Up-ing the Down

It’s so hard to feel hopeful some days. Maybe we know the source of the happy leak and maybe we don’t, but either some knowledge or none does little to fix the funk or up the down.  It takes effort.  Roll up the sleeves and grab the shovel WORK.  Push, pull, yank, and tug.  Petulant – sometimes even kicking and screaming – we need to find our way out of ourselves long enough to get out in the open air, look around, and see life ain’t so bad after all. 

So … how to go about up-ing the down?

Move. Any kind of movement works.  Make the bed.  Go  for a walk.  Sweep the floor.  Move you and you’ll move your mood.

Listen.  A little music interrupts the spinning cycle of your own thoughts.  Start slow and work your way up in tempo and groove.  Hum.  Sing.  Dance.  (See above.)

Smell.  A little olfactory disruption works wonders.  Light a scented candle. Brew a pot of coffee or sip some peppermint tea.  My go to:  bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  Ahhhh.  Comfort on a cookie sheet.

Do.  Completing just one procrastinated or dreaded task bosses a mood around.  Get busy.  Busy people won’t wallow. 

Create. Make something where once was nothing.  Cook.  Paint.  Write.  Build.  Plant.  Sketch.  The verbs of new hope.

Organize.  Order the chaos.  File the bills.  Dejunk the drawer.  Empty the inbox.

Read.  Go somewhere entirely different from where you are in a matter of minutes.

Clean.  Shine is hope’s spotlight.  Hard not to be hopeful when the laundry’s folded and the floors are swept.

Give.  Of yourself.  Your time.  Your attention.  Who needs you?  Be the hope.

Help.  What can you do to up someone else’s down?

Pray.  God knows what you need and when you need it.  Have faith.  Your hope will be restored.

What makes hope so hard to hold on to?

Hope’s a slippery thing to hold onto.  Reach up to wipe one of life’s tears from your eye, and hope fumbles from your hand, bounces on the floor, and rolls under the couch.  Hidden there among the dust bunnies and a few runaway M&Ms, you’ll need to look for it, sometimes stretching as far as your hand can reach before you’re able to wrap your fingers around it again.

What makes hope so hard to hang onto?

Criticism pops hope’s balloon – sometimes startling so – and we are unprepared for its aftermath. How shaky we feel minutes, hours, and even days later.  Once firm ground doesn’t feel quite so solid.  Confidence wavers. Doubt rises.  And hope’s drifted away.

Criticism destructs.  Hope constructs.  And it’s hard to rebuild sometimes.  We stack each block of advice we’ve ever heard about overcoming criticism, but the ego’s still a little shaky.  Consider the source.  Learn and move on.  Surround yourself with nourishing people.  We know all that, but criticism – even just implied criticism –  moves right into the ground floor of our consciousness, an unwelcome squatter crowding out all the good stuff we know to be true about ourselves.  No compliment ever seems to build us as high as criticism knocks us down. 

Disappointment.  Another hope-foe.  Disappointment in ourselves, in others, even in hope itself, disappointment wraps around us and smothers us.  If we are to remain hope-full, we have to believe in second chances.  We have to allow ourselves some do-overs.  We seek out new beginnings and fresh starts.  Disappointment can devastate, but it can also motivate.  A multi-feathered phoenix from the ashes, hope can rise again in a new day, new year, new job, or a new relationship.  We are hopers for happy endings.  All’s well that ends well.  A place where everything old is renewed again.

Worry.  Large, small, and even nagging niggling little worries are hope’s party crashers.  Often showing up late to the show and when we’re at our most vulnerable, worry is the great what-if.  We what-if all night long, tossing and turning and churning up worst-case scenario after worst-case scenario.  Hope’s never awake at 2 a.m., but worry’s an insomniac and wants a little company.  Prayers and deep-breathing and faith and sometimes sheer tenacity can overcome worry.  Life’s greatest waste of time, worry lives simultaneously in our past, present, and future.  In the morning, hope has to lift the shades, push back the curtains, and open a window to the light and fresh air of the here and now. 

Regret.  All the once upon a time beginnings we didn’t quite see through to the end.  All our should haves but did nots.   The might have beens but were nots. Regret is a rusty wheel refusing to spin and move us forward.  A detailed list of failures, people we could have been, decisions we made and wish we hadn’t, regret challenges hope by pointing its crooked old finger back to where we have been, while hope stubbornly looks ahead to where we want to go next.

Hope dares to be happy.  Hope is the better and born-again reincarnation of criticism, disappointment, worry, and regret.  Refusing to abandon us, hope waits like a forgotten five dollar bill in last year’s coat, and we delight in its discovery and smile a bit at our unexpected good fortune. Hope helps us do the next day, whether we want to or not,  with a faint whisper of encouragement, “I know you can.” 

Photo Source

Enough Said

I’ve been living the New Year for just shy of two weeks now.  New resolutions can be found in every print and social media source around.  I’m just not that into it.  I’m just not.  I’m naturally self-reflective every damn day and honestly, it gets even more exhausting at the starting line of a new year when everything I’m not but want to be is thrust into life’s social spotlight for the world to see.

As an educator, I evaluate my performance day to day and sometimes even period to period.  I’m forever and always trying to do it – this entrusted teaching of children – better, faster, stronger, smarter.  The combination of my perfectionist personality and today’s diverse and often expressed opinions about the state of learning in our country has me like a frustrated dog chasing its own tail.  I feel flustered, confused, and overall underachieving … which bewilders and saddens me given how hard I work.

The buzz words are many.  Engagement.  Assessment.  Technology.  Common Core.  Testing.  Testing.  And more testing.  And on and on and on.  My students aren’t reading enough … or they’re not reading slowly enough, or deeply enough, or reading text of sufficient complexity.  They’re not writing enough or in the most important formats.  I’m not integrating technology to the level I should so my students are producers rather than consumers.  We don’t have a blog – yet – and so our opportunities for authentic audience are few.

And on and on and on.

And that’s just my professional self.

The me of me isn’t thin enough, healthy enough, and my face wears too many wrinkles.  I need to do more.  I need to do less.  I need to do more with less.  I need to save more, plan more, and stay active.  By anyone’s standards, I’m not organized enough, and many’s the night the dinner dishes stay in the sink until morning.  My best conversations with my young adult sons are by text, so clearly I’m a face-to-face parenting failure.

I never feel I am enough.  In any aspect of my life.

So I say enough is enough. 

I want to pay more attention to how I feel rather than what I do – or don’t do.  I’m done with multi-tasking, to-do lists, and trying to do more in less time.  I want to guide my life by my own internal compass, and quiet the incessant background chatter long enough to hear myself think.  Because I’m smart, strong, capable, sensitive, sincere, and hard-working.  I believe in me.

And I’m enough.

Barbara

Resolve

Two days ago – in the beginnings of a blizzard – it was necessary to drive eight miles or so to Joanns Fabrics for yarn.  I needed to keep my fingers busy, so I bought three POUNDS of yarn.  Gray.  White.  Navy.  Since then, a six inch wide and three and a half foot long meandering white stripe grew row by row from my silver size 10 1/2 needles.

The process is at least as satisfying as the blanket will one day be.  The yarn’s rough texture, the slip and slide click of the needles, and the twisted stitches feel and sound and look good to me. I sort of marvel at the simple intricacy of what I am creating.  My fingers and hands know how to move and control yarn and needles without help from my brain, so free thought flows.  A moving meditation.  Knit one, think one.  Thought to thought to thought. Stitch to stitch.  Row to row.

I think about my children.  Writing.  My students.  I think about the to-do’s waiting to be done.  I think about living with intention and in the moment of now.  Now will not wait – not that I want it to – but I want to be sure to notice now, to live it, love it, revel around with it, soak in it, and breathe it in. 

Tomorrow will be here soon enough, but I have right now wrapped around a really big ball of yarn.  It feels warm.

All In

The Urban Dictionary defines all in:

Originally and still a poker metaphor, ‘all in’ has also come to mean a situation whose subject is unreservedly involved, without qualification. Fully committed. In this sense the term “all in” is almost the same as its denotative opposite, “all out,” as in all-out warfare.

A two-word phrase for how I want to live my life.  All in.

Unreservedly involved. Fully committed. Firmly resolved.  Focused.  Eager.  Ready.

A New Year aside – although it’s a tidy little starting line to draw in the sand –  I stare my life straight in the eye, face to face with who I am now, today, so completely convinced there’s still more me out there yet to find. 

Welcome to my new place:  one hopeful year

one hopeful year means digging heart and soul deep to find faith and hope.
one hopeful year means discovery … dedication … delight in the ordinary … and the courage to seek out some extraordinary. 

one hopeful year means thinking and reflecting and dreaming and daring and wondering and asking.  It means giving.
one hopeful year means a year of writing.  I write to learn, share, create, and grow.  I write because … and here’s some good grammar … I can’t not.

one hopeful year also means doing.  It’s in the doing where I’ve been stuck.  I’ve been living some sort of  transitional inertia – neither here nor there – and I’m unsure where to lead this life of mine next. 

High school physics taught me it takes a powerful force to overcome inertia.  Hope is that powerful force.  The kind of force that tells me:  I know I need to go all in in order to live all-out.

Who knows where life will lead in this next hopeful year or what cards life will deal?  I hope you follow this blog and my journey as I push all my chips to the center of the table.  

I’m all in.

Happy Hopeful Year!

Barbara