The Power of Empathy

Three days before I flew out to run the St. Jude’s Half Marathon in Memphis I was fired from my job. After 9 years and 11 months I was fired at 1:30 on a Tuesday.  While I was completely blindsided at the time, looking back I’d seen the writing on the wall–and heard it my soul.  I just conveniently didn’t listen.  After working on PCI compliance for a year, I’d just been brought into the newly created position of Compliance Administrator, received my certification as a PCI Professional and was looking forward to diving deep into security policies and procedures.  It wasn’t to be.  Our visions were very different.  I wanted to be mad, to feel outraged or wronged.  But all I felt was relief.

I suppose I was still in shock and denial when, doning my St. Jude’s Hero tee shirt, I crossed the starting line of the St. Jude’s half marathon a few days later. I ran as a St. Jude’s Hero, raising $532.18 towards the cause, but gave little thought to what that meant. I planned on spending two and a half hours thinking about the blog I’d start and the consulting company I want to get off the ground. I wondered if I’d get a personal record for my time, though I doubted it.  I thought I had plenty of time to put my life in order as I plodded along the 13.1 mile course.

The first bib that took my breath away read:  “I run in memory of my daughter, RYAN”.  The runner wore a purple shirt and she was a few years younger than me. The thought of my own daughter, her beautiful smile and bright future, flashed before me. When I passed Ryan’s mom on the course I touched her shoulder and said, “Bless you.” I didn’t know what else to say.  I was humbled, I was devistated, I was in awe. Selfishly I think I was blessing her for taking on so such pain so I didn’t have to.  She smiled and thanked me for running.  It’s the least I could do.  Throughout the course people thanked me for running, thanked me for being a hero.  All I could think was, “You are the real heroes.  You still keep going day after day.  I just raised a little money…”

The rest of the race I read every bib and felt my heart break a little more.  I ached for them, for everyone who has lost a child (or loved one) and still goes on.  Just as a half marathon or a marathon demands you push through the pain and keep going no matter what, I saw their resolution to keep going. To put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.  It can be a struggle on both accounts; the race and life.  I knew I couldn’t stop.  I couldn’t slow down or give up.  It was about something more now.  With every ache I thought of it as taking just a little of their pain on myself. How glorious it would be if we could do that…if we could somehow distribute in the pain across everyone so it could be more tolerable for us all!

I didn’t spend the race thinking about my future.  I didn’t think about finding a new job or blog posts or business plans as I passed mile after mile. It really didn’t matter anymore. I thought about how you can train and prepare for a race all you want, but life is a free-for-all.  No training, no preparation in the world can make losing a child (or watching them suffer) easier. I thought about losing my mom to cancer and how the words “they found a spot on my lung” changed my life forever.  I realized this race isn’t about me and my performance. It’s about everyone on the course and everyone cheering on the sidelines.  Everyone has a different reason to be here, a different goal and purpose.  And every one of them is important. It was about every single child, parent, friend or relative suffering in the world.  It was about coming together with humanity to show empathy and take on just a little of the pain.

When I wear my race shirt I’m not going to be boasting about finishing a half marathon. I’ll be boasting about my part in humanity. A reminder that we’re in this world together and together we’ll finish strong.

PS. Please consider giving to St. Jude’s.  My personal fundraising page is still open through January 2018 and you can find it here.  You can also donate directly here.


My Momma’s Hippie

I woke up one morning recently and realized I’m where I always wanted to be.  And you know what happened to the girl who got everything she ever wanted? She lived happily ever after.  Okay, I might have stolen that line from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but it’s the first thing that popped into my mind.  Willy (the Gene Wilder one, not Depp) smiling at Charlie as he broke through the ceiling of the factory and soared above the pain, suffering and despair below him (and now in his past).  People tell you to be careful what you wish for but I didn’t just wish myself happy.  I didn’t just start to think happy thoughts.  I dug deep, cracked open and blossomed.  While positive affirmations are a big help, being receptive to change and setting the intention to change is very, very different.  I had to shake off things that no longer served me and while it was hard, I did it.

I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot. I became the hippie I am today because of who she was. Her struggles, her anger and her fear were catalysts to make me stronger, gentler and more accepting of myself.  That was her greatest gift to me; to allow me to become who I am and accept who I am.  Right before she died I was trying to get her to eat something.  It was diced pears (the last thing she ate) and she’d have nothing to do with them after one bite.  She was looking at me with those tired, tired blue eyes.  I now think she was burning my soul into hers so she would recognize it again when she returned.  Teasingly I said, “You never thought you’d raise a hippie, did you?”  She quickly said, “No!” with almost a proclamation of disbelief.  She’d always complained about my food choices (damned hippie) and how I raised my kids. I was (and am!) too soft on them.  But I could see she was proud of who I’d become.  I hadn’t been a failure after all.  And most important, she knew I’d be okay.  I had no other option. She had given me all her strength and determination, leaving none for herself.

The past year has been one hell of a journey.  Loss, acceptance, new love (not only my partner, but most importantly, love for myself).  I have gone on a tremendous journey of self-discovery, tearing down all I thought I should be and welcoming the person I am.  So many lessons run through my mind, body and soul.  Some seemed to hit me like a brick this morning; others have been brewing and bubbling to the surface one understanding at a time.

  • The journey happens whether you like it or not.
  • And whether you notice or not.  The days tick by and you need to be happy as much as possible. I have bad days–they pass.  I have good days–they, too, pass.  Each day passes no matter what.
  • I try to be as happy as possible and take the sad days as temporary.  I am a lot more aware of why I’m unhappy and if I don’t, my years of journaling have allowed me to crack open and get to the heart of the matter.  Which is usually my fear of not being enough one way or another.
  • I have the resources to heal myself.  Journaling, Brene Brown books, a little Agatha Christie and most importantly, quality (and quantity) time on my mat.  Going within isn’t scary; it’s peace.
  • I’ve learned to work through the stories I tell myself and put them to rest.  Too often I create scenarios on why someone said something or didn’t say something, and bring myself into a dark place. All because of the stories I’ve created in my mind.  They are self-inflicted.  I used to think it was because I’m a writer, but it’s because I’m human.
  • I’ve had a very long journey to get here and while not every day is a success, fewer and fewer are spent in pain.
  • When I live my passions, I am at peace. Reading, yoga, nature, writing and research.  When I make time and space for these five elements, I am being true to myself and am able to truly feel comfort and solace.

I love who I’ve become and I’m proud as hell that I’ve allowed myself to become her.  Her strength, love, understanding and acceptance is beyond what I could have imagined a year ago.  I am at peace for the first time in many, many years.  I live true to my nature. I am happy!



Love, Actually

Every year I relish the seventeen times Love, Actually is on television.  Indeed, I enjoy it so much I finally just bought the DVD.  Love, Actually is a British “Christmas” movie with some of the greatest stars: Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kiera Knightly, Martin Freeman and for all you Walking Dead fans, Andrew Lincoln.  There are a few others you’ve seen before, but have no clue what their name is.  The storyline follows eight very different couples the month before Christmas.  But they aren’t all “couples”.  Liam Neeson and his stepson are one said “couple”, while the beautiful Laura Linney plays the sister who gives up any chance of a love life to be there for her brother.  As for love, the opening narration (done by Hugh Grant) sums it up.

“Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, old friends.  When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge–they were all messages of love.  If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love, actually, is all around.”

We put such a narrow meaning on the word “love” that we forget it IS everywhere. It’s present in everyday exhibitions of caring and sacrifice just as much as in the messy, hot passion of a love affair.  Sometimes it manifests itself by simply making your children a paper mache lobster costume for the Christmas pageant.

Like all incredible stories, I’m able to take away a new outlook with every viewing.  Whether it’s something as superficial as recognizing one of the stars for a new role they’ve done or just realizing how funny certain lines are, I never watch the same thing twice.  I am able to relate to one of the stories and see how my life, my love, is being reflected in myself.  This year was no different.  But for the first time, I related to Laura Linney’s role as caregiver. Her character spoke volumes to me and I love her for it.  I respect her for it.  I respect myself a little more.  Her character, Sarah, is very much in love (lust?) with Carl, a handsome guy at work.  However, Sarah is constantly tied to her mobile phone, the connection she has to her disturbed brother who lives in a home.  He always comes first.  His call brings her back to reality, back to the harsh responsibilities of a real life caregiver.  When finally given the opportunity to be with Carl, she has to make the heart wrenching decision to push him away in order to fulfill her duty to her brother.  It’s not your average, feel good story about love. It’s the story of sacrifice and love for family, yes, but it’s also a bit eye opening as well.  I wondered why she pushed Carl away.  She could have let the phone ring and her brother would have been okay.  He was surrounded by people taking care of him.  He was safe.  But when she reached for the phone instead of being present with Carl, she was reaching for a crutch as well.  She was choosing the safety of the known (her role as caregiver) over the unknown (was she good enough to be loved?).  At first I thought it was because of her overriding sense of family that made her give up the chance she’d pinned away for.  But when she said, “I don’t deserve him” it made more sense.  The story changed from the love of sister-brother to the love of one’s self.

There’s something about being in love, or loving, that creates a fine line between confidence and the fear of inadequacy.  Perhaps it’s normal to have fears and doubts when faced with the one person you believe makes the world go around.  When you look at them and think, “wow, they’re amazing!”,  perhaps it’s more normal than not to question your own worth.  It’s only when you love yourself enough, have enough self confidence and acceptance of your own worth that you are able to truly love another.  All obstacles will fall away and make room for it, if you’re ready.  Suddenly, I saw the theme in all the couples.  Confidence and trust within themselves was the only way to truly find love.  Once they found that, they found everything.  So simple. And it’s been there all along.  Man, I love good movies (and books) just for this reason!

So this year I may have continued to swoon over the love of Colin Firth (because, well, he’s Colin Firth) but I paid a bit more attention to the real love stories as well.  The love of the self.  Even Colin needed to overcome his own demons and try again at that frightening prospect.  He had to realize he was worth it.  I saw how each character struggled with their own insecurities and failures.  Some winning, some losing.  Because actually, love can only start with the self.

To the Mountains…towards my passions

I’ve spent the morning searching hotels on line.  Well, not hotels actually. Inns nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  I’m looking for a retreat; a place to hide away for a few days and escape the stresses of my life. Maybe even get some much needed writing done on my novel.  Ideally the Inn would be historical, yet comfortable; I won’t have to think about cooking or dishes because my meals are beautifully prepared. People are friendly, yet not intrusive.  Perhaps they’ll have a dog that sleeps by the fireplace in the main room and I’ll watch it snooze peacefully, adding to my own comfort.  I’ll settle into an overstuffed chair with a good book and a blanket, a cup of tea (poured by someone else) at my side.  The scent of Earl Grey will reach my nose and fill me with warmth.  It will be January or February and certainly mid-week before everyone else arrives. Solitude is a pleasure for me. There will be large amounts of snow in the mountains and if I’m lucky, a gentle snow will fall at least once while I’m there.  But then the storm will blow away and the sky will turn to a crisp blue, the sun shining brightly.  I’ll head out on snowshoes through the woods, or maybe I’ll try my hand at cross country skiing.  The bright, new fallen snow will require sunglasses as I look at the snow topped trees and the surrounding mountains.  It’s a winter wonderland and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.   I’d return refreshed and ready to tackle the world!  But the warmth of the fireplace and the gentle snores of the sleeping dog will return me to the calmness I crave.

My room will have a large four-poster bed.  A fireplace.  A touch of Victorian, that era I love so much.  I’ve found the room. I’ve found the Inn and ironically (or not), I’ve been to this Inn before.  I was there many moons ago with my ex-husband.  I was a different person then, full of hope for the future.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve picked it again.  I may even request the same room.  Not because of any fond memory of him, but perhaps because it’s familiar in a strange way.  It’s almost like a reset; a place to start this new journey of my life.

One of the critical lessons I’ve learned through Discover the Gift is that action towards your passions is of utmost importance.  Every choice we make will move us towards our gifts, or away from them.  My gifts include nature, learning and writing.  This retreat would feed so much of my soul.   Every decision and action I take, I take towards becoming my authentic self.  So, while it may have started out as curiosity, as a fantasy of escape, I’m finding it to be so much more.  This journey is allowing me to take a large step in the direction of creating the life I’m dreaming of.  It’s a small, yet poignant step towards discovering my authentic self.  I’ll be booking the room.

Action in Motion

“Activation August” I’ve decided to call it.  Action on the path I’ve set out on, movement on my journey.  DOING.  MOVING.  Move out of my head and into the land of the living through actions. Deliberate and with awareness.  Start walking on the trail I’m always talking about, instead of just talking about it.  This is my month of ACTION.

It’s only five days into the month and I’m doing well.  Hiking solo, working each day actively on my passions.  Writing, hiking, nature and learning.  Doing something every day that propels me along.  But action truly comes in many forms.  It can manifest itself in the physical actions you take, or in the small, tiny choices that take no physical action at all.  Saying yes.  Saying no.  Each time you make a mindful decision or choice, you are in action.  As a matter of fact, it’s the mental, emotional awareness behind the action that makes it true activation.  Action, without awareness, is just movement.  Like picking up weights and just flailing your arms around instead of determined, concise movement, each choice needs to have purpose. Without purpose, it’s just movement, not improvement.

As a writer, I know the importance of having each sentence either reveal something about the character or propel the story forward.  All else is filler.  Avoid filler.  The same is true of life.  Each decision should be based on either revealing a strength or weakness about yourself, or it should propel you along in your journey.  If it reveals a weakness, work to make yourself stronger.  If it reveals a strength, keep doing it.  Either way, even the choice to have salad over pizza is an action.  It’s a deliberate choice to keep you on your path.

It’s the simple ability to say yes to an opportunity that gets you closer to your goal, or saying no to something that takes you in the wrong direction; action is living mindfully towards your goals.  It takes practice.  It takes determination and the knowledge of what your path is.  Then you can ask yourself what your decisions are telling you.  When you do something that goes against your path or your heart, what are you saying about yourself?  What are you saying about that action? Does it propel you towards your goal or does it reveal something about you?  Weaknesses, strengths, needs, desires–each choice tells a story.  Be actively aware of every choice you make.  Accept it.  It’s your choice.  Go for a walk or don’t.  It is never wrong. For we are responsible for the choices we make.  Not our parents or our spouse.  Not our family, friends or society.  We are.  So we need to make careful, mindful choices based on our own journey.  It’s not easy.  It never will be.  But each choice makes it easier to receive the things you need.  Like a wheel in motion, as long as you are moving, you aren’t growing moss.

So I’ll keep moving.  Keep making mindful decisions that propel me forward.  Action isn’t just about running a marathon or hiking a mountain.  It’s the deliberate awareness that comes with the physical action.  It’s the marriage of the two that makes it ACTIVATION!

Solo…the Summit

Summit Marker at Mt. Ascutney, VT
Summit Marker at Mt. Ascutney, VT

This weekend I did my first Solo Summit.  Mt. Ascutney in Vermont is rather local, less than an hour from the house.  I hadn’t planned on doing it alone, but I preferred to leave my reluctant teenagers asleep in their nice warm beds and head out on my own.  I had a purpose.

Mt. Ascutney is 3,144 ft and according to my phone app, I ascended 2270 feet from the trail head.  It’s a good hike, but not a horrendous one.  It is easily done in 4-5 hours; a perfect choice for my first solo hike.  Now, let’s understand the difference between solo hiking and solo wandering.  I wander all the time.  Like Thoreau once did, I strike out my back door and wander for hours through the woods and along forgotten roads.  Wandering solo is something I’ve not only done for years, it’s something I enjoy.  I take the dogs, we head out and return stronger, more focused.  It feeds my meandering spirit, a relaxed ramble through the familiar landscape of my life.

Hiking is different.  It’s to challenge myself. My hikes are well planned and always with a partner (for safety sake).  Needless to say, there usually isn’t the same familiarity of the trail. But it’s also very intimate.  As you generally spend 5+ hours with your hiking partner, you have a tendency to share a lot of things you may not have the inclination to do otherwise.  You’re both hot and sweaty and struggling over boulders and up steep inclines. After a few minutes you don’t care how you look.  Shyness is left at the trail head.  You become raw, vulnerable and real.  You become yourself.  So I can’t hike with just anyone.  It’s draining to make small talk or go through your life history with people you don’t know.  Well, it is for me anyway.  I prefer to be with people I know, who know me, and our conversation can help the relationship become richer.  It’s just who I am and how I prefer to hike; everyone is different. There are hiking clubs you can join or partners you can find on the web to get together and summit.  It’s a great idea and a wonderful way to meet people.  It’s just not where I am right now.  As in many areas of my life, I just don’t have the energy to spare.   So I struck out on my own. Not just because I had written it down in my day planner and wanted to keep to schedule, but because I wanted to know I could. I wanted to know I could make it on my own.

It was hot. It was humid.  My breathing sucked and I wanted to turn around more times than I’d like to admit.  But I kept going.  I stopped and rested when I needed to.  That was the nice thing about being alone; I wasn’t holding anyone up.  I could go at my own pace and didn’t have to feel ashamed for continually needing to stop and catch my breath.  Continually explain how I tend to breathe very shallow when it’s humid; that I thought I had asthma for the longest time and even went through a rash of tests.  How it only really bothers me in the humidity.  And how I’m really in good shape, honest.  I didn’t have to explain to anyone.  But I didn’t have anyone to prod me along, either.  I had to rely on myself.  It’s tougher than I thought.  Somewhere along the line I began to understand the need to reach the summit alone.  I began to understand that there would be a lot more mountains to climb alone, a lot more times I would have to rely on myself to push through. That was the point.  I may never need to hike alone after this, but I could.

It took me a little over 2 and a half hours to reach the summit.  I was tired and hungry and because of the haze I didn’t have a beautiful view for all my troubles.  But that’s okay. I did it.  I sat and ate my pb & j and took a few pictures before heading back down, carrying a new outlook on life.  I’d made it on my own.  It was a simple thing. A simple mountain.  It wasn’t life threatening or extremely difficult.  It was your average hike on your average day.  I ran into very few people, no wildlife (except a snake) and no obstacles.  It was uneventful.  But it let me know I’m more determined and stronger than I thought.  There was a time I wouldn’t have even attempted it.  I, too, would have stayed at home.  There was a time when I would have turned around and said “yeah, riiiight”.  And no one would have thought worse of me.  But I didn’t.  I kept going. And I did it.

I have no doubt I’ll continue to hike on my own, because the alternative is not hiking at all.  I’ll be careful and take my time.  I’ll drink in the beauty of life and see views I will never forget. While I found out how strong and determined I am, I also found out how lonely the trail can be without someone to share it with.  Not someone to keep me going or keep me safe.  That, I now know, I can do on my own.  But someone I can be raw, vulnerable and real with.  Until then, I’ll go it alone. I’ll continue alone until I come to love the solitude as much as I do when I wander the woods behind my home.  I’ll continue alone because I can.

Away we go!

I’ve had an incredible year so far.  It’s been full of introspection, isolation and revelations.  All good things for me.  As an introvert, I’m happiest surrounded by the people I love in quiet settings, enjoying the simple pleasures in life.  Nature, family, friends and the solace of peace.  These things have been my focus the past seven months.  I’ve filled journals and written more from my heart than all the years I’ve been writing.  It didn’t always flow…sometimes I pulled it out, cutting the cords as it landed, bloody and cold, on the paper.  But that’s what healing looks like.  That’s what the heart needs in order to grow.  Each time it’s broken, it rebuilds stronger, larger and (if allowed) able to hold even more love the next time.

Lately I’ve been working to find my “authentic self”.  To speak (aloud) my needs, wants and boundaries and not just put them on paper. I’ve been struggling to be true to myself and follow my true path.  Again, nothing easy there.  But one thing that wasn’t hard was discovering my passions.  While there weren’t a lot of surprises in what makes me happy, what was surprising is that I’ve known what they were all along and have even started down the path so many times.  But I kept turning around.  I kept forgetting where I was going.  I was so focused on the destination, I forgot how to get there. I forgot I need to put one foot in front of the other and DO something in order to get there.

Like any smart hiker, my journey is planned.  I have my map, my supplies and my emergency plan in place.  I have my first aid kit.  I have my team. I’ve done all my research, know all the potential risks and potential glories. But what good is all the preparation if I never step outside? Never break in my new boots? So, I’m ready to go.  I’m taking the physical steps to create the dream I’ve been visualizing for so long.  My path is clear. It’s rough and it’s full of pot holes, but it’s my path.  It’s the one I need to take in order to arrive at my destination. It’s my journey.  I’ve spent a great deal of time deep in the soul.  It’s time to leave the proverbial cave, set my compass and point my face to the sun.

Because you can’t get there from here…if you don’t move.


The Cave You Fear to Enter


Hiking, or “woods walking” has always been my solace. It’s where my soul regenerates and I can get in touch with something so primal and authentic it speaks to my very inner core.  Sure, it’s good exercise and removes the cobwebs from my head, but it’s so much more than that.   It’s not about the hike. It’s not about the walk.  It’s about being at one with the earth and hearing nothing except my own heartbeat (and the birds).  It’s about being surrounded by trees and dirt and rocks that will far outlive me.  We come and go.  The earth beneath our feet is eternal.  The rocks, while they may eventually erode or crumble, will be here for many generations.  I look at the stone walls that line the old back roads and think of those that came before.  The people that cut down forests and built their houses in new fields; those same fields that are now overgrown with pine and maple trees once again. Nothing remains except remnants of cellar holes, boundary lines and old animal pens.

They are logging a lot of the hill where I walk.  At first it broke my heart as the landscape changed and became unrecognizable.  Swaths of newly cut land created a foreign world where I once felt at home.  But now, slowly, it’s becoming familiar again.  Just different. Trees that had stood for perhaps a hundred years lay abandoned, cut and left to rot into earth.  The cycle is continuing.  Life is continuing.  I thought about how the farmer’s children, returning to their homestead decades later, must have been saddened by the trees overtaking their beautiful gardens, pastures and fields.  How those same trees are now being felled to give way to pasture and fields once again.

These moments give me insight into life like nothing else could.  I’m reminded continually of the cycle that surrounds us. Life and death. Growth and decay.  It’s everywhere all the time.  We cannot mourn what is missing for something new is happening.  Where there were trees, fields will take over. Where one thing was, another takes its place.  Different. Foreign at first, but gradually becoming familiar.  For me, where  pain once lived, a new peace is taking hold.  Where once I felt alone, now I feel quiet.  It’s very, very different.

I’m coming into a new period of my life.  I suppose it’s called “empty nest” but it’s much more than that.  I’m coming into a time where I can focus solely on me.  On unveiling the person I’ve become over the years.  It’s happened slowly. Pieces of who I used to be have faded away, much like the erosion eating at the rocks that were stacked purposefully into stonewalls a century ago. I’ve been stacking experiences and emotions into a new formation. Solid and strong enough to last throughout my life.  I’ve changed. I’ve morphed into a different person without really noticing.  But now is the time to take notice.  I’ve the time, the quiet and the solitude to be able to find out who lies beneath this skin I wear.  Who lives deep within and what I need to bring to the surface.  It’s not easy and it’s not always fun, but it’s a journey like no other.  Joseph Campbell said “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek”.   It’s time to light a torch and enter the cave.  They don’t call me Jewels for nothing*… for I am my own treasure.


*Although, when I was young my cousins DID call me “Jewels Worth Nothing”. But they did so in such a way that I knew they loved me more than any jewel they could ever hold.

And just like that…my world changed.

It was a simple enough passage in the book I’m reading, “Nature Principal” by Richard Louv.  He mentions bird watching and how it not only adds a layer of awareness to outdoor activities, it awakens the senses.  I bought “Birding by Ear.”  I bought “Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America”.  I took to my back deck and I watched.  

It was a beautiful morning on Memorial Day weekend.  Sunday.  The trees, not quite complete in the budding process, allowed some view against the crisp, blue sky. Still, the leaves allowed cover for the majority of the songbirds; I could hear them but could not see them.  Then, a flutter and a series of quick, rapid dashes of three small birds, flitting from branch to branch.  Somehow I’d forgotten I might need binoculars, so after retrieving my husband’s good set, I returned.  I figured out how to adjust them and pointed them towards where the movement had been moments earlier.  I searched, the lenses pressed to my eyes, my grip tight (it would take a few hours before I finally relaxed my grip).  Then, suddenly, there it was.  A “she” I would assume from her more muted coloring.  But she was breath taking.  I have never seen a bird through a set of binoculars…not that I ever recall anyway. I continued my quest, watching and focusing in on my surroundings for the next four or five hours. When I couldn’t see a bird, I examined the trees, the branches, and the leaves. I became part of my landscape.  I watched a tiny hummingbird preen himself for so long I finally had to lower my arms and shake out my neck from the strain. I studied the blossom of the Ash tree, a late bloomer in our yard.  I saw what I believe was a Scarlet Tanager and then a Yellow Warbler. I found a fallen Birch tree loaded with polypore.  I continued to watch the small trio of birds most of the morning and early afternoon until they decided they’d find someplace better to be.  I’m thinking they were the White Breasted Nuthatch, but I’m not positive.  But you see, that’s not the point.

I’ve been advised to begin living more in the moment.  I tend to worry, to create scenarios that may or may not come true. My mind toils on the “what ifs” and “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” in life.  I’ve a very overactive imagination and it can lead to chaos in my life if I let it.  So recently I’ve made more of an effort to remain aware. To live in the moment.  I’ve picked up yoga again; just me and the mat (and my animals as everyone knows you cannot be on your mat without the animals joining in…).  But there’s nothing I’ve found that puts me in the moment like bird watching!  After a few hours I realized I’d been fully present every single moment.  I listened to the songs, watched the trees intently for sign of wings. I thought of nothing else. My mind didn’t wander, didn’t creep towards darkness or sadness.  I was rewarded with bright red birds, gorgeous yellow masked ones and playful Chickadees.  I got to see a world right off my back deck I had never paid a stitch of attention to before.  They’ve always been there, the birds. And I’ve always been here.  Almost like a parallel universe; but isn’t that what nature is for a lot of us? A parallel life we forget exists? I get so caught up on the day to day struggles I forget the flowers, the birds, the trees. The ever changing world around me. It’s always there and while I’m very in tune with nature on a regular basis, lately I just haven’t been aware.  

So, with binoculars in hand (at least until my husband takes them back) I search the trees continually for the sight of a new bird.  I watch, listen, sense where the bird may be based on the calling. It’s simple. It’s free. It awakens my senses and allows me to be fully and completely alive.  It’s allowed me to achieve something nothing else ever has. In that moment, I’m no where else.  I’m not in the past or the future. I’m right here. Right where I’m supposed to be.

Peace and the Retrained Mind

Peace of Life
Shared from “” – found on Facebook

This sounds simple enough.  Just retrain yourself to stop having expectations and accept that life is as it is and not what you wish it to be.  Sure.  But this is not something you can wake up and master.  It takes years and years to get to the point where you actually understand the world ISN’T as you think it should be.  Then there’s the stage of denial, where you think there’s something wrong with you.  Then you may spend a few more years trying to fix the world so it is what you feel it should be.  Some people never stop trying; they get stuck in the perpetual loop of endless disappointment.  If only they would… Blame and frustration over things they have absolutely no control over. But if we’re lucky, we come to the understanding that we cannot control anyone except ourselves.  This is the wisdom of age.  Not that you have to be old to understand.  Not physically.  Some people are just born with older souls; they’ve learned a lot of hardships in previous lives and carry those lessons with them into the next stage.

I think I’m somewhere in the middle.  I may not have mastered the ability in my last life, but I’m ready to work on it in this one. Recognition is the first step.  That’s the easy step.  The practice of letting go of expectations is a daily struggle.  I’m sure it will get easier each day, but for now it’s like climbing a mountain. At first you think, “This is easy! I can do that!” then, when the elevation increases and the hiking becomes more difficult,  it takes dedication to not give up.  But while it feels impossible, soon the steps become easier.  You learn to take one small step at a time and most importantly, be aware.  Be aware of each and every step and soon it becomes a learned response.  Will I accomplish this in this lifetime? I don’t know.  But I know it’s something I have to work on each and every day.