Thoughtful Thursday

It’s been a challenging week for sure. I came down with a bad cold that sort of knocked me off my feet. Except, when you’re an adult and have children, you don’t have the option to be down very long. But after as much rest as I could possibly manage, I’m beginning to feel like my normal spunky self again…so I thought I’d jump on here quickly before the NyQuil kicks in (lol).

One thing that has increasingly been on my mind lately is CONTENTMENT.

Contentment is a mental or emotional state of satisfaction maybe drawn from being at ease in one’s situation, body and mind.

I used to primarily associate the idea of being content with material things. If a person is content, they’re less inclined to fill their lives with endless material things. That statement certainly carries some weight. However, I’ve come to realize contentment in more than a few areas of my life and it has brought me a great deal of peace. I no longer feel the need to be surrounded by people to fill any sort of void or uncomfortableness with being “alone”. I’m content with what I have to offer myself in the way of self love and encouragement; no longer yearning for affirmation in one way or another from others. I’m content with just trying my best each day and having faith in what my life has in store without constantly living for the next moment.

Our society thrives off of flaunting their accomplishments, and with the help of social media, provides many outlets on which to do so.  While that may serve as motivation to some, I’m learning the beauty in doing things a little quieter in life and how much satisfaction comes from recognizing areas of personal growth (even if those thoughts never leave my mind or heart).

And on that note, here’s a picture of me and my two biggest sources of contentment (and happiness) in life:

The Appointment 

Walking into that quiet waiting room, I suddenly have the urge to turn around and run. I tell myself I don’t belong here. But I made the appointment and the doctor has set aside this hour to see me. Being the person I am, with an irrational fear of being considered a flake, I take a seat. Staring down at the daunting amount of personal questions I have to put a check mark next to, that “White Coat Syndrome” I developed after my father’s hospital stint sets in full force.

A door opens slowly and an older woman with a kind smile calls me back. We make our introductions, I find a seat, and then she asks the dreaded question: why am I here? This is what I’d been practicing for, all the things I thought I wanted to talk about, all of the emotions I’d been experiencing, culminating into this moment. And suddenly I’m speechless, holding back a flood of tears. This is not what I wanted. I wanted to come in strong and put everything out onto the table in a calculated manner and get some direct answer sprinkled with some constructive criticism, maybe a suggested book to read, and then be on my way.

Once I’ve gathered myself, I began with what I considered to be the most catastrophic, emotionally debilitating event thus far; the death of my father. How abrupt and traumatic the events leading up to his death were; how I felt there was no closure, no way of knowing if he heard what I was saying to him or how I felt about him; dealing with the aftermath of his passing; grieving alongside my child who was old enough to understand the gravity of the situation and close enough to my father to feel a significant void. We talk about grief, what a complex process it is, one that can’t be rushed. I tell her I feel that was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, the event that led to an emotional and mental landslide and a handful of rash decisions.

Naturally, the conversation gravitated toward the next big event, the one I did have control over; the divorce. The guilt pours in. I tell her how difficult it was to have so many people that were once family, turn against me, not knowing both sides of the story that was my marriage. How tough of a pill it was to swallow to be the bad guy, to be cut off completely by people I was invested in for over a decade of my young life. I explain the 180 degree turn my life had taken since then, the overwhelmingly lonely moments of solitude I was faced with when I wasn’t out surrounding myself with strangers in an effort to avoid reality. I tell her why I ran. That relationship wasn’t me. As many times as we’ve heard it said before, I didn’t know who I was. This quote explains it better than I can: “And then she realized she had devoted a whole book to someone who treated her like a footnote. So she put down the pen and stop writing.” ~ Mandy Hale. I stopped writing because I had stopped caring years before. I was slowly worn down with the responsibility, with feeling unappreciated, unexcited, the sting still there deep down from hateful words I had absorbed as a young woman, as well as the embarrassment that came from hiding repeated physical abuse.

In that hour, we covered many of the contributing factors to my current state of anxiety and what some would consider self-destruction. We talked about the unhealthy relationship I was in at the time, the history of dysfunction in the family, my rigorous religious upbringing alongside my immediate family dynamic, and my fears for my children’s future in a split family. We set up another appointment and parted ways.

I realized after that meeting that what we all want: a black-and-white answer, a quick fix, doesn’t usually exist. There is no magical pill that can force us to let go of regret, to teach  us how to redirect our thoughts or how to talk to ourselves in a healthy manner, or to be patient in our relationships with others. That part is completely up to us and determines our commitment to cultivating a life worth living. I was reminded of the value in being heard, and sorting through what’s been accumulating in our minds with the intent of understanding it ourselves and being understood. And just as there is no magical pill or magical word to cure the past and what’s hindering us in the present, there also exists no perfect set of circumstances, no ideal environment in which to be raised. We have all seen imperfection at its finest and endured things that have set us back. We though, are solely responsible for our own happiness and we should never feel guilty or apologetic for taking whatever measures necessary to accomplish this.

And that, my friends, was the start of my journey back to loving life.

“In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you.” ~ Andrea Dykstra

“I’ve changed. Irrevocably. Permanently. My soul is richer and my heart is fuller in brokenness than it ever was without. I’ve learned true despair, and it’s made me learn to appreciate true joy.” ~ Annonymous

Sunset 

As I tip toe on the still hot pavement at the end of another scorching California day, I look to my left to see a familiar sight. The old woman that lives across the street is sitting comfortably on her porch, preparing to watch the sunset…just as she does every single night. I’ve grown so accustomed to seeing her at this time that I never actually stop to wonder how long she’s kept up this routine of hers; what she thinks about while she sits there; or how long it’s been since someone sat there and enjoyed it with her.

If you honestly think about it, how long has it been since you stopped and watched the sunset? Not just snapped a picture of it to post on social media…but actually took in the process of the sun dipping slowly, the colors of the sky changing and intensifying, the air beginning to cool, and the city magically quieting down? For me, it’s been months; since my last vacation. (Funny how it takes a change of location to help us appreciate the things that are already in front of us).

I’ll be the first to admit that my life is quite a bit busier than I’d like. This is due to both circumstance and habit. I’ve worked and taken care of people from such a young age that I struggle with the ability to relax. The majority of my time spent “relaxing” is me sleeping. I do believe, however, that there is something so powerfully therapeutic about that in between phase of our days and our lives; where we are no longer on the go, and yet not entirely shut down either. When we allow our minds to wander and pressures to subside.

As small children, we appreciate the simple things. Bright colors, new noises, familiar faces, a box to play in or keys to jingle. But as life progresses, we slowly lose sight of simplicity and contentment. In this society, we are constantly being enticed and pushed toward bigger/better. Not that I’m insinuating in any way that moving forward in life and having goals is wrong. Self fulfillment and healthy aspirations are vital aspects of life. However, it’s become very evident that for me personally and this generation as a whole, we need to train ourselves to come up for air more often. To become one with the world around us, outside of a screen. To redefine our idea of beauty and to appreciate the things around us that are not man made and can’t be bought.

In a way, I feel like that old woman is richer than most. She spends more quality time with the universe and her own quiet thoughts in a week than the majority of us do in months. At what point in time, in our lives, do we once again embrace the uncomplicated, transparent, “free” treasures in life? I suppose that is up to us.


(I took this from my roof last summer)

“Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens, ever day can end beautifully” ~ Kristen Butler

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing” ~ Camille Pissarro

Friday

It’s Friday morning. The only weekday morning I don’t have my children. This usually means I can wake up to the sunlight peeking through the shades, rather than the sound of fighting over whose bowl of cereal is more full or the nails on chalkboard sound of cartoon characters blaring through the TV. Don’t get me wrong, I love those little monsters with every fiber in my body. But the silence and ease of Friday mornings remains idyllic.

As I listen to music and get ready for my day, I look to the coming weekend with anticipation. I have a few things planned, but for the most part, I’m free (which doesn’t happen often enough). I decide to head to my favorite coffee shop in town. It’s downtown and completely out of my way to work, but I love the place. The inside is too small for the amount of patrons they see on a daily basis; especially on Saturday mornings when people are out enjoying the farmer’s market. What it lacks in size, however, it makes up for in charm. The establishment is a reminder of the small town that this rapidly growing commuter location once was. The young employees are always eager and cheery and dare I say, actually seem to enjoy their job. Their Chai lattes (my drink of choice) taste earthy and robust, unlike the over processed/syrupy concoction Starbucks has to offer. Their bagels are always so fresh and toasted to perfection. It’s just one of those things in life that make me happy, albeit small and seemingly insignificant.

Upon walking in, I see familiar faces. A group of old retired men that sit there every morning chatting about sports and politics. I wonder how many of them consider that the highlight of their day. I’m reminded that no matter our age, we never lose that need to belong, to be in the company of peers. I also see a Grandma sitting with her little Granddaughter, enjoying a drink and something sweet. The smile on both of their faces is so bright that I can’t help but smile myself. They are unsuccessfully taking a “selfie”, so I offer to take their picture for them. The Grandma gladly relinquishes the phone to me and tells me they are having a special “Grandma/Granddaughter Day”. Growing up, I never had Grandparents I was close to and in that quick moment, I was happy to have captured the memory they were making together. How beautiful that life offers us so many different types of relationships to nourish and enjoy.

As I wait for my order, I sit at an empty table next to a middle aged woman. She was probably in her mid to late forties, sitting in yoga pants, reading the newspaper and sipping her perfectly foamed cappuccino. I envied her for a second, sitting there enjoying her morning, with no apparent rush. Suddenly she looks over at me with an endearing smile and says: “I love your outfit; your skirt with those cute sandals….very pretty. I saw you walk in and wanted to tell you.” Those are the best compliments, the random ones….with no ulterior motive, no hesitations. I thanked her and headed off to work.

On my drive I thought about those few minutes in the coffee shop. How many people we come across on a daily basis and how we have the power to impact one another with a smile, a kind word, or gesture. How we are all in different stages of our lives and yet we are all in pursuit of the same basic things. I wondered, too, where I’d be when I was that woman’s age, the one that offered the compliment. Approaching my 30th birthday now, feeling the pressure of having life more “together” than I do at this moment, although not really knowing what that entails. Wondering how I will let the events in my life shape me in the next 15-20 years. Will I let them make me bitter or better?  Will I continue to look for the good in people and in the situations that I am faced with?

On this particular Friday morning, however, I am a young, single, working Mother of two. Like the loving Grandma, the relaxed middle aged woman, and the retired comrade’s, I have something to offer to those around me. With drink in hand and head held high, I’m ready to take on the day; and the world for that matter.

coffee

“Wake up early. Drink coffee. Be ambitious, keep your priorities straight, your mind right, and your head up. Do well, live well, and dress really well. Do what you love, love what you do. It is time to start living.” ~ Anonymous

Friendship

It’s only April, but it feels more like a balmy California summer night….the ones I grew up relishing. All four of our children are in the house playing, dare I say, peacefully. As I sit next to the fire pit in my best friends backyard, sipping some particularly fruity wine, the two of us singing along to the best of 90’s country music (yet another thing we have in common); I feel comfortable. Not just comfortable in the physical sense. Comfortable with the company whose presence I’m in; with where my life is at in this particular moment; and in the sense that I no longer fear the future, even though I have no idea what’s in store. Much of that comfort stems from this friendship.

I suppose it sounds a bit adolescent to refer to someone as your “best friend” when you’re this close to 30. But anything less just won’t suffice. Ever since that first Saturday morning we met for coffee almost 2 years ago, our lives have never stopped merging paths. Perhaps it’s because we were at the same complicated crossroad in our lives. Fresh off of divorce; trying to find the balance between being super (single) mom, and becoming our own person once again. I wouldn’t be able to paint you an accurate picture of my life without mentioning Amber. We are the friends that make no sense but perfect sense all in one. A random adventure, car karaoke, belly laugh, inside joke, human diary, closer than most family, once in a lifetime type of friendship.

In essence, this unexpected friendship has allowed us both to recapture some of those young, careless years we missed when we were thrown into a grown-up world far too soon. We have thrived off of the moments that let us briefly forget the decisions we have made, and those that were made for us that led us here. Two tired, young moms trying to be self-sufficient; trying to manage guilt of varying magnitudes; trying to rebuild our happily ever after. Whether we are picking up each other’s kids because we are in a bind; talking through another broken heart; walking along the streets of San Francisco at 4 AM to get pizza; admiring the fireworks from a beach in Hawaii on the Fourth of July; or freezing our butts off on a late night ferry from Seattle to catch the skyline view from the water……we have learned and we have proven that true friendship makes life worth living. It makes the hard times a little less hard and the good times, amazing.

image

“Close Friends are truly life’s treasures. Sometimes they know us better than we know ourselves. With gentle honesty, they are there to guide and support us, to share our laughter and our tears. Their presence reminds us that we are never really alone.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

For true friendship, I am eternally grateful. For the few people that come along in life exactly when we need them to, and they never leave our side. The ones that help heal our wounds and readjust our thoughts when we’re ready to throw the towel in on life. Here’s to old memories, and those yet to be made with the people that make our days a little brighter, our transitions a little smoother, and our hearts a little fuller.

Perspective

When I initially thought about sharing my writing, my first thought was one of self-doubt. Who would really care to read the things I have to say? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a people person, I have no problem holding interesting conversations. In general, I feel I have a lot to offer others, on an intellectual level, as well as an emotional and empathetic level. However, by most standards, I’ve done nothing spectacular in my life. I have not traveled the world (though I’d love to), I have not endured anything especially horrific or had to overcome any monumental obstacles. I do, however, possess something invaluable. That is my outlook on life, my perception and perspective that are unique because they are all my own.

It is a beautiful thing to know that we wake up every day with the ability to make it a positive one. We choose what we focus our thoughts on, how we interact with others, and how we handle the situations we are faced with. It’s been said “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.” The moment I began to focus on this fact, is the moment I began to feel at peace. Too many nights in my relatively young life have been spent regretting the things I did not accomplish that day, even though I was going to bed mentally and physically drained. Until one day when everything seemed much more simplistic in my head. Did I smile and laugh today? Did I speak to someone I loved today? Did I eat good food, drink clean water and wake up in a comfortable bed? Are my children happy and well cared for?  The answer to all of those questions was of course, yes, every day. Our perspective is a powerful force in our life.

In the words of the intriguing author, Oscar Wilde: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” I’ve chosen to look at the stars, and it is an amazing view.