God I Missed You

I had a revelation last night.

I’m reading a book about happiness. I read lots of books about happiness, it makes me happy. I am, generally, a very positive and mostly happy person. True, like anyone, I have my moments, but, for the most part, I attribute my relative success in life, through good times and bad, to my general, overall happiness. But I still read every book I can find on the topic. I’ve decided happiness is my passion. And my mission. I want to know as much about happiness as possible, and my hope is to be able to help others find their happiness. I have faith that I can.

The book I’m working on presently is “Happy This Year – The Secret to Getting Happy Once and For All” by Will Bowen. It is a great read, one I recommend. I stayed up until nearly 1:00 AM this morning and am nearly half way through the book, on my first venture beyond the title page.

Having read much on the topic of happiness, and having practiced my own happiness for quite some time, now, I’ll admit, I don’t know everything. I do know quite a bit, and, as I read this book I nodded in agreement, “I do that, I do this, I agree with that, I love this, I practice that,” and so on. Then I reached the chapter on spirituality.

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

Spirituality has been sort of a tough one for me the past several years. I do still consider myself “Christian”, but my views have evolved into a far more broad, progressive definition. I still find churches and the practice of going to church centering, though I no longer attend churches other than for weddings and funerals. I appreciate the teachings, though, in my more progressive view, I think all religions exist for the same purpose and tell, basically, the same story, hoping to instill, basically, the same values and virtues. I think “church” itself, is just a community you choose to belong to in order to hear the stories in a frame of reference perhaps more convenient, comfortable, familiar or palatable than another. My “problem” with religion, modern, organized religion, is not so much the message or story, the virtues, the values, but, perhaps, the method of delivery, and, for certain, the constituents.

My ventures into bastions of organized religion over the past decade or so have been disappointing, after moving away from the very comfortable, forgiving, tolerant church where I converted to Catholicism nearly twenty years ago. And with that particular priest being reassigned, even that bastion of organized religion has evolved into something somewhat less. When I attend a church, now, I am appalled at the behavior of many of the members as they try flaunt their piety like a Rolex watch. Cliquey and judgmental. Constantly comparing themselves to their brethren, judging their relative level of salvation. Thou art more righteous than I, yes, because thou knoweth the words to the songs, as evidenced by the loud singing and over-annunciation of the words. I am humbled. Not. There seems to be a clamoring for salvation, like tickets to the Super Bowl, just not enough room in heaven for all of us, and he, or she, who can outwardly demonstrate their over the top righteousness, piety and faith wins.  And this amongst “the saved”. I thought “witnessing” was for the benefit of those who were not yet “converted”, “born again”, or “saved”. Whatever that all means. Live a good life, get into the game. As I see it. Righteousness is in how you live your life, not in how you flaunt your relative level of devotion with other Christians, like some sort of baton-twirling competition.

To me, religion, the practice of faith, of worship, of spirituality is a personal journey and not something to be flaunted, measured or compared. Maybe that’s just me.

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

So, I’m reading this book and I get to the chapter about spirituality. The author, Will, has some great and very refreshing interpretations of passages from the Bible I quite agree with. I’m nodding my affirmation as I read on. The book suggests we should be spiritual to foster happiness. Okay. I like to think I’m spiritual even if I don’t attend church and sing all the right words to all the songs, loudly, even if I don’t serve on twelve congregation committees, even if the ushers don’t know me by name and make small talk with me as I enter the chapel. I meditate. I am reverent. I live a good life. I have good values. I consider myself fairly virtuous.

The plot thickens. The author suggests we should pray. Well, I sort of do. I state my affirmations and I list out all the things I am grateful for, daily, is that not praying? No. Apparently not. The author suggests our prayer be to the attention of someone, like God, or, insert your deity here. To whom it may concern. After our proper salutation, rather than rattling of a laundry list of “I wants”, we should state our affirmations, positively, in present tense, and with power. Then, in conclusion, we should say “thanks” and sign off. I’m fidgeting now. I haven’t prayed, in that manner, for some time and I’m not sure I’m ready to.

My issues with prayer; I used to pray, well, religiously. For most of my life. I’ve always believed in the power of prayer. I still do. In fact, I have to say, it works, perhaps a little too well. I prayed for so many things in my life, and, usually got just what I asked for, and always ended up with a whole lot more than I bargained for. I’ve envisioned God up there, chuckling, listening to my daily prayer, saying, “well, okay,” and shaking his head. Or maybe Bruce Almighty was in charge and just granted me everything I prayed for by pressing the “Yes to All” button. Perhaps I was trying to micro-manage God through prayer and He got tired of it and just gave me everything I asked for to see how I’d handle it. I got it, I got it all, and everything that came along with it. And when the house of cards all fell down, I looked heavenward and thought, “I know you’re there, though I’m not sure of your form. I know you love me, though you have a funny way of showing it, and I don’t think I know how to pray. Obviously.”  So, I stopped. And since then, my thoughts on religion have evolved, as have I, into something far more open-minded, tolerant and accepting than modern Christianity seems willing to bear. And my “prayers” have evolved into just the affirmations and the gratitude. I’ve omitted the salutation. I just throw it out into the universe and am comfortable with that. It’s all an “energy” thing, right? The positive energy of affirmations will certainly be returned in the same, positive form, and my affirmations will manifest. I am oh, so careful how I word things, lest they be taken, by the “universe” too literally, or misinterpreted. I’m mincing words.

Well, up until the prayer part of the spirituality chapter of this book, I’ve been in complete agreement with every word. Maybe there is something to the prayer part I should consider. Or reconsider. I decided to give it a try.

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

My first dilemma was to whom I should address my prayer. The book left me some wiggle room here, it could be God, Father, Lord, Creator, or Universe, or whatever deity or power you wished. Just insert the name of some responsible party here. Long gone are the days of envisioning God as some floating form in white robes and a long white beard, shrouded in sunlight. Nor do I see any other holy figure others may pray to. It’s a mystery. To all of us. No one can know, no one will know, until we are in the great beyond, and so, beyond the ability to share the truth with those of us still here in life. I believe in creation, creatively, as sort of a morph between science and the whole seven days and Garden of Eden thing. I believe both are true, and that the stories we have collected into the Bible and other accounts are just that, stories to explain the creation that obviously occurred. And, the creation, however it was sparked, ignited or made to happen, was the result of a great amount of energy. From somewhere. So, that was my choice. I decided to pray to Mr. E, which, if you know me well, you’ll see, is a play on words; Mr. E for Mr. Energy (though I think the Mr. is open to interpretation) and, if you say it fast enough it sounds like “mystery”. Ah, you see how my mind works?

So, I started, “Dear Mr. E”. Long pause. Rather than go through ALL of my positive and powerful affirmations, they fill a whole page written out, stated in the present tense, per direction, I decided to just go with a couple of the biggies, at the top of the list. I selected a couple and as I said them, even in the safe, secure silence of my head, I was suddenly overcome with great emotion. My eyes welled up, threatening to spill over and wash away that new, million-dollar eye cream I’d just applied. I was completely awash in a feeling of immense relief and an overwhelming spiritual connection. All from adding the simple, silly, cheeky, salutation to my “prayer”. It was an epiphany, a revelation. It was humbling and faith affirming. And I felt happy. And I thought, “God, I missed you.”

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California
Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, California

My beliefs have not changed. I’m not going to go door-to-door handing out religious reading materials. I’m not going to shave my head, don robes, and chant and grasp hands with strangers at the park. I’m not going to give Jesus the wheel. I’m not going to join twelve congregational committees and sing loudly at church every Sunday. I am, however, going to pray again, in my own, unique way. I am going to try to grow more spiritually. I am seeking that blissful, mysterious, spiritual connection I felt last night. God, I missed you.

To Change or Not to Change

Life is never exactly the way we imagined it, sometimes things are better than we ever imagined, sometimes, they aren’t. We’ve chatted a bit about fear and we’ve chatted a bit about change. To recap, ditch fear, embrace change, it’s as simple as that. Okay, simply said, harder to employ.

The real question comes up when deciding if something in life that isn’t quite all we imagined should be changed, or just left alone, accepted “as is”, and a compromise made. There are many things in life, especially those things we yearn for, try really hard for, think about, work towards, envision, focus on, concentrate on and visualize, and when it comes to be, isn’t nearly what we envisioned or visualized. I think sometimes our imaginations are so good, the imagined outcome ends up being far superior to the real deal. So, when this happens, do we seek to change it? Or accept it for what it is? And if we do, is this a compromise? If we don’t accept it for what it is, are we ungrateful?

This dilemma can apply to very big things in life, and to very small matters. The point is, change is not always easy and we often accept less, compromise, because it is easier than shifting gears and initiating very necessary change. We are afraid of the amount of effort to change versus the actual reward.  Again, ditch fear, embrace change. Simpler to say, harder to employ.

A seemingly small change I’ve made recently, at least small to most, but huge for me; I have always hade love/hate relationships with purses. I buy a purse and think we’ll be together forever. A week later, I hate it and in “the pile” it goes. “The pile” has recently been pared down to two boxes, with the last move. Two boxes of beautiful purses I can make myself carry for a day or two because of the color, the pattern, the size or some other temporarily tolerable benefit. After a couple of days, back in the box it goes and out comes the ONE and only purse I have ever truly loved. If you’ve paid any attention to my pictures or videos, you’ve probably seen the ONE purse I have truly loved; my Kandee Johnson Imoshion bag in leopard print vegan material.

My leopard bag was designed by Kandee Johnson, a YouTube entertainer/mom/professional make up artist. She has incredible style, a ton of practicality, great fashion sense and knows how, exactly, a real purse should be designed. Imoshion approached Kandee and asked her to design the bag of her dreams and the result, my beloved purse. There was some minor hysteria over a contest to win one, then more hysteria over ordering from the first limited batch, then more hysteria over ordering one from the extended batch after the first batch sold out immediately. Through some hysterics of my own, and by employing every family member with internet acumen to attempt to obtain one online (the only way they could be purchased), I finally persevered, and only because I was willing to set my alarm at some unholy hour and attempt placing an online order when the web traffic was a bit more manageable. I’ve had my Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard bag for just over a year. I have never, ever, ever, ever, completely worn a purse out. Ever. Until now. It is, literally, in tatters.

To clarify, this is a very high quality bag, but, I am brutally punishing to any bag I carry, and one I carry day and night, on my business trips, crammed under airplane seat after airplane seat, set upon the floor in every imaginable condition, carried untold miles holding a MacBook, an iPad, a Kindle, two iPhones, make up, a leather jacket, a wallet, an umbrella, a cardigan, a water bottle, snackage, electrical cords for various devices and even, occasionally, a bottle of wine, and weighing in at probably well over thirty pounds, is bound to die an earlier death than a bag that sees only occasional, light duty use.

As I prepared for my month-long excursion from California to New York, to New Jersey and on to Alaska, I eyed my sorry leopard bag. When I left home just over a week ago, it had a tear in the bottom, the pink satin lining was peeking through a half-inch round hole. The lovely turquoise tassel is long gone, the cross-body shoulder strap still looks brand new, but comes unclipped at the most inopportune time, usually when burdened with the most weight imaginable. The zipper at the top is busted so the bag is always gaping wide open to display its contents. The leopard printed “vegan” material actually wore thin in several areas and looks blurred. The metal studs were vanishing at an alarming rate. I eyed my poor bag and wondered if a) it would survive one more very long, very hard trip and b) would I look like a homeless person carrying it, especially to and from the clients’ office? I ploughed through all my other bags and decided a trip without this purse would be intolerable.

I have been routinely checking in with Imoshion to see if they’d be stocking any more Kandee Johnson leopard print vegan material bags and I would have willingly bought one, two, three. In every color. Furthermore, I get so many compliments on this bag, I could easily have sold another 1,000 bags had they been available for sale! But, the website perpetually said “Out of Stock”. I finally emailed them from the website contact form and told them about my relationship with my bag. They kindly replied, suggesting I follow them on Facebook for upcoming news. I have followed Imoshion on Facebook since the prototype giveaway over a year ago. So, I set them as a favorite, now every little photo and blurb Imoshion makes about every OTHER product they carry, creates a notification on my iPhone, which, frankly, is driving me crazy. Crazier, even, because none of the notifications have anything at all to do with the availability of a replacement for my beloved bag.

This weekend, in New York, the half-inch hole in the bottom of the exterior of the purse finally wore through to the interior, making a “clear through” hole out of which my treasures could tumble. The leopard printed “vegan” finish was peeling off like a bad sunburn. The bag was, really, almost nauseating to look at. I checked the Imoshion website one more time. “Out of Stock”. I caved. I went to Fossil and plopped down three times what my Kandee Johnson bag cost for a new bag. And it was on sale. At first, I was thrilled, more because the color was amazing, and it was genuine leather (sorry vegans). Mostly, though, because the nice salesman at the Fifth Avenue Fossil store found a way to embellish my “tote” with the cute gold key that “only came on the purse”. So, my bag is unique compared to others “exactly” like it. He had nice eyes, too, for the record.

I’ve been carrying my new bag for just over twenty-four hours and it is a major adjustment. I have a “system” when I move into a new bag so it will be easy to find things, I will use the same pockets for the same things. Always. Once I’ve “set up” a new bag for the first time, everything has a place and everything is always in its place. I am not one of those women who can’t find things in my purse. Well, about 99% of the time, anyway. This is a huge adjustment for me. I can switch domiciles more easily than I moved out of my beloved leopard bag into my new Fossil bag. After the first trip down a NYC street with it, realizing I could no longer carry a MacBook, an iPad, a Kindle, two iPhones, my leather jacket, an umbrella, a cardigan, a full water bottle and all the things a purse is supposed to carry, I remarked to my daughter that I was going to hate the bag. Soon. Of course she laid “dibs” on it.

Today was the first day I carried it to work, and, well, it worked. I did get the cardigan in. And a small water bottle. When I walked into my hotel in New Jersey, though, and both the ladies at the front desk exclaimed excitedly over my bag, I fell a little in love with it. It garnered nearly as much attention as my leopard bag, which, by the way, I can’t bear to throw away. It is in a carrier bag, carefully tucked in my one of my overstuffed suitcases. I will take it home, I suppose, and decide upon an appropriate ceremony and internment for it. Sigh.

I know this seems like much ado over a handbag, but I suppose many of you just don’t understand the depth of the relationship I hold with such an item. We travel hundreds of thousands of miles together; it is, truly, the one constant in my life. Always there. My friends, my family, my possessions, are with me only here or there. My bag is with me at all times, never more than a few feet away. Change was very hard, and I am still a little uncertain, but, I’m afraid there is no going back, at this point.

So, what in your life, big or small, has deteriorated to the point where you really should consider making a change? There are other things in my life that are warranting similar consideration. Truthfully, there should always be a LIST of things in our lives that are up for consideration. A list of things far more serious than a handbag; career, living situation, relationships of all types, fitness, health, diet, spirituality, attitude, social life. To name a few. If any of these facets, or any other facets of your life are less than spectacular, aren’t measuring up, have finally worn through and become tattered, it is not only okay to consider change, it is acceptable to seek change. In fact, necessary is the more appropriate word.

We should not be settling for less when we know in our hearts, in our souls, and in the deepest corners of our minds, that we deserve more. Sure, the superficial voice may tell us we don’t, but our true voice knows better and should speak up. We deserve more. An unfulfilling career, a relationship that is one-sided or languishing, whether a union, a love affair, a friendship or a family tie, our broken health, diet or fitness habits, or whatever else in life that is sub-par, should be rectified, reevaluated, rejuvenated or sent off to the recycling pile and replaced. And, yes, some of these things are easier to change than others, but they should be changed and you should be initiating that change. You need to finally decide it’s time to get a new handbag, especially if the old one can’t be made whole. And, yes. It is scary!

You should have seen me yesterday, with the contents of my leopard bag spilled all over the hotel bed. The carcass of the leopard bag by my side, the hot pink satin lining visible from every open pouch and pocket, looking a lot like blood from many incisions, like after an autopsy. I sat there amidst piles of lip color and coin purses, wallets and device cords, hair ties, batteries, SD cards, various small personal electronic gadgets, an umbrella and a half dozen reusable Whole Foods shopping bags (the really good kind with the amazing prints that cost $4 and support a worthy cause and have a single cross-body strap). I was a little distraught; how was I going to fit this into my new large, more expensive, but somehow smaller and less capable bag? I would have to adapt. I have already begun. I actually felt quite a bit better carrying my new bag today; I felt that my image is improved for finally replacing my tattered bag with a new one. I had a little spring in my step today that wasn’t there yesterday, like I was saying, without words “look at me and my new bag!” It is going to work out and the change will have been the right decision.

What other scary changes need to be considered, and made, in order to move forward in better condition, in a better direction, with more confidence, with improved self-worth and self-esteem? What other scary decisions will leave you shaky and uncertain at first, but happy and whole, after a brief period of adjustment? You will never know the good that awaits unless you are willing to evaluate changes to that which you are carrying around, full of holes, worn bare and thin, weighting your down with excess and compromising your (self) image. What are you hanging on to that could be replaced with something more serviceable, more rewarding, more fulfilling? Only you know and only you can identify and initiate what needs to change, and I guarantee, no one is immune from having something in their life ripe for change. We just fail to see it, or fear the outcome. It is time to ditch fear and embrace change. You deserve it.

My beloved Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag all shiny and new.
My beloved Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag all shiny and new.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag out shopping with me.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag out shopping with me.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag. Tattered.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag. Tattered.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag; broken zipper, holes, studs missing, shoulder strap broken. Me sad.
My Kandee Johnson Imoshion leopard print vegan bag; broken zipper, holes, studs missing, shoulder strap broken. Me sad.
A change has been made. The new bag.
A change has been made. The new bag.