“Earth is crammed with heaven.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
There are certain days that it doesn’t feel like earth is crammed with heaven. Many days, we are reminded of loss. If not our own, others. Death of a sister, a dad, a grandma this past two weeks. It’s been a year and a half and not a day goes by that I don’t miss Dad. And loss grows heartfelt empathy for others when they enter where you’ve been.
And at the same time, others are experiencing great joy. The innocent child-like anticipation of Christmas. And there in lies the essence of life – the weaving of struggle and delight, loss and gain. A pendulum of sorts.
The passing of time brings a certain acceptance and perhaps even a bit of peace. And in the loss, we gain a new appreciation for the moment, for forgiveness, for letting go, for loving without condition. Even in the dark, light remains constant, ready to slowly pull us back into the earth that is crammed with heaven when we are ready to re-enter.
So as Christmas is at our doorstep again, be light for those who are amidst loss and grief. Show them that even in the struggle, joy can and must co-exist so it can lead us back to our new normal, to our next self. Be the window to a bit of heaven for another.
“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” – Norman Vincent Peale
“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” ― David Steindl-Rast
There is always something to be grateful for. Always. And the fruit of gratitude is joy. Slow down, take a breath and fully receive the blessings planted throughout each day. What is right in front of us is so often what we miss. Open your eyes and heart.
Jeanne gave me a grateful sign for my birthday. I put it in the living room right next to the television so I can’t miss it. Don’t miss the signs and follow accordingly.
“We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart.” ― David Steindl-Rast
“Calendars and clocks exist to measure time, but that signifies little because we all know that an hour can seem as eternity or pass in a flash, according to how we spend it.” – Michael Ende
We measure our years with birthdays, but we experience the soul of life in moments. As we grow older and time moves faster, we discover that our cup is over flowing when we measure the right things. And the hot pursuit of position and accumulation of stuff comes up empty. Less really is more. Depth over distance. Connection over chaos. Quality over quantity.
Beauty, spring, winter, loss, light, dark, laughter, tears, delight all merge into a tapestry of color and pattern that is all our own yet we share the same journey that takes us each down different paths. The gains and losses. The joy and trials. A thousand hellos and two thousand good-byes. All of it binds together to shape us and prepare us for what’s next.
So as I celebrate my 53 years on earth today and Abby’s 1 year, I am mindfully aware and grateful for all of my blessings that came with many sunrises and sunsets, of days filled with joy and even the ones with the seemingly endless challenges. The authentic life has it all.
Ride the jet ski at 81, throw the ball (again and again) and never lose your sense of humor. And above all, be kind. And that includes to yourself. Cast light, measure the right things and choose abundance and joy.
“Only in spontaneity can we be who we truly are.” – Mahavishnu John McLaughlin
When an opportunity arises that is spontaneous and a bit frivolous, do it. And then do it again. These are the experiences that create golden memories and remind us of what’s most important in life.
One of those opportunities arose this past weekend when I was in Chicago for a meeting and then stayed an extra day to meet up with my best friends Sharon and Tim from California who were going to South Bend for the Notre Dame vs. USC football game.
“Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.” – Henry Miller
The older I get the more I treasure time with those who mean the most to me. And I never want to let “common sense” to ever stop me from staying engaged and chasing joy.
Each day, be open to spontaneity and act on it. Create those golden moments.
Lately, I’ve been listening to the songs of one of my favorite artists, Mary Chapin Carpenter. The lyrics and notes are like a warm blanket, comforting and familiar. One of my favorite lines from The Jubilee – “When we look back and say those were halcyon days we’re talking ’bout jubilee.” Halcyon is defined as a period of peace and happiness; an idyllic time.
We so often look back longing for what was because we miss the beautiful fabric of each day while we are busily on our way to the next thing. May we all realize and deeply appreciate our hacyon days and moments while we are right in the middle of them. So we can be doubly blessed now and when we look back in fondness for what was and a renewed hope for what is to come. Simple moments make up our halcyon days. Simple moments.
“If you are paying attention, then the day is going to be pretty joyful, and a lot of delight will fill it.” – Greg Boyle
“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” – George A. Moore
Home is not only place. It goes beyond place. Home is people, pups, (cats even), safety, warmth, belonging and place. Savor and pursue those moments of silliness, light and joy. Conversations with friends, connections, eyes that meet and look well beyond the surface.
That’s home and what makes life not only tolerable but wonderful. Ordinary moments that transform us and make life extraordinary. We too often succumb to dull and despair without ever giving delight a chance to show its face.
Savor all that is and hold tightly only to now, releasing the past and future to depth of being present in this very moment.
“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.” – Mother Teresa
“There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Breathless, we flung us on a windy hill, Laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass.” – Rupert Brooke
You know you’re having fun when you have a grass stain on your head and a smile ear to ear. When is the last time you had a good grass stain and a hearty smile? Too long for me I must say.
Lighten up and take it all with a bit less seriousness. Too much worry, too much work and no play makes our days drudgery. Our regrets will center on not being in the moment when it was happening and realizing the joy that was ours for the taking. “Someday” is an excuse to put off your life.
Schedule time each day to search out a good grass stain and a smile that sprouts from within.
“A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world.” – Leo Buscaglia
It’s been a wonderful week witnessing Abby and Sasha bond and become best of friends. There’s a glean in their eyes and bounce in their step. I’ve taken their lead as well.
When walking Abby and Sasha a few days ago, Abby started taking Sasha’s leash a block from home to guide her in. Today, Sasha started to do the same for Abby as well. It was very sweet.
“Of all possessions a friend is the most precious.” – Herodotus
We are on this journey together and have the opportunity, perhaps even the obligation, to walk by each other’s side and guide each other home.
Be a good friend to those you know and kind to those who cross your path who may need a friend. Take the leash.
“The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” – Henry Miller
Abby is six months now and getting sweeter by the day. She went to the vet today to get spay. A bit tired and worn, she came out with the cone so she wouldn’t open up the wound. It takes a while to get used to it. A few stumbles and underestimating the width of the cone, she hit a few walls. And then she figured it out.
The cone makes you look up and be aware of your surroundings to maneuver. No way to have your head down like we do staring at our phone to respond immediately to the next work email emergency or ridiculous request that’s needed “ASAP.”
Nope, when you have the cone on, you keep your head up, rapt with attention and mighty aware of all that is in right now, here in front of us.
Next invention! Cones for humans.
“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” – Brene Brown
For some reason I didn’t bring my phone when I took Abby for a walk this morning. We went down to the playground a few blocks from our house on the way back. As we walked quietly, three deer came out from the woods 20 feet away. Abby sat and watched as the leader leapt with ease and grace and the other two followed with joy and delight.
I believe in signs and signals. My thoughts immediately went to seeing Dad, Molly and Lily coming down from heaven for a brief moment to let me know there’s more. There’s more to this life and there’s more, so much more after we leave. Sure puts things in perspective.
I’ve been struggling with a few things lately. Probably making them bigger than they should be or avoiding them for a long time and they are showing themselves telling me to deal with them now. For so many years, Dad was my sounding board to talk through things, kindred spirits who could say anything to each other. I’ve been missing that every day.
Seeing the three deer this morning reminded me that he remains with me and whatever decisions that I make will be based on years of our conversations and how he shaped so much of who I am today.
In lieu of not capturing a photo on my phone of the three amigos in the woods this morning, I am posting one of my favorite photos of Dad. One that shows a youthful joy, free from the weight of this life and the weight we put on ourselves in this life.
There’s more. Delight in it. Every single day.