Tag Archives: life

Process

paisley.snake
I listened to a song “The Climb” recently and it started me thinking. (After I stopped laughing about the singer, someone so young and privileged I doubt they have a clue about a real climb. Anyway.

I thought longer and harder about “the climb.” What does it really mean? Is life a climb? A process? Is that why so many people are so miserable when they don’t get what they want immediately (including me?)

“Maybe it depends on what it is you’re seeking,” says Tonya, one therapist I spoke with. “When you have unrealistic expectations, you set yourself up for disappointment.”

“So what are realistic expectations?” I asked, searching for definitive answers.

“If you don’t have a degree in Business Administration, and no actual working management experience, it isn’t realistic to apply for a CEO position in a Fortune 500 corporation,” Tonya explained, “But if you’ve made an effort to educate yourself beyond just acquiring a degree, pursued a specific career goal, then you can use that to show your unique initiative when you apply for a management position. You have to make decisions about what you ultimately want-not just more money, and all right now.”

“OK, I see how that applies to job seekers, but what about happiness?”

“Happiness isn’t a destination, its part of the journey, like sadness, frustration, hunger, joy, anxiety…the journey of life is a process.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that you can’t have everything you want right this minute, and that’s not a bad thing.” Tonya smiled as she explained.

Savor the process, another person told me. He’s an artist and is working on something all the time.
“I don’t worry about how long it takes me to finish a painting,” he says, “I like the feel of the brush on the canvas. I like mixing paints. I like stretching canvas. I love the process. If you don’t love process, you’re going to be frustrated with most things in life, I think.”

“Think about process in everything,” a new mother told me, “I get up in the middle of the night to a crying baby, a terrible odor. I never get a ‘thanks for my bottle, Mom,’ when I stumble into my baby’s bedroom at 2am. I listen to his wails and I’ve learned to identify the difference between ‘I’m hungry, I’m wet, I’m lonesome and what’s going on out there?’ And I love it all because I accept the process. My other child, my 5 year old daughter, helps me prepare dinner, change the baby, plant vegetables, feed the cats… and no, it isn’t as fast as I could do it myself, but she’s learning to be a person, not just a creature that needs entertainment! She drops things in the kitchen. and we clean it up together. I don’t have to have everything perfectly aligned, or just so. My children depend on me to teach them how to be independent, responsible human beings. Nothing significant happens in an instant. I make myself stop occasionally, even when I’m changing a diaper, and consciously acknowledge what I’m doing. That’s how I figured out what process means.”

So now, I am actively catching myself “in process.” I don’t try to hurry up and get dinner on the table. I cut the vegetables and boil water for tea and think about what foods taste good with what other foods. I experiment. That also means I miss a lot of TV. On purpose. Life is not TV. I’m watching and listening, I’m paying attention. Process means paying attention. It’s interesting, this idea of process. It makes almost every activity more interesting, more meaningful. It also reduces stress because I’m not panicking.

I even manage work better- I’m paying attention to what I’m doing, not thinking about what I have to do next. At first, I’m slower because it’s a new behavior, but I eventually become faster because I’m focused. And I enjoy everything a lot more. At the end of the day, I feel a sense of accomplishment rather than feeling that I hadn’t done enough. Process means there will always be more to do.

This week, make a conscious effort to stop what you’re doing-whatever you’re doing-at least once a day and really pay attention. Listen to your wife, husband, children. Really listen, don’t try to formulate answers while they’re talking. Look at the color of their hair, the way their mouth shapes the words. At least once this week stop and experience the process of life, of living. It’s over much too quickly.

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Bits of broken shell

broken.shellsI walked the long, isolated stretch of beach early one morning before the  couples hand-in-hand, or young families eager to explore the limitless playground. Just me, sandpipers and gulls. My bare toes gripped the sand. The tide, quirky and cold washed over my feet, leaving beige sea-foam on my ankles.

By the time I returned, I’d picked up a shopping bag full of shell pieces, yellow and ochre and pink conch worn by the sand and water. I like the remnants best. Perfect shells are beautiful and make intriguing subjects to draw and paint. But I always feel guilty, wondering if the animal that lived there died to give up that perfect shell  into the hands of divers who sell to tourists.

The shells I find on the beach, the ones Nature has deposited at the edge of the Ocean, broken and worn and empty, seem more of a gift, something to remind me of the beauty and capriciousness of the natural world.

It occurred to me as I laid them on the deck railing to dry that we are like those remnants.

The color and form are unique to each shell, the result of its individual journey. Like all of us. We may start from the same place – or seemingly similar circumstances – but by the time we find a resting place on the beaches of our lives we are unique. Broken and re-shaped into something individual and, like the shells lined up on the deck, achingly beautiful.

I stood at the edge

of the ocean

Breathing the solitude

Of sunrise.

I thought,

We are part of this,

like shells brought in

And carried out

On the moving, breathing ocean.

I held a shell in my hands,

Closed my fingers over

Its smooth curving surface.

I thought of you.

roadblocks

The date for the art show looms closer and it seems everything that can go wrong has…and, no, I’m not surprised!

It’s even difficult writing since I sliced my finger a couple of nights ago. The bandage makes me hit several keys at once so my poor typing is really crappy now. Bear with me, please?

My car died a sudden and violent death on I-26 as I was coming back from dropping art at the photographer’s. It was as if I suddenly STOMPED on the brakes. I did have a couple of seconds of shuddering before the big STOMP so I put on my turn signal and began easing off the road – the truck behind me knew something was up so luckily he managed to get in the passing lane-the truck behind him went around on my right side, on the shoulder. Miraculously, there wasn’t an accident. I couldn’t get the car all the way off the road. A man stopped and told me to put it in neutral so he could push it off. I tried to explain that it wasn’t going anywhere-when he couldn’t push it, he gave up and told me to get out of the car because someone was going to hit me. Heavy traffic and everyone going 70+ made his statement a fact. Another man who was with the work crew I had passed earlier (in another life-when my car MOVED when I pressed the gas pedal) and pulled me off the road.

I called AAA. It only took a little more than an hour for them to get there…and anyone who has had car trouble knows the rest of the story-inconvenience, dirty looks from drivers who obviously have never had car trouble. Yeah, I thought, I made my car stop in traffic so I could wait out here in this heat just to inconvenience you by making you slow down to 60. Yeah, this is FUN!

Anyway, I have no money; of course, I have been paying for a website, photography, supplies, etc., trying to get my art business going. I have a full time job that doesn’t pay much so I have been skating from paycheck to paycheck, hoping that if I can make enough really good stuff this could be my “breakout” show since I have the website and professional photos to submit to other shows and galleries…and the show is the 19th. I’m almost there.

Almost there. The work I’m making is good. New designs are swimming in my head every night when I settle down to sleep. Almost there.

If I can hang on until this show, even if I don’t sell a single damn thing, I will feel as if I have gotten over some kind of huge roadblock, the kind the Universe sets up to keep you in your comfort zone-and if you can get past it you can move on. Grow.

I won’t go into great, depressing details about the roadblocks that have littered my path the past few years-along the way I have lost everything except my need to write and make art. It is, literally, all I have. Send me positive energy, reader; help me get over, past, and though, this roadblock.

A life well lived

A biography about Clint Eastwood  impressed me with his body of work and it made me think of other well known people whose work I have admired; Clint Eatswood, Robert Duvall, AnaiisNin, Meryl Streep, Eudora Welty, John Steinbeck, Mother Theresa…

The list of famous people goes on and on-people whose creative output or extraordinary acts makes them household names. People held up as examples of lives well lived, who we would name as role models, people whose lives we would emulate.

What I want to do here is remark on those people whose names are not well known-but whose lives are closer to our own. People that you know yourself, if you look and listen.  People whose lives are not observed as anything special by those around them because they aren’t on TV-they aren’t famous.

Let’s make them famous.

CNA’s who work for $8 an hour and really do care about their patients. If you have a family member in a nursing home, or have spent any time in a hospital, you know how rare they are. And how unsung their work. They spend the most time with the patient, make sure the Nurse knows what’s going on with each one so the Nurse can advise the Doctor. And the pay rate goes up the ladder that way. The person spending the least time with the patient makes the most money. I won’t comment any more on that in this blog-I don’t want to get off track.

I worked with a girl at a convenience store who had little education but a golden heart and sunny disposition. She had finished high school but there was no money for college-and no, she couldn’t get a loan. Her father was long gone and her mother made minimum wage. Her mother had urged her to marry her high school sweetheart-so she did. When she found out she was preganant (and yes, they had used birth control. It isn’t 100% effective) he kissed her and left for his factory job. He never came home.

She is raising her son alone, on a convenience store wage, and working with him every night to learn his ABC’s. “He is not going to end up like me,” she vows.

There is man on my street whose wife is dying. Cervical cancer. She refuses to empty thier small savings for treatment she knows won’t make her well. They fought about it a little, but she won. “Hey,” she told me, “What’s he gonna do? Leave me?” She laughs about this, he shakes his head and they spend as much tiem together as they can. He was laid off from his job a few weeks ago. He is looking for work, willing to take anything. The neighbors have given him mechanic work (he is a master mechanic) paying him to change their oil, fix the odd dent and anything else he can handle in his own garage. The neighbors, here, are as much part of this blog as this couple who are facing the end of their lives together without even being able to go on a last vacation together (they always planned to see Paris when they retired.)

I could go on and on. So can you.

People who work for $8 an hour and check their bank balance every day to make sure nothing has bounced. People who make it to work early and stay late to finish the job, those who get up in the night to care for a sick child/partner/parent and get up again to make it to work on time.

People who stop to help an injured animal, drop a coin into a cup without demanding to know where it’s going, people who clean their own houses, cook their family’s meals and do it with a loving heart.

All of these people live ordinary lives in extraordinary circumstances. I tip my hat and say “Thank you.”