Heaviness persists. Deciding to let go and live more lightly is apparently a great idea in theory, but difficult for me to put into action. The week’s been a bit about intentions and some starts, a burst of energy or two, but not much resolution – and far too few steps forward .
I realized today that it’s the struggle which feels most uncomfortable, not the actual growth. I also came to understand that as long as I’m stepping forward at all, I’m not standing still. I’m going to give myself credit for movement – however small it may feel.
On Wednesday, I bundled myself all up and went for a walk in the cold. More steps forward. I found this door down one little alley. It’s striking – all black and stark and standoffish – but humbled a bit into place by the contrast around it. Doors can be like that: either all warm and welcoming or kindly go away.
Some doors should never be opened at all and it’s best not to be curious about what may be on the other side. Others – locked – prevent our passage even if we wanted to walk through. I’ve walked through more than one door I shouldn’t have and avoided altogether those which might have opened a better opportunity in my life.
Doors. You’re in, you’re out. On one side or the other. Open or closed. But either way, there is some element of choice about a door. Considering my very real need these days to keep stepping forward, I wonder what literal and figurative doors I could choose to walk through this week, as well as which to walk right by.
I’m on the lookout for specific and conscious choices here, and while there’s an element of chance behind every choice, there’s also an element of hope. Decisiveness feels like another step forward.
Be an opener of doors. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
February feels like the longest short month. I’ve been shut in. Shut in by weather, some worry, and a bit of circumstance. The snow keeps coming and all the piles make it hard to see around life’s next corner. Time, opportunity, and sub-zero wind chills make it hard to be out and so I’m in. Life feels like it’s closing in and cluttered and sometimes claustrophobic. Everything feels heavier.
So I’m making living lighter my focus this week. I’ve had a lot on my plate – like we all do – and then there’s the folks who keep bringing their plates to my table. In my head, I know I’m not responsible for clearing or cleaning their dishes, but in my heart, I add them to the stack. More heavy.
Enough with the heavy.
So how to live lightly?
Honestly. I’m not sure just yet. But I aim to find out and I’ve got six whole days of February left to do it in. We’re on winter break with just about a week’s worth of living by design ahead. Plenty of time to clear the clutter. Start a fresh new focus. Any day now, Spring – with its opportunity for new growth – will come knocking on my door. I want to be ready to fling that door open and breathe deeply.
I need to find a new equilibrium. Work and play and planning. Create and build, balance and bless. Both expect and deliver. Encourage and ask. Find my way and feel around for the faith I may have lost in these darker days of winter.
First step. Day one. Today: clear some surfaces.
A typical week works havoc on my sense of peace and organizational calm. Life’s living lands all over the place. Student journals pile high on my desk – on top of the bills and the calendar and the mail. My desk is the first flat surface to conquer. A nightstand cleared of creams and books and notes and half-finished bottles of water. Ditto the bathroom counters. The kitchen counter. My bedroom floor. Tables.
As Dr. Seuss so famously wrote in The Cat in the Hat
They picked up all the things that were down.
See some space. Open. Dust. Polish. Clean. Place something green and growing. A special frame and photo. Order. Lightness.
I feel lighter already.
The forecast gives you some notice but the truth is, when your feet hit the floor, you have no real idea what the day will bring. Today’s deal could bring you anything from couple of pairs to a flush to flat out fold. There are no real predictions. No sure bet.
We try to prepare. We stockpile supplies. Ask for advice. Run some water into the tub. Gather the family and pray for the best. The snow will fall and the wind will blow and we are powerless over it all.
God’s plan is not necessarily my plan and He hasn’t cleared it all with me.
So as the storm rages, we count time by minutes survived, not by minutes in the future. We put a candle in the window and hope tomorrow will come.
We remember today’s storm produces tomorrow’s rainbow. The storm will pass and the challenges of winter along with it. Our hearts will warm, spring will come, and we’ll all grow just a little from the experience.
My life’s been a bit off balance this week. Several storms filled the New England sky and a couple corners of my heart off and on. It’s hard to feel steady and certain during weeks like this one, and I never really got my momentum revved up and ready.
Balance is important but kinda hard to come by sometimes. A life of balance – equal and opposite – is one part action to every part reaction: work and play, dreaming and doing, achieving and aspiring. Life, I know, is equal parts struggle and splendor, and both even out in the end, if not necessarily in the moment.
To feel more grounded in the everyday and regular, I often seek the warmth of the kitchen. I find my footing there with my hands in the hot, soapy suds of the sink and the familiarity of flour and baking. Wooden spoons, measuring spoons, whisks, and my nesting mixing bowls both comfort and inspire. It is here I will remember what balance feels like.
Granola is good-for-you food that doesn’t take itself too seriously. A go-to of crunch and chew, sweet and salty, it satisfies more than one craving at once. Like life, you can toss a whole lot of anything and everything into the mix, and it all somehow turns out okay in the end. See? Balance.
My recipe is based on Alton Brown’s from the Food Network. You can find his recipe here.
Bake up some balance: METAPHOR GRANOLA
Preheat oven to 250
In a large mixing bowl, gather:
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup +2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
In a separate bowl, mix:
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (real) maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
Combine the two mixtures. It’s going to take a bit of work to moisten all those dry ingredients, so I dump everything into the biggest bowl I can find.
Spoon onto two cookie sheets and spread into an even layer. Bake for a little over an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
Stirring gets a little messy – but then, so does life. I used the biggest spatula I could find and faithfully flipped every 15 minutes or so – just enough time to get lots of little tasks done in between. Toss in a load of laundry, send an email, clean up the oatmeal you got all over the floor. All doable in 15 minute chunks of time. It’s multitasking that smells so good.
After you take the granola from the oven, let the browned loveliness cool while you take a nap. When you wake up, return the granola to a large mixing bowl. Add a couple cups of dried cranberries or raisins. I also tucked in – by request – some tiny, dark chocolate chips.
I didn’t measure because measuring chocolate is just silly.
Go ahead and marvel at your creation as you spoon it into jars for safekeeping. The texture. The playful pop of color. The balance.
Possibility. A word wrapped in hope.
A far-fetched cousin of reality, possibility refuses to look at life exactly as it is. Reality lives in a world of Monday mornings, but when you hang out with possibility, it’s always a Saturday night.
Possibility’s a party with balloons, streamers, confetti flying with the air with good fortune and a round of smiles for all. Possibility believes in – and celebrates – you and me, all of us. Inviting us each morning into the dawn of one more day where dreams are just waking up.
It’s sometimes hard to see possibility. I wonder what I’ve overlooked by no more than the habit of day to day living. The comfort of my habits drift me along through my days until I reach the stopping place at the end. Possibilities punctuate life’s potential with question marks and exclamation points – not periods.
What if ? !
Possibility knows imagination. A thinker of new ideas, possibility rides shotgun on a spontaneous trip down an unknown road, and inspires the courage of change.
What will I find when I fling open my mind? My heart? How will life change if I pay attention and look hard for what’s possible? What will I see? Where will I go? Who will I meet?
Is it possible to be kinder? More generous? Is it possible to complain less and praise more? Give more and take less? What’s possible in my relationships? My job?
What’s possible in this day?
Let’s find out …