Monday, August 29, 2011

Learning to Savor is Worth the Effort

I recently posted about words that I have installed on the walls in our bathroom and living room to remind myself and, hopefully, to define myself.  I have added another word to my personal lexigon, one which may be most important to those of us who now understand that we don't (and never really did) have all the time in the world to decide what is important and what kind of lives we want to live.

The new word is "savor".  I'm adding it to the other words -- believe, learn, listen, touch, dance, sing, relax, imagine, touch, trust, teach, dream, and "enjoy", which is listed as a synonym in the dictionary.

Maybe it's my age, but "to savor" means much more to me than "to enjoy."  It's probably because the primary definition of "to enjoy" in the dictionary I consulted was "to have a good time."

I remember being asked, when I was a child, if I had a good time at a birthday party or a school picnic.  The answer was usually "yes", but I didn't have the capacity to describe what it was that made the event notable.  (This was before today's often outlandishly expensive children's parties, which will be the subject of a future post.)  If nothing went wrong at the parties I attended (such as falling off the swings, or being chosen last for one of the games); if my friends were there and the food was good, then I had a good time.

"Savoring" an event, or even the daily routine of our lives, puts much more responsibility on our adult selves, but the reward is much more satisfying than simply "enjoying ourselves" or "having a good time."  Savoring implies that we take the time and employ our senses to seek out exactly what it is that flavors the event -- what it is that makes it special.  Call this mindfulness if you will, and we are told that the more mindful we are, the happier our lives will be.

"Savoring" isn't limited to an expensive cruise or a once-in-a-lifetime gathering; it can be experienced with a really outstanding cup of tea.  It's a practice, and it requires practice.  I love to hear and read about people who have mastered the art of living and I believe that savoring each positive moment is a part of their lives that they have cultivated.  I appreciate the examples they set for the rest of us, especially when I note that the "good life" they demonstrate is within the grasp of most of us.

What do you savor in your life?


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Odd Girl Out" or "One of a Kind"?

Dear Friends,
When I first posted this, I left out an important point.  It is now included in red print.  Thank you to my Facebook friend who reminded me of his own experiences and to Nance for her comment.

I imagine that most females in our culture have experienced the pain of exclusion.  Maybe we've been the "odd girl out" in a friendship trio; maybe we've been rejected by the Queen Bee and Wannabes; or maybe at some point in our lives, we've been outside the charmed circle of sorority or club membership, or that happy little group of women who lunch, shop, or play cards together.

If you haven't been the excluded one, you may be just a generation or two away.  The probability of being the "odd girl out" is high for our daughters and granddaughters.  The shifting sands of "best friends forever" and junior high and high school cliques may be a training ground for self-doubt in adulthood. That self-doubt may promote that same behavior of exclusion in ourselves and our children.

Probably most of us have been on the giving as well as the receiving end when it comes to exclusion.  In my mature years, I can now see where I have been guilty.  I congratulated myself on being open to friendship when I was a girl and actually described my "group" that way.  But the fact that we were a "group" has implications; there were girls I didn't know, girls I didn't make the effort to know.  The loss was mine.

There's another term that I like: "One of a Kind".  It implies, to me, the type of person who sets herself/himself apart.  It's an internal quality over which the individual has control.  You can make yourself "one of a kind" by paying attention to your own special gifts/interests/values and developing that part of yourself that is like no other.

"One of a Kind" is an insurance policy.  I believe it protects us from feeling "less than" because of someone else's determination that we are the odd girl out.  It transcends friendship because we are always centered in ourselves, but it can enrich friendships because it recognizes the unique qualities that we treasure about ourselves and others.

It is important for adults to guide young people in finding and developing that "one of a kind". Some young people are fortunate to have that special adult in a teacher, counselor, or older friend. When that isn't the case, some (rare) young people are able to nurture themselves; others can turn to bad substitutes.

We can ask ourselves the question, the next time we feel like an outsider:  Am I the odd girl out or one of a kind?  And whose decision is it?  Whose decision should it be?


Monday, August 1, 2011

Father's Day and Birthday Gift Report - Ice Cream and Appreciation

Some of you may remember that I posted at Christmas about our gift to my Dad.  He has been having some age-related problems with his vision, which have interfered with his reading.  As a librarian, I have always taken pleasure in selecting books for him, but had decided to buy something else until his vision problems were addressed.  For Christmas, we gave him 13 12-packs of Caffeine Free Coke Classic.  CFCC is hard to find in the small town where my dad lives and he really appreciated receiving a good supply.

When Father's Day came, I decided to repeat the purchase of something I knew he would really appreciate and enjoy.  Sometimes when we go to visit Dad, we stop by the local Braum's and pick up a pint of his favorite ice cream, Braum's butter pecan.  In Oklahoma and some locations in Texas, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri, Braum's is the local gold standard for ice cream.  (They have really good hamburgers, too.)  Since Dad lives in a town without a Braum's, he didn't have a regular supply of his favorite flavor.  We fixed that (temporarily) at Father's Day with a dozen individually-packed pints.

Dad's birthday is in early July, and I was again thinking about his gift.  This was to be his 90th, and I wanted it to be special, but I knew it would be difficult because he has everything he needs and most of what he wants (except good vision, hearing, and the stamina he used to have).  He is also planning to move soon and is trying to divest himself of most of his household possessions.

I asked him how his ice cream supply was holding up and he replied, "It's gone." 

We decided it was time for another supply of ice-cream and made plans to stop at Braum's on our way to his birthday party.

The other part of our gift was appreciation.  We were the messengers of greetings from several people who had known Dad during his business life in my hometown.  Dad was a building contractor and I had several photographs of homes he had built in the 1950's and 1960's, at the time of their construction and more recently.  I had posted the photos on my hometown's group page on Facebook.  I had originally posted them for the enjoyment of the group, but was elated at the comments of appreciation for my dad's work and the homes that several group members had lived in over the years.

I decided to share that appreciation with Dad at his birthday party.  He was moved to tears by the comments and good wishes from the kind people from our hometown.  I felt good that we were able to give him a special moment, just by being the messenger, and am grateful for the wishes sent for that special day.

Ice cream and appreciation:  I guess it's a pretty good gift for any of us, isn't it?



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