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.

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.

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.

 

 

How Much Is Enough?

20180829_104856           When I was a young wife in the fifties, my father helped us buy a house in the small town where I had grown up. Just outside my kitchen door was a garbage pail sunk into the ground. I would step on the lid, dump in my orange peels, potato peelings, stale food, etc. and once a week a man would come by with a big truck, pull out the bucket, empty it into his truck, and along with all the other garbage he had collected, take it to feed his pigs.

His piggery was deep in a wooded area and the smell bothered no one because it was quite isolated. I expect that today his pig farm would have been deemed unsanitary and done away with. Then it fitted in with a more appropriate attitude of the time of waste not want not. It made a good thrifty use for what otherwise would go to waste. In those days there was a more sensible attitude toward what we have and what we need, or so it seems to me. The Covid 19 crisis seems to have exacerbated a prevailing need to have more and more.

Not long ago people were treating toilet paper as if it were about to vanish from the earth. One person even spotted a woman loading her SUV with an entire tray of rolls from a Walmart. Other items vanished from shelves as people reacted out of fear of lack. How much I need is one amount. That need springs from a logical, rational approach to having. How much I want may stem from a fear of loss, a desire to own more than I already have, plain greed, or envy driven by a competitive nature.

Need and want are such different conditions. Operating from an awareness of need is different than operating from a feeling of want.   I once read a story told by someone waiting in an airport who overheard a mother and daughter saying goodbye to one another. As they embraced, she overheard one say to the other, “I wish you enough.” The other replied with the same words. At first it seemed a curious thing to say for a farewell. As I reflected, I realized that to have enough is actually an absolutely perfect condition in which to be.

When I have enough, I have the space to put it. When I have more than enough, whether food needing refrigeration or clothing to find room for in our shared closet, I have to become creative about fitting whatever it is in. I may end up shoving things to the back of the refrigerator and losing sight of them, or into the back of the closet and doing the same. Then what I have lost sight of may become either moldy or essentially useless. It is said that much food goes to waste in this country, and no doubt leftovers may be a large part of that food.

Raised in a New England family by a thrifty German mother, I try to be very mindful not only about my leftovers but also my wardrobe. My beloved, however was raised by a mother who enjoyed abundance and showered it on her family. Sometimes we experience minor conflict around our divergent opinions. As the days go by, my refrigerator goes from full to empty and back again. Our closet, too has its moments. What matters to me is that we work out what constitutes enough for each of us, and that we make peace with our different opinions.

 

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Write me at tashahal@gmail.com

The Flowers in the Garden of my Friends

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My father had two British friends, a married couple, who had at some point taken up residence in the small town where we lived. I remember they had a black, cast iron lion and unicorn on either side of the stone doorstep of their home. In addition, for years I had two small china ornaments they had given me. I don’t know how old I was when I visited with them, perhaps four or five. I can recall only their kindly smiles. When they passed on, they were buried in our local cemetery.

Two pink granite headstones marked their resting place. They were large, highly polished stones, and stood out among the simpler monuments. Every Memorial Day my father would purchase flowers and plant them on their graves. Although I don’t recall his telling me anything about them, they must have been special friends to him. He was one who believed in honoring those who had passed on. His own father died in World War I, when he was only eight years old.

For me especially, Memorial Day brings to mind my dear ones who have passed me on the road to the larger life, where they have their next assignment–whatever it may be. I have pictures of them, both in my mind and in reality, where I can catch a glimpse of them as they once were. Occasionally, though especially when I’m engaged in a task in my kitchen, I catch a whisper from someone I loved dearly and still do. They come into my mind and I see them smile as they used to do when we were together. It is as if they are telling me they are happy and well.

There is a smooth stone on my coffee table inscribed with these words: “My friends are the loveliest flowers in the garden of my life.” I treasure it as a memento from someone special who lit up my life for a time a few years ago. We were near neighbors and saw one another almost very day. A brave and valiant woman, she was a wonderful example of positive aging. Though she had many difficulties and illnesses she scarcely ever complained and did the best she could to carry on in a cheerful fashion.

In my mind, while I am fixing dinner, I often hear another of my late friends with whom I had many phone conversations: “What are you having for dinner that’s good?” she would ask. We would chat about cooking and trade ideas. In my recipe collection I have one of hers written out in her own handwriting. When I make a recipe  I was given by a late friend, it is especially tasty because of my recollection of its origin. How precious are the memories of those we have loved and now lost to time.

Memories of loving friends who have pasted on are such a treasure. They are a bouquet fragrant with the perfume blended from our combined experiences, the times we have shared, the gifts we have given one another. Memorial Day brings to mind many memories of my dear ones no longer within reach of the telephone or email. As I turn them over in my mind, I feel again the love we shared. I see again their smiles and welcoming arms and I have no doubt one day we will meet and share again.

Gone but not Forgotten

SimpkinsMy brother and his wife just moved to Illinois, leaving behind the home we both grew up in on the North Shore In the next town, there is a square dedicated to our grandfather who died in World War One. Every year the parade stops in the street by the square. His name is on a pole in front of the fire station there, and they put a wreath on it each year in his memory. When I was a child my grandmother used to bring a big bunch of carnations to place inside the wreath. In later years my brother always attended the ceremony and participated. Now he will no longer be able to do so. Still he will have many years of memories, dating back to his boyhood.

Memories are wonderful things. I take great pleasure in many of mine, and I can open and enjoy them any time I wish. When I was a little girl living in Manchester by the Sea, my family shopped for our groceries in the village, as well as sundries from a small shop that carried a variety of small useful things we used often. For larger purchases my mother drove to Beverly, where there was a large department store called Almy’s, as well as a Woolworth’s and a Grant’s. However, for fancy goods like wedding presents my parents shopped in Salem, the next town over, at a store that glittered with silver and jewelry, called Daniel Lowe’s.

The Daniel Lowe’s building has transformed and Salem has become a tourist mecca for seekers of magical items and New Age accoutrements. Beverly too is much changed. Almy’s is long gone, as are the 5 and 10 cent stores I enjoyed.  Even the bakery that later on I shopped at with my children, who remember it still for its delicious cookies, is no more. Yet the stores of my childhood live on in my memory, ready for me to walk through and gaze again at their counters holding a mixture of the practical and the precious.

People I have known who have vanished from my active life also remain for me to recall. Those who are amongst the living I can send a Christmas card to. Those who no longer walk the earth occupy a kind of photo album available to my memory. I turn the pages sometimes and think with pleasure of the experiences we shared, and how I enjoyed them. I am grateful for these and for the time we spent: my grandmother with her endless card games and trips in her ancient automobile, dear departed neighbors from an earlier place we lived in Grafton, and more.

As Memorial Day approaches, I think not only of the people but also the places and even possessions of the past. They are gone only from the physical part of life. They live on in my memory as in the memories of others who may have known of them. One of the fun experiences to be had in gathering with family or old friends is the memories to be shared and enjoyed together. Memorial Day encourages me to think not only about my dear departed, or even those who gave their lives that I might be free, but of the sweetness of those memories. As in my mind I see these faces and these places, they seem to me to be like flowers I place upon the granite memorials of that and those who have departed.

 

 

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Flowers at the bank 3Do you take satisfaction in what you may have accomplished? Or do you tell yourself you could have done whatever it was better, or done more? Most of us have a critical voice inside that will not let us be satisfied with what we may have done, even though we may well deserve it. That critical voice can originate early in life from a parent, a teacher, or a boss. Now it has become a part of us as adults, and it robs us of the joy we might take from our satisfaction. To be satisfied may actually take courage, the courage to admit we have done something worthwhile.

It is easier to take satisfaction from small accomplishments. My mother used to find it very satisfying to hang up a basket of laundry on the clothesline in her back yard. When she finished, she’d stand back, sigh, and then smile as she beheld the washing flapping in the breeze. It gave her a feeling of accomplishment. I understand how she felt. When I have done some cleaning, or tidied a bureau drawer, I get a similar feeling. The good thing about these small tasks is that they can be done relatively quickly, providing instant joy. Unfortunately, even they are subject to that critical inner voice.

I have encountered that niggling voice all too often in the past, especially when it was connected to a major accomplishment. I have also learned from it to stop, recollect my effort, and remember to pat myself on the back. When you feel good about what you have accomplished, it is vitally important to pat yourself on the back. That unkind voice might tell you not to. It is not a voice from the heart but one from the past. The person voicing those words may have felt it was unwise to praise you for fear you would rest on your laurels and grow lazy. My mother’s mother passed on that way of thinking to my mother.

Many years ago, I taught myself to play my guitar. Proudly I played my mother a song I had just learned. “That was nice,” she said, ‘Now when will you write your own songs?” To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Though eventually I did write my own songs, it wasn’t because of what she had said, but perhaps in spite of it. Praise by oneself for oneself is an important act of self love. The more we love ourselves, the bigger our heart grows, and more we can love others. The more grateful and appreciative we are of our own efforts, the more we can enjoy those of others.

Taking satisfaction is a conscious decision. It may start with or end with contentment. When I look at my clean kitchen floor, I can be content and satisfied with how it looks, and how it is for me to have made it look this way. Even if I notice a smudge I may have missed, I can still feel satisfaction, because I have done my best, and then I can wipe up that smudge. However, this does not have to change my sense of satisfaction. I can still feel good about my efforts. Were I so inclined, I could criticize myself and say, “Look at you! You missed that spot. See? You didn’t do a good job!” Or I could say to myself, “Because I did such a good job, the floor is so clean that small smudge became obvious. Now I have made it look even better; good for me! I feel satisfied and content.”