The List: An Update

I’m only two days into working The List, but I’m already aware of benefits. What I have learned, or perhaps remembered, is if my mind and body are not disciplined, then I tend to obsess over circumstances that I cannot affect or control. Since the pursuits and activities on The List are goals I wish to accomplish, then even small successes create happiness. It seems a small accomplishment, indeed, to have mowed the yard, but having done so makes me happy.

I know next to nothing about psychotherapy, but I think training the mind to focus on that which makes one happy is a big part of it.

I have learned (or, actually, remembered) that happiness is often a choice I make.

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The List

I have a list of wants and needs that swirl around in my head and I’m determined to either address them in earnest or cross them off and let them go. I’m convinced that allowing the items to occupy space and energy in my mind without doing anything about them is negatively affecting my mental health by causing anxiety and even depression.

My plan is to post the beginnings of the list here and come back to it, adding to it if I need to. I can already tell that I will need to. It will take honest reflection and untapped courage to admit these desires to myself and to confess them to persons who might read what I reveal. From the list, I will break out entries and record my progress in unique posts, giving myself a means of accountability and a way to measure success or failure.

One more thing before the list: I remember the original intent of this blog—the plea, the demand, the awareness of the presence of grace. For ’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead this list.

  • Achieve financial security
  • Walk Gracie every morning
  • Practice yoga daily
  • Read daily
  • Write daily
  • Get rid of junk and clutter in my home
  • Get rid of junk and clutter as it applies to the way I use my time
  • Plan a vacation in another state or country
  • Intentionally maintain and grow relationships
  • Garden

Why Is Madonna Making Me Cry?

I mean, she’s good. I remember thinking when I first heard the album that she sounded richer, fuller, and the music was much more diverse and interesting compared to her previous pop offerings. But I’m not a music critic. The quality of the work isn’t what’s making me cry.

I have a friend who would say, “You’re in your feelin’s.”

On this lazy Sunday morning, I’ve got the time, so I’m going to take the time to figure out why I’m in my feelings, even if I have to put Ray of Light on repeat.

The album was released in America in March of 1998. Ruth was 1 1/2 years old. That makes Ben 3 1/2 and Sam 4 months shy of 6.

Those mathematical calculations may be completely off. I have always been terrible with dates and with nailing down the events associated with them. I rely on the kindness of others to correct me and set me straight. But if I’m right, in March of 1998 I was in the throes–IN THE THROES–of wrestling with my sexuality. I was living in fear, and I was scared to death. I was also excited at the prospect of joy.

Unpacking all of that is something for another post (or perhaps a book). But within it lies the answer to why Madonna is making me cry. 20 years later I feel the same way: I’m still afraid, and I’m still exited at the prospect of joy.

If I’m alive, I expect that 20 years from now I will still feel the same. The key is for there to be more joy than fear. When I compare now with 20 years ago, I can say with conviction and gratitude that there’s more joy than fear. While present fear brought to light by Madonna this morning may be the source of my tears, there’s also a healthy dose of joyful gratitude mixed in.

Nothing takes the past away
Like the future
Nothing makes the darkness go
Like the light
You’re shelter from the storm
Give me comfort in your arms
Nothing really matters
Love is all we need
Everything I give you
All comes back to me

–Madonna, “Nothing Really Matters”

Happy New Year

Hi, y’all. I’m still here! It is the last day of the year and I’m taking stock, as is customary.

Except I’m NOT! I’ve done that before and I’m not convinced year-end evaluations are the healthiest of activities. Specifically, how does retrospection mesh with living in the now?

I have two friends (not the same friends described below) who challenge me to live in the now, sometimes with patience and sometimes with exasperation. I confess I find it difficult.

How about, in lieu of an end-of-year evaluation, I describe what is happening right now?

Let me begin:

“The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel just queued up from a playlist of similar songs. My mood is mellow and enhanced by a fourth-day dose of steroids intended to relieve the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection.

I sit comfortably at a kitchen table sipping my second cup of coffee. I’m full after having eaten a breakfast of two fried eggs, a biscuit with sausage gravy, bacon, and pan-braised Brussel spouts. The table belongs to a friend/lover. His friend/lover is in the other room (also my friend)—and now I hesitate as I struggle to describe not the people themselves but my relationship to them. Why the hesitation? Perhaps I’ll reemphasize how I started this paragraph and restate: I sit comfortably ….

My friend smiles and I interpret it as a question: What are you doing? I read aloud what I’ve written and the conversation between the three of us quickly deepens, touching on topics such as truth, honesty, tmi, perceptions, and, most importantly, the definition and pursuit of happiness.

I write this post via my phone and for a considerable amount of time I stare at the screen, searching for the point. I think the point for now is: comfort and happiness intersect. Right now—in this moment—I am deeply comfortable; right now—in this moment—I am deeply happy.

Happy New Year.

10 Things That Happen in Your 50s

  1. You wake up at the same time every morning no matter what time you went to bed and no matter what you have planned for the day. 
  2. Your skin loses its elasticity. Under your chin, above and around your eyes, the creases of your elbows, the sides around your stomach, your butt, your ankles.
  3. You care more about some things, and care less about others. 
  4. Your happiness increases, or your bitterness does. 
  5. You have to find this middle ground regarding clothes. You don’t want to get stuck wearing what you wore when you were in your 20s, but wearing what 20-year-olds wear now makes you look like you’re trying too hard. The same thing applies to how you cut your hair. 
  6. You spend more time in doctors’ offices. 
  7. You begin to look at material processions differently. 
  8. You have to form new relationships with your adult children if you have them. 
  9. You lose track of how many mid-life crisises you’ve had,  and you realize the words “mid-life” no longer apply. 
  10. You write about being in your 50s. 

Dear 2017

Dear 2017,

Welcome to the world! It is a marvelous time to be alive.You’re going to love it! Your siblings gave us all the time we needed to resolve our issues. 

We finally realized that possessions offered little long-lasting happiness. We saw that there were those among us who lived in excessive abundance while others could not meet their basic human needs. So we pulled way back from the failed experiment called capitalism and started sharing the resources meant for us all. This did wonders to help heal the earth, an additional benefit! 

When we stopped being so concerned about money, we had time to focus on relationships. We stopped thinking that people who are different are also less-than. Not long after that we came to understand that the differences between us were interesting and beautiful. We started listening to and learning from each other. Hearing one another, we confessed that some of us were:

racist, 
misogynistic, 
homophobic, 
transphobic, 
ageist, 
nationalistic.

Those of us with power equated that power with privilege. But we found a way to overcome that evil for everyone’s sake.

How? How did we do it? How did we let go of hate and fear? We started to love on purpose. We loved intentionally. We loved without judgment. We loved without condition. We loved without expecting anything in return. We loved freely and we loved often. 

2017, we are far from perfect. But we believe that every time we choose love we experience a moment of perfection. Loving is a joy! Our hope is that your arrival will bring with it unimagined opportunities to love and that we will choose love over and over again. 

2017, welcome to the world! You’re going to love it. 

Be love,
Ann

Sister Ann Wenita Morelove
The Valentine Nun

Of Dryers, Nests, and Falls

The husband complained that our dryer wasn’t doing the job and we’d need to buy a new one. “No way!” I thought. Our dryer is magical. It’s sixteen years old and has dried clothes for four children and two adults most of those years. There’s no reason for it to quit working now. “Let me take a look at it,” I replied.

I often find the lent trap filled to capacity, so I looked there first. To my surprise, it was empty. That post-it note I stuck above the controls that read, “Empty after every load” must have had its intended effect.

Not one to give up easily, I went out to the side of the house to check the vent on the outer wall. It’s on the second floor of the house, but I could see bits of dried grass and twings sticking out of it. “Aha!” Air flow. Maleficent winged creatures turned squatters had taken up residence in a spot that I would have thought was too hot for breeding.

I borrowed a friend’s ladder to pull out the nest. I didn’t set the ladder correctly on the ground, failing to extend its four legs beside the wall as I should. Instead, I leaned the ladder against the wall. When I pulled at the vent cover I lost my balance.

I knew in an instant I was going to fall. But in that instant I thought many things. I can’t get my legs under me in time to avoid twisting an ankle. I can’t break my fall with my arm for fear of also breaking my wrist. Hold your head up as you hit the ground our you’re going to get really hurt. Don’t land on your tailbone; those things are fragile. No, don’t grab for the ladder; it will only fall on top of you.

Somehow I managed to twist so I landed on my left buttocks cheek. I was OK. The vent cover was in my hand.

While successful, I thought, “This is how fifty-one-year-old men break a hip.”

I got up and climbed back up the ladder. I pulled about three feet of house finch nest out of that dryer vent. I imagine it was some sixteen years worth. Were they raising chicks all year round, having found a heated habitat even in the cold of winter?

It’s a wonder the plugged dryer vent hadn’t caught fire and burned down the house.

A week later, I checked the outside vent again. Yep. New nesting sticking out. The vent cover wasn’t closing properly, allowing the birds access. I’m smarter, or at least more stubborn, than these birds. On my way home from work, I stopped at Home Depot for a new cover.

Of course, I didn’t have the cover with me and there were multiple choices. A Home Depot employee saw me pondering in the aisle and asked if he could help me. I explained the situation, as if the story of the bird nest in the dryer vent would help us determine what replacement cover I would need.

“I had the same problem several years ago. Do you have access to an old pair of pantyhose?”

I instantly saw where he was going with this, and I was grateful. I nodded and said, “I bet I can find some.” Somehow I managed to keep a straight face and not tell him about Sister Ann Wenita Morelove, who owns plenty of drug store knee-highs. She’s a frugal one, that Sister Ann.

And so am I. I now have an old, fully functional dryer and an original, though malfunctioning, vent cover, improved with a repurposed knee-high in charcoal gray.

Hopefully the house finches have found another place to live. Part of me expects to look out at the feeder soon to see them sporting tiny knee-highs on their tiny legs, looking fabulous.