“You’re Happy”

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Such a simple sentiment, but so profound the meaning. My mother, recently hospitalized, spoke those words to me as she lay waiting for a procedure to assess the severity of her cardiac disease. My sister and I were by her bedside in the cath lab, and, true to form, rather than being somber and stone-faced, we were joking, laughing and enjoying each other’s company.  Mind you, I am not insensitive to the seriousness of medical conditions, or certain of life’s happenings, but helping to ease the burdens of others through levity and the pure joy of lightness and laughter cannot be underestimated.

As we awaited the procedure, and amidst lighthearted banter and muffled laughter (there were, after all, patients on the other side of those curtains), my mom looked at me and said, simply and sincerely, and with that kind of loving smile that only a mother can give, “You’re happy.”

This, I think, is the best compliment one can receive. Being happy and joyful in the face of life’s hardships not only helps us, but it helps those around us. I’ve had my share of struggles with heartache and loneliness. I barely make ends meet and have often felt like the “odd” one in the family. At one point in my life, I was so low that I fervently and tearfully prayed every single night that I would just fall asleep forever.

Thankfully, I had a moment that led me away from the depths of sadness and toward the light. It was ever so subtle, like a parent who gently guides their child with a simple light touch on their shoulder. Instead of fighting it, I accepted the change of direction and have not looked back. Being happy and joyful takes work. It is a conscious choice, and one that must be nurtured and supported and prioritized. I’ve learned that you can’t be happy if you simply allow your emotions to run the show. Entrusting your happiness to the whim of daily life puts you at the mercy of things that you cannot control—traffic, weather, gas prices, an unreasonable boss—you get the picture. Instead, choose to find what makes you happy, focus on that and let the “other stuff” float out of your life like a passing cloud in the sky. Easier said than done? Absolutely. Getting to that place where you can remain in a state of joy in the face of tribulation is hard work. But it is so worth it!

 

 

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Beauty Survives the Storm

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Over the past several days, northern California has been pummeled with heavy rain and wind. Streets are littered with tree branches and other remnants of vegetation unable to withstand the battering winds. Swollen creeks and overloaded storm drains leave behind mud and debris. All in all, it’s been a mess, however much needed in our parched State.

During a short break between storms, I ventured outside to breathe in some fresh, rain-washed air and to survey the damage to my back yard. After what seemed like non-stop rain and winds for the past several days, the first thing I noticed was the stillness. Not even a breath of wind stirred the rain-soaked earth and what remained of the bare trees. Taking in this wonderful stillness, amidst the dormancy of winter, I observed a single brilliant rose, perfectly formed, still holding the raindrops that had doused its petals.   A rose, still beautiful, even after the storm.

Redwoods in the Forest

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In fully taking advantage of my holiday time off from my 9 to 5, the other day I went for a solo hike at Big Basin, a redwood forest only several miles from Silicon Valley.  Every time I visit Big Basin, I am struck by the presence of a divinely beautiful forest located only a short drive from the center of the technological world.

Solo hikes are a great way to meditate on the move, so to speak.   Being completely alone on the trails in a heavily wooded forest (save for the occasional fellow hiker to say ‘hello’ to) provides me the time to think about nothing but the beauty that surrounds me.  As I started my hike, I stopped for a moment to breathe in the cool, damp, mossy air, filling my lungs completely with it.  I took a moment to just look up, and look in, thankful for how fortunate I am to be in this place, at this time.  I took the time to be enveloped in the silence that only a forest can bring.

Along my hike, I paid particular notice to the enormous redwoods all around.   Oftentimes grouped in threes or fours, these mammoth trees form cathedrals that simply take your breath away.  Standing in one such redwood cathedral, looking up to the heavens to which they seemed to touch, I thought about everything these trees had seen in their hundreds-year old lives.  From a small sapling, they had experienced the warm California sun, enjoyed a stunning view over the Pacific Ocean, endured torrential rains and hurricane force winds, and still, they stand, majestic and divine and more beautiful than words can describe.

These trees whisper their tales of endurance and perseverance, and they are all the more magnificent because of it.  They  were created not only to endure, but to thrive.

Much like these resplendent gifts of nature, humankind is also created to grow in beauty and strength.  Each storm, much like each sun-kissed day, is designed to not only fortify us, but to remind us of our gloriousness.  If we take the time to really see ourselves, and those around us, focusing not only on the triumphs but also the struggles, we will be awestruck by radiance and beauty much like we are awestruck by the redwoods in the forest.

 

Attracting Good

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Wisdom traditions teach that we attract what we put out into the Universe.   I have, in the past, been somewhat skeptical of the Law of Attraction, simply because it never seemed to really work for me.   I consider myself a good person, with generally no malice or ill will toward people.   I help those in need.  I am honest and hardworking.   Still, it didn’t seem as though I was receiving the blessings or abundance that the Universe promised.

On the other side of the coin, I know people who have done wrong, and seem to come out smelling like a rose.   A woman has an affair with her best friend’s husband, breaks up his family, but by all appearances is happy and in love with that man as they plan their future together. Another cheats his employer and comes out financially secure.  It’s not that bad things happen in my life.  Believe me, I recognize that I am not perfect, and still am blessed beyond measure.  It just seems that sometimes, it appears that cheaters do prosper, and those who strive to be honest, and do right by themselves and those around them, get left behind.

What I have come to realize, however, is that my path is my path, just as your path is yours. The mistresses, cheaters and liars of the world have their path. Those who live a life of goodness, honesty and giving have their path. I have learned that when our paths cross, it is up to me to forgive them, help them if I can, and send them on their way with a blessing, all the while remaining on my path. The Universe will deal with them as the Universe will, just as the Universe will deal with me as It will.

When we focus on the paths of others, we miss out on the beauty of our own.

It is not our responsibility to judge others’ actions. We may be hurt or betrayed by them, but that hurt and betrayal need not define who we are, nor should it distract us from who we are. Good has come to us. Good will continue to come to us. We just have to stay on the course of our true, good self.

 

Strength in Weakness

The past few weeks have been hard.  Without going into the gory details, I have been inundated with immense burdens at work due to others’ personal situations over which they have no control.  Doing my own work is hard enough, but having to do the work of three people, well, I think you get the picture.  I can’t say no, because it’s not right to turn one’s back on helping out when another is in distress.  What’s more, this all seems to be happening during a time of intense reflection and repurposing on my part.  It’s almost as if someone is saying, “No time to spend on yourself right now.  You need to take on everyone else’s problems and deal with them first.”

As a result of this, I have become beaten down, defeated, deflated.  On a physical level, I have been ill more this year than I have in the past three years combined!  On an emotional level, I have had moments of bitterness, anger and hostility that simply are not who I am.

Many days, the sound of my alarm in the morning would bring overwhelming feelings of dread of another day ahead.  Dreaming of a day to myself, I would wonder, “Who’s problems are I going to have to take on today?”  It’s exhausting.

In all of this, however, one thing that has not changed is spending time with God.  Each morning I have continued my practice of reading scripture and devotionals, mediating and praying.  Admittedly, of late, most mornings I haven’t felt like engaging in my ritual because, frankly, I was irritated with God.   I work hard, I’m honest, I do the right things in life. Why am I always the one getting dumped on, the one struggling, the one being taken for granted?  But I kept at it.  Reading the Word even though I didn’t feel like reading the Word.  Praying when it seemed as though I had no prayers in me.

And then it happened.  One morning I was drawn to 2 Cor. 12:10:  “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, them am I strong.”  Something about that Scripture spoke to me.  I realized that even though I was irritated with God, I never once felt like He wasn’t there with me, going through each any every trial with me, just like He promises.  When my alarm clock sounded every morning and I did not want to get out of bed, it wasn’t me who willed my feet to the floor, it was Him.  I didn’t have to be strong emotionally and physically to get through these days, because His strength became perfect in my weakness. My eyes were opened to this Truth and what it really means to have strength in weakness.  He loves me.  He is with me.  He got me through these days, and will continue walking with me on good days and bad.  These burdens have been turned into blessings, because I know, deep inside my “knower” that what He has taught me during this time is far better than what I could have learned in any time of ease and leisure.

It’s All Good

My brother called me last evening to invite my son and me for Thanksgiving dinner later this month.   As is typical with my conversations with my older sibling (that occur regrettably infrequently), he asked “what’s new?”  My response:  “Just workin.  It’s all good.”   Reflecting on that comment in these pre-dawn hours, it struck me that “it’s all good” was a truth that seemed to slip out of my soul and form into words before I could even think about them.  To most, the concept of “just workin” and “it’s all good” typically do not go hand in hand.  And my response to my brother did not necessarily connect the two.   I realize that my life does not consist of “just workin.”  Do I love my job? I would have to say ‘no,’ but the important thing to me is that it is a job, nothing more.  I have learned that my life is so much more that what I do to earn a paycheck.  I have been with my current employer nearly 19 years, and, while not as lucrative a position as most would assume, it has kept a roof over my head, food on the table for my son and me, and the bills paid.   The important thing is that I am content.  Not content in a passive “it is what it is” way; content in knowing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  As I look deeper into myself and learn more about the Infinite Source who loves me, guides me and protects me, I can joyfully arrive at work each day open to new possibilities of personal growth and awareness.   I am not at this job to be a lawyer.  I am at this job to be a soul ready to experience and engage in relationships that God is placing in my path to help me get to the place that He wants me to be.  With this perspective, I can honestly say “it’s all good.”

Like a 20 something again, but not really…

I am exhausted.   I went out last night with a friend who I hadn’t seen in quite awhile.  She had come to a liberating realization of late and wanted to share it with me.  I feel honored that she felt so comfortable with me to share her revelation.

As we talked, we also ate.  And drank. And talked some more.   Before I knew it, it was 12:30 a.m. and we were closing down a popular bar.  I hadn’t heard a “last call” since probably my 20’s.  In fact at one point, I asked them what was going on.  Go, showing my age.

Another thing that showed my age: waking up this morning after a mere three and a half hours of sleep.  Now back in the day, I could party till the wee hours, get a couple hours’ sleep and be fully functional the next day.   Today, however, is pretty rough.  I awoke with red eyes, a dull ache in my head and a feeling of pure exhaustion, rivaled only by my insatiable thirst.   I briefly toyed with the notion of calling in sick and spending the day in bed, but that damn work ethic in me pulled my tired body out of bed and on to the tasks of the day.   I’ve been fairly productive at work, although now, at almost 3:00 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, my mind is calling it quits for the week.   My weeks are demanding enough without a “party like your 25” night like last night.  I’m simply ready to go home and put on some comfortable sweats and watch a good movie until I drift off to what I know will be a great night’s sleep.

And this brings me to my joy for today.  I had a great evening with a friend whom I haven’t seen in quite awhile.   The fog that lingers in my head and the tiredness in my bones is small penance for reconnecting with an important person in my life.  Today at work I had a nice break chatting and laughing with someone who is dear to me beyond words.   The workday is almost over and I look forward to a relaxing evening, the pressures of the week behind me, and the promise of a free couple of days ahead of me.   I count this all joy.  I love my life.