Tradition vs Intent
16 January 2016
We are creatures of habit. At least I am. I have foods that I eat all the time, shows I like to watch over and over. A favorite shirt, music that is always on my Go-To Playlist, the path I drive to places I frequent. And on and on. And then there are Traditions.
Some traditions are endearing ~ like Christmas mornings, a favorite clam chowder recipe, the songs we sing at our Birthday events, the way we keep connected to those that we love, our sense of style with the clothes we wear. Other traditions are kinda murky. We do them because, well because we just do them okay?? For me, why do I stringently manage my sock drawer the way I do? Why is it that I own 17 partially filled journals? Do I really have to scrub my entire body in the shower prior to shaving my legs – does clean hair slide down the drain better or something? These traditions of mine are just the silly ones. There are those that bear more weight, that have a deeper pull on my soul. They are things like, why do I go to church every Sunday here? Or I have heard this tradition dozens of times “I really really hate my job, but I cannot leave. I’m not sure what else I would do.” Same goes for relationships we keep. Or not keep.
Do not unwittingly assume that I am anti-tradition. I love them. Even packing for a vacation is a tradition that I warmly embrace (don’t judge me for that). My question is a simple one. A Small and Simple one. Sometimes does the tradition powerfully overwhelm the intent of the tradition? Christmas is a sweet example of this. As a mom, I have always loved the fun of Christmas. With 6 little kids it was such a blast! I love to make each gift just perfect for them. I love to wrap it just so, so that the presentation kind of prepares them for the awesome gift inside that incredible wrapping job! And then there’s the food and the goodies and the decorating and the cards to keep in touch with all these people from next to all over and the stocking fillers and the Christmas events that pop up without warning that we just have to attend. It was exhausting. Every year. Should I have started in May to ease the stressful burden of Christmas? I am sure you could continue my list on the Christmas Machine. And I am not here to tell you when or how or why to Unplug the Christmas Machine. Actually my thoughts are not about ratting out any specific holiday at all. I merely want to understand the ‘why’ part.
Why do I do this certain thing? Why do I go here all the time? Why do I keep getting sucked into this drama over here? Why do I allow this person to cut me to shreds inside all the time and never say anything or do anything about it? Why do I keep starting this same goal over and over again? If your ‘why’ is flimsy, or needs propping up by fake add-ons to make it sound genuine then it is time to reconsider. My grandfather used to say all of the time, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” As I kid, I was more mortified that he used ‘the H word’ in front of me. As a practicing adult, I get it now. Boy do I get it! Intent is good. It means that we are forward moving, forward thinking, embracing a plan and a path that we desire. So if you feel stressed out by stuff this week – stop and ponder the ‘why’ of it. And perhaps you will get up the courage to challenge a tradition that you no longer need. Maybe simply change it to suit who you are now and where you would like to be headed. Change is good. Just make sure you are headed on the right road when you put on your turn signal.
12 January 2016
Have you ever wanted to either know something or be something right now? The “I wish” side of our lives has been a coin flip away for me every single day. I wish I had skin that would tan like hers does. I wish my grades would just keep my head above water like everyone else’s around here. I wish I could make ends meet like every other normal family can. I wish my skill set would just be noticed every once in a while around here. I wish…
I am certain you could keep perpetuating this list from inside the depths of your head for more than a few more examples. So could I. My point today is not to whine about the what may be’s or the what might have been’s in life.
I am a Master Seamstress. Betcha didn’t know those sorts of creatures even existed, did you? Very few people in my life know that I can do this – I used to really put it out there, but there is a time to every season, right? I do not think I have ever run across a fabric related challenge that I could not ace with flying colors. Not to project fanfare out there with blaring trumpets (sorry Laurel, Janelle and Kirsten) but I am good. Really, really good. I was not born with a needle and thread in my hand. It was not a natural born trait that we Carlson women through the ages have gracefully embraced, per se. I guess the bottom line here is that I like math. Well, not actually like – adore is more like it. On warp speed. And sewing is all math. I have been ripping out zippers and cursing my sewing machine like everyone else. I have just been doing it for decades. When I stop and think about it – I add up a grand total of 42 years behind that needle and thread. That’s a lot of zippers and hems, cutting and clipping, basting and biasing. So what does this have to do with the “I wish” stuff?
Lots of people wish for things that others seem to do with the greatest of ease, not hardly aware of how long it took that person to prepare for your moment in time, your snap assessment of their marvelous skills. You probably have something like that in your own life. Cookie Maven. Computer Ninja. Mother Theresa. Road Warrior. [You can insert your chosen title here]. I do not begrudge the Cookie Mavens of the world. I love that they let me sift my paws through their cookie jars and leave crumbs in my wake. I so admire the Computer Ninjas in my world and rely heavily on them for balance and for rebooting my world again and again. And again. Thank you Eddie.
I think sharpening our skills is kinda like watching apples grow. I am surrounded by apple orchards where I live and I love watching them go through their processes of becoming perfect for market. Suppose you had an apple tree in your back yard. And how you LOVE apples. Pies, cobbler, salads, baked, smeared with warm sticky caramel, diced up and tossed about with other fruits in your compote – you get my drift. So you go out and examine your tree. There are apples up in those branches! Well – they are still pretty small. And hard. And green – but you are willing to wait. The next day you trek outside to have another look. Sheesh! Same deal! Question is – do you stomp back into the house and give up on your apples? Of course not. You just keep checking on them day after day. Seeing teeny tiny changes day after day. And one day you find that that they are ripe and ready and beyond delicious! Could not be better!
That is how our talents grow. Day after day, hem after hem, dusty floured kitchens and all. So don’t get discouraged if you are not down those 30 lbs yet or if your savings account is still only $11.68. Work a little longer, try again and just come away knowing that your apples are ripening day after day. I promise.
May You Be Well Among Other Things
3 January 2016
A long time ago – well, it seems a long time ago, but in reality it has only been 3 years ago, I was reading a book on how to get by when life is rough. I’m sure we have all read those sorts of books and articles. We all have had our fair share of tough days and really rough moments that make you feel like you are drowning with all the air in the world crushing you as you fall to your knees. It’s not like I was just having one of those moments – it was more like one of those years. Or two. At least. That was when I met my mantra.
There it was – minding its own business, waiting for me on that page, like it had been doing for several years since I first bought the book. That book sat on my shelf for over 3 years ~ just waiting for me, I suppose. When I read over it – I stopped short and stopped breathing. What did I just see? Powerfully elegant prose deeper than my ocean of grief. A Small and Simple idea that was like a parting velvet curtain, lifted to reveal a secret worth sharing with you:
May you be well.
May you be happy.
May you be free from suffering.
May you be at peace.
May you be productive.
I decided right then and there to commit this wisdom to memory. And once it was there, I recited it within my soul often – every morning when I was not really willing to start another dreaded day. My toes never hit the floor without it. Again in the throes of my afternoon when life was crushing and overwhelming. And again when I dropped onto my knees beside my bed at the end of another rough moment day. Weren’t all days like this? Yes. Yes they were. But now? Now I had my private balm of peace. It seemed at times like a warm and soothing embrace from my mother. My mother’s hugs are like no other. I particularly love the way she murmurs in my ear for only me to hear how much she loves me and is on my side. She lives 1200 miles away. Sometimes it felt like a sun ray struggling through those heavy dark clouds that threatened me. You know the kind – photographers of every expertise level take them and they all look sensational. Every one. It is the living visual meme for hope. But most of the time it just felt like home. Like God’s home to be precise.
And so, as the New Year parts her curtain and we peek through to what is waiting – I send to you my warmest embrace and will murmur softly into your heart these very things: May you be well. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering. May you be at peace. May you be productive. Welcome Home.