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Posts Tagged ‘cottage’

Full Moon

After I slipped down a muddy hillside, I sat in the mud and shot pictures of the moon. Some things are worth getting dirty for.

There is no doubt about it. Summer is winding down. Although the trees remain lush and green, an increasing number of dead leaves decorate my cottage deck. Sweeping them away this morning, I realized the days of denial are over. My intention to Create A Summer I Loved was fulfilled. Is it any wonder I’m dragging my feet a little? When must I officially declare summer over?

As a child, that happened on the first day of school. But here in Charleston, school started on August 11; I wasn’t even back from summer vacation yet! So, that doesn’t work. Labor Day? Well, that’s come and gone, and I’m still in a summer frame of mind. So, no, Labor Day isn’t the end of summer.

What about September 22, the official beginning of autumn? But I’ll be in San Antonio training with Brené Brown to become a Daring Way Facilitator. I can’t officially end summer while I’m still out of town. Nope. Can’t be done.

Yet, I know the leaves will turn and fall. The days will grow shorter. The nights will get cooler. Air conditioning will be turned off, and I’ll switch on the electric fireplace to combat the morning chill at the cottage. Perhaps I’ll be ready to say goodbye to summer when we set our clocks back to standard time.

It’s not really about summer being over. It’s a reluctance to release my “summer way of being.” I have enjoyed moving at a slower pace, skipping the morning make-up-and-hair routine, and being more spontaneous, adventurous, and fun. My summer has been a delightful balance of meaningful work and nurturing play.

But there are a lot of things that didn’t get done. I didn’t blog much; I didn’t write much. I haven’t put any effort at all into marketing my book. My website remains inadequate, and I have not yet cracked the owner’s manual of my new camera.

What did get done? Well, I worked 40 hours a week and completed all of my projects on time. Bills got paid. Grocery shopping done. Meals. Dishes. Dog walking. I watched the moon rise, hiked for hours in the woods, occasionally lounged in the sun in the middle of a workday, painted outdoors as the sun was rising, and sat talking on the deck late on a work night just because I didn’t want the time with my son to end.

If I’m going to move into fall and winter happily, I’ll need to take some of summer’s lessons with me. New priorities. New pleasures. More flexibility. A slower pace doesn’t mean nothing gets done. I want to continue to trust myself to get things done when they need to get done. Even blogging.

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

In the fall of 2000, I delivered a 90-minute presentation on the topic of Power Talking at the national convention of Professional Résumé Writers in Las Vegas. I flew out several days early to indulge myself with a side trip of hiking in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks and horseback riding to the floor of the canyon. Looking back, I marvel at my adventurous spirit. I’m shocked sometimes at the realization: not only did I do it; I did it alone! It was all part of an ambitious plan birthed from my 1989 New Year’s intention to live my life “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.”  (See my 1989 Guidebook: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers).

I was in a reflective mood while hiking a remote trail in Bryce Canyon. Nature does that to me. It opens my mind to the big questions. You know the ones: “Why am I here?” … “Does God exist?” …  “What is the meaning of life?” … “Does anything I do really matter?”

As sometimes happens when hiking alone, I began asking my questions aloud, pleading with The Universe to give me just one solid answer. Is that too much to ask? Really? Just one, incontrovertible straightforward answer. I mean, this is The Universe … all powerful … all knowing … all present. Hello?? Anybody there?

In desperation, I yelled out, “I want an answer … and I want it now!”

Just then there was a sharp turn in the trail and I nearly smacked into a signpost, whose words took my breath away. “STAY ALERT” the bright yellow letters instructed … “READ THE SIGNS.”

Whoa! The message pierced through to my heart. Isn’t it just like The Universe to deliver what we need to know instead of what we demand to know?

This morning at the cottage I found myself asking “What do I need to focus on in 2014? What intention should I pick for the new year?” Silence. And then the impatient shout, “Just tell me! I want to know!”

Then–just like that–I remembered “the sign” that was so meaningful to me 13 years ago. I also remembered the intriguing allure of “omens” in a book I’m currently reading, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. As these rather vague but appealing thoughts were bouncing around my head, I think I actually encountered an omen, but I’m not sure since I don’t really know what an omen looks like. But it felt the way I imagine it feels to see an omen. Silently awed, in the moment, grateful without words for the download of wisdom. Wow!

Happy New Year … Happy New Focus … What do you intend to create in 2014?

As for me, my intention for the next 365 days is to stay alert and read the signs.

Sign from Bryce Canyon

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Yesterday was an awful day. I had a case of “morning brain” that lasted all day long. I’m talking about brain fog so dense, I couldn’t see my way through the simplest mental challenge. It didn’t help that yesterday held a demanding workload. It took me three times longer than usual to get through my tasks. It was an uphill battle, and I finally surrendered around 4:30, thinking I’d get an early start in the morning.

But I woke up with a massive headache, so I quietly made my way to the cottage, hoping meditation, solitude, and coffee might help. Two hours later I returned to the house with the startling realization that the headache was the result of not breathing!

Through journaling and a willingness to look at the truth, I saw clearly just how stressed I’ve been lately, not just the last couple of months, but all the way back to late last summer when Britain first talked to an Air Force recruiter. Since then, life has been a series of well-meaning assurances, like “we’ll know something for sure next week.” I remember deciding to wait to send Christmas cards until we knew something for sure. They never got sent.

Then the uncertainties really started piling up. What will happen to the Ford Institute for Transformational Training now that Debbie Ford is no longer with us? Today was Dannie’s Radiation Treatment #16. Will he have a bad reaction today? Tomorrow Britain is supposed to go to Beckley for the Army physical exam. Will he be signing papers before the weekend?

It’s no wonder I’ve been holding my breath! What’s gonna happen? What’s next? When will I know something for sure? I’ve been waiting for months!

This morning I decided it was time to stop waiting and start breathing. I removed every single non-essential activity from my calendar and spent the day deeply breathing my way through a series of spontaneous activities. I went for a ride in the convertible, singing along with Jimmy Buffett. I grilled steaks and invited my family to an impromptu picnic lunch on the back deck. I watched a training video and then tried my hand at clipping the dog, followed by a bath, where we both got soaking wet.

Yes, I know it was a “work day,” and as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to carefully schedule my priorities for tomorrow. No missed deadlines.  No one will suffer because I found some BREATHING SPACE. I knew those words were on my Vision Map for a reason!

And just so you know … headache’s gone, brain is clear, and I’ve decided to make some permanent changes to my Things To Do List.

#1 – BREATHE!

Breathing Space

Just a little piece of my 2005 Vision Map. I’m still working on it!

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Acrylic painting

I painted this picture to remind myself of the beauty that lies just beyond the darkness

Lately I’ve been feeling off, down, exhausted, sad. Usually, I’m not much of a crier, but this morning at the cottage, I wept. It’s a safe, nurturing place. No one asks me what’s wrong. No one tells me how to feel better. It’s quiet. It’s warm. There’s coffee. And sometimes I cry.

If a coaching client came to me feeling like this, what would I say? I would say, “Tell me about the sadness, tell me about the tears.”

There’s so much going on right now! Dannie’s cancer, Debbie’s death, Britain’s escalating interviews with the Army recruiters (for Special Forces, no less!) My sister-cousin is struggling with SAD. My close friends are talking about moving to Florida. My laptop won’t connect to the network, and my car is leaking antifreeze.

But the work of life goes on. Payrolls need to be processed, bills must to be paid, groceries bought, food prepared, dishes washed, rugs vacuumed. I have a full life that right now feels full of “have-to’s” instead of “want-to’s.” I paste a lame smile on my face, and when people say, “How are you doing?” I say, “Okay,” which is a bit of a stretch, but accurate enough not to be a lie. “Fine” would be a lie. “Okay” makes the cut.

The exhaustion comes from holding back the tears, I think. And from holding back the scary thoughts, from keeping my mouth shut when I want to scream, from summoning that damn smile.

At the cottage, I stop holding things back, and the tears erupt in a cloudburst, accompanied by thunder and lightning. It feels like it will rain forever. Buckets of rain. Waterfalls off the hillsides. Puddles in the streets.

But then it lets up and it feels good. It feels “sleep-after-insomnia” good … “shower-after-grubby” good … “spring-after-long-winter” good.

Gradually my ordinary life, challenges and all, feels satisfying once again, and the warming rays of gratitude begin to brighten the corners of my life.

Sometimes it just takes a good downpour to lighten the weight of the clouds, clear the air, and prepare the ground for new growth.

Oh, and that smile on my face … it’s the real thing now.

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Cottage Path

Pathway to Peace

Going to the cottage has become part of my morning ritual. My soul has come to rely on it in much the same way as my body revels in morning coffee. Thus, sitting in my cottage rocking chair while watching the sun rise and sipping a hot cup of coffee has become this summer’s version of heaven on earth.

This morning it occurred to me that a mere two years ago the cottage didn’t exist. In fact, two years ago, the only thing that did exist was the land and my growing desire for “a bench or something” where I could sit outdoors and meditate.

As I allowed my desire to grow, the “bench” grew first into a glider, then into a gazebo, then into a “shed,” and finally into a fully-insulated, all-weather structure with a sleeping loft and its own electrical service. Oh, and let’s not forget the 100-yard path of stepping stones that keep my feet dry as I pick my way through the woods on dew-soaked mornings. Wow! That’s some meditation bench!

The manifestation of this cottage feels like a miracle on many levels. It’s something I dreamed up, planned, and paid for myself. It was built by me, my family, and friends. I hired no one to help. It’s truly a labor of love. On an outward level, I learned to use power tools, pound nails, install siding and decking, shingle a roof, hang drywall, and much more. On an inner level I learned how to admit my shortcomings, ask for help, allow others to be in charge, and accept without guilt the amazing outpouring of love from so many of my friends and family.

The lessons I learned along the way were both painful at times and funny at others; they were usually at least somewhat interesting. For example, Lesson #12: It takes 3 times longer to remove the wrong caulking than it does to put it up in the first place. (It took a while for that one to seem funny.)

The manifestation of my cottage from desire to reality has been a spiritual journey for me. I mention it now because it will no doubt appear in or be the topic of future blogs. I mention it, too, so you’ll know where I am as the sun’s coming up.

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