VJWC: Driven to Succeed

Children understand the mechanics of accomplishment:  take a risk, try and try again, and bask in the accolades that follow.


As I grow older, I wonder at what point in life I lost that simple understanding.  Now, as I watch my granddaughters, I feel compelled to regain some of that old spunk:  tackle the new, and be more forgiving of mistakes, in favour of rewards that follow.  I want to be new again – to view life through the lens of accomplishment.


I always thought that age brings wisdom, and with wisdom I could succeed.  Now I see that all I needed was a little inspiration, sprinkled with a modicum of free-spiritedness.

Hope you are all having an inspired week!

(V.J.’s Weekly Challenge starts every Monday.  This week we considering the concept of accomplishment.  Feel free to jump in at any time.)

Learning From Bowls

“We’ll give him a few more minutes, shall we?” The kindly old man seated across from me crossed one leg over the other and sat back as if he had all the time in the world to wait.

“The thing is…I mean…,” I hung my head in shame. “I don’t think he’s coming.”

“Ah, yes.” He picked up his note pad, uncrossed and leaned forward. “I suspected as much.”

“He went away for the weekend, you see, and he hasn’t returned yet.” How could I tell him that my husband left on Friday, and this was Monday, and I hadn’t heard a word from him? “He knew about the appointment,” I scrambled to make an excuse, “he just wasn’t sure if he’d make it back on time.”

“Do you think he wanted to be here?”

The question hit me hard. Tears caught in my throat and the best I could muster was a silent shake of the head.

“I’ve been doing this job for a long time, and I really don’t see any point of beating about the bush,” the psychiatrist said reaching for a tissue. “The fact is you and I both know he never had any intention of coming here today. He’s left it in my lap to tell you the marriage is over.”

It was the first of December, and when my partner of seventeen years did return home, he confirmed the doctor’s conclusion.

“We’ll wait till after Christmas,” he declared matter-of-factly. “That way we won’t ruin the children’s holiday.”

I hadn’t seen it coming. The shock was replaced with an overwhelming numbness that spurred me into robotic overdrive. Maintain a semblance of normalcy, I kept telling myself. No one must know! Secretly, I think I was hoping that if I acted like nothing was happening, then nothing would happen.

Inside, I was a mess. I had built all my hopes and dreams around this man. Seventeen years are a long time to commit your life to another, and frankly, I didn’t know what else to do.

The days passed, and in a fog, I trudged through, looking for meaning to the madness that surrounded me.

I just want some joy in my life, I prayed. How do I feel alive again?

The answer came during an ordinary outing with my children to the local library. I loved the library, because after I’d settled the kids in with some books of their own, I could search for myself. “Read; it will help keep you distracted,” my psychiatrist had advised. No arguments there.

Abandoned on an empty shelf, a little book caught my eye. “Everyday Sacred” was the title and the picture was of a large, red, earthenware bowl. I picked it up and flipped to the preface. It read:

This story is about a bowl.
A bowl waiting to be filled.
If what I have just written makes sense to you,
I am not surprised.
If I had known in the beginning what I was looking for,
I would not have written this story.
I had to trust there was a reason I had to write,
and I didn’t have to have it all figured out in order to begin.
I would find what I was looking for 
along the way.

– Sue Bender, Preface,  Everyday Sacred

I scooped the book up, then my children, and waited anxiously for the moment to explore Sue Bender’s words.

My soul resonated with the analogy of the bowl. My bowl had suddenly been emptied, and I would have to create a whole new beginning. Bender described the spiritual act associated with a begging bowl, in which the bearers would have to go into the streets and beg for their daily meals. The lesson: to learn to accept what we are given, each day, and to cherish all offerings. (My simplified version.)

Something inside me sang. I wanted to learn to live with gratitude and the joy of beholding the sacred in everyday.

Plans for the move started to take shape. As my husband worked from home, the children and I would move out. We found a townhouse not far from their school, and I ran into an old friend who was in the process of downsizing – she furnished the house for us. It was almost as if the Universe was stepping forward to buffer the blow. While my heart still ached, and I could barely manage to eat for the stress of it all, I also felt strangely comforted. My proverbial bowl continued to flow with abundance, and I just kept giving thanks.

Moving day was drawing near and the last thing I had to do was to arrange for a new home phone. Something in that act felt final, and as I hung up from the customer service rep, I put my head down on the table before me and felt the full weight of grief. There would be no going back. My life as I’d known it was over.

Look at what it spells. I swear a little voice whispered in my ear. “What what spells?” I spoke aloud, looking around for the source, but no answer came. Convinced I had really lost it, I turned my attention back to my new phone number. I would have to memorize it.

2 – 6 – 9 – 5 were the last four digits. 2, 6, 9, 5, I repeated in my head. 2695. Could this spell something?
I checked my keypad. And there it was:

b – o- w- l.

With no steady income and three mouths to feed, I had live with what each day brought, sometimes hardship, and sometimes blessings. It was a humbling, yet soul inspiring time of my life.

(This post originally appeared on One Woman’s Quest and has been edited for this edition. This week’s challenge is to write about books that inspire and motivate.)

V.J.s Weekly Challenge #3: Nurturing Wonder

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our sense to grow sharper.”
– W.B. Yeats

Travelling across North America and back this past winter, every day was filled with discovery, awakening new passion for life.

The challenge, I recognized, as our trip wound down, would be to keep this sense of wonder alive once we returned to the mundane.  Routine has a way of numbing one’s senses.

How do we sharpen our senses, as Yeats suggests?  How do we keep passion and wonder alive in the midst of routine?

This week I’m asking you to join my challenge.  Write a poem, or prose, or capture your process in photos – however you best express yourself.

Enter the link to your blog in the comments below or copy this url address to your post.  Adding VJWC as a tag helps us find you also.

Have a great week, and I can’t wait to hear how you’ve nurtured wonder!


V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #1: Shift

Challenging myself to do better is an ongoing process.  I am interested in personal growth and a deeper connection with others and life in general.  This quest leads me to be more introspective, and to ask the big questions.  I guess you could say, I am a seeker.

As a teacher, I offered my students a weekly challenge as a prompt for journalling.  It often helped open discussions.  I am thinking that such a challenge might also work for the blogging community.

How it works:

  1. Check in every Monday morning for the weekly challenge.
  2. Write a response to the challenge when you feel inspired and post it to your blog.
  3. Enter the url to your post in the comments below.
  4. Take time to read and comment on other posts  (and I will too!)
  5. Tag your post VJWC

Here we go!

Challenge #1: Shift

Alter your routine in some small way this week, for example:

  • Wake up 10 minutes earlier.
  • Go for a fifteen minute walk during your lunch hour.
  • Take a different route to work.
  • Meditate for five minutes before going to sleep.

Obviously, these are just suggestions.  The idea is not to do something that over taxes your already busy schedule – just something that shifts you enough to make a difference.  Or maybe, it won’t.

Your response can be in the form of prose, poetry, photograph(s) or whatever moves you.

Look forward to hearing from you. (Even if it’s just to help me with the setup, lol.  I am a little cognitively challenged.)


A Writing Process

Sleep beckons, but the mire of anxiety and issues that surround me right now threaten.  I push them aside and think of the positive – visualizing our new home, and imagining how I will furnish each room.  The power of the mind to shift focus amazes me and I jot down these words:

We keep moving forward,
what option do we have
waste away mired in muck
or focus on a horizon where
sunrises and sunsets offer
glimpses of glory, and no
matter which our tendency –
optimistic or not, we are
drawn by curiosity and hope.

Remembering my midnight scribblings, I revisit the words, and think I can do better.  I  eliminate words to make the message more efficient:

We push forward –
a preferable option –

beats wasting away,
mired in muck

focus on the horizon
where sunrise and sunset
offer glimpses of glory 

no matter which way we lean –
optimism or not – we are
curious, drawn by hope.

Still unsatisfied – the poem sounds too cliché – I wonder what would happen if I switch up the order:

Curious by nature,
and drawn by hope
we push forward

spring ourselves
from the mud-mired
traps of psychological

focus on a horizon
where sunrises
and sunsets
offer glimpses of glory

optimist and pessimist
alike, daring to believe
that the beckoning future
bears equal promise.

Turning the poem upside down helps me break out of the pre-written lines and expand the images to create (hopefully) a less clichéd, but equally inspiring message.

What writing techniques do you find helpful?


Still Dreaming

HappinessJen at Tripping Through Treacle has inspired me to rewrite my bucket list.  Instead of focusing on loss, I can rethink my aspirations.  I love it!  This is a perfect activity for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis awareness month.

Actually, I feel like I’ve just had a bucket list year.   Thanks to my husband’s determination and constant willingness to overcome any challenge, this year I have been able to:

  • travel across the continent and experience new places
  • reunite with an old friend and meet new ones
  • start painting
  • learn photography
  • have my work published (no money yet – that will be on the new list)
  • envision new possibilities.

In a few months, I turn 60.  Given that my health is a constant concern, I cannot hope to travel to exotic places, or participate in extreme sports, or even grace the boards as I might have wished for in former years, however; I still have dreams.

I aspire to:

  • publish a book of poetry
  • finish the book I am writing
  • take the grandchildren on one of our journeys
  • spend more time in nature
  • write a children’s book for each of my grandchildren
  • earn an income from my creative work
  • walk everyday
  • spend the winters in Arizona
  • make a difference

Dreamanew.Life changes, it’s inevitable.  We can hold onto our dreams – at a cost – or reshape them.

I am choosing to believe that happiness is always an option.