Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Sweet Peace #33: One peace lesson is not enough

   (Thanks for joining me on this 52-week journey toward peace which began with sugar and food, and now colors every aspect of my path. May it sweeten your own journey.)

   My building is being painted. It is a quadrangle with a central courtyard with my apartment overlooking the courtyard. It’s a peaceful scene with trees, bright flowers and a gazebo where people often gather and I can hear their voices and laughter.

However, we are now in week two of a building painting project and the sounds have gone mechanical. The moving cherry picker growls and back-up shrieks as it takes a painter to the upper story. Something on the ground makes a sound from past years … the repetitive and irritating rhythm of trying to start a car on a cold morning. Over several days of leaning into this continuous grinding, I’ve decided that it must be some machine that controls the flow of paint and that it will never stop starting until this project is done.


Non-mechanical sounds come from the painters, mostly Mexicans speaking Spanish, sharing the details of the job, occasionally laughing, providing human grace notes between the creaking, grinding sounds of machinery.


I treasure silence and sounds of nature so I awaited this project with impatience and dread, wanting it to be over, wanting it not to interfere with my workflow. Now I seem to be becoming entrained to it, waiting for the rhythms of starting and stopping, watching as parts of the walls become an unbroken, warm beige, appreciating the workmanship of prepping the walls, trimming the bushes and trees, power washing walls which have stood here for over fifty years, housing students and now seniors.


I am melding into these walls, this space, this place and it's rhythms, becoming a part of the fog that seeps into the mornings and gently rises with the day, and recognizing the perfection and rhythms of this particular dance of life, this particular now. Perhaps that is one lesson of peace, adjusting to what is, understanding our place in the scheme of things.


And then I try to apply this lesson to the war in Ukraine and the whole thing falls apart. What is the lesson of peace there? What is the lesson of peace in a country so divided it's as if we all are speaking different languages? What is the lesson of peace as we destroy the planet we call home? These answers may take more than 52 weeks.



Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Sweet Peace #32: Visiting Camp IWannaWhine

Playground: Camp IWannaWhine

     I like creating. I don’t like marketing. Why is it so hard to catch the attention of a busy world? What if they don’t like what I created (or worse, don’t like me)? What if they don’t think my creation is worth their time or money? What if they think it should be redder, or more polka dotted?  What if? What if? What if?

Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to ask people for help? Why can’t the phone just ring and someone say, “I hear you’ve got just what I need and I’m willing to stop by and pick it up and give you a bunch of money …”?


You hear stories all the time … like the pet rock guy. Actually Gary Dahl, who while in a bar with friends who were complaining about their pets, joked about his low upkeep pet … a rock. His friends laughed as he riffed on the benefits of his pet. Dahl was so intrigued with the idea that he went home and wrote a “care and training” manual, designed a carry home box with air holes, and convinced two friends to invest in the project, one to the tune of $10,000 (in 1975 dollars).


He debuted the idea at a San Francisco gift show and within a few months sold a million and a half pet rocks at a profit of 95 cents each. You do the math.


However, it was a short-lived fad that wound up in court when Dahl’s two investor friends decided they hadn’t gotten a fair share of the loot. Some say the left over pet rocks paved Dahl’s driveway.


It’s a great rocks to riches story, however, when you get right down to it, I ask myself: would I be happy with the fad success of a pet rock or if John Beresford Tipton dropped by with a million dollar check? (When I was glued to The Millionaire in the late 50s, that was truly a fortune.) 


Perhaps at least part of the problem is defining success. Over the past year, Lynne Snead and I have created and used a workbook/journal focused on gratitude and self-awareness. We think it’s the cat’s meow and have an overflowing basket of stories about how it has transformed us. 


    Now we want to share it with the world. Somewhere along the line, however, the term for that became marketing, and about the same time the marketing scoreboard became $$$.


And, what’s wrong with $$$ you may ask? Nothing actually, except that money doesn’t much motivate me. I’m in the pretty incredible position of having enough and value my time more than more money. 


My version of a fairy godmother’s gift would be to have her wave her magic wand and suddenly all the people in the world who wanted it would have their own copy of Gratitude Mojo and we would sit in a very big coffee shop and regale each other with the turning points that came from this practice.


Now that would be fun! 


Much more fun than designing shopping carts and affiliate programs. I can hear it now. Someone is bound to say: just delegate the parts you don’t like. Great idea, and this is where $$$ comes back to haunt me. My enough isn’t enough to hire a fairy godmother who can wave her magic wand and help me build the World Gratitude Cafe.


Therefore, I whine.


Lynne reminds me that one of her mentors said it was okay to visit Camp IWannaWhine … but to not move there permanently.


And … I have to admit ... when I was thinking about the World Gratitude Cafe, a tiny idea-worm wriggled onto the page.







Idea worm from Pixabay

Special thanks to: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/595180/pet-rock-history

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Sweet Peace #31: Making Peace with Money

Art or accident on the streets near UCSB?

"So today I propose a challenge for you and for me:
receive all compliments without questioning them,
analyzing them, or negating them.
Simply accept it, and know that you deserve it."

-- Lori Deschene, aka TinyBuddha

There was no early indication that this Sweet Peace journey
would have anything to do with money.
It was all about sugar, food, body … period.
However, can you possibly pull one thread 
and not unravel the rest?   

   I’m not having money problems so why is this coming up? I’m accustomed to balancing money with wants and needs. My current living situation is affordable and stable. My needs are few and my wants are manageable. Why is there something niggling at me to look at my relationship with money when I have enough?

   While my growing up years were spartan, I never went hungry and always had shoes and clothing. Our house was tiny but our garden was big. We lived in a small town where life was simple so I didn’t know about the luxuries I was missing.


All of this thinking about money has been triggered by the near-completion of Gratitude Mojo, a gratitude workbook/journal based on ancient wisdom and recent neuroscience studies. It has been my main focus, and joy, over the past year of working with a very wise long-time friend and brilliant coach/consultant.


Now we’ve reached the Rubicon, a shallow river in Italy which metaphorically means a point of no return, a moment which divides the past from a future possibility. Like many, if not most, artists and writers, painters and poets, I love the creative stage and shudder at the thought of wading into the maelstrom of marketing.


There must be a thousand or more books written about this stage, and I’ve read dozens or more. I could probably write a book about this obstacle … but, then, I probably couldn’t market it once it was written. Call it fear of rejection or even fear of success, there is something, a barrier of some sort, that holds us back.


Having spent a lot of time studying and thinking about mindsets, I decided to approach this issue from that perspective and wrote: 


Mindset about Money (OLD) - I can only make money by doing things I don’t really want to do. I have to sacrifice my time in exchange for money. Asking people for money is an unfair balance since I’m not worthy of their money. Money corrupts.


Mindset about Money (New) - I create things that I believe will help people and, therefore, they deserve a fair exchange: my service/product for their money. I love what I do AND I am worthy of receiving money for the value I create.


My joy is being a scout, an igniter, creating and finding resources which pave the way for others to be happier and more fulfilled, more joyful. It is a gift for me to share what I find and create. It is also a gift to others to allow them to share what they have in return, which could be money or might be something they have created. This is a voluntary exchange, I am not forcing anyone to buy something they don’t want or need.


Money is a representation of energy, neither bad nor good, simply the form of exchange. As long as I give value, I should be honored to receive someone else’s energy in exchange. I am worthy. I can accept money in exchange for my creative efforts willingly, gratefully, graciously.


I believe the Tiny Buddha quote is appropriate for money as well as compliments. I can simply accept money and know that I created something of value and, therefore, deserve it.


Excuse me for a minute, I’m going to go stick my toe in the Rubicon and see what happens.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Love Letters to My Life #49: Settling in to my forever home

Santa Barbara: views and natural beauty everywhere
(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day: the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my joy-filled life. Once a year I get to celebrate both my birth and death days on the same day. -- Joyce Wycoff)    

     Two months ago, I moved into a new life.

Along with 18 boxes, two chairs and a mattress from my former life, I moved into 2 clean, white, and very empty rooms, amidst a community of 215 seniors. 

As many of you know, I’ve moved around … 60+ homes through 9 states and Mexico, winding up back in a place I fell passionately in love with 42 years ago: Santa Barbara. I never dreamed I would be able to return … the housing prices are as ridiculous as you’ve heard.

But, here I am, grateful to find a unique and affordable retirement community … the mountains and ocean feel like a familiar embrace. Long-time friendships are rekindled; new ones sprouting. Memories of former years still drift like fog through the streets, occasionally melancholy but mostly sweet.

During these first two months, I’ve sold both of my RVs and kluged together the basics of what I’m now thinking of as my forever home. 

I’m going to let a few photos do the talking on this love letter.


Beach colors

Mediterranean climate where everything grows.

UCSB Student housing mural.

Play dates and new experiences.

Mountains and ocean.

Perhaps, a mural I found today offers the punchline to this story:












Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Sweet Peace #30: Review of Progress

Back in Santa Barbara


Well into the second half of this self-imposed challenge, perhaps a review is in order? I decide to reread the posts made since this journey began on December 21, 2021, when I wrote:


Sugar has always been a central character in my drama: 

a reward, a treat, a temptress, a siren song 

leading me toward the rocky shores of a toxic desire. 


… for the next 52 weeks, 

I am going on a journey to find non-food/drink 

replacements for the desire for sweetness.

… finding sweetness in life, indulging in joy and celebration, focusing on gratitude and connection 

rather than taste bud ecstasy.


The first post ended with healing words from Maria Sabina:


“Heal yourself with the light of the sun 

and the rays of the moon. With the sound of the river 

and the waterfall. With the swaying of the sea 

and the fluttering of  birds.

Heal yourself, with  beautiful love, 

and always remember ... 

you are the medicine.” 


The second post, written after the chaos of the holidays, outlined some guidelines which still seem on track:


- Create emotionally supportive non-food rituals and celebrations.


- Avoid eating in a moving car. 


- Avoid solo sugar … allow it to be a small treat saved for social settings.


- Understand that if I buy it, I will eat it … all of it.


Major Win: A 63-day sugar fast seems to have broken the obsession. Sugar cravings seldom happen and I seem to be able to tolerate it occasionally without triggering a binge. The process of limiting sugar to rare social events seems to hold the sugar cycle at bay. 


I also know how easily I could lose this peace if I once again open the door. Having lunch with a friend, I noticed a family celebrating a birthday. At the head of the table was a lovely bundt cake dripping with icing and I could feel it tugging at me as I walked by. However, thoughts of sugar have diminished and that feels good.


One of my favorite movies … Jeremiah Johnson … has a line when the ancient griz hunter (Bear Claw) says to the now-seasoned mountain man (Jeremiah), “Ye’ve come far pilgrim.” 


I, too,  feel that I have come far, with even further to travel.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Sweet Peace #29: When creativity has a mind of its own

Mural of Del Playa on Del Playa, Isla Vista

    After the stair-step emptying of my life over the past several years, it now has pieces missing. Thrift stores and yard sales beckon and I carry home trivia, wondering why.

Five plain, 5x7 oak frames wind up in my basket, only a dollar each. Why? I don’t do frames; I only print on metal. But, there they are. Unwanted potential.


Meanwhile, life settles in my new place. Blank walls call for art that has been tucked away, unseen for too long. What goes where? What computer-stashed pieces yearn for the light?


Measuring and imagining, shapes and color begin to find their places. Those five frames emerge from a back pack, demanding attention, wanting to play with the big guys. I ignore them, stuff them on a shelf, turn my back, go on with my project.


They whimper and I give in and look for a place for them. Nothing. There is no place for five empty frames. 


I move on, trying to finish this hanging-of-art, which normally takes a few hours but now has taken on life as a project, requiring a life review of art, and way too many unprinted pieces are clamoring to join the community of color on my walls. Dollar signs are rising to a hazardous level.


Then, a major piece rebels. It doesn’t like where it is, wants to move to a more intimate location. I groan. Nothing else would fill the space. Plus it throws the whole project plan into chaos.


A whisper reminds me of the five neglected frames. Ideas begin to flow … a cluster of small photographs … or inspiring quotes … or interesting questions … or short poems … or …. Stop! I resist. I’m trying to finish this project, not start another one. I so wanted to check off this to do.


And, then I wonder why. Finishing a project only means looking for another one to start. Why am I so focused on finishing? Why don’t I just enjoy the process instead of trying to force a choice, demand action, and move on when moving on simply means starting again? I know the answer ... that new project is always perfect, at least in the beginning. It is all unlimited possibility with none of the sharp edges of reality poking into the vision.


So, I give in and decide to take down the piece that wants to move and hang the five frames that are demanding their space on the wall. Empty. Full of possibility and promise.


Here’s where we are … who knows what’s coming. Maybe I'll just leave them there as a constant reminder of the possibilities of life.




Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Sweet Peace #28: Stretching the space between trigger and response

Mountain Meadows Reservoir

    I'm at Lake Almanor on something of a vacation, having successfully sold my RV, the chore that I came up here to do. Since I have three days to enjoy this beautiful lake and land, I'm planning to kayak one of my favorite places today. First, though, I went looking for something to eat.


In my refrigerator, which is just barely stocked because I will only be here for a few days, I found half of a two-day-old grocery store sandwich. It wasn't particularly good two days ago: a smear of turkey on a thick hunk of pasty, white bread. Definitely not gourmet or even tasty or healthy. I push it aside for the two lemon cookies leftover from last night's dinner with the neighbors. They didn't do anything except set off a cycle of eating, and once again I was rooting around in the fridge. There's that sandwich again. I'm not *really* hungry and I know that sandwich is mediocre at best, however ... 


You probably know where this is going. I ate the sandwich, and now I'm wondering why. It was an interesting process to observe: thinking the problem was too much bread, I removed the top bread layer and slathered honey mustard on the turkey and limp lettuce. That didn’t help much, but I ate it anyway. Now, I was no longer hungry but very dissatisfied, so I fried the sandwich top in the little bit of butter I had. That left me overly full and feeling stupid for eating something that bad with no redeeming value. It occurs to me that this is like a hangover ... maybe a food-over?


Once again I wonder why? I've been here before when an unsatisfying food triggers an eating binge. An hour later I'm still overfull, lethargic, uncomfortable and unhappy with myself and decide to see if I can follow the rabbit trail that got me here. 


Many years ago when I smoked, I recognized how much it was affecting my breathing ... and also saw the black lung photos going around ... so I quit. It wasn't easy, but I did it. Some years after that I stopped drinking because I hated having hangovers. Why is food so much different? The phrase that pops into my mind is "looking for love in all the wrong places."


I know that food and eating is connected to childhood triggers so there's no reason to keep gnawing on that bone. What I really want to do is to create a space between the trigger and the eating response, a way to press pause and allow room for a rational decision.


After the sandwich fiasco, I pulled myself together and headed out for my favorite kayaking spot, about ten minutes away and opened Drafts, the simple note-taking app for my iPhone, and began to talk about what happened this morning. I’ve started recognizing triggers, although that doesn’t help much when I just ignore them. I thought maybe talking myself through these triggers would help me understand them and find ways to love myself in a more productive way than eating something which rightfully should have been thrown away. The goal is to make better decisions.


During this conversation with self, I recognized a mild sense of depression at the loss of this special place on the lake. It’s probably not stretching the metaphor too far to wonder if I was trying to fill up the empty space created by this loss with whatever food was handy, even if it was pretty awful. Writing this seems on target and I feel tears welling up. Buying this lake place was a huge step, a gift to myself, an honoring of something I’ve always wanted. Leaving it is painful even when I know the move that prompted this change was the right one for me right now. To honor this sadness, I decided to make a tribute to my time at the lake, a loving ritual of letting go.  I begin pulling photos and reliving the memories of this place.


This note was created using Drafts and then cleaned up for this post. I am making a commitment to use this process when the next triggering event happens.