The “More” Train

My train of thought:  this is a pig race... it's similar to a rat race, which is just like a ride on the "more" train.
My train of thought: this is a pig race… it’s similar to a rat race, which feels just like a ride on the “more” train.

So I opened up my laptop Sunday afternoon to finally work on some fiction, only to discover something else I needed to say first.   For days I’ve been trying to root out the cause of my  anxiety.  I traced it to several things, but all paths seem to lead me back to the moment I bought my ticket and climbed aboard the “more” train.

Huh?

Let me explain a little.  Not too much because this is a blog post, not a full autobiography (you can thank me later for skipping details!)  Several years ago, I took my seat on the “more” train.  I stretched my legs and settled in for what I expected would be a luxurious ride.  I convinced myself that a bigger house would solve my problems.  I believed a new location would bring contentment.  I naively poured all my hope for a future into that move.

Sitting on the other side of the experience, I laugh at my naivety.  The “more” train turned out to be a one-way trip to a miserable place where more is never enough.  But I learned something… well, a few somethings, really:  more house doesn’t make old problems go away, it just provides ample space for them to grow; a change of location doesn’t mean a clean slate; and more stuff doesn’t fill the emptiness inside someone.

The “more” train takes you right to the “more” monster.  It is insatiable.  The more you feed it, the more it wants.  And it never gets full.  EVER!  The bigger house and the land wasn’t enough.  New wants kept sneaking onto a never-ending list.  Then came complaints about not having money (well, duh- it’s expensive to feed the “more” monster.)

I’m finding it’s also expensive to get out of the “more” monster’s clutches.  For the first time in thirteen years, I have credit card debt and it’s increasing every month.  I struggle with stress over whether I can escape without being completely buried in debt.  I pray for peace in this regard, although I have no one to blame but myself.

I have faith that one day, I will be permitted to transfer to a different “more” train- the one that leads to more time with family and friends, more compassion, more kindness, more memories that I actually want to close my eyes and look back on.  I want less tangible and more intangible.  The currency of this “more” train is human interaction, not dollars.

I guess the point of this post is to urge anyone tempted by the lure of acquiring “more” stuff to don’t do it.  I can’t stress that enough- DON’T DO IT!  If you think that expensive handbag, the iPad, the Corvette, the new-latest-and-greatest-whatever will make your life better- it won’t.  Sorry, but it’s the truth.  Please, put your wallet away and spend some quiet time contemplating what’s missing inside.

Then, go visit a friend, or volunteer your time for a cause you care about, or just say “good morning” to a stranger and really mean it.

Have a beautiful Monday!  (I sincerely mean that 🙂 )

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Good Enough?

Time to sweep the driveway... again....
Time to sweep the driveway… again….

I swept the driveway earlier this week.  I’d been at it for over an hour, and frankly, was tired of seeing pine needles and leaves.  I looked behind me and noticed some stray leaves that I had missed.  I turned back around and continued sweeping, muttering, “it’s good enough.”

Good enough?  This is unlike me.  When did good enough become good enough?

My entire life, I’ve been an over-achiever.  If I earned an “A” in school, the percent mattered:  90% was barely skating by… almost a “B”.   I can’t remember what it is I needed to buy at Walmart even though I wandered the aisles hoping it would come to me, but I haven’t forgotten that nearly 20 years ago, I was a tenth of a percent away from graduating college Summa Cum Laude.  Magna Cum Laude wasn’t good enough.

I’ve been known to follow up after my kids do their chores because it wasn’t good enough.  I constantly wipe water spots from chrome faucets.  Daily, I wage war against the clutter threatening to overtake my one long counter top.  My plastic storage containers are nested neatly in the cabinet, in spite of the kids’ tendency to haphazardly toss them onto the shelf.

I wonder:  have I accepted that good enough should be embraced rather than shunned?   Maybe I’m finally seeing that perfection is an unattainable illusion.  Maybe I realize that time is a commodity and that “good enough” is an excellent savings plan.

Or, maybe I’m just tired.

Yes, I think this is it.  Many days getting out of bed is a milestone because I didn’t think I could do it.  I’m not so sure my “good enough” attitude is permanent, but if it gets me through the day, well, that’s good enough.

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I’m still struggling with keeping up with things I need to do, so writing time is next to none (which frustrates me.)  Just thinking about what I have to do puts me into a state of inaction and procrastination (equally frustrating!)  In my bits  of “spare time” I’ve been slowly catching up on blog reading, though.  My apologies to Emilio – he provided a photo for me to write a story for… in September… and it still isn’t done.  I hope to have something on that soon… but I know better than to promise anything!

Moments Passed, Moments Noticed

Recently, I went for a walk in the evening to clear my head.  I emerged from my thoughts long enough to look up and notice the illumination of the clouds in the eastern sky.  I snapped this photo with my cell phone:

This got my attention!
This got my attention!

I walked a hilly cul-de-sac and upon heading east again, I looked up, anxious to see how the sunset light show had changed.  I thought maybe I would be blessed with an even more beautiful display.  I was surprised to find this:

Seven minutes later....
Seven minutes later….

In the span of seven minutes, the glow had disappeared.  The beautiful display obviously intended to be brief, and only for those who paused long enough to take notice.  Of course, this got me thinking (and dashed all hopes of clearing my head, haha.)

It made me wonder how many moments like this in life I miss because I’m wrapped up in the unimportant stuff that I allow to consume me… those worries that seem so large.  The funny thing is, these thoughts that occupy my mind are often things that no amount of obsessing over will resolve because the variables are completely out of my control.  I’m finally starting to learn that maybe, just maybe, being outside my head is a happier place 🙂

Sometimes taking notice of things around me takes a more humorous turn.  I’ve told the kids countless times not to leave their cups on the table.  Aaaand, their cups are always left on the table.  One day, within forty minutes of each other, I took the following photos:

Sure, there are three water dishes, but "forbidden" water tastes better
Sure, there are 3 water dishes, but “forbidden” water tastes better
Well if she gets "forbidden" water, I want it too!
Well if she gets “forbidden” water, I want it too!

That day, my younger son got home from school and refilled his water cup.  After he took a drink, I showed him the photos thinking maybe he would see why he shouldn’t leave his cup on the table.  He did turn a little green so I got all smug, thinking my point had been made and the table would now be cup-free.

Nope.  Cups are still left on the table; the only difference is, they each use 5 cups a day instead of 1. Oh, and they always leave fresh water in them for the cats- “because it’s cute.”  (Um, no it’s not…)

Sigh. I didn’t see that one coming.

Representation of Me

09-08 Lake Reflection2

Reflections shifting on rippling water,

A breathing oil-on-canvas,

Mesmerizes, hypnotizes…

Introspection draws me deeper.

Only from a distance,

Can I envision the scene,

The lines between colors…

Nature’s representation of me.

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I haven’t posted poetry in a while, so I figured it was about time.  As I’ve done before, I’m going to share what I was thinking as I wrote it.

When I looked at the lake, it occurred to me that the reflections of the clouds and trees on the rippled water looked almost like an oil painting on canvas.  As I often do, I drew comparisons and related this to me and my life.

I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at an oil painting up close, but I find it fascinating how what looks like nothing more than blotches of different hues of green can suddenly turn into a beautiful tree when I take a couple steps back.  This is exactly how my life is right now.  I’ve been in the trenches of difficulty for most of this year and I had been submerged in darkness and hopelessness.  Up close, I failed to see beyond the mess that is “now”.

It’s only been the last couple months that I have been able to take those important steps back so I could see that, although my life seems to be just blotches of colors, it’s the beginning of so much more.  From a distance, I can envision beauty emerging at some point in the future.

Hope Prevails

I think this is a Cactus Wren nest and eggs
I think this is a Cactus Wren nest and eggs

If you’ve read my blog any time during 2015, you’ve probably gathered this hasn’t been the best year for me.  I spent the entire first half of the year submerged in darkness and struggling against an undercurrent that pulled me under whenever I caught a glimpse of hope. Keeping with the water theme, I noticed the tide changed in July.  I was able to hold on to my first glimpse of hope that tomorrow could overcome the gloom of today.  There have been setbacks since then, but for the most part, I’ve kept hope in my sights.

Over the weekend, while visiting my parents, my mom found a nest in one of their cactus plants.  They have several different variety of cacti, each with varying degrees of pain associated with them.  (I am not a fan of cacti at all.  See, just the weekend before, I helped my dad clear out one that had blown down during a monsoon storm.  I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I may have enjoyed using the ax a little too much 🙂 )  Even with thick leather gloves, I managed to get cactus needles in my fingertips.  And I know I’m getting old(er) because, although I could feel them, I couldn’t see them at all.  That’s another blog post entirely…

Monsoon storm broke some Mexican Organ Pipe and Prickly Pear cacti... we finished them off
Monsoon storm broke some Mexican Organ Pipe and Prickly Pear cacti… we finished them off

So, back to the bird’s nest.

When I saw the nest tucked into the seemingly inhospitable “branches” of a cactus, I couldn’t help but relate this to my life.  See, my life this year has been like that cactus.  The spiny cactus isn’t the most welcoming home for most species, yet the wren is able to live there- the conditions even providing protection from many predators.  (Would you go near that???)  My life hasn’t been conducive to fostering hope, but I’m finding that in the absence of ideal conditions, hope still exists.

As I ponder life, both of cactus wren and my own, I can’t help but marvel at the resiliency of it. With the light of hope, I see the beauty of life again.  Even through all the stuff that could turn my heart cold, I feel the warmth of “good” moments.  That is hope.

I hope you feel it, too.

Have a beautiful Monday!

P.S.  I’m still so far behind on reading blogs.  Thanks to everyone for your patience as I try to get caught up… I have posts from May that I still haven’t read!  And I thought life was crazy before school started, haha… let the games begin (again.)