OK, I thought, nevermind the bugs, thirty minutes. That’s all I have to do. Focus Holly.
I narrowed my visual field and chose one set of shelves, telling myself that was all I needed to tackle today. I could organize one set of shelves in that time, right?
Thirty minutes later my phone played a happy, if somewhat muffled jingle from the back pocket of my jeans and I looked up to realize I had accomplished more than I set out to do. One whole wall of the pantry was neatly organized. I had a pile of recycling outside the door and a bag of trash. The children’s chairs sat in the next room awaiting their new home. Paper goods sat primly in their own corner of the space. Plastic containers, out of season kitchen equipment, disinfectants and cleaners occupied another set of shelves. Serving dishes and items for entertaining took up still another, ready for the next party. The time had whisked by and I was pleased with how much more open the pantry felt. I almost didn’t want to stop there, but I knew that if I left the job feeling that way, it would be much easier for me to pick it up again the next day.
Within a few days, the pantry was reorganized and I'd enjoyed the whole process, celebrating the product of my efforts. And that’s the secret, enjoying the process as well as the product.
But what could possibly have been enjoyable about organizing the basement pantry? I mean really, it’s the basement. The concrete floor and walls are cold. There might be spiders, or worse, those thousand-legged crawly things that jump out at you when you move stuff off the basement floor. Shiver. How is that a good time?
Well, let’s take another look at what actually happened.
First, I set a timer. I limited the amount of time I would have to spend on that particular job, on that particular day. This allowed me to quiet the voice in my head that whined about what a big job this was and kept asking me if I wouldn’t rather be reading that good book I started last night.
Limiting the time also encouraged me to focus my attention. I had to narrow my field of vision. No falling down the rabbit hole of figuring out where those children’s chairs or anything else that didn't belong were going to end up. Just pick them up and move them out of the pantry so I could reach the set of shelves I was working on.
As I focused my attention, I got fully present with what I was doing, and that is the key to enjoyment. I had all my attention centered in the process. I knew I wouldn’t finish the pantry that day. I wasn’t rushing or thinking about the future product of my efforts. I was attending to what I was doing in each present moment, flowing from one into the next, and that was really enjoyable. In fact, I’m looking forward to my next reorganization project.
Also, not a spider in sight, and the crawlees kept to themselves. 😉
Where do we look for the exit from this spinning hamster wheel of survival fear? There must be a way we can we make 2021 different, more positive than 2020.
As individuals we may not be able to do much about the world events swirling about our lives, but we can look to our inner environment. That’s where we can create a 2021 that feels and lives on a different, more positive level than we may have in 2020. We can hop off this hamster wheel, open the door to the cage and step out into the fresh air, one appreciative moment at a time.
The other day I was enjoying our backyard. It is bordered by trees, standing like sentinels at the edge of a grassy field. The tallest are the black locust, their bare black-brown branches reaching high into the sky. In front of them stand the junipers, dusty green and full. As I gazed at the treetops high above, branches outlined against the sky, I saw two squirrels chase each other up the trunk of a black locust, all the way out onto the twiggy ends of the uppermost branches that just barely supported their weight. Then they leapt into the air, one after another. The grey forms seemed to hang suspended in midair, their agile bodies curved like commas in a sentence, heads, tails, and paws reaching for the juniper branches below. Then the juniper caught them like a loving parent, in branches that bent and swayed beneath the aerialists, breaking their fall. The squirrel chase continued on down into the thick foliage of the juniper and I saw no more of them.
The image of that leap stayed with me. Later that day, this quote from Abraham-Hicks showed up in my email inbox. I had to laugh. The message was clear.
“By thinking and speaking more of how you really want your life to be, you allow what you are currently living to be the jumping-off place for so much more. But if you speak predominantly of what-is, then you still jump off —but you jump off into more of the same.”
2020 was our jumping off place, the twiggy ends just barely supporting us as we leapt off into 2021. The question is what are we jumping off into? Will it be more of the same?
As I type, a fire crackles in the woodstove beside where I sit, embraced by our once white, leather barrel chair. The chair is marked and speckled with years of laughing, spinning grandchildren and territorial felines. Golden flames dance above the dark shadow of wood in the hearth and the fire warms me as I turn to look out the wood-framed bay window of our living room. A wintry mix of rain, snow and sleet is decorating the branches of the crabapple which shelters the front of our home. Frozen droplets of rain hang like twinkle lights strung along every branch. Tiny, burgundy red crabapples dangle below, each one encased in ice. A slate sky hangs above, contributing an increasing supply of much-needed moisture to branch, berry and ground. The usual community of birds who frequent the crabapple are nowhere to be seen. No doubt they are hunkered down within the sheltering branches of the junipers.
It feels good to hunker down myself, safe, warm and dry, and consider this transition time in which we now find ourselves.
The biggest lesson for me from this passing year is that of letting go of how I think things should be and appreciating what is. Throughout the year, unexpected and unwelcome events kept piling up and it became clear that I couldn’t anticipate what the next month or even the next week would look like. I had to let go of my ideas of what was, and allow what is and what could be. Most of all, I had to learn to take pleasure in the positive parts of my life that I might have taken for granted, but do no longer.
I learned at a whole new level, how to enjoy the little things, spread over the branches of my life, like berries from a tree, waiting for me to savor and appreciate. A warm fire, a good roof over my head, the beauty of nature just outside the window, the antics of my grandchildren as posted on Facebook with riotous subtitles by their Dad, the love and health of family and friends, my own health, learning how to use Zoom, my small yellow-lab, dancing and twirling on the end of her leash, hip-checking the neighbor’s huge, young golden, plenty of toilet paper, paper towels, and food to eat. And did I mention toilet paper? I have a whole new appreciation for that humble roll of white. Everyday life, so easy to take for granted just because it is always there.
Until it’s not.
We are lucky here in the Midwest. The shortages of supplies have been short-lived. The pandemic has been survivable for most. The political situation hasn’t affected our everyday lives too, too much. Yet, as each thing threatened from the outer world, the little everyday things we depend on became that much more precious.
I look out the window once again and a single robin, harbinger of hope, alights in the crabapple and helps herself to the frozen crabapple banquet spread before her. 2021 stands before us, a banquet of tiny, delicious moments awaiting us. May we be as the robin, hope-filled, braving the storm, and appreciative of each moment of happiness and enjoyment spread before us in 2021. May we be as the squirrels, leaping off into a new year that supports and holds us in loving embrace.
Happy New Year to you, dear friends.
The sweet peace is surprised by the loud, hooting call of a Barred Owl, and answering call from the yard next door. It is long past their bedtime. Do you suppose it is an illicit treat for them to call, questioning to each other from their beds like disobedient children? “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” The first caller dares leave its bed and fly on silent wings, off to visit its partner in crime no doubt. They keep quiet now, probably whispering clandestine owl secrets to each other in the morning light.
This is a precious moment, timeless and fleeting. Soon, the day will begin in earnest. There is work to be done after all, appointments to be kept, preparations to make. Life to be pursued with the single-minded devotion that believing in the gravity of our individual lives inspires.
Yet the breeze still carries its message, waving from treetop to treetop, rustling through the branches. “Stay with us,” it whispers, “stay.” Then all is quiet and my thoughts return to my lists and the clock, email and texts. A hummingbird appears, hovering, magic on wings, dipping into the petunias in my planters on the porch steps. Flitting from flower to flower, never landing, never lighting, an iridescent fairy creature in plain sight.
What is this magic that calls me to stay? Persuading me to allow the wonder, convincing me with the touch of a breeze softly brushing my arm. It sways me to listen for the swishing, rustling, chirping, twittering, hooting, seeming quiet of the morning, the ever-changing green surrounding me and the wings that flutter from tree to feeder and back again. It fills me with the sweetness of the rain-washed air, and I stay. For it is love made manifest, magic indeed.
Life is full of spiritual lessons. Some feel good, some not so good. All support us to grow. This blog is about my life lessons. Perhaps you'll find yourself within these stories.