Monday, September 29, 2008

enough ...

For about the last month, my garage door opener had been making a straining noise as it got to the top when it opened. The problem escalated to the point where last week, it took much longer than normal for the door to raise all the way up, like the motor was having to work extra hard ... just ... to ... get ... the ... door ....umph! ... up. I don't know how to fix stuff like this, but I do know how to dial so I called the repairman, who checked it out yesterday morning and said I needed new springs (with lifetime guarantee), new cable, etc. Total bill: $618. Ouch!

But as I wrote out the check, I found my heart was filled with gratitude. You see, I made a realization yesterday: I had enough money. I had to let that sink in. I could pay a $618 bill with money that I had in my bank account. Even after paying for new stairs last month (for which I'd saved for a few years), I had enough.

This was huge, really huge. And I'm so grateful to be at this point in my life. As a single parent with an ex who didn't pay his child support, times were very, very tough while my daughter was growing up. I paid cash for everything; no cash = no purchase. Over time, things got better, and I finally bought my small 1225 square foot townhome 10 years ago after my daughter had left home to begin her adult life as a wife and mother.

But I still had to stick to a budget, there wasn't enough for extras, clothes shopping was a rare event, no money for "real" jewelry, and I was very frugal with every purchase. I now had a mortgage to pay. My family sometimes jokes that I don't replace things until they're broken or worn out. I'm not a wasteful person; I wring every bit of value that I can from an item before I'll replace it. I don't buy what I don't need. Last year, I went without a DVD player for 8 months after mine broke until my daughter gave me a new one as a Mother's Day gift.

I've been working a lot so I've only vaguely been aware of the upheaval in the financial markets. I always thought I should learn something about investing, so I could better manage my 401K investments. But I never had the time, interest or inclination. Plus, it feels like betting and I'm not a risk-taker when it comes to my hard-earned money. It seems like so many of the financial vehicles (credit default swaps, anyone?) are like trading air: creative made-up bets and gambles.

Despite my ignorance about stock, bonds, investments - and despite two layoffs in the last 7 years - I've managed to get myself into a decent place financially. What a sense of peace and relief that is! I have a couple of 401Ks, an IRA, money in my regular bank savings account and money in a online account that pays a bit more. Nothing fancy, no big returns, but also low risk. My mortgage will be paid off before I retire. I won't get rich this way, but I'm also less likely to be wiped out financially. Probably not a very smart investment strategy, but it's one I'm comfortable with.

As I wrote that check for the garage door repair, I found myself abundantly grateful. I've gone through some challenging times. But I have a job that pays a decent salary, I have no debt, few needs. There are many Americans who are going through their own challenging times and experiencing their own financial struggles as a result of the current economy. I lift them all in prayer and pray that some day, they'll find themselves with a grateful heart when they realize that they've come through the worst of it and they can write a check, knowing the money's in the bank. Having enough is a pretty great thing.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

wide, open spaces ...

I'm fascinated by the way each of us is so different in the kinds of things that we drawn to or that we respond to. For example, I was talking with a co-worker recently and mentioned that I didn't feel comfortable in Portland, Oregon. I used to travel there on business and found the trees and mountains lush and green and beautiful - but also heavy and oppressive. I felt closed in. I longed for the openness of the expansive horizon at home, of the sun setting over the Pacific. I feel most at peace and most connected to the Divine within when I can see far into the distance, across wide sky and wide open water. It makes me want to spread my arms wide and open my heart chakra. I feel expansive, like I can take a long, deep breath, filling my lungs with fresh air and a feeling of light and freedom.

Busyness - like a forest of trees - and visual "noise" have always made me uncomfortable. I've always tried to be very present to my experiences - the breeze's caress, the warmth of sun, the scent of rain - and perhaps this has increased my sensory sensitivity. I seem to reach a point of sensory overload more quickly than most folks for some reason. I figure it's just the way I'm wired. I'm aware of this, but not much bothered by it any more. It's part of who I am here.

This sensitivity spans a gamut of things. I prefer small gatherings of a few friends instead of a large, raucous party, music blaring, people everywhere. I love to talk and laugh and share jokes in the comfort of an intimate group of people.

I am utterly, cat-purringly content being home with just the sound of the water running in the fountain outside my window, down in the courtyard, as it is right now.

I have no desire to visit New York City. A lot of visual noise of tall buildings blocking the light. I imagine a lot of audible noise as well. Too busy. Too much sensory input.

I can't see the hidden picture in "Magic Eye" stereograms. Everyone else seems to be able to see the picture but me. All I see in them is a lot of busyness. I just can't filter out the visual noise in order to see the hidden picture.

This need for simple sensory experiences extends to my wardrobe, too; mostly
solids with a few patterns in a couple of skirts.

Many bloggers make photo collages. I find it very difficult to see the images in the photo collages. (Maybe this is like the "Magic Eye" thing?)
I think all of this has something to do with the way my mind processes the things my eyes see.

This need for quiet and calm extends to living spaces, too. Most people would look at the bedroom photo at left and just love the layers of extended wall, shelf, tufted headboard. I find it waaaay too busy for me. Disturbingly noisy. The shelf has too many disparate, unconnected items on it. The mirror, too much ornamentation, particularly when paired in the room with the sleekness of the white bench. Busy baroque clashes with clean-lined modern. It all feels too heavy behind the bed and too puny and underwhelming everywhere else. It lacks balance for me. Like I said, this is just the way my mind processes the input. I know a bunch of people totally love that bedroom.

When I remodeled my kitchen a few years ago, I removed two walls that separated the kitchen space from the living space. Now, I have an open downstairs with no interior walls (except the powder room and closet), completely open and uninterrupted from the front window to the back courtyard. I just love it like this! There's room to dance, to open my arms and spin, to throw down a yoga mat and do a few sun salutations. The breeze dances from the front to the back, tinkling the capiz shell chandelier as it moves through, creating music in my wide, open space.

Heavy and noisy, busy and fussy just don't resonate with me. I need space, I need openness. Wide, open spaces ... quiet and calm ... simple things ... less and less ... a lightness of being and less sensory noise. It's just the way I'm wired.


ADDENDUM 9/23/08

As I said at the beginning of this post, I'm fascinated by the way each of us is so different in the kinds of things that we drawn to or that we respond to, and all your responses are just wonderful to read. A friend e-mailed me that she is much more comfy in a sunlight-dappled forest; the open sea would intimidate her. If I was in a sunlight-dappled forest, I'd be looking for the nearest widest opening of sunshine - LOL! One of my most memorable experiences of my life is one morning on a cruise when I sat out on a side deck for breakfast all by myself gazing out at the vastness of the open ocean. I love the way we're each wired so differently! No matter your personal preferences - or your politics, since the election is nearing - our differences can be celebrated and enjoyed.

Namaste (The Divine in me recognizes and honors the Divine in you.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

a quiet celebration ...

"How about we get together Saturday night to celebrate?"

Family celebrations are too rare and it had been awhile, and of course, being the end of August, we had a very special occasion to celebrate. And so, my two brothers and my sister-in-law all came over Saturday and off we went to dinner, after they'd suitably oohed and aaahed over the new staircase.

"ooooh ..." "aaaah ..."

Sitting in the little Mexican place, the conversation and laughter flowed. There's a certain type of "speech shorthand" that families use, pacing and phrases that are so natural and familiar from years spent growing up together. Our family dinners have always been very lively discussions, switching swiftly from serious politics and world leaders to laughing about celebs or reality shows.

When our food arrived, we all raised our glasses (theirs, iced tea; mine, water) and drank a toast in celebration of our reason for getting together. It was a lovely evening and a great time spent with those I love.

This afternoon, I picked up a bouquet of flowers and drove over for my own private celebration. I got out of the car, holding the flowers as I walked up. What a gorgeous day! The sun gently shining, a soft breeze stirring the large lacy tree overhead, the lush expanse of green stretching in front of me.

I clipped the stems of the flowers, filled the vase with water and arranged the blooms carefully, making sure they were even all the way around. I took care of the cleaning and polishing, then folded my hands in prayer as the breeze turned and lifted my hair so slightly, as if she was caressing it. I let the tears spill today. "Don't cry, mija; don't cry." she said to me. But crying felt good, felt cleansing.

Mom would have been 80 years old this week. I love you so much, Mom!