About two years ago I missed an opportunity: I could have crashed a party! Wish I had done it, although my Howard would probably not have approved. (Not that How did not love a party, he was just more polite and traditional than I. )He was not here, however, and I totally could have done it. To connect with people, even strangers, would have been a fun diversion, a new challenge.
My neighbors up the street, folks I hadn’t met yet, were having a summer afternoon get together. People of all ages were playing in the yard, I could hear their happy squeals. Cars lined the street. I was SO tempted, but my inner mom said “No child, don’t do it”, so I didn’t. I would do things differently now. What’s the worst that could happen? They could throw things and run me off, an unlikely circumstance! It would have been worth the risk, just to meet the folks, oudoors in their yard. And meeting the folks always cheers me up.
Life can be brutal sometimes. Since we are pretty much stuck on this plant with eachother, we need to learn how to better get along. Anger has become widespread. Holding grudges does not serve us well, collectively or individually. We can learn to put aside pride and stop festering over perceived offenses! Then we can begin building bridges to our neighbors and experience more love.
Here are a few suggestions that have helped me improve my attitide and my life:
– Discover a new healthy snack. For me it was nuts, unsalted.
– Get outdoors
– Bond with an animal. My cat’s innocence rubs off on me, although he can be a little manipulative!
– Forgive someone from the heart, with or without words. You’ll feel your blood pressure drop instantly.
– Accept stress as a part of life. I recall someone once said “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”
– Take a nap: no guilt and no apologies.
– Share an old family recipe with a new friend. These are heirlooms! Just reading through them together can cement a friendship and motivate us to have fun in the kitchen.
– Trust God. Study the Bible to find evidence of God’s love for us. For example, I was excited whenI stumbled on this:
“And it shall come to pass, that before they call I will answer and while they are yet speaking I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24
My cat, Tigger, has great wisdom. He doesn’t talk but he shows me things, even when asleep. One of his favorite mottos (and mine) is: “A nap is an investment in the future”.
Another thing he’s been teaching me is how to FOCUS. Tigger only concentrates on one thing at a time — food, birds, nap, play — giving it his all. I enjoy watching Tigger leisurely study my yard, his wild half acre. After fifteen minutes or so of that I may turn my attention to something else, but Tigger is learning and processing the whole time, even longer. I imagine his brain is full of big plans before he falls asleep.
The other day he brought me a bird, a live and uninjured bird! He was focused on it as it beat its way to the ceiling. I was focused too, finding a towel to throw over it so I could take it outdoors. But Tigger remembered and looked for the bird inside for half an hour.
I know I make things way too complicated, and so become distracted. I dont stay on task. In the morning I do address coffee first thing, and prayer. After that I can become consumed thinking about chores and bills. The other day, however was different. I had recently received a request to paint a picture of a lady’s house, a special thrill! She had sent me a few photos via text message, so I had what I needed to make small preliminary sketches. I started right in around ten and accomplished a lot in a short time. Then I had a better attitude about those chores still facing me. So I’ve learned that if I front load my day with creative activity, even a few minutes worth, it focuses the rest of my day and makes me glad. Thanks Tigger.
Many years ago, I was chatting with a coworker about art. During the conversation he said, “I think only two things really matter in life: Creative endeavor and Service to Others.” I don’t recall his exact words, but this is close. I remember thinking back then, I am totally in agreement about creativity, but not so certain about service to others. I thought it was good and all, but to make that my focus? I wasn’t sure. Well, that was then. Today I find that service to my community is exciting and rewarding. I think the reason has something to do with getting my mind off myself. As for creativity? What could be more creative than finding new ways to serve my community? It gives me opportunities to learn, to meet new people and to stretch myself! And getting me out of the house is no small part of the benefit. Today it gives me a thrill to be able to take on a new project and to follow through.
I am big on community these days. This is not only because I like people, but because there are real benefits for me. I get to meet new folks and learn new skills. I broaden my social horizon and find out more about my community.
It occurs to me lately that we all suffer from a distortion of reality due to scale. We usually interact with a limited number of people, over the course of a week or a month. Unless we make an effort to expand, this human quantity can remain the same for years! When that happens, we can make unwarranted assumptions about our community. We may think we know our neighbors when we really do not. Perhaps this is one way prejudice arises – from ignorance.
I don’t want my world to shrink, but to expand, especially now that I am older and retired. Meeting new people is exciting! Community service is one way to accomplish this.
I worked outside our home for many years, and except for the commuting, I enjoyed it. I held a variety of jobs and learned a new skill at each one. I met all sorts of people. That aspect has proven to be the most valuable, over the years. I was shy growing up, but got over it once I began working. There was so much to learn, and this required interacting with folks.
I changed jobs often. The reason for that was because I worked in a field — engineering — where it was more expedient to hire temps than permanent employees. As a result, there arose the phenomenon of “job shops”, agencies devoted to finding and hiring skilled engineering support people and paying them well. I was happy to discover that my drawing ability could finally land me a decent job. Only problem was, as I mentioned, these jobs were temporary. The many changes proved benficial for me, however. I learned to be flexible and to communicate with all kinds for people. It turned out to be kind of fun, except for the interruptions in income.
This is meant to encourage you, as well. If you are out of work right now, don’t despair. I have been down that road many times. You have value for your next employer! Try this: Write yourself a letter bragging on all your positive qualities. Are you great at math? Are you a whiz at organizing things (people, tasks)? Are you a talker who can sell anything? Do you enjoy young children and relate well to them? Can you multitask? Do you write well? You clearly don’t need all these qualities, but you do need to recognize what you have and celebrate it. Include a section for actual job experience, too. Once you have your list, find a family member or a good friend to talk to about it. Ask for suggestions. Don’t be scared, their opinions are not the final word, and they may have some good ideas.
You may need additional training in some area. Don’t feak out! This is true for most of us. You have your list of wonderful qualities and skills to encourage you. See about talking to someone at the state Employment Commission, a professional who can help guide you into an area where you may need training. Such a counselor can also guide you to work areas where you may be a fit. And this consultation is free. Happy hunting!
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18
I once mentioned this to a friend, another widow.
“I don’t know how that could be,” she replied, referring to the the initial command.
Me either, at the time. Still I couldn’t stop thinking about how this is God’s will for me. I decided to give it a try, and deliberately thanked God for my life from Him, all of it. My eyes and heart were opened and I became actually thankful! Wow.
Now, during the several years since my losses, I am seeing wonders in my life. I have a new purpose and a goal, and these bring me joy. I am writing about a grief journey on which Jesus accompanies me – Hope and a Future! Who knows how many people may be helped?
Giving thanks is an act of will. It’s not based on my feelings. Once I got ahold of that idea, I was able to do it, and God provided the rest. The benefits are many – a closer walk with Jesus, deeper contentment, a new sense of purpose. These developed over time, as my faith grew.
I now relax and trust that God is caring for me and directing every aspect of my life. Gratitude is a faith builder.
I’ve now had both the required vaccinations to protect me against covid19. The first shots were administered at a a local university and the lines were long. I’m guessing there were a thousand of us waiting both indoors and outside on a drizzly day in March.
Surprisingly, the whole experience showed me how polite and goodnatured people can be! Complaints were minimal and rudeness was nonexistent. Some folks were joking with eachother. Sometimes they were breaking out of line to chat with eachother. The most remarkable person of all was a young man with his grandma who may have been six years old. He stood in line with us for over four hours and never fussed! (He wore a Spider Man hoodie, and I did see him gazing up at a light pole as if he longed to climb it. ) Later on, as we were still in line, I told his grandma I had noticed his patience and I wouldn’t complain since he was such a trooper. A man waiting in a wheelchair was happy to break the monotony and chat with a youngster, so they smiled and chuckled about the red hoodie.
I looked around with a growing sense of pride. These were all my neighbors, perhaps a thousand of them. Folks I never see all together at once. I’d been in line a couple of hours before this occurred to me, a fine and cheering thought!
So here is another unopened envelope on top of my pile. Better tend to it now. Well look, it’s from Help Heal Veterans, a support group that Howard used to participate in. They do one thing: provide therapy kits which allow veterans to use their hands and minds. This activity encourages them and helps them heal in many ways, even saving their lives. Today, because of isolation resulting from the current quarantine, demand for these kits has exploded.
I got choked up as I read through the many thank-you messages from veterans. They are so grateful that they’re not forgotten. Their messages are short, like this one from Taylor:
“Coming home from Iraq was even harder than being there. The therapy kits have helped me more than I can say.”
“I’ve been hospitalized four times. The therapy kits you sent pulled me through.” – Anne
How amazing to realize that such a simple program means so much!
If you would like to be involved, go to www.HealVets.org. Oh – if you makea donation by March 30, they will double it!
A few months ago I created a post called “Coffee” about the pleasures of sharing coffee with a friend. Today it occurs to me that I can enjoy similar pleasures when I’m alone, just me, with my hopes and dreams and a cup of joe.
It’s been decades since I lived in Richmond, yet most of those memories are as bright as the adventures I enjoyed back then. I was telling my son about them the other day, and mentioned that I’d like to visit some of the places I never did while living there – Tredegar, the Canal Walk, Brown’s Island – yet which he has visited with friends many times in recent years! So, now I have something to plan for.
Are you alone? Treat yourself to a little private pleasure that God provides. There are only a couple of rules: no negative thoughts, no paperwork chores. Let your thoughts wander like a child. Then plan something, even something small, to look forward to. This is very freeing and it’s good for the mind and soul. And it may lead you to your next creative endeavor.
We can feel so isolated these days. It’s difficult to visit in person and we feel less likely to call someone, perhaps because we got out of the habit when we were super busy in earlier days. However it certainly means more to me to talk on the phone now that it may be unwise to visit in person.
I’ve found community in another setting – the written word. I love ideas so I read a lot, mostly non-fiction. I read things I might not normally take time for and so learn a great deal. I love the exposure to other minds and encounters with unexpected information and ideas.
My church recently published a series of devotions highlighting pioneers of faith in the deep South. I learned a lot of history and found I was greatly encouraged and wanting more.
So I encourage folks to read – not just the news, but stories of people: their histories, their challenges, their hopes. Writing letters helps build community too, because that way you also receive letters and stories!
You could share family history over phone or online and then write about it. Try any creative endeavor that encourages community.
We are not as isolated as we think. There are people of ideas everywhere! For example, I belong to a Facebook group for writers of all sorts. It has members from around the world totalling over three thousand. Once I figured out how to login on my phone I was greatly rewarded. Ideas are shared as well as requests for book reviews. I am learning a great deal. It sounds overwhelming, but I recently stumbled onto a book of poetry the author would like us to review, “Winter Sun”. Of course one can’t follow up on everything, but if it’s ideas you’re after, try Facebook groups.