“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” —John Muir
When we lived in Boston and had access to the most fabulous public transportation system (if my loyalties to the MBTA went unswayed in the midst of horrible delays and cancellations during last year’s treacherous winter, I think it is fair to count myself as one of this transit system’s greatest enthusiasts), C and I didn’t have a car.I loved everything about not having a car — the financial savings, the absence of stress about traffic and parking, not having to worry about having a designated driver when we went out — and it was with a somewhat heavy heart that I realized we would need to buy a vehicle when we moved to Rhode Island. Read more
In addition to causing joy in the present, reading adds to my internal roladex of humor, wisdom and inspiration. Being able to recall words of comfort and light when I am feeling lost or glum is a real source of strength and courage for me.
Lately, I have been returning to the Desiderata, a poem attributed to Max Ehrman, again and again. My recent move (and all that moving entails, from starting a new job, to feeling lonely due to not having made new friendships yet, to feeling homesick for my old city) has been more challenging than I anticipated. Different phrases from the Desiderata have come to mind at different points in the past few weeks, and, like a hot cup of tea on a cold and drizzly day, each has given strength to my spirit.
The Desiderata, by Max Ehrman
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
What am I most grateful for this month? I am grateful for my extended family.One of my aunts recently got married and celebrating this milestone with my parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles felt like a bubble bath and a glass of wine for my soul.
What am I least grateful for this month? On the one hand, I am surprisingly accepting of the fact that my new job is part-time.Thanks to C’s graduate student stipend, we can make ends meet — wihile also saving a little and having some fun, though we do live quite simply — with me only earning a part time salary, and I have welcomed the extra time that I have to read, cook, spend time with C, and write.On top of that, I really love my job, and I would rather be earning fifty percent and loving what I do one hundred percent than the other way around.On the other hand, I have been feeling guilty about only working part-time and also about not using my non-working hours more efficiently.I am not grateful for these feelings of guilt and I would like to spend October thinking about what I need to do to remedy them.In particular, I would like to think about how I can make my non-working hours more productive and satisfying. Read more
I love coming-of-age novels, stories with strong female characters, and books that provide glimpses into the everyday lives of people in different eras and areas. Betty Smith nailed my criteria for a good read with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It is the type of book that I know I will reread numerous times throughout my life, and at the times when I’m choosing to delve into new books instead of revisiting old favorites, I can gather a shot of strength and inspiration from quotes like this one.
I’m not sure how we got to be talking about human evil, but when we somehow did a few weeks ago, my mom told me about a book that she read years ago on the topic: The People of the Lie, by Scott Peck.Barely remembering its details, my mom hesitated to recommend the book, but she did tell me that she read it twice. That was enough of a recommendation.I requested a copy from the library.Read more
I just finished reading Jim Manney’s A Simple Life-Changing Prayer, a reflection and guide on praying “the daily examen.”Though the examen is an ancient practice, Manney writes about it within the context of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. (Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, an order of Catholic priests also known as the Jesuits, in the 16th century and the Spiritual Exercises was a practical guide instructing the Jesuits and others on how to experience the presence of God.)The examen itself is a method of prayer in which one reflects on the events and experiences of the day in order to detect God’s presence within them and therefore live with increased sensitivity to the movement of the God in one’s self and one’s life.If the examen is a “how to manual” on experiencing God, then Manney’s book is a how to manual on praying the examen.Read more
I have an inkling that there is a direct correlation between attention and appreciation.Increased attention to the stuff of life – books, conversations, scenery, foods, people, tasks, and so on – leads to an increased appreciation of what could otherwise be easily overlooked.For an example, I find that annotating articles or books helps me pay closer attention to the ideas expressed in them, so that regardless of the extent to which I like or dislike the piece of writing, I am more able to understand and appreciate the point the author made.The more I take notes, the more I pay attention, and the more attention I pay, the more I appreciate. Read more