August 21, 2016 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

When I started writing weekly Good Things posts in March, after giving my house a thorough decluttering, I wanted to cultivate a mindset of finding cheerful little surprises everywhere. Clutter causes feelings of stagnation and blocked mental energy, making it hard to plan for—or even to notice—anything better amidst the junk. Conversely, good things naturally show up when there is room for them.

So I set myself a weekly task of appreciating one new and positive thing every week in a blog entry, with particular attention to anything that might not have turned up if I’d still had heaps of clutter in the way. The posts were meant in the same spirit as a gratitude journal, to focus on the little things that modern people take for granted while rushing through our busy, overscheduled lives. Even though we may not realize it when we get stressed and distracted, we’re actually sitting on heaps of abundance. So, we should just relax and enjoy the ride!
 

Dog sitting on a big heap of bones in a car. 

When I considered what to write about today, having plenty of time to spontaneously enjoy fun activities was what kept coming to mind. I already wrote a post on that topic back in the spring, and I didn’t want to get repetitive. Then I decided that after writing five months’ worth of articles in this series, I probably could give myself credit for doing a decent job of training my brain to notice the good stuff. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t let myself relax for a while and enjoy what’s left of the summer weather, rather than always having a task-oriented blogging schedule.

Although this will be the last post in the Good Things series, I’ll keep on writing about good things when they come to mind!

Earlier today, I was trying to come up with an insightful observation on life for Nurturing Thursday, but nothing came to mind right away. Then I decided that I was making things too complicated. Life doesn’t necessarily have to be all about profound insights—sometimes it’s enough, and more than enough, just to be present and feel happy in the moment.
 

Word-art with flowers that says "be happy." 

Wishing you well on a peaceful Thursday—enjoy the rest of your day!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

August 16, 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Do you ever dream that you are in school and didn’t do your homework? I have this recurring dream where I find myself in high school with no idea of how to do the math assignments, so I don’t even try. This is not based on anything that ever happened in real life. I generally got my homework done, even if I rushed through it sometimes. As for math, although I wasn’t the top student, I did reasonably well.

I’m guessing that the dream could reflect a general fear of finding myself in situations where I am clueless—unable to “do the math” not literally, but in the sense of figuring out how things fit together. As far as I know, there haven’t been any specific problems triggering this dream. Readers, any suggestions?

For those who like math puzzles, I’ve posted one here. There are nine squares, all of different sizes, within the rectangle shown below. The smallest square measures 1 along each side. How long are the sides of all the other squares?
 

Math puzzle with squares of different sizes. 

My husband, who is an engineer, sent this to me in an email from work about a decade ago. I solved it pretty quickly, with one variable. Meanwhile, the engineers were devising convoluted solutions with multiple variables—which goes to show, there are times when simpler can be better. With that hint, I leave you to have fun with the puzzle!

This week seemed like it went by pretty quickly—late summer always feels that way! As for good things showing up, well, it was a quiet, peaceful week, which is generally a good thing. Not much out of the ordinary, though, with the small exception that I bought a pack of steak knives.
 

Package of four steak knives. 

The old knives had gotten dull, with faded handles, so I’m sure they must have been around for many years. Worn-out things like that often get overlooked, although they are mildly annoying. It’s not until after they have been replaced that the contrast between old and new becomes much sharper, as with the steak knives themselves.

* Good Things is a weekly series featuring the many unexpected joyful things that show up when clutter and stagnation have been cleared away. It’s meant as a reminder that life is always full of happy little surprises, when there’s enough space for them!

Last month I dreamed about a coffin, as I blogged about here. I thought the dream probably meant I had something in my subconscious that needed to get buried. But, what might it be, and how to go about it? Then I decided that I really didn’t have to be so exact about finding one particular issue from the past. After all, everybody has lots of failed expectations wandering around in the dark depths of the subconscious. Giving myself permission to lay them to rest, generally, ought to be good enough.

So I put together an imaginary funeral service for the poor tragic character, Ms. Failed Expectations, burying her in the coffin from my dream in a beautiful but never-worn party dress. My various younger selves were in attendance as the mourners, bringing lovely bouquets and recalling their memories of the dearly departed. It was a dark and stormy afternoon straight out of a bad novel. No rain had started to fall yet, but lightning flashed all around. The air smelled of ozone and melodrama. The casket, piled high with bright flowers, rested beside the open grave.
 

Casket covered in flowers.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

My 20-year-old self, wearing a dark gray suit because she didn’t own a black one, brushed away her tears with one hand while straightening her 1980s floppy bowtie with the other. Her lower lip quivered as she began to speak. “I’m so very sorry for how much I stressed you out by expecting to have a fabulously successful career just as soon as I got through school. I never gave you a moment’s peace, but just kept on reminding you of all the ways you didn’t match up to my fantasies. I’m so sorry.”

Then my inner 25-year-old stepped forward, with windblown hair, slightly uneven lipstick, and a corner of a romance novel sticking out of her handbag. “I’m also to blame for sending you to your grave. If I’d had any clue about how much work goes into building a marriage, then you wouldn’t have felt like everything was about to fall apart if it wasn’t totally perfect.”

Mourners of all different ages spoke a few words to pay their final respects, ending with my 45-year-old self, who looked tired and frazzled. “I thought that I could save the world before breakfast, work a regular schedule, spend quality time with my husband, never miss any of my kids’ sporting events, and still have boundless creative energy left over for stories and fun projects. Well, maybe I did for a while, but…”

The gravediggers slowly lowered the casket into place and began shoveling the dirt over the bright flowers, while my grieving past selves wailed and a cold rain began to fall.

Because we face so many decision points every day in our complicated modern world, it’s just not possible to avoid making mistakes. That in turn leads to feelings of insecurity about whether we’re as capable as others. The truth is, of course, that we don’t have a fair basis for comparison because we rarely see other people’s mistakes and worries—everyone tries to keep them hidden.
 

Word-art that says "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." 

If we ever stopped to add up the many things we’ve accomplished over the years, rather than worrying about little mistakes here and there, we’d find that the scorecard looked pretty good. And besides, life isn’t just a simple calculation of mistakes vs. successes anyway—there’s a lot more to it, such as having fun, doing something meaningful, and making the world a better place.

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

My family got new mobile phones recently when we got to the end of a two-year plan. Because technology is advancing so quickly now, there’s always something new and better to discover when upgrading phones and other gadgets, even if it has been only two years. The screen resolution is much improved over the old phones, making the images crisper and the text easier to read. This is my husband’s phone with a little mirrored image of my phone taking a photo:
 

Samsung phone reflecting another phone taking a photo of it. 

For those of us who are old enough to remember when a phone was a big clunky thing with a mechanical dial and a real bell, hard-wired into the wall and never changing at all from one year to the next, it sure is amazing what we literally have at our fingertips now.

* Good Things is a weekly series featuring the many unexpected joyful things that show up when clutter and stagnation have been cleared away. It’s meant as a reminder that life is always full of happy little surprises, when there’s enough space for them!

I had in mind to get my Nurturing Thursday post up bright and early this morning because I’d been posting them later than usual this summer, and I felt like I had been slacking and ought to do better. But as it turned out, I couldn’t use the computer early in the day because of massive (and somewhat buggy) Windows updates yesterday, which caused a backup to fail last night. My husband started the backup again this morning, and it had to run for a long time.

That turned out to be serendipitous, though. I started thinking about the value of a relaxed attitude toward time as part of self-nurturing, and that ended up becoming today’s post. I asked myself, what’s the big deal anyway about posting blog entries on a schedule? A blog is supposed to be fun, not work. It shouldn’t feel like looking at the clock and filling in project codes on a timesheet.
 

Shiny brass analog clock. 

So, my self-nurturing resolution for this week is to just let my blog posts flow naturally while having fun writing them, and banish all thoughts of slacking!

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

When I was little, I enjoyed the Curious George storybooks about a pet monkey getting into mischief. My dad saw how much I liked them, and he started telling me bedtime stories about a mysterious creature named Goosey Poosey who secretly lived in our basement and got into things when we weren’t looking. Although I investigated the basement pretty thoroughly and never found anything, my dad assured me that Goosey Poosey was very good at hiding.

I recently thought about those stories in relation to the “monkey mind” that gets in the way of meditation. The monkey mind is the part of the mind that just can’t sit still and be quiet but is always full of distracting chatter, like a monkey making noise. However much we try to keep the focus on peaceful feelings, there’s a mischievous little part of the mind that keeps peeking out and wanting attention.
 

Monkey with big eyes peering over a log.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

Usually people think of the monkey mind as an annoying obstacle that needs to be pushed aside through willpower. I wonder, though, if perhaps there’s a worthwhile message from the subconscious in there somewhere. Maybe our inner monkey pops up to let us know that we’re being too serious and not giving ourselves enough freedom to let our thoughts wander along creative paths.

Quieting the mind through meditation helps to set aside worries; but humans, by our nature, are a creative, storytelling species. Our brains were never designed to be in full control of every thought, but instead to make random connections and intuitive leaps, often through play. When we impose too much structure and discipline on our everyday lives, we’re likely to turn to meditation as a way to relieve the stress—but maybe, sometimes, what we need more is just to let Monkey Mind out to play.

July 31, 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags:

My oven gets cleaned regularly because my husband is so well organized, he sets calendar reminders to turn on the self-cleaning cycle. That makes it much easier because there is very little ash to wipe up afterward. But I have to admit that when it comes to oven mitts, I don’t have that level of organization. Last week I realized that it had been about five years since I bought oven mitts and, well, they looked like it. So I got new ones when I bought groceries on Thursday.
 

Pair of red oven mitts on the kitchen counter. 

Now the kitchen is looking brighter with new oven mitts instead of the old faded ones, which were still functional but had a few rips and stains. Small kitchen items like that are cheap, so I wasn’t trying to save money by not replacing them sooner; I just hadn’t given it any thought. It makes more of a difference than it might seem, though, because when we regularly see shabby worn-out stuff we’re subconsciously left with feelings of lack and stagnation. Bright new little things coming into the house make it feel like there’s plenty of abundance and good cheer!

* Good Things is a weekly series featuring the many unexpected joyful things that show up when clutter and stagnation have been cleared away. It’s meant as a reminder that life is always full of happy little surprises, when there’s enough space for them!