Summertime

Pink skin, freckled noses

Ponytails and blooming roses

Wet towels on the porch rail

Seashells in a sandy pail

Bare feet, shady trees

Bee stings and skinned knees

Scent of woodsmoke and charcoal

Lazy days, good for my soul

Sparklers and ice cream

Fireflies and moonbeams

Picnic blanket in the grass

Cottony clouds that slowly pass

Bike rides and baseball caps

Lemonade and mid-day naps

Stay out late because we can

Then sleep beneath a ceiling fan

Popsicles and swimming pools

Sprinklers for keeping cool

Thunderstorms, another reason

Summer is my favorite season

Babs, unplugged

My neighbors must shake their heads at my comings and goings lately. Seems all I do is load and unload my car: Props, costumes, cases of water, bottles of wine, snacks, chairs, tables, posters, tents….. and, although I live alone, the grocery bags are pretty much a daily thing. They must wonder, “How much can one woman consume?!”

I feel like an event planner at party central, between work affairs, book events, music commitments and my personal, social life. This juggler has too many balls in the air and one of them is bound to drop, unless I make some difficult (but necessary) changes.

I need to find a way to slow down within the confines of a very fast life.

Recently, it dawned on me that I am so harried preparing to run to the next thing that I am not fully enjoying what I am presently doing. As much as I love everything I do, it is humanly impossible to fully engage when your plate is this full.

God, give me the strength to endure my blessings.

Over the past couple of years, I have downsized the ‘stuff’ in my life drastically. Purging was a positive experience and left me feeling lighter and more connected to that which remains. But what about things that are not physical in nature? We cannot throw them into a dumpster or donate them, yet they weigh us down and drain our energy. I need to purge things unseen.

I am staging an intervention. For myself.

When there are two opportunities in the same day, my solution is to split the time between the two, so as not to miss anything. This past weekend, for example, I had two important invitations on Saturday. I attended the first for a few hours in the late afternoon before dashing off to the second for the rest of the evening. Sunday, the same thing. I had a book signing that ended at 1:00pm, which was the start time for a party that was happening an hour’s drive away. I did it all. No regrets. I learned an important lesson. The Monday morning tiredness I felt was different that the usual exhaustion. Instead of bone-weary, adrenaline-driven fatigue that I have been feeling, I was contentedly depleted. Instead of feeling lethargic, I felt slightly energized.

The heart that gives, gathers.

Maybe it’s not only about how much, but what, I do with my time. In addition to cutting back my obligations, perhaps I need to be more discerning about which ones I accept. After all, I like being active. Even those occasions when I swear I am going to sit on the beach or the couch for a day, I never make it past an hour or so. Then I’m desperately looking for something to do.

Sleep is an ongoing problem for me. I average 3.5 hours a night. I wonder if maybe my brain is unable to slow down after a typical day of social roulette. Being this booked means poor nutrition, too. I am far too busy to prepare healthy meals, which is why last summer’s clothes are mostly too tight. Exercise? Ha! You know how that goes… It always seems to be the first commitment to fall off the list.

So, I have a plan. Well, sort of.

It’s not reasonable to disband my responsibilities. Instead, I’ve decided to build in some short periods of time that will allow me to disconnect and refresh. For example:

  1. A quiet hour in the morning with a cup of coffee. Not television, no music, no phone. Not every morning, but when possible.
  2. One hour in nature, preferably by myself. A swim at the beach, a hike in the woods, relaxing under the big maple tree in the yard, a walk along the waterfront during lunchtime.

Along those lines, I’m going to make time for the things that I love to do but from which I have fallen away.

  1. I’m going to start reading again. I always had two books – what I was currently reading and one on deck, for when I finished the first. I lost the ability to concentrate two summers ago and stopped. Reading is a great way to escape without going anywhere.
  2. I’m dusting off my camera equipment. The convenience and improved technology of iPhone capabilities has rendered me lazy. It’s time to put in the effort. Because it was personally satisfying for me to take photographs. And photo shoots tend to be peaceful, since I prefer landscapes.

More is less?

How are additional tasks going to make me feel less harried? I’m hoping that my commitment to these events will result in my saying ‘no’ to some other ones. Before accepting new responsibilities, I am going to ask myself, “How will this feed me?” If it’s all drain and no return, I’m going to do my best to politely decline. I’ll be sitting in the shade, reading a book, instead.

Bizzy

“I’m so busy!” How often do you say those words? For me, these days, it’s too frequently. It has become a complaint, an excuse and a mantra. I don’t like it.

Being active and engaged isn’t the problem. Most of the things that keep me occupied are great. But, sometimes, I need to remind myself that they are also optional. The activities and responsibilities that fill my calendar are choices. I’m there because of a decision that I have made – No one else. I resolved to do each and every one of them because I believed that they would enrich my life in some way.

So, instead of saying that I am too busy, I’m going to begin telling people that I am prosperous. My schedule is no longer too full – My calendar is filled with abundance. I am not busy. I am rich.

I am also exhausted. The blessings in my life are slowly killing me. I struggle to build in some ‘down’ time. As I grow older, it’s a necessity more than a luxury. I wonder, how and why did self-care become an extravagance? I actually used to feel guilty about spending time doing nothing constructive. These days, I’ve changed the way I look at that, too. Sometimes, doing nothing is the most productive thing I can take on. If a week goes by and I don’t spend some quality time on the couch binge watching the Blacklist, it can get ugly around here. Ditto for one morning of Olympic coffee drinking and thumbing my nose at the calendar.

Summer is here, which means fiddle gigs, beach time with my grandson and now, I’ve got a book to market. I know the days are coming when the pace will slow and I’ll have much less enrichment in my schedule. I’m going to do my best to squeeze as much out of life as possible, while I can. Even if it makes me weary. When I’ve had too much joy, you’ll find me on the couch with Raymond Reddington. But only for a couple of hours. There’s still so much I want to do.

Holding for a Friend

Some time last year, I wrote about holding space for each other. It’s something we do when a friend needs us to be present with them. There’s no judgement, no criticism. Physical presence is not even required – They only need to know that you are there, holding a space for them if and when they want to occupy it. My friends have done it for me. It is amazingly comforting.

I am blessed to be surrounded by some strong women who have survived a great deal of grief, overcome some tremendous challenges. We get together to laugh, play games and socialize. Our focus is seldom on our histories as we prefer to enjoy the present. But when there is one among us who is facing a difficult time, we bare our scars like warriors and circle our wagons around her.

But space is not the only thing we hold for one another during troubled times.

When we take ourselves too seriously, for example, we hold humor. You see, I firmly believe that it’s a healthy thing to fantasize about (or even plan) the unfortunate demise of a soon-to-be ex who is causing pain to a close friend. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

If we get pulled down the rabbit hole of self-destructive thought, we hold balanced reality. Just because someone believes it or says it, doesn’t make it the truth! It’s easy to feel your own convictions slip when you’re overwhelmed or being manipulated. It’s our friends’ job to hold up a mirror and reflect our own self worth back to us.

When we lose sight of hope, we hold a vision of a better tomorrow. In the midst of chaos, we hold a peaceful future. We know it’s coming because we’ve been where you are. We survived and it made us stronger. You will, too.

And we’ll be right here, waiting for you. (We’ll try not to say ‘I told you so.’)

Letting Go after Change and Loss

There are always things that no longer serve us well: Routines, photographs, tee shirts. We hang on to them because, well, they aren’t necessarily bad for us. We’ve simply outgrown them. Whether it’s a piece of furniture, a feeling or a relationship, letting go can be really, really hard.

I think it’s particularly true following a period of change or loss. Holding on to parts of our former identity is what helps us cope. Transition is difficult and familiarity comforts us. We grasp things that remind us of the stability we’ve lost.

Sometimes, we get lost in the reeds, though . A sigh of relief is welcome, once the dust starts to settle and the major change is behind us. Our reprieve is extended and we lose our momentum. We might become complacent and even believe we deserve the break. Without even realizing it, we are stuck.

What can we do?

It might be a good time to take inventory – Examine those things to which we are holding on that are just good enough. It could be a relationship that has helped us through a difficult time. Or, perhaps a household item that we’ve kept just because it has been with us for so long. It might even be a perception about ourselves that is no longer accurate or useful.

We bring things with us that we believe we will need in that magical place called the future. But we need to stop and consider that we could have been wrong. Once we arrive at that new place in our lives, we should reassess.

One thing that prevents us from moving forward and getting ourselves unstuck is something that is traditionally thought of as a good thing. It’s the very foundation of what likely kept us going in the first place: Hope.

Let me explain. Maybe we hoped that things would work out with that new guy. Perhaps we hoped that we’d lose the weight and wear that dress again. We hoped that our new place would have room for the box of sentimental nick-nacks that were Mom’s. But he didn’t, we didn’t and it’s not!

Holding on to things that no longer serve us blocks the way of new and better things entering our lives. We want to avoid the emotional pain and fear that comes with letting go. Truth is, that pain will ease over time. Holding on, however, will continue to hurt forever. If we desire peace, then we must be brave enough to let go.

I found peace in the most unlikely place – right in the middle of the most chaotic time of my life. I was letting go of so much – things, places, relationships – the pain was unbearable at times. I often marveled at the irony of feeling an incredible inner peacefulness among such chaos and ruin.

Then, the dust settled. I sat back and allowed myself to relax. After all, I had certainly earned it. It had been a turbulent year and I reveled in the opportunity to sit back and do nothing. The result was stagnation. Without negative energy flowing out, there can be no good energy flowing in.

Anytime is a good time to take inventory and identify those things that no longer serve us. That time following change or loss is crucial. You’ll feel lighter. You’ll find peace amid the turbulence. Determine when hope might be destructive. Let go of the things that no longer serve you and anticipate the flow of good things that come to you!

Dear Future Lover

Dear Future Lover,

You are not my first. But I hope you are the last. Can you save me from the endless parade of desperate fools? Can you save me from myself? It’s a very tall order. The criteria is extensive. It is the result of having met so many potential partners who disappointed me, as well as a few who did not. I’ve learned what I want. And what I don’t. What’s necessary and what’s negotiable.

Dear Future Lover,

Do you know that making love to me is the sum of our time spent together and not something that begins when the lights go out? It’s not an isolated event, but a continuum. It happens all day long. It’s happening right now.

Dear Future Lover,

Can you ease the loneliness I feel when I’m driving late at night and no one knows where I am? No one is waiting to hear my tires on the gravel, my key in the door. Are you willing to wait up until you hear that I’ve arrived safely? I’ll always do the same, for you.

Dear Future Lover,

Will I finally know what it’s like to hear the words to a song on the radio and feel that it was written for me – for us? Are you willing to be the object of my romantic fantasies? Will you indulge me with the hope of a real and lasting love? Can you accept that I remain a hopeless romantic, despite all of the failures and near misses? Please know that I have learned the lessons with each heartache and will act in a manner rooted in harsh reality. But I will never abandon my dreams.

Dear Future Lover,

Can you allow me the security of spending time apart without guilt or suspicion? Will you respect my boundaries and understand that I treasure my time alone? Do you recognize that my other interests and relationships feed me, too, and contribute to my well-being? Can you share me with the rest of the world with confidence, knowing that I will always return to you better off for having had the experience?

Dear Future Lover,

Will you sit outside with me in the evening, as Summer turns to Fall, knowing that this is one of the times I enjoyed alone but longed for someone with whom to share it? Listen to the crickets, witness the rising moon, feel the day’s heat dissipate… please don’t trivialize the moment or spoil it with impatience.

Dear Future Lover,

Can you stimulate my mind, challenge me with your intellect? A high IQ is not necessary – Just a curious nature and a desire for insight. Show me what you have learned on your journey thru life and how it has shaped you. Have there been mistakes….. or only lessons? We all have history… what has yours taught you?

Dear Future Lover,

Will you meet my gaze and look into my eyes? Are you brave enough to risk what we might find there? Can you reach beyond the walls that pain built and see into my heart, finding the courageous part that waits for you? Do you dare expose your own fragile defenses in the hope of finding that which you seek? Or are you afraid? Can you trust me with that fear?

Dear Future Lover,

Can you be in control without being controlling? Do you understand the difference between confidence and arrogance? Your masculinity is amazing – The yin to my yang. It’s a beautiful dance, a fluid balance. Can you allow it to ebb and flow?

Dear Future Lover,

I love easily. I love hard. I believe it’s the only way. I’ve learned that not everybody knows how to respond to that. Do you? Or, will my intensity make you uncomfortable and squeamish? I’m a straight shooter in a world full of broken arrows. Be ready.

Dear Future Lover,

I’ll tell you about the scars on my heart and the wounds that have healed. I have learned to love even the worst parts of me, to dance with my skeletons, even in the rain. If I trust you enough to share them, will you love me even more, for having endured it?

Dear Future Lover,

I’m not always easy to love. I’m going to test you. You might have to prove yourself in areas where others have failed me. It might be hard and we might have to work at it. The payoff is that I’ll love you in a way you’ve never known. If we don’t last, I’ll become the standard by which you measure every other woman and your life will never be the same.

Abundance

The heart that gives, gathers.

My minister mentioned abundance in last week’s homily. It got me thinking. A disappointing web search resulted in mostly financially driven references. No inspiration there. While I do believe that abundance often leads to monetary gain, it wasn’t my first thought.

I’ve always liked the phrase “with an abundance of caution,” sometimes used for legal purposes. Farmers often pray for an abundant crop. We all know that abundance means a big quantity of something. I think abundance is personally manifested. The things in which I seek abundance might be very different than yours. And people who manifest abundance in one area of their lives, usually do the same in most – or all – areas.

Size matters.

It’s about the volume of life that you can inhale into your lungs to be absorbed into your blood and circulated throughout your being. It’s the depth of the love you feel. It’s your capacity to truly and deeply engage with others and the power to expand their knowledge or enhance their experiences.

How much is enough? The idea is to live with so much abundance every day that it naturally overflows into the other parts of your life.

The things we give are returned to us.

Do good and good follows you. Keep your heart open to receive whatever blessings the universe sends your way. Whatever you practice, comes back to you: Love, faith, positivity. Having strength for a friend makes you strong. See the beauty around you and people will see the beauty in you. Give your time freely to those who need it and your time will be enriched with blessings.

How do you start?

Begin by saying yes. Opportunities for abundance constantly present themselves. A child needs your attention. A colleague needs help with something. Your partner is struggling with an issue. A local school team is asking for donations. Don’t hesitate – Delve right in with an open heart and a smile. Give the gift of abundance. You’ll be amazed. I promise.

Live in abundance and you will have abundance, always.