Bigger pictures, less words…the restful feeling of dusk now thrums through this thoughtful Tuesday post much more clearly. Click and enjoy, even if it’s not dusk where you are yet!
Even if you live in the city and rarely see a tree, you’ll still enjoy today’s redone post–take a few minutes and indulge your inner nature-lover!
I’ve got a lovely (pun intended) post for you today–an uplifting post about how love changes us, always for the better. This was a sweet post to write and revise, and I hope it will bring some brightness to your day as well. 🙂
I completely redid this thoughtful post about experiencing life for today’s Redo Post. As in, I completely reshaped and rewrote most of it. It’s about 500% better, in my opinion–but check it out for yourself and see what you think!
Just in time for spring to roll around again, here’s a simple, beautifully restyled/reworded spring post from 2011! Enjoy the new pictures and more poetic descriptions… 🙂
A huge toybox sat in the 3-to-5-year-old Sunday school room, stuffed to the gills with an assortment of donated toys. Our church was small and funding for toys was rather low on the list, so a good number of the toys were either missing pieces or broken. Us kids were pretty rough on ’em.
Most of the kids in my Sunday school class gravitated toward the new and shiny toys, the freshly-donated toys whose stickers hadn’t worn off, whose colors were still bright and whose plastic pieces were unscratched. In typical childlike behavior, those were the toys that got played with the most; the ones missing pieces, the ones whose joints had fallen apart and whose screws poked out, were buried in the toy coffin–I mean, the toybox.
Mine were the only little hands to delve into that graveyard of toys and dig out the broken ones.
Every Sunday I found a new “project” to work on, every time our teacher was finished with the Bible lesson and let us play a little while. One Sunday it was a jointed doll whose leg had fallen off; I found the doll’s leg stuffed inside a jack-in-the-box, and reattached it by the end of Sunday School that day. Another Sunday it was a cardboard religious puzzle set, with one piece torn in half. With a few strips of tape on the back, I fixed the torn piece so that I could put the whole picture together again.
Being such a bringer of chaos as I was then (I could un-straighten a room in 5 seconds, given a free moment with an open toybox), this was inexplicable, that I should want to fix broken toys rather than play with shiny new ones. But I followed the same practice at home, fixing up the toys I accidentally broke in too-zealous play, even if they sometimes ended up in a wad of scotch tape or rubber bands. I just hated the sight of a broken toy–it made me horribly sad, even at a young age.
I don’t really know why I have always been drawn to broken toys, and drawn to fix them in particular. After all, I’m not much of a handywoman, nor do I own a set of tools. My fixes weren’t always the most professional-looking, either. (LOL) Maybe it’s because a broken toy feels like a visual representation of lost childhood, lost innocence, broken childlike trust. Something twists, in emotional pain, when I see a broken toy, and I long to fix it so that everything is “right” again. Seeing a fixed toy, seeing it work like it’s supposed to again, always made me irrepressibly happy–I’d usually jump around and do some kind of happydance when everything was “back to normal” again.
Fixing the Broken World: Too Idealistic, or Someday Possible?
These days, I wish the world could be fixed with such simple implements as tape, rubber bands, and glue. It makes me just as sad to see others arrayed against each other in violence and hatred, leaving broken humans in their wake. Since I was a child, I’ve often thought of playing my music and reading my writing to the world, to help put back together what has been shattered so often. People have told me that my writing and music brings peace to them, and it certainly has brought that to me over the years as I created it.
It would be wonderful if the same art that has lifted me up and kept me going could someday keep others going, too; it wouldn’t be just an ego boost, but a true life’s purpose for me. Who knows, maybe the idle dream of making everybody feel better through my writing and music is too childlike, best left with the Barbies and Legos. But perhaps I’m still in the business of fixing broken toys–maybe I’m just aiming for slightly bigger toys, now.
It was just after 2:00 pm, which meant that the interior of my car was more like the surface of the sun as I sat in traffic, waiting for one of Shelby’s many stoplights to deign to let me pass. But this particular stoplight seemingly had a grudge against me today. Literal minutes were ticking by, it was hot as all get out, and I had somewhere to be. The discontented stream of grumbling in my head was quickly building to a fever pitch.
And then, I saw it: a butterfly, its wings patterned in brilliant blue and silky black, flitting among the cars gathered at the stoplight. It hovered and darted among hoods and roofs shimmering like metal carapaces, flying as if it were searching for something to light on. After a few more seconds, it came closer, and finally lit on my windshield, right in my line of sight.
I expected it to take off again right away, but instead, it was almost preternaturally still, except for its little antennae waving about as if trying to get my attention. How delicate its wings were, fragile and almost translucent…I studied it for a moment or two more, wondering how it was staying so still, and why.
The light up ahead finally turned green at last, but it seemed the butterfly knew to lift off the windshield even before I lifted my foot from the brake; I watched it hover just above the glass, as if it was trying to keep my attention. All too soon, though, I had to advance forward, leaving the butterfly behind, hopefully avoiding the tide of traffic behind me.
Driving on through the intersection, blessedly moving at last, I wasn’t quite so grumbly anymore. The butterfly’s moments of stillness, as it balanced daintily on the windshield, had reminded me that sometimes it was okay to be still, when moving too fast could endanger you. Maybe I didn’t need to worry about rushing ahead to make up time; maybe I would be better off not to drive as if the gas pedal were an enemy to stomp into the ground.
Now, I know that butterflies in the late spring are not uncommon, certainly, but allowing myself to be still a moment and ponder such a tiny, delicate creature was uncommon for me. I’m not known for being still, or quiet, or content…and yet, in those very few moments, I was perfectly content being all of those things, merely looking at a butterfly. How much calmer would I be, if I allowed myself more of those moments? …Come to think of it, how much calmer would we all be?
I like to think that sometimes God uses the littlest of creatures to remind us of huge essential truths, like the importance of just being still. What do you think?
After nearly 10 months of doing Zumba classes, I have noticed a definite body change for the better. ^o^
I can FEEL the difference in my body, even though the mean ole scale tells me that I’ve only lost 7 pounds (currently weighing in around 290 pounds instead of 297-298). Despite being faced with a number I still don’t like–a number I’ve been socially PROGRAMMED not to like–I am happy with the results of my exercise routine thus far.
How Much Better AM I Doing?
- I can walk up a set of stairs in several seconds, bouncing from foot to foot easily instead of clomping up one painful step at a time
- There are two or three INCHES of room in the waistbands of most of my lower-body clothing (pants, shorts, skirts, and even underwear)
- I don’t get quite as winded and wheezy when I move around
- I can come down a set of stairs without having to cling desperately to the railing for balance
- My left ankle doesn’t seem to turn over as easily, leading to less accidental twists
- My waist is much more defined than it used to be
- When I exercise, my heart gets into an “elevated but not overworked” pace, instead of going straight from “resting” heart rate to “OMG I’M BUSTING OUT OF YOUR CHEST LOL”
Not only are people noticing a difference in my looks, but I’m noticing a difference in the way my body functions and feels. I don’t feel quite as heavy and tired as I used to, even though I still look like an uncoordinated duck during most of the Zumba exercises. And even though I still wheeze a little during much of the class, I find that some of the moves that were impossible for me in June 2011 are now attainable and even fun.
Actually Seeing the Inches Lost, in Clothes
The clothing difference has been the most astonishing, for me. I’ve been used to squeezing my body into clothes, dancing and shaking myself into pants rather than just slipping them on (you know the “pants dance,” don’t lie :P). I’ve also been used to the unique pain and suffering brought on by a belly constrained too much by an unforgiving button and zipper.
Imagine, then, what I felt this past Christmas, when I easily put on a dress that had been too small in 2010. Where before the zipper would not even go up my back all the way, now the dress hung off me in becoming folds of fabric, especially around the waist. That was a measurable success–I remember crying in 2010 when I had brought out the dress to wear, only to find that I couldn’t even zip it up all the way. This Christmas, I wore it with pride.
I also have been getting back into other clothes, clothes I haven’t worn since late high school/early college (~2003/2004). I had retired a pair of jeans for being simply too small right after I went to college–the “freshman 15” was more like the “freshman 45” in my case–and in shame, I had packed them away in the laundry room. Upon discovering them in the laundry room about a month ago, I tried them on, more as a private joke to myself than anything. And they FIT. It wasn’t an “almost-kinda-sorta” squeeze-fit, either–they buttoned and zipped comfortably. :O What happened? Zumba happened. Moreover, a lifestyle change happened.
Why the Number of Pounds Does Not Matter
I purposely did not look at a scale for the first seven months I did Zumba, because I didn’t want to be disheartened. I, like most of the women in my extended family, have a very hard time losing pounds, and I refused to be a slave of the scale number. Instead, I focused on inches lost (currently, I have lost HALF A FOOT around my waist alone!), as well as body feeling. Only when I went to the doctor in early January and had to be weighed did I look at the scale.
I have to admit, I was disappointed at the small number of pounds lost. I’d never make it on “The Biggest Loser”, I know that. But my doctor was impressed with my heart rate; knowing the family history of heart attacks, he was worried that my fast and light pulse signaled problems down the road for me. Now, my heart beats slower but stronger–a healthier heart rate. He could also tell a difference in the way I was walking (not so gingerly and carefully anymore), because my left ankle is getting stronger. I count those two improvements as much more important than subtracting 10 from my scale number.
As much as I’ve worked to even get to 290 pounds, this number is not going to torment me. I know the difference in my body, and I know I’m doing better physically than I was before. I’m toning up, I’m losing inches, and I’m feeling better than I have in years, probably since before I became a “fat girl” in 1996.
So I’m not going to worry that my weight doesn’t match some magical number according to my age, height, socioeconomic status, etc. As long as I continue to feel and function better in my everyday life, I know that it’s a positive lifestyle change. Maybe if all us girls started focusing on how our bodies feel rather than how they look, we might just forget all this super-skinny-fashion mess…well, a girl can dream, can’t she?
My creative musical life has gotten a huge boost very recently–in fact, “Monday of this week” recently! Thus, the following blog post is in honor of it. And if you’re experiencing a slump in your own creativity, I urge you to read this for advice that really helped me get back my creative groove.
Before Monday: I Haz a Musical Sad
It seemed that I was no longer interested in composing music, as I once had been. I had been used to writing tons of piano solos and piano/vocal music every year (at least 15 every year); in recent months, however, it felt like years since I had even sat down to compose. Once, I had done performances for other people, but even those were rare. It was like the desire for my own music had been drained from me, replaced by performing others’ music, as well as not having a ton of time anymore to muse at the keyboard.
I mourned this loss, and it made me downright unsure of my creativity in music anymore. I wondered, “Do I even have “it” anymore, the gift of writing beautiful music? Or has it all been replaced with ‘everyday life’ and random stuff?” Not only that, I feared I had lost the capacity to write beautiful melodies, and had also lost the time to just sit at the keyboard and expand upon them.
Then, I Got Mad
On Sunday, I realized all this. My first instinct was to wallow about in my sadness, and I started to draft a Saturday with the Spark post about “losing my musical mojo” or something like that.
And then, I stopped about halfway through. “Why am I LETTING this happen to my music?” I thought, staring at my writing. I was starting to get ticked off. “What is all this stuff about ‘I used to be good at music?’ Dangit, I want to be good AGAIN. And I can be–it’s just there’s all this CRAP in the way!”
Getting Rid of the Aforementioned “Crap”
So, in a fit of drivenness rather than rage, I systematically removed all the obstacles towards practicing music. Since my keyboard is currently set up in our finished basement, there were a LOT of physical obstacles in the way. I replaced the cold, creaky, too-short keyboard chair with another; I moved the pile of junk that sat boldly in the path to the keyboard; with Dad’s help, we fixed a light on the basement stairs to make it easier (and safer) to go down.
But that still didn’t remove all the mental obstacles. I had a lot of fear about whether I still had “it,” whether I could still write beautiful music. That, I left ’til Monday, and rested the rest of the night.
The next day, I spent most of the day writing, kindasorta avoiding the melody (and part of a little song) that had been twisting and twining between my brain cells for the last month and a half. At last, about 6:00 Monday evening, I set aside what I was writing, and began to fix up the song’s lyrics properly so that they matched the melody–what I had roughed together was okay, but it wasn’t the best.
About 10 minutes later, I took computer and all down to the keyboard, and set up the screen so I could see it from the keyboard. Then, I began to play and sing the song…
And Then, I Haz a Glad
…and it was magic. The song slid from my fingers easily, and I maneuvered the vocal melody just as easily as if I’d been practicing it for days (which, in a way, mentally, I had been). Not only was it prettier than I had imagined, but it was easy to sing, was honest, and…it was good. Much better than I had expected from myself after months of not doing this.
I had been so long out of practice that I had been afraid to try anymore. But I was pleasantly surprised–and very, very happy. I wept at the keyboard–it was like a long-lost friend had finally come home.
Have You Lost “Mojo” for Anything Creative Lately?
(Pardon the Austin Powers reference 😛 ) If you’ve lost the ability or time to be creative due to too much work, illness, etc., then you know the sense of emptiness and loss I was feeling. It really took me getting mad about it and getting fired up enough to change what had been happening, and I think that’s what it takes for any change like this to come about. You have to be dissatisfied with how it’s been going, and know what to change to make it better.
One key, as I found, is to remove all the obstacles towards being creative. If you feel at a loss for writing because you have no space to work, for instance, make a space to work. It might be at a kitchen table or counter, or it might be a cheap folding table in the corner, but make a place for your creativity. For me, the junk pile, the lack of light, and the too-short chair made it easy to make excuses…they had to be changed.
Another key is to make time to be creative. If you allow no time for creative activity, it won’t just happen on its own. If you keep yourself busy, don’t leave the Internet behind for a few hours, or don’t carve out even a teeny bit of time in your commute to just think out a couple of ideas, it won’t happen. I had to leave the Internet behind on Monday afternoon, just long enough that I could draft and play my song…and it was WORTH IT! 😀
The last key? Trust your ability. If you could do it before, you can do it again. You might be a touch out of practice, you might feel a little differently about the process, but if you expel all the doubt and fear from your system, you’ll do fine. At least, that’s what I found out.
I am generally happy with the course of my life thus far, though I might not seem like it in most of my Tuesday on the Soapbox posts.
Dealing with The Negatives
By most people’s standards, my life is definitely not perfect. I’m overweight, and I don’t have a lot of friends I routinely visit, nor too much nightlife going on. I don’t have a paying job, and my parents and I all suffer crippling ill health–arthritis, severe headaches, and old, unhealed injuries run rampant, forcing us all to be more bedridden than we should be. This leaves our house in a shameful state most of the time. (There are rooms in my house which I haven’t been able to walk into in literal years. Yes. OCD hoarding + family illness = housekeeping? What’s that?)
Celebrating the Positives
But I do have a lot to be thankful for. Quite a lot, in fact. I have a stable roof over my head and enough food to eat every day. I have a wonderful, loving, supportive boyfriend of several years; he and his family are awesome. Both my parents are still living–I can depend on them for advice and love, and I can also reciprocate the care for them that they lavished on me in my growing-up years. I have a great church family that accepts and loves me, and has helped me to grow more spiritually in the last 4 years than I did in the first 23. Plus, I have the free time to do a lot of creative projects, like this blog, that help others, even if I’m not getting paid for any of it. There’s a great emotional benefit to doing something that others enjoy, and while it’s not a paycheck, it fulfills a creative need in me.
Perfect Lives =/= Happiness
Many times we get wrapped up in how terrible our lives are when we start looking at the negatives of our lives, all the things that shouldn’t be happening to us but are, all the illness and emotional garbage, all the family and friend drama, not to mention workplace drama and unfairness. We get all torn up about our lives’ quality, wishing for the financial, romantic, and familial perfection we see pictured in movies and television.
I am not immune to that, any more than anybody else. I will say, personally, that it’s very easy, especially in the darkness of the wee hours of morning, to get depressed over the circumstances of my life, homebound and job-frustrated as I am.
But I am CONTENT. I am not living a perfect life, an ideal life. There are conditions I’m dealing with that I wish I didn’t have to. I wish I could walk without pain, and I wish I had a job, for instance. But I am blessed to have the talents I have, and the amount of love that pours into my life from others helps to drown these relatively small pains. There are people in the world who would covet my life as it is now; the best thing I can do is to praise God for all the blessings He’s shown me, and give others an opportunity for similar blessings through outreach work and giving as I am able.
Though there’s a lot of junk in my life, literally and figuratively, the positives of my life balance the negatives. I am not living an idealized life, but I am much better off than I could be. Realizing that I am much more blessed than I even imagine can, in itself, lift me up. Knowing that I can help others because I am blessed lifts me up, too.
A Challenge for You
I challenge my readers (all 10 of you, lol) to think of three areas of your life which are going well. For me, my church life, my relationships, and my creative life are all going very well. The areas of your life can be big or small, but think of three. Write them down so you remember them, and look back at the list when you are feeling terrible.
Trust me, it works: even when all else seems to be failing in another area (like health, for me), I can look to my successes in three other areas and think, “Well, things could be much worse for me–I am blessed to have what I have.” We all need some practice at feeling content with our imperfect lives…this is one way to do it.