Change

The Capitol. taken from our countries botanical garden.

The Capitol, taken from the United States Botanical Garden.

I haven’t done any writing except for making lists for the last week. Even my journal has been untouched. No, I don’t have writer’s block. There have been many times over the past seven days that I have wanted to write, but then something would change. Between hours of feeling little to no anxiety, waves of grief, fear, and depression came crashing through. I could be smiling and happy one minute. Then boom! One of those waves would hit. Words that had been gathering in my head would disappear in a sea of despair. I know I wasn’t alone.

I’ve needed time to wrap my head around what I believed would happen when I went to bed at 11 PM, last Tuesday night … that Hillary would lose. I had gone to the polls on Tuesday morning like most everyone else, and imagined the celebrations that would be happening that evening. When the first rays of light came through my window on Wednesday morning, my stomach started churning like a cement mixer. I didn’t want to hear the news. I wanted to close my eyes and fall into a peaceful slumber that would last forever. But being one who faces what’s ahead, regardless of what it is, I got up and listened and watched. It hurt. On my way up the street as I walked my dogs, a neighbor in tears, asked, “What happened? It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.” We hugged, feeling each other’s pain, then moved on into the day.

I’ve been watching what’s been happening on the news. As in the rest of the country, there have been incidences of hate in this city. And sometimes it’s felt like the end of the world has come. And in a way it has. At least the world as I knew it.

But it’s not the end. It’s about change and the beginning of something new. It happens every moment of every day, as time slips through our fingers and a new moment opens up. If it’s good change, we celebrate. If it’s bad change, we piss and moan, and stubbornly march ahead insisting that life will remain as it was or … what? Half of our population is grieving and are in deep pain. The others are happy and celebrating. Some of us ask what can be done to make it like it was before November 8th.

Change. We can’t stop it from happening. But even when it’s bad, I believe something good always happens as a result. Pain will still be evident and bad things will still happen. But change is what all of us had on our minds as we went to the polls on Tuesday. Whether it was equal pay for women, gun control, or simply wanting recognition that we exist. We all wanted change of some sort. And now we have it. Whether we like it or not.

I believe that the good part of this change is that we are being forced to wake up. There has been a smugness and entitlement afoot here in America especially among those of us who have enough to live comfortably. What doesn’t affect us is somebody else’s problem.  It has kept us from really dealing with issues that have needed to be addressed … education, equal opportunities in all phases of life, and a way to come together to work on how to bring our country and world to a better place and serve all of its people.

It’s easier said than done, and I admit I’ve been just as blind as everyone else. But this is an opportunity to really change things up. We can become aware of the people who stand next to us at the cash register or on line as we all wait to cast our votes. It’s time to share our thoughts without fear of being judged. It’s time to be kind to those who disagree with us and/or scare us. It’s time for us to listen.

It’s also time to allow ourselves to adapt to the changes ahead without being told we’re not moving fast enough or are pushing ahead too fast. We each have our own needs and ways of addressing what is ahead. I need to have time to contemplate what to do and how to approach what could be a more than a difficult time, without being told how to go about it.

I believe that what’s ahead is about being mindful of my own feelings and what I believe in. It’s about learning to be a good listener and being aware of what others need. It’s about staying awake and not making assumptions. It’s about reaching out to those who are suffering and needing help.

There are lots of things we can do. We can run for office, donate to a cause, sign petitions, join a group with similar issues, march in protests, or wear a safety pin. A friend of mine collects gently used used hats, scarves, gloves, and socks to hand out to the homeless in our town at this time of year.

But what we really must do is to stay awake, pay attention, make noise when it’s called for, and be kind. The rest is up to what each one of us is most comfortable doing.

I have seen two films this week that should not be missed and have helped me sort through my feelings and these dreadful times. The first is Moonlight. The other one is Arrival. I came home feeling as though both movies were made just for us, right now, at this time. Don’t miss them. I don’t want to tell you anything about them but they both lifted my spirits and gave me an idea of where I stand in the dilemma we all face.

Things will continue to change as they always do. None of us knows what will happen next. For me it’s about being as positive as I can and taking in the light shining through the cracks.

The More Thing Change …

Jerusalem Artichoke

Jerusalem Artichoke

Yesterday I decided to look back through the first blog I kept. Entitled, Rivanna River Days, I started it as a record of what life was like living on the shores of the South Fork Rivanna River Reservoir, where I resided at the time. I began this blog in the spring of 2006, many years before I began writing my memoir and a year before my mother died in 2007.  She was living with me at the time.

I found this piece that I wrote in September of 2008. I could have written it yesterday or last month or last year. I have to say I have no problem staying with my writing these days, but it’s interesting to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Tending The Heart

Where have I been, you ask? I’ve been tending to myself …
My heart has been heavy with the vibrations of the exterior world …
It’s trying to hold its own … feeling grateful for all that I have …
The wonderful people I know …
Saddened for the state of this country … the violence in the world …
The hungry … the homeless …
And most of all for those who don’t see or feel the consequences for what they do.

It’s been hard for me to write anywhere about anything, including in my journal
that I normally jot in every day.
I’ve been saying a lot of prayers … asking lots of questions
And trying to stay as positive I can.

I know I’m not alone. There are many people feeling the same way.
I remind myself on a daily, sometimes hourly basis that I cannot control what is happening in this world
And that this too shall pass.
I take solace in meditation, the garden, living simply, and the gifts that each day brings.

Do you read back through your old journals or blog posts to see what has changed over the course of time?

Managing Stress In An Insane world

I stay sane by working in the garden and taking in the beauty of the natural world.

I stay sane by working in the garden and taking in the beauty of the natural world.

Earlier this year I decided to avoid the news as best I could. I didn’t want to hear about the presidential campaign; especially the words of one whose name shall not be mentioned here. He upset me greatly and when I started yelling  at the television it was a sure sign that I needed to turn it off. I do still tune in less than an hour every day because I want to be able to make informed choices. But I leave the room from time to time when I want to avoid talk from certain people.

Managing my stress is an important part of my self-care. I do not want to live with constant anxiety which turns my gut into a churning cement mixer filled with rocks. I get jumpy, depressed and feel hopeless. At the ripe old age of seventy-three I want a life of ease. I can’t afford the damage that stress causes to my mind, spirit and body.

I’ve been a news junky for as long as I can remember. I absolutely had to watch all of the heart breaking reports when JFK was assassinated. I tuned in constantly when Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy were taken out. On the morning of 9/11, I wept and felt like it was the end of the world. On all of those occasions my gut churned away. I had no appetite for food. And for at least a week if not longer, I sat in front of the television reliving the cataclysm of 9/11.  Every news channel replayed the fall of the twin towers, over and over again. I was depressed. I had trouble sleeping. Like everyone else, I was sick at heart. At the end of that week I realized I was harming myself, not helping myself.

I needed to find my center. I needed to smile and laugh. I couldn’t go to NYC and help with the cleanup but thought perhaps if I lightened up and started believing in goodness, my depression would go away. I gave blood. I went back to working in the garden. I helped to prepare the downstairs apartment in my home for my mother, whose health was failing. She would be moving in with us in late October and would spend the next six years being in residence with us before she broke multiple bones and died in May of 2007. I knew it was going to be difficult and wanted to ground myself before she moved in.

I felt much better until Mom’s health started going down hill rapidly. I began watching hours of news again, and woke to NPR every morning. While I peeled potatoes, prepared meat loaf, or kneaded bread the TV was on. I listened to how the world was falling apart. It was easier to watch the world in turmoil and spout off on how to fix it, than it was to give my attention to what was happening in my own household as Mom moved toward the end of her life.

Later I was told I suffered from PTSD. It was suggested that the horrific news about climate change and the continuing saga of war in the Middle East were making me more stressed out than I was to begin with. But it was hard to turn it all off. I was too invested in the news and what was happening around the world.

I started meditating, said no to events or movies that I knew would upset me and set some boundaries For myself. But it was still difficult to stay news free. How would I know how to live if I didn’t know what was happening in the world? I was especially anxious about the mass shootings occurring so frequently around the country in schools, movie theaters, military bases and shopping centers. But even through those events I did fairly well at turning the boob tube off at the first sign of my being upset. I worked at staying positive. I reminded myself that beyond the negative is a beautiful world filled with good people who are kind and doing good deeds.

Then “you know who” decided to run for the presidency. My stress and anxiety levels began growing by leaps and bounds. I was sure the end of the world was nearing. I was afraid for my country. I feared what would happen to my kids and grandkids in the future if that man got into office. I yelled at the TV during debates and the nightly news. I cried some nights as I tried to fall asleep. Finally I said, “Enough. I can’t do this anymore.”

When I woke to the tragic news of the shooting in Orlando, a few weekends ago ago I was surprised by my reaction. I had no need to see the grim photos or know the numbers of innocent people killed and wounded. It was so unlike me. I asked, What is wrong with you? Why aren’t you reacting the way you usually do?

But I knew there was nothing I could do. Would sitting in front of the television all day taking in this heinous act of violence help to keep this kind of event from happening again? I knew that all it would do is make me feel angry, hopeless, and extremely heart sick. I decided to turn the news off and go about my day. I worked in the garden, cooked a delicious meal, and finished reading a book that I was completely immersed in. During the following days I signed petitions and made a donation to one of the sites involved in bringing an end gun violence. And after a bout of angry posts on Facebook, I decided to stop that too.

I still tune into the news most nights just to get the headlines. But it isn’t causing my stress levels to rise. I’m living in a better world, taking care of myself, trying to be as kind as I can, and being grateful for all that I have.

How do you handle the gruesome events that seem to happen every day all around us?
How do you stay positive in the face of negativity?

Unscrooging Myself!

DSC00546.JPG

Winter is here and light from the sun will be begin to increase every day now until June 21st, when the days will start to grow shorter once again. But you’d never know it from the temperatures we’ve been experiencing.  A week or so ago we broke records here in Virginia with temperatures in the mid 70s.  It will happen again on Christmas Eve when it’s supposed to rain and temperatures will be unseasonably warm. In between, the record highs we have had fairly warm days with only a few in the lower 40s with even colder frosty nights.

DSC00575.JPGWhile in other portions of our country people are experiencing intense rain, early snowfalls and freezing temperatures, everyone I meet here in Central Virginia, is talking about this “Crazy Weather.”  A few weeks ago most comments were, “I love it. I’ll take all I can get.”  This week with Christmas upon us, people are beginning to complain.  “It’s not Christmas if it isn’t cold.”  Or, ” I’d love a little snow for the holidays. Is that asking too much?”

If that’s not enough there’s the way the world is looking right now. Politics in this country stink, while wars, mass shootings, and terrorism are claiming lives. The darkness seems tenfold more than it usually does.

The Knock-Out Roses in my garden were continuing to bloom until just a few nights ago when temperatures dropped into the 20s.  Last week on one of my walks I noticed forsythia blooming.  In Washington, DC, just a few hours north of us, the cherry blossoms have been blooming. Usually our lawn gets a year end mowing in early to mid-November, but last week the gang was back giving our very green grass another trim.

I’m just as confused as the trees and plants. In the fall I always welcome the beginning of the dark months. For me theyDSC00497.JPG represent a time of slowing down. I go to bed earlier and rise with the sun, as it peeks out over the horizon. And while I’ve been noticing all kinds of weeds growing in my garden during the last week or so and have wanted to go out and pull them, my body is fighting for what it wants more of … REST. My desire for naps has increased as it usually does at this time of year, along with a lapse in energy. While part of me wants to go out and clean up the garden, or walk without having to wear a heavy coat, my body is resisting.

This could all have something to do with aging, I suppose. But I have a feeling that most of what is bothering me is due to human nature and my not being happy with what is. I complain if it’s too cold, too hot, too dry, too wet, or whatever else I’m not happy with. And knowing I’ll never be able to control things like the weather, I’m working on just giving in and letting it all be. There isn’t much I can control, but perhaps I can try to change the way I react to the way things are. So I’m going back to an old prayer I often use when I find my world lacking in what I want or expect:

“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

May the spirit of Christmas shine upon you and yours.
And may all of your wishes come true.
Just remember
if things don’t work out as you want them to,
there are flowers blooming and butterflies flitting about somewhere
on this beautiful blue planet of ours, and the weather is perfect!

Life AS A Work Of Art

“…. when I accept the call of creative passion, I am a bold stroke of vermillion, a renegade hyperbole, or the wild fury of jazz violin. The world is a canvas to explore, a blank page to fill, and an arpeggio of waiting experiences. This moving masterpiece called “life” becomes intoxicating when it’s lived as if it were art.”
Jill Badonsky

IMG_0118Outside the rain is steady and cold … It’s the second day of what is predicted to be a three day rain event. Thank goodness I don’t live in the midwest where this storm is producing snow and ice. But still all I want to do is crawl back into bed and sleep the grayness away.

Christmas is upon us. People are rushing about on the streets and nearly causing accidents. My Scroogy self is anxious for it all to be over. Her arrival comes earlier and earlier every year. I swear the city put up their usual snowflake lights on every light pole in town two days after Halloween. Christmas carols were heard playing in several grocery stores before Thanksgiving was done. What the holidays are supposed be about are love, gratefulness, and the birth of one of the world’s greatest teachers. What was once a spiritual celebration now seems to be all about things and money.

But amidst the long list of unread emails is a blog post I read and am always inspired by. Jill Badonsky, isDSC00444 a wonderful artist. She’s also a coach for those looking to live a creative life. I don’t know anything about her coaching style but she wrote the quote above and I’m more than certain that she’d be a fabulous person to hook up with to get unstuck.

Reading that line on her blog got to me immediately. Suddenly there I was remembering that I am an artist and writer myself. I have no business being a badass at this time of year. Life is a work of art and by golly I need to add some color to the dull and lifeless mood I’ve been creating in my head for a few weeks now.

As a starter, I’ll haul out my paints and throw some onto a piece of paper or canvas and see what happens. I’ll stop complaining about the state of the world, and sign up to support another group, who like me wants the violence to stop. I’ll bundle up and go walk in the rain, admire the red leaves still hanging on to the Japanese Maple in my garden, and enjoy the antics of a group of robins splashing about in puddles, grateful for not only a long drink of water, but a bath as well.

Encaustic painting, 6 1/4" x 7 1/2", September, 2012

Encaustic painting, 6 1/4″ x 7 1/2″, September, 2012

I’ve always truly believed that life is a work of art; that you can add a dab a bit of color here or there and come up with something much more balanced than the dark days I’ve been messing with.

If we want to change the course of the world or the way the holidays are, we can set an example and provide laughter and joy to each day instead of more darkness. When we turn on those happy holiday lights we dress our homes in, we bring light to world. It’s the same when we create a magnificent painting or write a beautiful poem.

Do you, like me, believe that life is a work of art?

Read the whole of Jill’s blog post here.