The Place You Call Home (and Ways to Better Appreciate It)

We don’t always land where we intend. We envision ourselves in this place or that place, places where we believe we can become the person we’ve always wanted to be. But then we end up some place else.

Sometimes the wind of nostalgia overtakes me. I long for the cities I’ve inhabited in the past, where life was simpler, I was younger, and I felt freer to be myself. Even though I grew up just 40 miles from where I live now, I have sometimes felt like an outsider. I have sometimes felt like I’m not in the right place.

But this is where my life is now.  The place I call home may not be my favorite place I’ve lived, but it’s where the love of my life lives, and our family is close by.  It’s the place to which my path has led me.

I’ve made a conscious attempt to look for the good in my town, to seek out its charming nuances that make it unique and make it home. I continue to explore beyond my daily routines and try to look a little deeper at the places I frequent.

Here are 7 things you can do to better appreciate the place you call home, followed by a few photos I took in my city when I followed my own advice:

1) Take photos of your neighborhood and the places you frequent. Get creative with the perspective and colors in the photos when taking and editing them.

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Margaritas and queso at my favorite local Mexican place

2) Try out new (to you) local restaurants or bars.

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Delicious caprese sandwich at the local cafe

3) Visit your local parks for some green space and fresh air.

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A stroll through the trees

4) Find a haven, a place you can go to escape your routine and do something simple you enjoy like read or write. This might be your local library or coffeehouse.

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Statue outside my library (which also has a local history museum)

5) Sit outside and watch the sunrise or sunset.

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Sky view from my backyard

6) Pretend you are a tourist visiting your town for the first time and check out the places of interest.

Chisolm Park

The ducks and geese love this giant fishing hole with a playground, picnic tables, and walking trails

7) Make a gratitude list of daily pleasures or conveniences you experience living where you do.

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A favorite place to run  just down the street from my house

I have realized that happiness does not have to be conditional on where you live. There is beauty and light everywhere you are; the trick is finding it and reveling in it. If you truly dislike where you live, and you cannot make an immediate change, it is up to you to make peace with your surroundings.

Wherever you are, be there with all your heart.

An Open Door

Call it the Universe. Call it the Ether or the Energy. Call it a Higher Power.  When I open a door to it in my mind and in my spirit, sometimes amazing things flow in to my life.

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I sit on the couch cross-legged with my computer in my lap while my husband sits across from me entranced in an episode of House. I sigh loudly. I tap on the keys. More drama emanates from the TV. I sigh loudly again. My husband looks over at me questioningly.

“I can’t figure out what to write!” I say. We both know he can’t help me with this. I sit a while longer staring at the screen and finally shut my laptop. This is getting me nowhere. I need to relax and just let my mind wander. Just let it be.

The next morning I’m daydreaming about nothing in particular, and suddenly an idea pops into my head and I know what I want to write. This has happened before, and it truly is an amazing thing. I have been more focused on writing in the past few months than I have the past few years. It’s like I have tapped into an infinite well of thought and ideas and inspiration just by thinking about it and trusting that it’s there. I feel so much more aware.

Perhaps being open and more mindful of the world allows the energy of the universe to flow through you. Perhaps it even brings you something that you thought was lost forever…

Quite a few years ago, I experienced a series of emotional events while spending a weekend in San Francisco. When I got on the plane to fly back to L.A., I was struck with an overwhelming need to get my experience down on paper. I wrote furiously, the words pouring out of me and into my notebook, not stopping until I reached the very end, my hand tired and cramping. I stirred a curiosity in the man sitting next to me who politely waited until I was finished and then felt compelled to ask me about my writing given my intense focus for the duration of the flight.

When I got home, I transcribed everything I wrote onto my computer and saved it. A couple years later, my laptop crashed and I lost everything on it. It was crushing to know my writings were trapped forever in a place I could not reach, including the story of that weekend in San Francisco. I knew I could not recapture it.

Last week I was looking for something random and unimportant, going through closets and drawers. I opened a drawer and laid eyes on a brown folder I had not seen for quite some time. I opened it, began flipping through its contents, and stopped, in shock at what I saw. Tucked into the folder were the small half-pages on which I’d written about my experience so desperately on that flight home.

I still cannot believe I have it back. I thought it was lost forever. It feels like a gift from the universe. It feels like a sign.

I think this works for things other than writing and creativity. Perhaps if we are open to the energy around us, focus on the good and go with the flow, we will have more inspiring experiences. Or maybe we simply become more mindful and notice more of the coincidences. But I think it’s something bigger than that. Maybe it’s actually nothing. But maybe it’s something.

 

Photo credit: Thorbard via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Focus on What You Want

Our thoughts are powerful. They can bring to fruition whatever we choose to focus on, good or bad. What we create in our lives, we first create in our minds.

A few years ago on a sunny afternoon, I finished up my grocery shopping and walked out of the store into the bright sunlight. In front of me were a dad and his two young daughters. The youngest was maybe 5 years old with long red hair, chubby little arms, and wearing a blue flowered sundress. She was absolutely adorable. Her dad leaned down and handed her a grocery bag. I could see through the plastic the outline of an egg carton.

“Don’t drop it. Do you hear me? Don’t drop the bag,” the dad warned the little girl. She nodded her head vigorously. I watched her trail along behind her dad and sister into the sun headed towards their car, her red hair shining.

And then she dropped the grocery bag. Her dad spun around yelling at her, reprimanding her. I could see shame and disappointment on the girl’s sweet freckled face, and I felt sad for her, disheartened by this scene.

I knew the child was going to drop the bag. It was practically inevitable. But why was this the case? How could I be so sure of how this scene would play out?

Aside from the fact that the girl was little and carrying something challenging for her size, the dad’s stern words of “don’t drop the bag” no doubt had the child intensely focused on just that – the idea of dropping the bag. I imagined her repeating the mantra to herself over and over.

What if her dad had said instead, “Hold onto the bag as tight as you can,” and had said it in an encouraging way. She would have focused on holding the bag, on accomplishing something. Rather than focusing on what she didn’t want to happen, she instead would have been focused on what she DID want to happen. Perhaps she still might have dropped the eggs, but I believe she would have had more of a fighting chance of making it across the parking lot.

When we think about something we don’t want, often that thing manifests in our lives because we are fixated on it. Shifting from the negative mind frame to the positive mind frame and focusing on what we DO want is more likely to manifest the good in our lives.

Thinking about something you do want allows you to visualize it and take steps to achieve it. It gives you a sense of confidence and incites action. Instead of thinking, “Don’t drop this. Don’t screw this up,” think to yourself, “Hold on tight. I can do this. I AM doing this.”

Focus on what you want for yourself rather than on what you don’t want.

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In response to the Daily Post prompt
Drop

The Procession: A Shift in Perspective

I had been in a foul mood all morning. Not even walking at the park with my dog had managed to boost my spirit. As Cora stopped to sniff the grass, I wondered about the crowd of people I’d seen on our drive to the park, gathering at the highway overpass. I hadn’t seen any accidents. Why were they gathering? But then suddenly I realized it must be for the funeral procession.  The understanding overwhelmed me, and I started to cry.

I had reasons for being in my dismal mood: not enough sleep, a looming to-do list, the irritation of dogs whining all morning, a headache. But who was I to feel such frustration and annoyance at the world that morning? I was alive! I was alive and going about my Saturday morning routine. I had that privilege, though I had done nothing in particular to earn it.

A courageous person, a police officer, in an effort to protect the people of his community, had put his life on the line and lost it. He wasn’t going about his daily routine on this Saturday morning, nor was his family. This Saturday was different. It was one coated in tragedy and anguish as the community gathered for his procession. Who was I to be taking the gift of life for granted, especially on this day? I felt ashamed of myself.

This was not the first instance, of course, in which a police officer was killed in the line of duty, but this time it was closer to home. It happened not in the urban city streets but within my community in a small suburban neighborhood that I pass through daily on my way to work. Perhaps this circumstance in addition to the two deaths I experienced recently in my personal life heightened my sensitivity to the death of this police officer. He was only 29. I did not know him, but I knew I had to go to the funeral procession and pay my respects.

I parked close to the highway intersection and jogged towards the overpass, feeling anxious as I crossed the road to the bridge. I found an open spot in the crowd along the railing and peered down over the highway below. The seemingly endless line of police car after police car and intermittent fire trucks from all the surrounding suburbs, cities, and even farther away places drove in succession in honor of the fallen officer.

Passers-by stopped in the road or pulled over. Couples stood together waving their flags and wiping tears from their cheeks. Fire and EMS officers stood on a parked ambulance saluting or holding their hands over their hearts during the entire procession. Parents stood with their children, telling to them what was happening and why, and teaching them about humility, respect, empathy, and bravery in the process. I was moved to tears over and over.

Everyday people sacrifice their lives for the greater good. I’m glad I had the opportunity to honor such a person, and in the wake of the procession, the least I could do was be thankful for the day I still had in front of me. The sun was high, the sky was clear, and I was both safe and free.