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Archive for December, 2010

A few weeks ago I was doing an alternate handwriting session about my mood. I’d been feeling happy about sending all of the gratitude notes that I wrote about in Giving Thanks (11.28.10). Then a couple of negative things had occurred: the electricity went out twice in two days, I got a smug letter from my insurance company excusing itself from meeting any of the new health care reforms.

To cheer myself up, still with my dominant hand I wrote this about my financial situation, ‘OK for December. After that, all is a mystery.’ My alternate hand immediately wrote, as of right this minute we’re ok for Dec. still on learning curve re what we can control.

A short time later I drove to a meeting at a nearby bakery. When I tried to start my car afterward, it was, to quote an old friend, dead as a doorknob. Nothing: not even a click. Since I had a new battery (another miracle that I got for free) I just knew it was going to be something horrible. Luckily a friend from the meeting was still there. We both had jumper cables, although neither of us knew how to use them.

I went back into the shop and a very nice man who called himself Herman the German came out and gave me a jump. No luck. The bakery staff said I could leave the car there overnight. As my friend was driving me home I whined about being ok right this minute and she replied, “Right this minute you are ok. You have a ride home, your car’s in a safe place and it may be a faulty battery or something cheap to fix.”

Of course she was right. There I was trying to control things again, expecting the worst, instead of just accepting the situation. The more I thought about it, the more I appreciated the fact that my alternate hand had written right this minute only a couple of hours before the car died. It had even underlined the phrase for emphasis, as if it was trying to prepare me for the upcoming situation.

There’s something very soothing about taking things one minute at a time, not projecting future outcomes. As often as I can, I’m letting right this minute become my mantra. This isn’t a new concept to a lot of people, but for me it is. It reinforces the “it’s just happening” realization I wrote about last time, and the appreciation themes before that. I’d say more small steps, but taken as a whole, this is pretty big.

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I read a great quote by Byron Katie the other day: When you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time. It flashed in my head as I was trying to untangle lights from a wreath that I hang in front of my house. (Not the perfect real one from Montana Fresh: that one hangs inside my kitchen door so I can get a whiff of wilderness whenever I pass by.)

This is a heart-shaped wreath that I put together many years ago. I’d tested it and all the lights worked. I’d bought a few new “picks” to liven it up and then of course the lights quit working. I risked breaking my neck to get it back down, checked the lights again, and they worked. So I hung it back up and — you guessed it — no lights.

I had to rip the whole thing apart to put new lights on it. As I was doing this I muttered, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ Then I swear a voice in my head replied, ‘It’s just happening.’

I sat back on my heels. It was just happening. The light gods or whoever weren’t saying, ‘How can we annoy her and make this a big fat pain?’ It was possible — and a whole lot more relaxing — ┬áto just accept that the wreath was old and needed repairs.

I say ‘just accept’ like that’s a small matter, when really, it’s huge. Not taking things personally is an ongoing battle for me. Alternate handwriting has helped me understand how disastrous this can be, for myself and everyone around me. Arguing with reality has been a specialty of mine for a very long time. It’s gallingly obvious in the Circuitous Route story I’ve been posting in Pages. (Which, after some glitches that a very nice guy named Ryan at WordPress helped me fix, is back on track.)

I’m sure these arguments will continue, but I’m hopeful that I’ll recognize when I’m battling reality. You fight everything is one of the first responses I got from my alternate hand.

I finished the wreath and hung it back up. It looks nice and sort of appreciative. And I appreciate that I can look at it with pleasure, not annoyance. Small steps.

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About a year ago I wrote Catastrophes and Kindnesses. I described how my fully-decorated Christmas tree had toppled over, taking some favorite old ornaments with it. And how Ken the tree guy came over to my house and helped me repair the damage.

Ken outdid himself this year. I stopped by Montana Fresh Christmas Trees last week to buy one of their gorgeous wreathes and to pick up some branches from the discard pile. I told Ken that I wasn’t sure I’d be buying a tree. If I did, it might be a Douglas fir, instead of the large Nobles and Frasiers of past years. But would a smaller-trunked tree fit in the big stand he’d given me last year? I’d brought the stand along to test it out.

As usual, I dithered for quite a while. Ken is used to this by now, which after 26 years isn’t surprising. After we looked at a few trees he said, “I’ll tell you what. Leave the stand here. I’ll pick you out a tree, put it in the stand, and bring it by your house on Sunday morning.”

I was speechless with gratitude. It takes me forever to pick out a tree and as evidenced by the aforementioned tree toppling, I’m not great at setting them into the stand, even with help. (Last year wasn’t the first time my tree had fallen. One year I had to resort to tying it to a curtain rod. That was the year my father bought me a new tree stand.)

I now have a perfect Douglas fir standing tall and straight in my living room. And Ken refused to accept payment for it, telling me “Merry Christmas” as he drove off in his truck.

There’s a saying that what you appreciate appreciates. I’ve always thought of it from a left-brain angle: if you appreciate something, it’s returned at an increased level, driven by economics or physics or other things I don’t really understand. Now I think the saying is much more literal, that whatever it is you appreciate — a newborn baby, a flower’s bloom — sort of has a hand in helping the universe return that appreciation.

Last week I wrote about giving thanks, of telling friends and family how much I appreciate their kindnesses. Now I have a beautiful Christmas tree. And a friend who took me to Nordstrom’s Christmas party and gave me a generous amount of money with which to buy lovely clothes. Today I left a favorite pair of earrings in a store. I called to report the loss but had little hope of ever seeing them again. The clerk called back to say she’d found them on the check-out counter.

I may be on to something here.

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