When you can’t just say no

It is the end of December 2019. I should be summing up the decade but instead I lay awake last night thinking about things I had to do this week. Isn’t that the way it is? One loses the sense of history in the face of having to get through the night or the week. I guess something must be said for living in the present.

What was snagging my attention as I was trying to fall asleep was something I had been asked to do in my capacity as chair of the Outreach team at church: Continue reading

Inspired by Marie

Having invoked Marie Kondo in my last post, I thought I should at least watch her show to see what all the fuss is about. So I started streaming Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix and was quickly hooked. Although I watched the first few episodes alone, I invited my husband to jump at about episode four. He liked it too. Could we try this at home?

We are neither neatness freaks nor hoarders. I like a tidy home, but closets and drawers are usually a mess. I sporadically try to impose order therein but have trouble keeping things properly folded, sorted, stashed. Vic has more tolerance for visible mess than I do and has often been resistant to my requests to sort through his clothing or get rid of old books and papers except when we move, which has been infrequent. Continue reading

Inspiration, please

IMG_3650The four months of not writing this blog were an accidental experiment. It started when I didn’t feel like writing because of all the body stuff going on. My suffering was never acute and it is not as bad as it seems to sound when I write about it. What I was doing in that last post was exposing the little complaints that linger under the surface of the good front that we all present to the world. Mine are no worse than most people’s. But laying it all out there has attracted a lot of sympathy and advice that seem to be out of proportion to my degree of suffering. Maybe that is because, for fear of seeming like hypochondriacs or complainers, we don’t usually expose our discomforts to each other. Our facebook posts are smiles and celebrations.

When I write anything longer than a facebook post, however, I am usually trying to get under the surface of things, and what has been there for the last four silent months has been physical discomfort. I didn’t find that an interesting topic to write about. And so I moved into this inadvertent experiment: What would happen if I just stopped writing? Continue reading

Mysticism: Small, Medium, Large

It is a bright winter day. I meditate with my eyes open because I like to see the sun slanting in the windows, outshining the fire in the woodstove. Both make me happy. I can’t help see that the sunshine reveals a layer of dust on everything. That, too, makes me happy because it is Saturday, and I will think of my mother as I move through the house at her deliberate pace, getting rid of the dust. From early childhood I always helped her with the Saturday cleaning ritual.

Sun, fire, housecleaning. These are part of my treasure trove of mystical experiences. It is why I call myself a practical mystic. Mystical experiences are never far away, always accessible. I just have to be open to them.

What is mysticism, anyhow? A direct experience of the Divine, that’s the simplest definition. My mystical secret is that not all mystical experiences are big, transcendent experiences of Oneness. They come in different sizes. Small, Medium, Large. Today it’s the God of small things that I’m experiencing. Continue reading



I have chosen a personal word for 2014: radiant. In choosing this word I am playing a little game with myself, using an indirect, or even a reverse-psychology approach.

What I really want, you see, is to get back on track, regain lost momentum, and accomplish something in the way of writing a book and other projects related to Congo and life in general.

Many wonderful things happened or got started in 2013, partly thanks to a really fine word I chose in January 2013: flow. But in the last month or so the flow has stopped, I’ve lost momentum and confidence, and motivation has ground to a halt. I have been feeling down on myself as a result.

The new year is a good time to press the restart button, so I was hoping to find a word that would work as well as flow did last year. But all the words I could think of had a slightly punitive cast to them, or, at least, a “should” factor that I felt might have just the wrong effect. Words like “momentum” or “pursue” or “resolve.” Yes, that is what I need but they do not inspire me like flow did. They require willpower and engage the inner parent rather than charm the inner child and the playful artist into cooperating.

I just spent 10 days with my three-year-old granddaughter and so I have gotten a refresher course in reverse psychology. Don’t eat the vegetables; they’re for grownups. It’s too far for you to walk; somebody should carry you. Of course, she saw through it, recognized it as a game, but she can’t resist games and she would play along, at least for a few bites or blocks, and everybody was much happier.

The no-you-can’t/yes-I-can game is one we play all our lives and I’m thinking it may have some merit. A little reverse, or at least indirect psychology, as opposed to the direct approach: You should do this. You must do this. We carry with us the three-year-old’s tendency to rebel at direct orders, as well as the three-year-old’s love of games. How can we harness these tendencies to continue to enhance our lives, become better persons, and even, maybe, reach a goal or two?

By choosing radiant as my word, I am telling myself I should concentrate on being rather than doing this year–even while I am hoping to do quite a lot.

The thing about concentrating on doing and achieving is it can turn you into a noodge and a grouch and a bore who believes that anything important happens as a result of your own willpower. Meanwhile, life can pass by under your nose and you don’t appreciate it, let alone pick up the energy that is available to you each day from your surroundings, your interactions, and your own soul.

The radiant person, by contrast, both radiates and reflects life energy, going with and contributing to flow. This is how I want to be this year. What happens as a result is anyone’s guess and my surprise.

A happy and radiant new year to all.