Eternal Song

Have you stopped to listen to the evening birdsong?

The same song since you were a child…

this eternal song, performed over and over

against the mellow backdrop of the light blue sky.

The clouds are smudged with charcoal

but their edges glow.

Does it capture you? Hold your gaze up and out

to the peaceful grandeur of the reclining day?

Are you torn away from the endless hunt

down the dark halls of your brain

where you relentlessly seek childhood secrets

and broken pieces of yourself?

Deep in this maze of self-analysis

the batteries of your flashlight may run out.

There’s only so much you can understand

alone.

Look to the source of light and beauty.

Listen to that bird who trills again and again:

“Life’s good, very very good. Life’s good, very very good.”

Remember you are only a tiny piece

of creation and a recipient

of this gorgeous gift that is life.

Put anxious internal wanderings

and the pursuit of your own perfection

in their place.

Live and love your now.

The Power of Positive Speech

Do you remember the childhood rhyme, “I’m rubber and you’re glue; whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you”? Well, apparently there is some truth to this. Happiness author Gretchen Rubin describes this phenomenon, called “spontaneous trait transference.”

Studies show that because of this psychological phenomenon, people unintentionally transfer to me the traits I ascribe to other people. So if I tell Jean that Pat is arrogant, unconsciously Jean associates that quality with me. On the other hand, if I say that Pat is brilliant or hilarious, I’m linked to those qualities. What I say about other people sticks to me–even when I talk to someone who already knows me. So I do well to say only good things.” (The Happiness Project, pg 156)

No wonder we don’t like spending time with people who complain about others a lot! To solidify this image in your mind, think of it this way: every adjective that comes out of your mouth sticks to your face like ketchup (so hard to get off!). So saying: “My boss is so annoying, demanding, and thoughtless etc”…means all those characteristics are stuck on your face. Yuck. Really gonna need some baby wipes.

I started thinking about all this recently after noticing my older kids picking at the younger ones at the table. Like little parent parrots they repeated things like, “Chew with your mouth closed! Are you finishing that pickle? Eat your food and stop being fussy!”

Hmmm, if that’s the kind of parenting talk they hear a lot, that’s what they’ll imitate. Since it takes three positive comments to combat one negative one, I better up my ratios of positive comments dramatically! So as they griped at each other about fussy eating habits, I started talking about all sorts of things I liked. “This is good. I love pickles. It’s nice we’re having lunch together. I am so glad you got the groceries delivered; now we’re all set for the weekend. It will be fun to read stories after lunch,” etc. It felt a little silly but you’ve got to start somewhere!

I want my kids to be people who speak well of others, so I need to be a good example, even at home. Actually especially there, even though the long 24/7 shift makes it the hardest place to do so consistently.  Possibly my mother-in-law is now running to the store to buy me a year’s worth of duct tape…oh, well, perhaps there’s a back to school sale? 😉

 

 

Why Adults Can’t Handle Fairy Tales

There are many adults who are afraid that kids can’t handle traditional fairy tales, because they are too scary, too gruesome, too awful. I think it’s actually because on a certain level, they are too real. And many of us adults can’t handle real life.

I used to wonder why fairy tales so often were about orphans, or kids whose one parent had died, leaving them in the hands of someone who despised them. Think Hansel and Gretel, Snow White or Rapunzel. Or why they had to fight evil beasts and monsters, like the dragon in Sleeping Beauty. But now I think I understand better why.

Fairy tales can help children realize that life is going to be full of challenges, that it will contain suffering, that sometimes they will feel rejected and alone. But it is also about the triumph of the little guy, the unexpected hero, like in Jack and the Beanstalk. It is about perseverance, guts and hope.

How necessary it is for us to have hope! To believe in the triumph of good over evil, and the certainly of justice, even if that justice is very long in coming.

But now we often prefer to sugar-coat these dramatic tales. We try to cover up the bad bits. “They will be too scary,” we think. Will they be any scarier than real life? How will our kids cope with that?

Our modern western world is so poorly equipped to deal with suffering, because we so seldom have to deal with it in a really dramatic way. We are generally comfortable, have food, shelter, clothes, etc. Not that many people we know are eaten by dragons. Not that many people we know die. So when they do it’s a shock.

It didn’t use to be this way. Not that long ago people knew that things like infant death were a common part of life. They accepted that they needed to work from dawn till dusk, and often be away from their families. They knew that an illness could steal away a loved one like a thief in the night. Now we like to pretend this can’t happen, at least not to us. “La, la, la, la, it’s not real,” we sing and cover our eyes to the possibility of such a loss.

But it’s a delusion. Life is very fragile. It is very precious. It is a gift that can be revoked at any time. Losing a baby in labour taught me this. And as crushing as this loss is, my little one also teaches me—shouts loudly in her silence—that it is of utmost importance to hope. To have faith in something greater than these struggles here below. To know that love is stronger than death. To know that happiness here is complicated, and that our true happiness is yet to come.

So when you feel overwhelmed, remember the fairy tales. Put on your knight’s costume, mount your steed, and ride off into the sunset to face your dragons. Even if they consume you, you will triumph, if you don’t lose hope. It’s that golden thread that connects us to Heaven. It’s our strength in weakness and pain.

And if you meet a weary traveller along the way, someone who is laden down with suffering, help them carry their burden. Offer your heart to help carry some of that weight oppressing theirs. Reach out and cheer them on. In your mercy, in your tenderness, in your affection, you will bring them hope. And the quest to bring more hope to a struggling world is surely an ideal noble enough for all of us.

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PS These gorgeous swords were lovingly handmade by my talented step-dad Rob Koenig!