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The Religion Of Your Soul ~ Michelle Church

Each year, for more than twenty years, on Christmas day we pack our family into the car and head to the Oregon coast. It is because of this tradition that we ultimately built our home here Lincoln City. Even as I write this I am sitting on the bed next to my Mr Dreamboat and though the doors and windows are closed I can still hear the crashing waves charging the beach just steps away from where we lay. Sometimes our Christmas vacation lingers into the New Year.

The tradition of leaving our home on the homiest holiday of the year might seem strange to you as it seems peculiar even to me, and I am the author of this particular tradition.

The ocean is lovely, dark and deep...
The ocean is lovely, dark and deep…

So many years ago when our children were young, with all my soul I wanted to begin our own family traditions, away from those from our histories. There seemed no chance of doing so when we had so much family around, and so we devised a plan to pack up our little family and go away from all the things our lives were normally comprised of.

And 21 years later I am quite literally sitting on the bed of our convention. And strange as it is, I love it.

There is no doubt your traditions are lovely and comforting. I’m certain your elf on the shelf is pleasing, your Yule Log burns bright each year and figgy pudding is the great, undiscovered, practice your family holds dear.

What is wonderful to me in all likelihood feels foreign to you and vice versa. Though the religion of our fathers may be the same, the way we each honor them and live them out in our own lives has as many variations as there are people. There are as many religions as there are souls.

As we each step into the baby days of the beginning New Year, let’s celebrate our differences, find our common grounds and bring with us upon every doorstep we visit, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

happy for no reason

Did You Feel That?

In the mornings long before the other residents of my home arise, I practice what I preach to my clients. I read from great books, exercise and meditate. I do it more or less well depending on the day, my mood or the weather.

It is the meditation that can be so very challenging, though with the pesky cold I have my workout was lackluster this morning at best. It’s one thing to lack energy. Make time for some rest, drink plenty of fluids and sooner or later we’re back on our feet. But focus? That’s the final frontier.

Meditation takes many forms for me. I practice yoga, I sit in a classic pose for twenty minutes and clear my brain, I paint and I exercise feelings.

Not like hate or love. Not those kinds of feelings. The feelings I explore have more to do with being in the energy of happiness, productivity and even faith.

I think the reason some people lovelovelove the holidays is not so much about sugar plum faeries, though who doesn’t love a sugar plum faery no matter what time of year, but they love Christmas because of that feeling.

It’s about warmth and safety and knowing there is good in the world

Add to that a faith in ourselves that we can and will do anything we want, that “it’s” all going to come together beautifully and that everything in our lives, and in the lives of those we love is unfolding exactly as it should.

It’s like Christmas, only for every day of the year, and if we can capture the feeling.

Each morning I wake up and I do my exercise. I read something powerful, maybe practice some yoga poses and then, then I practice my favorite feelings, trying them on and observing how accurately I can create them without the triggers.

Don’t get me wrong, as my smart son, Max, reminded me when we discussed this idea, so much of the feeling is about the ritual. My smart husband, Mr Dreamboat, reminded me it’s about community coming together is celebration. And my smart son-in-law Ian reminded me we get choose whatever meaning we want on everything.

It’s not every day I am successful in feeling successful. I admit that fully, but every day I practice is. Every day I wonder how I can do this day and experience this day better than I did yesterday.

I think we’ll go get our tree tomorrow too. It can only help.

man box thumb

Does Anyone Know Where I Can Buy A Man Box?

I find myself in a dreary space as I write to you today. It doesn’t often come to me, but when it does I am gracious enough to entertain it for just a few hours before I remind it not to let the door smack it in the rear end as it leaves. For now, Cranky Pants, come and sit for a while…

It is on these uncommon occasions that I desperately wish for a Man Box. I’ve heard of them, I’ve even witnessed the use of them, yet never have I seen one and for the love of all that is holy, I would like to own a few.

man box
See how carefree he seems?

A Man Box, as I understand it, is a box, or a whole slew of boxes, where men put things. And when they put things like feelings and worries and snacks in the boxes, they are not thought of again until the box is purposefully opened at some later date.

Heaven. This sounds like heaven.

The way it works for women, at least this woman, is not at all like a box, or a room full of boxes, but like a big, oversized duffel bag. I think mine’s sort of a brick color, tattered and frayed on the handles from toting it with me everywhere I go.

In this duffel, I carry all the thoughts about all the things in my day, many from my week, a few from this year and there are even some that poke out the end from the beginning of time.

My duffel has room for the threat of natural disasters, fears for my children, my GPA from high school and some house projects that aren’t getting done as quickly as I’d like. So I carry them around with me. Every day. All. Day. Long.

The duffel rubs, scrapes and while it’s only a metaphor, I’m pretty sure carrying it around with me is the cause of an actual knot in my shoulder.

For this reason I would like to go to The Man Box Store. There I would pour my cash out for pretty boxes that could store natural disasters and GPA’s alike. I would put in them my worries for my children and I would store, even if it was just for the evening, my concerns over organic food, travel and pet vaccinations.

This would be far superior to snuggling up to a lumpy, brick colored, duffel bag that pokes me awake from time to time and takes up too much space in the bed.

If I could in fact find The Man Box Store, I am not at all convinced they would let me buy those pretty boxes, or even let me in. It would have something to do with XY chromosomes or some such nonsense. Rude. I imagine I would be sent away, woefully dragging my duffel bag behind me.

I suppose there’s nothing to do but empty out my tired, old bag, rifle through the things that matter, dump that nonsense about zombies, maybe review my actual food storage and get on with the business of happiness.

Their boxes probably aren’t even pretty anyway. Who needs ‘em?

the woods

The Darkest Days

the woodsOn the advice of a friend, I downloaded a book called The Morning Miracle. Ironically, not knowing exactly what it was, I began reading it in the mornings during my morning routine. Which is, of course, exactly what the book is about.

Regardless of the irony with which I practice my life, there was a lot to be learned in its digital pages and I’m a more rounded and grounded person because of it.

Perhaps the thing I like best about the book is the encouragement to get up early, embrace the alarm clock as if it were your best friend and begin the day as if it were going to be your very best. Perhaps the entire point of the book.

In the early rising, as we approach the shortest daylight hours of the year, I have encountered, in all her glory, the long, dark night. And she is lovely.

I fully admit that when the alarm first sounds I am dismayed and somewhat in denial. Surely Siri has made a mistake and all the electronic gadgets in the world have gone wonky and it’s not six a.m. at all, but a gently generous 3:30 a.m., begging me to stay beneath my warm covers.

Inevitably I come to the conclusion that it is truly time to arise and embrace the day.

Once my workout clothes are on, my teeth are brushed and I’ve vacated the room of retirement, that is when I become grateful.

Maybe even more than the benefits of rising early, is the opportunity to greet the day in the dark. The quiet hours of my very full home are blanketed in an uncommon deep, dark silence.

Out here at the Zombie Apocalypse Sanctuary, the fall and winter skies are almost always cushioned in clouds. Our remote location insures there is no such thing as “light pollution” and for what seems like only a breath or two each morning, I feel solitary but not alone. I can think for there’s not a word spoken and I am able to fully embrace the day before she becomes one.

It is truly delicious.

Ten Things I Know For Sure

I am in a constant state of wondering. It isn’t uncommon for Mr Dreamboat to admonish me, “You don’t need to analyze it, just give in.” Referring, of course, to whatever it is that is going on; my appetite that day, if I need a nap, my progress or lack thereof on a project. I can become downright tiresome. Even to me.

With all that I wonder and all that I ruminate on ad nauseum, there are a few things I simply know. I know in my bones and in my heart. At least I think I know them. I’ll ruminate on that and get back to you…

Until then:

IMG_09201. Love really does find a way. And it is a kind and gentle way. It persuades and nudges and stays firm in a foundation of generosity. Love’s the best.
2. We receive what we believe. If you don’t like what you get, then change your mind. No, simple doesn’t mean easy.
3. Pie, under the right circumstances is absolutely a breakfast food.
4. Staying connected to the earth in some way or another, going outside for a walk, wiggling our toes in the grass, is imperative to our balance and happiness.
5. Believing the best of circumstances and people is simply a better way to live.
6. Happiness isn’t a right. It’s an obligation to the fact we were even created. Our obligation back to Creation is to become our best, brightest and happiest selves.
7. People are good. There are a few clunkers, sure. But people are good and kind and want to help.
8. One time a woman told me she doesn’t like hemp milk lattes. She even made a face about it. For that alone she lost three Likable Points with me.
9. In every situation there is something to be gained, though the harder the situation the more challenging it might be to find.
10. Doing something you love every day isn’t a luxury but a necessity. It feeds the soul and we all know letting your soul go hungry is bad for everyone involved.

comfort and joy

Holiday Fear… I Meant Cheer…

It is December. It is the season. The season of FamilySpendingStressWorshipandTonsandTonsofFood. I believe that’s the official name of the entire season. But really, I don’t want to talk so much about the holidays. I want to talk about you. And me. And living life in a brilliant way.

I recently read that in order to have successful New Year’s Resolutions, one should start 6 weeks in advance. Technically we’re already past that date, but today is the last day of November and, let’s be honest, if we start working on them today it’s way sooner than we’ve ever done before.

“But it’s FamilySpendingStressWorshipandTonsandTonsofFood season,” you might say to me. “How am I ever going to have the time and energy to focus on anything but that?” (Let’s call it what it is, you whined that part.)

Yeah. I get that. But recently I had an epiphany. It was in mid October when my mind rankled me out of an autumnal bliss and reminded me that the holidays were nearly upon us. “Rude!” I screamed to myself, but then I remembered: Whatever experience I’m having, I am choosing to have it. While circumstances, like holidays and viruses may come and go as they please, the way in which I experience them is all me.

Booyah!

It is nearly December and holiday cheer is sidling up to each and every one of us like a cuddly kitten that may or may not scratch us without provocation. We can ease our holiday anxieties with too much food and an attitude of simply getting through it all, or we can focus on creating goals for the coming year and experiencing the holidays with gratitude and humor.

I’ll take a second helping of the latter if you don’t mind.

more happy

In Praise Of NOT Doing Your Best

This is not a post about excellence. It is a post about mediocrity. This post isn’t about doing your best. It’s about doing anything at all. This post isn’t about perfection. It’s about good enough. This post isn’t about bringing your A game. It’s about embracing a B-.

For weeks I have tried to write a post. I’ve even been successful three or four times. But the ideas weren’t coming and the posts weren’t excellent. And so I did nothing at all. Hard fail.

I don’t suppose everyone suffers from perfectionism or from “Pedestrian Paralysis”. No. Not everyone. But certainly none of us loves to know we could have done better and there are about a zillion people who “could have done it better” than us.

No. No one likes that.

In a society that elevates the savant and worships youth, we rarely praise The Plodder. And I think it’s a damn shame.

This is a mediocre picture and I embrace it. Mostly...
This is a mediocre picture and I embrace it. Mostly…

The Plodder, as described in literature, is a sorry sort of fellow, who without the grace of the Gazelle trudges through life. He employs no elegant gate, he simply moves along, moves along.

But I submit to you that were you to check back in with her somewhere after the story closes, you would find she’s gone miles and miles further than almost everyone else. Where others simply stay where life is safe, the progression of a good trudge can indeed be remarkable.

The couch dweller, perhaps hoping to be young again, maybe longing to be “the best” at something, anything, never moves at all and often criticizes the lowly place of those who act without perfection.

I admit to my paralysis. I somehow became afraid of the blank page, of what I might say that wasn’t quite perfect, not pretty or profound.

But I have the heart of a plodder, the soul of a person who knows how to doggedly persist. Deep down we each need to understand that in order to accomplish anything, we must first do it poorly.

And so I write this for you. Today. With no apologies.

Further, I invite you to trudge, to fail, to fall on your face and present the world with your most pedestrian mediocrity because if we don’t fail and fall, we will never fly.

Someday, I plan to fly. Come fly with me, friends.

selene

What Is Your Essence?

Sitting across from me at my kitchen table is a beautiful, young Latina. Her eyes are dark and round and her hair is shiny and lush. She is struggling to say something to me. I believe I understand what she intends but she remains frustrated. Not long after she excuses herself to go to the pool house where she is currently living.

Throughout the afternoon we sat together at the table, she, a young college student, and me, an incredibly youthful life coach. We had a lot to talk about. The learning and teaching baton passed back and forth between us as the hours passed. I love when that happens.

I cannot help but put on my Life Coach hat. I love what I do. It lights me up and inspires me to make bigger choices when I am teaching others. So when I have a college student in front of me. Poor girl…

It’s not entirely based on ego that I believe I taught Selene a few things. After all, what’s the point of living all these years if I have nothing to show for it? A conversation about daring and stretching and believing in oneself was just the order of the day.

In return, Selene taught me things about the Jewish household where she worked for a time, mixed right along with her observations about life. After all, what’s the point of living any amount of years if you have nothing to show for it?

Selene cleaned out my unkempt refrigerator and I did some work at my computer. The afternoon wore on and we dabbled in philosophy and Spanish and the absurdities that constitute a proper English sentence.

I imagine it was more than 30 minutes later when Selene returned that she looked far less troubled. Almost the moment she walked in the door she enthusiastically explained what she’d been trying to say.

“It’s not the cape you wear or the things you say that make me like you. It’s your essence that draws me to you.”

This is, perhaps, one of the kindest compliments I’ve ever received. Not only does it surpass the superficial, but it makes me wonder about the essence of other people, of circumstances, sentences, neighborhoods and ideas. It reminds me of the quote from the children’s book The Little Prince, “It is only the heart that can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to they eye.”

It is always a pleasant reminder that wisdom has no age and that our lives are simply teaming with all that is essential to joy.

selene

family reunion

Hobbits Are For Real And Life Is Magical: My Surprising Travels To D.C.

I walked the hallowed halls of many historical buildings and through the landscapes of iconic, American monuments.

There were enormous statues, obelisks and parks dedicated to the history of our young nation. I explored museums and culture and something came alive in me that I did not yet know existed.

I had never been to Washington D.C. so how could I know it was the entrance to another existence? Moment by moment I felt intrinsically changed.

hobbit
Isn’t she fantastic!

One such moment came at my personal discovery of the species named homo floresiensis, better nicknamed, Hobbits. These little people who walked the earth some twelve-plus thousand years ago grabbed my attention just a few days ago and they won’t let go.

It is my habit upon discovering something delightful to my sensibility to continue down the rabbit hole of the world and find more things about that.

Upon returning home I discovered our tiny, remote relations are controversial, as any good hobbit should be. They are controversial and some people think they were an anomaly, while others believe they are connected in our “folk memory” to mythological creatures called Ebu Gogo.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I’m undone. I mean truly. Last Thursday as we taxied down the runway I had no idea at all that these were things. Hobbits and folk memory and Ebu Gogo (Which, by the way, means “grandmother who eats anything.” I mean, can you get enough of this stuff???).

My trip to the Capitol surprised me in its delights. Really. I didn’t know I would love it so much. So as we boarded our flight out of Dulles Airport a part of me mourned that it was over. All that discovery. All the sights and sounds and energy I’d never known before.

I’m not much for suffering and so while I simultaneously allowed myself a bit of sadness over the end of a delightful adventure, I wondered at what made me feel so alive, and, more importantly, how I might keep that feeling with me upon my return to home and family and all that is familiar to me.

It is then that I realized what made me come alive wasn’t only all that is wonderful about that particular destination, but it was the learning and discovery. It was seeing things in a new way and learning things about which I knew nothing before.

Correct me if I’m wrong, and I’m really not, but wherever we are, whether traveling or sitting at home on the couch that is intimately familiar to us, there is always something to discover. There are rabbit holes to explore every single moment of every single day. It’s just that kind of limitless world at our fingertips. Boredom, my friends, is the final frontier.

Granted, it’s not every day we discover hobbits actually roamed the earth and not every day we learn about folk memory or grandmothers who eat everything. But I like to think that there are discoveries just as important available to us every day if only we’re willing to look for them.

Isn’t life grand?

The Value Of Your Soul As Decided By Your Laundry

It took me more than 25 years to clean my laundry room. Give or take. It began with my first child and, fittingly, now that my last is the only one living with us, I seem to be getting a handle on it.

At first the trouble was that I was a new mom. That morphed into mom with babies and small children and then busy schedules and finally to a laundry room that’s really big and too much clothing.

The most recent difficulty was that there were stacks and stacks of clothes on the counter and much of it I couldn’t figure out whose it was nor if they still wanted it. This was perhaps the worst laundry room torture of all.

Finally I had the time to clean the room but couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the clothes. I’m serious. It was torture.

Weeks ago I began the last, and hopefully final, odyssey into the laundry room. All much children were at least in close proximity to the house so I could ask them to go through the clothes to decide what was theirs and what was wanted.

This was a pretty big failure as not one of them cared about me and my need to have a laundry room that didn’t qualify for an episode of Hoarders (a truly disturbing reality show that should be banned, or at least cleaned out).

laundry-pileI abandoned my effort out of frustration and, let’s be honest, disinterest, and went to the beach for a month instead. Going to the beach is more fun than cleaning out my laundry room.

We’ve been back for a couple of weeks and the half filled bags for Goodwill taunted me and goaded me into finally taking the plunge and getting rid of the detritus that haunts my laundry room. Today I took 6 bags to be donated and my laundry room, while not magazine ready, is clean and organized with nary a stray sock to be found.

It’s taken me 25+ years to get my laundry room clean. Twenty-five long years. But I suppose the only thing I regret in those 25 years is all the anxiety it caused me. You see, if I am judged only by the content of my character, no one gives a damn about the cleanliness of my laundry room.

We worry too much about things that don’t matter. We wonder about “worthiness” and our value in this world. The fact that we even exist is nothing short of miraculous. We are all on our paths and our value is inherent.

It feels good to have a project completed. Hopefully for the last time. But it feels good to know that it never really mattered, that it’s all just a part of the journey.