More Zen in ’10!

[Previous Suburban Farmgirl, October 2009 – October 2010]
What makes you calllllllllllllllllllm? Do you have to sit very still and chant “ommmmmmmmm” to chill — or can you hustle about your busy day carrying a place of peace and serenity within you all the while?
Two recent discussions have reminded me how much our attitude influences our quality of life. Unlike circumstance and hard knocks – things you can’t always change — attitude is something we get to pick. It’s the place on the self-tuner where we choose to set our emotional dial. (Hmmm, will I pick wallow-on-the-floor-in-a-pity-party-for-one today? Or will I put my energy toward counting blessings and getting the laundry done?)
One of my recent attitude-bending conversations was with my sister-in-law, a woman who should know something about stress. Her six kids fall between ages 4 and 13 (all hers by birth, btw, and every single darn one of them entering this world between 10 and 11 pounds!). Her 80-something parents live in a wing my brother built onto their house for them.
Until shortly before he died last year, Laura (that’s her below) had my dad living in her house, too, in her former reading nook, a room she gave up so my brother could convert it into a main-floor bedroom for Dad. (Even more generously, she gave up her pantry so he could turn the space into a shower in the adjacent bathroom.) And did I mention the two dogs? Two cats? The garden? The part-time job as the church pianist? The nightly cooking for 10? Like I said, she knows from stress.

Anyway, Laura (who is as cheerful and calm as they come) told me her new motto is…

“More zen in ’10!” She’s hardly the meditate-your-way-to-spiritual-enlightenment type – no time for that! She’s your basic practical, hardworking suburban mom living in a planned community, and a Methodist, not a Buddhist.
But the word “zen” appeals to her in its modern connotation: relaxed contentment, feeling whole (mind-body-spirit), having peace and gratitude for the good things, letting go of the fretting over the things you can’t control.
Works for me! The zen-in-’10 approach echoes what a stress expert I recently interviewed for work had to say about the power of attitude. “Stress occurs when the mind perceives you are not enough or do not have enough,” says Eva Selhub, who’s the author of The Love Response – highly recommended! – and senior physician for the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. (The “Benson” is as in Herbert Benson, the physician who gave us the phrase “the stress response.”)
Note Dr. Selhub’s word perceives. If you feel negatively, you’re in the stress response. You’re running on empty and need to “fill up.” The best part is that you can fill up – find your zen — without ommming at a spiritual retreat (though that works, too, if it works for you). You can find it in your kitchen or your garden, on your farm or your ranch or your suburban rancher.
What will remind me to stay “zen” in the coming year? Here are 10 ways I came up with right away:
  1. Stopping to smell the flowers. (Which means buying them til they start to grow and then picking them and plunking them in a teapot!) My favorites, here, recently bought in a pot at my Harris-Teeter grocery store:
  2. Seeking emotional reinforcement when I need it — instead of putting it off lest I seem “weak” or “weenie!” (Note to self: Pick up the phone! Tap out an email or a chat group message! Re-read all the way cool Suburban Farmgirl sister comments!)
  3. Hanging with my kids. World’s best stressbuster (except when they raise my stress level with their messes and backsass, lol!)
  4. Always making time for my walk. This is my ultimate all-me time; everybody needs something.
  5. Pausing to look up at the sky. Day and night. How many months do you utterly miss the full moon?
  6. Sleeping enough at night, and preferably in flannel sheets in winter. I’m a notorious burn-the-candle-at-both-ends type. Unfortunately I’m not the type who can sustain it for very long without melting!
  7. Not responding immediately to every email or call, especially when doing so will only upset me. You control the horizontal! You control the vertical! (A little “Outer Limits” referencing there, in case you younger farmgirls are wondering!)
  8. Sitting down and eating off a plate. Doesn’t take that much more time than bolting on the go and is way, way better!
  9. Taking a deep breath as needed — sometimes that’s often, and that’s okay!
  10. Spending time with sweet, wise sisters…here, there, and everywhere. (That’s me & Laura on the right below at a sisters’ retreat, with our other two sisters, the ones I grew up with, which you can tell because our names start with P!)

So what are your “be-more-zen-in-’10” reminders?

  1. Joy says:

    Hi Paula, I have read your articles in Woman’s Day and just came over the Mary Jane’s Farm and was glad to see you on here. Good reminder to slow down. I get together with two other girl friends every year and do a girl’s trip. They really are good for the soul.
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful sister in law with us. She’s amazing. I enjoyed seeing the pictures of you and your girls. So pretty – all of you.
    ♥ Joy

  2. SuburbanFarmgirl says:

    hey thanks, Joy!

  3. Emily says:

    I think you have hit the nail on the head. We don’t NEED all that stuff and stress in our lives. The older I get the wiser I get…(hehehe)…not necessarily in the brains department but in the ‘do what is necessary and ditch the rest’ way. Just don’t wait as long as I did to find that out!
    Enjoy your day!

  4. Your Sister-in-law is amazing. I was tired just reading about all her responsibilities. She is truly one in a million. She is a keeper Paula !!! Loved the picture!!

  5. Jan says:

    I just wanted to tell you that I always find your thoughts and comments the closest to my heart! Today I actually ‘allowed’ myself to stay in bed and read a Jan Karon book, the eighth in the series. These are my most favorite books of all time, comforting, loving, always setting my mind at ease. This is my second time reading the series and I am still struck with the fact that they are so pertinent with my life and it’s travels. A good way for me to drift off to sleep or unplug from the anxieties of daily life.
    Spring is coming and soon I will be LOST in my garden…
    I loved seeing the smiling females in your family.

  6. Debbs4 says:

    Thanks for the encouraging article! Contentment with your lot in life is a decision that we each must make, each day and with each circumstance that comes our way. Being flexible in what life throws us makes our life bearable. Just like your sis, who has had many different life events thrown at her, she is both flexible and decisive in how she lives, contented and happy. She is a great example to emulate and I am glad you chose to share her life with us here.

  7. Judith McQuaig says:

    Your comments yesterday came as a real blessing to me. Am in the middle of a hugh family crisis (over which I have no control) and awakened this morning with that heavy feeling hanging over me…I’m printing off your 10 ways to post on the refrig to remind me of the ways in which I can be proactive as well as the many blessings God continues to provide.

  8. Nancy Rekow says:

    Hi Paula,
    How true! Thanks for this and all your other insightful blurbs, filled with vivid details. For stress, which always lurks and hovers nowadays, I’ve found yoga extremely helpful over the years. Yoga truly works wonders with our bodies and our nervous systems–even if our bodies ere weaker, slower, more achy–as mine certainly was. Yoga, practiced for many centuries, is a system that both relaxes and energizes at the same time….But for me, a most stress-reducing part of yoga is the breathing techniques, referred to as pranayama–particularly alternate nostril breathing, which I do when stress and nerves interfere with functioning….Maybe try it….read about it, find a teacher or DVD that works for you. And good luck. Nancy Rekow

  9. Denise says:

    Right on Paula, this is what I always say, attitude is a choice we make all the time.
    Thanks so much for sharing your sister in law. And don’t forget that you too have a lot of juggling to do and do it well. I am working on getting in the "zen zone" with calming myself – not everything needs to be done today, and I don’t need to be back at work until tomorrow morning, so I still have plenty of time to do what I Really need to do and leave the rest.
    Thanks again for a timely reminder.
    Love and hugs
    Denise x

  10. Betsy Cline says:

    With age comes the knowledge that life is too short not to enjoy. Things I used to worry about and stress over have been put aside. I want to enjoy this wonderful life. There are alot of things going on with family and friends that is life threatening. Yes, I think and pray about it but you know I can’t do anything to heal them. I like the 10 rules and will copy them down to remind me to chill out. One thing I do when life gets too much is call my best friend in Ohio and see how everything is going with her new life. Another thing is I have gotten a part time job in a Scrapbook store where I really have no worries and can just enjoy helping people and having fun.
    I really enjoy these blogs.

  11. Brenda says:

    Paula I really do like your suggestions on staying calm. I have a best friend from high school and when ever either one of us has something going on that is stressful, we will just call each other and before we hang up, we are usually laughing. It seems to be the best medicine. Also, going to prayer is a must. Knowing that the Lord is always right there waiting for me to ask for his help. Then I just fix myself a bubble bath and then snuggle up with a good book. And yes I agree that with age, you realize what is really important and taking care of yourself is certainly very important. I live by the Serenity Prayer! It’s the only way for me to get through all life hands you.

  12. Carol says:

    Thanks so much for that wonderful article. I especially liked reading about your brother and sister in law. I love people like that. They make the world a better place.
    As for stress busters: I like to look at the stars at night and the sky during the day. Helps to remind me how blessed we are, that we have been given birds to serenade us, flowers to smell and when it is too dark to see the flowerss or too late to hear the birds, we only have to look at the beautiful glittering stars in the sky.

  13. Cindy says:

    Wow! This article has hit home! I am a "farmgirl" of the 50’s & 60’s! I so love the calmness, peacefulness and values of those days gone by. These past months I have been soul-searcing as I lost my job and doing just what this article discusses and it’s working! Stepping back, taking in all that God has given us and enjoying every minute of His creation! It is the "zen" I’ve needed. I love your sister-in-laws "more zen in ’10" for it’s what I’ve been doing as well…am now sharing this with my family: to step back and as the old saying goes: "stop and smell the roses".for life is too short to be so stressed. Would have loved to have realized this 20 years ago! Thanks for making my day!

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