Isn’t it funny how we dread the things that can actually bring clarity and joy? Two weeks ago, I spent much of my time in dread and anxiety. I worried that Grammy’s death would pitch my husband into a bottomless depression. I feared leaving my new home for the trip to New Jersey, and suspending “Write YOUR Story” for two weeks, thinking that Honey Girl would grow gaunt and nervous by being caged in a kennel or that the writing workshop kids would find better things to do with their time, or that the new people I’ve met would delete me from their lives… What I found upon my return, however, is the opposite!
The frank expression of joy I saw on the faces of my fellow T’ai chi students last night upon entering the Seattle Kung Fu Club made my heart sing! The cozy complicity with the “Write YOUR Story” kids at the library on Wednesday evening also filled me with happiness. Instead of indifference, their major concern was, “Where were you?” and “Why were you late?” The way the entire staff of the Washington Beauty School perked up when I walked in the door for a hair appointment (“Our favorite client!”), and the photo that arrived in my in-box of a client’s grandchild looking pleased with her HGBG “Frankenstein Patchwork Pillow”: all of these small incidents drove home the feeling of belonging here, and being appreciated. Oh, and Honey Girl had so much fun with the dogs at the in-home “kennel” where she stayed, that she seems even happier than before! (She’s also grown a bit plump in the haunches, actually. Hardly a case of post-traumatic kennel stress.)
This transition has been a bumpy ride and I’ll admit that in late October I reversed my view on pharmaceuticals a bit, and got back on that tiny (10 mg) dose of the anti-depressant that helped me survive my parents’ death and the last years of work at Notre Dame. But that has been a reality-check too, and I do not regret it. Sometimes nerves need a helping hand to stay on a more even keel, for a while…
My message is this: it is possible to re-invent yourself and be happy again in a completely different context, if you follow this formula: presence + patience = connection. And from connection comes that deep-seated feeling of happiness, of belonging, of being home.
It’s as simple as that. We are social beings. We need to be around people; our presence helps each other. We cannot make happiness arise without being there. We cannot predict how they will help us, we have to believe, and see what happens later….
For a deeper understanding of these lessons, here are some good quotes from writers over the ages:
- On presence
a) From Epictetus (circa 55–135 CE): “What is really your own? The use you make of the ideas, resources, and opportunities that come your way. Do you have books? Read them. Learn from them. Apply their wisdom. … Do you have a good idea? Follow up and follow through on it. Make the most of what you’ve got, what is actually yours.” (The Art of Living, 12-13).
b) From Eckhart Tolle (1948–): “Try this for a couple of weeks and see how it changes your reality: Whatever you think people are withholding from you–praise, appreciation, assistance, loving care, and so on–give it to them. … Then, soon after you start giving, you will start receiving. You cannot receive what you don’t give. … Ask yourself often: ‘What can I give here; how can I be of service to this person, this situation?'” (A New Earth, 191-192).
2. On patience
a) From Epictetus: “There is a great relief in being morally consistent: The soul relaxes, and we can thus efficiently move forward in our endeavors. […] The secret is not to get stuck there dithering or wringing your hands, but to move forward by resolving to heal yourself. Philosophy asks us to move into courage.” (The Art of Living, 82-83)
b) From Eckhart Tolle: “When you yield internally, when you surrender, a new dimension of consciousness opens up. If action is possible or necessary, your action will be in alignment with the whole and supported by creative intelligence, the unconditioned consciousness which in a state of inner openness you become one with. Circumstances and people then become helpful, cooperative. Coincidences happen. If no action is possible, you rest in the peace and inner stillness that come with surrender.” (Tolle, A New Earth, 58).
3. On connection
From E.M. Forster (1879-1970): “Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect.” (Howard’s End, chap. 22)
The book cover you see above (The Rockin’ Radiated Rocks!) is the latest production of “Write YOUR Story”: a free writing workshop for kids age 8-12, that is now enrolling for Winter/Spring 2019!
The “Frankenstein Patchwork Pillow” is Model 3, “Happy, happy creature!”: available now via Honey Girl Books and Gifts.