My grandmothers were the best women I ever knew. From the day I was born, they were white lights shining on me, getting into my skin and deepening me into the woman I would some day become. When I was young I used to think “when will I reach an age when I can lay down my worries about wrinkles and waistlines?” I knew someday I’d get there, I just didn’t know when. Now I do. It happened when I became Granny, a little less than two years ago.
There’s a genetic alchemy that happens when we become mothers. We suddenly understand our own mothers much better. We love them more. The same thing happens when we become grandmothers, we cherish our own grandmothers more. Or maybe that love part, that best part, just hits the surface. Maybe it lays underground until it’s time to bloom.
Grace allows this transition, you don’t have to have children or grandchildren to lay down the shallow, the inessential. For me, it took that much. Others burn off the outer layer all on their own. Either way, there’s no joy quite like accepting yourself at the deepest level and feeling pure love for self and others without the masks.
Today seems a good day to review those ten happiness booster tips from Mindful magazine and UC Berkeley that I’ve been posting about:
1. Savor Life’s Joys
2. Drop Grudges
3. Get Moving
4. Give Thanks
5. Keep Friends Close
I’ve been off the market for a few months owing to some injuries, and yesterday was my official day to release the crutches and walk unfettered in the world again. Yay! I had lunch with a group of friends, made plans with another friend to see an art exhibit tomorrow, and had a neighbor over for a glass of wine at cocktail hour.
Was I feeling cooped up? You bet. I’m so ready to be social and this is the weekend for it. We have a party with good friends on the 4th and then my Seattle family comes in next week. Al and I have been planning for a big party and some smaller “just us” time too. Then we’re going to visit his dad. Seems I’ll see almost every member of my family and some of Al’s in the next few weeks and all happy occasions.
#6 “Get With the Flow” and I can see some of what that will mean to me beginning on July 15 when I receive my edits from The Wild Rose Press. I also have another book contract to sign with Amazon Encore, something pretty exciting I need to look more closely at today. With book contracts and edits come writing and promotion and this is the flow I’ll be entering after a long winter of writing, writing, writing. Of course I’m still writing…just needing to fit more of the big picture into my flow.
#7 “Practice Kindness” is a big one for me. I always have love in my heart, but it doesn’t always translate into action in the real world. So I’ll be working on that too and letting you know next post some practical steps I took to practice kindness. And of course I hope to finish out those final three tips in my next few posts.
This new thing I am exploring is not really a trick. And I’m not a dog. But I’m 60 years old, so I’ve been on the planet for awhile. Anyone under, say, 40, might think by 60 we have it all figured out. Especially someone like me who has been working on “figuring it all out” for more than half my life. I always want to make my life better. I want better relationships, I want not to be sad, I want success, I want a happy family. I want to be happy inside and out.
Tall order. I’ve walked many paths that promised happiness through my years. I tried giving myself over to God, to Buddha, to yoga, to meditation, to dream analysis, to various therapies both old style and new age. It all helped, for awhile. But I tend to feel judged in or about all these things. Judgmental people freak me out bad. It does not feel good to be observed and found wanting. Found ridiculous, stupid, selfish.
So the judging and the feelings…who exactly does all that? Nobody in particular. Sometimes some person or other will make a veiled remark I expand into a harsh criticism. But the judgement is almost always from myself and I then project that others will see me as ridiculous or stupid or egotistical or selfish or simply lacking in some fundamental way. It never works the other way. I never project that people think I’m great, awesome, smart, creative, got it all together, am amazing.
Sometimes other people give me extravagant compliments. That feels good and I believe them. I don’t go around all the time putting myself down and being negative. It’s just not in my essential nature. But I do ride the waves of feelings that come at me from so many directions and I take stuff from “out there” in the world very much to heart. I take everything personally, even though I know, deep inside, that people rarely give my opinions and antics as much thought as I give to what they think about me. Truth is, others are most likely not thinking much about me, as they are too busy ruminating about what everybody else thinks of them.
I tend to overthink stuff. I spin scenarios out of a few words or a single sentence. It’s crazy to live this way and luckily I am not always in this mode. I’ve worked hard to gain a measure of peace, clarity and positive feelings. This is sometimes difficult for me to maintain when I come up against a tough situation or a maddening person. I have an exacting nature. I expect other people to behave with at least as much compassion and courtesy as I am able to muster. This does not always happen and my compassion bar is set pretty low. I’m better at courtesy Mostly, courtesy is simply a matter of biting my tongue:)
I’d like to be a more compassionate person and for the past year I’ve been meditating on that every day. The compassionate mediation comes from Buddhist thought, and it starts with the self. Many people are hardest on themselves. Nobody can beat you up like that little voice in your head saying you have missed the mark, you are not good enough, you are … fill in the nasty blank.
It’s exhausting, mentally beating myself up. Part of this comes innocently: I am writer who wants to be a better writer. I am not naturally gifted in this area. I have a little talent and a lot of grit. I just don’t give up and I put in the hours and I have improved over the years. One way to do this is to listen to constructive criticism. It is like second nature now, although taking critique without devastation was difficult at first. And while I still take editorial input seriously and work on assimilating the stuff that makes sense to me, I should not take this function of “assimilating criticism” any further than my writing world.
I love the feeling of writing. The process of creating something beautiful. That’s key for me. Of course I want to shape it and make it meaningful for other people too, but the main thing is that feeling I get in process as I spin a world built of words into being. Some people are burned out by the word “creative” but that’s how I love feeling. Creating through words is essential to my soul. For me, it’s a core desire. Loving is another core desire. I want to feel love for my friends and family, for all of them, not just the ones who are easy to love, but the ones who are a little harder to hold close to my heart, too.
Here’s the new trick, it’s from a book called The Desire Map by Danille LaPorte, which is not really a trick, but a new way to live life: you start with how you want to feel and base all your decisions on what you know will keep those feelings alive. I don’t know much about how to do this, but I am taking a workshop soon to learn how to live from my desired feelings instead reacting to feelings that originate outside myself and I then project onto myself.
I will be posting more on my latest, and already very helpful, inner transformation as I continue the journey. Namaste.
One of the perks about getting older for me has been the soundtrack in my head. There’s a lot of good music in there. Like a Paul Revere and the Raiders song from 1967 floating through my head for the last week or so. I have so much good in my life right now. A fews days ago all the lights dimmed, but if you cultivate gratitude, joy follows.
Every day, even on bad days, I find so much to be grateful for–mostly the people in my life, the ones I love. I have a really nice house and many material things, but I’m just grateful for a roof. I’ve had nice houses before. Possessions do not bring me joy. Well, yoga pants and fuzzy socks, but it’s the comfort factor. When my body feels happy, I feel happy in my head, too.
Among other nuggets from the Bard, I shared Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy “The Seven Ages of Man” with my students. It’s a set piece in my favorite play As You Like It that starts out “All the world’s a stage/And all the men and women merely players/They have their exits and their entrances…” When I started reading, I said “Everyone’s heard this, right?” I’m thinking it right now. You know this one, right? Or no? Most students had never heard of it.
I remember the first time I read certain stories and poems, and many other special “firsts” — that magic of learning a new thing. Like the power of gratitude. I started practicing daily gratitude 15 or so years ago. Some days it is really hard to drum up one little bitty piece of it. “Grateful to be here now, with the time and mental focus to know it” is a fallback for anyone who just can’t think of one good thing that happened to them that day, or one good consistent thing in their lives. I have other ones I say every day: “I’m grateful for my family.” And “I’m grateful for my true love.”
Good things bring the joy, and one of those good things is coming up: the weekend! As Paul says, “It’s a groovy world.” So, dance if at all possible. Maybe to this: