“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” – John Milton
I found this card and wanted to keep it as a reminder that the line from A to B in this life is not straight, no matter how much we prepare, worry and plan. We forget to find joy in each day in pursuit of someday, the next thing and perfection. Rather than keeping it, I gave it to a friend at work for her birthday. I thought it was an excellent birthday reminder to celebrate the other 364 days during the year, not worrying about the detours, potholes and traffic on the path. Enjoy the daily journey, no matter what course you’re on right now.
Life is short and we realize that when we have less of it left. Figure that out early and start enjoying the journey today. We get distracted about the details of the map and struggles along the way that we miss the beautiful scenery on the path.
The swirls on the journey are often the sweetest moments. And we miss them thinking that we should be somewhere else. Slow down, see today and enjoy the swirls that always get us to our right destination. Follow the signs and signals in your heart rather than loud distracting horns of the world.
The journey always makes sense going backwards. Flip that truth and know that the path you’re on will make sense someday. Enjoy your forwards while you are present in them.
Practice 360 degree gratitude for where you’ve been, where you are and the promise of where you’re going. Enjoy the your journey, swirls and all.
“No despair of ours can alter the reality of things, nor stain the joy of the cosmic dance, which is always there. – Thomas Merton
I had a different post ready on pruning, cutting the dry branches for the good of the whole. But I was compelled to change the topic based on conversations, exchanges and observations today. It feels like a pep talk is in order to offer hope, hold out a hand and cast light rather than offer insight and analysis.
Each one of us will face depths that we can never explain, plan or prepare for but must walk through. No one is immune from the side effects of daily living.
A grandmother who suddenly fades and lands delicately on the pivot point of life and death. A halt in our daily activities from an injury that makes it painfully difficult to stand, to walk with ease. And then the regular old self-centered, ego driven actions of humans.
And despite the noise and chaos, there remains an anchor, an unshakable foundation of hope in a friend who listens without giving advice, in an encouraging word and smile that says “I’ve been there and it’s going to be o.k.”
So if you are in that spot right now, hold tight and go through it. Don’t try to take a shortcut or bypass the depth. It won’t work and you won’t stay there. The other side is always waiting for you to arrive when the time is right and the proper work is complete. And if you are not in that spot right now, assume the person next to you is and be kind.
The cosmic dance knows the song so stop trying to lead. Simply let go, follow the steps and dance.
On Ash Wednesday, February 17, 1999, I went to mass at the St. Paul Cathedral and came back to the office to a voicemail from the Doctor. The previous Friday, I went in to have a mole on my right arm checked because it was itchy and changing color. They took a biopsy. I had gone to the clinic in early January, but there was no Doctor available so the nurse measured it and I came back for in February for the biopsy. I called the clinic back asking for Jan who wasn’t available. The operator asked for my name and immediately said hold on and I’ll get Jan. At that point, I figured Jan and I weren’t about to exchange our favorite recipes. Jan came on the line and told me she made an appointment for me on Friday to come in for a wide excision (cut it out) – “you have melanoma.”
I sat quietly in my chair at my office for a few minutes and then started to make calls to my family – tough calls. Blew off work (still need to do more of that), went to the Mall of America to watch an afternoon movie and hang out with family to pass the next 48 hours.
Friday comes. I go in ready to get this thing done and move on only to be told that it wasn’t a in office procedure since in the month between appointments, it went from Stage 1 to 3 of 5. They needed to schedule a hospital visit to do a sentinel node where they put dye in the area of the mole and track it for a few hours to see if the cancer spread to the lymph nodes by putting a big metal door next to your face to take pictures for 10-minute stints. If it did, then the procedure is to be put fully under, dig deep into the arm and then take some lymph nodes.
This appointment was yet another month later in March. Waiting was fun. Sure enough, three lymph nodes came back suspicious so they cut deep into my armpit to remove and test those little buggers, which then determines the post-surgery treatment plan. My wake up requests were a diet Mountain Dew and Hot Tamales and my wish was granted as we waited for the results. Most excellent news – the lymph nodes came back negative so no chemo or radiation. Regular visits to the dermatologist and hold out for that 5 year mark which is a great anniversary in cancer land.
Fast forward 7300 days – two decades later – and I celebrate 20 years cancer free. My story was a lucky one. I have many friends and family who had to do chemo, radiation and experimental drugs in the past two decades. Some haven’t won the battle.
I’ve decided to frame the celebration in days rather than decades as a reminder to be live and be present in each day because they quickly add up to decades and we don’t know where they’ve gone when we don’t participated fully in each day.
The most valuable gift that cancer gave me is an acute awareness of the brevity and fragility of life. The result is a shift in perspective to lighten up and take all the chaos that life throws at us much less seriously and know that there’s more to the story than we know.
A few more lessons: Enjoy each day and laugh. Judge less and love more. Tune out negativity. Let go. Keep learning. Age is number, stay young by being active. Pray, a lot. Keep trying. Worry less. Ask for help. Offer help even when it’s not asked for. Be kind. Change the stories that you tell yourself that hold you back. Feed, cultivate and activate faith, hope and joy. Let God be God – He’s got it and doesn’t need my help to screw up the plan. I do forget all of this often, but always return when I get off track. Returning home to all that’s real and true, that which I know deep in my soul that quietly whispers to me – “come back home, keep unfolding”.
So how does all of this lead to the picture of a snow blower? We’ve been throttled with snow this winter. We now get to win the most snow in February award in Minnesota. Spike the football – we win! Last night, on my second round of snow blowing the dense pile of snow at the end of the driveway from the snow plow, the snow blower didn’t start. Damn it! We’re going to be getting more snow and buying a new snow plow now when they are in demand is not the best purchasing decision. Buying a lawn mower would be good now since it’s going to be 6 months for the snow to melt. I picked up the old shovel and started digging. That’s what we need to do when an obstacle pops up – shut up, stop complaining, dig in and keep moving.
As I shoveled in the quiet dark evening, it occurred to me that I bought that snowblower 20 years ago with my Dad after I had surgery and couldn’t move my right arm for a month while the incision healed. A few days after my surgery, we got dumped on with 12 inches of snow. My Dad and neighbor dug me out. At that point, it was time for the snowblower. I think about my Dad every time I start that snow blower and so I wanted to take a photo to capture and hold that memory if the snowblower is going to the snowblower cemetery.
Long story today, but short lesson – enjoy your days, all 7300 of them. Go deeper and be present today. Each day adds up to make up your life. No do overs. Keep going.
“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.” – Neil Gaiman
Each morning, set the tone for the day. This requires quiet to be able to contemplate, to see the beautiful forest rather than be lost in the trees. Decide what song you will sing and if you will dare to even dance. There are a lot of distractions, so you must make a conscious decision if you will sing and dance or if you will merely get through.
“Have tos” and “should’ve beens” are joy thieves. And we don’t realize that we’ve been robbed until we’ve wasted many days that turn into years. Struggle is certain, our response is not.
So remain in this day and give it your best voice and step. That is what we are called to do, especially when we don’t “feel” like it. Our joy is not in some far off land or mythical future when everything falls in place. It’s right now, this moment, today.
And when you sing your song and dance your dance, you give others permission to do the same.
My best friends and roommates Sasha and Abby know how to dance to be sure. Ear-flapping freestyle.
“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” – Wayne Dyer
“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” – Margaret J. Wheatley
“What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action” – Meister Eckhart
Sometimes doing nothing is everything. Time for reflection, no rushing, just being. We spend down our “back account” unaware until we are depleted. Withdraw after withdraw, going faster, winding up nowhere, running on empty.
Take it off autopilot and take back the wheel of your days. Start planting, making deposits each day so you can harvest a good life.
“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.” – Eleonora Duse
“Rejoice in the things that are present; all else is beyond thee.” – Michel de Montaigne
I imagine that we will get to the end of our days and realize that we did not rejoice enough. Simple delight, arms up in the air, cognizant of the many opportunities for joy before us each day.
We will regret acts and words unsaid as well as the unkind ones that were spoken. What we considered so utterly important will fade to nothingness and the measure of our life will be how kind we were and how much we loved, unconditionally.
Rejoice today and carry on each day so when you look back it will be with a deep sense of gratitude and completion, knowing in your soul that the treasure of your life was well spent. Rejoice.
“It’s a deep joy that comes from making intentional choices about how we’re going to live our lives despite our circumstances. Despite the darkness of our circumstances, joy does come in the morning.” – Laura Story, When God Doesn’t Fix It: Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn, Truths You Can’t Live Without
One of my favorite musicians whose music speaks honestly and authentically to the heart and spirit is Laura Story. Her song Blessings shifts my narrow view every time. One line that stands out – “what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise.” I am finishing her book on the many trials in her life and one concept hit the mark – “joy that contradicts circumstances.”
It’s easy to be upbeat and happy in the good times. It contradicts all we think we know doing the same when we are amidst the trials we all have. We should be downtrodden, we have reason, we have cause. But when we allow God’s joy to enter our hearts, it simply transcends all reason and is filled with contradictions. It’s simply unreasonable and unfathomable. And that’s why God doesn’t make sense and is the only thing that makes any sense at the same time.
Be unreasonable and radical. Choose joy that contradicts circumstances. Joy blooms every morning, breath the beauty in, accept joy.
“In contradiction and paradox, you can find truth.” – Denis Villeneuve
“Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.” – John Muir
Reflection and remembering are the stepping stones on the path of gratitude and awe. A simple walk in the woods can transform our minds and surface our spirit. Rather than busily moving through time we become immersed in it, unaware of the clock and deep in the moment.
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
In quiet repose, we move from reaction and positioning to creation and mere being. Amidst the waving trees, in the rhythm of the stream, in the heart of the meadow, we are called to enter and join the sweet harmony of nature. Eternal youth flows uninhibited and free for the taking.
“The days are long, but the years are short.” – Gretchen Rubin
Today is the one year anniversary of my Dad passing away. Pictures, stories and memories flood my mind every day. Lots of tears and laughter this last year, more tears I think. Missing will never go away and gratitude for our relationship grows deeper.
I loved, appreciated and respected him while he was here and even more so now that he’s not. Yet even though he’s gone, he shows up in so many ways. In expressions, in places, in people, so he remains in the fabric of each day. Perfect by no means and none of us are but a man of integrity, faith and resilience. I carry what he taught me and try to be and do my best, again, not perfect by any means.
So hug your loved ones a bit longer today. Be grateful and find laughter in each and every single day. Celebrate and laugh more. Life is very good and we need to discover that daily so we can live a full and joyful and sometimes difficult life. Sometimes, the days are long and most definitely, the years are short.
“Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” – Victor Hugo
My great nephew Liam who’s six months old actually smiles when I sing, so naturally, I sing. I downloaded a few show tunes this week to add some “depth” to my performances of made-up songs – Singing in the Rain, Good Morning and Oklahoma. A little Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds go a long way.
Music, art, prose pull us beyond our routine daily-ness to a higher calling of simple delight and soulful connection. Feeling out of sorts? Pick up an umbrella and start dancing and singing in the rain.