"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: contentment

“the whole world” . . .

truro 30A few weeks ago, I came across a saying online:

“When you realize there is nothing lacking,

 the whole world belongs to you.”   (Lao Tzu)

I don’t know if this quote is attributable to Lao Tzu or not, but it sounds like him, doesn’t it?

A variation that might follow along that theme is this quotation:

“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” 

I don’t know who said that, but it strikes close to home for me. Throughout many years, being out on my own from an early age, raising children during a long and unhappy first marriage, then patching together a life afterwards with a demanding career in mid-life, I’m habituated towards feeling like my glass was half empty even though my brain might tell me that it was probably more than half full, most of the time.

Yesterday, I don’t know how this happened, but I woke up from that errant dream of being vaguely unhappy. Here’s how it came about.

A ritual I’ve taken on every year after Christmas was to look for the perfect winter coat at the after-holiday discount sales: a puffy but fashionable shiny black down three-quarter length coat with a huge, luxurious coyote or fox fur hood (real) that I had glimpsed in the New York Times Style page years ago and carried the clipping around in my wallet. This hunt served as amusement (or served as withdrawal from holiday shopping,) with a succession of coats tried on, delivered and then, mostly returned to the seller. Sometimes, I would buy one, then give it away to one of my daughters when they needed one more than I did. And so, the elusive coat search continued, at least until now.

Over the weekend, I looked at Patagonia, North Face and Nordstroms before I somehow found myself looking at “vintage LL Bean” listings on Etsy yesterday. I’ve been a fan of LL Bean for their quality, classic stock, especially in decades past. On about the eighth page of listings, I came upon a 1970’s vintage duffle coat, size Medium, in a deep army green with a yoked back, hood and a blue/green woolen plaid lining. It hung gracefully on the model in the photo, not crumpled up and bedraggled like others that were also online. In any case, as soon as I saw it, I instantly felt that the grand hunt for my winter coat was over. It had no fur trim, no contemporary flourishes, just a plain woolen coat that reminded me of my youth, truth be known. I also happen to have a loden shearling hat that G. doesn’t use and a Barbour tan and forest green plaid scarf that matches the color of the coat. Turns out that I had the accessories before I found the coat.

I don’t know if I can convey the sense of home or grounding that I instinctively felt with this coat. Perhaps you know what I mean. It’s as though one goes out looking for something and it turns out to be hanging on the line in your backyard or in a wooden storage chest that you forgot about or something.The other thing that this coat has done is to bring me full circle “back to my beginning” (a la T.S. Eliot) from the extravagances of decorating, food, gifts and spending that the holidays entailed; including taking everything apart, repacking the stockings, the ornaments, replacing broken ones, saying farewell to the Frasier Fir tree that was still fragrant, its needles still fresh to the touch.

As a loner at heart, my interests have been pretty insular for the most part, which is to say that I do most things I enjoy by myself: read, play the piano, cook meals, clean the house, knit, and so on. I realized after finding that coat that I have everything that I have ever wanted (and struggled for) including the most important intangible ones that are not always just up to us. I also noticed that my former habitat of being not very happy for most of my life had shifted to being happy without my truly “getting it” until now. This is not as strange or peculiar as it may sound. In any event, I awakened from feeling unhappy, to understanding that there is nothing keeping me from being happy now, except for old habits I wasn’t that aware of.

“When you realize that there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Thanks to the Helpers of the Universe who have shielded, guided and pushed me to this place. It feels as though it has been an enormous struggle but perhaps at least half of that burden might have been of my own making and wrestled within my own head. Attitude is everything and mine has been edified by finding an old duffle coat and a quotation that floated by my screen unbeknownst from wherever.

As noted,  the Sage, Helpers and the Cosmos have helped me create a soft landing for my life. I just haven’t felt it to its fullest until now. And I am thankful more than ever.


forever . . .

In our local paper today, there was a long article about a couple who were “the longest married couple” in the country. It was pretty interesting because they grew up across the street from each other and fell in love. Then her father wanted her to marry someone else he had in mind so the couple eloped. That was over eighty years ago. Yep, you read that right. You see a lot of couples celebrating their 50th or 60th and I haven’t heard any around the 70th, but eighty years?

So of course someone asked them what accounted for their marital longevity and the answers were pretty simple:
“We just live with contentment and we don’t live beyond our means,” John Betar said. “Just go with the flow.” John’s now 101 years old and Ann is 97. The photo showed both of them smiling. They’re still living in their home along the Fairfield, CT. shore and enjoy watching their grandchildren and great grandchildren grow. John opened a grocery store in Bridgeport after they married.

Family is the key to their longevity, they said. They had five children and now have fourteen grandchildren and sixteen great grandchildren. “That’s what makes life what it is,” Ann Betar said. “We were fortunate enough to live long enough to see this. . . and it’s really one of the most gratifying things in the world to see your great-grandchildren, to see your grandchildren become adults.”

John Betar added, “That’s what keeps us alive. We live for them.”

Sounds like a great plan to me: live with contentment and within your means. Go with the flow and enjoy seeing your family grow up. I’ll second that.

happiness is a choice . . .

I almost put an exclamation point on the title of this post today. My college alumnae quarterly had just arrived the other day. In it was a highlight about Lois Markle, an actress for 60 years and quoted her comments about contentment:

“Finding contentment: I was not a happy young woman.
But when I realized that happiness is a choice you can make,
that’s when my life turned around. The older I get, the more
I cherish everything.”

Those of us who might be apprehensive about growing old can rest assured that this kind of wisdom falls into our laps sooner or later. Each day is filled with promise for simple pleasures and the choice we have to be happy. We may not know that the choice is ours. But when we realize that it is, the dark before the dawn disappears. . . forever.

being happy enough. . .

Here in America, the land of opportunity, we work harder than anyone else, strive to change ourselves from the outside in or from the inside out. We are encouraged to improve, to eat better, work better, make things better, BE a better person. Constantly. Everywhere you look.

I have been there.

Today, I thought about being happy enough. We have so much when we think about it. I now have time, which is the biggest luxury of all. There have been periods in my life when I had no time at all (stirring the pot) or when I had time but found myself without anything else: no job, no future, living in a strange town (eggs in a basket).

The DNA in my family, especially on my father’s side (my father, myself) is pretty driven. What might have been missing was an ability to relax and to enjoy life for its simple pleasures.

To be rather than to do.

When we have what we need in a basic sense, what do we still have to have before we are happy enough?

uncommon hours. . .

welcome to "uncommon hours"

“If one advances confidently in the direction of (her) dreams, and endeavors to live the life which (she) has imagined, (she) will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”                                          Paraphrased from Henry David Thoreau

In the 19th century when Thoreau reflected about life in his cabin near Walden Pond, he probably wasn’t thinking about women. In those days, women put the care of others ahead of themselves. Some of us still do and want to, which takes up most of our lives, and while we are in our prime.

In this day and age, as many of us find ourselves with children who have grown up or with careers that have run their course, we look around at ourselves and feel vaguely that something is missing. Even if we have most of what we always wanted. Or, if it doesn’t come close.

Either way, we have not had a chance nor had the time to realize these yearnings. It could be a book you wanted to write. Or books you always meant to read. Learn to play the piano. Or, finally make “Boeuf Bourguignon” from Julia Child’s recipe. Raise a garden with your favorite plants or have fun with animals like the pet you once had.

Look inward to your intuition. And rely on yourself to be fulfilled.

This, in a nutshell, is the purpose of this website: to relate about what we hear from our inner voice. When we pay attention we wake up feeling joy because we are taking care of our own contentment.

This website invites you to tell your story and by sharing, inspire others to follow their own path.