Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Month of Abundance

I've been thinking a lot about abundance lately. More than that, how fortunate I am in so many ways.

I confess, November often brings this feeling, as we begin the delicate slide into Thanksgiving, with its visions of Norman-Rockwell family gatherings, turkeys the size of pony kegs and so much food the guests at the table consume enough calories for three days and collapse in a tryptophan stupor on the floor or sofa.

I remember the first Thanksgiving my dad, uncle, cousins and I spent in Cleveland, the year after our moms had died. I remember a lot about that year -- trying to find something to be grateful for when what we loved and valued most was gone being one thing. I remember tears and smiles. But I also remember being sprawled on the floor, too full to move.

I don't do that anymore. I don't know if I've changed or our world and how we celebrate things has or if it's a little of both. Thanksgivings have become less gluttonous. More meaningful.

But there has always been plenty. Plenty of food on the table. Plenty of heat if it was cold. Plenty of furniture to relax in, television for those who cared to watch the game or the "A Christmas Story" marathon that TBS used to run each year. Plenty of stuff. I'm not quite a hoarder. But let's just say I have a hard time parting with things that I like -- and if I didn't like it, I wouldn't have it.

Yes, it's easy to turn thoughts to abundance at this time of year, but I had a bit of a jump start a few weeks ago. Perhaps that's what happens when you get complacent. You jump.

Without going into a great deal of detail that wouldn't be appropriate here, Rick recently began an acquaintanceship with a man he met on the mornings he takes his laptop to the coffee shop, something he does regularly. After several months of this acquaintance, Rick's friend asked us to dinner, and we met at a local restaurant on homecoming weekend.

The traffic was terrible, buses redirected. We were both a little late, and our new friend much later. When he finally arrived, the relief on his face that we were still there was nearly heartbreaking. He'd walked a great distance because of the bus routing and he thought we may have left.

It was an interesting evening in a lot of ways, one which ended with our going to his apartment so he could show us a drum pattern he'd been tapping out for us on the table and his knees. He loved the drums. It was way in the middle of nowhere -- nowhere for a person without a car and whose bus only came once an hour.

He welcomed us into his space. We didn't see the bedroom or kitchen, but the living room had only a wooden table, an orange chair with chrome legs and arms -- the kind you saw in a 1970s lobby -- a stool and a utility lamp hanging from the ceiling. The walls were surrounded with boxes and there were several drums. There wasn't one thing on the walls. Not a calendar, a clock, a postcard. Nothing.

And I felt profoundly guilty. And I wanted to "fix" things. And I learned a long time ago, during my Ele's Place training, we can't just fix things like that.

I talked with a number of trusted friends about this -- people who would be able to appreciate the situation because of their professional or personal background. And if there was consensus -- and in a way there was -- it was that one can guide, one can be supportive, one can be a friend. You may well be his angel. (Or he, yours.) But one can't simply rush in and hang the photographs from the basement on the walls.

Because maybe, just maybe, he's not like me. Maybe he likes the serenity of the plain wall. The lack of chaos. Some people do, you know. Maybe even you!

I look at my art room walls.

The inspiration board with layers of lovely art done by wonderful friends. Photos and postcards and bits of inspiration. Instructions for a project. A peg board with ribbons. The window sills with photos, a shadow box with an art doll, parts of the cat collection and a book made by a friend. Right now it's particularly bad, but even on a good day, it's a tad "busy." (That said, I love it, because I am surrounded by friends and art. But yes, busy.)

Abundance. We have different definitions. At the church I used to go to, they spoke of enough to spare and enough to share.

It's a good one.

I love it when I'm watching a cooking show and the host will make something so delicious you can almost taste it across the airwaves using only five ingredients, none of which are outrageously expensive. And don't say that never happens for you -- you do it all the time.

Maybe in the kitchen. Maybe in making the Halloween costume out of what you have at home. Maybe in a table centerpiece.

Maybe you experience abundance in giving -- and when knowing when to hold back to see if that's the right thing to do.

I'm still working on that one, the best ways to give.

But here's one I'd like to give to you.

During the month of November, now through Thanksgiving Day, I'll be having a drawing for Sarah Ban Branach's absolutely life changing book (for me, anyway), "Simple Abundance."

If you're familiar with it, I hope you'll enter to share it with another -- this is a copy bought long ago on "remainder" (why, I don't know) and it's in four-star condition. (My copy, on the other hand, has pencil scribblings in it!).

"Simple Abundance: A Day Book of Comfort and Joy" was written in 1995 -- in fact, one of the earlier chapters is "Is It Recession or Depression?" and refers to the economic climate of the times.

As with similar books, there are short bits for each day. I kept mine in a spot where reading short things was convenient. And every day, I read and thought about it.

Some of the chapters include an "assignment," others provide food for thought. It is rich in quotes ("Life itself is the proper binge," Julia Child) and has such topics as: "Discovering the Momentum of Creative Movement," "Order Within," "The Celebrating Table," "The Fear of Success," "Nightscapes," "Meditation for Bad Girls" and "The Loss of Control."

In fact, looking at it to do this post reminded me I should start it in January again with one of you!

Every comment from now until Thanksgiving Night, Midnight, will be an "entry" into the drawing. Please enter often -- if you don't know this book, you should. If you do, well, then you know.


Christine said...

I'm inspired to pull the book off my shelf and look up "Meditation for Bad Girls" :-)

Loved your thoughts on wanting to fix along with the realization that there is nothing to fix ♥

Dogwood said...

Thanks for the inspiring blog post. I enjoyed reading it and smiled at your words. We have such a tendency to want everyone to have "lots" and often that is not want they want or is important to them.

Smile and enjoy your day.

Privet and Holly said...

Love this post;
your heart, your
words and photos.
I bought S.A. when
it first came out
and just rediscovered
it in my night stand
this summer. It was
already filled with
underlined sentences
but now I'm adding
those Post-it markers
for books and the
interesting thing
is that, 15 years
later, the things
that I'm highlighting
are very different.
Thank you for such
an insightful post!
xx Suzanne

Marilyn said...

I love this post. Don't put me in the drawing though, I have been through this book several times. I hope whoever wins it loves it as much as I do. Giving back is a very good thing to remember. We are so fortunate.

Your post reminded me a little of a book I am reading right now, The Soloist. Fascinating story.

anno said...

visually gorgeous & beautifully thoughtful post, Jeanie. The saying you shared from the church you once attended reminded me of the stories I just read in 97 Orchard (bookclub selection this month), about how on weekends and holidays even poor families in NYC tenement housing would cook extra to share with the truly destitute; sometimes we forget just how much we really have to share.

Janet said...

This is a beautiful post....both the words and pictures. I know the feeling of wanting to "fix" things for someone but it just can't be done. Each person must make their own decisions about how they live, and with what. And I have learned that things don't make me happy. That's not to say I don't have a LOT of things....I just know they aren't what really makes me happy.

Love that book! I have two copies of it on my bookshelf. One to jot notes in and to use, and one to have on hand if someone should want it. I've already given away several copies to friends. It's a keeper.

Jeanie said...

Cathy from SF sent me an email I thought you might find interesting. In an earlier career, she used to edit a magazine.

I was lucky enough to interview Sarah Ban Breathnach over the phone when I worked for Red Rose/CataList. She is the only one who ever sent me a gift after the article. A beautiful topiary.

I remember that Oprah once said that Sarah was the only author that kept up a relationship with her. While being on Oprah results in selling a zillion books, most authors thanked her after the appearance, but for years to come Sarah would occasionally send Oprah a note about this or that, or a little gift. Oprah was very impressed and appreciative that Sarah was the real deal.

BONNIE K said...

Wait - did you say you're not quite a hoarder???? OK. Anyway, what you say is so true. I don't know if it's our age or just the time we live in but more and more everyone I know, including me, wants to simplify our lives. Please enter me in your drawing!

Bella Rum said...

Your words and thoughts are so moving in this post, Jeanie. How wise of you to recognize that your new friend may feel more comfortable in his environment than you would. I had a lump in my throat while reading this post and you chose the perfect images to accompany your wise words. Lovely post.

Joanne Huffman said...

Beautiful words, beautiful photos. It definitely is a time to think of abundance and blessings (to be thankful for and to share).

Deb said...

I love your heart; I loved this post. I will read it over and over.
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Deb =^..^=x5 from Canada

BECKY said...

What a beautifully written post. I agree with Deb (above comment). I will read it over and over. I know of Simple Abundance, but have not read it. So, yes, I'd like to be in the contest! Thank you for sharing your wonderful thoughts on all this. Have a blissful weekend!

Julie H said...

Oh my goodness, you have found my heart. I recently spent tiem in the Kimberley with people who have NOTHING, and now I have some of my lovely friends coming to stay and I alternate between feeling blessed by and ashamed of my bounty.
Thank you so much for sharing.

Annie said...

A truly inspirational post, Jeanie. As I've worked to be more aware of the need "out there", I've come to recognize that I have too much that is weighing me down. Lately I've been looking at possessions critically and I'm starting to think in the direction of eliminating quite a lot.

Do I need all the lighthouse plates and figures? Do I need all the crafting books I never use? Do I need that pair of jeans that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to wear again someday?

Relieving ourselves of the burden of stuff allows for more room to understand the real meaning of abundance. I thought I knew but find that I'm rethinking its meaning a lot. Don will be happy when I tell him about this.

I have Breathnach's book "Romancing the Ordinary". I thought I had "Simple Abundance" but apparently not. I've taken down the book I DO have from the bookshelf and am going to start looking at it again.


Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Wonderful post... the photos bring your words to life. I located my copy of Simple Abundance a few weeks ago and it's sitting on my desk, waiting to be revisited. (In a sign of possible overabundance, it already has five things stacked on top of it. Sigh.)

Rosa said...

Thank you for your gentle reminder. <3

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

What a beautifully written post! That book sounds like quite a gem. I have never heard of it but it sounds like a book that I should read. What a great idea for a giveaway!

Wrightboysmum said...

Wow. I love this post and I'm going to have to read it again to think about it. I'm away to google the book as I've never heard of it and although a comment said it was an Oprah book that doesn't really get coverage here. Thanks.

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