Posted on January 10, 2017
It was a good day.
My coworkers in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic greeted me Latin-style after our being off for 3 weeks for Christmas break. Hugs. Kisses. Big smiles. “Happy New Year!” “Feliz ano nuevo!”
On my way to the grocery an older lady saw me trying to cross the street in the rain and scooped me under her umbrella. She talked to me like a mom in Spanish. We braved the crazy traffic together. After that I made my ultimate comfort food, Irish Beef Stew.
My mom is feeling better after receiving treatment today in Nashville. My sister– truly our family’s Florence Nightingale–got her a doctor’s appointment. My aunt drove her to and from Kentucky.
My daughter is at the Vanderbilt-Kentucky game with her boyfriend and dad. She sounds happy. My son messaged back that all is good with him in Knoxville.
Yesterday I talked with a former student who graduated in the ‘80s. Now retired, he reached out and said it was on his Bucket List to have a conversation with me because I made an impact on him and some of his friends. A very wise and creative person, veteran, survivor he knows how much I want to write a memoir to share what I’ve seen and learned to encourage others. Understanding my frustration of never having enough time to write, he advised me to be ok with where I am–of doing what I can do– because we may never achieve all we had hoped, and that is reality, and we are still enough. He reminded me not to languish over where I think I should be or want to be. To un-clutter my mind and not allow worry to pierce my heart. To be ok with doing what I can do each day no matter how seemingly small the accomplishment or far the goal. Because, paradoxically, when we stop worrying, obsessing, we’re freed to move toward what we seek.
Today I talked with my gone-back-to-school friend. Both of us have had full-on panic attacks—me last fall and her today. We needed to know we are not alone. I reminded her to be as kind to herself as she is to others. To let go of perfection, over- achievement. To not sacrifice what is most important—like her health–in the pursuit of making others healthy.
Tonight I am continuing the course taught by Elizabeth Gilbert that my single mom/songwriter friend recommended on creativity and finding your life’s purpose. Eat, Pray, Love inspired me and millions to do more than travel–to take a soul journey solo. Today she is a life coach not only by example but also by design offering video sessions and an online supportive community of other creatives (which by her definition would be anyone who tries to consistently choose curiosity over fear) seeking to live their best lives possible. She distinguishes between hobby, job, career, and vocation and provides journal exercises to determine what we care about most, why we care about it, and how to start doing it daily. She believes creativity is about becoming a student of whatever lights up our brains like a cat scan.
She says the creative life is about humility. And service. She basically says what Hal Thurman did (my favourite quote which I’ve shared with readers and students for years): “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
I love that she advised bloggers not to worry about building a big platform. Rather, she says: “Serve the platform you have. Do you have five followers on Facebook? Serve them.” She mentions her blogger friend who shares what many are afraid to say about being a mom and wife. That kind of transparency and authenticity has organically drawn a huge audience because it helps others–something I’ve wanted to do whether teaching or writing. I want to share in a memoir what I’ve seen and learned, but until that book happens, I need to show up more on the blog while still on the journey. I need to let go of perfectionism which causes me to labor so long over what I want to say that posts end up in my unpublished drafts folder. Though I work more than 40 hours per week so have authors I’ve heard speak since I first started attending the Southern Festival of Books. Many said they show up every single day before their “day job.” I’m a morning person so have pledged this is the year I’ll write two hours before work every morning and not wait for the perfect time like weekends or school breaks. And so I write this…
Quickly. (Ok, I have edited it a few times since posting.)
Immersed in a culture that just celebrated Three Kings’ Day I was reminded of the Wise Men who brought gifts to Christ. And this I know: I want wisdom in 2017. In 2016 my word was “Hope.” Then…”Wait.” So far this year it’s “Wisdom.”
Last fall was a stormy season–ranked just shy of Category 5 for more reasons than Hurricane Matthew. My mantra then and still was, “No say,” which translates, “I don’t know.” I don’t.
I’ve been confused about many things that have happened and especially about what’s to come. I don’t know what job/career will come next. I enjoy teaching those who want to learn, editing, proofreading, promoting, recruiting, and, of course, traveling. I want to be closer to family again. The perfect life, it seems, would be full of writing, traveling, friends and family. As I’ve said many times before–roots and wings. I don’t know where I’ll live having sold my house last year. Or what I’ll drive having given my son my car. But I don’t have to know. Until God opens the next door I’m thankful for each day–for where I am now. And I’ve thankful that, as Elizabeth says, the font of creativity (and I believe, wisdom or anything else good) isn’t us. She reminds that before Renaissance humanism, the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that all good things we achieve, that we create…that especially genius… comes from divinity. Thus it’s good to know just one thing: I know so little. My theme verse since moving to the DR has been,“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
A very wise former headmaster told me years ago when I felt very alone as a single mom of two young children: “Bloom where you are planted.” And another truism I’m trying to practice here is that even when you don’t speak the language, smile. Smiles translate worldwide. And for awhile now I’ve tried daily to list all the things for which I’m thankful.
It’s so cool outside that my bedroom windows are open. This usually screaming, shrieking, honking, jackhammering, rooster-crowing, motorbike beeping city is asleep.
Thank you, Lord. It was a good day.