Intentions Versus Resolutions

Heartwings Love Notes 1069 Intentions versus Resolutions

Heartwings says, “Good intentions are a safer bet than Resolutions, and more reliable.”

This year in January we in the USA have had the good fortune to have two New Years. January first is of course one. However, the Chinese New Year has also just occurred. Rather than being a fixed date, this day is calculated by the Moon. The Jewish holy days are also arranged according to the date of the appropriate moon. When I checked that wonderful source of information, Wikipedia, I discovered New Year’s resolutions, common to both the East and the West, have a long history. However, the practice is more usual in the West.

Many if not most people have probably given up on their resolutions by now. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people making resolutions either to attempt too much at one go, to make impossible decisions, or to just be too lazy to push. Regardless of the reason, many people may quit their resolutions even before they give them a chance. I gave up making resolutions some time ago because I wasn’t carrying through, and it annoyed me. I have certain standards I like to live up to and one big one is being honest. Perhaps I too was aiming at impossible goals.

Intentions, on the other hand, make no boasts. They are statements of what we have in mind to accomplish rather than, as most resolutions seem to be, heroic efforts at self-improvement. Intentions can be built around needs or not. They can involve others, which resolutions often do not, and if they prove misdirected, they can always be restructured. They do not have to be confined to a particular time.

Intentions are something you can get up with in the morning or go to bed with at night. They make wonderful guidelines and can be very useful. As a substitute for resolutions, they can be restated to bring about or result in more success. For example: Instead of saying, “In the new year, I will exercise faithfully,” I might say, “More exercise is one of my goals for the new year.” My intention is to focus on exercise. When I do that, I am directing my thoughts in a good direction rather than building resistance to my resolve. Goals are not necessarily fixed or imperative like resolutions.

Resistance is best overcome not by confrontation but by avoidance. Because I have no resistance to thinking about exercise, I tend to keep it in mind. Then at odd moments during the day, while waiting for the kettle to boil, or something to toast, I might spontaneously do a simple exercise that doesn’t require extreme effort, like standing leg lifts or a stretch. When I don’t have to encounter resistance, I can accomplish more. Intentions help with that. Also, as I said earlier, they can be made any time and not just at the first of a New Year.

May you discover your best intentions and be sure to follow up.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS Do you have good intentions for this year? Please share! Hearing from my readers is a great blessing and I thank you! Please write me at tashahal@gmail.com or hit reply.

Heartwings Love Notes 1068: Avoiding Expectations May Be Wise

Heartwings says, “The future depends on how the present  proceeds.”

At our New Year’s Day gathering Stephen and I were sitting together on the sofa when a friend began taking our picture. The light was reflecting off my eyeglasses so he asked me to take them off. I heard the echo of my dad’s voice saying, “Take off your glasses and look pretty.” I laughed to myself and removed them. These days, confident in my appearance and no longer impressed by my father’s prejudice, I am happy to be photographed with them either on or off. My expectations have changed.  

Expectations often dominate a new year. After all, that’s how we express our resolutions.  These may or may not be realistic, fall by the wayside, or bring results. However, they may be doomed by our expectations. This failure comes about as a result of the unconscious programming behind them. Our programming is the unremembered precepts we grew up with. They are often reflected in our self talk: my weight is inherited from my mother’s side of the family or I am lazy and uncoordinated.

Do you listen to yourself? Do you hear how you respond mentally to plans? To resolutions? Here’s the thing: At the start of the new year many resolve to lose weight or exercise more. If they were listening to their inner responses, here’s what they might hear: “I’ve tried this before and failed, why bother trying.” Or, “I’ll just fail again; it’s too difficult to exercise, and anyway, I don’t want to take the time.” If the resolution involves depriving oneself of the pleasure of eating, or projects the boredom of exercise, where’s the incentive? These may be the negative expectations that arise when resolutions are expressed.

Or it may be possible to avoid expectations, both positive and negative altogether. There is a way to do this. It comes from the practice of Buddhism and is called beginner’s mind. I once had a yoga class with a teacher who said his mantra—a saying to help one grow spiritually, was “I know nothing, I want to learn.” This is an excellent way to express beginner’s mind. Back when I first heard this I scoffed, thinking that I was creating an affirmation of stupidity. This was incorrect. By affirming I know nothing,, as I later realized, I was clearing the slate of the expectations, definitions, or prejudices I might carry in my mind.

Now when I look at the New Year I see it through a lens of confidence, sure I approach it without any idea what will happen. However, regardless what does, I know I will grow from the experience because I wish to. My life may or may not go in a direction I am prepared for, That’s not important. What is, is that I greet any and all happenstance without prejudice but with the confidence that I will benefit if only by learning not to do something or else to do what is needed. That way a new year is truly a blank slate I can look forward to writing on, just to see what happens next.

May your new year of life be filled with blessings of all sorts, known and unknown,

Blessings and best regards Tasha Halpert

P.S. Did you make any resolutions? How are you doing with them? I always enjoy your comments so much. Write me on my blog or at this email: tashahal@gmail.com.

Santa is Real and his Gifts are Many

Heartwings says. “Santa does not have to be visible to be real.”

From my childhood I remember an old nylon stocking stuffed with presents lying on the front part of the Franklin stove in my bedroom and the excitement of taking out and opening the small wrapped packages within it. Later in my childhood came the fun of shopping for small, inexpensive stocking presents and wrapping them, and the feeling of glee as my contributions were opened and exclaimed over. In our house Santa only filled the stockings. All other gifts were labeled with the name of the giver and placed under the tree to be opened on Christmas eve.

Santa was a mysterious figure in a red suit who always managed to evade my view. Once revealed as a myth, in my mind he remained and still does to this day, as real as real can be. Santa is the personification of generosity. He never expects anything, though cookies are often put out for him, and, too, celery sticks for his reindeer. He is an amalgam of myths and legends, and an important part of Christmas. There are those who think he takes away from the Christian focus on the birth of Jesus at this time, yet the details of that too are a collection of myths.

The myths surrounding Santa are built around the reputation of a real man, St. Nicholas, a kind Turkish bishop who was said to provide dowry money for several young ladies so they could get married. There are other sources for today’s man in the red suit that have coalesced around him. They all involve gifts in some way or another. Another favorite of mine is La Befana, an Italian woman who puts gifts into the shoes of young children because she is looking to give them to the Christ child. The three kings had stopped by as she was doing her household chores and she was too diligent to take up their invitation to go with them, so she set out later and wanders still, leaving gifts.

There is a German legendary figure called the Christkindl, and more figures, if one digs around on the Internet, all bearing gifts. No matter the name or the language, the spirit is the same: the spirit of generosity. Absent the commercialism of the day, the idea that we can celebrate the gift of the returning light—the Solstice, or the birth of a baby who became a holy figure, with gifts makes so much sense. In days gone by the gifts might have been placed on an altar. As time goes by, customs change, some continue and some do not, yet the theme remains the same. Giving and receiving, the returning of the light, the birth of a new brightness in the sky, and hopefully in our hearts, is what Christmas is about. 

No matter how they occur or when, may your Holiday celebrations be merry and bright.

Blessings and Best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS, Please consider sending me a few words about your holiday celebrations or anything else you might wish to share. It is a gift to me when I hear from a reader.

Heartwings Love Notes 1066 Change is the Nature of the world

Heartwings says, “It’s not easy to adjust to unexpected changes.”

Ever since we moved to Grafton, Stephen and I have been going to a restaurant in the center of town. That’s more than thirty years. There have been many changes there, some of which kept us away from it, some of which did not. The other day we walked in and there had been another change. This one we were not happy with. The tables and chairs where we usually sat had been replaced with high bar stools and high tables, and the comfortable, regular tables had been moved to the bar section. There were other changes that had created a kind of game room atmosphere, and the restaurant we were used to was completely gone.

We stayed to dine however the menu too had changed considerably and pretty much guaranteed we won’t be back any time soon. I was sad because this place, the source of so many fond memories, had disappeared from our lives. This was only one of the many changes that have been happening lately for us. The elderly neighbor who had lived in the apartment next door left to be with family. The building changed hands, and our landlord who was also our eyeglass doctor retired. The new landlords are having her former apartment completely redone, which has generated much hammering and occasional whining of machinery. Fortunately, the workers do not start until nine o’clock, for which we are grateful.

I won’t bore my readers with more details, however, these are only a few of the most recent changes in our lives. For myself, the changes in this past year have been about adjusting to Parkinson’s Disease and the challenges it has presented. This has been challenging for Stephen as well, though not in the same way. Both of us have been used to my being able to do certain things I can’t any more. He is more than willing to help out when necessary, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Living with what is rather than what was or how I wish it could be can be tricky. I know I must focus on what I can do rather than lamenting what I can’t. I also know that with Parkinson’s, every day can present a different set of circumstances and the only way to deal with it is to go with the flow. While I have practiced this way of living and the necessary attitude that helps produce it for many years, my current situation is still another turn of the spiral. Of course, it presents a greater opportunity to learn and to grow. However, that being said, it is still something to cope with. I hope to do the best I can and to help others in some way in the process. Chop wood and carry water, as the saying goes, is my mantra these days, and I will add, stay in the present moment so I can flow with the next changes.

May you be able to adjust to the changes that come to you with grace and ease.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS I so enjoy hearing from readers. Do you have any suggestions, thoughts, or comments to share? Please write me at Tashahal@gmail.com.

Heartwings Love Notes 1065: Future Shock Is Real

Heartwings says, “It is not easy to adjust to rising prices as one gets older.”

Some of my older friends may feel as I do: what happened to money? In 1970, a book called Future Shock by Alvin Toffler gained a lot of publicity. Perhaps it ought to be reissued. It describes how persons are affected by changes, especially financial, over time. For instance, when I was a child I could buy a comic book for a dime and an ice cream cone for five cents. When I used to take my little ones for a cone it was a quarter. I don’t have to tell you, times have changed. What is more shocking is by how much any item seems to increase.

When McDonald’s first began to raise its golden arches in New England, there was one near where I took the children for swimming lessons. A dollar bought us a drink, a burger, and fries, with change. Now there are many similar venues and you can’t find anything for a dollar in any of them. Of course, to the twenty-somethings who work and may lunch at a fast-food restaurant, that is business as usual. To families trying to eat healthy meals, it’s an occasional treat, because restaurants cost so much more than they used to.

Not only restaurants but everything costs so much more, most especially to someone like me who grew up licking a five cent ice cream cone. I remember my grandmother would save up her pennies and when they filled her hands, she would give them to me with a simple ritual she had either devised or learned—I never asked her where it came from. Holding her closed hands full of pennies over mine, also closed, she would say, “Hold fast all I give you three times, then open her hands and spill the pennies into mine, held open in expectation. I was delighted with my small hoard and spent it on whatever took my fancy at the time.

Coping with this difference between then and now, has for me become a work in progress. I am a firm believer in the abundance prayer and also in the principle it represents: I will always have enough for what I need. This grows increasingly more difficult. “Reality” in the form of visits to the supermarket, or a meal at a restaurant would seem to contradict this. Yet why should I not believe? My abundance need not falter or fail to keep pace with inflation. The child that treasured her pennies needs reassurance, and only I can give it, which I do.

So, when doubt creeps in and I wonder how to cope, I repeat my prayer ending with the affirmation that all is well for me and likely to remain so. Then I do what I need to do and carry on. So far, it seems to be working, let’s hope it continues.

May you deal creatively with future shock if and when it arises.

Blessings and Best Regards, Tasha Halpert

P.S. Have you experienced this for yourself? How have you coped? If you’d care to share, I would love to hear what you have to say. Let me know at tashahal@gmail.com, I’m hoping to hear.   

Heartwings Love Notes 1060 Birthdays are Markers on the Highway of Life

Heartwings says, “When you take note of the milestones, you know how far you have traveled.”

I remember my mother when she was in her late eighties shaking her head and saying, “How did I get to be this old?” Now I am celebrating my eighty-seventh birthday and thinking and saying the identical words. Years, decades, days have melted and become one past without much definition. Where did the time go, and how did it pass so quickly? As one friend of mine often says, “Beats me!” It seems as though each day or even week slips into the past and immediately shrinks or dwindles to practically nothing. Perhaps I’ll write a poem about that. I’ve written lots of poetry on the theme of time and all that pertains to it.

 I’ve considered collecting the poems into a chapbook, if I can somehow carve out the time it takes to discover, select, design, and proofread them for the pages. I suppose I could, yet my days are pretty full as it is with cooking, doctor’s visits, and taking care of the needs of the moment. I do no cleaning fortunately, because I have a wonderful person for that. Stephen helps when he can with what he can, for which I am also grateful. These daily doings, the minutiae of life blend themselves into my time so seamlessly I find it difficult to catch hold of any part of a day without using considerable effort.   

Sometimes I try to locate the year such-and-such happened and shake my head and sigh. I can’t find any landmarks to tie it to. There are some important milestones, however that do stick in my memory, and I am grateful for them: My high school graduation, the year Stephen and I met and the year we married, my children’s birthdays and those of other family and friends. I have two Birthday twins though only by date of course. I did mark one recent birthday with a zoom party—my eighty fifth, so people in Italy and those in California could both attend without traveling. I like to celebrate birthdays–mine, and that of others. I believe it is important to mark the years as they pass.

At one time I remember I thought fifty was old. Now someone fifty is to me in the prime of life. I can recall my mother saying “When I was in my fifties, I could do anything.” I could say the same now. The hourglass that marks my time has lots more in the bottom than it did then, and my personal, physical self is commensurably unavailable. Yet I can make the most of whatever time remains to me, and that is my task these days. I will explore the potential for doing that and then at least I may find it easier to mark the milestones on the highway of my days.

May you find many fine milestones to enjoy as your days and years pass.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS I always enjoy your comments and your questions as well as your suggestions. Please write me at Tashahal@gmail.com. Read more Love Notes at www.heartwingsandfriends.com.

Your Way or My Way

Heartwings Love Notes 1058 Your Way or My Way?

Heartwings says, “Deciding which way can be something to ponder.”

Every relationship has its conundrums. Some are fraught with contention, others are not, yet all provide opportunities for participants to learn and grow. For instance, I was brought up to be tidy. I didn’t used to be as a child; are there any children who are naturally so? As of yet, I haven’t heard of any. Some children who are taught to be neat learn to like it, others do not, of course, yet all will one day, most likely find themselves contending with the opposite of their preference.

For instance, I like my bureau drawers to be tidy so I can see what is in them when I want to choose my clothes for the next day. Being fuzzy of mind when I wake up, I prefer not to make any unnecessary decisions. Believing this to be a desirable state for bureau drawers, I used to make sure Stephen’s bureau was tidy too. Toward that end I would periodically refold and replace his sweaters and tee shirts until his bureau drawers were all organized. One day it occurred to me that he didn’t seem to want to keep them this way, and I stopped. He never complained.

I am grateful that he uses our hat rack/clothes pole to hang up his clothing. The fact that it tends to pile up there is none of my concern, or so I have come to understand. What is important for me to remember is that his way and my way do not necessarily have to coincide.  As long as his clothing, no matter how much, is not draped over the furniture or piled on the floor, I’m happy. The decisions that come from preferences are different from those that have to do with circumstances.

We grow up accumulating preferences, habits, and ways to do things. Then we find others differ. This might be an issue or it might not. What matters is that respect and support need to be part of a healthy relationship. Stephen respects my desire not to trip over his garments and I respect his desire to have his drawers the way they are. I support him by not insisting his clothes be hug up in the closet, and he does the same when he does the dishes or hangs the indoor laundry that doesn’t go in the dryer.

Respect for one another’s beliefs as well as habits is also vital within all relationships. The divisions within our current world view are not healthy for our society because all too often there is a lack of that respect. When we support one another’s ways, it may be possible for us to live in peace. May it one day be so.

May you find good ways to resolve personal differences.

Blessings and best regards, Tasha Halpert

PS, please write to me with any comments or suggestions. It is my great joy to hear from readers with their thoughts and opinions. Please do. My email is tashahal@gmail.com. For more Love Notes, visit me at my web site at http://www.heartwingsandfriends.com

The Value of Everyday Tasks

Bridge of flowers poppies, bigI used to chafe sometimes at my lists of things to do—sigh and say to myself, oh if I only had more free time to write poetry or organize, edit and tidy up my writings. It seemed to me that what I thought of as my daily or sometimes weekly drudgery took too much of my precious time and energy and I resented it.  However, that was before the onset of the pandemic and the seeming disintegration of all that has constituted daily life and living, both personal and for my country.

Now, strangely, the things that make up my lists–my duties, have become precious to me. While Stephen does his part in keeping up with the daily chores, I no longer mind doing them. They help me cope. The news these days is so terrifying that it does not bear thinking about. The future is cloudy at best. As I get older each tweak of an ache or pain could mean some kind of incipient illness. Life is fraught with pitfalls holding deep despair. When I focus on the feeling of the hot water on my hands as I scrub the egg from our breakfast plates, I am greatly comforted.

It’s such a little thing to make sure I get all of the egg off the plate, yet the task needs my full attention. There are other things that function the same way. Doing the laundry or watering my plants, for instance. Though I no longer have a garden to tend, I still have plants, and they require my full attention. Actually, my email is sort of like a garden these days. There are plenty of weeds to be removed: ads for goods I might have bought at one time; people urging me to vote for or contribute to a candidate; notices from organizations seeking my support—the list is endless and so are these pernicious, persistent weeds.

Then there are the garden’s plants to be watered and sometimes fertilized: my friends far and near need to be emailed and responded to. There are helpful articles or other information to be forwarded for friends’ edification and/or enjoyment. There is news to be shared of each other’s activities, and of course doctor’s notices to be reviewed. Once again, the list goes on. A garden of any sort needs daily attention. If I leave it for too long, it piles up to an impossible extent, and I can’t tend it properly.

As I move through my day, I keep my focus on these humble chores. They act as a kind of shield against all that I cannot control or do anything about, or that which has not happened and indeed may not. Again and again rather than think about an unknown, possibly dire future, I return my thoughts to what comes next on my list of tasks. And from time to time I gaze out a window at the lovely sunlight filtering through the green leaves and the pretty blue sky above, or even the rain, and I give thanks that in this present moment, all is well.

 

 

Little Pleasures Gone Missing

Queen Ann's Lace with BindweedThe daily and weekly routines Stephen and I once had have been lost to the Covid 19 virus. Things we took for granted–trips to the library, going to the movies, eating in restaurants, and more have all been sacrificed to our safety. We must avoid exposing ourselves to a virus that can take a life with one simple breath. Although I have been alive for many years, this is like nothing I have ever experienced. I find it remarkable how my life has changed from what it was a mere few months ago. If you had told me last fall what my life would be like today, I might not have believed you. I certainly could not have imagined it.

I did have peripheral experience with a polio epidemic when I was growing up. I remember summers of rampant polio cases in the 40’s. Prior to the vaccine that eradicated poliomyelitis, many children succumbed to it. There are still adults today with legs crippled from polio as children. One of my sixth-grade classmates caught it. As I recall he was paralyzed and placed in an iron lung. I have a memory of seeing him in it, only his head visible. One parent I knew wouldn’t let her children drink any water that wasn’t bottled. She even made them brush their teeth with bottled water. Children, who were especially vulnerable, were supposed to avoid the beach also, though I am not sure why. Perhaps it was for the same reason we avoid crowds today for fear of Covid 19.

Losing our small pleasures is an insignificant price to pay for staying safe. Wearing a mask in public is a courtesy Stephen and I are glad to practice. It is like saying, “I care about you, stranger, and I want us both to stay safe. How long will it be before Stephen and I go to a movie theater again? I have no idea and I won’t even try to guess. The Spanish flu of 1918 took many lives and lingered even into i920. My own grandfather died from it. My grandmother, as was the custom, wore black for seven years. My mother told me that was the reason my father never wanted her ever to wear black.

It is strange to me that the tenor of our days has so altered. Before the onset of Covid 19, My life held few surprises. I never thought twice about going to the library or to a movie—and suddenly, I no longer could. It was just not there to do. Fortunately for us, Stephen has collected a quantity of videos o all kinds, and we could even make our own popcorn if we wanted. Yet I have come to understand that it’s not the film but the experience: going to the theater, sitting with others laughing or weeping, that I miss. I can get takeout from a restaurant, but I don’t get to hear the other diner’s murmur of conversation or get to chat with the waiter. When the day comes that we can mingle freely, without face coverings or fear, I will rejoice. Until then, while I may mourn my missing enjoyments, I’ll not risk my life for them.

The Light We See By

Angela's candle for her dad          Were I learning to read today I feel sure my picture books would include children of all skin colors and ethnicity. The closest books about anything outside my everyday experiences of white America that I can remember, was a series about twins of various countries. However, these were not living in my town or even my country. My history lessons were primarily about Europe and even the myths I studied were Greek, Roman or Norse, and all the gods and goddesses had white skin. Black culture or history was not included in my grade school or even High school studies. This in and of itself forms a kind of prejudice against non-whit, non-Europeans.

Prejudice aims at many targets. I remember a comic strip in my youth that featured a white child with a pointed head named Denny Dimwit. As part of the humor he was an object of fun. Today a strip like that would be banned. I also remember there used to be a whole series of jokes about various and sundry ethnic individuals who were portrayed as stupid or in other derogatory ways. Children growing up today may find other targets of prejudice, yet still progress is being made. One thing that may have helped is the integration of all kinds of learners in the classroom.

With the Black lives matter movement in full swing, many of us may be examining our own potential for prejudice, regardless what it may be about. The need for awareness of how it functions today is obvious. The color of a person’s skin is often an occasion for prejudice, usually when we have grown up around those who make derogatory comments about it. However, prejudice comes in many forms and is aimed at many of us. Over time, we have become more aware of this, and now it is more important than ever.

Young children are not naturally prejudiced. They may like or dislike someone, yet their feelings will normally be based on behavior or previous experience than pre judgement. There is a line in a song from South Pacific, a popular musical from 1949 and years afterward, with a line that says: “You’ve got to be taught to hate.” If we really wish to make it real forever that black lives matter, we must begin at an early age to make sure children do not grow up prejudiced about skin color.

The difficulty is that what we believe—black people are…, tints what we perceive. It creates expectations that color what we see and hear. Our perceptions are primarily governed by our beliefs and these are based upon what we have been told as young people. This is a form of “knowledge” we may not be aware we employ to make the decisions that govern our behavior. The light with which we perceive others may distort our view. In addition, the shadows cast by the light may loom large and deceive the eye. If we are mindful, we can often stop the automatic prejudice that may spring to mind. It’s all part of learning and growing. Humanity has an opportunity to take a giant leap forward. May it be so.