Sometimes being thankful is hard. Seeing the good in the midst of pain, sadness, illness, loss, grief, disappointment or even everyday inconveniences is sometimes a difficult task to accomplish. Life is messy. The holiday season is in full swing with the movies and television shows that portray a version of the happiest time of the year that many people simply cannot identify with or want to participate in. There are a myriad of reasons for this, all personal and no one else’s business; however, if this is you, I have been where you are, I understand.
To my aging vision, so many people seem hyper-focused on how they have been marginalized, slighted, ignored, overlooked, mistreated, or wronged. I don’t mean to dismiss them or their feelings; that is their reality and I would never deny someone’s experience. What I know about me and my thought process is when all I do is focus on how others have hurt, offended, or mistreated me I get bitter, resentful and more angry; I then allow my imagination to create scenarios that don’t even exist. It becomes a vicious cycle that steals the joy and peace from my life. There is no room for thankfulness. Because I understand my weakness for this mindset, I work really hard to focus on the good, the pure, and the kind things of life. It changes my perspective. It changes my mood. It changed my life.
I guard my brain. Please be careful who you listen to and what you allow into your head. Don’t let just anyone or anything make themselves at home in your brain. Be ruthless in this area. Change whatever needs to change to only allow the things that build you up and fill you with peace and love. The issues you used to stew over will still be in the world, but you will be equipped to tackle them from a place of love rather than anger. In my case I have stopped listening to political news. I keep up just enough to know what is happening but I don’t allow the pundits of either side enter my consciousness. It wasn’t healthy for me. I pray and I vote. I have peace of mind. I spend enough time being mindful of myself and all that usually gets me is worry and anxiety — over thinking is a true buzz kill. Now I write all those worries down and throw them away.
Pull Out The Pen & Paper
This might sound trite, but writing down all the thoughts in my head has transformed me. It goes by many names, but it is basically “stream of consciousness” writing. You don’t censor yourself. You just put pen to paper and write whatever is in your head. Sometimes there isn’t much, other times you will fill pages and pages with the thoughts that rob you of peace and mental quiet. Do a web search for this and give it a try. What you write is for no one else to read. In fact, the best thing to do is to think of the paper or journal as a trash can. Write then destroy. There is also something important about writing by hand on paper that seems to really work for most people. But no matter how you do it, get that crap out of your head and then refill it with the good stuff. This process is how I am learning to live in the moment which makes me more aware of those around me. Now I see the world through the lens of loving kindness; what used to annoy me I more easily overlook; what I used to ignore now calls my heart to action.
And finally, if you are the one in need—let others help you. You will actually be giving them a gift by allowing them to give. Accept what is needed today then pay it forward when you are able.
My hope for you is that this holiday season, no matter what that means to you, is one of renewal, hope and joy.
Life is just one long exercise in letting go. Letting go of something requires change — and most of us resist change. Too frightening. Too unknown. No thank you. I’ll stay right here in my safe little world and hold on tight.
Letting go is an all encompassing fact of life which begins the moment we are thrust out of the nurturing womb of our mother’s body. From warm and safe to the cold, harsh reality of breathing on our own, our little body is forced to let go and learn independence. We crave the safety of the womb yet some unseen force pulls us forward; an internal drive to grow, change and break free. It is a life long battle.
I Don’t Want To
This is my first response anytime life seems to want me to let go of something or someone. Nope, I’m fine. I like the safety and security of my little world. And that is the key. Without letting go of something, our world just keeps getting smaller and smaller until one day we suffocate from the trap we have set for ourselves.
When toddlers begin discovering their independence, the first word they learn to use is “No!” And when that word does not yield the desired result they resort to crying, screaming and sometimes amazing displays of physical wailing and flailing. We really aren’t so different from a toddler, our bodies are just bigger and we get more sophisticated in our wailing and flailing skills. But, really, we often react with similar maturity when the change of letting go is knocking on our door.
The Letting Go Season
There are seasons of life that go hand in hand with letting go of something or someone. And, there are times when letting go is forced upon us unexpectedly. I am in a season of letting go and, in one case, I am hanging on for dear life.
Turning a child loose into the world is, without a doubt, the scariest letting go of all. First of all there is nothing to be done about it; it is inevitable and short of locking them up in a closet (for which a nice long stint in prison would be the likely outcome) there is nothing to do but stand by and wave goodbye. Hopefully when this moment comes the years of nurturing and teaching will pay off as they learn to make their own way in the world. We walked this path once but that doesn’t make this current season any easier on our hearts. What we do know is that there is life after letting go.
I am in a different kind of letting go season. This season seems to be a tsunami of letting goes. Some of them are small and seemingly insignificant, others, such as releasing a new adult into the world, are huge.
Letting Go To Grow
Life, as in nature, we must let go to grow. I am having a hard time letting go of certain possessions. Hanging on to them is making me anxious and yet I can’t let go. I’m just going to rip the bandaid off and do it. No looking back or second guessing. The what if you need this again voice will be ignored. But first, Thanksgiving.
I wish everyone a memorable Thanksgiving. Remember those that don’t have a home or family; that could be you one day. Invite them in, serve them a meal, and experience the blessings of the day.
Is there such a thing? Not in my world there isn’t. I think that is one of the reasons I am drawn to the dandelion seed. With the help of the hair like protrusions called papus, the seeds float on the breeze until landing, hopefully in a fertile location. Most days I float without specific direction or purpose.
Change Is Good
I am four and half years into my life beyond owning a yarn shop and just a few months past ‘working’ on any kind of fiber business at all. These days I am rather aimless. Which is why I have come back to writing on this blog. But, simply recording the whims of my life doesn’t seem to be enough. I feel as though I do more whining that writing anything of interest or value. I want my words to make a difference, or at least be interesting enough to seek out every now and again. I am just a normal human being and my life is fairly dull. So, who do I think I am to expect folks to read what I have to say? I am working on a plan to correct that very problem.
The big change for right now is the address of the blog. I changed the extension so now you can find me at sherylmeans.blog. I decided I want to keep the .com address for a different use later on.
The definition of a successful blog is different for every person who undertakes blogging. For some financial gain is the primary goal therefore a blog that generates the necessary income is a successful blog. Still others focus on news, entertainment, or politics, in which case a highly engaged and large following is the determiner of success.
Blogging success generally depends on a few things – the blog must have a specific focus and purpose and, often, offers instruction in something. A blog with a specific focus is one of my personal favorites My One Beautiful Thing. If you have never read this blog I implore you to visit. Donna’s goal is to find one beautiful thing everyday and write about it. Her ‘etsomnia’ posts are fabulously hysterical and such a fun glimpse into the world of shopping on Etsy.
My Definition Of Success
I’ve been giving all of this a great deal of thought over the past few days, and have decided my blog title says it best ‘Little Seedlings.’ I am a teacher at heart. With my blog I want to plant little seeds that will grow and nourish other people’s soul – or at least put a smile on their face.
I consider my blog to be a success if even one person benefits from what I have written. This might seem like a low bar; of course I would love to have lots of readers and have an impact on the most people possible, but one is all it takes to satisfy me. The writing process brings me such joy and fulfillment – the main reason I do it – and the knowledge that someone somewhere has a better day because of my words, so much the better.
I blog to write. It is just that simple. Writing is my calling; it is that something that I must do every day. It is the thing that I can do all day and never tire of the process. Writing is also a craft that needs constant work to perfect. The nagging voice inside my head tells me that since I didn’t go to college I can never hope to succeed in writing to a level that is worthy of being read by people who don’t know and love me. I am working to silence that voice while finding other ways to educate myself. I will not be deterred. I have waited a lifetime to have the time and courage to find my voice and consistently write with a goal.
What To Expect
I am taking next week off to plan, research and celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. When I return I will have my new structure in place and a brand new post. I am excited to plan and have fresh ideas and stories.
What will you find when you come back to the blog from now on? Variety, but variety on a theme. I love a theme and themes will help me organize my content in a way that will make it easy for all of us. I need the structure so that I don’t wander aimless and over discuss the world inside my head. The structure will also allow you, my reader, to follow the kind of content you are interested in reading.
I will be experimenting with different kinds of writing:
Personal stories and inspiration,
Historical stories especially about women and their amazing ordinary lives,
Home and family.
I want to be here for the long haul. I want to write for myself, but I hope my words resonate with you and make your day just a little brighter. Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving to all.
The morning sun casts a golden glow across the landscape of my backyard. The sky prepares for the new day with a color that is reminiscent of sapphires. Soon dawn will give way to daylight causing the deep, rich blue to fade like a pair of jeans after years of wear. A new day has begun. A new day of a new week. What lies ahead? I know I must step out into the world to find out. No more staying home and pretending. Thus begins the internal dialogue.
I reach for my coffee cup. It is empty. Time for the next step in my morning ritual. First cup of coffee means writing my morning pages. The dumping ground for all the crap that circles around in my head. I need that place to rid myself of so many random and distracting thoughts. “What did I do before morning pages?” I mutter as I head back to the kitchen for my second dose of delicious, hot caffeine.
Morning ritual number two is coffee and 200 mg of Sertraline, which is the real secret to my sanity. My mind is an interesting place to live. And I live in my head. I live several lives in my head; not in the multiple personality kind of of way, but in a fantastical, what if kind of way. One day I dream of a quiet life in a small town and the next I am craving the excitement of big city living. The only life I no longer dream of is a rural farm life. I have come to grips with the reality that I was born in a city for a reason and until HGTV made so many different lifestyles look attractive, I never considered the rural life. It looks romantic and fun on television but the reality is that it is filled with the kinds of wildlife I really prefer not having as neighbors and the work is hard and dirty. I have the greatest admiration for those who are made of sturdier stock than myself and can live that life. I know my limitations.
While I don’t want to live a rural lifestyle, I need regular doses of nature to feel connected and whole. That is the reason I am headed to my personal getaway this week. I think I could live anywhere if I had ways to reconnect with non master planned nature. There are so many state parks in this country I would love to visit. I have a plan, but it must be strategized and implemented carefully so that I don’t send my husband into his corner to prepare for the boxing match of dreams.
Fear Of Decisiveness
I look around the suburban home I have lived in for 33 years, contemplating the last segment of life. I am a realist. I understand that I am living in the latter years of my life, and while I am not giving up to sit and rock – although I do love a good upholstered swivel rocking chair – I am likely making choices that will dictate where and how I live for the rest of my life. “We are only moving once” were the emphatic words of my husband when I discussed possibilities that would enable us to have the best of all worlds. Again I remind myself to “pick your battles” and retreat from this discussion.
I have no answers. I wish I had a crystal ball and knew definitively what we are supposed to do. So many people our age move closer to their kids and grandkids yet we are considering moving further away. In this modern age of connectivity we don’t have to fear loosing contact or being left out of each other’s lives by the distance between our homes. And yet…old fears of being alone crop up from my subconscious. These fears and doubts make me fearful and anxious. When I am fearful and anxious I attempt to fix all the ‘problems’ myself. It is as if when I put them in a box and tie a ribbon around them life will be perfect and all will work out just like in every fairy tale ever told. That, however, is not real life.
Tune To The Right Station
Real life is living each day being tuned in to God who doesn’t dictate a path but rather allows us to make choices and then learn from those choices. I am not a believer in cosmic fate; a predestined life that only has one outcome. That is terrifying. I know I would see something sparkling then wander off my path in search of the magic jewel and end up in whatever version of hell might really exist. It is much more comforting to know that God loves and guides. There are many paths that each life can travel, some better than others, but it isn’t an all or nothing game. Thank goodness.
So, when I get my brain into a tizzy over the future, I need to remember to step back and just live today. Go out into the world and make the best of today and let tomorrow take care of itself. And so, here I go.
In less than a week I embark on my three day retreat in the woods. As is typical for me I am planning my entertainment first. I will take care of other details such as food and clothing after I know I will not get bored and resort to driving to civilization for a quick dopamine fix. The weather is not cooperating so no flannel shirt and matching bandana for cute matchy-matchy pictures with Maggie, but I will find temperature friendly attire in which to document our big adventure.
Going Analog – Almost
I am vacillating on how much technology to take with me. The cabin does not have WiFi, so I will have to download entertainment should I choose to watch. But…I am leaning towards leaving it all behind and only use what is possible without a connection to the internet. I will have my phone so the possibility exists to partake should I choose to do so. I must download media first so there has to be forethought and intent. Today, a week away, I am resolutely in the camp of music only. I’ll let you know how that goes as the week progresses.
Currently this is my entertainment packing list:
• Sock knitting project plus a back up if I get bored or finish
• Journal with favorite pen
• Morning pages notebook
• Books: The Artist’s Way, The Creative Cure, Faith Of A Writer, Bird by Bird, On Writing Well, and American Primative by Mary Oliver
• Binoculars for nature watching
I am craving solitude and silence. The guest house has a special box for phones. It isn’t mandatory and the phones are retrievable at any time, but it is a tangible act; a willingness to set aside the attachment to devices for a prescribed period of time. I will keep in touch with my husband who will worry the entire time I am gone. I will text him each morning and evening to let him know I am alive and well, but then the phone goes back into the box. I will wear my Apple watch which has a locator on it so that if I am walking Maggie he can see where I am. I consider this as much for my safety as his peace of mind.
What Lessons Are In Store For Me?
For one thing I hope to be reminded that I am enough. I am capable and I can survive on my own. It is one thing to be safe in my home alone; it is another to be in the woods, possibly with no one around for miles. I have lived in a large and often scary city most of my adult life and I have succumbed to the fear. I need this adventure for me.
As you can probably tell by my reading list I want to learn and grow as a writer. I hesitate to even use the word ‘writer’ about myself as I don’t have, what I perceive to be, the requisite education for such a title. And this is precisely the fear I am seeking to overcome. I believe I have been given a gift. Writing gives me a sense of purpose and fullness unlike any other creative pursuit. I have pursued many things; all have led to a sense of emptiness and defeat. I write and I feel fulfilled. I click ‘publish’ and I have accomplished my daily goal. Therefore, I suppose, I am a writer. My seeking is about the direction of my writing and am I doing all that I am able and born to do? My heart’s desire is to write even one blog post, story or essay that resonates and makes a difference.
I want to be ensconced in God’s creation while leaving myself open for whatever it is I need to hear. Reassurance. Direction. Guidance. Comfort. It could be any mix of those things or possibly something I haven’t even thought of yet. I am open. I want to be still and sensitive to the still small voice of God. That gentle nudging or the sudden confirmation that I am going in the best direction for me. I don’t want to miss anything because I am distracted.
As I stand poised on the precipice of a new chapter, I feel like a dandelion puff. I am full of life experiences and ready to send them out into the world to plant, germinate and grow to repeat the cycle. If I send forth seeds of love, empathy, kindness, and humor there are no boundaries to what God can do with my tiny little effort.
Today is the first day of November; 2021 is drawing to a close and my favorite time of year is rushing by far too quickly.
The last three months of any year means different things to different people. It can be the season when summer is finally over; the financial fourth quarter and time to focus on ending the business year successfully; or in years like 2020, relief that the end is in sight.
I fall firmly in the first camp. Houston summers are legendary and true fall weather doesn’t usually arrive until the end of October and even then it is fleeting. But, I embrace whatever we receive and rejoice in the cool dry temperatures. I feel energized and optimistic.
This year I have stopped to ponder and analyze what these three months represent in relationship to the big picture of life. Each month is significant and represents some very powerful life lessons. For now we will look at October and November. December will come in due time.
The month known for brilliant colored leaves, pumpkins, and Halloween is my favorite month of the year. It is a month of anticipation…when will the weather change, the leaves turn, and how much longer before we can wear scarves, hats and sweaters without looking ridiculous? There is so much about October to love.
We have made four trips to New England in October. We are overdue; it is time to go leaf peeping again. The fall sky is a particular shade of blue. Brilliantly blue without the harsh glare of the summer sun. The gold, red, and orange leaves stand in stark contrast to this blue sky and the affect is almost three dimensional. It is beyond breathtaking and should be experienced at least once in your life. Vermont is the most gorgeous place for fall leaf peeping. It is an idyllic place that must be experienced in person.
Once the brilliance of the leaves burns out, they wither and fall to the ground. In the perfect cycle of life, they must die so that the tree can rest during the harsh winter months. Those leaves, in turn, decay and nourish the ground which feeds the tree. What a beautiful metaphor for so many areas of life.
I am in the October of my life. I hope this season lasts for a very long time. I have completed most of my early and mid life tasks. The final one is in the home stretch right now, so maybe I’m still in the last days of September…but either way the best is on the way.
And this brings us to November. In our house November ushers in hunting season. The preparation for this season actually begins in August. By November the rut is underway and the time comes to go sit in a stand for hours waiting on just the right buck to cross into the right-of-way. I am not a hunter. I am a deer hunting widow for the better part of November and December.
Early in our marriage I resented him getting to go out into the woods with his friends and have a grand time while I was ‘stuck’ at home. I’m over it. I now relish this time as I view it as the gift that it is. With age comes wisdom.
I used to book a weekend to myself for the first full weekend of November. Then we had a beach house for a while and I went there for opening weekend. For several years I have just stayed home enjoying the peace and quiet. But I am still home. There are still things to be done – or ignored only to have to face them later. This year I decided to do something for myself again. I am simultaneously excited and nervous.
I have booked a tiny house in the woods for two nights. There is no WiFi, but all the other conveniences are available. I plan on reading, writing, knitting on my sock project, walking in the woods and taking a few pictures. Mostly I want to spend time in nature. I feel the presence of God most deeply when I am surrounded by trees and the expanse of His creation. I find myself in awe and so very grateful to Him for the beauty and serenity.
And that brings me to the significance of November. Yes, we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving, but I think the entirety of November is a time for thankfulness.
Thankful for time to prepare for winter’s rest.
Thankful for life, breath, and each new day.
Thankful for pain because it is a necessary part of life.
Thankful for the people in our lives.
The list could and should go on and on. In the world of mindfulness we are instructed to write down the things we are grateful for so that we take nothing for granted. I have never subscribed to this practice as I would likely only express gratitude for the good stuff, get frustrated because I couldn’t think of something new every day and ultimately feel like a failure and give up. Instead, I thank God each morning for a new day and all that it brings. I am constantly thankful to Him for every aspect of life, the good and the not so good as it all serves a purpose.
Just like the leaves letting go of their hold on the tree and falling to death below, the heart breaks and disappointments in life serve as a foundation for new growth. I embrace them and know that only good will come from the experience as long as I am connected to the One who makes all things right.
I see people on social media going through their morning rituals and wonder…why can’t I get it together? My mornings are never as thoughtful and beautiful as theirs seem to be. But then again I am not staging my morning ritual for the sake of the camera. This photo is authentic. I didn’t arrange things for you. This is how that corner of my desk looks all day every day.
Mornings At 2434
I stagger out of bed, feed the dogs, let them outside, make coffee and sit back down. Sometimes I wonder why I am sitting when I just got up from eight to nine hours of sleep. Why aren’t I ready for a jog, or even a leisurely stroll? Nope. I want to sit, sip my coffee and contemplate the day ahead.
I always spend some of this time talking to God and then being quiet to see if He has anything to say back. Sometimes I get an idea, or resolution to something that has been on my mind. Other times I just feel peacefully quiet. I used to write in my journal every morning. I have replaced that with my morning pages. I get to brain dump knowing I will discard the pages so no one will ever read all the garbage that can occupy the gray matter that is my brain.
We all have those thoughts, worries, anxieties, angry voices, destructive words. I know I am not alone. So now, thanks to Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way I am learning to release them by writing in a throw away notebook. It is the equivalent of taking all the junk out of one’s home, putting it in a storage unit then throwing away the key. Except the storage unit owner might sell the contents of that unit sight unseen and then someone else has to deal with all that stuff. I think I will do a ceremonial burning as I finish each notebook. I like the idea of turning all those thoughts and worries into ashes. After all, God creates beauty from ashes, therefore so should I.
Let God in first thing in the morning. Just invite Him and be still. It sets the tone for everything that is to come.
Do what prepares you for what comes next. Some days I have things to do and places to go so I drink my coffee while I am getting dressed. The talking to God happens in the shower – also one of the best places to really listen. But all of this comes after I have met my dogs’ needs. Children first.
Do you. Social media, for the most part, is staged and therefore not real. I do believe most of these people do what they show but it isn’t always so pretty and perfect. Don’t self flagellate for having an ordinary life. We are all ordinary.
Spend time alone. There is nothing more important than really knowing and loving yourself to prepare for the slings and arrows of the outside world. Get grounded, put on the armor then go into battle. The world outside your door is a war zone. Stand firm in the knowledge that God created you and is with you. Jesus has won the war and walks with you each step of the way.
For more years than I can recall, my soul has longed to write. I start blogs, then I give up. I journal for a while then I give up. Why? Fear…fear of what might happen if I succeeded and the expectations that come with that success.
We all have those things that cry out from the depths of our souls; passions, drives, those themes that seem to recur regularly as we travel the path of life. I believe we are all created to add to and make this world a better place. Our lives are not without purpose or value. God placed us here at a certain time and in a certain place for a reason. Ours is to stay connected so that we may live out that higher purpose and complete the task we were assigned.
Don’t get caught up in the idea that only big things count as callings. Being a kind and caring person to all you meet, while important for all of us, some folks just seem to effortlessly be at the right place to help. And in so doing, they fulfill their calling. It is the simple things. It is act of doing what you feel most strongly about in a way that fulfills your spirit and makes the world a better place.
Conquering The Fear
My Fear Monster has controlled my life for too long. I may never get published, but I will write. However, writing is not my calling. Writing, the art and craft of using words for a specific purpose, is the vehicle for my calling. Every job, task, or activity that has had meaning and provided me with a sense of fulfillment have all shared one commonality. In all things I was able to help others. Professionally I was a nurse, an assistant teacher, church receptionist, and shop owner. I am a dismal businesswoman, but I excel at assisting and guiding people. I tried to stay in business for the mere purpose of selling items I had made. I hate it. I have to force myself to do it; thus I fail. My calling isn’t making and selling. I can do it but it robs my soul of joy. From the day forward I choose joy over fear.
So, how to find and live out your purpose? In a word, listen. In the stillness of the early morning light, quiet your mind, and listen. Listen for that still small voice inside. It takes practice to be fully quiet and present, but keep trying. Just a few minutes a day is all it takes. Give yourself this gift. First thing in the morning before the rest of the world wakes up, take time to listen.
Ritual, as a part of focusing the mind to hear and listen (yes, they are different), is important. Small things we do to prepare alert our mind that something special is about to happen. I am not great at setting up and keeping rituals. I love the idea but in practice am not great at it.
I finally have my desk area set up and this is now where I spend my mornings. I light my candle, sip my coffee, read from my Bible and devotional books, write by hand in a journal and I listen. I wait. Because that still small voice may not arrive today, but it will arrive and when it does I want to be ready. Ready to hear and respond.
I believe there is an inner longing and purpose inside each of us. If only we, as human beings, would spend as much time looking inward to become better people as we do looking outward at what others are doing (or not doing), the good would soon outweigh the bad and the world would really be a beautiful place to live.
A soft, filtered light streams in between the slats of the blinds, gently illuminating the room. It is quiet in here. No television. No radio. No other people. I am lulled into a state of peaceful contemplation by the sound of clothes as they roll around in the dryer, and just now the low rumble of thunder breaks through to remind me of the weather.
The remnants of a tropical Pacific storm are now moving through Texas. Gusty winds and rain have been my companions today. These are my favorite days. Alone in my thoughts with cloudy skies and rain to provide a soothing backdrop for whatever I choose to do. I cherish today as tomorrow is promised to be hot and muggy.
The wind comes in waves; tree limbs bend as water is shed from their leaves. Rain beats against the window with an ever quickening rhythm, lulling me into sweet slumber.
Necessary Rest and Diversions
I haven’t been sleeping well of late and it has taken a toll on me. So many things running through my mind and I wonder, how others seem to do it. How do some people live lives filled with just what they want and not fretting about the minutia. Because it is generally the minutia that wears me down. I carry thoughts, worries, and what ifs around like stones in a bag and then wonder why I am mentally and physically exhausted.
These days none of the usual pastimes help. Making yarn then crocheting, knitting or weaving with it used to fill the need to create and brought a calming peace to my soul. And, maybe one day it will again. But for right now all the stuff feels like a burden. A burden that needs to be set aside.
As I have written before I have had a life long love affair with books and reading. I set the activity of reading aside for many years as I was “too busy” and seemed to fall asleep every time I picked up a book. But the love for books themselves never left and I always feel a deep sense of comfort when surrounded by them. I believe that I am now entering a season in my life where reading and writing are about to take center stage in my life.
Quenching The Thirst
Of late I find myself hungry for knowledge. I want to know more, see more, experience more things. I am no longer content to sit passively by and just live in the status quo. My first reaction was, “I need to finally go to college.” And while that is a pursuit I have not ruled out, I don’t think that alone will satiate my longings.
At this moment in time, having fulfilled all the early life tasks, career, raising children and now a grandchild, we – I include my husband in this journey – are at the brink of a bold new life and I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. It is not enough to live a simple life, although that is a big portion of the goal, but to live a simple life fully. And for me that means learning, seeing, exploring and then sharing my experiences.
It means reading history and visiting places to feel the lessons from the past. Learning about the struggles of others and changing in me whatever needs to be changed to be a more loving person. It means learning new skills, eating new foods, moving forward to do those things we have only talked about for thirty years. It means living each day in a way that honors God and who He created me to be.
Do Not Fear
Fear is an ugly monster. It lives inside all of us and takes on so many different disguises. We learn to ignore, squelch and run from our fears, but until we stop, turn around and boldly face the fear monster, we are never free.
The concepts of “trust” and “do not fear” appear in scripture more than anything else. There is a reason for this. God knows we need to hear it over and over and over again. For those of you who do not believe in God, you have the same need, you simply look for your answers elsewhere. But we all have this internal anxiety.
What is my Fear Monster? Being thought of and called out as stupid, uneducated, and unworthy of an opinion. I have cowered in the face of fear and that is not the life we are called to live. I have allowed it to stop me from doing something I love and believe I’ve been given the gift to do well.
Words like seasons, cycles and circle are often used to describe the life we lead and the never ending nature of life. Last weekend our family celebrated together as we witnessed a marriage and the beginning of a new season in all our lives.
Though life itself is continuous, there are endings and beginnings within the natural cycle. Just as the deciduous trees drop their leaves each year to prepare themselves for the long winter, so we too must let go of certain things so that we may be ready to move forward when a new season arrives.
The leaves do not go to waste. They are not forgotten. They return to the soil to provide what the earth needs for new growth. And so it is with people. A life well lived doesn’t stop when life on earth has ended. Whether genetically or through relationships and nurture, that life will continue to impact and nourish all who follow. This is a particularly comforting thought for someone who has no biological heirs.
Thus, one phase of the bride and groom’s life ended as this new one began. So, too do the lives of their parents and siblings, aunts, cousins and friends. Parents are now free to relax knowing they have completed this task and the future holds something new and exciting for them.
As the young couple begins their journey they do so taking all that has been given them both in nature and nurture. Who they are biologically, spiritually, intellectually and socially is all a product of their family and experiences; and now they will begin a new life and family passing along their unique qualities to their children.
Career choices, children, first home, where to live, and what kind of life do they wish to create…both parents and children are now free to make these choices. This should be a glorious time for all.
Letting Go To Grow
Every culture has their family and social norms and these tend to modify and evolve over time. My maternal grandparents never left the immediate area where they lived most of their lives. As coal miners and farmers there was no expectation that they would do anything besides stay where their families had been for generations. My father’s mother was born in Hawaii to Chinese immigrants. She was the first generation born somewhere other than China and most of her siblings stayed in Honolulu. My paternal grandfather’s family came from England and settled on the east coast and then Indiana.
The leaving home to begin a new life has been recorded nearly as long as humans have been on earth. It is a natural and normal evolution. My great grandparents and great great grandparents all did it; they left family behind in search of something new and hopefully better. I am so thankful for people with such intrepid spirits as they are the reason I am here today.
My Dream For This Season
I want to be like them. I would love to live a nomadic life for a short period of time. I don’t think I could do it forever, but the lure of the open road and living in a way that is completely different from my suburban Texas existence is very exciting…and romantic.
I believe there are certain physical locations where we connect on a spiritual level with the land, the people, and the way of life. I don’t believe I have found mine. And, at this juncture in my life, I may never find it. But I would love to try. I thought I felt it the first time I visited Vermont. Vermont is possibly the most beautiful state I have visited; mountains, lakes, streams and waterfalls visible from the side of the road…no billboards or other visual pollution…it is simply magical. But I don’t fit. My values and beliefs are not the same as the people there. So, I will be content with visiting but I could never live there.
I am, however, convinced that there is a place somewhere in the United States (I have to clarify as my dream would be England or Scotland) where I would feel at home in all the ways that are important to me. Or…I could discover, that I am indeed in just the right place – Texas – I just need to get out of the suburbs and away from the coast.
Just as the leaves must release their hold and drop from the life giving tree, what must die in my life to live this dream?
What Must I Let Go Of?
1. Putting Others First: I have a destructive habit of basing my decisions on what pleases others. While thoughtfulness is an admirable quality, when it moves into a way of life that denies ones own truth and purpose, it becomes a cancer that must be removed. These thought processes are created throughout a lifetime of small decisions until one day one wakes up not knowing how to make even a simple decision for their own pleasure. This in turn leads to a sense of powerlessness and ultimately anger and bitterness.
2. False Identities: I am not always sure who I am apart from created identities. I am nearly sixty four years old, I think it is way beyond time to figure this out. I know who I am as a wife, stepmother, grandmother, daughter, sister, and friend; but who am I? I create social media identities, business names, and creative pursuits, all in an effort to forge something that says to the world, “This is Sheryl Means.” I explore my ancestry to gain an insight into the genetic code that might reveal a hidden key to unlock this door. Thanks to the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, I am working on unlocking many of these questions. I finally feel as though I am beginning to find my path.
3. Expectations Of Others: This is tightly connected to the first point. I perceive a certain level of expectation that others have of me and believe I am powerless to do anything except be the “good girl” and do as expected. This is a deeply rooted and difficult mindset to change. To disappoint someone I love is my ultimate fear. It seems selfish and wrong. Yet, living to the expectations of others is another denial of self; thus I live in a constant state of being disappointed in myself resulting in bitterness and frustration.
What Comes Next?
As grim as all that sounds, I am really in a good place. Now that the issues have been identified I must come up with specific and actionable steps to move forward from this place I currently inhabit. We have an obligation to our granddaughter to live life as it currently exists until the summer of 2022. Once she graduates from high school, our life as full time parents and grandparents will be over. My husband is self employed in sales and has the freedom to travel. Our time is coming.
We plan to move to the city where my mom lives. I had hoped we would be there by now but helping our granddaughter was a commitment we made eighteen years ago and we had to honor it in full. But once finished, that leaf from our tree will drop. It will be time for a new life to emerge. What will it look like? Where will we go? What will we do? Who will I be? It all remains to be seen but what I know for sure is that this season is just for us. As long as each of us is able we will travel, have fun, and I will be right here documenting the journey.
Where Are You?
No matter what season of life you are living there are things to learn; things to let go of; relationships to heal; and experiences just waiting for you to bravely step out and enjoy.
I highly recommend Julia Cameron’s book. When I am through with this one she has written several others I will read. However, and through whatever methods you choose, it is my sincerest wish that you are able to work through the old messages of your life so that they can fall, decay, and disappear so that new ideas and choices can take their place.