#2: On Becoming #LifeYouWantDC

you-are-builtMany, many years ago, I was standing at the movie popcorn counter (so long ago the movie was An Officer and a Gentleman) when I began to feel faint. The next thing I knew I was lying on the floor looking up into the concerned face of my boyfriend–a face that in that moment was familiar but that I couldn’t place. I remember working hard to figure out where I was, feeling as if I were making my way back into consciousness and my body. More specifically, I remember scanning and thinking Okay now, which life is this?

And that’s not the most interesting part of the experience. What’s more remarkable was the sense I had just before “waking” that I was in a space of complete calm and serenity. For a nanosecond, and in a nanosecond, every gigantic life question I had was answered, every grand mystery was solved. It was as if the universe unfolded before me, perfect and complete, and I felt no struggle or doubt at all, just a deep and divine understanding of how it all works, how it has worked since the beginning of time.

I was questionless, and therefore, at complete peace.

I felt a similar moment of divine clarity last weekend at Oprah’s The Life You Want Conference. In a magnificent red dress, Oprah opened the conference with two hours of the personal stories that ignited her passion for helping others find and manifest their own calling. If you want to live the highest expression of yourself, she said, you cannot go about it passively. You have to pay attention to your intention. Then she put it more simply.

You become what you believe, not what you wish for.

Boom.

You are living the reality of your beliefs right now.

Boom. Boom.

I heard her, and I wrote it down. And then I sat there in that dark venue surrounded by thousands and thousands of people unable to let go of the thought, unable to hear what came next. Instead I sat there thinking about how true the concept is, how layered, how profound. I thought about how much of my life is joyful, and how my beliefs have shaped that joy. And then I got honest about the time I’ve spent wrestling, how much energy I’ve devoted to the ’round and ’round dance of intention and doubt. What space will open up, I wonder, when I acknowledge and deal with my true beliefs?

What a gift it is to move on through life with the clarity that this is how it works.

You become what you believe, not what you wish for.

Oh, yes.

Thank you, Oprah. Thank you.

 

 

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#1: Life Whispers #LifeYouWantDC

whisperAs I write this, I’m sitting at Reagan National waiting to board a flight home. People are rushing, televisions are blaring, airlines are screaming announcements–noise is layered on noise in a way that makes my heart race and my blood pressure rise. Why On Earth does USAirways think we need CNN blasting on top of all this?

I hear so much I can’t hear anything. 

I realize that’s what happens in my own life so much of the time. I am an over-thinker and a multi-tasker, intent on being as life-efficient as possible. I work out how I can start a load of laundry, chop vegetables for dinner, download an audiobook and update my computer’s software all at the same time. I think about what I’m doing, what I should be doing instead, what I’m going to do next, what I just did, how I could have done it differently. I try to work through problems, rehearse conversations, rehash situations, reconsider every angle.

It’s ridiculous, quite frankly.

It’s also exhausting.

And it was a primary topic at Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend.

GIANT TAKEAWAY #1
Your life whispers to you all the time. If you don’t get still and listen, the whisper will become a pebble making some serious waves. And before you know it, the pebble’s become a brick upside your head.

Do I know this one. Man, have I lived it. And so I recognize the importance of getting quiet and paying attention to the things my life is telling me.

Thanks, Oprah, for a powerful reminder.

 

Up next: GIANT TAKEAWAY #2 from Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend.

 

 

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Are You Living The Life You Want?

stage

anticipation

Not much on my life list ranks as high as seeing Oprah Winfrey live. So when I got an email last Spring announcing her The Life You Want Weekend tour, I jumped at the chance.

O did not disappoint. Inspiring, informative and incredibly entertaining, I loved it all. And I can’t wait to tell you about it! We’ll just start with this:

oprah

O my.

cat

me, mesmerized

sheets

doing her thing

If you can attend any of the remaining O weekends, do it! If not, check back here as I dig into my Oprah Journal to share bits of wisdom from the gathering.

Did I mention it was so cool.

Til next time!

 

 

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wings

angel wings

There they were just beside the steps to our side porch, two sweet feathers caught on the branches of our growing (wildly) Nandina. The splattering of other tiny ones across the driveway let me know the scene that had unfolded there earlier in the afternoon was probably not a peaceful one. Still the site of this soft, pretty duo gave me pause, and so I snapped a photo.

I hope it makes you smile. I hope it reminds you you are loved.

You are cherished, indeed.

 

 

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happy accidents

I have a new writing desk in my so-fun studio downstairs. It’s a swell little grey number on rollers, the perfect size to fit between the brick columns that previously defined the room as an open air porch. Last November we closed it all in, creating the most wonderful space for me to paint, write, make things, play.

The desk itself, as I said, is there between the columns, centered on a gigantic window that looks out over our back yard and just beyond, Bickley’s Pond.

It makes me so happy.

I was doing a little work in that very spot this week when I happened to glance up from my laptop screen to get this pretty view of the zinnia bed. It is so filled with flowers it is truly ridiculous. And yet I can’t bring myself to thin them out. For some reason, I am much more content to just watch the show as stem after stem does its best to outshine and out dance its neighbors. I reached for my camera and took a shot without getting up from my chair, not realizing the window’s frame partially blocked the view.

zinnias

a happy accident

 

It was a good mistake, I think, the smudgy bottom edge adding an interesting element to the photo I didn’t intend at all.

Don’t you love it when that happens?

 

 

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Connecting with the Williams Sisters

IMG_0806How cool it was to have an up close view of the Williams sisters as they played doubles in the U.S. Open this year. Every point was as powerful as I expected. Then they walked toward each other, gently slapped hands, and oh so quietly shared a private word or two.

IMG_0802

They did it every point, win or lose.

IMG_0822

Every. Single. Point.

I became totally enthralled with this routine, wondering what on earth they were saying to each other. By now, surely, Venus and Serena know tennis well enough to not need point-by-point coaching. Surely, after a million points in a hundred thousand matches, they can read each other’s minds. I mean, they’re sisters. Do they do it to psyche-out their competitors? Perhaps. Or maybe they’re just offering each other a little good job or nice hit or I got your back.

That’s what I’m hoping. At the heart of the power and might that is The Williams Sisters,  I’m hoping these intimate exchanges are their strength, their connection.

IMG_0821IMG_0817 IMG_0800IMG_0824 IMG_0808 A little word of encouragement after every point. I like it.

 

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The Nicities Jar

I noticed it there the first afternoon of our weekend in New York, a glass jar tucked quietly into a corner on Colette’s kitchen counter. It was stuffed with little pieces of paper that bulged beyond the rim in an unusual—and interesting—way.

the niceties jar

Eventually I asked: That jar. What’s the story there?

What a beautiful answer I got!

It started the afternoon one of Julia’s teachers helped her study for a test, said Colette, my hostess, sister-in-law, and the mother of my beautiful college freshman niece, Julia. (You’ve read of her before here on The Daily Grace.) Julia mentioned to the teacher that she loved the scarf she was wearing, and the teacher took it off, wrapped it around Julia’s neck, and said it would make her very happy if Julia would just keep it.

“That was just the nicest thing!” said Julia when she later told her Mom the story. “It meant so much to me, I want to always remember it.”

So they decided to write the memory down on a slip of paper and keep it in a “Nicities” jar right there in their busy kitchen. Each time something special happened during the year, they would make a note and add it to the collection.

“You know what’s amazing?” said Colette, her eyes sparkling. “We started the Nicities jar during Julia’s Senior year. It was the perfect time—Senior Year is so intense, filled with so much pressure. It made a huge difference to all of us to focus on the nicest moments.”

What a beautiful way to bring quiet grace to light.

 

Mrs. Andrews

Kat and Grace

 

Westchester triathlon

 

I think I’ll make a Nicities jar for my kitchen today. And I think I’ll start with this:

photo

 

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Hot Dog!

With all we’ve got going on, can we squeeze in a quick trip to New York for Labor Day?

That’s what my husband asked me several weeks ago. It won’t take much for you to believe my immediate answer was yes.

We’re very lucky, you see, that Tim’s sister and her family live just outside the city. So we not only have a wonderful place to stay—we also have the most perfect host/ess for our trips north.

Colette picked us up at the airport and whisked us straight into the city for a walk through Central Park. I am fortunate to have made many trips to The Big Apple, but I’ve never actually strolled these famous grounds. Stop One? Lunch from a NYC street cart!

yeah, i did.

yeah, i did.

Then we spent a couple of hours making our way through the park, from the sailboat pond to the merry-go-round; past the skating rink and around Strawberry Fields. It was magical.

image

On our way out of the park we headed into the Metropolitan Museum, where we breezed through the current Garry Winogrand photography exhibit (remarkable) and up to the rooftop for a cocktail and this gorgeous view of the city.

image

Then dinner with friends at a fun and fabulous restaurant on the Lower East Side, The Mermaid Inn. (I feel so local throwing around phrases like “dinner on the Lower East Side.”) Perfection.

How happy I am to be here in this city, enjoying it with people I love!

In August

Last winter, we created the most wonderful studio for me just down the back stairs of our house. It’s an area that was previously a covered porch (and a place that really didn’t get much use). So we closed in the brick arches with windows, added a french door and VOILA! Now I spend many, many happy hours in that bright little space writing, painting, working.

Here is what I see when I am there.

green

Here is what I think:

How I love the green of August.

 

hello old friend

We moved to Bickley’s Pond in 2008, and one of the great joys we discovered here was an Eagle’s nest just across the tiny cove from our back yard. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d get the chance to watch such fascinating activity from my screen porch; our house is built on a lot that slopes toward the water, so we have a pretty good “bird’s eye view” from the main level of our house. We raised three broods there, those eagles and I, something I was thrilled to share here on The Daily Grace. (You can follow much of the story via the links below.)

And then the giant pine in which they’d built their nest died, and the branches became frail, and the nest began to crumble. I think I’d have cried the day I watched as the entire thing fell 100 feet to the ground—except that a major contributor was the fact there were three giant eaglets fighting over food in the nest at the time. How I delighted in watching those babies grow.

With the nest gone, the eagles built farther back in the woods. My friend Jay (an expert) took Tim and me on a hike to visit the eagles one Sunday afternoon. My heart warmed to find them at home and, seemingly, very comfortable there.

All of this is to say there hasn’t been much eagle activity in my life of late. In fact, I don’t think I’d seen either of them all summer. And then two days ago, I happened to catch sight as one or the other cut a flight path right through our yard, no doubt headed to Lake Murray or the tree in Matt’s yard with the natural perch they love.

And then yesterday, just as I passed by the big window over my kitchen sink, I saw the eagle again, just above the pond. I watched as he swooped down and back, and then landed in a tree just at the edge of the water, right on our side of the fence. I ran for the camera and crept down the side yard hoping for a quick up-close shot. He spotted me and those giant wings lifted off. My heart sunk a little as I click click clicked, hoping to get something worth sharing. And then to my delight he landed on a branch just across the water.

Hello old friend I said out loud as I raised the camera to my eye. It’s mighty good to see you again.

8.21.14, on Bickley's Pond

8.21.14, on Bickley’s Pond

Follow much of the Eagle Saga here:

Part I, 2009: Eagle nest in our back yard.

Part II: Strange Eagle activity. Eagle eggs? Babies. X2! They eat. They grow. Big. Fast. They want to fly. They are so high. We fret.

Part III: They fly! And then they are gone, and we are left here. Empty nesters on Bickley’s Pond.

Part IV: Spring 2012 Three years pass.

Part V: The Eagle Nest Falls

Part VI: Reversal of Fortune

Part VII: Finding the new eagle nest

 

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