Dolce far niente–the sweetness of doing nothing.

I decided to take a break from my perfectionism series to practice a bit of what I preach.  Have you seen the movie, Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts?  There’s a great scene when she’s in Italy–actually a couple of great scenes that I’m referring to.  First, she’s sitting by herself, outside, at a restaurant and orders spaghetti and red wine.  To wonderful music, she has a love affair with her spaghetti.

Fast forward to visiting with her friends in a barber shop when she learns a new phrase–“dolce far niente,” the sweetness of doing nothing.  “The Italians are masters of it.”  And we Americans–well, we Americans–we don’t know “jack” about it.

So, I was in Chicago this week for work.  The conference was over at noon and my plane didn’t leave O’Hare until 5:15, so I had time to walk a bit and have a nice lunch.

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I sat in an outside bistro, with a glass of red wine and a plate of spaghetti (gluten free, of course) and had my dolce far niente moment.  I think the Italians are onto something.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


On July 4, 1776 The Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence memorializing the, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” prose of governing philosophy that later got expanded and articulated in The Constitution of the United States of America.  And today, 237 years later, 50 states strong we still stand.  One hundred and fifty years ago yesterday, the battle of Gettysburg concluded with the largest number of casualties of the entire war–an estimated 46-51,000 from both armies died in the three day battle.  The battle was being fought to preserve our union of united states, and some would say over the phrase, “that all men are created equal.”

During World War I and II more brave men and women lost their lives to strike down tyranny and let liberty and freedom prevail.  How important is it that we recognize just how lucky we are?  How important is it that we express gratitude and appreciation for the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice that we may live free.  That men and women of adult age have the right to choose their leaders.  That men and women of all ages have the right to freedom of speech.  That men and women of all ages have the right to secure an education.  That men and women of all ages have the right to walk and travel freely around this beautiful land of ours.  How lucky?  Just ask the people of Egypt this morning.  Just ask women who have been oppressed by the Taliban.  Just ask people of African American heritage who have great, great, grandparents who were slaves.

We are very, very lucky and so incredibly blessed.  “There By the Grace of God go I.”  Amen.


I just returned from a fabulous trip to London, England.  I typically travel abroad with a tour–that way I can travel alone, but not really be alone.  And, quite frankly, then I don’t have to spend the time researching, planning, and worrying about all the details.  I can just pack my bags and go.

As a part of this tour, I could sign up for optional excursions (read here–more expense).  So even though it’s more cost, you can pick and choose the things you want to do and skip those things you don’t think you would enjoy.  One of the optional tours I signed up for was a guided tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  WOW!  If you have any spiritual bone in your body, it’s hard not to feel the power of God within those sacred walls.

One part of the tour in particular moved me to tears–literally.  It was a viewing of the painting called “The Light of the World” based on the passage in Revelation:

Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If any man hear My voice and open the door I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with Me.                       Revelation 3:20

I actually looked it up on Google and found this Wiki link where you can learn a little more about the painting and see a picture of it.   The Light of the World Painting

William Holman Hunt, the artist, felt he needed to explain the way he painted the image.  He said:

The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing the obstinately shut mind.

How many of our “agreements” or the way we look at things keep us from experiencing the grace we could find in every day living?  How often do we allow ourselves to think thoughts that are counter-productive to finding peace and joy?  How often does our close-mindedness get in the way of finding heaven on Earth?

I’m just asking!

 


About two months ago I was stopping by the nursing home to visit my father.  My father has been in three different rooms since he transitioned to the nursing home in December.  Two of his three rooms, including the one he’s in now, use a separate entrance.  For the brief period of time he was in the western side of the nursing home, I accessed his area by walking down a long corridor and catching an elevator to the top floor.  Apparently every month they display different artists’ prints in this corridor and they’re available for purchase if something grabs your fancy.  Needless to say, the print below captured my fancy and I purchased it to hang in my home:

SWOG Like Photo

 

The poem below the print says the following:

In my lonely hour, In the night time of my fears, When suffering is more than I can bear, I find You refining me like a fire, And enfolding me like a tender flower, Firm and strong, Yet meek and humble.   By Crystal Dull from the Prayer Flower Series

Pretty cool and awfully serendipitous–don’t you think?!  And, by the way, notice my shadow framed in the background from when I took the picture of the print.  Hmmm.

 

 

 

 


Yesterday while on this Montana vacation, my girlfriend, two of her friends from Montana, and I went on a long, challenging hike in The Bridgers mountain range–just north of Bozeman. It was simply breathtaking. We climbed to the saddle in between two peaks and the view was inspiring. But, even more–or at least as–inspiring was the conversation and laughter between us four women. We ranged in age from 49 to 60 and we shared a really fabulous time–the kind of time you remember always because of the uniqueness of the experience and the people you shared it with.

The one woman is originally from Germany and, while she has a great command of the English language, she still enjoys her German accent. She was sharing all sorts of funny stories with us as we made our climb but one saying in particular really struck me, and I told her it was going in my blog. She said her grandmother used to impart all sorts of wisdom to her in the form of quaint sayings. This one in particular reminded me of the post I did when I moved into my new condo and had to contend with all my “stuff.” The saying was: “Your last jacket has no pockets.”

What a GREAT saying! You can’t take the “stuff” with you when you go. And remember…I don’t care if you “own” your house(s), your car(s) and your “stuff” or not…you’re only renting them from God while you’re here on earth (another friend once said that to me and that struck me as wisdom, as well). Yet we get so caught up with our stuff–buying it, figuring out how to use it, taking care of it, replacing it when it’s not working…we spend so much time on our stuff, we forget it’s ultimately not ours to take when we leave this earth.

Is your stuff keeping you from enjoying people or are you using it as a means to enjoy snd help people? Is your stuff holding you prisoner in a relationship you aren’t happy in? Does taking care of your stuff keep you from taking care of important relationships? Consider simplifying because “your last jacket has no pockets.”


I received this wonderful email today from a dear friend of mine and a true SWOG who has been “featured” in this blog before.  She shared a recent example of the power of thought reframing and mentions “The Secret” highlighted in swog blog recently.  Thank you, B!

Thought you would appreciate knowing that The Secret came up at my tennis match on Saturday.  I was playing Singles against a really nice woman from E….  Our first set went to a tie breaker and I was up 6-3 (first to 7 wins, must win by 2.)  My opponent caught up and went ahead, 7-6.  I was really starting to have some negative thoughts creep into my head as she was making this comeback, but I was also aware of how damaging they could be and trying really hard to suppress them.  I ended up winning the tiebreaker, 9-7.  After the match we were talking about things and I mentioned my trying to control my negative thoughts in the first set tiebreaker.  She said, “I read a really good book about that once…” and I said was it “The Secret” by any chance?  It was!  So then we had a nice talk about the power to attract negative things by our thoughts.  When I watched The Secret one of the first things that came to mind was when I am afraid I might double fault…inevitably I do!  She said the same thing.

Anyways, I thought you might enjoy hearing about our conversation!

Bobby Jones, the great golfer once said:

Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course…the space between your ears.

 

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve experienced what my friend talks about above–the “inevitable” occuring because of thinking those pesky negative thoughts.  Whether it was as simple as a muffed shot in golf or a failed project at work or a problem in a relationship…my negativity lead to the inevitable negative outcome.  You hear so much about sports psychologists helping athletes to envision what success would look like so they actually feel that success.  They use the power of the “law of attraction” to create positive energy with hopefully the inevitable positive outcome.

If you’re going through a tough time, and I know some of you are…try to hold onto what success will look like.  You might not be able to get there tomorrow, or next week, but keep hold of those thoughts and turn to them when your situation feels overwhelming.  Hold them dear and feel the energy and power behind them.  Just keep telling yourself you’ll get there.  Don’t ever give up.  Strength with grace.  We can do it.

 


I have become a rabid fan of the PBS mini-series Downton Abbey.  I purchased Season I and II and have watched all episodes repeatedly.  There are so many classic scenes and the story line is fascinating.  Of course, I’m such a fan of English Literature–Austen, Bronte, Dickens and this story is based in England during the years 1912-1920 (so far).  Season III gets underway in January of 2013 (I don’t know if I can wait that long!!!).

The story line, for those of you who don’t know it, depicts the English class system at its “finest.”  The plot is centered around the characters that live and work in a grand estate of Lord Grantham–the Lord & Ladyship, their three daughters and the Lord’s mother–The Dowager Countess of Grantham.  Of course, the story line also includes a cast of servants including the butler, head housekeeper, the lady’s maids, valets, cooks, etc.  I tell you all this in way of background for a classic quote by The Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith (Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter series and the Reverend Mother in Sister Act).  In fact, you ought to have a look at someone’s top 10 quotes by her in this series.  I’m not sure if you’ll have the same appreciation for them if you haven’t watched the program, but I couldn’t stop laughing at most of them being familiar with her character.  She’s as sharp as they come and has a wit to match with anyone’s–and her sense of delivery is classic.  See that youtube video here:  Dowager Countess Quotes

Anyway, during the second season, World War I is winding down but two of the series characters are wounded–the one, unfortunately, fatally.  The Dowager Countess and one of the daughters is meeting with the doctor to secure his transfer back to Downton Abbey–essentially to die at home.  The soldier’s father is there visiting with him while the doctor, the Dowager Countess, and the daughter discuss his prognosis.  The soldier’s father joins them in conversation maintaining hope of him getting better and remaining oblivious to the severity of his son’s prognosis.  When the doctor deigns to discourage him, the countess interrupts and says, “I shouldn’t worry too much.  We’ll know much more when he’s rested.”  When the father returns to his son’s bedside, Maggie Smith’s character says to the doctor, “See sometimes we must let the blow fall by degrees.  Give him time to find the strength to face it.”  She was telling the doctor to “Let it Be.”

“We must let the blow fall by degrees.”  We can’t absorb it all when bad things happen.  We can’t understand why.  We search for answers but often come up empty when we are in the midst of dealing with crisis or tragedy.  “Give him time to find the strength to face it.”  I suppose this is why.  We summon strength through friends, faith, family, and/or our own reserves to deal with life’s difficulties as they occur.  And we grow stronger as a result…preparing us for more loss as life moves on.  We need a time period to “Let it Be.”

Rohr talks in Falling Upward about not being able to fast forward through the first half of life to move into the more spiritually mature second half.  We wouldn’t have the sea legs, the strength or the perspective to do it if we hadn’t had first half of life striving and successes.  “We must let the blow fall by degrees.”  Classic “let it be.”


The Right Honourable Tony Blair was an enchanting speaker at our local chamber event; I could sit and listen to that British accent all night long.   But, I really was paying attention and he said some interesting things.

  • “I find it intriquing that we look for honesty and candor in our leaders and then we end up embarrassed or repulsed by it when we hear it.”  Referring to a story he told about George Bush’s remarks at the first G-8 summit President Bush attended.
  • The  President of the United States is both the head of government and the head of state in the United States.  In Great Britain, the Prime Minister is the head of government alone.  The Queen is the head of state.  Even though the Prime Minister is elected into office, he/she does not officially become the Prime Minister until the Queen “appoints” him/her.
  • He effused optimism.  Even though he continues grueling work on Middle East peace, he is optimistic at progress made.  “Don’t believe all the negativity you hear in the press.”
  • He took the time to specially mention and recognize the Chamber’s three award recipients and he talked about leadership.  When he reflected on the topic, he said something like, “Everyone is insecure when they start down a new path or they’re placed in a new position.  The difference with leaders is they stick their necks out there and say, ‘I’ll have a go at it!'”

Isn’t that what’s important?  Instead of doing nothing and wallowing in pity over some situation or life event that has happened to us, shouldn’t we take that approach–“I’ll just have a go at it!”  We’re so afraid of failing.  We’re so afraid of criticism.  And, yet life’s richest rewards often come as a result of the lessons we learned through the failures we’ve experienced.  We just can’t give up.

“I’ll have a go at it–how about you?”


In my last post, I promised information on “How God Changes Your Brain” in this one.  Well, stay tuned; that will be the next post.  I couldn’t help but write a very short thank you to family and friends who have been thinking of me or praying for me for my stepdaughter’s wedding.

I have to tell you, given all the circumstances of the last two years, it couldn’t have gone any better.  Thank you!

I won’t do credit to this “event” in this post.  I’m not sure I can yet, but I have to tell you–it was an amazing experience.  My “former” family embraced me (literally), “former” friends embraced me, my step grandson and handsome ring bearer embraced me, and present colleagues of my ex-husband embraced me.  As for my step-daughter…well, after she, her new husband and I hugged, and I said good-bye to her on the way out the door from the ceremony ( I didn’t stay for the reception), she called to my back over a group of people that stood between us as we parted,

“Love You!”

It made everything worthwhile.


At our staff meeting this morning, my boss was discussing his daughter’s wedding this past Sunday in Baltimore.  Cold, rainy, ugly.  He said he was questioning God and how his devoted daughter should end up with such a lousy weather day.  He then reflected on how God gives us blessings through troubled times – when things are not so perfect.  It reminded me of a song “Blessings” by Laura Story where she says:

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

WOW!  That verse brought me to tears.  Thank you, M.A.!  The trials of the last few years and the resulting strengthening of faith and good friendships like yours have made me a different person.  I will always be grateful.  I appreciate your commitment to SWOGblog and your contributions to it–both directly (sharing these examples) and indirectly through your support and sharing with others.  I remain committed to continuing the dialogue!