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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual growth’

This morning I washed my car. It’s been a while, and it was dog-dirty. I have a Mustang convertible, and I rarely drive it with the top up. That in itself attracts a lot of dust and leaves. Then there’s the dog. I regularly drive her to the forest for stick chasing, creek swimming, and dirt gathering. It took several hours to get my sweet ride looking properly cool once again.

While I was busy detailing, I listened to ‘60s and ‘70s music on Sirius Radio, and my mind began to wander. I was listening to the soundtrack of my high school years. With certain songs, it feels like I’m time traveling. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” takes me back to a morning ride to school, my car filled with friends, and all of us singing and swaying to that song. Good times never felt so good. I swear, I could almost hear my girlfriends laughing and singing.

During my stroll down memory lane, I remembered it was 50 years ago this month that I was excitedly anticipating my 16th birthday. I was so dead sure that my parents were going to buy me a Mustang convertible. I had been dropping hints for moths, maybe for a year. I had plans to get my driver’s license on my birthday, and I imagined driving off in my brand new Mustang.

Mom kept telling me, emphatically, that I was not getting a car. She gave me loads of reasons, mostly financial ones, but I didn’t believe her. I was so sure that she and Dad were just saying no so that it would be a surprise. How could they refuse me? It was my biggest dream ever! It was my 16th birthday! I was certain it was happening. As the days passed, my excitement was barely containable. I could hardly stand it. When the day arrived, I was determined to act cool, to be totally surprised.

I was surprised, all right. A cake, a bottle of nail polish, and some new clothes. That was it. I nearly cried, but I didn’t. I took every ounce of my disappointment and buried it deep, deep inside myself. There was no way I was going to appear ungrateful. After all, Mom had told me time and again there would be no car.

Fast forward to this morning: me happily scrubbing down my car, singing along to the oldies and fondly remembering my youth. Suddenly, I felt my 16-year-old self looking over my shoulder, wide-eyed and thrilled, screaming with delight. The 50-year-old disappointment melted, and I heard myself saying aloud, “I bought it for you, Sweetie. Happy Birthday!” And then that 16-year-old hopeful optimist who had been so determined to act cool and totally surprised, broke down in tears of gratitude.

I have never been so happy with my car as I was this morning, nor have I ever enjoyed washing it quite that much.

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On January 15, 1998, I attended a day-long workshop entitled, “Stress Management For Women in Business.” The only physical reminder of that day is this pink piece of paper on which we were instructed to write a note to ourselves, our most important take-away from the class. Mine said simply: “Life isn’t about what does and doesn’t get done. It’s about … the people we touch, the experiences we have, sharing love, and helping others through this life.”

That was what I learned at the workshop.

I have learned it over and over, again and again.

At first I looked at this piece of paper regularly. Every month for the first few years. Every quarter for a while after that. Finally, every year I pulled it out and read it. You can see where I added notes and taped other quotes. I have been working at understanding what I wrote that day for a long time. For most of these last two decades, I have read this bit of wisdom and thought, “I wish I could remember that on a day-to-day basis.”

But when I pulled out the paper from my tickler file this morning, I finally felt like the wisdom belonged to me. This time when I read it, I said aloud, “Well, yeah! I already knew that.”

How true. I knew it 21 years ago. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to write the note to myself. Heck, I’ve probably known it since I was a little kid. It seems to have taken a lifetime of striving and doing, setting and meeting goals, and crossing things off my to-do list to finally work my way back to elemental truths.

I especially like that little sideways note that I wrote in blue, maybe ten years ago. It says: “Life isn’t about what we are doing … it is about what we are being. Peaceful? Loving? Accepting? Kind? What are YOU being today?”

I do so love the wisdom that leaks out of me every once in a while!

As I head into this new year, I’m feeling pretty good that I seem to know this truth right now. I’m also okay with the fact that I might forget it before the year is over. So I’ll embrace that little note at the top that says, “I commit to trusting the process.” After all, Life Lessons play out repeatedly all through one’s lifetime. They’re not finished until we are.  And I don’t feel finished quite yet.

 

 

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Around my 40th year, I heard a speaker on the topic of prosperity consciousness. A new way of thinking about money began changing my life for the better, and I am still regularly engaged in many of the practices that emerged a quarter of a century ago.

One of those was making a spiritual practice out of the routine task of paying bills. Way back then, I wrote many checks each month. As I signed them, I wrote the word “Gladly,” above my signature. As I did so, I carefully considered the reason I was glad to be sending my money to the water company, the gas company, the Internal Revenue Service, etc. Every time I wrote a check, I found a reason to be grateful: for a reliable supply of clean water, for heat throughout my home all winter long, and for the National Parks Service.

You see, I decided every last penny of federal tax I would ever pay would go directly to supporting the National Parks Service. On the memo line, I used to write, “For the National Parks.” I feel ownership every time I enter one of the parks, walk the trails, or attend a ranger led hike. Whenever I feel like I’m sending a lot of money to Washington, I think about just how much it takes to operate my beloved national parks, and then I realize how small my contribution is in comparison.

Paychecks to my employees were signed “Gladly.” All personal and business checks were almost always signed “Gladly.” Those that weren’t, represented my decision to pay grudgingly. When I made that choice, I also took responsibility to do what needed to be done to change the situation. When I battled with my cell phone company over incorrect roaming charges, I did not pay gladly, but I did change cell phone carriers. If I can’t find a reason to be glad to circulate my money in one place, I will find a new place.

Since the ’90s, things have changed a lot. I rarely write checks anymore. Utilities, medical bills, and even taxes are all paid electronically. When I use my credit card at the store and sign my name with the “magic pen,” I usually scrawl the word “Gladly” as part of my signature. It continues to work as a reminder to be grateful for the opportunity to circulate financial energy.

Today I received an email from PayPal: “You’ve Got Money,” it said. It was from my son sending partial payment for a loan I made to him last year. The transaction details included a note from him: “May and June. Gladly! Love You!!”

Wow! Gladly is a powerful word. It can bring tears to my eyes and fill my heart with gratitude … writing it … and reading it.

Estimated Taxes Check

Signing checks gladly for 25 years

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English Country House

English Country Home (I took this photo in 1989 when we took our Britain to Great Britain)

I began a 12-week Artist’s Way workshop at the beginning of January. Already my “Inner Artist” is enjoying the attention. I’m painting more and writing more. Below, I have written a bit about my process of awakening to a new level of creativity.

I have been daydreaming a lot lately. It feels like traveling to a country home–one of those thatched-roof beauties in the English countryside that has been closed up for a long, long time. Dusty and dark. Shutters on the windows. Sheets on the furniture.

Slowly, I open the front door. The air smells stagnant and woody, like long unread books and lonely dining room chairs. But then, curtains thrust aside, sunlight awakens the interior. Bright, lively colors emerge from slumber. Each room is a surprise as long forgotten joys emerge: Oh, that rocking chair! My hand mirror! I remember where I found those shells!

Discovered treasures warm my heart and kindle a fire of possibility. The Spirit of Adventure prods me to open more doors, pull up blinds, and allow breezes to pour through the windows. I race to see more, to love more, to dance in delight at the wonder of it all.

Why was it that I closed off this bit of myself? What caused me to think I no longer needed these parts of me? I have been living in three rooms, dependably going through the motions of life, all the while feeling closed in, uninspired, stuck, and bored. There have always been so many rooms. A mansion of rooms. Some forgotten; others, never explored.

I’ve been so afraid of the mistakes, the things that broke my heart and seemed to crush my soul. I thought if only I could curl up here in the corner, I could stay safe. Sorrow would roll over me and onto someone else.

But it has been sorrow’s companion, fear, that took up residence in my heart. Whispering warnings. Shouting horrifying scenarios. Until my energy was gone. It took so much not to listen.

NO MORE! The sun. The fresh air. The ideas. The dreams. They are all so full of energy.

I am remembering so many things I wanted to do “BEFORE.” Before the fear and sorrow began closing the windows, pulling the blinds, locking the doors. Run! Hide! Protect! Armor Up! Close Your Heart!

Too many days of rain and clouds. Winter cold. Dark, dark nights and foggy days. Weeks. Months. Years.

But Spring is here! Seeds planted long ago emerge, to grow, blossom, and flourish. This is my final chapter, my closing act. I have ample time for one more spectacular performance.

And they will say: “She saved her best for last.”

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