything that takes us out of our routine.  My brother began with an art class at his local museum.  Many people begin with writer's workshops.  Or a cooking class. Probably we all agree that creativity is healing, that it unlocks our souls. 

Here's another quote: 

The more you let go, the higher you rise. 
Yoga Philosophy for Healthy Living

Isn't this lovely? There are things we all need to let go of, ways we become unmoored. By change, by sorrow, by grief, by a birthday, times when we need to see the world with fresh eyes.  This is a fill-in-the-blank inspirational quote. 

 If I let go of __x__ then I'll have more time for __x__.  

What do you want to put in these spaces?  Something specific, or more broad?  I might choose, if I let go of repetitive thinking then I'll have more time for planning adventures.  The last fill-in is always something good.  I'm going to work on the letting go, put it in my Bullet Journal (Post: Will a Bullet Journal Simplify Your Life?) and see what happens. That sounds healthy to me.  How about you?






 




Thursday, January 25, 2018

WILL A BULLET JOURNAL SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE?

Journal Stash

I definitely don't know the answer to this question.  But I love beautifully colored journals, travel diaries, notebooks, etc.  I don't scrapbook but wish I did.  So while a bullet journal (endless how-to googles on this) may or may not simplify, I'm thinking it is fun and useful and that's enough. 

I didn't run into the term Bullet Journal until I picked up the latest flow (flowmagazine.com). 


The concept is attributed to Ryder Carroll (bulletjournal.com) a digital product designer--although it is clearly an amalgam from the paper and pen generation.  The description seems a bit regimented, but the point is to make it our own--record tasks, events, notes, appointments, thoughts, wishes, ideas in a way that works for us, and for me that means making it beguiling using favorite pens, stickers, some collaging, quotations  . . . . 
 
Collage with  Paris theme

 
Collage with buttons and lace


Instead of numbers, which aren't interchangeable and suggest a ranking, bullet journals use dots, dashes, circles, crosses, etc.  Here's an example: 

  •   for task
      ⭕  for event

      ─   for appointment

      🔴 for wishes

       ▶  for do it NOW

Whatever we want.  Colors instead of shapes if you keep a few colored pencils around.  Part of the fun seems to be experimenting, making something attractive as well as useful.  Leaving room for sayings, reminders, weather reports, cut and paste or our doodles.  Example of a Reminder:

Make space for others--in a cafe, in a conversation, in life.

When the entry is completed or no longer relevant we just X out the symbol, leaving the entry itself as a record.  The how-tos suggest combining the bullet journal with a calendar, but I plan to keep my digital calendar for appointments, and include nothing work-related. You could, of course. Work could have it's own set of symbols. I'd like my bullet journal to be more personal, long-range and thoughtful. Long-range:  learn to basket-weave.  Thoughtful:  Make some gifts I can give on short notice; keep them together with paper and ribbon; add bought gifts too.  

Many people are high on this way of keeping track.  It eliminates scraps of paper or sticky tabs with random lists cluttering our counters and work areas.  It's tactile and retro.  It's harder to lose or accidentally pitch or delete and quicker to update than a phone.  It frees up the energy we use trying to remember things.Carroll says, "Bullet Journal is for those who feel there are few platforms as powerful as the blank paper page.  It's an analog system for the digital age that will help you organize the present, record the past, and plan for the future."  And like photos we print and put in an album, we can keep it forever.  So whether or not this seems simple, it does seem more fun than the usual organizing hacks, doesn't it?  I'll give it a try.





















Saturday, January 20, 2018

HEALTHY ATTITUDES, PART III

I ran across a writer asking twitter cohorts to be part of a "Launch Team," i.e. "Let's be friends" and you help sell my book.  Interesting.  The pitch is, you're so fill-in-the-blank (kind, helpful, special, know me, love me, have prayed for me, etc.) that you'll help me sell my book.  After all, many friends have been asking what I need.  Well, I don't need a casserole or a ride to the doctor's.  I need a best-seller.  This made me think--not about Marketing 101, but about friendship. 

Most best-selling authors, I daresay, have private lives with friends who love them for themselves and vice versa.  The friends are there for them rain or shine but are not part of their marketing endeavors.  They don't become an unpaid sales-force.  

Soliciting help from friends is healthy.  But does it depend on what we are soliciting help for?  Our favorite charity or the school fund-raiser?  Or for our personal gain?  To help us through a rough patch? Or so that we can become a commercial success?  After-all, one of the hallmarks of a being a true friend to someone is that we do for each other but do not use each other.  You know the admonition:  Love people but use things.  Lebanese writer, poet and visual artist Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)  says it beautifully:

Friendship is always a sweet responsibility,
Never an opportunity.


Two Girls in Front of Birch Trees, Paula Modersohn-Becker, 1905

Gibran's quote made me wonder whether graciously accepting an unsolicited offer from a friend is different from what the literature calls a "Selfish Request,"  imposing on the generosity of others by asking for favors either blatantly or through manipulation. Something we may have all seen and come to recognize.   

None of these thoughts has to do with this writer's book.  Books dealing with loss are usually successful.  Loss of health, loss of a parent, spouse or child, surviving divorce or breast cancer . . . .   We all have times when there is only sadness.  Connecting with others who have been there helps.  Or who share our faith helps.  We remember that we are not alone.  We learn to live with our sadness as a companion to our happiness.  Our friends help us. Life continues to have meaning. 

So yes, we should do something when bad things happen to us.  Write if that's our talent.  Set up a foundation if we have money.  Do research if we are of that bent.  Create a memorial.  Become an activist.  Crusade--that's how MADD was founded (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).   And yes, we should ask for help from others, help to process a loss, to recover from a loss, to make it day to day through a loss, to fight injustices, to right wrongs, to contribute to a cause . . . .   Something that is not a "selfish request" in any way.  That sounds right, doesn't it? 










Friday, January 19, 2018

NOTHING STAYS THE SAME BUT NOTHING IS FORGOTTEN

Yes, we can count on this.  Every year winter turns to spring, and crocuses and daffodils rise from the mud.  


Yesterday the snow was falling in white-out conditions.  Today the sun shines and the snow sparkles. 
Yesterday
Today


Sometimes melancholy overtakes what seemed happy, but sometimes the opposite--a child or simple pleasure brightens a dark day.  The part of this equation I think we're less aware of is that nothing is forgotten.  Sometimes this is hard.  We have suffered and the trauma remains, pulling the suffering into the present.  Some off-hand comment triggers how I felt when I learned something hurtful. The fear claws its way back.  Thoughts are their own master.  But there is an upside to this.  The good is also not forgotten.  Its presence is as strong as any pain.  A friend sent this quotation from the autobiography of German theologian Jurgen Moltmann (b. 1926): 


The people to whom I owe my life are unforgotten.
They are present to me, because in their love
I became free and can breathe in wide spaces.
Unforgotten for me are people to whom I am bound in affection and respect.
They have entered into my life, and I perhaps a little into theirs.
Unforgotten for me are the dead whom I miss.
They are always especially present to me.
Nothing that has been, is no more;
everything that has happened remains. 
We cannot make anything undone, not the ill, but not the good either. 
What was lovely and successful,
and the happiness we have experienced,  
no one can take from us, 
neither transitory time nor death.
                                                                              A Broad Place

Isn't this reassuring? That the good that has happened to us stays with us always.  It shapes who we are.  It buoys us up, lifts heaviness from our hearts.   This made me think about dealing with loss.  We deal with it because loss has a context, the context of all the good that went before, for without the good there is no loss.  Like refugees, we too can feel displaced from our life as we knew it.  Something can rock our image of self or the image we held of someone else, or of God. An emotional earthquake.  But because the good that was remains, we can slowly glue the pieces of our life back together. A truth for which to be thankful. 

Duke Chapel, A Place to Give Thanks