Serenity

A Place of Serenity

Do you have a place you can go to that offers you serenity? A place that as soon as you walk through the door your body relaxes and is filled with a peaceful, calm feeling?

For me, that place is the library.

Every time I enter, I find I have smile on my face.

Row after row of books with colorful spines that cause me to pause, mid-step. So many intriguing titles and pictures that call out to me. I can’t walk by some of them until I have taken them off the shelf, opened them and read a few lines.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover but more often than not, I can. I have extremely good luck at picking out books that I love, by little more than their title and cover picture.

One can find tranquility at the library….as well as peace, understanding, hope and life. It’s all there, in the pages of a book. The library is brimming with opportunities….places to go, things to learn, dreams to dream. As I walk by yet another row of books, I find myself smiling again. This is a place of endless possibilities.

Every time I visit the library, I wonder why I have stayed away so long. Each visit reminds of how this place brings me both relaxation and enjoyment. I’m reminded that getting myself here needs to become something that I make more of a priority.

Do you have a place that you can go to and find serenity, in your life? I’d love to know what or where it is. And if it’s been a while maybe it’s time to seek it out.

If you are looking for me, I’ll be at the library.

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living and growing, remembering

24

If you could go back to one 24 hour period in time, when would you choose and why would you choose it?

I woke up one morning thinking about this.

The first thing that came to mind was people that I’ve lost. If I could choose just one day to go back to, would I use the 24 hours to be with them?

Both of my parents are gone. Of course I would jump at the chance to be able to sit with either of my parents, even if just for a few minutes. Just being with them would cause my heart to swell.

I imagine just wanting to express to them how much I love them. Perhaps there was something I had wished I had expressed to them while they were alive? If there was, I would share that with them. But when I think about doing that, I imagine the conversation, and I know that any thoughts I shared now, thoughts that may have remained unspoken while they were alive – would be met now with a smile from them, and that they would respond by saying, “I know”. I firmly believe that they are both in heaven, and in that place, they have full knowledge of my heart for them. So although my heart misses them, I realized that a chance to have a 24 hour ‘birds eye view’ of our relationship, and a chance to remember it more vividly is not what I long for most.

So which 24 hours would I choose and who would it be with?

The thought I kept coming back to was time with my kids and my husband. Without any doubt, I would go back to a day when they were all very young and I would choose a day where we were all together.

Within the span of eight years, I had five children and two miscarriages. In those eight years I spent more time pregnant than not. If I think of it in months, I was pregnant 50 out of 96 months! Those first years were wonderful but they were also exhausting! I don’t remember as much from those days as clearly and deeply as I wish I could.

So I would like to go back to that season and pick just a normal average day. I would like to see that day through the eyes of present-day me.

Everyone tells young parents to ‘enjoy this time… it goes by so quick’! But when you are severely sleep deprived, survival is really the name of the game. You absolutely enjoy the moments and are filled with wonder and awe and appreciation for your beautiful children but you are doing it at a deficit more often than not.

So I would love to go back and just revel in them. To revel in us. I think I would enjoy them in a new way – even the squabbles. I would love to see my younger self and my husband’s younger self interacting with them. I have a feeling I would be surprised by what I saw.

As I was imagining going back in time though, a funny thing happened. I realized that I don’t actually need to. Even though I can’t remember those days in the detail that I wish I could. Even though sleep deprivation, pregnancy, raising babies, toddlers and kids, all took a toll on my memory, I discovered I did remember what mattered. I discovered that I am able to clearly and deeply see that those days were good because they were filled with love. And love is the most important part of ‘us’. It’s the part that I will never forget.

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clarity and direction, Discovery, enlightenment, living and growing

Saying Yes to Me

It’s finally sinking in. When we say yes to one thing, we are saying no to something else. I use to think it was possible to say yes to everything. But the everything I was saying yes to, didn’t include myself.

For some, putting others first becomes so important that they lose sight of what they themselves need. This has certainly been true for me.

I use to think that by putting others first and saying no to my own needs I was living some kind of higher calling.

There are times when we do need to put others first. But when we do it so frequently that we start to lose sight of our own needs….that’s a problem.

What happens when the only person we say no to is ourselves?

I love to help. It gives me great satisfaction and makes my life feel meaningful. And helping others is good. It’s what we all should do.

I am a caregiver. It’s every inch of who I am. When I don’t have someone that needs care, I find myself seeking out ways to help others.

Here’s the thing though. Need is everywhere. It is easy to be distracted by the immense needs around us. But what about the needs within us? Even those who love to help sometimes need to help themselves.

Turning that helping hand inwards can seem foreign, self centered even. But just because something doesn’t feel familiar, doesn’t mean it’s not right. Healthy habits seem to be much harder to learn than unhealthy ones! Listening to ourselves and responding to what we need is not only healthy, it’s essential.

Sometimes we have to say yes to ourselves. I’m finally seeing that checking in with myself, seeing what I need and then helping myself to get those needs met – is something I must do.

I’ll never stop saying yes to helping others. But seeing my own needs as valuable and worthy…. that’s a step in the right direction. A step towards a healthier more balanced life, a more balanced me. It’s going to take practice though. All healthy habits do.

So these days, I’m practicing saying yes to me.

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grandparenting, living and growing, Love, new life, perspective

Mine Not Mine

It had been 23 years.

23 years since I last held a baby that was only hours old. People don’t seem to often talk about what it’s like…the moment you become a grandparent. When people hear you are going to become a grandparent, they smile a soft sort of smile and tell you, “there’s nothing like it!”.

But nobody mentioned how I might feel when I first held him in my arms. I found it to be surreal. Wonderful…and very confusing. This baby was not mine, but also somehow a part of me. As I held him, I looked over at my daughter lying in the hospital bed and my son-in-law standing beside her and I knew this baby was theirs. But the last time I had held a baby that had just been born, it was my own. Five times I held my own newborn babies and now fast forward 23 years and I was holding this little person. And he was both my own and not my own.

Holding him ignited something inside of me. Something I hadn’t felt since my last child was born. A fierce mother bear feeling bursting with a love so strong that it made me want to protect him. But he wasn’t mine to protect. Not in that mother bear sort of way at least. I was going to need to learn a new way to love and protect. A softer way. A grandmotherly way.

For the first couple of months every time I held him, I would remind myself he wasn’t mine. In case this sounds crazy, let me clarify. I knew he wasn’t mine. I did not long for him to be mine. But having raised five kids, I was familiar with one role. The role of mother. I was proficient at mothering. Mothering was a role I had lots of practice in and when that little baby was in my arms, the instinct was to mother him.

But he was mine, not mine.

He had a mom and a dad, both of whom were doing a great job. So what was my job?

I had heard of some of the grandmother job requirements….at least the stereotypes. Look matronly, wear an apron, bake cookies. Be soft, safe and comforting. Grey hair up in a bun on the top of my head. The list goes on. But much of that list was more a caricature of a grandparent than the real thing.

I had also heard things grandparents said about grandparenting. Things like: ‘It’s a second chance!’ ‘It’s like parenting but without the same stress and you get to send them home at the end of a visit!’ ‘You get to spoil them!’ And although I liked some of those ideas, they still didn’t really help me figure out what my role was supposed to be. Each time I held him, I reflected on my new title of grandmother and the role that came with it.

I would think things like: I am a grandmother to a grandson. Hmmm. Boys can be a handful. What do boys need? I had a great example with my own mom. My oldest son could be a handful when he was young. His antics would get his grandfather and uncles annoyed. But often as we were leaving their house, my mother would stop him at the front door, take his face in her hands, say his name and then tell him, “You’re a good boy!” She wasn’t negating all the annoying things he had done. She was reminding him that she saw the goodness in him too. She knew he was much more than the sum of his annoying antics. And she reminded him of what she saw in him every chance she got. That’s the kind of grandmother I want to be. I want to be there to remind him of his value. Even in those times both when he devalues himself and when the world sends him messages that could try to rob him of his value.

He’s nearly 7 months old now. I no longer struggle with my role. I’ve come to appreciate the mine, not mine status. There is a truth to it. He is mine, in that he is my grandson. He is both an extension of my husband and myself and someone new created by my daughter and her husband; he is theirs. These connections give me my status. He and I are connected, forever grandmother and grandson.

When I spend time with him I am filled with awe and wonder. It’s the same awe and wonder I felt with my own children. But I am no longer striving to raise a family. I’m able to enjoy him without the pressure of the daily responsibilities for him. It doesn’t mean I don’t worry for him. I know the world my own kids had to navigate as they grew. He will face those things as well. I hope I am able to be around for a long time, making sure that he knows he’s a good boy. As his grandmother, I see it already and I will never let him forget.

So I’m writing my own Grandmother job description. A description that includes seeing him through eyes of awe and wonder. Appreciating him and showing and telling him that his grandmother loves him. And maybe someday, the requirements might include baking cookies and my hair turning gray. But for now I’ll be content with being amazed by each new thing he does. To be a soft, safe place might just be the greatest gift I could give my grandson and any future grandchildren that come along.

The distinction of him being mine and not mine may continue to surface from time to time. But I am settling in quite happily to my new role. And like seasoned grandparents had promised, there is indeed, nothing like it!

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living and growing

2023 Awaits!

I still feel that flicker of hope when the ball drops. There is an excitement that comes with being a part of something bigger than yourself. 10..9..8..7..6..5…and suddenly the slate has been wiped clean and a fresh start awaits!

My problem is that the excitement only lasts for seconds before I’m thinking – ‘you can’t trust a new year. It isn’t like it used to be. The first 2 1/2 months of 2020 seemed hopeful and then BAM! Covid.’

2021 promised things would be better but the threat still loomed. Throw in losing 4 people I was very close to and two others I cared about…that year was rough!

2022 comes along and I found myself thinking, ‘Its got to get better, right?‘ But along came the grief that busyness had kept at bay in 2021. It demanded to be dealt with. Add in a diagnosis that, although not fatal, was life changing and 2022 became exhausting.

There were some bright spots along the way. Like when a little boy was born and with his birth I was given a new title….Grandmother. A whole new world of love opened up. Alright 2022, you weren’t all bad.

But what about 2023? I don’t trust new years anymore. I know too much. So how could I fall asleep as 2023 began and be at peace? I found I couldn’t. So I opened up my bible app. A friend had invited me to join her in a ‘read the bible in a year’ plan. The new year was less than an hour old and already I was seeking solace.

And there, almost right away, I found the word that shifted my perspective. A word that took the emphasis off of hope and put my attitude squarely in my lap. A word that allowed me to choose how I would view this new year. The author wrote about how each day, each week and each year is an opportunity for a new or fresh start. The word, opportunity, struck me as a beautiful sunrise strikes the mind and soul, helping to bring color, light and clarity into dismal thinking.

Opportunity doesn’t imply any promises. It doesn’t rely on something turning out well and it doesn’t negate the bad. But it offers possibilities. Ready and present to be believed and acted on, in any situation. Observing a beautiful sunrise doesn’t guarantee a wonderful day, but it allows for the possibility that seeing that sunrise will change your perspective of the day.

The countdown continued 4..3..2..1..Happy New Year! Covid, still ever present, rang in 2023 with us as my son had just tested positive. Yet, even that is an opportunity. A chance to greet this illness with calmness while being grateful for boosters and tests and the knowledge that 3 years brings.

As this new year unfolds, it will have its own share of ups and downs. But I’ll be looking forward to the opportunities that 2023 holds. Opportunities to try new things, to take risks and to see things from a different perspective. Holding onto the word opportunity will help me to keep an open heart and mind to the possibilities this new year holds.

So here’s to 2023 – the year of opportunities!

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