Sometimes in the most hurried, stressful situations, it is worth our while to remember that a smile can light up our world….it can light up the whole world. One small act of kindness, can change everything around us.
So with that in mind, in a very busy airport recently, I decided to make it a point to smile at everyone. To excuse myself as I weaved and bobbed. To joke with, and be polite to the TSA agents as they examined my bag one more time.
Even if smiles were met with frowns, and thank yous were not forth coming as I gave away space at my table or in line to get food, I still smiled. I still persevered, and kept kindness front and center. Letting it pour forth from my soul.
And what was the effect of this grand experiment? Well, I cannot tell you it made any difference in anyone else’s life, but I know it did mine. I was calmer, happier and more centered. Each smile I gave away, made my day brighter. And I have to believe it helped shift the world a little, that day, to the kinder side of life.
This poem, a haibun, was an experiment I decided to conduct in a crowded airport. To smile, be courteous, polite and kind no matter what. Not an easy task when traveling as it is a stressful time made worse by time constraints, tired feet, discourteous people and knowing I am about to be strapped into a cramped space for hours while flying 35,000 miles suspended above the earth.
The pictures are fun selfies I created in a course I took using the phone apps, Pixlr and Prisma.
I am joining in with Poets Unitedfor their weekly poetry link up for poets who blog.
How sweet it is has been to make your acquaintance. For years, Sleep and I were great friends, but then I let Stress take her place. And without Sleep, I was doomed to health issues. But oh Rest you know this all too well, don’t you?
So I had to tell Stress to back off as he was smothering me. But Sleep has not yet forgiven me, I fear. And our relationship cannot be the same, it seems. But I found you dear Rest. And I realized even though Nap and I don’t usually get along, I have you to help me heal.
Rest, you come to me wearing many costumes, engaged in many scenarios. Sometimes in PJs, we do nothing but watch an old movie….such sweet bliss. And in our most comfortable yoga pants, you envelop me dear Rest, as we sit together in nature drinking in all that surrounds us. Or under our garden hats, digging in the soft earth, picking a flower or pulling a weed….yes you are beside me, dear one. There are times, too, that I just need to have you close by, as I breathe slowly and deeply in the moment.
Oh, there are so many sides to your personality, dearest Rest. And I am enjoying getting to know each one intimately!
Each April I participate in a month long challenge from Susannah Conway called, April Love;extending love and kindness to ourselves. And each day in April we were challenged to write love letters given a specific topic.
I enjoyed writing these letters. But had no idea that I would use some as poems, until I read, Rosemary’s Blog, where she talked about the Poetry of Letters:
Did you know that there is a category of poems called “epistolary poems,” that the Academy of American Poets describes this way: “Epistolary poems, from the Latin “epistula” for “letter,” are, quite literally, poems that read as letters. As poems of direct address, they can be intimate and colloquial or formal and measured. The subject matter can range from philosophical investigation to a declaration of love to a list of errands, and epistles can take any form, from heroic couplets to free verse.”
And once I read this, I knew I would transform some of my Love Letters into these epistolary poems. I hope you enjoy these poems that I will post at least once a month. The pictures here are of places I love to Rest.
“I have reached the stage now where luxury is not in fine possessions but in carefree possessions, and the greatest luxury of all would be the completely expendable.”
At this time of year, the garden is making its final preparations for its annual slumber. Each successive frost reminds the plants to stop growing and producing flowers. Instead the plants begin to adjust their energies to their roots…a time to put all their focus below the soil and build up their resources now at the most basic level. Where there is warmth and nourishment for growth.
Unlike in spring and summer, where the emphasis is on the outer growth of the plant….the leaves and flowers. We work furiously in our gardens to prepare for the emergence of the plants. We weed, cut back and remove impediments so we can celebrate each new bloom as it appears. And then with the heat of summer, we sit on the front porch to cool ourselves and witness the beauty created before us…nature in all her glory.
I have spent many days, languishing in the shade of my porch and gazebo to observe the critters buzzing and chirping about. To hear the gentle wind blow through the grasses, and watch it sway the multitude of flowers. What sheer bliss.
But it seems with the coming of late fall and winter, we grieve for our gardens. Nature lays waste to our precious masterpiece, wildlife retreats and we are left with cold, fierce winds and icy cold rain and snow. We finish our garden chores and move indoors to find warmth, and a bit of relaxation.
But instead of kicking back, taking some deep breathes and going within to replenish ourselves, we seem to do just the opposite. Our lives seem more hurried than when the plants were lush and the garden chores many.
I find myself impatient, sluggish, restless and frustrated. Some of these feelings because I cannot be outside in my beloved garden and nature, but more because of the holiday season. There is so much to do!
Cleaning, baking cooking, decorating, shopping, sending cards…ugh! Not a holiday, where the word should conjure up rest, recreation, and freedom from work. No, quite the opposite in fact. The feeling of having to rush, rush, rush to get it all done before the holiday is here…not really getting a chance to enjoy the holiday season. Instead it’s the annual race to finish it all and make it the best, brightest and prettiest holiday ever, takes charge!!
Well I for one cannot do that anymore. I have given it up. Given up the cards…I send a few ecards to family. No more baking except for one little dessert for a special meal. I can’t have the sugar anymore anyway. I have a faux tree already strung with lights...no judgments please. I use a few decorations, and have purged the rest so I am not tempted to get them out and go through all the decorating hub-bub.
So why did I do all this. Because it just wasn’t feeling like a holiday…the spirit of the winter season and Christmas holiday had somehow been lost. When I should have been slowing my pace and enjoying, I was actually in high gear with too much anxiety and frustration over all the ‘Have To Do’ things….and it spilled over to family making their holiday less than pleasurable.
Now instead, I ‘get to do’ those things I love. Yes I know many people cannot just chuck it all. There are family traditions, children, grandchildren…but I do think we all need to find a bit of time for ourselves and for our own sanity. You say you don’t have the time. Well that is precisely when you need to find some time!
Start slow and with one thing. Not sending as many cards perhaps. Or holding back on some of the baking and decorating. It really is an individual thing. Look for those things that no longer give you joy, and start your purging there. That is how I started. And certainly keep those traditions you love. They are important.
Cutting back on a one or two small things will allow you to slow your pace. Giving you a needed break. And did you know that if you slow down as you move through your holiday rituals, you will enjoy them more. So take a cue from nature and her rhythms to slow down this time of year. Savor the beauty of nature and the season. The time spent with loved ones. Give the gift of time to yourself to renew…get to know yourself and reconnect with your inner core to build your strength below the surface. Allowing your body, mind and soul to grow again….finding that sheer bliss inside!
So how do you slow down the pace right now and enjoy the winter and holiday season? You can read more of my thoughts about winter in my posts, Winter’s Gifts and Winter’s Moods.
Special Note:The pictures, in the first part of the post, were taken this year from my front porch. The violas, I grew from seed, were a special view as they were planted in multiple vases. The other views are of my gazebo. Each of these pictures evokes a sense of relaxation for me.
“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.” ~ Dorothy M. Neddermeyer
Several years ago, I was vacationing with family at the beach. Growing up, I used to watch my dad body surf, and always wanted to give it a try. This day the water seemed to be calm enough to attempt it….enough of a wave to push you to shore, but not too rough. So I eased myself into the next wave, skimming the top and riding it to shore. After a few more tries, the ocean felt a bit rough so I thought, just one more time.
That one more time was almost my last as an undertow took me down under the water. If you have ever been caught in an undertow, you know the panic that can ensue. I fought and fought, to no avail, the strong pull keeping me on the bottom of the ocean floor. So near to the shore yet unable to reach safety.
In those tense seconds when I realized what was happening, I also realized I could die and that these might be my final moments of life. I am a strong fighter, but in this time when panic was reaching up through my body and strangling me, I suddenly decided to relax. I let go of all the panic, all the struggling and went with the flow of the water. I let my primal instinct take over, and suddenly I was on the surface and close to the shore, my feet touching soft sand as the water lapped around my knees.
Fear cannot be banished, but it can be calm and without panic; it can be mitigated by reason and evaluation.~Vannevar Bush
I was reminded of this lesson recently when I found myself getting into a knee jerk reaction that brought back some unpleasant memories. I had been growing herbs under my “grow lights” in the basement and was just about to start my seed growing, when two of the three lights went dark.
And right on cue, I went into panic mode. How was I going to grow these herbs without lights? Where could we find replacement bulbs? I had to start seeds soon, and how could I without these lights. I was spinning within this deep felt craziness, when I suddenly realized these were similar feelings I had a year ago in reaction to stress on the job. Stress that finally led to my retirement, and that I thought I had released. But given a seemingly small crisis, I went right back down that dark hole of despair. Wow!
And once I was able to step back from the situation, I found I could let go of the panicky reactions and evaluate the situation. All was not lost. I could move plants to windows. I could search for bulb replacements, and I could postpone the seed growing. All better plans than to keep spinning in this stream of negativity I was creating for myself.
I think the garden has been the best classroom for learning how to handle what life throws at me. Every year I never know what nature will bring. A long cold winter, followed by a late freeze killing flowers or vegetables. A drought or flooding rains. And each scenario, in each new year, is different making for interesting lessons to learn so much more about my garden and myself.
As a gardener, I have found it doesn’t pay to give in to panic or worry. When I started growing veggies, the first one I attempted was the tomato. Any good Italian must be able to grow tomatoes, right? But every year it was something new….sometimes it was the disease known as ‘blight’ killing the plants, or it was the deer eating the plants to the ground. But I never gave up trying to get the tomatoes to produce an abundant crop. Instead I tried hybrid seeds that were bred to fight diseases, and I netted the tomatoes to keep out the critters, but let in the pollinators.
And you know what? I now have tomatoes. Oh I still have to be vigilant, to make sure the pests and diseases are kept in check. But instead of worrying and panicking, I now ease into the situation nature presents, look for solutions, and I don’t beat myself up over what happens. Great lessons I am trying to stay mindful of as life presents itself.
So am I still sensitive to the curve balls life can throw me?…..Absolutely. And is my first reaction still panic?…..Sometimes. But I am reminded quickly that life is what you make it. It is more about how you react or don’t react. And in those moments when I need to step back, I go into my garden to be with nature. To feel the slow pace of life where I take a look around and be in the moment. Because it is in those moments that I find my inner wisdom calling me to breathe in life and let go.
Note:The purple iris pictured here is symbolic of wisdom.
I leave you with another thought about sensitivity, strength and wisdom. Feel free to download this photo and share.
All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015. Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.
This poem was written in the fall, when I knew the garden would be done blooming soon, and the sometimes hectic days of the holidays would be looming. The phrase, push pause please, came into my head loud and clear almost like a song or chant to be sung.
I am joining in with Poets Unitedfor their weekly poetry link up for poets who blog. Visit them to read some more wonderful verse.
If you enjoy reading this blog, I welcome you to share it with others. I enjoy spreading the blog love, and I appreciate all who come and read my blogs. I hope to more overtly spread some blog love through both my blogs in the future.
Special Note: In the Language of Flowers the lavender pictured here means calm. When I see lavender, I pause and take in its intoxicating scent. A sweet pause and time to reflect.
“Sometimes you hit a point where you either change or self destruct.”
― Sam Stevens
Life sometimes brings you messages, signals that if you pay attention will serve you well. I missed many signals for a long time. And while life brings on its own stresses some jobs add to it. But we can manage stress in our lives, if we can see it happening. I did not see it happening for a long time.
Stress builds up in your body and disrupts all your systems. You don’t eat regular meals, you gain weight, you work long, long hours and bring work home. You are on call with little time to play or have hobbies or exercise. Years of bad eating habits don’t help….I have been a sugar addict from a very young age.And more and more illnesses escalate and can bring you close to death. I had several wake up calls, all unanswered.
But life kept intervening, thankfully, and I started to pay attention. Change my diet…harder to do but not impossible. Exercise….start slow and have fun with it. Take time to do the things you love….absolutely. So why could I not sustain it, keep it going?
I have tried to change some habits. I knew my health depended on it. I added meditation which helped with some stress. I would give up sugar only to run right back bingeing on it until I was almost sick. I would start an exercise regime knowing I couldn’t sustain the time needed. So why were these bad habits that got me into trouble not changing? They crept back in, and even a little was enough to start the unhealthy cycle. And when I finally stared hard in the mirror, I realized I was sabotaging myself and not really wanting to heal.
“My illness, I well knew, had been entirely brought on by myself by such negligence of my own health, as I had felt even at the time to be wrong. Had I died, it would have been self-destruction.”
I am still wrestling with this and trying to figure out why it is hard to make these changes…and maybe I am afraid that all the effort will not work yet again mostly because my heart was not in it. But regardless I know I need to do something. And I am determined to go down this path of healing now that I have decided to retire. The retirement itself was for my own health. But it is not enough.
What is important for me is that I heal the whole me….mind, body, spirit. I have worked first on my mind and spirit. And I have made great progress in these areas. So now it is time for me to heal the rest of me. And this is the hardest work. And I will make false steps. I will fail. And I will make small steps forward and big steps back. But the important thing is that I not give up. That I not engage in that incessant negative self-talk that always sabotages my efforts. That instead I keep the picture of perfect health front and center. Yes I do believe that this idea of already having perfect health will finally diminish the saboteur until she is finally silenced.
Note: It is said that if you cannot find an herb to treat your disorder then try the rose. The rose is said to be a panacea and can treat stomach disorders, kidney and bladder disease, gallbladder, exhaustion, skin problems and more.
Update 3 months later:
This post was originally published July 7, 2014 as my last post for Vision and Verb. It was a bittersweet time as I did not want to say goodbye to writing for Vision and Verb. I had just begun 7 months earlier and had so much I wanted to share with this incredible group of women.
But things will end as they must and we must find our next path. And this blog was born from that change. So I thank Marcie the founder of Vision and Verb for pushing me out of the nest a little sooner than I had anticipated.
And to the tribe I found at Vision and Verb, thank you for continuing to show up here and support me.
I leave you with another thought about healing. Feel free to download the photo and share.
All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014. Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.