Embrace the now.

lorde

Life is short. Seize it. Spend it. Enjoy it.

And find time to share little moments together with the people who are on this journey with you. For inspiration, watch this delightful video of a dad beatboxing with his very appreciative baby:

 

 

 

Life’s a schoolroom.

schoolroomJust when we think we get what life is all about, something comes along to knock us upside the head and show us we have it wrong. It forces us to reevaluate our foundational assumptions about the purpose of life and look at things in a whole new way. It’s a paradigm shift.

Stephen Covey tells of a paradigm shift he experienced:

“I remember a mini-Paradigm Shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly — some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

“The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.

“It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

“The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.’

“Can you imagine what I felt at that moment? My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry. Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.

“Many people experience a similar fundamental shift in thinking when they face a life-threatening crisis and suddenly see their priorities in a different light, or when they suddenly step into a new role, such as that of husband or wife, parent or grandparent, manager or leader.

“It becomes obvious that if we want to make relatively minor changes in our lives, we can perhaps appropriately focus on our attitudes and behaviors. But if we want to make significant, quantum change, we need to work on our basic paradigms.

“In the words of Thoreau, ‘For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.’ We can only achieve quantum improvements in our lives as we quit hacking at the leaves of attitude and behavior and get to work on the root, the paradigms from which our attitudes and behaviors flow.”

(from Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People)

Or consider the paradigm shift that Ebenezer Scrooge’s partner, now a ghost, Jacob Marley, recounts to him before the visit of the three Christmas ghosts in Christmas Carol. Both Scrooge and Marley thought they had life figured out–it was all about business and making money, the more the better. But Marley has had a paradigm shift since dying:

“‘But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.’ “

Get ready to get hit upside the head, metaphorically speaking. It may be time for a paradigm shift.

Give light.

givelight

Stumbling around in the dark can be painful, dangerous, and frustrating. We bump into stuff; we get lost; we despair. We lose our bearings and do not know how to get where we are trying to be.

But we each can help by lighting the way–with our words and actions. Consider kindness, for example, and how it can shine light on a very dark situation. In a story now going viral, a woman shared about how she was young in an elevator with her mother, who was berating her. As they left, a stranger whispered to her, “It’s not you; It’s her.” Just those five words of encouragement helped her to see beyond the horrid situation she found herself in and to buttress herself against the abuse rather than assuming, as all children do, that her mother was correct in the condemnation. She found hope:

“When life gets really dark, when she hears her (inner) mother’s voice telling that she’s sh*t, she can’t do it, or to just plain give up,” Solomon writes, “she then sees that stranger’s face as the door closes in front of her.” In fact, sometimes, Solomon says, “it’s the only thing that keeps her going.”

Think of the power you have just with your ability to be kind to someone who desperately needs it! What a gift it is to have eyes that can see suffering and to be able to help. That ripple of kindness never stops.

 

Sweep it out.

broom

There is something about organizing closets or sleeping floors that is therapeutic. Where once there was a mess, now there is order. And when done to soothe your mood, the activity brings a sense of calm. Short, angry jabs of the broom become slow graceful sweeps, until what was once dirty becomes clean.

Sweeping dirty floors is a great metaphor for tackling most any problem, including anger and fear. Anger tells us where the work needs to be done; activity gives us a place to put that surge of adrenaline, and focusing on the task turns our attention away from fear to the project at hand.

Who helped you?

workaccomplishment

We love the myth of the self-made man, but it’s just a myth. There is always someone you can point to who helped you–maybe in obvious ways like putting a roof over your head or paying for your education, but even in more subtle ways like paving the streets you drive on and planting and harvesting the produce you eat. None of us can do it all. And that’s a good thing. Helping each other is what gives us purpose, and being grateful for that help keeps us humble.

In honor of Black History Month, each of the quotes this month for Quotable Creek has been drawn from Black voices. In keeping with today’s quote about accomplishments, consider this remarkable list of inventions by Black men and women:

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We probably use at least one of these things each day. So to these men and women, and to all the others who have helped build our world into what it is today, thank you!

 

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Cleopatra, the Queen of Denial

darkness

We each are a little bit Cleopatra, the Queen of “Denial”. We overlook flaws in ourselves and our relationships. We gloss over harms and injustices we see or commit. Because when we notice these things, we disrupt the status quo. Things might get messy before they get better. And it calls on us to get to work rather than just kick the can down the road.

But for real progress to be made, in ourselves and in our relationships, we must look deeply and notice where things fall short. Then we can get to work to close the gap between the way things are and the way we want them to be.

Love is.

thinlove

“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t no love at all.” –Toni Morrison

Thin love says, “I love you if…” There are as many ways to fill in that blank as there are relationships. Thin love is conditional love, love that shows up only when its own needs are met first. Thin love is love that doesn’t show up at all when things get tough. Thin love puts itself first and is never sacrificial.

Love is bigger than that. It shows up whether you’re in prison or the boardroom, whether you’re top of the class or getting expelled, whether you are sick or well. Love gives wholly of itself and never runs dry.

Love is.

Celebrate love.

hidingplace

Love rejoices in the idiosyncrasies of another. Love says, “Look at this! Isn’t it amazing?” Love is curious and exhilarated, bold and exuberant. Love delights and comforts and feels safe. Love makes you better– more whole– and fills you with warmth.

In celebration of love–all kinds of love–here is a beautiful poem:

Bird Understander
by Craig Arnold
Of many reasons I love you here is one
the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright
so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal      all the people
ignoring it       because they do not know
what to do with it       except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death
it makes you terribly terribly sad
You wish you could take the bird outside
and set it free or       (failing that)
call a bird-understander
to come help the bird
All you can do is notice the bird
and feel for the bird       and write
to tell me how language feels
impossibly useless
but you are wrong
You are a bird-understander
better than I could ever be
who make so many noises
and call them song
These are your own words
your way of noticing
and saying plainly
of not turning away
from hurt
you have offered them
to me       I am only
giving them back
if only I could show you
how very useless
they are not

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Go naked.

naked

We wear many masks and fluff ourselves up with many props, but how’s that working for us? Nikki Giovanni notices:

A lot of people refuse to do things because they don’t want to go naked, don’t want to go without a guarantee. But that’s what’s got to happen. You go naked until you die.

What guarantees do we have in this life anyway? To health, to wealth, to job security, to happiness? Not so much. There really aren’t any guarantees to anything we do, and we delude ourselves to think otherwise. When we ‘go naked’ we engage from a place of authenticity, without the masks and props. We, our actual selves, enter into this thing called life.

J.K. Rowling notes:

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all– in which case, you fail by default.

This is it, our one shot, our one life, and we owe it to ourselves to go into it as ourselves and with gusto.

Misery won’t touch you gentle

misery

Oh, child. How I wish for you to have a life without misery and heartache, a world without disillusionment and betrayal, a childhood unmarred by neglect or abuse, a journey without conflict. But, alas, that will not be. We do not live in a utopian world, but here in this world, and you will  know sorrow and pain and, as much as I would love to shield and protect you from it, I cannot. There will be dark days, my love.

But you are brighter than the darkness, and, even in your misery, you will find a way to shine. And when you are at your lowest point, I will be there beside you knowing that you will rise again and that this pain will make you more compassionate and humble, more honest and fierce, more determined to make this world a more perfect place, because you, my beautiful child, are not meant to be kept down in the darkness, but to shine.