Resistant to Change

Watch this oil painting of a cardinal on a tree branch come to life in about 2 minutes (time lapse)

Well, guess who’s cranky about our unexpected move? Mr. Cardinal. He was giving me the sulky grump face all afternoon because I moved things around on the patio. He sat on my empty potting table (got it ready to sell) and stared through the patio glass at me. He fussed like this until my husband emptied the rest of the bird seeds into all of the feeders. Then he was finally placated. He already had food, but a freshly topped off pile distracted him from the changes to his surroundings on the patio.

I’d hate to think that my brain is the size of a bird’s, but I too have been resistant to change. I’ve moved so many times and I’ve always been in a heightened state that welcomes the challenge- except for this time around. This time I felt blindsided and I didn’t take the news gracefully. We were so close to buying a house. We were planning on staying here only one more year, but the homeowner threw water all over that when she sent the official vacate notice- not renewing the lease. Now all of our plans had to be changed. I did not like this. Not one little bit. One more thing out of my control, after many years of things out of my control. I thought we were able to control this move- we’d move next year, to a house of our own, after working so hard to rebuild our lives.

But no, we’ll have to move TWICE now as we aren’t ready to buy a house- my husband’s new job doesn’t start until after our lease runs out. We have to move into another rental. I must admit, I was as resentful as the cardinal after his forced change of scenery. I sulked. I scowled. And I couldn’t be appeased by birdseed.

It has taken me several days of adjustment to settle down, but in reasonable perspective, I went through the 7 stages of grief very quickly. (“Grief” can be interpreted to be any loss or unwanted change). I’m now on the “acceptance” phase for the most part, although I might slip back occasionally. Meanwhile, there has been actual grief in the midst of this, as I have written a long letter and sent a sympathy card to a family member. I don’t want to get into the details of this for privacy reasons, but it has hit me hard and my heart is heavy with it. Too many unexpected and “died suddenly” deaths, and this one was young (in 30’s).

It’s easy to feel during times like this that “the world is bad, what difference does anything make anyway”, “I’ll never win”, “Bad things always happen to good people”, “Hard work never matters”, “Life will always be hard”, “The goalposts keep moving whenever we get close”, “I always try to kick Lucy’s football- of all the Charlie Browns in the world, I’m the Charlie Browniest”. But the truth tells me a different story.

“Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns lyric video

“You’ll never win, you’ll never win…But the voice of truth tells me a different story, the voice of truth says ‘do not be afraid.’… Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed- you’ll never win, you’ll never win, but the voice of truth tells me a different story… Out of all the voices calling out to me I will choose to listen to the voice of truth.”

So, I’m fighting for a win, and I believe things will all work out. Meanwhile, I got a lot done today. I finished part of the Easter show taping, got more plants ready for the sale this weekend, and packed some household items. I also refreshed the rental listings compulsively and obsessively whenever I didn’t keep myself busy enough. Nothing yet. But tomorrow’s another day. And at this point, I’m excited to get moving.


Painting a Story

See oil painting “Cardinal at the Cabin” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

I uploaded this painting video to YouTube today and I struggled to come up with the words to put into the description. What started off as a simple project idea turned into a story of loss and healing. My grief journey began when I was a child, but when Mom died, it felt like I lost Dad all over again because she was the one who kept his memory alive.

But it has been several years now since she passed, and now my journey has me on a path where I’m hopeful and focused on the new roads ahead. Every now and then, though, my spirit needs a retreat to the cabin in the woods. Here is what I wrote for the YouTube video description:

What does this painting mean to you? Art is a language and it speaks to you however you want. This is what it means to me: When I painted this, the project goal was to paint from my imagination (no reference or plan) and paint however the emotions and inspiration leads. My thoughts were of a cabin in the woods, a peaceful and restful space, a spiritual escape from the stresses, chaos, and darkness of this world. But as I painted, I found myself lost in the scene with additions that changed the story. The empty rocking chair and the cardinal in the tree- the chair reminded me of Mom. Her chair is empty and her tea is abandoned, as she left it. The cardinal is Dad’s spirit, who died almost 25 years before her, when he was 37 years old. This space holds the spirits of loved ones who’ve left this world, yet they live on where time and physical distance has no meaning. When the burdens of this world are too much, let our minds escape to this cabin in the woods, where peace is forever standing still, and we are forever loved. But let’s not linger there too long. We are blessed to be alive. We have so much left to do. I have hundreds more paintings to reach my 1k finished oil paintings goal. We all have a destiny, a purpose, and reason to be here.


Shocking Update

See oil painting “Visiting Rabbit” come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

There’s a shocking update to the post I wrote yesterday called “On my Mind“, please read that one first. More about the history of this type of beyond-the-grave communication is found on the “Visiting Rabbit” page. OK, now for my update. It was really pressing on me to try to figure out the meaning of the many signs and symbols that felt like Mom was trying to tell me something from beyond. It started in again this morning and I felt that this would continue until I got the message.

I decided to do an Internet search for her family members. With the very first name I tried, as someone I knew she was close to, I found an obituary notice for this person’s partner of many years. Having passed away less than 2 weeks ago, this is still a very fresh loss. Mom’s frantic spiritual messages started a while ago, I can’t remember how many days ago. I am convinced that this is the message I was meant to receive and I’m now feeling at peace about it. I will act on the message and reach out to this person.

Well, that’s the shocking update. Always be open to messages beyond this life. We don’t have to know how these things happen, only be willing to hear the message, and help people who need us. Having said that, to be perfectly honest with you, this sort of thing freaks me out. Not my comfort zone, but who says life is meant to be comfortable?


Grace Will Lead me Home

Watch this oil painting Ireland Coast come alive in about 2 minutes (time lapse)

When we were planning our move to Ireland, I was grieving the loss of my only remaining parent, my mom (Dad died when I was a child). We let go of nearly everything that we had- my husband had lost his job after the company moved out of the country, something I’ve blogged about before, and because of this, we needed to sell our house. My teaching studio was in the lower level of our home, so I lost my job too. When Mom died, there was no family to stay for, no jobs to stay for, and my kids were in between school choices.

There was nothing to keep us from moving to an island far, far away… away from the snow and ice, to a place where wild dolphins swim free. Have you ever felt this way, even if you didn’t actually lose your family, your home, your job and most of your possessions? Maybe you regardless have felt that all you had left were the people in your own little family, or even just yourself- alone.

In times of solitude, we may yearn for more solitude, as there is no greater loneliness than to feel alone in a crowd. The moody skies, brisk salty wind through our hair, and the mystery of the cliffs at the Celtic Sea Coast overwhelmed my heart. I will never forget that magical place that healed something in me that I didn’t even know was broken.

But we couldn’t stay. I had to cancel my month-long solo art show, and the kids had to cancel their school plans. My son had a scholarship, but alas, it was not meant to be. We couldn’t get our “permission to remain” visa. So, we had to come back home, to America. And by then, I knew that I couldn’t keep running. I would have to begin again, and make a new life where I was born, raised, and where I belong.

This is me (in yellow) singing “Amazing Grace” with my kids, shortly after we moved to the Deep South, here in Georgia. We didn’t return to the north, or to the midwestern states we’d lived in. We chose a coastal state where my dad had once been and had told me I’d love. We came here sight unseen, on a leap of faith.

I will post the lyrics here. If you are feeling heavy in your heart, this traditional hymn may be of familiar comfort to you.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

Words: John Newton (1779)

2021, We’re all Grieving

You might remember when I talked about this painting before, from an artist perspective: Painting Nostalgia. This art has no video, and I’m relieved that it doesn’t. It was an emotional experience to paint this art of my parents’ wedding day. Both of my parents are deceased: one died young (age 37) and the other died older, but still too young. Both have been gone a long time.

We cannot choose if and when we’ll experience events that cause grief, but we can choose how we respond to it. The year 2021 has brought grief to all humankind worldwide. Grief doesn’t always come from the loss of a physical life, such as when a loved one dies. Sometimes we grieve the loss of the life we once had, as in the way that we used to live, and who we believed ourselves to be. We may not be that person any more and in a mental, emotional and spiritual sense, this is a death that the world is collectively grieving, whether aware of this or not.

When my dad died, people told me that he wouldn’t want me to be sad, he’d want me to be strong. He’d want me to go on with my life. And this was true, but the push for normalcy went too far and was dysfunctional. It was considered a badge of honor that I went to school as normal on the very day he died. He died at 2:00AM and I was on the school bus just hours later. Some of my students were shocked by this, and wondered if the rumor they’d heard that my father had passed away in the night wasn’t true. Why would I be in school if he had? Why, indeed.

 I didn’t cry at his memorial service. I made it through the whole excruciating experience, which is a story for another day. Fortunately and blessedly for me, I also had people in my life who were concerned about my robotic reaction to the passing of my father, and encouraged the opposite: talk about what happened. 

One of these occasions was when I was at a friend’s house and her study partner just happened to be there at the same time. My friend urged me to talk about Dad and I did, as an emotionless storyteller. But her study partner was full of emotion, so much so that he shed tears for me. This simple display of empathy touched my heart so deeply that I later asked my friend about her kind study partner.

My friend was delighted to play matchmaker and one thing led to another… that kind boy and I became high school sweethearts, and have been married for decades. The point of me sharing this is to illustrate how being open to reacting to grief in a healthy way can lead to something positive, perhaps so wonderful that it results in a permanent life change that will affect generations to come!

If I had remained closed and spiritually stubborn, I may have refused to answer my friend’s questions about my father- opting to say very little and change the subject. But questions were asked and I was open to answering them. That one simple decision led to everything that happened in my life, my husband’s life, and our children’s life since. Obviously without that moment, my children would not exist.

Now, I’m not going to promise you (or myself) that responding to 2021’s grief events in a positive, spiritually open way will impact generations to come, but it might. It will at least impact OUR lives for many years to come. What is your response to the changes that have come to you, to the changes in the world that you may not have expected or wanted? When our lives change, there is a grieving process- the bigger the change, the more profound the grief.

If you’ve been greatly impacted by 2021’s events that continue to unfold, how do you channel your fears, anxieties, and sorrow? Do you deny your situation, are you closed to it, are you walking around the best you can as if everything is normal? Or, are you open to hearing your own voice speaking the truth about what has happened?

We don’t have to rely on fate, serendipity or miracles to randomly drop into our lives, like an unexpected stranger appearing with our friend, who later becomes our spouse and parent to our children! No, we don’t have to rely on these rare events. We can manifest positive changes for ourselves, simply by choosing to be positive and strong. We can then act in ways to be that person: a strong and positive person.

Rather than abusing substances, feeding other types of addictions, or sliding into an apathetic, morose, state of inaction, we can channel our grief into positive actions. This past year I chose certain areas of my life that I had planned to develop but hadn’t committed to. I then committed to several projects and worked steadily to make these things happen. 

One of the things I did was build up my immune system by creating something productive to do outside, like starting the garden I’d talked about but hadn’t yet done. A garden would improve my nutrition, push me to get more exercise, and I’d get my fifteen minutes of sunlight as well. What held me back was that we are currently renting a small house with only a patio area for a yard. I kept some flowers, but no food. I had no room for that.

But the limitations I placed on myself are nonsense! With enough determination I can overcome this challenge and plant an impressive garden on a small footprint. I knew this all along, but the truth is that I didn’t WANT that type of garden. I wanted one like I used to have before we had to sell our house. I didn’t want this “new normal”.

When I got over my spiritual and emotional stubbornness, I researched my options and committed to the investment of grow bags with handles. I can move them around and can even move them to our new house when that day comes. There is no excuse for not starting a garden, unless of course the real reason for not doing it is something else. Laziness? Apathy? An undisciplined lifestyle? Not really committed to change?

I’ve blogged quite a lot about my thriving garden that brings me great joy, with its greenery, food, and habitat for beautiful birds. So if you’ve been following me for a while, you know how this story ends: my garden is a positive lifestyle change that continues to evolve. One thing led to another and I’ve learned how to make my own spices, compound butter, tea, daily microgreen salads (it’s like an outdoor salad bar!), and other happy homesteading goodness that I never knew existed.

That’s just one area of positive change, and I could talk about it for many more paragraphs. But I’ll stop here. I only wanted to give one example of something we can do to change our lives and channel our grief into something positive, that may evolve into ever widening circles of change… good change. Life is changing, whether we want it to or not. When we direct how we want that change to go, we can manifest blessings from grief.

Blog posts relating to my garden, and spiritual journey:

Downsizing our Dreams

I’ve Joined the Butterflies

Bunting is Real

Hummingbird Swing 

You’ll love the videos I took of the painting bunting, and especially the adorable hummingbird on the tiny swing! Nature is so funny, wonderful, and healing.

 

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