Sitting In A Sea Of Uncertainty

Doesn’t it feel like we are all sitting in a sea of uncertainty? The world is once again in the midst of major changes and that can be frightening. After all, we don’t know how this is going to turn out, do we? We human beings fear change, mostly because change does not come with a guarantee of a happy ending. We have only the hope that things will be better than they were before.

boat on a sea of uncertainty
Sailing on a sea of uncertainty

We have so many things in flux right now. Our new president has promised to make big changes and those decisions are rocking not just the United States but the globe. The climate is changing, whether or not it is accelerated by human beings, science assures us that weather patterns are different and the earth is not the same as it was before. Technology changes how we interact with one another. Some jobs no longer exist, while new ones are created. Changes in health care, freezes in federal hiring and the fact that we are older than we were yesterday bring a feeling of dread. How do we find a place of peace in this ever-shifting landscape?

As these big changes loom, I feel vulnerable. Most of us do.

Brene Brown, a noted author and research sociologist, has studied how we avoid being vulnerable. We all use four main techniques to help us cope with the fear of being vulnerable:

numb out the sea of uncertainty
Party Hardy
  • We numb it with alcohol, sugar, caffeine or adrenaline rushes.
  • We make the things we wish were an absolute truth (even when they are not) and state them as fact. We want others to agree with those ideas as truth, so that we can be right. I particularly see this in politics, religion and sports teams, but this happens in many areas of our lives.
  • We try to be perfect, and convince others that we have perfect lives. We hide our mistakes and imperfections from the world.
  • We pretend that what is happening doesn’t matter to us, that it is not our problem.

Yet each of these coping mechanisms comes with a high price. Numbing the bad feelings numbs the good ones of joy and delight. When we demand that others agree with us, we alienate those whose opinion we could value and become more and more close-minded as we insist on our view. Being perfect exhausts everyone, including the ones doing their best to appear “normal”.  And pretending the change isn’t happening only prolongs the agony. For change is inevitable.

sea of uncertainty in a kayak
Am I alone here?

So we all are living in this sea of uncertainty. We feel vulnerable and scared, even though some of the changes are what we had been hoping for. It feels like a struggle to find safety while being tossed about in my little kayak on the ocean.

 

So now what? I do not have any answers.

Trying to follow my own advice, I meditate, exercise, get enough sleep, reach out to loved ones and remember the good things I have in my life.

Still I have moments (days) of retreating into myself and wishing things would just stay the same.
These are turbulent times. Then that little voice inside me says, “Yes. As usual.”

Buddha laughs while in the sea of uncertainty
It will be all right

“Nothing is forever except change.”Buddha

Reconnecting To Joy – Action

Current political changes feel as if they are out of my control. I think many of us are worried about the future, on both sides of the aisle. When I am afraid, I become paralyzed. I tell myself I am too small to make a difference. I curl up on the couch under the blanket and despair. Yet, little action steps can lead me out of this scared rabbit reaction. Asking questions rather than demanding agreement, reacting with kindness to angry words and even picking up litter on the trail help me remember that I can make a difference in the world, in this small way.

Action Dumbbells
Action Requires Heavy Lifting

The New Year brings a lot of attention on goal setting. These visions are designed to spur us into action, to take steps towards who we want to be. Though goals can motivating, they are intimidating. It is all good to say “I will lose 30 pounds this year” or I will change the world. It is quite another to actually figure out how to do it. Even harder is to sustain the energy to accomplish large goals. I am very good at coming up with ideas, not so good at the follow through.

Oh, I start out well. Going to the gym for the first three days is exhilarating. The problem resides in the fourth through the three hundred and sixty second day. I understand that many great athletes work out every single day. Though, they do vary their routines to be light on some of those days, maintaining the momentum keeps them on track. Plus, the habit of moving every day becomes ingrained.

While I understand this idea, the thought of never taking a day off sounds exhausting. Then I remember the One Day At A Time philosophy of the Twelve Step programs. I don’t have to do this every day. I only have to do this today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Action Eat Carrots
A carrot a day

With that in mind, I find I can take action on my dreams. Often, I only have time or energy to do one thing a day. But three hundred and sixty five actions can lead to big things. Maybe not a belly that is flatter, but towards a body that is stronger, a retirement account that is larger, a blog that is well-written and a world where kindness is the norm. How are your goals going? Maybe just do one thing today. We can do this together.

“Just For Today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once.”Al-Anon Family Groups

 

Snow Days at Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges home
Our Natural Bridges Home

After three months of teaser storms, consisting of rain, hail and ice, it began to snow yesterday at Natural Bridges National Monument and it hasn’t stopped. My friends in Estes Park will smile and pat me on the head (they have had MUCH more snow than that), but we have received about a foot of snow in the past 24 hours.

Dave is out plowing the roads while I operated a snow shovel to tackle the sidewalks. The Park workers concentrate on the visitor areas and making sure the roads are as safe as possible. I took care of the residential area, making pathways to the laundry area, the office and the only place in the park where we get occasional cell phone service. Shoveling the sidewalks is rewarding, as I can see the results of my efforts. Although the continually falling snow is currently erasing that progress. Consequently, I foresee more shoveling ahead.

Snow on Kachina Bridge overlook
Kachina Bridge – In The Blowing Snow

This morning, I accompanied Dave on his first snowplow pass over the nine-mile road around the park. This drive allows visitors to visit each of the three natural bridges plus offers beautiful views from the pull-outs. The level of the snow changed as we drove through the park. In some areas, the clouds covered the landscape and, at times, the snow made finding the road a challenge.

 

Natural Bridges snow
Natural Bridges Mesa snow

Then the curves of the road brought us to a spot where the sun was doing its best to peek through. The wind died down and the snow quit for a moment, just long enough to snap a picture.

 

Reconnecting To Joy – Traveling To Goblin Valley

In the news about national monuments and known for its national parks, Utah also has incredible state parks. We visited one this week, Goblin Valley State Park.

Goblin guardians
Goblin guardians

These guys greeted us as we drove in. They look like a welcoming committee, standing in a group at the edge of the valley. I could practically see them waving, while I suspect they were talking about us as we drove by.

 

The Goblin Valley
The Goblin Valley

A little further, we came to the parking lot which overlooks a dry, treeless landscape with funny looking mud-colored blobs. Luckily the greeting committee gave us a clue as to the delights in store for us. The mud brown valley looked boring from this point. But we followed that winding dirt path and walked down to the dirt brown expanse. As a result, we found ourselves in another world. The funny shaped mounds sitting here have nooks and crannies that resemble eyes, as well as some that look like they are grinning at us. Many of them reminded us of extras in Star Wars movies (think Jawas – those little people that scavenged droids).

 

Goblin Valley wise men/seals
Is this a monkey with a hat or a wise man?

Both Goblin Valley and Arches National Park were formed in the same geologic era. Arches got the sand dunes that petrified and wore away into, well, arches. Here, Goblins got formed from a petrified tidal flat. This erosion has formed so many amazing bumps and protrusions that we wandered for hours. Sometimes we could agree about what we saw, other times we had to argue for our own opinion.

Goblin King
Goblin King

As we walked through the valley, we could see different creatures. Sometimes they did look like goblins, other times I could swear they resembled trolls. As the light shifted, some looked like animals and others so much like people I was ready to strike up a conversation.

As usual, we happened upon yet another wonderful surprise. I love that we get a chance to visit these places and am also really enjoying sharing them with you. Are you ready to come visit us yet?

“Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time.” – William Shakespeare

Reconnecting To Joy – Sunshine

 

No sunshine, only fog
Foggy Day – No Sunshine in Sight

I grew up in Colorado, where we get over 300 days of sunshine a year. In my neighborhood, if it stayed cloudy for more than two days in a row, we all got grumpy. Due to a recent weather pattern in Utah, we have had two weeks of clouds, culminating in a long two days of fog. While it was beautiful in a misty way, I missed the sunshine. Imagine my delight to wake up to blue skies today! I went for a long walk this morning to bask the beauty. Although it was only 32 degrees out there, it felt warm. I know, it was probably all in my head, but it sure felt good.

 

Sun rising
The Morning Sun Rising into Blue Skies

Science has something to say about all of this. Did you know that sunshine can actually lower blood pressure? The light on our skin releases a pressure-reducing compound called nitric oxide. Some studies show that even a ten minute exposure to the sun can lower our blood pressure for up to two hours afterwards.

We can add to this the benefits of Vitamin D. Studies link this essential vitamin to better immune systems, stronger bones and even a lessening of depression. The best part is that the sun gives it to us for free. We just have to step outside. The lack of sunny days may be why some have the condition known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). This is a fancy name for what our parents called it the “winter blues”. I must admit, when I don’t see the sun often enough, I get sad. Whether or not I suffer from a disorder, I welcome the sun when it returns.

Our place in Bridges
Safe and Sound In Our Home in Bridges

Being a mom and a responsible adult, I can’t talk about the sunshine without recommending the use of sunscreen.  I lost a friend to a melonoma when we were way too young. Having worked in a salon setting for years, I saw first hand the differences in protected skin and skin that worshipped the sun for too long. Sunscreen is important for so many reasons. So lather up before you go outside to embrace the warmth of the sun.

The sun lay like a friendly arm across her shoulder.”

Margorie Kinnan Rawlings

 

 

Reconnecting To Joy – Dancing

Did you watch Seinfeld? (Maybe you still do!) Remember Elaine and her funny dance? Yes, I suspect that is how I look when I am dancing. Yet I get so much joy from moving to the music, I don’t let a thing like “Boy I bet I look silly” stop me from having fun.

Dancing for joy
Dance for Joy

Part of the joy of being an adult and having my own space is that I turn the music up and dance around the living room and the kitchen and wherever I am. I dance while I am cleaning. Cooking to music helps me enjoy it even more and while I am there, I may as well dance! While I can’t actually dance in the car, that doesn’t stop me from rocking out, with my arms waving and head rocking, despite the fact that sometimes people stare. All of this makes my world more fun to be in.

In my early years, I just moved to the music. Then Dave taught me western swing, something he is quite good at.  We tried square dancing. Nope. We took classes in ballroom dance for awhile but we never had much success with that. There are too many rules and structure for my taste. I had the chance to learn line dancing while we lived in campgrounds. Now, that was right up my alley! Being part of group allowed me to have someone to watch plus the music has a great beat. No one ever noticed if I turned the wrong way or made a misstep. Or if they did notice, I was too busy having fun to pay attention.Line dancing is just for fun.

While my current situation doesn’t have line dancing, I still get to play my music and move. I am back to my original style, with no structure and certainly no mistakes. Ah, Joy!

Older woman dancing
I will always dance

“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.”Satchel Paige

Reconnecting To Joy – Friends

Luckily, my family falls into the category of being friends. Not everyone can say that. In fact, I know many people have deicded to create new families of the heart, made up of friends who they can trust and depend on through thick and thin. I am fortunate enough to have both friends and family to love.

Friends Mark Twain Landing
Having Fun with Friends

Naturally there have been multiple studies to determine the benefits of having friends. Not too surprisingly, there are many benefits when we have strong relationships in our lives. We have less stress, better health, increased happiness and actually live longer. The support we receive makes such a difference that it helps us make better choices. Studies show that people with good social relationships exercise more and drink less. (Of course, sometimes my crew encourages me to drink more. But those times are always accompanied by connection, laughter and love which feels like a very healthy choice.)

My best friends are the ones who make me laugh. They drop everything to help me when I call. They are ones who come to mind when I need to talk and they won’t judge me. True friends are the ones who let me share my pain, but also tell me their troubles. We take turns being strong.

Two Friends
Hanging onto my friends

The hardest part of traveling for the past six years is maintaining the bonds I have made over time, and still creating a space for new people in my life. I do treasure all the connections I have made. I am grateful for social media in that it allows me to stay in contact with so many people. Friendship is precious, even if it has to turn into a long-distance relationship. My widespread community keeps me steady and grateful for their on-going support. Yes, friends bring me joy.

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

― William Shakespeare

Reconnecting To Joy – Reading

Reading brings me one of the greatest joys I have in my life. There is nothing like opening a new book and beginning the adventure. I never know where it will lead.

Girl Reading
Leave Me Alone

Let’s be honest. Reading allows me to escape. Don’t get me wrong. My life is great. But it is so nice to dive into a different world, dive so deeply that my connection to real life gets fuzzy. When my kids were young and I found a good book, they would have to shout my name to get my attention. The word “mom” had no meaning to me. I was a dragon rider, a rich tycoon or Southern belle. It is easy to tune out everything else, living out an imaginary life rich with new experiences and interesting people. To this day, my poor husband has to say my name several times to get my attention when I read.

Finding new reading material with a vagabond lifestyle can be tricky. Traveling in an RV offers a bonus. Each campground has a lending library, mainly composed of well-thumbed paperbacks. Because we are all on the road, we bring our own used books. When we head out the next day with a new-to-me book in my hand, I have left one behind for the next traveler and it is an even trade.

E-Reading
E-Reading

Kindles and Nooks work great too, don’t they? They have the very latest novels and the most up-to-date non-fiction titles. One of their best features is that I can adjust the print size. It is large-print-books on demand. I can get service almost anywhere, which is unusual. One problem: They are thin enough that I will tuck them away and can’t find them. I often forget where I have put it. So irritating.

Libraries offer amazing benefits as well. The first thing I do when I arrive in a new town is locate the library. It is usually in the center of town, always has friendly, knowledgeable librarians and has free WiFi. Some towns only have funds to keep them open a few hours a week. Others have over-flowing shelves. They all give me a chance to browse the newest releases. I love libraries almost as much as I love reading. However, when I am passing through, I can’t check out the books. Luckily, my home town has an online lending library. I can check out books to be read on my computer even though I am far from Denver. What a luxury.

Reading Treasure Chest
Reading is a Treasure Chest

But the truth is I still prefer holding a book and turning the pages. I also like seeing how far along I am in the story and being able to flip back when I want to check something.  E-readers make that difficult. So I prefer real books. Still I find joy in reading, no matter where I am or what I am holding. I am grateful that I love to read. It opens so many doors and leads me down many paths.

 

“Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.” –  Joseph Addison

Reconnecting to Joy – Gratitude

Gratitude Journal
Gratitude Journal

The scientific benefits of gratitude have been proven. My life is better when I remember to be grateful. Many advocate using gratitude journals to record why we are thankful for what we have in our lives. So why is it so hard to do? I have started many journals only to let them gather dust on the nightstand. I get tired of writing “I am grateful for my family” even though I AM actually happy they are in my life and do notice this fact often. But writing it down feels like a chore, one for which I am not thankful. So why should I try again?

Studies have shown that writing down a gratitude list even once a week can make dramatic changes in one’s attitude. Those who make the effort to keep a gratitude journal report being happier and more optimistic. They also tend to be able to handle negative life events with greater ease.

Recording the people and events we are grateful for reaps greater benefits than gratitude for material things. This can actually increase our empathy and help us more kind to others on a daily basis. Plus it turns out that relationships need to have a five to one ratio of positive to negative interactions. In other words, for every frown or complaint, we need five smiles and compliments to make the connection work. A gratitude journal can remind us the good parts of being in a relationship (whether it is personal or professional) so we can smile more often.

Gratitude Apps
Download a Gratitude App

I know why I should do this. How can I make sure to create this habit? There are apps to put on my phone (most of them are only a couple of dollars). I can download pages from the internet. Some people have posted beautiful writing prompts to tickle my imagination. Photography can act as a writing prompt or be a gratitude journel of its own. But what appeals to me most is to give myself permission to continue to look for those things I appreciate. I can remind myself to acknowledge those things as they arise and be sure to mention them out loud when I notice them.

Tree of Hearts Gratitude
Love Being Grateful

I will try out the app. After all, why not make my phone work for me for a change. Stayed tuned and I will let you know how this goes. Meanwhile, feel free to share how you remember to count your own blessings. We would all be grateful. 🙂

 

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” Rumi

Reconnecting To Joy – Good Deeds

Tin Man Good Deed Doer
Good Deed Doer

One of my favorite quotes from The Wizard Of Oz comes from the scene where the Wizard hands the Tin Man a heart and says: “Back where I come from, there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds. They are called phila-, er, er, philanth-er, good-deed doers!” It makes me laugh every time.

We all know that being a philanthropist is a great goal. It can be hard when it feels like time and money are tight, but it has big pay-offs. Studies show that being generous, as in doing good deeds, can lead to lower stress, lower cortisol levels, help you live a longer life, have happier relationships and increase our mental health. All good reasons to look for opportunities to take care of each other.

Good deeds do not have to be huge. A smile as you walk by someone, holding the door, picking up that blowing napkin (especially when it wasn’t yours) all count in my book.

What about doing a good deed anonymously? I think it gets extra karma points. It is surprisingly hard to do something nice and not look for acknowledgement. Yet those can be the most rewarding ones of all.

Santa's Sack of Good Deeds
Santa’s Sack of Good Deeds

I read about a family that talks in a wonderful way to their children who ask about the reality of Santa Claus. They tell their children that some kids think there is not a Santa. Then they continue “A lot of children think that, because they aren’t ready to BE a Santa yet, but YOU ARE.” The Distractify article goes on to say: “They have the child choose someone they know–a neighbor, usually. The child’s mission is to secretly, deviously, find out something that the person needs, and then provide it, wrap it, deliver it–and never reveal to the target where it came from. Being a Santa isn’t about getting credit, you see. It’s unselfish giving.”

I aspire to be that person, the one who makes a quiet difference. The one who can do the kind thing and not require a brass band flourish. It is a goal.

So keep your eyes open. I will too.  Let’s be Santa together.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa