Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tough Times

Image Source: Stefan G. Bucher, from his book 344 Questions: The Creative Person’s DIY Guide to Insight, Survival and Artistic Fulfillment, as seen at Brain Pickings.

Times are tough. Mt. Hood is burning in Oregon. The stomach flu decided to make itself at home here last week. I’m in a fog of emotion, debating when I should leave for Chicago…in two days? Two weeks? All three of these factors collided to make our first yard sale a bit of a perfect storm on Saturday.

This much I know: turning my eye to gratitude, identifying some of the many blessings around me, always helps. Ten things I'm grateful for at the moment:

1. Happy Mail.

An unexpected envelope on Thursday filled with a delicious treat that I didn't have to share, some organizational eye-candy, and a hand written letter. There are few things better than that.

2. Good friends.

We made money Saturday and got rid of stuff, which is all good but mostly I’m grateful and amazed at the friends who each showed up at just the right time. Faye who showed up just as our 3 year old announced “POOOOP!” to the shoppers, Kathy who helped bring our big bins back into storage, and CeCe who thought to take down signs when it was over, loaded up her vehicle with the remainders for donation, and made me a bit saner by her gift of listening.

3. Learning to ask for and receive help.

Aidan & Bri brought these home to me last Wednesday. They still look great.

Never a forte of mine. Brian told me to send out an email to friends before he left. So very glad I did.

4. Memoirs.

calvinalicetrillinI have Cutting for Stone on my bedside table, and I can tell I’m going to enjoy it, but in my current state of mind I know what I need, my form of comfort food: a good memoir.

Calvin Trillin’s About Alice was exactly what I needed. Except that it was short, so I need another. Please share some of your favorites with me in the comments.

5. the DVR.
No matter how long it takes me to read aloud a chapter of The Goblet of Fire, to get all the boys in bed, and to clean up kitchen, I know Jon Stewart won’t start his show until I’m done. He’s patient like that. The laughs don’t seem as funny without Bri on the couch, but it’s still a very good thing.

6. the telephone.


When we were poor grad students in Tucson, our phone bill was a source of conflict between Brian and me. We didn’t have a car, and our housing came with my job, so the monthly phone bill was easily our biggest expense. I had just left all my close friends in Chicago, and I have five sisters. This was 1991 when few people had email and no one had free long distance.

How ironic that today I could talk for as long as I want for free, but now I normally dread being on the phone.  And yet, this week, I’m grateful for it. Fast and funny conversations with my sister in Texas, long and thoughtful conversations with my soul-sister in Flagstaff, and this morning, the sound of Brian’s voice.

7. Routine & Habits

I have jobs to do and places to get to, and I’m glad for every checklist and schedule that saves me from asking what suddenly seems like the most brain-stumping question imaginable, “What should I do next?”

8. My boys.
Love how Nolie chose to blow a kiss in this photo we sent Brian.

9. Right now.

I made a lot of plans earlier this year for September. A retreat in Colorado, my first 5K, and others that are now not happening. I constantly debate the futility of planning, or whether we are supposed to make plans anyway, regardless of their fruition.

I read somewhere, can't remember where now, that Karen Maezen Miller, whose retreat I'm missing this weekend, recommends looking at your hand right in front of you to remind you to pay attention to what is, rather than what might be. I can overwhelm myself when I think about the next two weeks, or the next month, or the next year. When I bring myself back to what is real, this moment, I am okay.

10. The immediate essentials.

 I love how Bucher’s illustration calls comfort TV/Food/Music the “immediate essentials.”

Mine are: Indigo Girl tunes, bowls of hot popcorn with extra salt, favorite blogs, our secret chocolate stash in the pantry (sometimes just knowing it’s there is more helpful than having any), old romantic comedies,  and the balm of familiar poems.

Here’s a bit of one by T.S. Eliot:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

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