Cultivating the opposite of hopelessness looks different for each of us. For you it might be cultivating joy. Or vulnerability. Or compassion. Enthusiasm. Wisdom. Or creative problem solving. Pick what helps you when faced with something that scalds you with anger or drowns you in hopelessness, and dedicate yourself there.  (You can read the rest of Jen Louden’s post here.)     KindCard-4b

It seems to me you could read my posts and wonder at my frequent bouts of positivity, hopefulness, cheer. Is she for real, you might be asking? Well, actually, yes. I am glad to have been blessed with a sense of wonder, willingness to adventure, and a deep love of color  and texture which pushes me to create.

My dearest friend, a professional photographer, taught me how to take risks, in the way no one else had ever modeled for me. She was so proud of the deck her husband built for her. So she took photos in a rotation to encompass the entirety of the structure. She printed them on paper then placed them arranged and rearranged the photos. When pleased with her arrangement she made a new print on a piece of white silk. And that silk she placed on a wall in her house. So, I thought, you can hang anything you like on a wall in your home, it’s okay. Sounds naive, but it never occurred to me before that. My friend’s concept of a wall hanging doesn’t sound risky, but she taught me; ownership of myself and my choices and my ideas of what I liked enough to display it, or not, as I wished.        kind-6b

I haven’t explained the “adventuring” in today’s title. I’ve come to believe that adventuring is as important to me as what I treasure; a home, love, gratitude for each day, the sun shining… Lately adventuring means taking my art to new places, pushing those limits I imposed on myself. To be honest I will say I’ve found it difficult since our move here to find my niche; where to sell my art, where to teach, etc. So I’m adventuring once again into uncharted [for me] seas, and writing some new art class curriculum and creating new art to see where I can go with these “creations” of my mind.

Here’s how I see my life; worth living, even through the most difficult moments, and worth all the loss and hurt and pain I’ve experienced to have the joy of looking at the trees dusted with snow, the sound of a friendly voice on the phone, the joy of sharing my thoughts here, with you, my anonymous reader. Write back, and share yourself with me, if you can.

For illustration today I have copies of cards I’ve completed for a special order, all bearing the same quote by Aesop; “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

 

A friend said to me; You’ve been your son’s only parent for a long time. How old is he now? I replied; He is 33. She said; That’s like a marriage. Well, not really. He is my son and one of my 5 adult children, but unable to go out into the world on his own. His other parent stepped out of his life 13 years ago. And really what other choice did I have? He is my son and he requires aid.

I believe we have choices in this life… and I have tried to choose on the side of loving kindness (chesed) and with the thought in mind; what would I want if I were in the position of needing help in order to live my best life?  NateBowlingTrophy2013

Holidays have been difficult times for me. I miss the noise and bustle of my children when most of them were home. Yet I remember wishing for peace and quiet, which has only come since they’ve all grown up and left for their own, independent lives, away from me. Ironic. Beware what you wish for, it may come true and then you wonder; is this truly what I wanted after all?

And much to my chagrin, I once told a friend I couldn’t deal with too much of her “wonderful marriage talk” because I haven’t had that option. I am — have been alone for 21 years, a considerable length of time. Of course I haven’t been alone at all. I raised each of the 4 others until they turned 18 and stepped off the edge of the world of childhood and into the pool; of life as an adult. Only my Nato remains and he currently has a busier life than I do.

I now have the somewhat idle life I dreamed of through the years I had to be 2 loving, sane parents to my children. Those were the days I had to have unlimited patience and tolerance, and keep a “clean-enough” house and work outside of it to pay for necessities of living; clean underwear, auto insurance, mortgage payments, summer camp. Now I am my son’s calendar minder, appointment setter and chauffeur and not least; soother and/or interpreter of his temperamental outbursts.

Living can be messy, contradictory, full of anguish, a time/place when dreams are so far away as to never be obtainable, yet it is also so many other things; our one and only life to be clay in our hands, filled with the awe and wonder of nature at best and worst, and everything, anything, in-between. CardJuly31- 13

What I love most about living is the wonder, the unexpected joyful moments, the gratitude that drops on me like a soft gauzy curtain; not obscuring reality, but reminding me of the worth of unexpected joy especially in the midst of a life of service to another.

I choose service because the options are not affordable. Neither to “place” my son with strangers who may not be patient enough to allow him to be who he is, and hope they use gentleness to curb his extremes, nor… But there is nothing else.  I have looked high and low. I could send him to another state far away, depend on financial assistance, take out loans, bankrupt the rest of my life, and again hope that strangers will treat him with dignity and credit him with knowing what he wants, but none of these are options seem right.

And so, life is both the past which is already written, and the present which we live moment by moment, and the future which is ephemeral, a dream, a hoped for unreality perhaps awaiting us, perhaps not. Nato and I, are I think, engaged in each living the moments, occasionally laughing at each others jokes, and what I’ve come to realize; enriching our days with the presence of the other. And thankfully we each have our art, we have music, we have laughter…

I want to end with a poem by W.H. Auden, entitled September 1, 1939.

And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
*       *       *       *       *       *
Picture of Nato with bowling trophy, and handmade card with saying by Bob Dylan; May your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung.

My earliest memories of family, not tied to photographs, of my family are 2 mental images; one is the 1950’s living room furniture in our house that was like a showroom, not a LIVING room. (Well my father was in the furniture trade!) The second is when my sister and I were both sick with measles or chicken pox and my father still wearing his overcoat carried up a pile of board games for us to play to relieve the sickroom tedium.

EveryChild

My mother will tell the story of how she left me in my carriage, outside one of the shops along the main road, a block walk away, and she walked home only realizing [when???] that she’d left her baby. There is also the family story of how I got lost on the beach in Atlantic City and a mother grabbed me, knowing my mother would find her and I. At the time I was about two years old. So this happened 16-18 months after the first incident.

Growing up, if asked about my family I’d mention my parents, who both seemed distant, and my grandparents who meant the world to me, and my 2 sisters [mixed feelings]. And I should mention Catharine, an African-American woman who cleaned our house, ironed tablecloths [and whatever else], and walked me to school and back in the early grades. She and my mother watched As the World Turns on our black and white television each day about lunch time. And her husband acted as bartender when my parents had parties. All this was confusing to me, perhaps because Catharine was not a family member but took care of me and I felt her caring.

Blessed

There are tangible things I took from my years in my parents’ home and determined to NOT do these as I became a parent. I would not punish my children with a hairbrush or a belt, or by locking them out of the house. I would talk to them; explain anything and everything. I would talk to them about sex, not the mechanics so much as dating and partners and intimacy. And about money and careers and choices.  Through a work conference I learned about choice-making and how to encourage children, so that they can grow to be autonomous human beings. (Autonomy: independence, living by one’s own laws, from Dictionary.com) Overnight I changed my parenting style and feel rewarded by the results in my adult children, and now my older grandson also being taught to make choices, and face consequences.

I wanted a large family with my spouse; and have 5 amazing children. And then I found myself unexpectedly divorced due to my spouse’s desire for greener grass, so to speak. The partner I married who soon after realized my family of origin was not very supportive to me, promised he’d always be my family. Well sometimes always is shorter than you think. And recently in the last 2 years I have cut myself out of my “family” of origin because I wanted to stop the cycle of hoping and feeling disappointed, hoping and disappointment, that occurred with these 3 remaining family members, who, like the girls in middle school; have formed a clique and I’m not part of it.

Pinned

Yesterday the auto service shop owner belittled me and ridiculed me when I insisted that a verbal contract for the cost of the repair of my car [for $800.] should be upheld despite that he did not include sales tax in his estimate, since he gains nothing by collecting tax. Also, he did not anticipate 2 bolts needing to be replaced (2 bolts cost $12., imagine!) and some unexpected welding work. Instead he argued I would pay the additional 16%, or $130, because I owed him. And while standing there trying to remain civilized and adult– I had a flash of deja vu. This – this ridicule, this lack of acceptance of who I am, my honesty, my intentions in life, are EXACTLY why I stopped all communication with my family of origin.

So who is my family? I learned after the divorce, in those frantic days with 5 children the first year, then four kids for 4 years after that, etc, etc, that a dear friend could “kvell” [show pride] in my children’s accomplishments, and give me time to talk about them as I might if I had a co-parent. I learned that my friends, if I chose carefully, could remember my birthday, would call to check on me, invite me out for coffee or lunch, or help me work through a difficult problem or decision. My children are involved with me to the extent they wish and I don’t cross their boundary lines. And I’ve been trying to move geographically closer to my older grandson for 2 years because we have a bond since his birth in my living room 8 years ago, and I want to be more than a Skype Grandparent.  SingOutLoad

Not least in this summary is the place of my middle son; he who came into our family with Down Syndrome, later also diagnosed with severe speech articulation and now at 31 years of age wearing hearing aids so that he can hear properly. He was not supposed to live at home this long. It was not in my plan for his independence, but plans change. Divorce happens, poverty often occurs for women after divorce who are single-parents. I had the choice to go back to college, and felt a better choice was to work and earn money immediately to make ends meet. And Nato has been my roomie through all these years. With our next move he will perhaps have his own home, no matter how humble, and yet we will still be family; helping each other with practical matters, and watching funny videos together so we can laugh out loud like grinning fools.

**Card sayings from top: 1) Every child begins the world again… 2)Blessed is the influence of one true loving human soul on another. 3) Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong. 4) Sing out loud in the car even, especially if it embarrasses your children.

 

Here’s what the good life is for the president of the country of Uruguay, South America. He is paid $12,000 monthly and wears sandals. Drives himself to work in his 1987 VW Beetle. He and his wife were both guerrilla fighters and both have GodBoxLifeMission2been imprisoned while fighting for the rights of their people. They live in the country in a very basic house with lemon trees and his very small 3-legged dog. Oh, and he gives away 90% of his salary to charities, mostly to help with housing for poor folks.

Does he live his good life? I think, Yes. See what the media is calling the “immediately iconic photo” of him at work. Thus reported the Washington Post [.com] yesterday. This quote at the end of article by President José Mujica; “If we lived within our means – by being prudent – the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed.”

Three Compassionate Strategies for Living, a post from Inspire Me Today.com which I enjoyed reading, but got stuck. Summary; 1- Always do your best, 2- Treat everyone with the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings, 3- Help others with no strings attached. Now these are very commonsensical [is that a word?]. And I do my best, but I have to fall back on a truism; I can only change myself, I cannot change anyone else. What about when people you’re related to don’t treat you kindly, with respect or dignity? How do you

WondrousLight2live with compassion, which you really want to do, feel called to do, yet you’re only human?!

Then this quote which found me tonight, clarifying the whole thing; “Its a choice. You just have to decide that I’m not going to put my energy there. I’m going to decide to let this go. It’s your choice. You can embrace it, you can become a prisoner of bitterness and resentment, anger and victim city, or you can just say ‘I’m going to live my life and be happy.’”

I’m working on happy and not angry. It’s a difficult task. I’ve made it a priority though, so I’ll let you know how it goes. I intend to win this battle. Just saying.

**Two handmade pieces; first, God Box with quote on side, second, an Affirmation card — I created/gave to a bereaved friend. Do NOT copy my creative work.

Last week I spoke with a 22 year old, who is troubled over his recent job change. I listened to his concerns and his hopes and dreams. We came up with- 3) his Ultimate Goal, 2) what assistance he needs to gain skills he needs for his Ultimate Goal,  1) what he can do now to create a better “now” experience.

He’s currently  working  at home all week and missing the human interaction that happens in a group working space. So we brainstormed (1 above) and came up with these options; if the Ultimate Goal working group meets 2 nights a week with him 2 days with people. If he  joins a co-working space and goes 2 other days of the week he’ll have 4 days per week working with or near others. Setting regular weekly practices with a dance partner for his hobby creates a further weekly opportunity.

And now about his Ultimate Goal  (3 above) which will require some skills over which he doesn’t currently have mastery, we talked about proposing an alliance with a successful and kind business leader he knows who may be willing to mentor the young man.

"Centered" a work by Nate and his mom.

“Centered” a work by Nate and his mom.

The important aspect of choosing to ask this particular person for help (2 above); this man likes, respects and values him, both as a person and as a worker. I believe we should always sway in the direction of love, respect, and self-worth. 

So here’s the 3 action steps; think about your answers, write them, talk to someone who knows you- about them… You can also e-mail me, and I’ll add whatever wisdom I may have;

1 -In your current situation, are you prized for what you contribute, your own uniqueness? Or would another person be an adequate substitute? Please go on.
2 – Is the situation fulfilling? Is there one person who values your contribution, and respects you?  Please continue.
3 – Have you considered your life goals; what they are, how you will attain them, when, where, and what help you might require to reach those goal/s?

If thinking, writing or talking don’t help try this; in the center of a paper write the word/phrase that best explains what you want and circle it. For example, mine might say; Artist.  Like planets orbiting the sun, write other words that summarize your strengths and put each  in a circle with a spoke connecting it to the center word, almost like an old-fashioned wheel. Mine might include; advocate, good researcher, loves to meet other artists, strong spirit, willing to try new things.  What does your “mind map” tell about you?

Do you need another layer? Pick a planet [ “good researcher”] and surround it with words in circles, and spokes connecting it to “good researcher.” My extra circles around that would say; quilting books for ideas, ask John about framing a hanging work, look up framing options, research other artists who collage, and search does anyone combine stitchery and jewelry. Our answers can provide direction. Ask your questions, draw a map, turn to others… dream and imagine.