Thankfully, I have grown wiser in midlife. What used to be an exercise in setting unrealistic expectations for myself has become a much milder version of holding different things in my awareness at different times.
For example, last week I focused my attention on making healthier food choices. Instead of grabbing a couple of cookies out of the freezer for a snack, I chose an orange. Keeping the idea of healthy choices in my head helped me to actually make those healthier choices without the pressure of an all-out diet change.
The week before, I created an intention to spend time outdoors each day. I walked in the woods; I walked to the library; I walked out back to dump the compost. I know my body isn’t ready to jump back into running, and instead of giving myself a hard time about avoiding running (unlike for my husband who lives to run, running for me is mostly an efficient means to an end), I am appreciating the noticing that my slower pace of walking allows.
This week, I am back on the gratitude bandwagon. I am being more intentional about finding moments to be grateful for, about savoring those moments and noticing their impact on me.
This morning, I am grateful for the beautiful sky, bright blue to the north and east and silver to the south - with sunlight muted behind thin clouds. It is a promising sky - both immutable and changing. The light has become bright in my eyes, and I sense hopefulness living in me.
Holding things in my awareness has been a way of planting seeds of hope within myself. It is not just about oranges and outside time. It is about being intentional in my choices; it is about creating an internal landscape that can be mirrored on the outside.
Sitting in hopelessness and despair, all seems impossible or at least improbable, and I disempower myself. From here, I have nothing to offer the world.
I am energized by the idea that I am planting seeds of hope. Seeds of hope within myself will become blossoms of hope in the world. This is not a narcissistic pronouncement.
Each of us has the power to create the landscape of hope.
In the words of David Whyte, we must "start close in...start with the first thing close in..."
For you, what is that first thing?
You can read David Whyte's poem "Start Close In" on his Facebook page. And if you would like to hear him recite it, you can find it on YouTube. The video may be distracting, but his voice is compelling.