Tag Archives: spiritual health

L.A. Snow Day

imagesUKL5P5N9Yeah, yeah, I know:  we don’t have snow days in Los Angeles.  Except for me.  I had a snow day this week right here in Pasadena, California.  Of course, with roses blooming in my garden and a lime tree covered in fruit it required a bit of imagination.

I missed snow days when I moved from the land of freezing winters to the land of sunshine and palm trees. Snow days often bring power outages and travel delays, but they also give a guilt-free reason to cancel everything and slow down the pace of life. Who can argue when the governor or school superintendent tells everyone to stay home?

When smog made me cancel my calendar for two days this week and stay inside my house, I had a brainstorm.  I said, “Self, these are snow days. You love snow days. Pretend you’re in Upstate New York again and this is a snow day.”

Every time I felt frustrated at where I couldn’t go and what I couldn’t do, I filled myself with remembered feelings of coziness, leisurely reading on the sofa, comforting smells from the kitchen, and relaxed puttering around the house.

It worked.  For two days I kept frustration at bay with the wackiness of my imagination.  Then the weather changed and cleared the air, which is good because even actual snow days give me cabin fever after 48 hours and I don’t think I could have sustained my willing suspension of disbelief much longer.

My snow day/smog day framework improved my attitude by changing how I reacted to the smog.  I consciously chose how to perceive my limitations, chose how to act, and chose my attitude.

Life is all about choices, after all, some writ large and others known only to us. I chose to have a snow day in L.A. and it made all the difference.

Go Karts, Speedos, and What Not to Wear: Change Happens

After flooring contractors moved everything from half our house to lay wood floors, my husband and I decided to keep what we no longer need, want, or use.  In the process, I held examples of how much change has happened over the years.  Some change happened in the ordinary stages of life.  Some we noticed at the time, but much of it we didn’t.  Some change was intentional, responsive, and creative, expanding life and stretching into new experiences.  And some was embarrassing.

I looked in horror at clothes I’d worn until they appeared on What Not to Wear.  I gave away curtains that no longer match our decor and affirmed that I like our current palate better.  I read my old sermons and compared them to recent ones.  I held pictures of our sons grinning in Speedos at a high school water polo game and smiled as I pictured them now happy and creatively challenged as adults.  I tossed 3-1/2″ computer discs, wondering why I keep so many vestiges of the past that are no longer useful.

“Change happens,” I thought, as I looked around. “Embrace it, incorporate it, and keep going.”

It is up to us whether we lean into change and creatively engage with it, or we deny its impact on us and our ability to affect it.  Choosing not to change in positive ways is a certain outline for disaster and unhappiness.  If we stay frozen, inevitable changes harden our spirit and life and shrink our space.  The choice is ours.

Did you ever build a go kart?  Leaning into change is like that: we turn random wood, pipe, tires, wire and rope from the garage into a marvelous invention of freedom.  It’s like making pottery: we moisten our hands, spin our potter’s wheel and shape bowls and pitchers from what had been just a mound of clay.  It’s like making a quilt:  we arrange pieces of fabric we already have and stitch them together for a new purpose.

In life we straddle a hinge from which we look back at change already navigated and forward to change yet to come.  If we stretch our arms in both directions we discover we have room to move.  Our mind and life muscles flex to incorporate new ways of being and doing, of relating and living, if we encourage them to do so.

I’m glad I ditched some of those clothes I used to wear.  Some of my sermons were better the second time I preached them.  My sons no longer wear Speedos (that would be scary!).  Clean closets and less clutter gives my husband and me space to consider new possibilities.

Change happens.  I have the evidence.  It can be good.  Embrace it.  Claim it.  Lean into.  Dance with it. Create with it. Make it your own.

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