Consider the small things.

smallthingsIt’s the little things that stick with us– the shared smiles, the kind words, the simple moments of being together. So much depends just on showing up day in, day out and doing our little bit of good.

 

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Are we too good at goodbyes?

 

goodbye

Has it become too easy to slam the door on someone else? Forget about them, move on, find someone new, start over, or, worse, never let anyone close to us again? If it is too easy, what has been lost?

Our relationships are bound to be imperfect because they are made up of imperfect people coming at the world in different ways with different lived experiences. (Even our relationship with ourself is imperfect because each of us is flawed.) But while these differences do provide a potential for friction, they also provide a potential for growth and empathy. We can step back and try to see the world from someone else’s point of view; our perspective becomes broader and more true. We become more thoughtful. We can practice forgiveness, as we would hope to be forgiven if we made a mistake. We can open ourselves up to trust again.

Goodbye, particularly with the people you love and trust and who help you blossom into who you were meant to be, needs to be hard. Very hard. We will become smaller people if we shut ourselves off if a relationship falters. We will become hard if we insist on perfection from ourselves or others.  We will not blossom, but will wither, if we refuse to forgive.

To understand just how sad it is when goodbyes become too easy, listen to this tear-jerker by Sam Smith:

Too Good at Goodbyes

by Sam Smith

You must think that I’m stupid
You must think that I’m a fool
You must think that I’m new to this
But I have seen this all before

I’m never gonna let you close to me
Even though you mean the most to me
‘Cause every time I open up, it hurts
So I’m never gonna get too close to you
Even when I mean the most to you
In case you go and leave me in the dirt

And every time you hurt me, the less that I cry
And every time you leave me, the quicker these tears dry
And every time you walk out, the less I love you
Baby, we don’t stand a chance, it’s sad but it’s true

I’m way too good at goodbyes
(I’m way too good at goodbyes)
I’m way too good at goodbyes
(I’m way too good at goodbyes)

I know you’re thinkin’ I’m heartless
I know you’re thinkin’ I’m cold
I’m just protectin’ my innocence
I’m just protectin’ my soul

I’m never gonna let you close to me
Even though you mean the most to me
‘Cause every time I open up, it hurts
So I’m never gonna get too close to you
Even when I mean the most to you
In case you go and leave me in the dirt

And every time you hurt me, the less that I cry
And every time you leave me, the quicker these tears dry
And every time you walk out, the less I love you
Baby, we don’t stand a chance, it’s sad but it’s true

I’m way too good at goodbyes
(I’m way too good at goodbyes)
I’m way too good at goodbyes
(I’m way too good at goodbyes)

 

So, maybe, it’s time to get better at fighting through the rough stuff in order to get to better, deeper, truer relationships. It’s time to be bad at goodbyes.

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What (or who) is your woods?

tothewoods

We don’t let just anyone see us vulnerable, hear our secret stories, watch us struggle. To most of the world, we carry a bit of a shield between them and our tender parts. But there are some few we trust to see the real person behind the mask. We must love those people very much to be so naked and exposed.

Because we need to lay those masks down sometimes, don’t we? We can’t live a life of posture. And so we seek out places where and people with whom we can relax and let down our hair, unafraid of judgment, unconcerned with being deemed eccentric.  Perhaps to be part of nature, to rest among creation until we lose sight of where we stop and others begin.

In this poem, Mary Oliver takes us into her sacred space–the woods.

She must love us very much.

 

How I Go To the Woods

by Mary Oliver  

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way or praying, as you no doubt have yours.  

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much. 

But soft!

Butsoft

Are there any more beautiful words in English literature than these: “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?”

These are Romeo’s words when he gazes at Juliet above on the balcony, but what if we were to bring these words into our everyday encounters?

But soft! Listen to the hush here, the rapt attention, all of his focus on her, just her. What if we were to whisper these words to ourselves before we talk with someone? But soft! The world fades, the focus sharpens, all of our attention is on that person. But soft! reminds us not just to be calm and attentive, but also to be gentle and reverent. Wouldn’t any conversation shift if it were preceded by such a lovely call to silence? Wouldn’t But soft! be a perfect pairing of words to bring back into common usage?

“What light through yonder window breaks?” Again, what if we were to look at each other this way? As light, as beings capable of making the world a brighter place. Even those with much of darkness about them have an inner light, a spark of good. What if we were to ignore the dark and focus on the light in each other? What a compliment it is to be called a light! Wouldn’t someone noticing our light make each of us want to shine ever more brightly? And wouldn’t that, accordingly, make the world an ever brighter place?

Look around. Someone wants your attention.

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

Kiss the Earth.

feet

Notice the beauty all around you. That butterfly. That blossoming flower. That cloud formation. That wind against your cheek. That gnarled tree. Stop and notice.

It is so easy to miss it.

Stay sweet.

 

bitterheart

Why do some people become so bitter? They can’t seem to shake the hurt, that victimization they feel, and they just want to drag down someone else to wallow in it with them. If the blame for the problem is always seen as someone else, they never have anything to confront in themselves or to fix. It’s out of their control, they think, so they just rage.

But is it really? We all get hurt. We all at one time or another are mistreated. But to stop the harm from infecting our hearts and making them bitter, we have to learn how to forgive and let it go. We have to be able to not let that damage change the way we show up in the world. We still have the ability to choose our response and the kind of people we want to be.

Someone may hurt you, but don’t let them poison your life even long after they’ve left.

 

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What’s your gift?

climbingfish

We are each unique. Going through school, jobs, and life, it’s easy to forget that, but it will keep announcing itself to us in various, sometimes disconcerting, ways. We don’t all like the same things, don’t have the same talents, don’t see the world the same way. Each of us needs to discover for ourself how to do this thing called life. There is no one-size-fits-all version.

When you find your gifts, the things that make you feel alive, the work you would do even if it were for free, you will be like a duck to water, or, as in this delightful video, like a baby otter to water for the very first time.

Holy rhythms

timekeeper

Do you ever doubt that there is a bigger picture, that the ebbs and flows of your life make sense, that someone cares for you? In this lovely excerpt, Glennon Doyle finds some peace in the rise and fall of the waves and the rhythms of nature:

The surf continues to hit the sand rhythmically and dependably and I trust it will continue. The sun is setting but I know it will rise again tomorrow. There is a pattern to things. This makes me wonder if I can also trust that there is a pattern, a rhythm, a beauty, a natural rise and fall to my life as well. I wonder if the one holding together this sky might also be capable of holding together my heart. I wonder if the one making this sky so achingly beautiful might also be working to make my life beautiful, too.

The top of the sun disappears into the water, and even as I watch it go, I know that I am the one doing the leaving. It is staying in the same place, shining on and on. I will just have to be patient and rest until I can see it again. Light disappears sometimes, but it always comes back. And after I say goodbye to the sun, I applaud loudly for the one responsible for the show. I’m flooded with awe, relief, and comfort. I feel a chill because the sun is down now. Everything is as it should be. All is well.

The other people on the beach start to leave, but I am not ready. I stay still, so I learn that the sky keeps exploding once the sun is gone. Deeper reds and brilliant purples continue to wrap around me like blankets until it all fades into pitch navy. Then I turn around and catch a glimpse of the moon, a silver boomerang in the sky that seems to have appeared out of the literal blue. But I know the moon’s always there, too, waiting for its time to be seen. The day has to fall to make way for the night and the night has to surrender its place so the day can have its turn. This strikes me as a holy rhythm. I wonder if whatever created this rhythm of the tides and the sky and the sun and the moon has a holy rhythm for my life, too. I consider that perhaps I’m in the middle of a cycle. Maybe there is a time for everything. Maybe there is a timekeeper.

Maybe, indeed.

Every little bit helps.

something

Can you remember a time when you saved the day? Maybe you were able to help someone cover the cost of groceries when they came up short in line. Maybe you gave someone the Heimlich maneuver. Maybe you swerved to avoid a collision. Or maybe something less dramatic like saying a kind word to someone feeling blue.

In this charming video, a banker catches ducklings jumping off a ledge to get to their mother waiting below. Without him to help, they most likely would have been hurt. After all 12 are safe, he, and much of the town who have gathered to watch the rescue, lead the little duck family down a parade route to a nearby river. A modern Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, and the kind of story that can make all of us feel a bit better about the state of the world.

Helping others reminds us that we matter, that we are here for a reason, and that the world would be a darker place without us in it. That’s as helpful to us as to those we help. Win-win.

What’s the little bit you can do today?

Err away.

portal

Children are born discoverers, unafraid to make mistakes. Everything is new. Around every corner, a new adventure.

Somewhere along the way, though, we are taught it is wrong to make mistakes, and we avoid them at all costs, even, sometimes, by sticking to what we already know well rather than venturing out to try new things.

But what’s so bad about making a mistake? Is it even a mistake, really, if we learn from it?

Many medical breakthroughs and inventions came from mistakes. Post-it notes, microwaves, penicillin, artificial sweetener, chewing gum, x-rays. On and on. Things discovered by mistake.

When we get afraid to try new things or do things differently, we fall into a rut and diminish our ability to create and see new points of view. Our one way of doing and thinking wears a groove in our brains. In short, we turn into old, rigid people.

Getting out of those ruts, can re-engage our brains and creativity and cause us to make new connections, see new perspectives, discover new things. But first, we need to abandon our fear of mistakes and replace it with curiosity.

What is right there, just outside your normal way of doing and seeing, waiting to be discovered?