Category Archives: change

Contentment

 

 

 

 

I recently ran across a statement that set my pondering juices flowing:

Contentment is not the satisfaction of want;

it’s the pursuit of having enough.

                                                             — Lisa Avellan

The words are heavy and serious: contentment, satisfaction, want, pursuit, enough.

If you’ve ever lived with a child (you pick the age) you’ve often experienced their lack of satisfaction with what you’ve given them. Many times they want, or even demand, more. Or they have a temper tantrum in the middle of the store aisle. Some adults are like that as well, often towards their grown children. It’s like we can never do enough to satisfy their desire for our time, our energy, or our love.

The truth is many of us, particularly in our young adult years, spend our time and energy and money in the pursuit of more. We’re trying to get through school, to start our career, to start our family, to purchase a home — to achieve what people 20 years older have already done. We want it now. All of it. We don’t like to wait. We don’t want to save until we can pay cash. We have our own adult temper tantrums when things don’t easily come our way.

A second truth is the more we have, the more we want. When we’re finally able to purchase our first new car, we’re thinking (at least in the deep recesses of our minds) of all the bells and whistles we’d like on our next one. Our wants are never satisfied. And the more we have, the more time and energy and resources that are required to manage our stuff. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s a kind of hoarding — the fear of running out or not getting everything we deserve — living from a place of scarcity.

But what if . . . what if . . . we could live out of the belief that

what we have is always more than enough

                                               — Marc and Angel

I’m not advocating that you live a monastic minimalist lifestyle as some advocate. I’m just suggesting that you look around your living space, your tiny corner of the universe, your private attitude, your inner spirit — and notice that you have what you need, perhaps you have more than you need — maybe way more than you need.

This attitude of contentment can gently morph into an attitude of abundance. When we are content and believe we have enough, we can set aside our learned habit of comparing ourselves to others. Our hearts can open to include others, our homes become places of generous hospitality, our ears listen with genuine interest, and our schedules become less frantic and more fluid.

If we take a step beyond the contentment with our physical stuff, perhaps we can work our way to a place of contentment with ourselves — believing that we ourselves, our souls, are everything we need. Again, skip the comparisons with others, and believe that you, yourself, are a work of creative genius, complete, yet always a work in progress.

There is courage within us and fearlessness and joy and creativity and voice and uniqueness.

Come forth, out of your abundance.

Until next Tuesday . . .

Your opinion matters

When someone asks me, “How are you?” I sometimes . . . occasionally . . . not that often . . . reply, “I’m awesome!” As their surprise at my response settles on their face, I continue. “That’s my opinion. You’re entitled to your own opinion, but don’t feel obligated to share it with me.” We share a laugh. We may touch each other, perhaps lightly on the shoulder or arm, or share a hug. We always walk away, smiling.

This momentary sharing is always fun.

The truth is that most days I’m pretty awesome (in my opinion) — independent of physical feelings or circumstances or schedules or accomplishments or challenges. How I am, is separate from all my stuff.

I don’t know exactly when I came to this understanding; it probably evolved over many decades. Or maybe I finally believed what my parents told me as a child. Like Mr. Rogers, they said, “You are fine, just the way you are.” They knew, and I knew, there was room for improvement. I wasn’t particularly happy with my child self, but at my core I believed I was loved — no matter what.

It often takes us years to grow into that understanding of unconditional love. Some of us have never experienced it in our families or in our relationships. But even with that, it’s possible to learn to love ourselves, to accept ourselves as we are, and believe we are good enough.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I always have improvement projects going one — I can’t help it. It’s just who I am.

But beneath that personal necessity (to always become better) I am content — even if I made no changes.

The question becomes — for all of us — who are we at our very foundation? What does our bedrock look like? What forms our foundation?

 

So, of course, I have questions for you:

  • Did you choose your foundational rocks or were they put there by someone else?
  • Is your foundation solid or does it shift with the tides, the opinions of others, or your own uncertainty?
  • Is your foundation made of old, old rocks or have you laid some new ones?
  • Is your foundation some long standing structure that has served it’s usefulness, that needs to be removed, so new foundation rocks can be put in place?
  • What would it take for your foundation to be secure, no matter the storms that come your way? Because the storms will come . . .

Here are a few suggestions for improving your foundation:

    Examine. Is the existing structure solid or does it need repair?

 

    Excavate. Discover your foundation’s history.

 

    Plan. What changes need to be made?

 

    Repair, renovate, or rebuild.

 

Yes, it requires awareness, intention, and work. Create the best foundation to support your growth into teetotal awesomeness.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Death of Dickens

I killed Dickens. Last week. On a warm spring afternoon.

I hit delete and he was gone from my life.

You see, I read him once in high school. A Tale of Two Cities. I didn’t like it much then but it was required reading.

In recent years, as I’ve added classics to my regular reading, I’ve often thought I might enjoy A Tale of Two Cities, now that I’ve acquired some literary maturity and experience.

So I downloaded Tale to my phone. Occasionally I read snippets, but mostly I read for extended periods of time. I managed to get halfway through the book, with nary a hint of engagement with Dr. Manette, his daughter Lucie, Charles Darnay, Sydney Carton, or Madame DeFarge.

I tried. Really, I did.

Leaving anything unfinished is difficult for me. But, as Charlie said to me last week, “Life’s too short . . .” Two days later, on that fateful spring patio afternoon, my neighbor said, “The earth won’t stop and lightening won’t strike if you don’t finish the book.”

I knew they were both right.

Not only did Dickens fail to engage me in his story, he caused me to give up my morning reading habit. That is unforgivable — and that’s what caused the crime.

So right then and there, with one witness to the event, Dickens met his demise.

Sometimes we need to stop what we’ve customarily done, if it’s no longer working for us — particularly if it’s keeping us from our best, dragging us down, or robbing us of precious time.

In another situation, I have three musicians in my life who hear me play regularly and who offer critical comments. Of those three, there is One for whom my playing is never good enough. Comments about sloppiness or mistakes bury the rare word on what I’ve done well. My progress is seldom mentioned. Few remedies, tips, or solutions are offered. The other Two musicians, always offer positive comments before the criticism and along the way, when they see I’m struggling, they offer words of encouragement. They work with me to learn new techniques for improving my playing. With them I believe I can play better. The criticism of the three may be the same, but the way it is delivered is quite different.

It’s like I have a musical bucket that needs to be filled every once in a while. The Two give me enough positive comments along with constructive help that I continue working and improving. The One, on the other hand, has created a hole in my bucket — a bucket that cannot hold nourishment or sustenance for the journey. I only experience discouragement and defeat.

Like Dickens who didn’t engage me, the One musician drags me down, offering no enticement or interest to keep me forging ahead.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. That’s the way life is. I always want to tip the balance toward the best of times. This week I’ve been reminded to examine some habits and routines and experiences and people who fill my time.

Life is too short — to spend it with people who bring us down, activities that keep us from our best, and habits that are no longer effective.

Check your bucket for holes.

Until next Tuesday. . .

 

What the mouse ate . . . and other weirdnesses

Life’s been a little strange lately, on several fronts. So strange, in fact, that I thought you’d want to know.

Front #1: Mouse in Pantry

Over the last couple of weeks a mouse, or perhaps a whole herd of mice, has been ravaging my pantry. So far, the mouse has nibbled into

  • 3 bags of coconut
  • 2 bags of cornmeal
  • 2 bags of ladyfingers
  • 2 stacks of crackers
  • 1 box of graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 bag of dried beans
  • 1 bag of Dove chocolates
  • 1 rolling pin cover
  • 1 bag of marshmallows
  • 2 bags of powdered sugar
  • I box of oatmeal

I’ve caught one mouse. I’ve cleaned up all the mess (several times), put all vulnerable items into tight plastic tubs, but there is still a mouse in my pantry, despite 5 traps that are set and waiting for him. Somehow he manages to eat the peanut butter in the trap without setting if off. Yes, I’m sure it’s a him. Don’t ask me why.

Front #2: Ordering Hot Dogs

I ordered two identical hot dogs, each with mustard, catsup, mayo, relish, and onion crispies. What I got was

  • 1 hot dog with chili, sauerkraut, mustard, a few shreds of cheese, and onion crispies
  • 1 hot dog with chili, onion, lots of shredded cheese, relish, and onion crispies

The lady wrote down my order. I have no idea how it all went wrong.

Front #3: Printing a Page

I only needed to print one page but my printer refused to cooperate. It seems one ink cartridge was empty. The red light was blinking. I always have extra cartridges on hand, so no problem. However, the new cartridge refused to slip into place. In an effort to see better, I repositioned the goose-neck lamp on my nearby desk. The lamp, now precariously off balance, fell from its perch, spilled the dish of paper clips, and sent the stapler flying onto my keyboard. My beloved blue elephant planter, nestled on the base of the lamp, smashed on the floor. The jolt destroyed the bulb in the lamp, the very lamp that was to provide light for my task. I finally got my one page printed — after cleaning up the mess, replacing the bulb, and restoring order to my desk. The elephant is in the trashcan.

Such occasions defy our best efforts to control events and get things right. Our pride and self-confidence take a beating when things are on a downward spiral. We wonder what will happen next.

I have no magic solutions for avoiding such incidents. My only advice is to choose your attitude. You can allow such things to (1) ruin your day or (2) reinforce your image of personal clumsiness and ineptness or (3) remind you, once again, that the universe is conspiring against you or (4) cause you to check your horoscope, the phase of the moon, or alignment/misalignment of the planets or (5) adjust your self-image to one of circumstantial victim.

Or . . . Or . . . You can say “Weird stuff sometimes comes into my life, through no fault of my own.”

You can ponder the weirdness, perhaps even record it in your journal or on a blog.

Then move on, with a shake of your head, a wink in your eye, and a sly grin on your face that makes your friends question what you’re up to.

Treasure the momentary weirdness — it’s too funny not to.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

Live Performance

Recently I’ve attended several musical performances: a 19-year-old pianist in the local Young Pianist Concert Series, an up-and-coming organist, a visiting Russian pianist, a faculty recital at a nearby university, and the combined men’s choruses of two local universities. Each performer or conductor discussed their music with the audience before they played or sang. The concerts were excellent — as I expected. But that’s not the point.

The point is the “magic of presence.” Watching the performer appear on stage, noticing how they approach their instrument, observing their preparation to play, hearing the first sounds, absorbing their interpretation of the music, noticing the nuances and their musical dexterity, experiencing the unique connection of musician and composer, and inhaling the breath and life of the concert hall.

You see, there is no concert, no communication if you will, with only a performer. There must be an audience to receive the notes and phrases. Musicians make music every day in the privacy of their practice rooms — but that’s only preparation for the performance, the musical sharing and communication with others. Performance is live, with giver and receiver, with dynamics and interactions unique to the occasion. That particular performance can never occur again, even with the same performer playing the same music in the same hall with the same audience in attendance.

This “magic of live performance” is important in our non-musical conversations as well. Our texts and tweets and emails are the equivalent of looking at a sheet of music. We see the words, we see the dynamic markings in the formatting of the text, perhaps we can hear the person’s voice in the words if we know them well. But so much is missing — their actual voice, their body language, the twinkle or the tear in their eye, the wrinkle in their brow, the lilt of their words, the cadence of their speech, the rush, the pause, their eyes that engage us.

What I’m suggesting is

  • Listening to music lets you hear the notes but the rest of the communication is missing.
  • Tweeting, texting and emailing gives us the words, but eliminates nuances of non-written communication.
  • Reading a book is not the same as hearing the author read his/her words and witnessing their voice  and body language as an enhancement to their words.

Many of us only get to the first level of communication: we see notes in a score, words on a screen or page, hear music filling the background of our other activities. In fact, we often try to read and watch television at the same time, or put the music on to kill the silence, or think texting is real conversation.

We can do better.

Try a new venture this week:

  • attend an author-reading at your local library or bookstore
  • attend a live performance: theater, opera, a recital, a concert
  • visit with a friend, have face-to-face conversation with all electronic gadgets turned off.

Your life will be forever enriched by the live performances you participate in.

Until next Tuesday . . .