“In the end….”

20140620-143346-52426179.jpg“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia)

Words to Live By (Part 5)

“If I saw you hitchhiking, I’d smile and return your thumb’s up, just for you doing such a great job of being a positive roadside influence.”
― Jarod Kintz

1935760_142466655801_6505249_nBeing positive, having a positive attitude, looking at things with a glass half full changes everything about your day and your life. A person can look around and notice all the things in life that aren’t right, or need work.  They can wait for things to break or go wrong.  Or they can look and see the things that are working now.  They can see the blue sky, that there’s light and love and beauty all around them. One way leads to stress and worry, the other to contentment and happiness. We all worry, we all fret about the things that can go wrong, the things that might be going wrong, but we can’t live there, in that place. We have to live with light, and be in love with life. If we can manage that, even in times of trouble, we become a force for the positive. We can learn to see past what might not be OK now to know it will be soon.  We stay open to the world, instead of being afraid of it.  Light wins, dark abates.

“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.”
― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Playing, as in riding a bike, or swinging on a swing, or going down a slide, or jumping in a bouncy house, is good for the soul. Those things speak to the kid living inside us and encourages that kid to come out and play. Being playful, however you do it, brings so much joy and happiness into our lives. It can be telling a stupid joke or saying something dorky to make someone laugh. It doesn’t matter how you get there, it’s that you get there in the first place. Joking around, being dorky, being willing to play, brings out the kid in us, the kid that’s always there, waiting to smile and have a good time. The kid that knows how to make things lighter and brighter and new.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Reading  a good book opens the world to us. Words create bonds.  They convey insights into life, living, emotions we might not understand, ways of living that are different from ours, or the same as ours. In every good book I read I find some new meaning and depth in life.  A turn of a phrase can enlighten and fills out more of the story of living. Books open worlds otherwise unknown.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Friendship carries us through everything in life. The value of living is found solely in our relationships with others. In the experiences we have with the people in our lives.  Our friends can be there throughout our lifetime or people we only know and spend time with during shorter periods. They can be family or other people we’ve chosen to spend time with along the way.  Their presence gives meaning to all the most important experiences of our lives. They strengthen us when we need it, hold us when we need it, tell us the truth when we need it, and bring more love into our lives than we can even believe possible. The people we love and who love us back are the most important.  Period, the end.

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

Generosity of spirit and of self brings peace and tranquility to life. When you give of yourself you put out positive energy into the world, broadening it. Being generous of spirit means you give of yourself in small ways and big. You don’t have to give out loads of money, but you can get inclusive, you can share what you have to share, include others in your life, be gracious, be open, be willing to help when help might be needed, be a light when someone can’t see through the darkness in their lives. Being generous just means opening yourself and giving of yourself without thought for what you might gain from it. It’s selfless, and being selfless pulls us out of our own heads, our own lives, reminding us that we aren’t alone, and that we aren’t all there is.  It’s so important to remember that.  Be generous with your time, with your heart, with yourself.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Appreciation for things in life, be it the actions of a friend, the kindness of a stranger, the smile on the face of someone you love, or wet kisses from your dog, brings a sense of connection, joy, and awe about this life we’re living. Knowing to appreciate what you have, not so much the things, though appreciating those as well says you realize others might not have what you do and you should be grateful for what you have, but for the people in your life, for the food on your table, for getting to experience the experiences you do, helps you to cherish life, cherish living. Appreciating the actions of others says you acknowledge a kindness or a gesture of goodwill. Having a real appreciation for things means you don’t take them for granted. Not taking the people and things in your life for granted means you feel what they bring to your life. Feeling that brings meaning.

“i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”
― E.E. Cummings

Being thankful for good and kindnesses and help and smiles in our lives further connects us to those moments. It brings a warmth and sincerity to our every day. A person can never say thank you enough. From the check out clerk to the post lady to helpful visits from family to just an everyday act of being passed something you asked for. Saying thank you spreads good will and encourages others to spread it as well. Saying thank you says you acknowledge the importance of what just happened. Saying thank you fills your heart with beauty and grace and a happiness that doesn’t come any other way. Being thankful, to your bones, for life’s little wonders, and some big ones, creates a force for so much good inside of you that it spills out to others. It gladdens our hearts as well as the hearts of those around us. You will never regret saying a deserved thank you. You will regret not saying it. We don’t act alone in the world, saying thank you acknowledges that. It’s a powerful force for good.

“When You Are Old”

WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.”
― W.B. Yeats

Grace can’t be put on, it has to be cultivated inside of us. Simplicity of movement, of thought. Being present for people in your life. Not like a bull in a china shop but by being quietly there. Not everything has to be done with a big splash, some things require a quiet manner, they require a certain dignity. I struggle with this, but reach for it, try to cultivate it in myself. I have seen grace under pressure, I’ve seen simple dignified grace. It is a beautiful thing.

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” 
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

Keeping quiet, not speaking unless you have something good or positive to say, perpetuates good.  Speaking out of turn, gossiping about others, even stating your opinion when it’s not asked for or warranted, creates discord, chaos, and possibly hurt feelings.  It’s always better to stay out of things.  Jumping into situations only helps to keep them going, to keep the negative talk in the fore.  There’s a difference between standing up for something or someone, and putting yourself into the drama.   There’s a proper way to stand up for someone or something without being nasty or ugly or hurtful.  If someone is hurtful, you don’t have to sink to that level.  If someone is bullying, you don’t have to become a bully to fight against it.  Don’t talk about others.  Talk about ideas.  Talk from a place of love and understanding.  Use your powers for good.  It will help to keep the chaos at bay.  It will simplify your life.  It will keep you from being the victim and will add to the strength you already have.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” 
― Hunter S. ThompsonThe Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

Adventure can be found right where you are.  I watch the grandchildren and everything, including a leaf, or jumping off a step stool, holds adventure for them.  There’s a lesson in it.  We get so caught up in our daily lives with the business of living;  paying bills, making money, doing chores, we don’t stop and look and experience things in a pure way.  We’ve forgotten how.  But, it’s still in us.  Those feelings of awe and inspiration and wonder.  So go on an adventure, even if you can’t leave your house right now.  Make a game of it, tackle a task as if you’re on safari, narrate doing the dishes.  All of this beautiful life we’re living is an adventure.  It’s incredible.  Say yes to life, even if you’re unsure.  Grab it.  Be bold.  Be brave. Be adventurous.

“I examined the poets, and I look on them as people whose talent overawes both themselves and others, people who present themselves as wise men and are taken as such, when they are nothing of the sort.

From poets, I moved to artists. No one was more ignorant about the arts than I; no one was more convinced that artists possessed really beautiful secrets. However, I noticed that their condition was no better than that of the poets and that both of them have the same misconceptions. Because the most skillful among them excel in their specialty, they look upon themselves as the wisest of men. In my eyes, this presumption completely tarnished their knowledge. As a result, putting myself in the place of the oracle and asking myself what I would prefer to be — what I was or what they were, to know what they have learned or to know that I know nothing — I replied to myself and to the god: I wish to remain who I am.

We do not know — neither the sophists, nor the orators, nor the artists, nor I— what the True, the Good, and the Beautiful are. But there is this difference between us: although these people know nothing, they all believe they know something; whereas, I, if I know nothing, at least have no doubts about it. As a result, all this superiority in wisdom which the oracle has attributed to me reduces itself to the single point that I am strongly convinced that I am ignorant of what I do not know.” 
― Socrates

To be humble, to know you don’t know everything, allows you to be more relaxed with others.  It leaves you open to new and different ideas.  It broadens what you could experience, it creates a space to let others in.  If we think we know it already, there’s no room for anyone else.  If we are continually certain of everything, there’s no space for beautiful surprises and mistakes.  Being humble in our opinions and in our lives creates a place that says we are all in it together.    Absolute certainty, being right, is the bane of relationships.  Connections get severed because of it.  There’s always more than one way to look at something.  There’s always room for another idea, another thought on the subject, another viewpoint.  If there’s one thing in life I try to remind myself of its that I don’t know everything, I haven’t experienced what others have experienced, and my thoughts and ideas and opinions are no better than anyone else’s.

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” 

― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

You can look at everything in life as something to battle, to conquer, and to fight, or you can look at everything from a place of love, understanding, and togetherness. Either perspective colors your world, informing how you live your everyday, and how you see things.  The choice is always yours.  If things have been done to you, you can turn around and project that nastiness out onto others, becoming the very thing you despise, or you can be the better human, rise above, and transform that ugliness to something wonderful.  The world is full of bullies who use as an excuse the fact that they themselves have been bullied. Do better.  Perpetuate good, light, and hope instead of fear, anger, and hurt.

“I sit here…. “

20140303-173148.jpg“I sit here
drunk now.
I am
a series of
small victories
and large defeats
and I am as
amazed
as any other
that
I have gotten
from there to
here
without committing murder
or being
murdered;
without
having ended up in the
madhouse.

as I drink alone
again tonight
my soul despite all the past
agony
thanks all the gods
who were not
there
for me
then.”
― Charles Bukowski, The People Look Like Flowers at Last

Thankful Everyday – Day Twenty-Nine

29.  I’m thankful for travel.  I’m lucky enough to have been a few places.  K and I love to experience a new place; the people, the smells, the tastes, the culture, a window into the way people live their lives.  We love this.  I’ve loved it since I was young and our family headed out on one road trip after another.  I loved it when I went to Europe for the first time when I was 16.  I love it when K and I go on a car trip that can last a day or a couple of weeks.  I love it when we pack and bag and fly off to who knows where or jump on a cruise ship or take a train ride.  Traveling brings a sense of how large the world is, and yet it also brings a feeling of sameness and smallness.  People are people, everywhere.  Loving, searching, laughing, angry, happy, striving, living — the same.  Travel gives you a window to that.  It also gives a sense of wonder about the world. There are amazing things to see and wonderful people to meet.  This world of ours is a fantastic place.  However we travel, being out on the road with a backpack, a camera, and my honey is about the best place to be.

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Thankful Everyday – Twenty-Eight

28.  I’m thankful for film.  I love going to the theater, buying the tickets, finding seats, lights go down, previews play, some guy sitting somewhere coughs, the sounds of people munching popcorn, music comes up, and then… action.  Movies open us to worlds we don’t know, lives we haven’t lived, places we’ve never been, feelings we’re to afraid to speak out loud, and beauty inside and out.  They are magical and heart-wrenching and filled with wonder.  They are scary and frustrating and amazing.  They are our stories, and where some of our best story-telling happens.  I’ve spent a lot of time in theaters and pressing play on the Blu-Ray player.  I find movies wonderful and am so thankful for the joy they’ve brought to my life.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-Seventh

27.  I’m thankful for sunsets.  I was just working on my photos over at Flickr and came across several lovely sunset photos.  Nothing creates a sense of awe and peace and wonder quite like a good sunset.  Nature made, they are wonderful things to behold.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-Sixth

26.  I am thankful for beautiful architecture.  I’m fascinated by building.  Not the building I have done, which is none, or might do, which is also probably none, but by the amazing structures all around me.  Capturing form, light, and harnessing the marriage between use and beauty, I am constantly in awe of form, everywhere.  From amazing mid-century modern homes to the Natural History Museum in London, Tower Bridge to La Sagrada Familia in Spain, I’ve been lucky to see some wonderfully gorgeous buildings and structures.  The minds of humans are fantastic and astounding.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-Fifth

25.  I am thankful for poetry.  e.e. cummings, pablo neruda, w.h. auden, william carlos williams, sylvia plath, h.d., charles bukowski, poe, whitman, longfellow, yeats, thoreau, tennyson, shakespeare, frost, dickinson and on and on.  I’ve spent hours enjoying beautiful words written by amazing minds and hours trying to write my own words.  These words have enriched my life, helped me to better make sense of my world, and given me deeper understanding of life as I know it.

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Thankful Everyday – Twenty-Three

23.  I’m thankful for my grandparents.  Bill and Martha were the best.  They gave us all, and there are a lot of us, such a great sense of family and fun and strength and curiosity and acceptance and love.  I’ve written about them here and here and here and so many other times on this blog before, but I can’t say enough about how thankful I am to have come from, and been able to spend time with, such amazing people.  I see them everyday in my Mom, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and myself.   We are their legacy, and if you ask me, they did good.  I feel them every day and I’m so thankful for that.

The photo below is courtesy of my uncle, Tom.

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Thankful Everyday – The Twenty-First

21.  I am thankful for the birds in our backyard.  I’ve never really been a bird person.  I like looking at them, am amazed by them, but haven’t ever really been into them.  Until now.  My honey loves birds.  She loves animals of all kinds actually, but she really digs on the birds in our backyard.  So much so we’ve got this whole feeding system going on back there that’s pretty spectacular.  It actually involved putting in posts (with cement to anchor), stove pipe (to stop the squirrels from climbing), and then hooks on top for the feeders.  We stained them and put copper post tops on.  They look pretty fantastic.  We have two of these posts now which means there are eight feeders.  This doesn’t count the outside clothes dryer pole that used to be a drying apparatus and was cut off to now be a post with a tray feeder on top (we didn’t need to dry clothes outside anyway… we have a stand alone rack for that if we want one) or the other colored rod iron poles we have around the yard or the two bird baths.  Yes, we are a veritable bird sanctuary.  All because my honey loves birds.  We have bird books now and binoculars for looking out to see them up close.  It’s sort of awesome.  I was never into them before, but now… I just went and filled up a pitcher with hot water to take out and pour over the bird bath water (which this time of year pretty much freezes every night) so they have some water to drink.  I’m in it.  And I’m thankful for that.

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Thankful Everyday – The Sixteenth

16.  I’m thankful for our furnace and air conditioning.  It’s cold in Illinois in the winter.  Cold.  It’s also hot in the summer.  Humid and hot.  We live in a place of extremes and I’m so very grateful for the warmth and coziness of the heat on those cold winter mornings (like today) and for the cool refreshing air conditioning on those hottest of hot summer days.  They both make our lives so much nicer, so much easier.  And it’s not lost on me that other people in other places don’t have either, which makes me appreciate both all the more.  I’m so thankful for the heat every time the temps get down to 17 and the windchill brings that down even further.  So grateful for the coolness of the air every time humidity is 88 percent and it’s already 100 outside.  For these things I’m thankful, everyday.

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Thankful Everyday – Day Thirteen

13. I’m thankful for the music in my life.  I was fortunate to grow up around people who love, listen to, and play all types of music.  It instilled in me a love for all types of amazing sound.  Nothing fills the soul more than a fantastic piece of music.  My tastes are eclectic and varied, which was also a gift from a myriad of people, and thankfully I have music in and around my life every day.

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Thankful Everyday – Day Twelve

12. I’m thankful for my friends, near and far, who are the best people I could hope to know.  Each of you has brought such depth and joy and fun and meaning to my life.  I’m blessed, honored, lucky, and humbled beyond measure by the quality of my friendships.  I have so much love for you and am so thankful for the love you’ve always given me.

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Thankful Everyday – The Seventh

Day seven and these feelings of being thankful are still going strong.

7. I’m thankful for my brother, Kevin.  We’ve been through so much together.  No two people have the same experiences he and I share.  But more than that, he’s a fantastic brother, and a gentle soul.  He’s also famously the best hugger in the family.  In fact, when someone gives someone else a big hug they call it giving a Kevin.  Funny, but true.  He’s my partner in dorkiness and has one of the best belly laughs I’ve ever heard.

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Thanksgiving

The last time we were out of the house was Thanksgiving Day. I have to upload some photos from that day and I’ll do a post later about it. For now I’d just like to say this… we were asked a question at dinner, what are you thankful for. I immediately said Karen, but was told I had to pick something besides friends and family. I get the idea of that, but have this to say about it none the less. The people in my life, the people I love and who love me, are all there is really. I’ve been through enough to know there is nothing more important. There is nothing that defines a life well lived more than the people we choose and who choose us. So I’ll stick with my initial answer and expound on it a bit….

I am thankful, every moment of every day, for Karen. I’ve, in previous years, given thanks to friends and family, all of which still hold true, you guys… well…. I’m so lucky. But this year I’d like to devote my thanks to Karen.

I don’t know how many times I sit and think of her and tear up. Just thinking of her does it to me. It’s happiness you see. Happiness and a sort of amazement about how fortunate I am. I’m sitting her now, not all that far from being 7 years into this, tears coming, and loving her even more than I did six and half years ago. How is this possible? I don’t know. I am beyond lucky. She is the most genuine person I’ve ever met. Always herself. No matter where we go, who we are with, what we are doing… genuine. She is joyful. She lives every moment, never holding back what she feels. I love this about her. She is playful. Making me laugh just by being naturally herself all the time. She doesn’t put it on, she just IS it. She’s loving. She feels things deeply, loves without limit. She’s strong. She doesn’t take any crap. She stands up for herself. I admire this in her as I’m not always able to do it for myself. She isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right. She will fight like a little pit bull if she has to, especially if she thinks someone she loves has been wronged. She’s a dork. I add this and love this about her because I’ve never met anyone who appreciates the dorkiness in me and matches it the way she does. She is silly, we are silly, a lot. She’s smart. Her mind is an amazing thing. I see this in the way she is in her work, but also in the way she just is in life. She can see things, how they connect, what they will look like in the future. She’s very good at this. She is insightful. She reads people. Especially me, which isn’t always easy, but she does it in spectacular fashion. She gets me. She loves me. She does this well. Better than I sometimes deserve. I can’t believe it actually. I’m stunned by her. Over and over again. Floored by her depth, her spirit, her love of life. To say I am lucky doesn’t even come close to really expressing how I feel about her, to defining what she means to me. To say I’m thankful doesn’t even touch the depth of feeling I have. But since I have no words to better describe it, I will just say… on this Thanksgiving weekend… I am thankful, every moment of every day for her. So very thankful. There is nothing more important in my life than she is to be thankful for.