Friday, June 27, 2014

A Pop-Musical Tonic

The day after my break-up, a colleague who lives in a faraway place shared a link with me. He referred to it is a "pop-musical tonic' - his girlfriend's favorite song - and sent his best wishes along with it.

I clicked on the link, broke into an ear-to-ear grin, and listened to the song at least a dozen times back to back. Now Ingrid Michaelson is my new favorite artist - I bought the entire album - and I will forever think of this as the quintessential break-up song.

All you need is love? Sometimes all you need is a song.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I'm Moving On

You must make a decision that you are going to move on. It won't happen automatically. You will have to rise up and say, ‘I don’t care how hard this is, I don’t care how disappointed I am, I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.
― Joel Osteen

Last night it didn't matter how long my happiness list was or how much I repeated the Ho'oponopono; I found myself in a funk that I just couldn't talk my way out of. It was a long, tearful, tossing-and-turning kind of night. Then I woke up early, groggy and disoriented, but I dragged myself out of bed, made a pot of coffee, and spent a long time staring at the Vision Board I created last weekend.

I'm still not sure what it all means but I'm not going to figure it out by hiding in my bedroom. So as much as I wanted to crawl back under the covers and spend another day in bed with a book, I made myself push through my feelings of sadness and lethargy and get some stuff done.

It was a healthy decision, and I had the best day I've had since - well, you know. I wrote morning pages and got all my fall paperwork ready to email to my returning piano students. I did some online shopping and picked out a new table, chairs and overhead lamp for the kitchen and went ahead and ordered a duvet cover and pillow shams for my bedroom and bathroom coordinates for the upstairs bathroom. I went to Home Depot and made arrangements for their installers to come out tomorrow and give me a quote on new flooring for the kitchen. Meanwhile, my son, aka RockStar, and I made some serious headway with the decluttering and deep cleaning, and enjoyed home grilled steaks, fresh cooked green beans, and juicy cantaloupe for dinner.

Now, to keep this positive momentum going!

I'm not going to let this get the best of me. I'm moving on with my life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

50 Things That Make Me Happy

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.
- ­Carl Jung

I just finished my first read-through of a wonderful book, The Right to Write by Julia Cameron. Filled with anecdotes from her own personal life and follow-up exercises for the reader, this is a book that I intend to keep by my bedside and refer to often.

I don't believe in coincidences so I wasn't surprised to turn to the chapter on Happiness the day after my break-up last week. In the writing prompt at the end of the chapter, Julia suggests creating a list of fifty things that make you happy.

Happiness is not only a mood. It is a decision. Writing our list of fifty happinesses causes us to see how simple some forms of joy are, how we can make ourselves happy in simple ways, Julia says. Happiness lists are also an effective deterrent for situational depression. When the blues set in, the simple act of listing joys can help elicit some.

Heart aching, tears flowing, the last thing I felt like doing last Wednesday was creating a list of fifty things that make me happy. But I did it anyway. And you know what? It helped.

Here is my list.
  1. Spending time with my son.
  2. Walking in the neighborhood.
  3. Playing the piano.
  4. Red wine.
  5. Dark chocolate.
  6. Dandelions.
  7. Lying in the sun.
  8. Cruising.
  9. The beach.
  10. Cutting up old magazines.
  11. Handmade soap.
  12. Herbs in pots.
  13. Chocolate chip cookies.
  14. Girls Chase Boys by Ingrid Michaelson.
  15. Scented candles.
  16. Cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
  17. Baking bread.
  18. Popcorn.
  19. Lavender.
  20. Cinnamon.
  21. Words With Friends.
  22. Writing morning pages.
  23. Posting to my blog.
  24. Playing with make-up.
  25. Knitting.
  26. Reading.
  27. Gardenias.
  28. Making soup.
  29. Bright colors.
  30. Glitter.
  31. Getting a surprise in the mail.
  32. Cupcakes with sprinkles.
  33. Cute shoes.
  34. Day trips.
  35. Making jewelry.
  36. Getting organized.
  37. Writing thank-you notes.
  38. Studying French.
  39. Photography.
  40. Decorating my house.
  41. Watching movies.
  42. Breakfast at Waffle House.
  43. Sushi.
  44. Seashells.
  45. Making strawberry jam.
  46. Wrapping Christmas presents.
  47. Trying new restaurants.
  48. Dining al fresco.
  49. Fresh produce.
  50. My dog Karma.
Real life is persistent in its capacity to bring happiness, Julia concludes. It is difficult, even on the most miserable of days, not to grudgingly notice something that speaks of an enjoyable world. 

Replace the sad thoughts with happy ones? I can do that. And that reminds me: I think it's time to dust off my Happiness Jar and start filling it up again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


In my post yesterday, I alluded to the thought rut that has stalked me since the night my fiance and I said "I don't." I don't think it is any coincidence that the next day I received an email from a good friend with a link to an article on Ho'oponopono, a healing practice developed by the shamans of Hawaii. Based on the premise that we are fully responsible for every everything, both positive and negative, that happens in our lives, this practice is simple and doesn't conflict with other belief systems or religions. Essentially a prayer, the Ho'oponopono consists of four basic statements:

  1. I love you.
  2. I'm sorry.
  3. Please forgive me.
  4. Thank you.
This practice is serving me well. Now, every time the rewind button in my brain switches to Play, bringing to my knees with sorrow and regret, I silently repeat those four statements, over and over, until the negative thinking stops and my equilibrium returns. I don't know why it works, only that it does. Moving forward, as the memories of this broken relationship begin to fade and my thoughts get stuck in other painful places, I will continue to practice Ho'oponopono. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Over So Soon

A broken engagement is 100% better than a broken marriage.
~ Unknown

I might as well just cut to the chase: My engagement is off.

And since the break-up last Tuesday night, I have been playing the tape of our six months together over and over in my head, trying to pinpoint exactly what went wrong and what we might have done differently to get our happily-ever-after ending. I think it is fair to say that we both had issues at various times but chose to move forward regardless; in the end, there just wasn't enough glue to bind the relationship permanently.

As much as I loved wearing that beautiful diamond engagement ring, Tuesday night it became blatantly obvious that there was no point in keeping it on my finger any longer.

But I would be lying if I said this has been easy. Wednesday I did nothing besides cry, sleep and cry some more. Thankfully, my friends and family have been totally supportive, and I have basked in their words of comfort and love. To speed the healing process, I have indulged in some retail therapy, two girls' nights out, and a pedicure, and have planned not one but two mini-vacations in July. Things could definitely be worse.

Gradually, my mood has shifted from one of mourning to one of celebration. What if he and I had ignored the issues and gone through with a wedding, only for our incompatibilities to become rifts resulting in a divorce? So much better to figure it out now, right? That is a cause for happiness, not sorrow. So I am grateful for all that I learned from the experience, and ready to move on the next chapter of my life. I have big plans and lots to look forward to in the days, weeks and months ahead, and look forward to sharing everything with you here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life After Concert

Practice, practice, practice.
I'll admit it: I have been feeling a little lost. As I prepared for the duo piano concert on May tenth, I let go of many of the other good things in my life. My house grew cluttered and dusty; I ate many meals out. I didn't exercise and I didn't sleep well. I neglected my Etsy store and did little with my fiction writing. It was all I could do to keep up with my practice and teach my piano students.

And then the concert was over - and I am so glad I did it! - but I found myself missing all those other pieces. And I wanted to integrate them back into my days. But I couldn't remember how.

It's been four weeks now, and I am finally, finally beginning to feel like myself again. My teaching schedule is slowing down for the summer; after my second student recital this coming Saturday, I will have almost three full weeks off and a much abbreviated schedule during the month of July, giving me time to de-clutter and deep clean, shop for groceries and cook healthy meals, spend some time on my beloved hobbies and get back to the business of writing. 

Still, I don't want to lose the momentum I gained before. I am playing the piano better than I have ever played in my life, and the Asberry & Hardy Piano Duo has another gig coming up at the Georgia Music Teachers Association state conference in November. But how to find a better balance?

A few evenings ago I stumbled upon this article. It made a lot of sense to me. For now, I am going to emphasize the morning ritual/important work first thing, with no distractions; and a relaxing evening.

Moving through the summer, I am going to make the first 90 minutes of each day count, and do my best to maintain a consistent routine. I began implementing this today; I got up at 7, wrote morning pages, went for a 2-mile walk, practiced piano for an hour, and spent 15 minutes working on my fiction writing. Only after all that did I look at my emails, check in on Facebook and Twitter, and peruse my favorite blogs. I practiced another hour later in the day; I need to spend an equal amount of time on my fiction writing if I am ever to achieve my dream of being a traditionally published author. But this morning I made at least a small amount of effort in all the important areas of my life. 

As for experiencing a relaxing evening, I guess I didn't do so well. But I did watch a funny movie on my DVR, then made a run to the grocery store and bought ingredients to cook nourishing meals for my son and my fiance over the next couple of days, and now I am writing a blog post ("spending time with a creative hobby.") The truth? I have done much, much worse. 

What do you do when you are doing all you can seem to do but need to be doing so much more?