Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: arthur c. brooks

From Strength to Strength: New Read

Just before my glorious weekend out of town, I started reading From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life by Arthur C. Brooks. Why pick this one up? I can’t possibly even BE in the “second half of life” since I’m clearly far too young, but alas…I am…chokes…nearly fifty years old. And I am already starting my “retirement,” so I think I qualify.

And now I hear you asking, “Retiring from what, Michelle? You haven’t had a career or even a job in nearly twenty years!” I may not have worked outside my home, but I have been a housewife AND homeschooling mom and since my boys are finally (mostly) out of the nest, “Hello, Retirement!”

Let me tell you, it is a big shift. One I didn’t even realize was starting or would hit me this hard. Retirement is rough, especially if you’re a driven kind of person and you fully enjoy your career.

I found myself asking, “What’s next?! Is life over? Does retirement mean sitting here, reading a book until I die?” And then running around screaming and crying from time to time, much to the dismay of my poor husband who is NOT retired and works from home.

I’ve been doing some serious soul searching the last few years, and this book is only another chapter of that story, some research into another point of view. I decided to order it after I read one of Arthur C. Brooks other books, Love Your Enemies.

This morning I read this:

“The aspen tree, it turns out, is not a solitary majesty, as I learned by sheer coincidence later that day from a friend who knows more about trees than I do. He explained to me that each “individual” tree forms part of an enormous root system. In fact, the aspen is the largest living organism in the world; one stand of aspens in Utah called “Pando” spans 106 acres and weighs 6 million kilograms.

That “lone” aspen I was looking at was no such thing. It was simply one shoot up from a vast root system – one expression among many of the same plant.”

from strength to strength

I made a mark there in the book, a bracket around the paragraph and a small heart. I need to remember this picture, I thought.

Then I started thinking back to yesterday, when I met my sons for dinner out and spent over an hour talking about college classes, work, surfing, and philosophy, over some amazing tacos. We somehow got onto the idea of Buddhist enlightenment, when my eldest reminded me of the one drop in the ocean idea, where we discover we are everything and everything is us, a part of the whole and the whole at the same time. Once we realize it, we see ourselves in everything. My youngest chimes in with “Like a bubble popping. You float along, realize you are the whole and pop, you’re gone, dissipated and there but not there.” We stopped and thought about. Yeah. Nice.

This morning, on the way back from coffee with a local friend, I stopped at the post office to pick up a package. Waiting in line, I looked around me. The woman in front of me smiled and set down her package on the counter. We laughed together at the face the woman behind us made at having to lick an envelope. And it hit me: these are other aspen trees.

I smiled slightly, internalizing the moment of realizing that I AM connected to these seemingly disconnected people. My reaction to them changes them and theirs changes me.

We may look like we’re each a standing “lone” tree in this world, but we certainly are not. Like those aspens groves, beneath the ground our roots are all one system. Each of us has an affect on the other. When one falls, another grows taller. When one sways, the others sway with it.

Here’s what he says on the next page:

“The secret to bearing my decline – no, enjoying it – is to be more conscious of the roots linking me to others. If I am connected to others in love, my decrease will be more than offset by increases in others – which is to say, increases in other facets of my true self.”

My extended family, my friends, and those I connect with online and in person every day are what make life and death beautiful. Those connections, that love, lasts forever in the roots beneath the soil.

Instagram, I Like It

Are you a fan of Instagram? Do you feel like the energy you use there is well-spent?

I’m reminded of that old mom warning, “Don’t scarf your food so fast that you can’t even taste it!” Yeah, I’m reading through Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks pretty quickly, but does it really apply to books? I don’t think so.

It’s just that I’m loving it so much, it feels so good to get all these nourishing ideas, I have to gobble them up as fast as I can! Like I said before, it feels like an antidote to the poison I’ve been witnessing. I want to take a giant swig and pass that baby around to as many as will take it.

Like this quote, for instance, “It’s regular citizens acting as leaders who matter most in the battle against the culture of contempt.

By declaring our independence from the bitterness washing over our nation, each of us can strike a small blow for greater national harmony and become happier in the process.”

I feel like my neighbors and I have been doing that in a small way every week at our potlucks, but this book is inspiring me to do more. It’s hard though, especially on social media where I encounter most of the vitriol. I’m not a thick-skinned person and the past several years have made me angry at most of the world and far too prone to react to provocation, looking like a fool and creating more unhappiness. But the reason I’m really enjoying this book is that he isn’t simply inspiring me with the “why,” he’s giving me a good dose of “how” to go with it.

Speaking of social media…do you have Instagram? I’ve been on and off there and Facebook a lot over the last couple years, much to the dismay of some of my friends. What can I say? I’m learning as I go here. Sometimes you have to let of something to see if you need it or not.

In the past, I’ve used Instagram to post quotes from the books I’m reading along with quick riffs about what I’m learning. My hope was to generate interest for the blog, but it doesn’t seem to do that. I rarely get crossover clicks. Instagram is built more for images than words, and I’m more of a words person, speaking to words people. This past month, I let it go again and discovered something.

I like making the graphics of quotes from my reading. It helps me solidify the part I read that day and I remember more about the book. Besides that, it makes a nice reminder of where I’ve been. The bonus is every once in a while, I connect with another human. I’ve decided to bring it back.

Each hour I read, I go back and select a quote that stands out to me. I create a graphic, post it to Instagram and then write a sentence or two about it. Sometimes I use that quote in a blog post because there is more that I want to say about it. For a while there, when I was posting regularly there, you could tell how many hours I spent in a book by how many posts there were about it.

I hope you’ll join me. I love Instagram for a number of reasons. First of which is that I get to meet new people there. Facebook, I reserve for friends and family I’ve met in person. You can follow my public posts there, and I’d love it if you did, but Instagram is where I share more of what I’m doing here. Instagram is where the beautiful strangers are.

The second reason, and don’t laugh, is that I’ve found the most amazing mental and relationship health helps. I follow some wonderful therapists that post the best helps for free. People like Self Work Co and The Love Therapist have changed my life, not to mention all the Bookstagrammers that have added to my TBR shelf!

If you’re interested, I’m DesertDreamer72. I’d love to connect with you there and see all the fun things you share with the world.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: