The Turning of the Page

I don’t necessarily believe in putting the past behind me.

I suppose I do to a point; there are simply some things upon which it is fruitless to dwell. We certainly cannot change the past, but for better or worse, our past remains forever a part of who and where we are today. At the same time, though, we need to turn the page and move on to the next part of our story. It is not progress to throw down the book and stop reading because the events of a particular chapter are not as we might like. If we do not continue to move forward, we will never find out what the next chapter brings.

Making the transition from past to future feels much like turning the pages of a book. Once we’ve moved beyond each paragraph, page, and chapter, the words we have read remain part of our experience. They affect us, change us, and help us make sense of the next thing we read. Likewise, the words we have yet to read lie before us waiting to be taken in, savored, and made part of our experience. The only thing that comprises our present is right now, the moment in which we turn the page and move from what has been to what is yet to be.

As we turn the page from 2016 into 2017, I find myself tremendously grateful. This has been a good year for me and for my family in so many ways. We are healthy. We are safe. We have enough of all the things we need to sustain us and then some. We are blessed with friends and family near and far who love us. We have grown as individuals and as a family. I could not be more thankful. And while my little brood has certainly had our share of challenges and disappointments, I know that we have soldiered through and made great strides toward accomplishing our goals.

I am painfully aware that there is much trouble and sorrow in the world right now. I am aware that many people have found 2016 to be a harrowing year in many respects. Too many are not healthy or safe. Too many are lonely and separated from loved ones by distance or other means. Too many live in fear and pain. I suppose knowing this makes me appreciate even more the good that we have felt this year after several years of challenges for all of us.

In 2016, I chose the words Calm and Control to guide me through my days. While I will very likely never call myself a calm person, I definitely think that I have found a better sense of both inner and outer calm this year. I also realize that it is nigh unto impossible to be in control of every (or really any) aspect of life, but I have found strategies to help me better manage what aspects I can. I am better for it. My family is better for it. Better is good.

I would not say that any of us is “finished.” Like Franklin and Thoreau and Emerson and so many others, I believe that living life as a work progress is a good thing. Rather than striving for a state of completion or finality, the human spirit thrives when striving always to better the Self. As I look back over the words I’ve chosen each year for the last several, I can see how each one continues to weave in and out of the ways I think and live. Focus. Focus. (Yes, I chose this one twice.) Progress. Calm and Control.  Like all else, while they may not be my primary tasks, they remain with me.

And now it is time to look and move forward. As I turn the page on this year and begin the next, I know my word for the year will be Balance. I find myself saying it often lately and so it must be on my mind, at least subconsciously.

Balance is necessary in all things and balance exists in all things. There is no darkness without light, no failure without success, no sadness without joy. We all worry about how to balance home and work life, kids and relationships, work and play, family time and alone time, eating well and enjoying a pizza…and so much more. As we move forward in a world filled with so many things to worry and frighten each of us, I know it is important to seek the good and the positive, to find the balance that absolutely exists.

To focus solely on what is terrible can only prove harmful, just as never turning the page of a book can only leave the end of the story unknown. I, for one, would rather keep reading. I want to know what happens. I want to know how the story ends. And then I want to read another…and another…

At this time of year it is easy to talk about starting over and making goals. But I believe that every month, every day, sometimes every hour is an opportunity for a fresh start and a new goal. If moving through life is like turning the pages of a book, then there is always another page to turn, another story to tell, another book to read.

There will be challenges ahead; I believe they are necessary to help us find the victories. And so I wish each of you a story filled with challenges that will ultimately bring you health, happiness, love, and (perhaps most of all) peace in the days ahead.

xo.

 

 

 

An Easier Life – #10Thankful

Life is hard.

My daughter tells me of things she thinks are hard: Homework, carrying a heavy school bag, and waking up early for school are hard. Sometimes math is hard or getting along with other kids. She’s right; those things are hard. We talk about why they are hard and how to make them more bearable or easier to do. And I always tell her the same thing in the course of the discussion: “Life is hard.”

Because it is. And I don’t think it’s wrong or discouraging to be honest with our children – or ourselves – and acknowledge that fact. Life is hard for every one of us in myriad ways, and it just makes sense to be prepared for that fact, because I sincerely doubt that we are meant to sail through life unscathed.

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In his General History of Virginia, Captain John Smith writes that “everything of worth is found full of difficulties…” and life itself is no different. We will all struggle with something at some point in life. We will all need help to solve our problems or to simply get through the day, just as those early settlers did.

I wonder, though, if the challenges and difficulties we find along the way are what give life its substance and meaning. Is there truly anything in life that we find “easy” that doesn’t also contain some struggle or pain? Do those struggles help to define and enhance the victories we experience? Think of anything you love, anything you do and ask yourself if it is truly something that comes easily, without effort, without any setback or imperfection.

I’m willing to bet you can’t name one thing. I know I can’t.

There are dinners that have been burnt, drafts of stories crumbled into the trash can, relationships ended, unplanned career changes, and so much more. Disappointment, struggle, and failure may all be simply part of the process of living, learning, and becoming who we are.  We’re all operating without a handbook, doing out best to figure out this thing called life as we go along, but maybe that’s the beauty of it.

 

Somewhere in the preface material to his History, Smith also says, “Let no difficulties alter your noble intentions.” Maybe we’re meant to experience a balance of easy and hard, good and bad. Maybe we need to face problems and challenges so that we can learn how to solve them and pass on the knowledge we gain to others. Giving up when life gets hard won’t make things better, so maybe those hard times are ultimately the best path toward becoming more than we are today.

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Just over two years ago, I left my full time job to work for myself, to be at home to raise our daughter and do the things I had dreamed of doing for so long. I left a known quantity for something definitively unknown and uncharted, much like Smith and his fellow colonists. It was terrifying. Some days it still is. I left behind circumstances that were indeed difficult and frustrating, but this new life I’ve carved out for myself isn’t “easy” either – not by a long shot. In fact, it’s pretty tough and full of a whole new set of challenges and frustrations.

I worry about finding work and bringing in enough money. I worry that I will never publish the words I’ve been working on privately; and I worry that I will. Many mornings it is a challenge to get all of us organized and out the door and to our respective responsibilities on time. It is nearly impossible to accomplish everything on my to-do list(s), and I still struggle daily with how to strike the correct balance between work and family life, especially now that I work from home.

But what makes this life easier, or perhaps better than the version of life I lived before, is that I am living the life I was meant to live. I am being true to myself, embracing what I know is right for me and for my family, despite the difficulties along the way. There were difficulties before, so what’s the difference, really?

The difference lies in the fact that it is much easier to be who I was meant to be, rather than fitting into some imposed idea of who I should be – for whatever reason. I am ever thankful for the nudges the universe provided, telling me it was time to go, and for the people who encourage and stand by me each step of the way.

And so I’ll stay my course. Because even when life is hard, my intentions for myself and for my family are indeed noble; in fact, I would say they are necessary in order to create a life of true happiness and fulfillment. The early Virginia settlers had to leave much behind in order to find what they believed would be a better life. Perhaps sometimes we do, too.

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This week’s Ten Things of Thankful post is doubling as a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence was “My life is so much easier due to…”

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Be Careful What You Wish For

What would you change if you knew how your life would unfold?

Would you eat healthier? Exercise more? Would you take better care of your teeth? Maybe you would get up the nerve to ask out the cute guy in your French class. Or maybe you would wisely say “no” when the cute guy at the gym asked you. I definitely wish five year-old me would have known how much adult me would love taking naps. Children do not appreciate the delicious respite a nap provides.

 

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If you knew that you would experience sadness or loss, would you wish to escape them? If you knew you would suffer hardship or heartbreak, would you wish that away?  If you knew ahead of time what your life would be right now, would you wish for anything else?

Every now and then I wonder what else in my life would have been good to know ahead of time, besides the nap thing. My Mom always says, “Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.” So if I wished that I had known things ahead of time, would I use that knowledge to change the course of my life? And if my life turned out differently, would I be happy with the result?

Continue reading “Be Careful What You Wish For”

TToT – Catching Up, Transitions, and Change

I can’t help but think lately that life is a constant string of transitions.

We spend most of our lives moving from one phase to another: from youth to adulthood, from school to work, from one relationship to another, from one job to another…our movement is constant and sure. That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy each phase as we live through it. But eventually, we have to pick up and move on. We cannot stay in one place forever – at least not if we intend to grow and develop as human beings. Standing water only becomes stagnant and the path not traveled is a lonely one indeed.

 

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These transitions often seem to crop up just when we’ve gotten comfortable where we are. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s best if we don’t let life catch up to us for too long. Maybe it’s best if transition and change happen before we’re quite ready to move on. I have a mug here on my desk that tells me “Life begins outside your comfort zone.” Maybe it does. If we aren’t prompted to move along through life, it is much to easy to settle into the right now and see it as a final destination, rather than a stop along the journey.

And life really must be a journey.  Continue reading “TToT – Catching Up, Transitions, and Change”

Celebrating One Year of Compassion – A #1000Speak Post

I want to tell you a story.

It’s a simple story – very short, truly sweet. It’s the story of a little girl who saw someone in need and acted with compassion. This little girl was on the school recess yard with a friend, playing whatever things little girls do on the school recess yard at lunchtime.

It was one of those days in the very late fall where some people feel cold and others feel warm. The second little girl had left her coat in the classroom and was cold. And so the first little girl removed her own coat and gave it to her friend to wear until the end of recess.

 

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That little girl – the one who gave away her coat – is my daughter.

My husband and I learned what she did from a teacher who had witnessed it firsthand. The whole thing took seconds. There was no debate, no pretense; she just saw a need and acted upon it. It very nearly brought me to my knees and most certainly brought me to tears. Continue reading “Celebrating One Year of Compassion – A #1000Speak Post”

TToT – Wants, Needs, and Practicality

It is not always possible to do or get what you want.

Sure, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? To be able to do exactly what you want to do when you want to do it? To be able to have anything you want right when you desire it? Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Maybe.

But then again perhaps having everything on demand isn’t the best scenario. Maybe it’s true that the best things come to those who wait.

Continue reading “TToT – Wants, Needs, and Practicality”

What I Have Learned from Experience

As we drive home in the afternoon, I often ask my daughter, “What did you learn in school today?”  Lately, her answer is “the usual.” And so I have to prompt her a little to be more specific – what is “the usual”?

“Oh, math and English and spelling…same as always.”

“Well what kind of things did you learn in math?”

This will usually elicit more detail and I’m glad to hear her itemize the small parts of her day, to hear her be attentive to detail about the time she’s spent. Some days she tells me she doesn’t remember what she learned that morning. OK, that’s fair; some days I don’t remember what I had for breakfast. Or if  I had breakfast. At least (so far) she hasn’t told me she learned nothing.

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How often do we minimize or discredit what we’ve learned from an experience? Continue reading “What I Have Learned from Experience”

#BeReal – LISA LISTWA | hastywords

I’m visiting over at Hasty Words today to talk about what I think it means to #BeReal. And about a good pair of jeans.

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Not too long ago, a friend told me I was brave.

I think the word she said was brave… she admired my chutzpah in posting my whole and actual weight in a group setting focused on lessening our overall gravitational pull.

The compliment did not set well with me. What she couldn’t have known is that mere seconds before I saw her message, I clicked off my own desperate and panicked message to the group moderator asking him to please and immediately pull the image of my whole and actual weight…

Continue reading “#BeReal – LISA LISTWA | hastywords”

1000 Voices Speak for Compassion – January 2016 Link-Up

It’s hard to believe, but 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion is one year old!

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For the last year, bloggers all over the world have been joining our voices and sharing our words each month to talk about topics related to Compassion so we can help flood the world with goodness. Continue reading “1000 Voices Speak for Compassion – January 2016 Link-Up”

Six Sentence Stories – Change

“You’ve changed,” she said, her tone a mix of genuine surprise and certain confidence.

The woman across from her smiled, confirming the sentiment.

“The more time I spent with the person you were becoming, the more toxic this relationship became. Your words carved into my heart, leaving it bloody, raw, and a little less of itself than it should be.  Continue reading “Six Sentence Stories – Change”