Tag Archives: decisions

Living with Joy

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Lao Tzu

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I caught an interview on the today show with a remarkable woman afflicted with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amyotrophic_lateral_sclerosis). At the time of the interview she was in the advanced stages of the degenerative disease, unable to clearly talk for herself so her husband translated her mumblings. 

She wrote a book called, “Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy,” about her experiences. When she discovered that she had a fatal disease, she decided to truly live for her remaining days, focusing on the joy she had with her family and friends instead of the regular new limitations her body imposed on her. She wrote the book on an ipad, and later an iphone, with a single finger, as that was all that she was able to use. 

In the interview, her husband likened the disease’s impact on the muscles as driving a car with a tank of gas. If you drive slowly, you might be able to drive longer but if you drive fast, the gas will be used up sooner. Susan decided that she would drive with her foot to the floor, enjoying life and as many memories as she could create for her friends and family as she could in the time she had remaining. She always wanted to see the Northern Lights, so she did. Then she proceeded to take trips with her sister, husband, and each of her children to create golden memories for the years to come. 

What an amazing and truly inspiring book. It didn’t gloss over what she was going through, but instead, approached it with acceptance. She acknowledged the loss of her future with her friends and family, but willingly put that aside to enjoy the now. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this book and the lesson within. My biggest take-away is to plan for the future but to live in the now. I’ve always been very careful to save for the future, and while I don’t want that to change, I do think I could make some changes in my master plan to better accommodate my life now without sacrificing so much for an unknown future. 

Thank you Susan Spencer-Wendell. Thank you for your amazing spirit, thank you for sharing your experiences in your wonderful book, and thank you so much for making me think and helping me to grow and learn. 

http://susanspencerwendel.com/

Note: I receive nothing from sharing this site and have no relationship with the author beyond a great appreciation for her and her book.

 

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Painting My New Landscape

Now that I’m back working in a corporate job, things have changed in many ways. Some are more obvious than others.

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I must admit that getting a regular paycheck is nice. I really enjoyed my “lady of leisure” time when I wasn’t working, and found some satisfaction in prioritizing where my money goes. I considered what was important to me that I was not willing to give up, and didn’t miss out on any of those things. For anything else, I decided to not spend the money to give me more time. There was something very satisfying of feeling that sense of control over my expenses.

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Hours in the Chair

I now need to make those same decisions about my time. When I had all of my time at my disposal, I could do most of the things that I wanted to do. So, I’m prioritizing some of the things I most enjoy doing, like hiking, visiting my hospice patient and my other volunteer work, and spending time with friends, to be sure that those don’t slip.

Choosing the Right Brush

I’m finding that time seems to pass as a big blur since so much of my time now is dedicated to work. Monday blends into Tuesday, and before I know it, it’s Thursday and I’m counting down to the weekend. I don’t want to wish my life away by counting those precious hours to the weekend. I want to be sure that every day includes some things I enjoy and that I try to find some pleasure in my work.

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Life is always a work in progress. I now do a better job of making decisions that are consistent with the person I am. The challenging part that I am facing now, is what to do about it: making a choice to consciously do what feels right, and not be guided by what I think I should do. Or not getting caught up in trying to be the best, and trying to please other people at the expense of myself. Sometimes this includes turning off my work when my hours are over, and not dedicating more time and energy to it than are required. It is also going to include setting realistic expectations of what I can do with my boss, as I’m already getting pressure to take more work on then I believe I can reasonably do.

Every day is a new opportunity to pull out my brush and practice my painting skills with some abstract concepts like balance and happy. It takes lots of practice to become expert at anything. Spending time consciously making decisions with where I spend my time won’t always be easy, but every time I practice that skill, it will get easier.

My Large Stones

When I was in college, one of my professors told us the parable of the stones, which goes something like this:

“We have some stones and pebbles that we wish to put into a jar—some large, and some small. If we place the small stones and pebbles in the jar first, then the large stones won’t fit. A better way to do this is to put the large stones in first, and let the small stones and pebbles fill the gaps around them.”

I’ve heard this story told in several ways, but the core of the story is still the same: the large stones represent what is most important in our life. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this lately, to be sure that I truly focus my time and energy on the things that matter most to me.

What’s been interesting to me, is how much my large stones have changed. For most of my adult life, career would have been pretty high up in my list of priorities. I wanted to be successful, and to do work that really displayed my achievement. I made many sacrifices for my work, some of which I think about with some regret today.

Now I define ‘success’ a bit differently. It’s that warm feeling in my body when I’ve done something good: that teenager’s life that I’ve impacted, the smile on person’s face, that neglected dog’s life that I saved, the grateful shy smile and ‘thank you’ when I help someone. When I look back on my life and the things that I’ve done, nothing in my professional career has ever warmed me like this. I now have the gift of being able to spend time every single day doing things that I think matter, and I am grateful for how very lucky I am.

So, as I move forward with my career exploration, I know I need to remain true to myself by making sure my large stones remain my priorities and the focus of my life. And I know to be sure to keep tabs on what those large stones are, as they can change. I’m also being careful that I don’t fall back into old patterns, just because they are comfortable. Some days, it’s a struggle!

It’s a great time of year to assess our priorities and to set our intention for the upcoming year. Just a thought.

Have a wonderful New Year, and may 2013 be everything you hope for, and more!