Special Moments With Jim


                                    published in the Tillamook County Pioneer

                                                by Neal Lemery

            Last week, I learned that a good college friend had passed away.  He wasn’t a particularly close friend in the usual ways with college friends. We did not often keep in touch, like many friends from our past.  We’d run into each other at gatherings every several years. Now I realize he was a mentor and a counselor to me, roles that were much different than the usual college classmate ways.  

            He had a deep impact on me in college.  Jim was a sensitive guy, and instinctively knew when someone was emotionally vulnerable and hurting.  

            I was one of the guys Jim felt that with, and he reached out to me several times, the darkest of times.  I kept my emotional life close to me, letting very few people know that I was hurting, that I needed some kindness and some compassion.  Young men in our culture don’t want to appear vulnerable. American men are skilled at building walls and keeping our self-doubts and fears well hidden. Such wall building is what is expected of real American men, and of course I was expected to fit in. It’s the manly thing to do.

Jim was different. He had that ability to sense my pain, and would pull me aside, find a quiet corner and look deep into my soul.

            He had that way about him, that instant trust and insight to pull out of me the dark thoughts, the self-doubts, the emotional pain that I thought I had been so clever in hiding from everyone, including myself.  He could open me up and he would listen, deeply and without judgment. 

            Jim would normalize my feelings and give words to what I was wrestling with, repeating my fears and doubts so that I could hear what I was thinking and fearing, that I was not really crazy or on the edge of going nuts, that I was a human being who needed some compassion and friendship. I admired all of that in him, and I wanted to be much more like him, his vulnerability and his confidence in being a trustworthy and helpful man.  

            He had that gift, and I often saw him use his skills and his humanity to help others, to guide people into self-understanding and to find their passions and place in adult life.  Not one to seek adulation, he did this work quietly, always protecting privacy and avoiding gossip.  He was a trust builder and a healer, and practiced his skills on the fringes of college life, places where the walking wounded would go to seek out anonymity.  

            Jim went on to do other great things in his life.  An overseas study trip took him to the Middle East where he became involved in charity and economic development work.  He returned to campus, to change his major to international business.  He went back to the Middle East, where he devoted his life to economic development and helping the needy, making a profound difference in the lives of others, being the Good American in a region where that was a rarity.  He did well, because he was kind and charitable, because people could trust him, and because he lived what he believed about people.

            We didn’t need to be in regular communication with each other, or meet at all the reunions.  I knew Jim would be there for me if I needed him, and that he was still having his “Jim Moments” with people on the other side of the world.  

            I found myself following his example in my own work, reaching out and engaging people in their dark moments, having those quiet conversations and going deep into their emotional lives, offering respect and cultivating compassion and mutual positive regard.  And in that work, I found the blessings that such work gives a person, the rewards of making a difference, by being a kindly, truthworthy friend and an advocate for decency and understanding.  

            In such moments, I’d chuckle to myself, realizing I was following Jim’s footsteps, that I was in the middle of a “Jim Moment”, that his teachings to me had been a profound and vital lesson, one of the most important lessons I’d learned in college.  I’d ask myself, “What would Jim do?” in this situation. That would open the door for some productive conversations and effective steps forward. 

            I’m mourning Jim’s death today, and wondering how best to remember him, to continue on with his legacy.  I’m realizing it is in those “Jim Moments” that he came back to me, when I would again feel his big hugs of friendship and compassion.  This world needs more of those “Jim Moments”, when we open our hearts to someone, to truly listen and suspend our judgments, when we are accepting and open to others’ pain, when we can practice empathy, and help develop a plan on moving forward.  

            Jim will live on in such kind acts, and in the bonds that are made with others in times of uncertainty, confusion and self-doubt.  I’m comforted by knowing that, and, more importantly, by getting out into the world, being more aware, and carrying on with Jim’s mission, and his “Jim Moments”. 

1/20/2023

Savoring the Silence


                        Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 12/24/22

                                                by Neal Lemery

            I’ve arrived in the holidays.  Normal obligations have either been taken care of, or completed, or postponed until “later”, which means whenever we feel like getting back to the daily routine.  This week’s ice storm has added new reasons to stay at home and enjoy some peace and quiet. 

            Schools are closed, people have left their jobs for a while, and are instead moving into the “holiday spirit”, which is deliciously undefined and without boundaries. Outside, the weather is described by the song lyrics of “frightful”.  The days are now cold, with impending snow and ice, shortened by darkness of the Solstice.  There are frosts and chilly rain, snow in the mountains, and weather forecasters anxious about icy roads and howling winds born in the Arctic. Winter has also officially arrived.  

            It is a time to hunker down, wrapping yourself in a fuzzy blanket, sip hot tea and lose yourself in a good book, all without guilt or remorse for neglecting garden chores and the demands of a normal work day. Expectations for a productive day are limited to reading a few more chapters, maybe wrapping the last of the presents, and planning some fun adventures for the next few weeks. But, that can wait. It might be time for a nap.

            I join the community at the post office for that inevitable last minute mailing of packages and other finished projects.  We are all in a jovial mood, with the projects completed, and nothing left that’s urgent today, knowing that “it’s in the mail”, and our treasures and good works will arrive in “the usual course” of the mail.  We can relax. Our work is done, and all that is now out of our hands. Whatever we needed to mail today isn’t all that urgent, anyway. Last week was “panic week” and now we are on holiday time. 

            We are temporarily relieved of the obligations of our normal routines, able to push back and simply say “later”.  After all, it is everyone’s vacation time and our normal deadlines take a back seat to the excuse of “it’s the holidays”. 

            I find simple joy in reading cards and letters from relatives and dear friends, catching up on their lives. I like the fun of picking up a last minute present or two, and assembling the fun little presents for stockings. I can sit on the couch and enjoy a happy hour of a holiday show, without too much effort. 

            There’s also time for a little planning for next year, writing in birthdays and anniversaries on next year’s refrigerator calendar, and thinking I need to have a commitment to next year’s list of great books to read.  Not that I’m always successful with such a list, but my new year’s always starts off with good intentions.  Maybe this year, I’ll actually be somewhat methodical on what I read, rather than reverting to my old ways of spontaneity and randomness.  

            I’ve already written up my annual list of favorite books of the year, and sent it off to my  book loving friends, whether or not they are really interested in what I’ve been reading this year.  I send off the list, in hopes of inspiring them and giving them some ideas on some good books.  A trip to the library this week, to stock up on some books before the ice moved in, reminded me that the local library is truly a treasure in my life, a resource I rely on and find invaluable as a way to satisfy my curiosity and keep my mind occupied and challenged.  

            This time of being “off” and not on a schedule is a time to regroup and maybe think about being more organized on how I spend my time.  After all, being “retired” is a full time job, requiring a lot of intentional and methodical scheduling and planning. There are times I wonder if I should engage a planner, a scheduler for me, so I can use my time more efficiently, and be more organized in my life.  Then, I realize that is my job, well one of many jobs I now have.  Being retired, it is hard to keep up with all I have to do, all that I want to do.  There really isn’t enough hours in the day to fit it all in.  

            And, that’s the joy of retirement.  Not enough time to play. 

I recently talked with a friend who is going to retire in a few weeks.  They are anxious about what to do, how to “fill their time”.  They are worried that they don’t have a purpose anymore, not having a job description and a way of feeling accomplished, not “earning their keep”.  For me, I get that satisfaction in looking at what I do now, in “all my spare time”.  I told my friend there is lots to do, lots of accomplishments out there that will need their attention. Just start picking a few to take on and soon, filling your days takes care of itself, and you will find yourself needing to do some serious organization and planning of your time.  

            We Americans often don’t do much reflection and contemplation.  We don’t take enough time to play.  Many of us don’t take all of our vacation time, nor do we spend enough time with our loved ones.  I’m not sure of the value of what we’ve sacrificed for that, what we’ve given up.  Maybe we need to think about that, what we’ve given up, what we’ve lost, for that “more time at the office”.  I’d argue that exchange is a bad business deal, an unsatisfying trade in the marketplace of our lives.  

            The days now are supposed to be getting longer, though the physical proof of that still seems lacking, as the dark nights and the long gloomy twilights of winter afternoons still close in on me.  I’ll drag out the seed catalogs soon, and I’m already starting to think of some gardening projects I want to take on.  Some day, hopefully sooner than later, I’ll stash my flannel shirts in the back of the closet, fold up the fuzzy blanket on my chair, and start building up the gardening callouses and weed out the flower beds.  

            Until then, I’ll take advantage of this winter rest, this pause in the frenzy of our lives, and focus on where I’m headed into the new year. 

12/24/22

Yet Another Review of my Book, from the Tillamook County Pioneer


Neal Lemery’s New Book: Be the Change – One Random Act of Kindness at a Time …

Editor BooksNeal Lemery. Tillamook County Pioneer, 12/18/2022

Everyone needs this book.  The title was often used around our house. One could not complain about this or that without being asked if they could do something about the situation… and if so, then “Be the change.”  Pioneer readers are blessed to have Neal’s “Words of Wisdom” on a regular basis, and this book takes many of those commentaries and puts them in an easy-to-read book that will help you to help others, one act of kindness at a time. Neal tackles tough issues, suicide, mental health issues, grief with his usual directness and candor, but with a matter-of-fact sense that provides direction, healing and help. It’s the perfect holiday gift to give to yourself.

“In his outstanding new book, Be the Change, Neal Lemery shares with his readers a series of life experiences that signal a need for change. He then gives the reader some small and large ways we can all use to be a person of change. To help others and yourself begin on the road to change, I recommend everyone read this book.” (5 stars)

Each of us can make a difference in the world, starting with ourselves, our family, our neighborhood, and our community. That difference, that work of being an agent of change starts with one person – you.  One person and small groups are the true change agents in the world. One person can make a difference, significant and often monumental.

This book is a collection of thoughts, expressions of optimistic intentions, to make a difference, to be a force to be reckoned with.  I believe in the empowerment of one person to bring about fundamental change.

You and I can change attitudes and can help people reform their focus, their life force, to bring about basic, lasting change.

This work starts with one person who has a strong sense of idealism and purpose, who wants to make their life, and eventually, the world a better place.

That aspiration can be daunting, but it begins with one step, one small change. A person who is committed to an ideal and has a plan of action, is a force to be reckoned with, a game changer, and one of the most powerful forces in the world – a committed agent of change.

Neal’s new book is now available. On Amazon: Be the Change: One Random Act of Kindness at a Time . On Barnes and Noble.

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Another Nice Review


5.0 out of 5 stars Gently and engagingly challenges us to ‘be the change’Reviewed in the United States on December 11, 2022

Be the Change is one of those books you keep close to hand, reading individual chapters as your need for reminding and inspiration ebb and flows. This is not a self help book, it is a self thinking book, challenging us to consider our role amongst our community and our opportunity to strengthen the fabric of our chosen piece of this planet. His prose is clear and uncomplicated, gently but firmly challenging the reader to bring their best to others as essential participants in actively seeking positive change in this world. Lemery’s carry’s analogy all the way, masterfully puling the reader through the intent and the lesson it has to give.

Quiet Time


                                      

                                                by Neal Lemery

(Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 11/24/2022)

I am again learning to cherish the darkness and the quiet of the early morning.  I often struggle with the early darkness of the evening and the late-rising sun of November mornings, when late fall and winter descend upon my life like a thick black curtain. Part of me yearns for the summers past and look eagerly ahead to next year’s spring.  Yet, now is a time to again learn patience and self-awareness, and self-care.  There is that lesson again, to live in the moment, and to be and do for today, for the present. 

            One of my projects is to check my fancy rain gauge every morning, and then report my reading to a little Colorado non-profit which collects daily precipitation readings across the US and Canada, with data available to the National Weather Service and the public.  Yes, there’s an app for that, and the data helps in weather forecasting and in monitoring rain and snowfall across the continent.  Checking my rain gauge and filing my report has become part of my morning coffee routine, my reading, the sometimes inspirations for writing and contemplation, taking up the brewing time for my first cup. 

            That ritual, and feeling part of a greater effort to study the world, has become engrained in my morning routines.  I find this to be almost a meditation, a predicable part of starting the day with doing something for the common good.  I get my barefooted self outside, connected with the neighborhood, and the goings on of nature in my back yard.  I’m more aware of my world, and perhaps help others understand the forces of nature at work. The day’s rain in the gauge, birds on the feeder and the first glimmer of the dawn remind me I am part of the world, part of this place, that I am connected with the web of life and the world.

            The quiet fills the space, as I sip my coffee, allowing the day to emerge in creative possibility and wonder.  I hold space for the coming day, for the tasks I’ve written on my list and the others that will come unexpectedly.  I am learning to respect the power of serendipity, of the opportunities of empty space. I hold that space for myself, to learn and grow.  I hold space for the emergence of the new that will come.  I will allow all of that to come into my life, to feed my soul with possibility. 

            I’ll read the news, and perhaps become engrossed in a well-written and thoughtful commentary.  And maybe I’ll contemplate something creative, a poem, a garden project, a letter to a friend, perhaps a painting, or some writing that will emerge within the sacred emptiness I’ve made in the early morning.  

            The darkness and the quiet allows me to fully embrace that sense of appreciation and gratitude for what I value in life: friendships, beauty, and the ability to expand and cultivate those ideas and values I truly find essential to a full, bountiful life.

            I’m grateful for the holidays, each one focusing on a particular value and cultural ideal that is a fundamental element of our lives: giving thanks, sharing, finding joy, noting anniversaries of celebrations and past events.  It is a time of reflection, of being aware, again, that life is a gift and an opportunity to both love and to share our deepest, most fundamental values and beliefs.  The holidays remind me to put the daily frenzy on pause, to take a breath, and just “be”. 

            The brewing of the coffee, the checking of the rain gauge, the examination of the “to do” list as a focus of opportunity and personal growth, all are part of the beginning of the day, a time of quiet and reflection, organizing myself for the work that is to come, for the rejuvenation of the real me in the winter of the year.  

11/23/22

Some Post-Election Thoughts: Standing Up for Myself


                                    Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 11/13/2022

                                                By Neal Lemery

            At a meeting the other day, a new member of the group spoke about their passion for a particular topic, which happened to be one of my passions as well.  I’d been fairly quiet about the subject for a number of years.  But, I decided to also speak up and add my voice to the new member’s enthusiastic advocacy.  

            I discovered I had a lot to say and I didn’t hold back.  The rest of the group soon joined in, with some being astonished at the statistics we shared about the importance of the topic, and how it was a good fit for our mission. 

            It felt good to speak up, to let my views be known, to let some passionate energy fill the room and enliven an agenda which had been fairly lackluster.

            I’ve decided I need to do that more, to let my thoughts fly and express what is important in life.  

            “A lot of people are afraid to say what they want.  That’s why they don’t get what they want.” — Madonna.

            I suspect I’ve been frustrated by the politics of the recent election season, where it seemed like the advertising agencies had hijacked the discussions, where the political debates became focused on attack ads rather than a meaningful and deep discussion of the important issues of the day; how we can be solvers of problems and seekers of solutions, rather than spend our energy attempting to smear the character and reputation of the candidates.  

            Life is short and our time to influence a group of concerned people working on important subjects in our community is also limited. We shouldn’t think that we are just warming a seat in a group, that our opinions and passions shouldn’t really be aired, that we shouldn’t become engaged in taking on the hard parts of a problem. Time is precious and we have work to do. Our particular viewpoints matter.  If they didn’t, we shouldn’t have put ourselves up for being considered as members of a particular group or board. 

            We aren’t here to just be window dressing, to be just a pretty face in a group.  Each of us has our own unique contributions to make, our own perspectives, and yes, our own passionate and thoughtful points of view that should be heard and considered by others. As a part of the community, each of us has something unique to offer, something special, something worthy of consideration of others. 

            Democracy is a melting pot, a gathering of ideas and possibilities that enrich our discussions and provoking some well-informed debate and discussion. Every voice counts. When done with courtesy and respect, our discussions advance this important work of public conversation. An informed and enlivened discussion is what the founders of this republic imagined when they crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and formed the various states. Yes, we can disagree and debate, but we need to do so in the spirit of wanting to learn from each other, to grow our ideas, and investigate alternatives and differing ideas. a

            I’ve decided to speak my mind more, to air my ideas, and to listen hard to the ideas and passions of others, so that my own thinking is challenged, so that our ideas can develop and include the thoughts of others.  Such work is the richness of our country, where we can grow ideas and work to find better solutions.  We all benefit from that, and we raise our collective strengths to be good stewards of the Republic, to be better informed and productive.

11/12/22

Roundabout: Struggling With Addiction


                                   

                                                by Neal Lemery

(Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 10/4/2022)

            We took a long weekend, embarking on a road trip across the Northwest for a birthday, a long over-due gathering of loved ones, dear friends, to celebrate a milestone, to simply have fun together. We also needed to get away, and enjoy the colors of fall, and have an adventure. It was time for new perspectives. 

            Traveling on unfamiliar roads and through unfamiliar towns and cities, we came across a number of traffic circles. Roundabouts challenge me and I have to concentrate on my destination and the next link in the day’s travels, in order to escape the circle and go on my way.  A traffic circle doesn’t let me easily stop and contemplate my next move.  I’m compelled to join the fray, find the correct lane and get out at the right time.  It is not unusual for me to stay in the circle for a complete circle or even two, until I figure out my path of escape. Like the rest of life, it often seems to be more chaos than order.

            Yet, it is efficient. Once I figure out the methodology of it all, and know my destination, I do just fine.

            Gatherings with friends and loved ones often challenge me. I tend to stand back and watch. I pick up on the examples of old, often expected behaviors and the old ghosts of dysfunction and family dramas from past generations, the stuff that continues to be toxic for the newest generations. We can learn and change, but sometimes, we seem to be stuck on the dysfunctional roundabout and don’t know how to get off, how to leave the circle.  We often repeat the toxicity of the past, and don’t manage to move on. 

This weekend, I had some deep conversations with two members of the generation behind me, men I’ve often encouraged and counseled, as they’ve struggled in their lives, often plagued by their wounds and addictions. Alcohol is their poison of choice, how they self-medicate to try to kill their pain of rejections, abandonments, and challenges with self-esteem and appreciation for deep down goodness and compassion. They are good men, and when you scrape away the drunkenness and self-anger, they are loving and compassionate.  

I haven’t talked with them in a state of sobriety for at least the last twenty years.  I struggle with making the effort, with sitting down with them, and going deep about the meaning of life, of self-respect.  Being the good role model, the wise elder is a challenging role for me to play as they pound down the first dozen of their day’s beers.  

Still, I make the effort, I have the conversations, and I try to keep the gate open with them, trying to build our relationship.  I strive to be the good bridge keeper, a healer of some of our more challenging issues. I keep hoping the day will soon come when they reach out to me, telling me they want to get sober, and invite me into that work.  I keep hoping to find my magic wand, yet I know that true sobriety, true insight begins when they, and not me, decide it is time for change.  

Until then, our relationship is stuck in a roundabout, circling around the hard conversations, the long histories of trauma, abuse, neglect, and chaos, the stuff that one tries so desperately to ignore, the challenges you try to drown with your beer.  We circle, we change lanes sometimes, but we’re often stuck and don’t seem to know how to break that circle, and move on with our lives and our relationships.  

Each of us can break our generational curses, our guilt and shame.  We can begin our own traditions, expectations of friendship and be free.

I want to think that I really do have a magic wand.  It isn’t covered with fairy dust, and it doesn’t instantly solve worries and problems that have festered for generations.  My magic wand involves time and patience, and unconditional love.  It involves a belief that people truly can change, that each of us can dig deep and learn about ourselves and our wounds, that we have the tools in hand to take on and deal with a lifetime of worries and stress.  We can change, each of us.  Change and the rest of our lives can begin with one step in the right direction, and having the support of someone who loves us, who can hold our hand, and who believes that we are worthy of that effort to move ahead.  

My job in all this is to be the good friend, the patient one, offering myself as an example of a different path, and to offer my unconditional love and compassion to them.  I’m old enough to know that preaching and condemning builds even higher walls, and doesn’t provide the answers that will come, eventually.  I need to wait, and I keep extending my hand in friendship and love, trying to be that friend that is always there, always caring, and always representing the alternative path, the way out of the seemingly endless circles of addiction and self-destruction. 

Perhaps this visit, and these conversations, have pushed open some doors, making the path to sobriety and insight just a little more easy to find. Perhaps they have heard and felt my love for them, and that life offers some choices, that there is a way out of the real traffic circles of our lives.  

10/4/22

Guerrilla Gratitude: Bringing Light Into Our World


                        

                                    by Neal Lemery

(Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 9/12/2022)

Any act, any kind word, is capable of making a change for the better in our world. Each of us has so many opportunities to make it a better place.  A few kind words at the grocery store or post office, a simple act of kindness to help someone along in their day, maybe a cheery note or a phone call. It can all make a difference.  

            I was in a hurry last week as I came into my favorite coffee shop, intent on getting to work on what I thought was an important project, one that couldn’t wait. 

            I pulled open the coffee shop door, focused on ordering my coffee.  I nearly ran over a woman holding two cups of coffee and looking stressed.  I looked behind her, seeing her frail mother, struggling with her cane and trying to keep up with her daughter.  

            It was time to pause and show a little kindness.  I pulled the door fully open and held it for them, letting the woman with the two hands of coffees navigate outside, as she offered her arm to her mother. They shuffled out the door, both of them thanking me, and breaking into smiles.  I muttered “no problem,” and smiled back.  

            It was time for me to take a breath, admire the beauty of the fall day; time for some gratitude.  The world had given me an opportunity to be kind, make people happy and take care of the community. 

            The opportunities continued.  A couple had followed me in, seemingly in a hurry to get their coffee and resume their journey.  I stepped back, letting them have first place in the queue for the barista.  The man gave me a funny look, like I was doing something strange, out of the ordinary.  

            “No problem,” I said.  “I’m taking it easy today.” I repeated the smiles I’d received from the mother and daughter, and felt my day brighten. 

            He just nodded, likely not knowing how to respond.  There was a lesson or two there.  At least, a lesson for me, taking time to let things unfold, to be part of an accommodation in someone’s day, making things go easier.  But, I got my reward: a nod, perhaps a sense of someone being kind and gracious to them, maybe some reflection on what the day was about.  

            I’d assumed they were on vacation, which is hopefully a time for some rest, a pause from the routine of daily life, and simply enjoying a sunny fall day in a beautiful place, topped off with some great coffee. The least I could do for them was to be kind. 

            My coffee shop punch card was filled by my usual order, and I gave it to the barista, asking them to use it to treat the next person who would come through the door.  I’ve been reading a book about “guerrilla gardening”, where you surreptitiously add beauty to public space. Perhaps this is “guerrilla gratitude”. We can all be rebels with a cause. 

            When I checked in at a hospital last week for some lab work, a very kind man gently and efficiently guided me through the process, even walking me over to the lab and then guided me to my next appointment.  He was extraordinary. Yet for him, it seemed just an ordinary day, just doing his job. He made my wife and me laugh and feel at ease, as he went about his work. His saintliness was just what I needed, calming my anxiety and frenzy. 

            Other employees were also extraordinarily kind and helpful, bringing to me an atmosphere of gentleness, welcoming, and professionalism. You could tell they loved their work and were proud of their competence, knowing they were saving lives. It was nice to see that a large organization doing important work appreciated great customer service. 

“If you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your path,” said Buddha.  We need to be a society of lamplighters, and not keep our compassion and kindness hidden away.  It is the treasure we need to share.     

            Life, real life, a good life, is really about kindness and accommodation and patience.   Life is paying it forward, diffusing the crisis of the moment, and quietly getting things done and put in order.  The cost is really non-existent.  A little time, perhaps a few more minutes spent with someone, some kind words, a few deep breaths, and exuding calmness and service to others. We get that back, at least tenfold, in our lives.

            I keep re-experiencing those lessons, and the need to be patient and kind, both on the giving and the receiving parts of life.  Such wisdom bears repeating, along with a whole lot of doing, part of “guerrilla gratitude”.  

9/12/2022

What I Learned This Summer


                       

                                    -by Neal Lemery

(published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, August 29, 2022

            The calendar and the changing light in the mornings and evenings tells me that this season is in transition. We are leaving summer and moving into fall.  Perhaps it is also the appearance of all the teachers’ cars at the nearby school and the chill in the early morning air. 

            September always seems to be the real new year for me.  School starting back up, vacations ending,  the lazy warmth of late summer days, the harvests from the garden, all signal a new beginning.  The county fair and all the summer weekend festivals are over.  There’s an optimism in the air, a time for something new, different. There’s an expectation of change.

            And, there’s nothing like a bout of Covid in the middle of summer to make one appreciate their health, and the power of one’s body to fight off a potentially fatal illness and to be able, once again, to be active, to do the things one loves to do. I’ve had the time to reflect on what I’ve learned this summer.

  1. There is power in collective action and organization.  The real work comes from the collective actions of a small group of people. I’ve gained new appreciation for the power that small groups of people have for deciding to get something done, and then going about getting it done.  This has been a summer of reunion and reorganization, with groups again putting into motion their activities, and moving ahead in their lives.  By attending these events, I’ve become reacquainted with friends and neighbors, and celebrated the power of togetherness.  From signature gatherers on political issues to re-invigorating social events, things have gotten done.  It is grass roots work and it wouldn’t have happened unless people got moving and worked together.
  2. Relationships are Essential.  Our family gathered for a wedding this summer, resulting in some deep and loving conversations, emotional support, and shedding a lot of the loneliness and isolation of the pandemic.  We realized the importance of family, and became reacquainted with what brings us together.  I took the time to talk with people at the grocery store and on the street, reaffirming our common ties and interests, re-weaving the frayed fabric of what the media often paints as a divided and angry society.  Those brief conversations have taken on a new value, and a new relevance for me.  I’m again realizing the importance of good friends, and deep conversation. 
  3. Connecting with your own creativity brings joy to your heart.  I’ve taken time to play my guitar again, to paint, to take photos, to garden with others, to explore and honor my own creative juices. I again feel the joy of what children experience when they free themselves to simply be, to create and bring joy into their lives. I joined an art group, which meets every week to simply paint together, without judgment or criticism, and simply enjoy the communal act of creation. 
  4. Take time to do the right thing.  I sometimes let things go undone, and I neglect to take responsibility for my own mistakes and missed opportunities.  Sometimes, I need to apologize, to make amends, and to focus on doing what is right.  I sometimes neglect relationships, or let a wondrous act of kindness and service go unrecognized.  I’ve humbled myself, and reached out, making connections, sometimes apologizing, and often simply recognizing and appreciating the good works of others.  I’ve learned the power of the sincere sympathy card or note of thanks, and how why that may seem insignificant, receiving that acknowledgement moves people to tears. The price of a card and a stamp is incredible, and changes lives. Appreciating others and embracing them, loving them is really what we are here for. I need to do that more often.
  5. Experiencing nature is an essential part of self-care. I often forget to take care of myself.  Having Covid this summer was a re-set on that value for me.  Self-care can keep you alive and upright, and able to get back to your to-do list, and the things that bring you love and joy.  The other day, I was at loose ends, and the things I thought I needed to do that day dropped off of the calendar.  I took that time, and went outside. I went to the beach, the forest, and sometimes just looked up into the sky. I spent the day enjoying the day for what it was, an incredible gift.  I was reminded that life can be beautiful, that we live in a gorgeous place, that I can find peace and contentment anywhere I look.  I took photos of flowers, really looking at a single flower, examining and taking in all of its beauty. I need self-care. If I was frank with my doctor about my need for self-care, they’d put it on my medication list, and expect me to follow through.  Take time for me.  Respect and honor me.  And let me take myself outside and into the fresh air and sunshine. 

8/29/22