A friend and I were arranging to have a catch up, and we made a lunch date in the near future in order to allow our anticipation of being together have more time to increase our happiness. As much as I am at peace and feel my happiest when I am mindfully living in the exact present moment, in my breath, I find an increase of pleasure when I am able to envision being with someone I adore with whom I feel a special bond.When we were meant to meet up for our visit, instead Maggie called and said she wasn’t feeling well and suggested we postpone our visit. True confession, my expectations were high, and as Mark Twain once said, my heart was light. Timing is crucial, and it was obvious we shouldn’t meet out of sheer obligation. The whole point of our being together is to enjoy each other’s company in equal measure. As it turned out, I used my time well, enjoyed my few hours of peaceful solitude, and was grateful my friend felt comfortable enough to tell me the truth. The Buddhists have a saying I find useful: What is, is, and what isn’t, isn’t. The fact that we didn’t literally meet when expected, didn’t take away the enjoyment of my anticipating a meaningful, pleasant visit, knowing we’ll plan for another time that is timely.
We live in this present moment only. This is when we are alive, in our mind, body and soul, at the banquet of life. The one word my literary agent Carl wrote in one of my manuscripts when we met for our last lunch before he died, was “expectations.” Carl was a realist who faced facts with stoic strength; knowing that truth is the prize. Aristotle taught me that “Life is full of chances and changes, and the prosperous of men may … meet with great misfortunes. Carl was an exceedingly private person, by deliberate choice, and when he told me he had bone marrow cancer and would die within three years, he didn’t sugar coat reality. He was preparing me to thrive without him, to the best of my ability.
No matter how much we love life and want to live a long, healthy productive, happy earthly journey, we are not in control of our coming into existence or when and how we die. What we can control is our ability to cultivate an attitude of acceptance, where we hope for the best result, and know that no matter how well intended, we can’t control the results. We do our best and leave the rest.
Many of you have been with me on my literary journey, eagerly anticipating my next book. I am acutely aware that my last published book came out a few short months before Carl died. “The Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters.” For this reason, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m so pleased he was alive to be present for the publication, to know it was my twenty-eighth book we were able to see to publication. Carl was my literacy muse.
Some of the wisdom my former boss and mentor, Eleanor McMillen Brown taught me about interior design applies to the whole of life. When one thing changes, you have to re-think everything. In my celebration of Peter’s fifth anniversary of his death, my aim was personal transformation from what was, to what is. By letting go of Peter’s gorgeous, colorful madras plaid jackets and neckties, passing them on to people I know and care about, I feel Lao Tsu’s words “Empty and Be Full” have new meaning. There is no sadness, no loss of love or connection when we act from our heart and soul. When we let go, our soul links us together.
Five years later, I now have an empty walk-in closet and feel I am headed toward my future writing direction. When friends are curious what I’m going to do with the closet; my present thought is to keep it empty. There is sacred beauty in quiet emptiness. Empty, I feel full. Realistically, this space will be a sanctuary of Zen paradox for a while. However, incrementally, as time moves forward, empty space will become full. For now I am paying attention to the Japanese concept of having empty spaces in order to have “space to breathe.” I emptied myself of all my past writing and deliberately decided to start with a fresh blank white light.
Seeing the geraniums bud and burst into blossom with the window box in full view from the open door of the closet to the front door of the cottage makes me smile. I was enjoying having the front door open to bring in the sea air and sunlight, but a bold squirrel felt welcome, leaping up on my desk in the living room and study, until we were able to coax her into jumping out an open window. Being able to begin a new writing project as I have a white, clean, space to admire with the burst of hot pink geraniums that seem to respond to the light I keep on, as well as my enthusiasm, before the first frost brings me no small satisfaction.
The gardenia plant in my writing room that I nourished last winter and spring thrives in the warmth. When I brought it inside from the garden, I also brought in the ficus tree from the front stoop. As I decided where they would go, they informed me: wherever they were to go, they would be happiest if they were together. In front of two garden windows off the dining room, next to the kitchen, I plunked the tree and placed the gardenia plant on top of a blue and white porcelain garden bench. In the weeks of being joined, their branches are stretching out toward each other in human terms, they are hugging. Baby leaves are appearing. Beyond, from the windows is a giant tree busting with autumn oranges and yellow leaves reaching to the blue heavenly sky.
We’ve enjoyed a glorious Indian summer. I’m full of anticipation of my birthday celebration Happiness Retreat at the Inn at Stonington in early November, I’m glad to capture the beauty of autumn in New England. Last year I was in Paris the week before the event, and I’m grateful I’m here to appreciate the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Because the geraniums in the window boxes surround the cottage, they are a big burst of energy and color inside as well as from outside. The gift of being here to prepare for my seminar, and for all the details that go into these retreats, brings me great joy. The inn being so meaningful to me is a comfort and grace note, being a few hundred yards away from our cottage. Our artist friend Roger Muhl calls guest rooms, friends rooms. I treasure looking forward to having the inn full of friends to help me celebrate my seventy-eighth birthday.
Our twin grandchildren, Nicholas and Anna, turned eighteen this month. I gave them each a white square box to hold 4”x6” photographs of their life: from their mother’s childhood, to their birth, and all the occasions until they become old enough to vote, they each have their own set of their pictorial history. This is what I gave Brooke on her fiftieth birthday in September: my plan is to create one for Alexandra for her fifty-third birthday in March.
I am off to New York on Halloween, (in my usual bright costume) to go to a tea at Cooper’s new school for Grandparents Day. Later, Alexandra and I will celebrate quietly alone at dinner in New York until I go to New York after the retreat for a “faux” birthday celebration, followed soon afterwards for Thanksgiving in Chevy Chase.
I wish you a great Thanksgiving season and gratitude for our tremendously inspiring journey into greater truth, light, love, beauty and happiness.