When I moved out of the house I had occupied for almost 30 years, it was only the second time in my life I had lived alone. (The first was for a year during my mid twenties.) I didn’t want to disrupt or dismantle the home I had shared with my family and then as an empty nester with my husband, and I was thoughtful about what to take with me into my new space.
After the basic furniture, I brought only things that were meaningful to me. After growing up and living all my life in a house filled with enough bric-a-brac to supply a small (dusty) antique store, I was tired of the clutter. I wanted simplicity, a space that fostered internal peacefulness.
The bookshelves that flank my fireplace hold family pictures, some of the angels I collect, a Waterford pitcher a dear teacher and friend had given me when I first married, and some books, both ones by my own hand and a handful that have been particularly influential in my life. I hung only the pictures that have special meaning for me, and the first was a beautiful watercolor of a nest of robin’s eggs that I received 45 years ago from a dear man who has known me since I was three. I brought a vase that belonged to my Mama Bess, who came to live with my family when my mother first got sick. On my dresser is a delicate deep rose-colored perfume vial from my closest friend since age 13, the one who stood up with me when I married in 1981 and who was with me when I went to the courthouse to be decreed officially divorced.
Oh, the simple things! I feel such joy every time I walk into my safe and peaceful home that has provided sanctuary and nurture. I relish the silence or the soft jazz; my soul warms at the myriad windows that let in the sunshine or witness the rain. I toast in front of the fireplace, and in the winter when the trees are bare, I can see the church steeple where my hawks light to watch over me. And always there is the adoring presence of my canine Kevin, who won’t let me out of his sight. Ah, the gift of being constantly chosen!
In the last year I’ve learned to reclaim and reframe so many things in my life and history. Although I regularly feel the powerful restoration of my spirit resulting from the last two years of deep clinical and spiritual work around all the losses and attachment injuries, on a daily basis it’s a simple practice that makes me smile. For months as I exercised or did yoga and counted the number of repetitions or how long to stretch, I chose a figure that coincided with either a length of time or a specific date, both of which were associated with great pain. Each was an “ending” number, and they helped me grieve what I had left behind. I wasn’t consciously nursing the hurts, yet every stretch or exercise was inadvertently a reminder of the brokenness.
Then someone dear suggested that I stop describing myself as wounded and embrace “joyful” instead, which better described my best self that had clearly emerged. That reframe felt exactly right, and it led to a realization of an unconscious mindset. The next time I was counting a stretch or repetitions, I remembered “joyful” and chose to go one number beyond those that represented damage. I’ve continued the practice every time since as a conscious embrace of newness, of possibility, of being beyond. Many times something new can’t begin until something old has ended.
This Thanksgiving, which is marked by drastic changes in my life, I am most grateful for these simple joys of passage – the creation of my own home where I daily choose me, choose to surround myself with easy, pleasing things that soothe me, choose to welcome the people who nourish me, choose to embrace a life and future of joy. What rich gifts!
This time of giving thanks usually focuses on past things for which we’re grateful. This week I suggest that you intentionally focus, too, on gratitude for what lies ahead. I pray that your Thanksgiving will be graced with simple joys and that you will have the presence to see them.
Marnie C. Ferree