Enough

Five years ago, I was a senior at Columbia College, frantically searching for a “big girl” job before graduation and terrified that no one would ever give me a chance to prove myself. Come graduation, I still had no job offers. Amidst all the excitement of celebrating my achievement with family and friends, I was burdened with this awful feeling of inadequacy.

Luckily, the commencement speakers for my graduation were famous author Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, also an author and a CC alum. They challenged us to “find our fire” and pursue our passions instead of a paycheck, and it filled me with such inspiration and buoyant hope! Truly, those words became the mantra that got me through the following six months of job-hunting and unemployment.

Now, just weeks away from my five-year reunion, I am gainfully employed at my alma mater and pretty darn good at my job. In so many ways, my work does kindle my fire but I cannot say for sure that I have met their challenge. Am I pursuing my passion? Or am I settling for a paycheck?

It is exhausting to try and answer these types of black and white philosophical questions. Life is always more complicated, more muddled in shades of gray. Most days, I would say I am floating somewhere in the middle: I am fulfilled by my work, even if my work is not fulfilling my life’s purpose.

I suppose it’s a happy medium, but even as I type that last sentence, the little fire inside of me grumbles with ambition. Already, my personal expectations are mutating into a six-armed wonder mom/wife/daughter/sister/friend/super-successful-professional. How do you even begin to balance the urgency of living with the pursuit of your life’s calling?

Thankfully, Sue Monk Kidd has given me a new mantra for this next stage of my life, via an interview with Oprah:

“We have to acknowledge sometimes that this moment is enough, this place is enough, I am enough … and if I never seek another thing, it’s enough. It grounds us in our own being. It grounds us in home.”

Ain’t it funny how three little words can hit you like a brick wall?

I am enough.

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Spring has sprung!

It is finally here. Warmer weather, storms and showers, green sprouts and flowers — you can’t help but feel energized and renewed!

I seem to be more aware of spring’s arrival this year as I watch the season transform our neighborhood. There are azaleas of every color and wisteria hanging from the trees! Even the clover and wildflowers in the grass of our backyard makes me smile.

Wildflower sounds better than weed.

Wildflower sounds better than weed.

When we bought our home in November, most of the plants were in hibernation. We had no idea what type of flora our home had, if any. Luckily, we did have some beautiful fall leaves.

Our front yard in November.

I didn’t even mind all the raking!

Our first Christmas in the new home was made even more special by the pine cones and sprig of holly I gathered from our yard to decorate. We have several lovely holly bushes that I think are beautiful. The red berries are festive in winter, but the rest of the year you still get to enjoy the rich green leaves!

Our second discovery came towards the end of winter — two giant bushes of pink camellias right under our main window!

Camellias in January.

Camellias in January.

I adore camellias! After that, I couldn’t wait for spring to arrive so I could see what else our yard had in store. Well, the wait is finally over! Turns out that we have four bushes of white double azaleas in the side yard. 🙂

White double azaleas in April.

White double azaleas in April.

I have  just fallen in love with these sweet, little flowers. How is it possible that I have lived in the South for 16 years and never knew about double azaleas? All you ever see are the big ones!

We also have a pink Indian Hawthorne bush next to the front steps.

Pink Indian Hawthorne.

Pink Indian Hawthorne.

I have to admit, I had this wiry little bush marked for demolition in the summer — he looked so sad in the fall when we bought the house. Now, I think I will keep him around!

But the biggest surprise of all has been my miracle bulbs.

photo-2

At Thanksgiving dinner with my husband’s family, right after we bought the house, I was given a very sweet gift by a family member: five lily bulbs taken from their beautiful garden.

In all the hustle and bustle of settling in to the house, I have to admit that my little grocery bag of bulbs was put in a garden bench and forgotten! We didn’t remember them until LAST WEEKEND! Four months out of the ground with no water or sunlight, and wouldn’t you know that they were still alive, growing right through the plastic bag.

So, I planted them in a hurry, and look how they have persevered!

I believe they are Trumpet Lilies.

I believe they are Trumpet Lilies.

I wish I had taken a before picture … they were such sad, blanched, starving little things. Just one week and a good rain storm later, and they are not only alive, but thriving. It is truly amazing!

To me, that is the real wonder of spring. Yes, it is dazzling when color blooms so suddenly from dead leaves and dormant branches, but the real beauty of this fireworks display is the very simple realization that no matter what, life always finds a way.

Taking Heart

It seems that my last post was a little prophetic. Work has indeed been crazy, and I haven’t posted anything in days. Boy, what a week! I have accomplished so much, received affirmation on my work, and interacted with great new people, but I have also been challenged by the late nights, the big projects on my plate, and some personal disappointments.

I will admit, proudly, to wearing rose-colored glasses. In my chest beats the soft, squishy heart of an idealist! I see so much good in the work that I do and in the place that I work. It is disheartening to be reminded that my good intentions (and expectations) are not shared by everyone, everywhere. We live in an imperfect world.

Disheartening. To cause to lose spirit or morale. To make a person lose confidence, hope and energy.

As we get older, it is so easy to be disheartened. Our spirits, not just our bodies, become stiff and inflexible. When we fall or fail (or are failed by others), we are slow to trust again, to get back up and jump back in. How do we avoid becoming cynical?

Some people would say, let the world harden you. I’m not one of those people. I believe that we are made stronger by compassion, by our empathy for other human beings, and that true resilience means weathering the storm without losing your capacity to be inspired and surprised by life.

So, what’s the take-away here? Be elastic in your judgements, and in your self-righteousness, because no one is perfect and change is gradual. Don’t be disheartened. Take heart in knowing that every day of your life is a ripple that changes the world just a little.

I’ve found it is the small everyday deeds
of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.
Small acts of kindness and love.

Gandalf, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I love this quote, even if it’s not original Tolkien. 😛 And I promise to post fun, craftsy, light-hearted things this weekend!