Looking at you, Joy!

  • Looking at you, Joy!

    I am looking at the feathery fingers of purple Mexican Sage bush as riotous in their movement as in their beauty, a contrast to the quiet lavender shed they stand next to.  I am not looking at my recently deceased brother’s red tool chest tucked safely inside the shed, but I know it is there. 

    Outside the branches are all a jumble like I have been since April 22nd of this year when sweet brother Bob died suddenly at work of a massive heart attack.  Yet, despite this disruptive and yet to be digested loss in my life, I sit this morning filled with wonder at how astonishingly beautiful my life is.  

    I am looking at my dad’s rusted vice grip standing as sentry under that lavender shed window alongside an equally rusted metal butterfly that once topped mom’s beloved bird feeder.  And I am not looking at the wooden children’s table and chairs with kitchen sink and stove where I and all 3 of my siblings played for hours in our midwest basement, now stored neatly next to the red tool chest.   In the 1980’s that furniture moved to my parents’ new home where they converted a hen house on the property to a wood shed and upstairs playroom for their  grandchildren.  Oh,  and play those children did.  They colored at the table..   They taught each other and grandma’s stuffed animals,  with colored chalk on bare wood walls.  They managed each other’s unruly behavior.  They let loose their imaginations to wander and tumble much like the Mexican Sage bush I now admire.

    I am looking at the shifting of the season, the last gasps of fall in North Texas, a particularly stunning display of red, golden yellow and almost fluorescent orange trees juxtaposed against the season’s low slung blue gray skies.   Solid as my children’s and  nieces’ efforts were back then, Nature clearly wins the coloring prize this year.  

    AND I am definitely not looking at December To Do lists.  Gifts to procure, wrap and deliver, food to prepare for gatherings, decorations to place just so and lights to repair or discard and year end paperwork to complete.  These lists were beloved of my father and his son, Bob. Dad said “if you are lucky you die with a to do list”  I come from a people and a place that worships hard work.  And I too relish a sense of accomplishment, but mine is always more relief, than accomplishment.  


    Because I internalized a message that savoring was a luxury not a necessity.  So, when lists are complete, only then can we notice fluorescent orange Chinese Pistachio trees on the corner and how they pop against an unusually perfect blue gray sky.  It is probably apparent the glitch in my dad’s approach;  by the time there is room for savoring there is little energy for it.  My dad favored his German DNA over the French in his genetic inheritance and I have followed suit.  My dear friend Dr. Liz Greenaway said to me in a David Whyte workshop 5 years ago .“Oh I see you, I do the same. Take things that are necessities and call them luxuries.”  When one lives this way it is not uncommon to be visited by the thought (maybe your soul’s whisper?) “  Is this it?  Really, is this all there is?”  

    Someone once said, maybe Einstein, that there are 2 ways to live:  as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is!  When the thought “is this all there is?” whispers to me I realize I have lost my literal birthright.  My given name is Nancy Claire Wonders.  My signature written as Nancy C (see) Wonders is both destination and path.  I was born for exactly what I am doing this December morning in Texas.  I am discovering and receiving the wonder in the life I have been given and have made.  In my own backyard, so to speak.  Spaciousness and curiosity are the gateway to wonder.  Spaciousness in the sense of being without the day’s pressing agenda.  But when I allow the tasks, responsibilities, lovely as many are ~ take over the screen of my day, I lose my ability to see wonder, much less Wonders!  Life can become a bleak gray, including the things I freely chose and value … all becomes burden,  and not a gift, under the relentless taskmaster in my mind that does not trust  “being,” only “doing.” 

    In September David Whyte offered a webinar by the title Crossing the Unknown Sea, in which he suggested we might reverse the order, the cultural habit of preferring “doing to being”.  That instead of launching into my “doing” list, I could give my best and brightest time (early morning) to deep conversation where I make contact with my deep nature and what will nourish my soul that day, as well as overall.  In this context, the day’s To Do list is grounded by making real contact with my essential self.   Thus giving the “list” depth and meaning.  This essay is the result of such an encounter.   I invite you to join me in this practice of turning your priorities upside down.  Not sacrifice the “doing” for “being” , not at all.  Rather reverse the order.  Begin with “being,” with “savoring,” with receiving guidance from that which is wise and eternal within you.  Then take that experience into the list.  Ground your “doing” in your essential and true nature’s depth.

    This practice of beginning my days this way, (Being/reflection first and Doing/production later) shifts my life satisfaction level, when I choose it.  And truth be told, it isn’t always easy to choose this.  There are some things between my ears that continue to shout their bad advice and I continue to listen.  What I can attest to is that when I ignore this deep bias within me to let doing become more important than my being, my day goes far better.  

    In these times of so much loss and suffering, so much uncertainty and violence we need, more than ever,  to dip into the “wonders” of our daily round.  

    “Every morning I awake torn between

     a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. 

    This makes it hard to plan the day”

    E.B. Whyte is the author of this deep wisdom.  He came to the same conclusion that I have, (thanks to following Whyte’s admonishment), that the only path to sustain a life worth living is to do both, savor and save the world,  and hold the tension of those two opposites.  If you, like me, have a bias to favor the culture’s dictates to worship at the altar of productivity, this I can promise you:  if you flip the script the list will still get done.   I have not become lazy or indolent.  I have become more grateful and more at ease in my  life when I do this more consistently.   I would love it if you joined me in my experiment with  this radical, counter cultural thing of Savoring first, of making real contact with what is timeless within yourself as you greet your day and your life’s demands.   This switch in priorities builds a deep reservoir of nourishment to draw from during the winter seasons of our own lives.  We still experience the losses and setbacks, but we come to see them as we see winter, just a season in the whole of our lives.  And when we can do this, we find that Joy abides with us, even in the darkest seasons of our lives.  And ” for everything under heaven, there is a season.”  

    Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

    Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

    Mary Oliver


    December 24th, 2022 | admin | Comments Off on Looking at you, Joy! | Tags: , , , ,

About Nancy


Nancy C. Wonders is an interior designer. The “interiors” she designs are psychological, not physical, space -- a client’s personal interior landscape, or the emotional barometer of a team, or an entire organization. Nancy’s office includes a “design bar” where clients have a chance to re-invent how they see themselves and/or their organizations. These re-structurings result in discovering what is fresh, new and alive. This discovery prompts profound, immediate change, on both the inside and in interactions with others. Read more»

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