I Count My Blessings

Daisy giving thanks by lkw

It has been a hard day, and I am trying to focus on all the good in my life. You and this blog are among them. Although I do not have hundreds of followers, I have the important ones — you.

I just wanted to take a minute to say that I appreciate you, and thank you for being. You are a blessing, not only to me, and those who know and love you, but to the world. You have meaning, and you matter.

It is hump day and you are closer to the weekend. May the rest of the week bring you joy, peace of bodymindsoul, love, and happiness.

What is Grace?

Wind Chimes

Wind Chimes (Photo credit: kulicki)

I am taking an e-course titled “30 Days of Grace,” taught by artist and healer Alena Hennessy. In one of the lessons, she asked us to consider what the word ‘grace’ meant to us. When I initially read the lesson, I groaned thinking, “Yet another important question that I cannot answer!” To my surprise, I quickly realized that I knew the answer to the question, that I felt the answer to the question.

I’d never given the question much thought. Growing up, I was taught to define the word in one of three ways. First, as the prayer that we said before a meal, second, one’s way of handling themselves in various situations and third, one’s way of presenting themselves to those around them.

Yet, as I began writing, it occurred to me that the list of instances and things in which I see ‘grace’ is limitless. There is no set of definitions that can define the word ‘grace.’ Grace means different things to different people and though there may be some commonality, there is rarely a common agreement as to what the word engenders for each of us. In my case, I believe that ‘grace’ = life and all that comes with it.

Grace is the joy that I feel when I look into the faces of my children and grandchildren. Grace is the music of my wind chimes as a gentle breeze rushes through them. Grace is the scent of orange blossoms, jasmine, lavender and more. Grace is a candle-lit room as I sit still in meditation. Grace is prayer and thanksgiving. Grace is the beauty of my daughter as she labors to give birth to her first child. Grace is the love and devotion on my son-in-law’s face as he stands vigil to support my daughter through a long, difficult labor. Grace is being there as my grandson, eyes wide open, takes his first look at his new world. Grace is the sound of rain on a tin roof. Grace is the sound of my favorite songs. Grace is the feeling that propels me to dance and sing to those songs.

Grace is laughter. Grace is a smiling face. Grace is my husband. Grace is having my mother still with us. Grace is in spite of fibromyalgia, being able to get out of bed most mornings. Grace is the trusting look on the faces of my grandchildren as I look into their eyes. Grace is in the beauty of the night sky with its infinite stars, planets and galaxies, unhampered by city lights. Grace is the smell of freshly laundered clothes. Grace is a sense of accomplishment for a job well done.

Grace is a steaming cup of tea or coffee on a cold day. Grace is coming home after an extended trip away. Grace is a field of wild flowers swaying gently in the breeze. Grace is the birds who gather each morning at the feeder outside my bedroom window. Grace is a surprise call from a loved one. Grace is serendipity. Grace is the feel of the sun on my skin. Grace is having the exact amount of money to pay for a purchase. Grace is not looking, but finding that ‘perfect’ gift for a special person in my life. Grace is in the amazing art that my daughter creates. Grace is my son’s tireless determine to make a better life for himself and his family. Grace is in the strength to overcome horrible circumstances. Grace is in falling down, and picking one’s self up.

Grace is being there for someone in their time of need. Grace is saying “I’m sorry” and meaning it. Grace is forgiving, both others, but especially, yourself. Grace is the pleasure of friendship. Grace is going to the mailbox and finding a beautiful card or letter, sent to me, for no particular reason. Grace is helping those in need. Grace is paying it forward. Grace is hot water for an insanely long bubble bath. Grace is having the time to slow down and enjoy the moment. Grace is being alone without feeling lonely. Grace is being my own best friend. Grace is in spite of having three children by 21 years old, I persevered to graduate college and law school. Grace is a piece of ice cold watermelon or a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. Grace is the feel of settling beneath freshly laundered sheets. Grace is expressing my creativity. Grace is writing, painting and drawing. Grace is playing a game of jacks. Grace is playing bingo with my 7 year old g’daughter. Grace is the stillness and quiet of the early morning before the rest of the house wakes.. Grace is realizing that I can after years of believing I can’t. Grace is loving myself, just the way that I am. Grace is reading a good book. Grace is learning something new.

Grace is being grateful. Grace is saying ‘thank you.’ Grace is being a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. Grace is the love that gripes my heart when I think of my little brother who died much too soon. Grace is saying ‘I love you.’ Grace is being told “I love you.” Grace is every morning that I wake to a new day. Grace is kindness and generosity. Grace is the faith that I have in God. Grace is food on the table, a roof over my head and clothes on my back. Grace is in the challenges that I face, in order to appreciate the grace around me. Grace is me and you. Grace is the special person, now a friend, who gifted me this class when we only knew one another through FB and not very well. Grace is in accepting things as they are and not as you want them to be.

I wrote and wrote for pages until I got tired and had to stop, but I could have written for hours. I understand now that grace is everywhere and a quality in everything that I do. Grace is in the faces that I see in stores and on the streets. Grace is in every encounter. Grace is the blessing of each of you that I ‘meet’ and connect with through this blog. In fact, grace is the opportunity to spend my time with you in this way. I feel blessed that I’ve had the chance to ponder this question as it has done for me what I intended in creating this blog, brought me closer to my true and graceful self, as well as an appreciation for all the beauty that surrounds me. As I said earlier, grace  is — life.

Blessings and grace to you, Lydia

All Will Be Well, ~ Julian of Norwich

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Here’s To Making Magic And Mistakes in 2014

Fireworks

Fireworks (Photo credit: bayasaa)

It is a new year and there must be something that I want to say about it. In this post, I already disclosed that my word for 2014 is ‘courage,’ and believe me, there is much to say about that in future posts. A Facebook friend posted a quote about the New Year written by Neil Gaiman. Initially, I thought it perfect, but still I hesitated to use it in this post. Lest there be any misunderstanding, I love the quote. In fact, here it is:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some find books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful. And don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or create or sing or live as only you can. And, I hope somewhere in the next year you surprise yourself.

As you can see for yourself, it is an inspiring and uplifting quote. I particularly like the first sentence, especially the reference to ‘good madness.’ Generally, one thinks of madness as a negative or undesirable state of being; such as, “That woman is mad,” which is a less offensive way of saying, “That woman has lost her f***ing mind!” When I think of the phrase ‘good madness,’ I think of one taking affirmative steps to let go, have fun, engage in raucous laughter, and to live fully and happily.

I suppose that I should add that in my mind, all New Year wishes and offerings are, in actuality, blessings pure and simple. When one blesses you, as the Oxford dictionary confirms, they may intend to invoke “a prayer asking for God’s favor or protection.” On the other hand, the word ‘blessing’ is also defined as “a beneficial thing for which one is grateful; something that brings well-being….” A sincere well-wisher is expressing in mere words, a gift of his or her’s desire that you experience the very best that life has to offer.

Anyway, I went to Neil Gaiman’s website curious to see what I would find. After wandering to and fro, I discovered a ‘blessing‘ that I identify with and offer to you for the New Year. It is:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Much like the phrase “good madness,” “making mistakes” is a call to action. The opposite of action is inaction and although it ensures a lack of risk and, I suppose one can argue, a sense of security, it does not allow for growth or the opportunity to engage in our lives. Personally, I think that it offers a lifeless and boring existence, lacking happiness or excitement.

Life provides us a series of choices and decisions. Which path do I choose?  Which job do I take? Is this the man or woman of my dreams? Don’t search for certainty where there is none to be found. There is no certainty in any decision that we make. In fact, there is a 50/50 chance that the choice that you make is right, and an equal chance that it is a big, fat mistake. Such is life.

The answer is not to shield ourselves from our ‘mistakes’ by refusing to act. The very act of choosing is life affirming, and it is a fact of life that some of our choices will be mistakes. The thing is that mistakes are the stuff of life that, if responded to properly, offer opportunities for growth and inner wisdom. They offer life lessons that certainty will never offer. It takes courage to act in the face of uncertainty. Just do it and prepare for a rich and exciting New Year filled with abundant blessings. I’ll toast to that!

Blessings, Lydia

All will be well. ~St. Julian of Norwich

I am Loving Right Now. . .

self expression : heart-of-stone

self expression : heart-of-stone (Photo credit: cauchisavona)

Facebook has allowed me to meet so many talented, interesting and amazing people. One of those people is Mary Costanza: A Woman’s Heart and Soul. Her page speaks to every woman and those who love them. It is a community wherein a woman is reminded of her strength, beauty, power and self-worth. Mary reminds women that within them is the key to every secret dream and desire.

Granted, I regularly find that it is as if Mary’s posts speak directly to my heart, but I found a recent one especially compelling. In it, Mary writes about self-expression, which is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. She writes:

self-ex•pres•sion
noun

The expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, or ideas, esp. in writing, art, music, or dance.

She slowly began the process of self expression. She had so much in her heart and soul that she wanted to share with the world. She was tired of being so damn passive, quiet and unknown, and hiding in the shadows. She had a voice and wanted to share who she was with the world. She didn’t want to be loud and obnoxious; she wanted to express herself with class and style, and a little mystery. So she said to herself, let’s go for it, let’s be brave and bold, and let’s step out into the unknown, and with a deep breath, she began to write what she was feeling in her heart and soul, and the creativity was unstoppable, it’s like the sky above opened up and just started pouring down on her. Idea after idea just keep coming, the ideas kept coming so quickly that she couldn’t keep up with them all. She said I am not afraid anymore, she said I’ll dye my hair purple, red, gold whatever color she feels like wearing that day, she’ll wear leather, cover her body in tattoos, buy a Harley, travel the world, have a beer for breakfast or whatever it may be to express what she is feeling inside. She knows that there are those that will judge and criticize her, but she does care anymore, she is old enough, wise enough and brave enough to admit she is a little wild, and wants to be free, and she now knows it’s time to free that wild woman inside, it’s time for her to come out and play, she not hiding her anymore. The beauty of self expression, it can’t be explained; it can only be lived.

Mary Costanza

For the most part, I discovered self-expression through my role as a trial lawyer. I expect that given the public mindset of lawyers as a whole, it seems odd that one equates the practice of law with self-expression. Nevertheless, as a lawyer, I was able to express myself through one of my favorite medium — writing. More surprising, however, was the extent to which trying cases allowed the actor in me to flourish and blossom. Although representing the client was my first priority as an attorney, doing so placed me at center stage with an opportunity to orchestrate a performance wherein the most compelling, persuasive, engaging and believable party was deemed the victor. In most cases, that party was mine and justice was indeed served.

After years of practicing law, fibromyalgia forced me to resign from my active law practice. I landed on disability. For a very long time, my health took center stage and the idea of self-expression was frivolous and thus banished. In illness, I lost myself and with it the need for self-expression. The passage of time silenced that part of me that delighted in or curious about the act of creation or self-expression. I came to deny that such a need existed. I was lulled into an existence where my thoughts and feelings were unimportant and the only thing that mattered was my ill health and all that it had taken from me. I was told repeatedly that this was an opportunity that few had — a clean slate upon which to create the life that I wanted. I wanted no part of it.

However, as time passed, I began to yearn for a creative outlet that allowed me to express myself in new and exciting ways.  With that in mind, I created a list of activities that I wanted to learn and incorporate it into my life as a positive and healthy form of self-expression; something to counter and out weigh the self-defeating thoughts and ideas that had become the norm.  I sought to banish the idea that I was not and could not be creative.

During the past year, I’m beginning to overcome the word “can’t” and surrender to both drawing and painting. I am allowing myself to explore various forms of self-expression, some new like photography, painting, and drawing, and others like journaling, blogging and even writing. I’ve come to realize that the move of the hips in dance, every line of a pencil in drawing, every mark or stroke of a brush in painting and every word choice in writing or song, conveys a particular thought, idea, or feeling. Through these forms of self-expression, we release fear and anger, as well as love, joy and happiness. Embracing self-expression can be an antidote to negative thinking, pain and sorrow and an affirmation of  forgiveness, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth and self-acceptance.

As I read Mary’s post, I found myself nodding in agreement with one sentence after another. She expresses, far better than I, my thoughts, the why and nature of self-expression, and its’ pull that once unleashed is self-fulfilling. Her words remind me that self-expression is yet another of the precious gifts given to humans as a product of being human, of being alive, and “that it can’t be explained, it can only be lived.”

Blessings, Lydia