I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. ~John Burroughs
My family and I have been through some of the most difficult trials of our lives over the past eighteen months. We were saddened to experience the loss of a great friend and neighbor, Steve, who had battled colon cancer and passed last February. In April, my sister Carolyn would be diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She would battle this horrible disease for 7 months before it took her life on October 30th. Watching as she battled this horrible disease was excruciating. To have been there with the rest of my sisters and our families as she took her last breath was the most gut wrenching experience of my life. But I am glad we were all there for her and had that closure. In the midst of this, I was trying to keep my world from falling apart around me. My husband would be hospitalized 3 times, once with a mild heart attack. My daughter Sara and her boyfriend were in a car accident, leaving Sara with a broken ankle, followed by the loss of her job. My son broke his hand and required surgery to insert pins. My mother and her husband both became gravely ill and were hospitalized. Mom endured several life and limb saving procedures and suffered many complications and set backs, spent two months in the hospital, followed by 6 weeks in a rehabilitation facility. Her husband became fatally ill during this time and passed away on February 20th. A few weeks later, we would be dealt another blow. A very close friend, my husband's best friend of 25 years suffered a massive heart attack and passed away. Mom would continue to battle illness, but eventually became well enough to go home in April and things would finally settle down.
Grief, anger and frustration had become all too common during this past year and I have frequently wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear. To say the least, I was almost completely physically and emotionally drained. I feared at times I would fall into a deep depression. But I managed to keep my mental well being in check by making time to escape to one of my favorite local nature preserves to take long walks and clear my head. The best therapy I have found for me is what I like to call "nature therapy". I am not what you would call a really religious person, but I do consider myself to be a spiritual person. I feel closest to God and most at peace when I am outdoors. While I'm walking along a trail through a forest, I am meditating, praying, talking to God, sometimes even talking to myself. It is how I clear my head and calm my spirit. Sometimes I just stop and listen to the wind gently blowing through the trees, a woodpecker hammering away in the top of a tree, the ospreys and hawks screeching as they fly just over the tree tops and squirrels chattering to each other or scurrying around the forest floor in search of nuts. I can stop and sit on a bench by a stream and enjoy the sound of the water as it flows through the forest.
I am at peace in places like this and it is all I can do to pull myself away. These walks have helped me to find some peace amid all the turmoil over these past months. I can go back and face each situation with a clear head and a little more perspective.
Lose yourself in nature and find peace. The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. Anne Frank
We never planned on keeping Stewey as a pet, but he adopted us anyway. Stewey was rescued from a downed tree in a friend's yard about a year and a half ago. We figured we'd nurse him and prepare him for a life in the wild. We slowly introduced him to the outdoors, watching as he ran around the back yard, climbing up the tree and then back down. Then one day he discovered other squirrels and would spend hours at a time running with his new friends. Eventually he disappeared for a week; we figured we had done our job and if we were lucky he would make an occasional appearance. One afternoon my son Matt was sitting in the garage when he was startled by Stewey, who came running in and leaped into his lap. From that point on he would only venture out for a little while and then come running back in. My husband has become very attached to his little buddy. Did you know that a squirrel in captivity can live up to 20 years? Looks like he's going to be around for a while.
I've been following Gretchen Rubin since last year after reading her book, The Happiness Project. Since we're getting close to another new year, most of us are thinking ahead to our new year's resolutions. I personally have never really been one to make resolutions because like most of us, I usually fail to achieve them. Today I read Gretchen's post looking at this from another perspective. Instead of making new year's resolutions, think about a one word theme for the coming year. Think about what one word would encompass what you want or need to accomplish. I gave it some thought and to be honest, I have not been able to nail down one word, but I have narrowed it down to 3. My words are, GOALS, CHANGE AND THRIVE. I'm leaning towards change because goals and thriving can fall under the category of change. I like the idea of THRIVE, because as another reader stated in her comment, she wants to "thrive instead of survive." I like that idea a lot, because that's exactly how I feel, like I've just been surviving and not thriving and that needs to change. There's that word again....CHANGE.
Every year at Christmas time I can't help but remember a very sweet memory. It was seventeen years ago; we were broke and in the process of moving back to Jacksonville from Georgia. I was depressed about our situation and stressed beyond belief. We would be making the move on Christmas Eve, so I definitely had no plans of putting up a Christmas tree, let alone even doing Christmas. My kids were young, Sara 3 and Matt was 8 months, I figured it really wouldn't matter. I was frantically packing and cleaning while trying to look after the kids. Matthew, as always, was crying. He cried all the time, hour after hour, it never seemed to stop and I was frazzled to say the least. Amid all the craziness, Sara wanted to put up a Christmas tree. All I could think about was how I didn't have time for this, we're moving, we're not going to be here for Christmas and I didn't even know where any Christmas decorations were among all the boxes. The next thing I remember was Richard taking Sara out to the woods behind the house to look for a Christmas tree. I was standing at the kitchen sink and looked up in time to see Sara and dad coming around the back of the house dragging a pitiful little pine tree. She was beaming, she was so excited about her little Christmas tree. The first thing I thought about was that sad little tree in the classic Charlie Brown Christmas. It wasn't quite that bad, but it was close. So, we decorated our little tree with some odds and ends from around the house and made an aluminum foil star for the top. We didn't have any presents to put under it, but I had a memory that would last me a lifetime.
Well, life as we know it has it's ups and downs. It's a roller coaster ride full of twists and turns and occasionally we get thrown for a loop and things get turned upside down. This year has been one of those years for us and I'm just happy we're all in one piece and healthy. This year I lost a good friend and a sister to cancer. These huge losses have certainly put things in perspective and have caused me to think a lot about priorities. There have been broken bones, illnesses and financial struggles this year due to reduced hours at work and pay cuts due to the economy. We're in the same boat with many, many others across the country. So, this year may be another "Charlie Brown Christmas", not just for my family, but for many others as well. We'll get through it though, we always do. I will just pray that the coming year will bring much more joy than heartache for all of us.
I was intrigued when I browsed through this book in the book store several months ago. Eric Weiner travels the world in search of the happiest places on earth. I read an excerpt from it online and decided I had to go back and get it. A witty combination of geography, psychology and philosophy. I am finding it to be a very interesting read so far, I'll keep you posted.