I've spend a good deal of this month, and all this month's blogging activity on the subject of gratitude. I've meditated, ruminated, reflected and rejected thoughts, ideas and more, all in the quest to give thanks for what makes my life worth living. Some days it was a arduous task. Sometimes it was rather whimsical. Other days it was soul-searchingly expositorily significant. There were days I drew a blank or I avoided it entirely...procrastinated to the point of exasperation. The good thing is, though, I basically accomplished it, even though I may have bent my own rules. I expect most of you never really noticed that.
So here we are, still in November, but barreling headlong into the end-of-year holiday season. I guess the best we can do is to remember to be grateful that we are able to celebrate somethings so marvelous as Christmas, (with advent leading up to Dec 24-25), Hanukkah, (December 2 to December 10), Kwanzaa, (Dec 26-Jan 1) and the winter soltice, (Dec 21), and so on. Others too numerous to mention but equally worthy of celebration.
I guess what I am taking away from on this is there is so much to be thankful for and to celebrate, that our attitude should definitely be one of gratitude. And if that leads to a gratitude hangover, so be it. The cure for that is simple: gratitude.
Okay, so you see, I probably could make all kinds of excuses, but truly, believe me, I have none. I just bailed on the last four days of this exercise. You might call it a failure...but, no, I beg to differ. Failure implies trying. And trying implies intention. Well, yes, I did intend to do all 22 days. A meditation every day leading up to Thanksgiving. Easy peasy? Sure. I suppose. But then easy is not always as it appears.
I set out thinking establishing the goal of a daily reflection of those things I am grateful for would be easy. 22 days. 22 entries. No sweat. Just sit down and the gratitude will bubble up and flow from my heart to my brain to my tapping fingers on my keyboard. Well, that implies time, energy and discipline....all three occurring at the same time. Well, sometimes that just doesn't happen.
I went to me doctor today and we were talking about things in general. I expressed (some might call it complained) about those things I want to do that I seem never to have the time, the energy and the discipline to do what I want to do at the same time. My doctor suggested I was putting other people's needs ahead of my own. What's wrong with that, I wondered. Nothing, but it's important, if it is important to you, to make the time, save the energy and exercise the discipline to do those things that inspire, feed and delight my soul.
So in the vein of its never being too late, I am finishing up this series...just in time I suspect...by declaring I am grateful to be able to do so. Praise be for second chances...and even third, fourth or more. And thanks be for finally finding the time, the energy and the discipline all together once again.
Dedicated as one might be to a project, there does come times when one is just not into it. Just not today...not at the moment...one day is all. That day is today. And it just so happens that today is Sunday, the day the Lord rested. So it seems fitting I suppose: today I am grateful for rest.
Now in my mind's ear I hear the voice of my grandmother. I would say something like "I'm tired," and she would always respond with, "Tired? Why would you be tired? Go lay down then, but remember to take your boots off." "Really, Grandma?" I'd say silently to myself. "I'm tired and of course I will take my boots off." Sigh.
As I am taking this journey of reflections on gratitude, I sometimes feel like I'm really not getting it. Am I really grateful? Or am I just making things up? Do I really appreciate everything I have been fortunate enough to be given, experience, feel and learn? Sometimes, I just want to ignore the whole thing. Gratitude can be wearing. Holy cow, such a blasphemer I am.
When I find myself slipping into this type emotional retrograde, I stop myself and think, a constant state of gratitude can be difficult. A rest is deserved if not absolutely necessary. So I take one. And then I realize just how fortunate I am to be able to take a rest. And once again I am....grateful.
I am a member of a couple writers' groups/workshops. Even though I don't always attend, I always feel like I am there in spirit. I have made some great writing friends in both groups. No matter how many sessions I miss, these folks are always there ready and willing to take me back and give me the feedback and affirmation and even kindly critiques I need.
Friday Night Writes has been meeting for many years. We alternate meetings in members' homes. We often break bread and drink wine, but mostly to write together. We do "free" writes based on prompts by the host. It is always amazing how our writing resonates with each other. Often the same themes emerge in each of our writings as we share after 20 minutes more or less of jotting down our words. I love this group and treasure my time with them.
The other group is through Inlandia Institute here in the Inland Empire. I.I. facilitates several workshops throughout the IE. The one I attend is in Ontario. The members are inspiring to me in that most of them are in the mix to publish and have been published. They are poets, fiction writers and non-fiction too. I don't think they realize how much it means to me to included even though I often find very poor excuses not to attend. They always welcome me back. We submit something we are working on for an honest, constructive critique by the group. I always leave feeling like a "real" writer.
I need to be more regular in my attendance of these two groups I am so grateful for. And I probably should seek out other communities of creatives to participate in. If I'm ever gonna do something with my writing and buckle down on my memoir and other writing projects, I need all the positive support I can get.
AND THIS INCLUDES YOU, MY FAITHFUL BLOG READERS. I feels so encouraged every time one of you makes a comment, observation, or just checks "Like". For all of this, I am grateful.
As I was washing dishes earlier today it was so quiet, I could hear my thoughts. I was thinking about how such a simple thing as washing the dishes can become a mindful act of gratitude. All it takes it recognizing that while it may seem like a small routine, even mundane things to do, it was so much more. I thought about how fortunate I am to have dishes. It means I have something to put food on to eat. It reminds me that I have food and for that I am grateful. Washing the dishes is a small way of taking care of that which I have been acquired. And the comforting feeling when I put my hands into the warm soapy water and wash away the remnants of yet another meal washed over me.
So in that moment as I finished the last of the utensils and pots and pans, I reminded myself that this is a ritual by which I can give thanks. It becomes a mindful meditation rather than a "chore". From this prospective, washing dishes is a form of worship of that which provides that which sustains us.
Here's an interesting site that talks about how to wash dishes. It is rather a science in many ways,
It can be our friend and companion. It can also be scary and threatening. I prefer to go with the former while maintaining a healthy respect for its darker potentialities. Without technology, I probably wouldn't be able to create images like you see above: the same image in color and in black and white, transitioning magically from one to the other over and over. And if you put your cursor over the image, you can pause it to study further.
This is just one small example of how technology makes life more interesting and easier. Things like microwave ovens, wi-fi, DVRs and the like. I am old enough to remember our first microwave. I remember my first transistor radio I could carry on my walk to elementary school. And how about those first recording devices that allowed to capture message from missed phone calls and "tape" our favorite TV shows. Imagine life without what technology can do now?
Sometimes it baffles me. I get frustrated when I can't connect my printer right away or my smart phone is a tad slow. How quickly we come to take for granted what not so long ago seemed like a miracle. I remember my grandparents talking about the first crank wall phone with a party line where you had to go through an operator and/or wait your turn for ours who shared your line to finish their call. I seem to recall my grandmother telling me about how her father, a baker, baked his store's bread in a wood-burning oven. Imagine.
So thank you, technology for your advances and conveniences. Life is somewhat easier I suppose. It can be much more fun if you just keep an open mind and are willing to learn the latest ways, hopefully before the next version comes out and makes that knowledge obsolete.
About six years ago I became interested in photography. I went on a photo shoot outing with the Redlands Camera Club with my good friend, Marty. Marty loaned me (and later sold me) my first (and only} digital super-duper Canon 50D SLR with telephoto lens. I was hooked.
I have continued to go on various photo safaris with Marty, another good friend, Dave, and on my own. I have taken my lens to Santa Fe, Arizona, Santa Barbara, Joshua Tree, several botanical parks, museums and art fairs and more. I even took a digital camera to Italy last year and Michigan and more. It is amazing what you see when you look at the world with an eye toward photographing it.
I have become more aware of light and color, the subtle changes in each at various times of day. I love to capture random images, like those captured recently above. I like architectural details of buildings. Alleys intrigue. And people...people just being people on the street.
I have also occasionally shared my work in some local galleries and at a few local art shows. To my amazement, I have actually sold some of my images to appreciative "patrons". That is a very nice feeling of affirmation and pride.
This is why I am so thankful to have discovered and pursued this fun hobby. I try to take a camera everywhere, because, as any photographer type will tell you, you never know when you might snap!
If you'd like to see some more of my images, click here: Qwerkipix I would love your feedback.
Excuses, Good Intentions and Diversions
You know what road is paved with good intentions, don't you? I guess that is the road I have been on this weekend. Actually, just here was I traveling down that fabled path. I was enjoying the trees it seems leaving me unable to see the forest. There were too many chefs for my broth. I put all my eggs in one basket it seems.
Okay, I'll stop. Old proverbs, maxims, aphorisms, axioms, adages, saws, tags, mottos, epigrams, dictums, expressions, phrases, and formulas can't cover a lack of gratitude. And for that I guess I should be grateful. It keeps me humble.
I set out to do 22 days of dedicated gratitude blog journaling. I got to Day 8 and faltered. For that I can be forgive, yes? No? Maybe? Pretty please?
Is anybody reading? And should I care if they are? If you are? I would hope to tell you it is so.
So today on this Monday the 12th day of gratitude giving, I pledge to return to my due diligence. For to be ungrateful is unacceptable...unforgivable...un....well, you get the point.
I am grateful for four days of excuses, good intentions, and diversions. They remind me how easy it is to get on the wrong track. The signs are always there, just sometimes in a foreign language or faded from the sun. But it is the individual trees that make the forest. And I plan to see as many as I can.
This week has been a rolly-coaster of emotions with election results both hoped for and dreaded, another mass shooting here in California, Ruth Bader Ginsberg appearing all too mortal, and the continuing incivility of politics and just day to day living. It makes it difficult to maintain a positive outlook.
I try not to go into those things a lot. What you give your attention to, persists. The watered plant thrives. But it's not easy to ignore. Yet my hope for the future remains high. We will move beyond all this madness too. Right now the sun is shining, the air is crisp and clear and I am spending some time doing things I enjoy.
With all its trials and tribulations and the constant threat of doom, life is still worth living. Even as I mourn those who were killed senselessly this morning doing nothing more than enjoying friends and music, I can see tomorrow. We will go on.
And so that is why it seems appropriate to give thanks for the hope of tomorrow. It is not promised that it will come, but everyday the sun rises. And we rise with it. In spite of it all.
Its 9:16pm and I could just as easily gone to bed after a long day and shined this blog on. But I didn't. I am here, writing on Day 7 of this gratitude journal blog exercise commitment thing. I said "Yes" even though I really felt like saying "no". And that little devilish voice kept whispering, "Go ahead. Go to bed. No one will notice." And so on.
So that is why, even though this may be a short write, I am glad I said "yes" to the page. To often of late I have been saying "no", And that just isn't gonna cut it if I want to write and be a Creative. One must say "yes" even when one feels like "no"....at least when one knows it is something one will be glad or at least proud one did.
Grateful for "yes". When you say it, it sounds so much better than "no.' Not that "no" is a bad thing to say. Sometimes it is exactly what must be said. But for now, for life, I plan to say "yes" more often, as I am able. And for that, yes, I am grateful.