Dry Run. Night Fun: 7 Lessons Learned

Earlier this week we slept in our converted camping van for the first time… with our two small dogs… in the driveway. Given it was the first time, we decided to stay close to home should anything major go awry. That decision turned out to be a good idea!

We purchased the 2004, semi-converted Chevy van only six weeks ago. I’ve spent four of those weeks tearing out and redesigning the interior to accommodate our foray into part-time #vanlife during our semi-retirement years. The intent is to visit our children and grandchildren. They are now scattered about, living all over the western United States. Because their homes are filled with children, there are no longer any guest rooms for us. A wonderful trade-off!

We had stayed at hotels, but didn’t like the associated costs nor having to board our dogs when we traveled. The van is to become our “hotel room on wheels” so we can visit our family (guesting in their driveways), bring our dogs, stay as suited for everyone’s schedule, and not spend a fortune in the process.

Mosquito screen envelope-style (double layer) with magnets on outside

In our younger days, my husband and I did remote tent camping, car camping, and even trailer camping. However, due to where we live now, an older, reliable, converted camper van seems our best option. It will also be my daily around-town vehicle. The biggest requirement was that it had to fit in the garage. And it does. Just.

After a week of removing what was already in the van, then discussing desirable camping features with my husband, I spent three weeks re-designing the internal layout. I insisted on a “no-build build” idea so everything can be changed if we need the vehicle for something other than camping.

Displaying a few of the lighting options – inside

I did most of the installation, which included sewing, shopping, crafting, arranging, installing, and set-up. I selected everything from a sofa bed to fairy lights to a “Luggable Loo” toilet. My husband provided his input, the money, and muscle, too. We packed everything we might need (and more) for a vacation into the 70 square feet. Still, we decided a test was wise to be sure we didn’t forget anything.

While we had packed the van during the day with snacks, clothes, water, etc., our evening test began well after sunset. That was our first mistake. We did consider that, if something was missing – even though I’d made multiple lists – we could just dash inside the house and collect it.

Lesson 1:  Set up camp in the daylight.

Dog and crate area

After loading up the dogs in their crates and providing them with water, our next task was to connect the long extension cord to an outlet in the garage. Although I had been the one to initially store the cord in the van, my husband was the one to get it out and unwind it. Unfortunately, confusion ensued about how it had been wound to begin with. It was difficult to unwind in the dark driveway. And why were those small bungee cords wrapped around it? We turned on the garage lights to illuminate the cord mess into a workable solution.

Lesson 2: Set up camp in the daylight.

Next, the extension cord was snaked from the garage through an open window into the van to power a surge-suppressor, multi-outlet unit for the computer and monitor (for livestreaming movies). That was the moment we discovered the outlet unit had not yet been stowed. Another trip to the house.

Lesson 3: Test systems completely and keep parts together. Set up camp in the daylight.

Once the electrical cord and outlet unit was turned on, we powered up our computer-related devices. Two small portable fans were already buzzing – one with its own battery and directed at our bed; the other USB-style fan, plugged into an external, fully-charged battery power supply, which gave the dogs a cooling breeze. Both fans – combined with the mosquito-netted, open front door windows – provided adequate air flow throughout the van. It also helped that the temperature was only in the mid-70’s.

Wait! No Wi-Fi? We had assumed we’d be able to connect to our home’s internet account from the driveway. It had worked before when we were parked in the garage, but now, less than 20 feet from our previous test spot, and we had no connection. We tried several times to connect on various devices. No luck. At least we had remembered to bring books and magazines for our nighttime ritual.

Lesson 4: Have internet HotSpot capability – OR – bring reading materials or external DVD/CD drives for movies. Set up camp in the daylight.

Although we had meant to keep the house off-limits for this experiment, that rule had already been broken several times. I ended up walking the dogs through the house (on their leashes) to the backyard for their final pee of the evening. I then marched them back to the van, locking doors and shutting off lights behind me. While I was walking the dogs, my husband shut down the devices and put them away. When the garage door came down, the reality of sleeping in our van in the driveway became really REAL.

Dogs locked in their crates? Check. Van doors locked? Yes. Phones and keys nearby? Of course. Water bottles handy? Indeed. Toilet set-up for late-night routines? Absolutely!

I had earlier given my husband a tour of where all the touch-lights were located and how to use them. The privacy curtain for the toilet area was also in place. All other window coverings insulated us from the outside world.

Lesson 5: Take your time; be methodical. Set up camp in the daylight.

I crawled across the sofa bed to my cozy, corner spot and collapsed into the pillows. As my husband read his paperback crime novel with the aid of a small solar-powered light propped on his chest, my eyes explored the van interior. My mind reviewed all the plans we had discussed and the hot days of working in the garage to achieve this moment. I’m happy with the aesthetic results.

What was disappointing, however, was the sofa bed. So hard! Neither of us slept well after the first hour. We’ll soon add some kind of topper to soften it. The bed is narrow for two people, but we can deal with that. We were both warm without coverings most of the night. Only in the pre-dawn hours did we feel the need for the quilt.

Also during the night, I became keenly aware of the slant of our driveway. While it’s not much of an incline, my body seemed to slide down the mattress toward the street. I repeatedly pulled myself up toward the pillows. Apparently this wasn’t an issue for my snoring husband.

Lesson 6:  Find a level place to park. Set up camp in the daylight.

The 6:10 a.m. alarm was louder in the van than it had ever been in the bedroom. I threw on clothes and made another run to the backyard with the dogs. As I tried to get the dogs back into the van, rabid barking ensued. They were surprised by a neighbor out for her morning walk… across the street. Their  loud vocal response made clear their feelings about such an intrusion in their corner of the neighborhood.

The kitchen area after morning coffee

Thanks to the handy electrical cord and outlet unit, we heated the water in the electric kettle and enjoyed pour-over coffee. The ice in the small cooler chest chilled the coffee creamers loaded up the night before. Strong coffee never tasted so good. While there was enough hot water to make oatmeal, we decided on having breakfast later after we “got home.”

Our overnight test proved to be a success. We survived! My husband retracted the electrical cord from the window. We both shared in storing it in a new way. I hopped into the driver’s seat to move the van back into its place in the garage. Once the garage door was secure, we released the hounds, cleaned up the van, and fixed a welcome hot breakfast.

Lesson 7:  Be flexible. Plan for what you can. Enjoy the adventure. And set up camp in the daylight.

Morning wake-up after first night in van

Our future excursions will be more than 20 feet from our back door. We’re excited, but nervous, to “get on the road.” We’ve never had a vacation without a timeframe or urgency to return. It’ll be interesting to see how Life shows up in our journeys.

Our Responsibilities with Death

Today my husband and I had one of those “difficult” conversations. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic affecting the globe and hearing about thousands of people dying, I insisted that we review our Wills and other final documents. While there is some comfort in knowing we made certain arrangements a dozen years and five house moves ago, clearly it’s time for an update.

The subject of our eventual death need not be one we avoid nor approach with overwhelming emotion. The fact is we are all going to die at some point. It’s just a matter of when and how. We may not have control over either of those decisions, but we can make known to family, friends, or an attorney our wishes about certain things being done upon our exit from this life. It is the responsibility of each individual to determine his/her final wishes in the last chapter of one’s life story.

Eckhart Tolle said, “Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.”

Let me make something clear: I love my life. I LOVE my life! It is better now than it’s ever been. While certainly there are some experiences I would never have consciously chosen for myself, I’m grateful every day for the journey that brought me to this place and time.

And I take care of myself in a way that supports my body for a long experience on this planet. I still have much to do and be before I make my transition from this plane to whatever is beyond this earthly existence. Any fear of death I carried into adulthood continues to be replaced by decades of studies in world religions, death traditions, rituals, beliefs, and spiritual growth. And, yes, I do believe the soul or essence of who we are continues in another realm or dimension. It’s a mystery and a future adventure.

Meanwhile, as we practice social distancing, personal retreats, or self-quarantines, and follow the guidelines to keep one another healthy and safe, I believe it is also important to be practical, responsible, for any unforeseen (but possible) situations… death being one of them. As the number of deaths from this virus increase each day, it can be difficult to consider we could become part of those statistics. However, currently we’re part of the living and that provides us with an opportunity to be responsible adults.

Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science, wrote in the Science of Mind textbook in the chapter on Immortality some of my favorite lines of this philosophy: “And so we prepare not to die, but to live. The thought of death should slip from our consciousness altogether; and when this great event of the soul takes place, it should be beautiful, sublime . . . a glorious experience. As the eagle, freed from its cage, soars to its native heights, so the soul, freed from the home of heavy flesh, will rise and return unto its Father’s house, naked and unafraid.”

For me, preparing “not to die, but to live…” means that I take care of those tasks, documents, directions, expenses, etc. that are mine to do. This includes my funeral arrangements, cremation, designation or distribution of personal items, and so forth. No one can guess what I have in mind unless I write it down and offer some directions. I believe my wishes will be honored by those who I’ve entrusted with such requests. And, the thing is, once everything I need to clarify and list and label is recorded and shared appropriately, I can focus on Life and all it still offers.

A few years before my father died, he shared with me certain things he wanted to have done after he was gone. His list was not a long one. Unfortunately, he didn’t write down what he had shared with me. Then another family member took control of his life and finances in those final months. While more than two years have passed since he made his transition, I intend to honor him and his verbal requests as best I can, and in more ways than he originally suggested.

The 2017 experience with my father’s death and his unfulfilled final requests inspired me to create a “Funeral Planning Workbook.” It has since been published (on Amazon) and used by a growing audience of folks, like me, who are willing to address their eventual death and consider what final arrangements are desired. In so doing, we are being accountable to ourselves by taking care of tasks NOW so that our families won’t need to be burdened with them later.

Whether you choose to purchase and utilize such a planning tool or start handwriting your list on a notepad, I encourage you… in these days of isolation, reflection, self-care, and with a focus on your health and longevity… give some thought and direction to what you can do to ease the burdens of those you will leave behind. You might discover ways to simplify life even further.

As we’ve seen on the news or in social media, this virus doesn’t care about your age, gender, social or economic status, race, profession, or where you live. So if you’re reading this, you still have time to complete a very important life task… and let someone (or two) know where to find your final documents and instructions. Research online. Download templates to get started. Consult with legal professionals. File whatever forms are necessary by mail or email. And once it’s done, having considered the worst that could happen, you will have a better appreciation for this awesome experience called Life and can joyfully look forward to the best it has in store for you.

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Community Everywhere

Not too long ago I bemoaned feeling disconnected from a group with whom I’d spent many active months of participation, but in which I was no longer actively involved. I started looking around for other options and realized my life was filled with connection!

My newest exercise schedule includes walking, inside, at the large shopping mall in our town. Yes, I’m a “mall walker.” I log ten to fifteen miles each week as I traverse the brown tile path along the many large, glass windows stuffed with mannequins and clothing trends and assorted items of interest. It helps to go early. Before the stores actually open. Less temptation to buy things. Many others share these halls and that brown tile path. I’m never really alone.

We are a walking community. That is our common bond and purpose for being there each morning. No long conversations except by those who bring along their own walking partners. The dimly lit, wide halls are mostly silent until the mall music begins.

There’s the gentleman wheeling his oxygen tank behind him and the younger woman (maybe his daughter) who tags alongside. One tall, white-haired man, always wearing a flannel shirt and bent slightly forward at the waist, shuffles alone. A woman in a blue sweater with perfect brown hair has her purse strap diagonally strapped across her chest with a perfectly-matched brown purse hanging over her left hip.

The security guard in his yellow, uniform shirt with bold black letters strolls in the opposite direction and down the middle between the regulars. He seems oblivious to the rules of walking. His walkie-talkie positioned on his hip is silent most days as well.

Another man – small thin frame, gray hair, glasses, and walking shorts – has such a fast pace he’s almost running. He always waves “hello” from across the concourse. I wave back quickly before he’s out of view.

A thin, petite woman, her long, gray and white hair piled high on her head, walks in private up and down one of the side wings of the tentacled mall layout. Back and forth, around the edge of her own routine, her head struggles to hold up the heavy hair as her chin and neck jut forward to maintain balance. Her tiny frame is dressed in a sweater, knit leggings, and tennis shoes. Her arms swing front-to-back like a power walker on a mission. She has the most engaging smile through bright red lipstick.

Then there’s Kathy, the mall worker who washes the entrance door windows, dusts the concourse furniture, and always has a smile and a “hello” to share, if you can catch her eye. Her earplug wires connect her head to some device in her back pocket but never seem to get in the way of her duties as she goes inside and outside to clean the windows.

It was through a short conversation with Kathy that I discovered I’m the walker who wears the cute hats. The day we exchanged names I wasn’t wearing one and she nearly didn’t recognize me. Now I make sure to always wear a hat before I enter this quiet community of dedicated walkers. If anyone’s taking attendance, I want to be sure I’m counted.

I’ve come to see that community is everywhere if you’re but willing to look and engage with those around you. Whether it’s greeting the store staff as they lift metal doors or fill display cases with jewelry, there’s a familiarity among the regular walkers. As I deepen the connection through these casual waves and acknowledge the repeated “hello’s,” I find it’s also what keeps me coming back. Each of us is contributing to community just by showing up.

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RULE #5: Contentment is Completion

Do you recall the feeling you experienced the last time you FINALLY finished something? Maybe you made that phone call… or you wrote that paper… or you finished up a chore that’s been staring you in the face for days or weeks. Whatever step of the project or however long it had been weighing on your mind, the moment, the very second it’s done, there’s a breath that escapes the body. It’s a physical indication that says, “Whew! That’s done!”

There’s contentment in that moment of awareness when you complete some portion of interest in your life. Think about it.

You might plan to do a bit of yard work, just a small task in the overall scheme of things. Until you do it, you carry that project around in your mind, and maybe your muscles, until you finally go outside and get it done. Your whole body relaxes with the knowing that it’s “off your list.” You look around at how nice it looks. You might even start fantasizing about what you’re going to do next. Maybe.

Or you say you’re going to call your mom or dad or distant child, but keep putting it off until you get one more thing done, when the moment is right…except, you can’t really concentrate on those other tasks or might not even feel good about doing them, because of the nagging voice in your head, reminding you of the one really important call to make. And you know how happy you are when you finally make that call? Even if all you can do is to leave a voice mail message? Yeah…that’s the feeling of contentment.

Whether the plans before you are to go watch a special movie, read a book, go for a walk, practice the piano, take a class…or…involves more long-term goals like finish your degree, start a business, write a book, go on vacation, plan a wedding, or build a house… the level of contentment can vary and often mirrors the magnitude of the endeavor.

Frankly, I’ve become so enamored by the feeling of contentment (call it an addiction, if you will) that it now motivates me to complete whatever I can each day and then pause for a moment of recognition… not only to celebrate all that’s been released from my consciousness, but also to check-in with whatever weight I might still be carrying around, and to address it right then and there. Additional release might involve scheduling the task on my calendar or to dismiss it from my mind’s ownership altogether.

I’m making progress. I’m getting my things done. And I’m minding my own business about what I think others are supposed to be doing. I’m connecting with loved ones and art and nature more often. My life has become fuller, healthier, and less stressful. My self-esteem is stronger; I’m more confident. The nagging critical voice in my head is quieter. My energy is going in a positive direction and the results are, well, amazing! Contentment IS completion.

Give it a try. Pick something on the “I’ve got to get this done list” in your head and finish it! Then, stop for a moment… and notice how your body’s tension on that matter disappears, how the ego voice fades into the distance, and how your soul just beams with satisfaction. My guess is it won’t be long before you to want to repeat that feeling of happy contentment and complete something else. Go ahead. What a great way to live life!

RULE #4: Watch Your Feet

Rule #4 is about setting boundaries and moving forward… thus it’s important to watch your feet, to know where to place them metaphorically, what your personal limits are, or where you would “draw the line in the sand” in any given situation. We all have limits. We are in charge of choosing our direction, too. It just depends what the situation is or who is involved as to what each of those might be.

Years ago I had the opportunity to dabble in the sport of rock climbing, mostly bouldering. The highest cliff I faced was only 30 to 40 feet high. Put a few of those on top of each other and you have a good-sized mountain.

However, my goal was not to climb Mt. Everest. I simply wanted to get over my fear of heights and this seemed like a logical way to do it. Through the guidance of a qualified instructor and lots of practice, I learned the importance of where to place my hands and feet… one hand, one foot at a time.

Each foot placement was important no matter how high off the ground I was. Each solid step onto the side of the rock meant that I could move up, down or sideways in the direction of my choosing. I then could reach out with my hand and grab hold of even the smallest protrusion to give myself balance and additional stability while each foot, in turn, found the next foundation of support. There was a very good chance that, if my foot slipped, my hand or fingers may not hold my body’s weight and I could fall. The rope was the backup plan, not something to swing from or rely upon.

I faced my fear. Through repeated movements (and instruction and rope/harness gear) I gained the confidence that allowed me to move from bouldering two feet off the ground to climbing a 40-foot cliff. I became strong in body and spirit. I discovered my physical limits and mental boundaries. I was humbled by the rock and empowered by the experience. I grew in self-assurance and faith and moved forward in other life challenges.

We have limits all around us. There are financial limits… how much money you choose to spend on something; what you’re willing to loan to a family member. There are relationship limits… what you’re willing to contribute emotionally to a partner; how long you tolerate a certain unacceptable behavior of a spouse or child. There are many opportunities that prompt a person to stand up to a situation and say “Enough is enough!”

But do you have limits to how much Good you’re willing to let into your life? Do you put a cap on a great idea because of fear? Are there things that would really help you or improve your life but you’re not willing to accept them for yourself? Where do you “stand” in your core values and beliefs?

Setting boundaries or limits can do two things: 1) keep something away that could harm us; or 2) keep us away from our own Good. It’s important to recognize the difference and to know when to change the situation as needed for our highest and best experience.

For most of us…Feet are the body’s instrument upon which we stand. Feet are strong enough to hold up our bodies for hours every day. Feet are the tools that help us drive our cars – accelerator or brake – go forward or stop. Feet are the means that allow us to move in the world, to get from one place to another and to change course at will. Feet move us in many directions and can traverse all types of terrain. Feet provide us with the awareness of a solid foundation, balance, and stability.

Watch your feet. Give yourself the best foundation you’re able. Know your boundaries and move forward in life with confidence and faith.

Rule #2: There are NO “do-overs” in Life

Have you ever heard the lesson about how each time you step into a stream, it’s a different stream? This lesson speaks to the fact that the water in the stream is different, the rocks on the bottom may have moved, the temperature can vary, the way you walk may be unusual, and even your perspective of how you view the stream can be different from the first time it happened.

With this idea in mind, it occurred to me that Life is like that, too. We may repeat habits or patterns, think similar ideas, have on-going behaviors or relationships that don’t change for years…or so we lead ourselves to believe. The fact is, we change from minute to minute. We become wiser, more experienced, more aware.

A first-time endeavor is only a “first-time” once. Your first day of work happens only once, no matter how long you’re there or how many different jobs you have. A first kiss can happen just one time.

You can certainly repeat the experience with different people or places of employment, thereby experiencing the “newness” of that particular incident with other variables, but you cannot go back to that first time of anything or go back in time to repeat a specific act because time keeps passing on. Once something has been done, you cannot go back in time and do it over. The next time you repeat a behavior or experience is brand new and in a new moment.

As chronological time passes, this new, NOW moment is really all we have to work with. We may gain much experience and wisdom about how to do things, how the world works, and hopefully who we are as a person. However, there is absolutely no way to go back and do anything over again without having the memory, wisdom or experience of having done that something before.

Life has no do-overs. Not really. What you DO have is the ability to do things better the second or third or fourth time around. You may get lots of practice in certain endeavors, yet each is happening in a brand new moment with a greater (albeit familiar) sense of understanding about that activity. Each new moment, each new experience, comes with the opportunity to create anew!

You don’t have to do things the same way time after time. Life…Creation…God…certainly does not. We’re told that EVERY snowflake is of a unique design. So is EVERY human being on earth. Trees and animals may share a species name, and even look quite identical, but I would venture to say that even those creations are unique in their existence.

There are no do-overs in Life. No matter what has happened yesterday…no matter what messes or amends you may have to clean up…each moment of living is another opportunity to start over, to start fresh. What a gift that is! We’re not stuck in a rut unless we put ourselves there…with old thought patterns and ways of being. Who would really want to have everything be the same forever anyway!

The first thing we can change is our perspective, our way of viewing Life. Begin there. Change your thinking and see how it impacts the moments you’re living…one by one…each as bright with possibilities as the sunrise. Step into the light. Clear away old, stuffy ways of creating and being and doing. Build from them, remember what still provides direction and is valuable to you. Step into the stream of Life and surrender to the Now!

Rule #1: Consider fully the seeds you plant

It’s summer and, thus, gardening season for me. I spend most early mornings outside with a shovel, dirt, plants, and many ideas. The time with Mother Nature is very healing and also inspiring, providing answers and guidelines by which to live all parts of life. So, today begins my “List of Rules” by which to live and create a life of quality, simplicity, balance, and wholeness.

Gardening (and Life) Rule # 1 : Consider fully the seeds you plant.

Seeds, like thoughts, have far-reaching effects once they take root. I’m not talking about the fleeting thoughts, the ones that are gone as fast as they arrive, but the ones that you continue to mull over in your brain and that take root in your being. You start talking about them with your family and friends or posting them on social media…and then you begin to live them out loud.

By the time you get to the point where you are endorsing your thoughts and ideas with action, I would pray that the effects of your behavior are positive and uplifting rather than hurtful or intrusive.

Years ago I planted a lovely shrub, known as Russian Sage. This plant is drought tolerant, rabbit resistant, and self-propagating. It has oily, light green leaves and stems with small purple flowers similar to lavender, including its scent. The shrub can grow to a height and width of about two feet. And then the baby shrubs start showing up.

Left unattended for the most part, which I did for several years, the baby sage stems expand from the main plant at what seems to be an amazing rate…until at last…they’re growing in the grass, the flower beds, between rocks, and everywhere their underground root system can go.

All of a sudden (not really), this lovely shrub has become an invasive nuisance…simply because I was not paying attention to the way it was manifesting right in front of me. I did nothing about it and it took over. The effort to remove the additional growth as it was happening would have been relatively easy to do. However, after years of rampant expansion and unmonitored growth, digging out the deep and woody roots from the compacted clay takes hours and hours of difficult shoveling and intensive labor.

The same is level of effort is necessary in our human thinking when we discover certain patterns of thought are impacting our lives in unhealthy ways. It’s often hard work. Sometimes we need help.

We may need to have someone point out to us that a behavior or comment we make so casually is actually very hurtful, not funny, or unloving. Sometimes our reasons to “help” someone (especially with adult children) are actually a method to retain control over them. Whatever justification we tell ourselves to stay angry and resentful about something only plants deeper and more painful thorns of hurt around our lonely hearts. Left unchecked, such detrimental thoughts, words, and behaviors will eventually invade all areas of your life with sad and negative results.

The parent shrub I planted years ago was only doing what it was made to do: live, expand, blossom, etc. It did not require assistance from me to grow. Nothing negative about that.  It only became intrusive when I stopped paying attention to its patterns of growth and did nothing to correct it…up until now.

The same is true about a thought. Which ones are you paying attention to? Feeding and nurturing? Or weeding and removing (healing, forgiving) from your consciousness?

When I started this shrub-removal project a few days ago, I swore I’d NEVER plant that sage shrub again. I’ve changed my mind.  I will. I like the plant and the lessons it has provided. It is a “sage” after all. But it will be planted in a container that allows it to grow without becoming invasive and that I can more easily monitor.

Stay vigilant. Be aware. Make the effort to clean up those thoughts that no longer serve your highest Good, your God-Self. Consider fully the seeds you plant.

Finding Home

I find myself in a blissful state of gratitude these days. I’m filled with awe at the grace and abundance all around and in my life. I am surrounded by love and joy and a deep feeling of contentment for who and where I am.

It helps that the latest medical results from an overdue checkup validated what I knew to be true all along, that I am healthy in all areas of recent concern. However, I’ll admit that the confirmation brought a little sigh of relief to my lips and a deeper sense of peace to my mind.

It was in this state of appreciation for my body’s ability to heal itself (with conscious and positive support efforts from my daily habits) that I decided to take the long way home on my drive from the new medical center. I investigated the giant fieldhouse and park under construction on the west side of town. I passed the orange cones in one area, a sign that another road was being resurfaced. I could see raw wood on roofs in a growing subdivision across the valley. And as I drove through the historic part of town, new businesses were announcing their arrival in the community with banners and balloons.

Everywhere I turned there was a sense of growth and new life thriving in all its joyous glory! Perhaps it’s because summer is about to arrive, school is complete for the year, the sun is finally shining after days of clouds and tornado threats, outdoor activities are expanding, or a combination of all of it. I was part of the aliveness and added my own energy to the lovely day.

I have lived in this community almost 20 years. There are still many town events in which I have not participated. My preference has been to stay close to my own neighborhood, shop at the same favorite stores, walk the nearby paths, and listen to the distant highway traffic from the comfort of my lovely deck. This is generally all I need to satisfy the citizen part of me. No need to be in the thick of things. It’s enough to know they’re taking place.

Yet today I felt like I was involved and part of a bigger picture. I joined the throngs of town neighbors to support an annual event in the heart of town. It was a short walk from home. An easy commute. I like that there are times like these when I can say, “Why, I remember when…” and I become part of its history, part of the fabric from which a lovely tapestry is being fashioned. I’m going to do more of this.

No longer do I wish for a different or new place to live. If I want newness or a change of scenery, all I need do is take the long way home and open my eyes. In fact lately I’ve become resistant to ideas of moving or traveling afar; there’s still so much to see and do right here. I long for the presence of family members who have recently moved to other states, but I no longer wish to follow them. I’m not done here yet.

This is where I find sanctuary and rest. This is where I’ve done so much healing and growing, with more to accomplish. This is where I love to explore and have learned to thrive. This is my community. I’m finally home.

Up & Down the Rabbit Hole

One of the gifts of going through challenging circumstances – ones that sometimes feel like we’re falling down a deep, dark hole – is to discover what we’re made of. How do we react or respond in those situations? Do we come from fear or do we meet the situation with wonder and curiosity and resolve?

As I drove my large SUV down the highway one evening recently, a weird noise started coming from the front part of the vehicle. At first I was curious. I didn’t go into panic mode until it sounded like something was falling out in bits from the engine and bouncing away under the vehicle. A roadside inspection revealed nothing – no leaks, no obvious broken parts, no damage to the truck. Yet each time I pulled back onto the highway, there was a new alertness in my being, waiting for the sound. It did not disappoint my expectations.

Fortunately, I was able to make it home safely that evening and get the SUV to the mechanic’s shop the next morning. Apparently whatever has gone wrong is deep within the mechanisms of its driving functions. It’s fixable, of course. It will just take time, money, and someone else’s expertise to make this right.

While I wait for the quote on what the repairs will cost, I’m grateful. Grateful this situation didn’t happen just a few days earlier when I was traveling across the country and on some rather remote roads, with no cell coverage. Grateful it took place at a time when traffic patterns were light and easy – not during rush hour nor while on the way to some important engagement. Grateful our family includes an auto mechanic who is willing to help diagnose the problem on a holiday evening and be a liaison for us through the repair process. Grateful that, while I’m not particularly fond of paying for large (or small) vehicle repair bills, at least I have the resources to do so if needed. Grateful that my trip down the fearful rabbit hole was quite shallow this time. Grateful I can surrender the situation and know there is a higher purpose at work here.

I’m discovering how much easier life is when I accept the “what is” of any holey situation (pun intended). It doesn’t matter if it’s a broken vehicle, an injured relationship, or a resistant attitude. There’s no need to label the situation positive or negative. There is so much of life we have no control over or even influence about, except for how we will respond (react) to it. Sometimes surrender is the only wise option.

In those situations where we do have control or influence, I endeavor to make my choices from a place of strength, courage, peace, and love. We always have the choice to detach any emotional response from what we’re facing and see it for the cosmic experience it is – an opportunity to grow. How difficult the experience becomes is up to us. Suffering is optional.

As I become more successful at staying near the surface of life’s holes, I’ve noticed that they are definitely not as deep nor as scary as they used to be. Some are even totally avoidable unless curiosity takes over. Others are just a passing shadow and warrant only a smile and a wave good-bye…just in time for the arrival of the next growth experience.