I find it fascinating when people correct my grammar – especially in response to what I say verbally. I remember someone asking me how I was doing, and I replied, “I am doing good.”
He corrected me: “Don’t you mean to say, ‘I am doing well’?”
Yes, I know he was right. I have spent years studying grammar for my university classes. Even for fun, I still like to have my nose in a grammar book. (I find language and its changing rules so darn interesting.) And while I acknowledge the standards and realize there are a time and place for them, I may choose to just parrot what others commonly say and join in with the “rule breakers” because I realize that “correct” language usage is not the most important part of my life. Especially in my everyday texts, emails, and conversations, I’ve tried to never take my grammar too seriously. There’s a colloquial element that I find charming.
So, what is my point? Tis this: when people think it’s important to call us out for something minor, what should our healthy response be? (And one that doesn’t involve dumping a glass of tea over their head?)
Honestly, I’m still mulling it over, but I wanted to share what has helped me.
Let’s say a person has just adamantly told me I’m wrong and that Brad Pitt is NOT the main character of the movie I’m describing. I like to first hold a quick conversation in my heart and mind: is it truly important that I counter-correct? Or at least make that person understand where I am coming from?
Not always. Sometimes I just keep my mouth shut and let their correction go unchallenged. Because we obviously don’t agree when it comes to the topic, and when a disagreement is not life threatening, I may avoid engaging them in return. I can (pardon my cliché) agree to disagree and not have a lengthy discussion about it.
But what if a disagreement is relationship threatening? I find it helpful to ask myself if someone’s correction, right or wrong, is something I want to continually deal with. And most importantly, I try to discern what is at the heart of it. If the person is not abusive, but genuinely loving and caring, their corrections, even if incorrect, typically don’t bother me. Because I know that they mean no injury. It’s when I suspect even just an ounce of harm, my guard goes up, and my (metaphorical) foot goes down. And that means the friendship may be worth stepping away from, or at the very least, putting up some boundaries.
I then proceed in the relationship with caution.
Again, for me, I’m not just focused on the person’s judgment being right or wrong. It’s the intention that appears along with it. Because I know I’ve wrongly corrected others. It’s one of the joys of being human. But another one of the joys of being human? Being able to wisely question (even just mentally) others’ actions, and then letting a healthy, careful answer be the foundation of our response.
Whether we are right or wrong, we always have that power.
I’ve often heard that nature can be healing, but I think this truth has never been so important to me until now, when many of us are forced to stay local and slow waaaayyyy down. I have more time to check out the clouds, to contemplate those leaves hanging just outside my window, and to notice the hedgehogs that crunch around my neighborhood. I’m thankful I live in a very lush country.
Counselor and author John Eldridge shares how apathetic we can often be about our surrounding splendor: “Too often we just notice and go on, like a pedestrian who steps over a hundred-dollar bill lying on the sidewalk. Stop and pick it up! In these moments you open yourself and receive beauty, the gift, the grace – receive it into your being.” Some days can be downright depressing at times, but I’ve taken Eldridge’s advice and found myself metaphorically picking up the hundred-dollar bills around me.
Here in England during stricter lockdowns, we are allowed out of doors for one physical exercise per day. My husband and I like to take daily walks. I make a point to admire the berries, flowers, odd-shaped leaves, and loud birds. If my neighborhood is an art gallery, they’d be the artwork.
Maybe walks aren’t your thing. Instead, it’s your cat’s paws in the air, bubbles that pop from your dish soap, or the smell of something yummy that is baking in the oven. For me, the key is to intentionally search for beauty beyond my current situation and pain; because even if I am hurting, I admire it when I find it. Thankfulness wells up inside me because beauty still exists, despite the aching in the world; and this is encouraging. I get a burst of energy that keeps me going.
Even when we don’t spend a lot of time outside, natural beauty can lovingly creep in when we look for it. Notice the sky that peeks in your windows. Think of the dancing shadows in your house or the cheerful beams of light that streak through your hallway. Appreciate the way your dog has fuzzy eyebrows or a wrinkly forehead.
Again and again I see that there is something soothing about recognizing beauty around me. Even when my situation is grim, I'm rejuvenated that there is still attractiveness in a world that can be very ugly. What about you? Are you open to beauty in your life, even in the midst of grief and anxiety? Or have you stopped looking?
Please, don’t ever stop looking for it.
l absolutely want 2021 to be better than 2020.
But as 2020 painfully reminded us all, we can’t control everything. And while this is probably for the best (can you imagine the chaos?), I am finding myself fighting pessimism. I can’t enter 2021 with the same optimistic attitude I carried into 2020. Too much bad has happened.
So instead, I am working to shift my focus. And maybe you will want to join me. I’m digging deep and making note of the good things that happened as a result of (and alongside of) the bad. Here are some of my personal thoughts about 2020:
My “take for granted” attitude got smashed to pieces, and I don’t know about you, but I was very humbled. With the humility came a desire to slow down and care more for both my health and the health of others. I had to lose selfish tendencies, but then I gained more appreciation for loved ones. And finally, I had to search for a new definition of beauty and peace.
Even in our pain, I think it’s incredibly important to identify any positives from the past year. Because these are treasures, and we should recognize them as such. I read a Thorton Wilder quotation that really encouraged me in my resolve: We can only be said to be alive in those moments our hearts are conscious of our treasure.
On first glance, Wilder’s words might not seem logical. But I think he’s making a strong point: when we fail to acknowledge the riches around us, we can be breathing, but we are not fully living. And this is a sad situation to be in. We do not want to ignore the wealth within our reach because it can arm us with optimism and strength to face another day.
I hope that along with me, you’ve been able to find a few of your own treasures from 2020; because if they appeared during a difficult year, no doubt they can appear again in this new one. I also hope you'll consider joining me and facing 2021 with the advice of Wilder in our minds. Let us live intentionally, so we can be fully alive, and let us be treasure hunters.
While on a run, I almost squished the little guy (see him in the photo above?) with my steady stride, but, thankfully, I saw him in time. Sweating and panting, I stopped, admired, and snapped the photo with my phone. My frog friend was in full camouflage mode.
Blending in is not always a bad thing, but it is when people can’t see you and you are in danger of being flattened by their running shoes.
This holiday season, I keep thinking about that little frog. Because my go-to for this time of year is to do the expected activities, which means blending in with my neighbors and family and friends. I buy the tickets to the Christmas market. I make the appropriate cookies. I play the expected songs. But interestingly enough, I’m learning that some of the most unforgettable moments of the holiday season are the unexpected, unique things that aren’t in our usual repertoire.
One of my more memorable holidays was in 2019. We were in England, a place that doesn’t officially celebrate Thanksgiving, and we had no family visiting us at the time. My husband and I had just returned from a lengthy trip and had come home to an empty fridge. So, we went out to eat with some dear friends. The restaurant was quiet with low lighting, and the most Thanksgiving option on the menu was the mulled wine. The dinner was peaceful, stress free, and one of those moments I wish I could freeze frame: it was our own bubble of holiday spirit. It was unexpected, but it was a night to remember.
Living overseas has helped me to accept the non-traditional and unexpected moments that come barging in. I think this holiday, we will all experience a few non-traditional moments. COVID is, unfortunately, still limiting our activities and just being horribly present, hovering in the back of our minds worse than the sour eggnog in our fridge. But, unlike my frog friend, let’s embrace the non-traditional moments. Let’s not blend in or be trampled by the unexpected.
Socrates reminds us that “[t]he secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” And I think that’s what we have to do, because this year will definitely not be camouflaged among the others. It’s full of change and the unexpected. So, let’s remind ourselves that the unexpected can be refreshing. Let’s remind ourselves that the different can provide a way to move forward and even triumph during a difficult season.
A dear friend and I were texting about holiday gifts this year, and she shared that for 2020 she was giving wabi-sabi. I misread her text and thought she had typed wasabi and was envisioning rows of bottled spicy horseradish paste (with bows on top). But she corrected me. She wanted to give the gift of wabi-sabi, a Japanese philosophy that identifies the beauty found in imperfection.
Her plan was to engage in kintsugi, a technique for repairing broken, yet cherished pottery. This art was believed to have begun around the 15th century:
Rather than rejoin ceramic pieces with a camouflaged adhesive, the Kintsugi technique employs a special tree sap lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Once completed, beautiful seams of gold glint in the conspicuous cracks of ceramic wares, giving a one-of-a-kind appearance to each “repaired” piece.
Ceramics, broken yet beautiful, with their “seams of gold”, were what my friend wanted to create and give. How perfect for 2020.
This year has felt incredibly broken. Many of us have experienced cracks in our lives that have grown deeper throughout the recent months. I can’t help but believe that these cracks, often invisible to the naked eye, are well represented by a fragmented vase or serving bowl.
We might have been dealt multiple blows this year, but as kintsugi demonstrates to us, we are not without the power to use these blows to become strong and even more valuable. I’m reminded of Victor E. Frankl who said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
I know that Frankl was not talking about kintsugi in his quote. But I find the two incredibly connected. Our stimulus has been the harsh realities of 2020. And now we find ourselves with a space. Similar to kintsugi, Frankl recognizes a metaphorical gold that can fill in and repair the space between fractures and the crushing blows of life: a space where we can (often with help from others) victoriously pull ourselves back together and gain freedom from our pain. But not just the minor pain: the gut-wrenching physical and mental pain.
And like the kintsugi process, or really most processes, it may take some time. And like broken teacups, we can survive and develop with a splendor that surpasses our original being. And like a kintsugi piece of pottery, our breaks can make us golden.
(Article originally created for and published on Nati's Health.)
I’m not sharing a message that hasn’t been shared before: this holiday season, keep up your self-care.
We easily neglect ourselves this time of year.
For me (forgive me for being cliché) it’s the little things that make a difference. So, along with all the holiday hubbub and preparation, I’m still making a point to do important (yet small) actions that bring me relief and help soothe anxiety. I’m striving to:
1.Make my bed each morning.
2.Take a few extra minutes to soak in a nice warm shower.
3.Follow my daily face cleansing routine.
4.Eat one meal a day without looking at my phone.
As you can see, it’s not a long list, but it includes tasks that energize me and honestly, just make me feel better about facing each day. My goals also aren’t anything I find complicated or anything that I dread doing.
What about you? If you built a list of just four daily personal care activities to pursue this December, what would your list include? I hope you will take a moment to create one. Live intentionally with me.
We can’t participate in ALL seasonal fun, no matter how much we want to. We shouldn’t even try. So let’s instead divert some of our energy into self-care. Yes, I believe something will probably have to give. Especially if you decide to create a list that is longer than mine or your tasks are a bit more complex. But it’s okay. I hope you will still join me.
We might have to decline some great opportunities. Maybe we will make less baked treats this December. Maybe we won’t watch a beloved Christmas movie, so we can get needed sleep. Maybe Christmas cards will go out this year without a personal message for each person. But peace of mind and my sanity is worth it. And so is yours.
We celebrate incredible love this time of year. Be sure you give some of that love to yourself.
I’m intrigued by the minimalist movement. (If you aren’t, please don’t stop reading yet…I’m not going the direction you might think.) I’ve read multiple books and articles on the topic, checked out the Netflix documentaries, and even joined an online discussion group headed by Joshua Becker. And in my opinion, the best minimalist advice that has stayed with me over the years is this: use EVERYTHING (no matter how much or how little I have), and enjoy it “today.”
Let me explain a little further.
I have items in my home that have not been used and enjoyed, because I’m completely guilty of waiting for some vague, special occasion. And I know I’m not the only one. Why do we save Grandma’s antique china for only extraordinary dinners? Why do we buy the specially illustrated books and just have them sit on the shelf? Why do we keep a pristine sitting area that (ironically) people rarely sit in?
My friend who deals in Moroccan goods picked out a beautiful dish set* for me and had her husband carefully wrap them in his clothing and bring them in this suitcase to Egypt, where I was living at the time. She couldn’t come with him, so he was the courier, and it was such a huge treat! These well-traveled beauties arrived in great condition, and I was in awe of them. So much so that I barely used them. They were “too special.”
But why? Why not make my everyday special? And this is the question many minimalists are asking. And I decided to join in.
As a result, I started using the Moroccan dishes for my usual cereals and salads. I’ve also started wearing my white shirts and blouses (I had always saved them back in case I got spills on them. For what though?) I’ve been wearing my “good” jewelry, even around the house during this year’s lockdown. I’ve been putting my favorite and best towels out in the bathroom. I’ve even indulged in my daily teas. I used to save back my favorite teabags. But for what? A significant morning? Why not make today’s morning significant?
I guess I thought I was being frugal because I was being “careful” with my favorite things. But I was often just being wasteful. I was like a snail just hauling around a heavy shell of stuff. And I wasn’t using my items for the purpose they were created for. Now that I am, I’m happy to report that my life definitely feels richer; and while I’m following minimalist advice, I’m actually maximizing my enjoyment.
*See in photo above.
Creator of Love, Auntie.
About LOVE, AUNTIE
Welcome! My blog is a journal of sorts as I seek what makes "older" worth celebrating in a world that tends to glorify "younger." I hope it's a place you will find encouragement and positive words.