Family, Reading

Inspiration and Wisdom

Lately I have been reading a lot of ACTUAL BOOKS. The kind with a cover and paper and ink? In fact, I think that is why my left hand has taken a turn for the worse because I tend to hold a book in my left hand. Who knew that you could overdo reading?

I guess a lot of this introspection began with a bout of depression that began in November. Then I found out that my hormone test shows that I am officially in menopause! I was ecstatic! In fact, I think that I frightened the nurse on the phone with my whoops of joy. All of a sudden, I am thrilled at the prospect of my journey ahead. I am excited that I am about to enter my 50s. I am embracing my cronehood (and yes, ZhaK, I am choosing to skip “hag”!) with open and loving arms. And I write this with total sincerity.

My mother and I definitely have our differences. She manages to offend or insult me on every visit, and often harangues me on the phone about not attending church, which in her opinion is essential for being a good person. Yet, we know that we are very much alike in most ways. During my Christmas visit I was talking about my art and my traveling and how I could not NOT do it because it has become so important in my life and she blurted out, “Laurie, you are too self-interested!” Then she suddenly backtracked and started talking about when she was my age and totally caught up in wanting to travel and was always immersed in her art. She has been struggling with a lot of self-criticism, and often mentions that she feels like she was not a good mother to her children. I knew that she was talking to herself.

Then she showed me a Christmas card that my father had given her just after I left for college. Daddy wrote that he knew after 35 years of marriage that there was one word that she loved the most: “Go.” (Daddy hated to travel and generally refused to go anywhere but Sunset Beach on vacation until the last few years of his life.) So his gift to her was a week’s vacation before April 15, and she could pick the place and week. Then he added a P.S.: “Can I GO with you?” We both laughed and cried.

I am already like my mother. Watching her grow old has taught me that growing older is a beautiful thing if you will let yourself experience it fully with hunger to see what comes next.

There is one major thing that I would like to learn and develop this year: compassion. I have learned that you can’t be compassionate for others if you do not love and forgive yourself first. If you follow your passion so that your heart can open to possibilities, compassion is much easier. Self-denial makes a person’s heart crusty and hard.

As usual, I’m reading several books at once right now. One of the non-art non-fiction books has a definite Zen Buddhist outlook: Karen Maezen Miller’s hand wash cold: care instructions for an ordinary life. From her website:

It’s easy to think that meaning, fulfillment, and bliss are “out there,” somewhere outside of our daily routine. But in this playful yet profound reflection on awareness, the compelling voice of a self-described errant wife and delinquent mother reveals the happiness at the bottom of the laundry basket, the love in the kitchen sink, and the peace possible in one’s own backyard.

The other is Brené Brown’s I Thought It Was Just Me. This book is about shame, the harmfulness of shame, and how to develop shame resilience. It is ringing my bells on all levels. We all experience shame and it is an emotion that most of us cannot even talk about. This book is helping me lay to rest a few demons from my earlier life so that I don’t shudder at the memories, as well as helping me cope with my tendency to be a harsh self-critic. Learning the difference between shame and guilt is important. I did not think that there was a difference until recently, and this book clarifies the definitions of the two.

Other good reads and future reads:

The articles on Tiny Buddha, founded by Lori Deschene.

Texture, William Powers’ blog. His book Twelve by Twelve is in my bedside table stack.

Patti Digh. Her tweets are great too. Her book Life is a Verb is on my wish list for when I buy books again.

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