A car’s GPS is a wonderful thing. There is an incredible sense of security having a tool that tells you how to reach a destination and how long it will take to get there.
I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with GPS, however.
Arriving in Arizona to enjoy the winter could only be accomplished by driving almost 2000 miles. Although we attempted to break the driving time into manageable segments for each of the four days, the days were still long. An unexpected snowstorm in Iowa made for a terrifying white-knuckle experience. I very quickly found myself watching the navigation screen tick away the miles and minutes and wishing I could magically change that “arrival time” to something more palatable.
The hotel stay each night was an opportunity to rest and regroup so that I could get in the car the next morning with a renewed sense of energy and anticipation. It never lasted long, though, and shortly the mind-numbing road weariness would settle in.
Now that I’m in Arizona, again enjoying the warm sun and the spectacular mountain views, I am disappointed in myself. It is only now I realize I made it all about finishing the trip instead of enjoying the journey. I guess it’s especially disappointing because I am usually focused on savoring each moment, relishing each opportunity, and enjoying every sunrise and sunset. I’m not sure what went wrong with my internal wiring for those four days.
GPS is a wonderful thing–especially for those of us who are…well…a bit directionally challenged. I’d never advocate for abolishing its use. What I will do, however, is change my perspective. The navigation screen is a helpful tool. It doesn’t mean that by using it I have to forget what it is that keeps me centered, grateful, and tuned in to the glorious world around me. It’s perfectly normal to look forward to something, but if we forget to be in the moment, we are missing out on important moments in this wonderful thing called life.
The next time I get in the car and plug an address into my navigation system, I will remind myself… it’s all about the journey.
I’ve been feeling unsettled lately. It’s probably not unique to me. In fact, it’s not all that unique in general. Life is chaotic, regardless of the century or place in which you are living.
My heart is heavy for the young men and women we lost in service to this great nation. My heart is heavy for the many lives lost to Covid 19. We have serious issues with drugs, open borders, terror threats and so much more.
But I’ve always been an optimist so I start each day thanking God for the numerous blessings in my life. It’s true that we choose our attitudes each day. It’s difficult to lift ourselves up when we feel so heavily burdened, but we must.
How do you start your day? Do you wake up worried about the world, how your day will unfold, or whose bad mood you’ll have to face? Try something different. Before you get out of bed, take a moment to breathe deeply–slowly, in and out. Focus on gratitude. For what are you thankful on this day? The list is probably quite long. You have a full day ahead of you. What can you do in this day to be intentional, purposeful, and productive? Don’t bog yourself down with minute details over this. Perhaps your intention is to smile more. That’s an easy one. Finally, always let go of mistakes you made in the past by forgiving yourself. We tend to be far too hard on ourselves.
Yes, the world may seem unsettled, but if all of us try harder to find our center, our focus, our stability in the craziness, maybe we can help bring a sense of peace to that part of the world in which we exist.
When I was in high school (we won’t talk about how many decades ago that was), I wrote an article for the school paper on creativity. I interviewed our art teacher, among other people I thought to be creative, to better understand what that elusive magical power is that some people possess. Could it be nurtured and developed, like a child within us needing sustenance to grow strong?
I wrote a pretty good article, but I don’t think I answered my own questions about developing our creative selves.
Here’s what I know today–or what I think I know today. If I’m not feeling inspired, I can’t sit at my laptop and write. Forcing my ideas from my brain into my fingertips generally results in deleting just about everything I write under those circumstances.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to inspire me. It can be the mountain backdrop of my Arizona home, or the laughter emanating from my granddaughters as they play. Sometimes it’s a song I haven’t heard in a long time.
Inspiration is an intangible that feeds the creative soul. So whether it’s the glory of nature, the joy of childhood innocence, or a simple playlist, let yourself be inspired. Feed your creative soul.
It seems as though I just graduated from college a mere minute ago. But that’s impossible. It was more like a lifetime ago. I’ve raised a family, divorced, bought and sold homes, welcomed in-laws and grandbabies into the fold–and now I find myself RETIRED! So what does one do in retirement? Well, if you live in Wisconsin, you escape the cold and settle into a warmer clime. For me, that’s Arizona. It still feels very surreal to me to have a perpetual summer, one warm day after another stretching before me from January to May. When I return to Wisconsin in May, I sure hope to find the snow melted (please!) and warm weather to enjoy, but there’s no guarantee in that at all. After all, it’s Wisconsin. For now, I’ll continue to enjoy being a snowbird.
It never fails. Even in the most positive, self-affirming situations, I manage to find self-doubt and insecurity. It happened again today. I was reviewing feedback on my teaching provided through student opinion surveys. Instead of focusing on and giving myself a proverbial pat on the back, I was stewing over the one student’s responses that showed I was less than wonderful as a professor.
My first thought was to justify the response. I’m sure the student made a mistake with the Likert-type scale, confusing the strongly agree side with the strongly disagree side. Or maybe it is this student’s personal philosophy that a neutral three is always going to be the response. When I realized how ridiculous that reaction was, I resorted to a bit of anger. After all, I can’t always be perfect. And maybe that student was just having a bad day and decided to take it out on my evaluation.
The truth of the matter is that I was once again approaching this all wrong. Of course it’s important to acknowledge that a student had a less than positive experience in my class during this semester. More importantly 17 other students in the same graduate course had a very positive experience.
Perhaps you are like me, focusing on the one negative instead of all the positives. I invite you to experiment with me. Think of five really good things that happened to you today or in the last couple of days. They don’t have to be big things. The significance is in how you felt. You filed a report that has been sitting on your desktop for a while? Didn’t that feel good? You had a real conversation with your teenager this morning? That had to raise your spirits.
It would be great if we could be kinder to ourselves. I plan to make a point of this in the coming week. My sincere apologies to the student who had a disappointing experience in my course this semester. My eternal gratitude to those students who felt I shared in their educational experience in a positive way. It was truly my pleasure.
Two days ago we had the opportunity to honor those all-important moms and mom figures in our lives. It’s always a wonderful day for those of us who have a mom or “mom” to visit, to thank, to hug… There are those, however, who are not able to celebrate the day. For some, it’s a matter of mom having passed. For others, it’s an inability to express their feelings for a lot of reasons.
Expressing gratitude for the important or special people in our lives shouldn’t be reserved for just those days that happen to have a label on them. Just because we turn the calendar to May and see Mother’s Day or to June and see Father’s Day does not mean we should wait for that single day to express our feelings.
Some of us had incredibly amazing childhoods, filled with magical innocence, and a sense of security. That is not everyone’s experience, I fully realize. Regardless, I hope there are people who helped guide you emotionally, spiritually, physically or in some other way that you can reach out to. When we express gratitude, it does something wonderful to us. We grow from extending ourselves in that way. Our expressions of gratitude show we are emotionally open, humble beings who are striving to be better. Thank someone special in your life.