Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Golden Gate

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The Golden Gate Bridge is much smaller than I envisioned. No, I wasn’t disappointed when I saw it for the first time. It’s still an impressive structure; I had just built it up in my mind to be colossal. I also found it to be more beautiful. Yes, concrete and steel can be quite beautiful.

My first full day in San Francisco, I went to Land’s End for a morning hike. Chai latte in hand and light jacket protecting me from the sea breezes, I started along the trail, talking with a good friend and enjoying the sights and sounds of a new place. We rounded corners and came upon views of the ocean, the fog still settled after rolling in the night before. We heard the fog horn at regular intervals, warning of the bridge that lay ahead for boats passing nearby. At one point my friend smiled and said, “Do you see it?” I wasn’t sure what I was looking for and I think I had a quizzical look on my face. He kind of laughed and then I saw it: the Golden Gate Bridge had appeared over the fog! I snapped pictures of it as we continued along the trail. As the morning wore on, the fog unveiled more and more of the bridge, its rusty red color in contrast to the pale blue sky. It’s one of those sights you can’t get enough of. There is just something wonderful about that bridge.

Bridges, in general, are pretty cool. They connect us to places we otherwise might not venture. I may not have gone to Key West if it weren’t for the bridges connecting all the keys from Miami to that crazy, wonderful town. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay is a favorite of mine too, and I recall another foggy day when I crossed the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana. I love being outdoors and crossing natural and manmade bridges, even the rickety ones that leave you holding your breath with each step. Those are actually some of the most fun. We probably don’t give a lot of thought to bridges, at least I didn’t until the day I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge. Then I was kind of grateful that someone decided a bridge needed to be there. I could probably get very deep here and talk about how bridges connect people and places, unifying us. No, I’m thinking a lot simpler than that.  That day a bridge surprised me as it came into view through the fog, adding a great snapshot to my memory bank. It took me on a quick trip to Sausalito where I had the best sammich I’ve ever tasted. Something small and silly, but something really special too. Yes, the Golden Gate Bridge brought me joy… joy in seeing the awesome structure itself, joy in seeing tourists get excited about a 1.7-mile chunk of steel,  joy in driving over a piece of history, and joy in a simple thing like a sandwich.

Bridges = Joy

Chaos to Clarity

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I mentioned in another post how valuable I have found journaling. For years and years I have used journals periodically, the kind that you can lock with a tiny key or a plain spiral notebook, leather-bound fancy journals and even digital diaries. Last year I took it up as a more regular practice. It’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I have a brain that is so full of stuff… I think it’s all super important though I’ve been told a lot of it is actually pretty useless trivia (I will agree to disagree with those who feel that way). I also have a brain that doesn’t shut down easily. I’m serene and quiet on the outside, but there is chaos inside my head. You know when someone says, “penny for your thoughts?” Well, if I accepted money for them, I’d have a full bank account made up of pennies.

During a particularly trying time, I had been having trouble calming my thoughts to the point I could not concentrate and meditating/prayer (whatever you prefer to call it) was next to impossible. I asked my sister in-law for some advice and she suggested morning pages and recommended a book called The Artist’s Way, a twelve-week exercise in journaling. I took her advice about journaling in the morning, but I didn’t get the book. I started writing my thoughts on paper and immediately had positive results. I wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed with calm, but I was able to release some of the things that were bothering me. The simple act of putting pen to paper started to help me cope with the inner commotion. I was even able to solve some of the problems I was dealing with – it was as though the pen navigated difficult paths for me, cutting through the tangled thoughts and revealing solutions. Journaling still wasn’t a daily practice at that point, but it was at least regular.

In April I looked at my Amazon wish list and noticed The Artist’s Way was still there. I don’t know exactly why I had left it there so long, but I decided it would be a good time to make the purchase. Two days later I had an inch-thick journal with crisp, bright white pages, just waiting for me to begin writing. And it sat on the shelf…

On July 16th I finally began my 12-week journey: three hand-written pages each morning, the first thing I do each day if at all possible. Doing that on vacation has taken some doing and I fell behind, but have caught up. Some of my entries are a mess, or they would appear that way to an outside observer. They almost make no sense. There is a lot of whining and complaining and even some ranting and raving. There is nonsense and goal-setting. The book insists that I write by hand, no cheating by typing three pages on the computer. I have to admit typing would be faster, but there is something far more intimate about a pen in the hand planting thoughts on paper. My handwriting is even revealing. Some days it’s flowing and beautiful; other days it’s more slanted and angry-looking or messy and hurried.

I’m now beginning my third week of journaling in this way. I honestly think this could become a habit. My mind feels more at ease. I’m comfortable just writing, writing, writing. I’m learning about myself, my feelings, my hopes and dreams, my beliefs, my irritations, my happiness.

Journals = Joy

Perseverance

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Several weeks ago I received a card in the mail, thanking me for what I have written and asking me to put down my thoughts on perseverance. I put the card aside and didn’t give it a whole lot of thought at the time. But over the course of a few days the word kept popping into my head. I put down a few words and left it, nothing spectacular or meaningful seeming to come through. Then, as happens more often than not lately, I found myself in a situation that called for…

Perseverance. It means to have “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” I like the first part of that definition; it’s all about action and forward motion. That second part… not quite as appealing. Do we really have to keep going through the rough stuff?

In a word: Yes!

On my vacation in San Francisco, I learned all about perseverance. It’s a 7 by 7-mile city of hills consisting of a steep grid of streets, densely packed with buildings and parks and people. My friend and tour guide challenged me to walk that grid and I took him up on every single challenge! I climbed those streets for five days, my legs screaming at me. I walked the sand ladder, paths through the Presidio, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Nob Hill, and more. I called Sacramento Street my nemesis, but on day four I conquered her. I tackled the Lyon Street stairs, pushing myself to do six sets, but calling it quits after 4 ½…still a feat for someone who has spent the better part of a decade on the flat Florida coast. If I had not been willing to climb the hills I would have missed the sweeping vistas.

Joyful on Purpose is my perseverance. Over the last 38 years, I have been pretty timid, not wanting to push myself too much, unsure that I had enough in me to truly succeed (sidebar: success does not equal money or prestige). I have tended to play it very safe, never straying too far off the predictable course and doing my best to never rock the boat. Then I found myself in the water without a life jacket. The boat had been not only rocked, but tipped and sunk. I know there is land. I can see it. So I am now swimming toward it and that is taking perseverance, the same kind it took to conquer the streets of San Francisco.

Were it not for the rough waters I’ve been through, I think I’d be content to sit back and not push myself. If I had not faced the sadness and the heartache I’ve experienced, I don’t know that I would have such a desire for joy, peace, and goodness. Be thankful for the difficulties, the obstacles, the steep streets, and all the rest. Carry on, tackle the obstacles, push yourself up the steep streets, and persevere.

Perseverance = Joy 

Hiatus

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Okay, so I really haven’t been at this long enough to be deserving of a hiatus. But, for lack of a better word, that’s what I’m taking. A couple weeks before Jordan was admitted to the hospital, I booked a vacation. Little did I know what would unfold not long after I planned my trip! I had no idea I would need to get away once again, to leave behind the stress and anxiety, and take in some rest and relaxation. I nearly cancelled my trip a couple times, first realizing that I might be in the hospital when the time for my departure came, then wondering how feasible it was to travel so soon after Jordan’s surgery. What if he needed me during his recovery? Well, a kid does need his mom sometimes, but at 17 he can handle quite a bit on his own. And after being with me for 13 days straight in the hospital, he probably needed the break from me as much as I needed the break from Colorado!

I spent almost five days in San Francisco and had a wonderful time exploring the city and just having a good time with a great friend. I walked until I couldn’t walk any more (my legs are still wondering what I put them through and why), ate some of the best food I’ve ever tasted, and laughed until my sides and cheeks ached. It was completely relaxing. A perfect getaway! And, yes, I probably left a little of my heart in San Francisco. How can you not?

Now I am tucked away in a top secret, undisclosed location, doing some serious and not-so-serious thinking, reflecting, and lots of writing. I have been writing in my journal a lot and working on some blog posts that are partially done because so many of my thoughts are still a little muddled. I’m probably still on a Ghirardelli chocolate high! You should see my journal… oh my goodness, the twists and turns each paragraph takes!

A hiatus is a pause, an interruption, and also that annoying gap between seasons of your favorite show! Pause and interruption: that almost sounds like what my life has been for the last six months. Now that it’s time to tune in to regularly scheduled programming, I have to figure out what that will be, what shape this new season will take. That’s a little scary, but also exhilarating. This break has given me some perspective and a renewed sense of purpose. A hiatus is good for the soul. I highly recommend it.

Hiatus = Joy

Staring at Bricks

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I expected the day to come. And it did… writer’s block set in on Sunday. I have several posts started and there they sit, the little cursor light blinking at me each time I open the documents. Tapping the keyboard, typing, deleting, scrolling, typing again, deleting again. For months I have written about hardship and heartache. I am cautious in believing that is over. I keep thinking, “things happen in threes…” and then I wonder if, or more accurately, when a bomb will drop. No, I don’t dwell on that kind of thinking all day, but I’d be lying if I said negative thoughts about what could go wrong don’t enter my mind.

Those thoughts aside, I have a lot to be joyful about. Jordan is fine, life is good, I have had some great things happen in the last week and month. Yesterday I asked my Facebook followers to tell me what was joyful about their Monday. For me, it was “toast with lots of butter and a cup of coffee.” A few brave souls responded: uninterrupted cleaning, kids, father-daughter love, cola-bier. Today, still a bit frustrated with writer’s block, I was reminded that my tagline for Joyful on Purpose is “striving for joy in every little thing.” Sometimes I think that means finding joy in what might seem silly or mundane. To someone out there, I’m sure uninterrupted cleaning sounds like anything but joy. For someone else, toast with butter may sound humdrum. However, to the person experiencing the joy, it’s a big deal. For me, that toast with butter and a hot cup of coffee was a symbol of being home, of normalcy.

Tonight I just want to share some of the “every little things” that brought me joy today.

A really hot shower, the kind that turns your skin pink and melts away tension.
The smell of lavender laundry soap that makes washing clothes a little more delightful.
My grandmother’s relaxed smile.
Wearing a favorite pair of jeans.
Laughing at a hilarious text from my son and feeling close despite our 2000-mile distance.
 

Sprinkled throughout my day were these five pieces of joy. To some of you they may seem like nothing to get excited about. But for me, they matter a lot. They are little gems that stand out and provide me with a sense of peace and happiness and… look at that, the writer’s block seems to have lifted. I’m no longer staring at a wall of bricks; I’m staring at joy.

Little Gems = Joy