Family Gardening Goal setting Moms Perspective Problem Solving Relationships

Flower Child

In reviewing my blog page recently, I noticed it’s been almost a year since I last posted. Does that mean I didn’t write any? Not at all. I have many in the works but what seems to happen is that I complete 50% of the blog post, not sure I love it…79% of a blog, want to finish strong…92% percent of a blog, still, I might want to do some edits. I have many ideas and yet 2020 clouded my mind and, in some ways, diminished my joy in writing. Will what I have to say be important? Will my readers wonder if I am living in a bubble and have missed all the chaos of the year? Or will I just dislike the content of my own thoughts?

2020 invited me to do something different, less stressful than writing and yet creative and so I decided to create an Instagram page (@merrietherapy) where I would position my wooden unisex people into amusing thoughtful poses with tips that might inspire, increase coping, or add a spark of joy to someone’s day. At least that was my goal. I have to say I enjoyed this project and generated 100 different tips during the calendar year. My favorite one is the picture in this blog. Interestingly, I took this picture at my mother’s home. Her small, compact flower beds were, in fact, designed by me with flowers from my own perennial collection.

My mother (I call her “Mom”) is 82 years old and long past gardening. In fact, she has Meniere’s disease and can’t perform the ritual of bending and stooping which is so lovingly necessary to garden. So, I have worked in her flower beds from time to time trying to give her something lovely to look at as she leaves for, at this time of COVID-19, doctors’ appointments only. At any rate, I am a fan of the English garden and the seemingly uncoordinated and random look, with a variety of colors. 2020 saw the black-eye Susans take over one area of Mom’s flowerbed. So lovely.

It is true that one person’s idea of beauty is not necessarily another’s. It turns out that my mom does not like black-eyed Susans. When I mentioned how lovely they were this year, Mom said “I don’t like them, they look too wild.” Cue: stunned silence. No, she was not aware of my award-winning photograph and how I had proudly posted it on my Instagram page. “Mom, do you not get the English garden look?” I wanted to inquire, but I instead I only said, “I really like them,” to which she reminded me of her dislike.

Families can be hard. Moms too. I mentally resolved to redesign her flower beds, along with my life and my blogs. New goals, you get the idea. I made a plan which included moving many of the perennial plants back to my wild English garden. As it turns out, my black-eyed Susans had all but died out, so this, I thought to myself, “it will all work out fine.” I also decided I would find Mom some plants and flowers she would enjoy. I am not sure if I mentioned that, in my lifetime, my mother has never been a gardener or planted a single flower that I have known about, but she does enjoy nature.

It should be noted that I am not always in the habit of exploring my thoughts aloud with others, and I tend to strategize in my mind before I roll out a new plan, in this case, the plan about Mom’s garden as stated above. So, just as everyone in 2020 was doing, I was busy with many things including my work as a therapist. No, I hadn’t forgotten about the black-eyed Susans, I had just left them for another day.

I sometimes underestimate my mom. I went to see her a few days after our initial conversation about her garden. It seems she has become a gardener after all! She decided to sit in a chair with a pair of scissors and cut all the flower heads off of the black-eyed Susans…well, at least the ones she could reach. This looks like a very bad haircut. But there is also something amusing about it too. Perhaps she didn’t think I was listening to her. She seemed pretty proud to tell me, “I told you I didn’t like those. I trimmed them myself!” Good on you, Mom!

What is the moral of this story? People are different. As it turns out, I really like black-eyed Susans all crowded together and reaching for the sun with their ever-cheerful dispositions. My mom, on the other hand, does not like them. They feel too random and disorganized in her garden, and most likely in her mind as well. Things don’t have to be perfect, and that is really OK! Even though it could probably be better, I think I will actually post this blog. It’s about my real life, and what could be wrong with that?

Goal setting Intention Perspective

10 Ways to Live with Intention

In a world where we spend most of our time making a living and juggling our basic needs, sometimes we get stuck on auto-pilot, going about our daily lives, and miss opportunities to live with intention.  To enhance feelings of connectedness, joy, and accomplishment, consider these 10 ideas: 

“Do the hardest thing first” to increase feelings of accomplishment. We tend to procrastinate on the hard stuff. This can ultimately leave with us feelings of dread. By doing the hardest thing first, we create a space to feel good about ourselves, and other tasks become easier and feel less burdensome. Try it and see!

Make a decision” to do something instead of staying stuck. Procrastinators often struggle with this and end up not accomplishing necessary tasks. This can lead to negative emotions. Even if our decision needs to be revised later, just making a decision and taking a small action creates momentum in your life.

Acting as if” is a skill that can affect self-esteem in a positive way because instead of ruminating on negative thoughts, we improve brain chemistry. Instead of worrying (“Can I do this?”), act as if you can do it, then at least try. See if the outcome isn’t more positive. You might surprise yourself!

“Make a to-do list and start at the bottom.” Just mix it up. Sometimes our brain needs that!

“Do something for another person.” Getting out of our own head and seeing the needs of others can help us to find more balance and gratitude in our life.

“Make gratitude lists.”  Every day. It’s easy to forget who and what we are grateful for in our lives. Gratitude generates positive emotions that act as a buffer for depression.

“Send a thank you card.” Or any kind of card. Who hasn’t gotten a card from the mail and been especially delighted? Studies show that written communication has a powerful effect on the brain. We feel better because someone cares.

“Asking for help” can be hard but everyone needs help at some time or another. While the answer may not always be yes, when we can enlist the help of others, we feel cared for, problems get solved, and burdens are lifted.

“Create a budget.”  Having command of our finances gives us a sense of competency and creates order and structure in our lives. 

“Organize a space in your home.” This idea has taken on more meaning since Marie Kondo showed us how to rid ourselves of things that do not “spark joy” in our lives. Really, we feel more in control of our lives when we can find our stuff.

Perception Perspective Point of View

“Perhaps the Truth Depends on a Walk Around the Lake”

Lake View

I first read the words of Wallace Stevens, quoted in the title of this article, in 2012 and they gave me pause. Was he being literal or metaphorical? Was he encouraging a journey through our minds or a literal walk around a lake?  Either way, his words are thought provoking. Imagining a walk around the lake, we would see things differently, a different landscape as it were. We would get space from our original starting point or initial thoughts. We might see something or hear something that changes us or changes our mind. We would have time to think our thoughts in a peaceful environment or perhaps enjoy being distracted by new surroundings. Instead of looking down, we might look up. We might experience a change of perspective.

Perspective is the difference between a positive attitude and a negative one.  It is our point of view on life. Is the glass half full or half empty? Perspective is also the difference in being an optimist or a pessimist.  We are influenced by things all around us and by taking a moment for reflection, we may experience life lessons that can challenge and change us. Since life itself can change our perspective, we can use these experiences to assist our own growth and change how we view ourselves and the world.

Author Stephen R. Covey stated “to change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” Today we have a constant stream of information coming at us. We are changed by new experiences and significant life events.  New ideas can change our perspective and sometimes it comes in the form of friends, family, or even strangers. For me, observing nature and our universe creates new perspectives.  

I can change my perceptions with formal education, life education, spiritual education, and even by what some refer to as the “school of hard knocks.” I may tell myself that I cannot cook, yet I can have a change of perspective by learning the skills necessary to do so. In time, I might become, not just a good cook, but a gourmet chef.

I can try something new by resolving to do so and creating a plan of action. I might need help. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask. I often tell clients that if we don’t ask, the answer is always no.

A conversation with a trusted friend or a spiritual mentor may open a window of thought that changes the interior of our soul. We may walk away from the conversation much richer, ‘I understand myself much more deeply than I did before; I understand you in a way I did not before and now you make sense to me; this makes sense; I make sense.’ 

Witnessing someone accomplish great things or go through hard times changes our perspective. We may see that hard work pays off, or that sometimes even the best efforts do not result in the intended reward. Even as we experience disappointments or other negative things, we can work towards choosing a more positive perspective. This builds resiliency.  

An unexpected life experience can challenge previously-held ideas and create more compassion for others. I often think of the support I received from family and friends when I had a critically ill son.  Until that time in my life, I never understood how much it means to go to the hospital and see the people we care about. My friends showed up for me in so many ways. They checked on me and my family, brought food to the hospital, offered prayers and consolation, and they sat in the waiting room, just in case I might need them. This changed everything I ever knew about caring for someone. That was 30 years ago and I learned that it matters so much to show up.  Even if we are saying to ourselves “What can I really do?” – Just show up. 

When I look at the stars in the night sky and I see order and constancy, my problems don’t seem as large. When I see and hear the power of the ocean, I feel both wonder and awe. When I am driving home from work and I witness the unparalleled beauty of an Oklahoma sunset, I am delighted, and for a moment I have no issues too large. In effect, I experience a change of perspective as I purposely choose to observe something bigger than myself.  

We are all changed by the experiences of our daily life. Can we challenge ourselves to use these experiences to create a positive view of life, of the gifts we receive, and especially the gifts we never saw coming, some of which are borne through our pain? Our happiness is linked to how we view the events in our life, our perspective.  Can we see that there are so many lessons to be learned? Is it possible that “a walk around the lake” can create an opening to change our perspective and live a more meaningful life?

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” – Aldous Huxley