Tag Archives: personal change

Growing Happiness

“There’s an idea I came across a few years ago that I love,” says Michael J. Fox.  “My happiness grows in direct proportion [to] my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations….That’s the key for me.  If I can accept the truth of ‘This is what I’m facing–not what can I expect but what I am experiencing now–‘ then I have all this freedom to do other things.”

For Fox, acceptance translates into a positive attitude in the face of his Parkinson’s Disease.*

During four recent months of health setbacks and gradual recovery, I worked hard to “grow happiness” instead of just being frustrated and depressed.  It was nearly four months of seldom leaving the house, of rarely attending church or being able to hold a conversation, of not seeing friends or going out even for coffee, of cancelling trips and seldom being on the computer.

In order to grow happiness instead of frustration, I had to accept my limitations and adjust my expectations to what was possible.  Aargh!

80919389_0ea063f00b[1]My technique was each day to imagine myself holding a salad plate in my hands.  I imagined life as a feast spread on a banquet table before me from which I could fill my plate.  Because I had a salad plate instead of a dinner plate to fill, my options were more limited than usual and I did best if I was intentional about my choice.  Imagining a smaller array of items on my plate helped me focus on what I could do instead of what I couldn’t.  It helped me remember that every choice I make about how to use my energy and time is important.

Dietitians say that when we eat from smaller and not larger plates we are more likely to eat healthier sized portions of food.  We tend to savor each bite of food more and feel satiated with smaller portions.  We avoid the guilt and physical discomfort that often attend gluttony.

Sometimes I made it into the Clean Plate Club.  Then I might choose to go back for more.  But if I could not finish what I had with anticipation put on my plate, I found my disappointment was less than if I had filled a larger plate with an overabundance of expectations.  I grew happiness by putting life on a salad plate.

For over a month I had to downsize to a saucer, which meant limiting myself to only one or two choices per day.  I kept my focus, put one foot in front of the other, and eventually changed back to a dessert plate.  I hope to step up to a salad plate this week.  Hooray!  It is incredibly exciting to plan what options I might choose.  Strange….but true:  Acceptance of the truth and expectations right for the day do grow happiness.

Of course, I still wish I had a larger plate, much as I wish my metabolism was as fast as when I was 17-years-old.  I still dislike turning away from food I love and stuff I want to do.  But whether I had health issues or not, I know that trying to consume or do everything I want makes me unable to enjoy anything as much as it deserves.  Small plates are a good idea for many reasons.

*”Feeling Alright. Oh, Yeah.”, by David Hochman, AARP Magazine, April/May 2013
*Photo “Russian New Year’s Feast” by Adam Baker, @flikr.com/Alpha/Tango/Bravo



@flickr.com/AlphaTangoBravo/Adam Baker


The Power Within

English: Morro Bay Docks, California.

English: Morro Bay Docks, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I sat by the beach in Morro Bay, California last week, I met an old friend.  The friend is a quote by Marianne Williamson included in a new book by U.S. Representative John Lewis, Across That Bridge:  Life Lessons and a Vision for Change:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It is not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.  And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”*

I used to keep this quote on the front page of my calendar, like a string tied around my finger to remind me of something important: “Barbara, you are not small and inadequate, no matter how you feel, or what other people say or do.  You have power that is immeasurable and light within to shine.  Claim it.  Use it.  Stand up.  Move forward.  Speak.  You’re capable of more than you realize.”

We only learn to fly when we dare to step off the nest–or out of the bird-cage.  Then we discover we already have what we need:  power beyond measure, light in the darkness, and wings to soar.

Hello Friends

I’ve missed you.  For the past few months I’ve put my energy and time into other parts of my life and not saved energy for my writing.  Mistake!  Here’s what I’ve done instead of tending to my writing:

My husband and I refinanced our house (reams of paperwork), had carpet replaced with wood and tile in much of our house, and built a raised vegetable garden in the backyard.  I was the lead person on the first two projects and kept Mark company while he built the garden.

I’ve edited a colleague’s memoirs, a project that ballooned in March and April as our deadline loomed.  In late April and early May, I provided three weeks of pastoral coverage for a colleague in Idaho who is on sabbatical.  My time in Idaho was a fantastic experience about which I’ll write in future blogs.

This leads me back to a recurring discovery:  Unlike the years when I multi-tasked even big projects without difficulty, life is different now.  Health and energy dictate that as one project moves to the front of the line, I have to set my other projects aside.  Dang.  It’s another change in how I live–and not a change that I like, either.  I want that seemingly endless supply of energy and stamina I used to have.

Regrettably, I let go of my writing while managing these other projects.  While in Idaho, I realized again that since writing is a prominent part of my calling at this stage of my life I need to make it primary and figure out how to balance my other projects around it.

Regaining this insight feels like I’m a piece of warped plywood:  every time I get one corner nailed down, a prior nail pops out and its corner has to be nailed down again.  In other words, each time I think I’ve learned to balance my life, it shifts out of balance once more.

Don’t get me wrong.  Every project I did was important.  Much was enriching.  And yes, some was deadly boring and frustrating.  But no matter how important each project was, I’ve learned that my writing is equally or even more essential.

As I think about how to reach the right balance in life, I picture the Billingsley Creek where it wanders past the rustic Billingsley Lodge and Retreat in Hagerman, Idaho (www.billingsleycreeklodge.com).  I stayed there overnight in April.  Like the health of the creek’s ecosystem, my life depends on both the oxygen it receives as it rushes over rocks and the germination and feeding which occur in the quiet, still eddies along the shoreline.

While in Idaho, I recommitted to my writing.  So, here I am once again.  The other stuff will have to take second place.  I’m making time to write.

Photo:  Billingsley Creek in Hagerman, Idaho.