The Writing Life



High School Graduation- It’s Launch Time!

Posted by on Jun 15, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

My great-niece is graduating from high school next week. Our other great-niece graduated last week. Her cousin graduated from college in May. When I look at their  senior or graduation photos I see in all of them an eagerness to get out in the world, to move on to the next adventure, a shining hope.

I’m proud of my young relatives who are closing the childhood chapters of their lives and getting ready to write the next chapter of their adult lives. What an exciting time! I hope they feel, believe, and know that the future is lined up with incredible possibilities.

When I taught their much younger counterparts, five, six, seven and eight-year-olds , I kept this quote on my desk:

America’s future walks through the doors of our schools each day. ~ Mary Jean LeTendre

Now my relatives and thousands like them ARE the future. I think we’re in good hands.

I’m proud to have influenced thousands of children in my years of teaching. I’m proud to be part of a family where my mother taught high school French and Latin, my older sister also taught elementary school, my great-niece is starting a teaching job in the fall, and my nephew’s wife teaches.

Just about every adult, and child, for that matter, is a teacher. Think of the pearls of wisdom laid at your feet … or sometimes repeated over and over, that gave you inspiration, a nudge/push, hope, information, a path to follow.

When my sister-in-law was  learning to deal with terminal cancer, a wheelchair became her most-used vehicle. When she had to go out, feelings of being incapable overtook her; she didn’t belong; she often said she’d rather stay home. Her “teacher” was her then eight-year-old granddaughter, who said, “Well Grandma, this is a free world. You can go anywhere.”

When I graduated from Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick, Long Island and four years later from Wagner College on Staten Island, I had that same earnestness I read about on Facebook, and see in my relatives to succeed, to learn, to help people in some way. Though I am not in a classroom wielding a piece of chalk (now there’s an age giveaway) I’m happy I still feel that way today.

Congratulations to graduates–high school, college, tech school, martial arts, prep courses, citizenship class, driving school, and yes, to my great-nephew who graduated from elementary school.

Go for it!! Have an adventure!

 

 

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

Lunch – A Feast or a Famine

Posted by on Jun 13, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

Feeling family-ish this week. My great-neice is graduating from high school and her family, her grands, and her great-aunts ( that’s me and my Finn) will gather to celebrate. June is also Father’s Day and I think of my dad a lot. It also was my mother’s birthday.

In her senior years, my mother shared her writing with me and we had some wonderful discussions about writing, with the underpinnings of sharing
love and family.

“Lunch- A Feast or Famine” was one of those pieces, written by her almost twenty years ago. A wonderfully written memoiric essay, I share this in memory of her. Happy Birthday, Mom. And blessings on our mothers- biological, spiritual, chosen.

Lunch – A Feast or a Famine

There are all kinds of lunches or luncheons – feasts or famines.

The noon meal I eat alone at home after the morning chores, invariably termed a “lunch” is usually a rather uneventful occasion. That is, unless the phone rings, and I find myself, having just stuffed my mouth full of more than an ample supply of food, trying to hold a conversation.

Feasts

A luncheon implies two or more people, a carefully planned menu, not a slopped-together peanut butter sandwich. If I’ve left my domicile for a peaceful lunch away from the turmoil that prevails at home, then this moment in time can be a relaxing and centering one.

When I lunch with a family member, good friend, or friends, we not only share physical refreshment but feel free to share our joys and burdens as well. This gives us the opportunity to be understanding, helpful and non-judgmental of each other. As one sage put it, to be thoughtful of others is “a time-honored way of extinguishing the ego’s self-importance.”

This is a time, too, to giggle, laugh, “be in the moment” and prayerfully wish the whole human race be filled with love for each other. The only thing that could mar a special time as this is allowing the conversation to degenerate into a gossip session. Then the opportunity to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually restored is forfeited.

Famine

The loneliest lunch in the world is after you’ve lost your dearest friend, live alone, and occasionally go to a restaurant- alone. I find myself enviously staring at families – toddlers, children, parents, grandparents eating together and enjoying themselves. The little ones sometimes have more food on their faces than in their mouths and there are a few moments of mayhem among the older children. So what? It’s all part of a precious time of the day.

Also within my view are tables where spouses and good friends are deep in conversation, and a table in a corner where lovers are more interested in each other than in the food before them.

Does the male species utilize this special hour of the day to bare their souls and talk about their innermost feelings? I don’t truly know. If they don’t, perhaps it’s really not important to them.

Another Feast

One of the nicest lunch occasions is the one when new friends are met and made. My daughter Ethel and her good friend Mary had been comparing their octogenarian mothers, and decided we should meet. So during my ‘98 Thanksgiving visit to the “North,” arrangements were made for the four “girls” to have lunch at a nearby restaurant. The only knowledge we had beforehand about each other were: our first names, our ties to “Southern living” and the penchant that Mickey (Mary’s mother) and I had for wearing baseball caps in place of the conventional hats proper ladies don. There were hints from the girls that they probably had discussed our other quirks too.

The date of the luncheon arrived. We were to be the guests of our daughters. A loving gesture and a great idea! We arrived at this pleasant restaurant and I immediately knew that Mary with her broad smile and pretty red hair was a very special person in Ethel’s life. As for Mickey, there was no doubt that this smiling lady with twinkling eyes was my kind of “gal”- not some “pooped-out” oldster glued to her rocking chair. We spoke of shared activities and interests as well as our plans for the future. The conversation flowed easily. Pictures were taken at the table. The food was delicious! All in all, it was a very, very pleasant time. With the blend of young and old, I felt young again!

Well, it was time to say good-bye, and as we got up and put on our coats, I saw that Mickey put on her baseball cap. On the other hand, I was in the process of donning an ugly, but sensibly warm little woolen skull cap. It was then I noticed the look of dismay on Mickey’s face, and the disappointment in her voice when she learned I hadn’t even packed my cap! A terrible sinking feeling overcame me. Our daughters wanted pictures of their two mothers outside! Oh, the shame of it! Mickey’s expression of disappointment was only momentary. The pictures taken that day reveal two older ladies with smiles, respect for one another, and hearts full of love and gratitude for two loving daughters who made possible a day that was truly a feast.   Also, I have a feeling if Mickey and I lived closer to each other, we might raise some eyebrows and be “too much” for our daughters.

12/1998 Gladys Erickson  Property of Ethel Lee-Miller

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

Just Have Fun

Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

Picture this. I’m pacing a three-foot area muttering to myself, making small, but definite air gestures. My eyes may seem focused but there’s that far away gaze. My friends, you’ve seen that look on people. It’s the pre-speech preparation, heightened for me because it’s a Toastmasters contest … and competition gives me rush!

Suddenly a pair of eyes set in a round face and attached to a slightly shorter person are peering at me – close-up. “Do you know what you want to say?” the shorter person asks.

“Yes.”

“Have you practiced some?”

Some? Just about a hundred times.”

“So here’s the thing,” my fellow Toastmaster says. “Just have fun.” And he walks away.

“Yes, yes,” I say to his departing back, “But you don’t understand. I have to be perfect- then it will be fun.” But…perfect – fun. Perfect- fun… Incompatible.

The last thought I have as my name is called is “just have fun.”

The Toastmaster was Mike Zakis, a longtime dedicated Toastmaster in Arizona. I confess to you Mike sometimes drove me crazy. Don’t worry he knows this and he understands. His style of life seemed to be to “wing it.” I prepare. I plan. I have a folder or list for everything. Well, maybe not everything. Many of you have experienced my planning lists for events. But I digress.

Mike was right. Just have fun worked. I dropped the need for perfection. I enjoyed myself. I also refrained from doing my usual post-speech perfection checklist.

I do like to have fun, really I do. And it’s smart to plan for things. It’s the over-planning and over-prep that has needed to be 86ed in my life. It’s linked to the Protestant work ethic. An old and revered package of “work first, then play.” Over the years I added to it: “planning takes priority” and “perfection is paramount.”

Carrying that package is fatiguing and often cut down on energy I had left over to have fun.

So I’ve revised my package. I invite you to consider these ideas for yourself. Perfection is out. I’m allowed to plan, sometimes even overplan, because I do get a kick out of it. The Mike Zakis fun clause is in. Plan & then – Stop. Be in the moment. Keep your head where feet are. Look and listen to people. Look and listen to what’s around you.

Be amazed. Be delighted. Trust that it is all right. Dance. Laugh. Hug. Kick back and enjoy. Just have fun.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

Just Say YES!

Posted by on Jun 3, 2017 in Writing | 4 comments

YES is a small word with lots of power.

Lately “yes” has been coming at me from several directions.

First YES: Entering a post-70th birthday purge, I’ve been tossing things, cleaning up my computer, deleting old documents. I found a seminar script from one of my earliest workshops entitled YES I CAN! Having come of age in the Just Say No to all the somewhat destructive impulsive activities of the ‘70s and ‘80s, this YES workshop had a new spin. Yes to dreams, yes to success, yes to self-love and following that, yes to love in an intimate relationship.

Why not update this YES I CAN to fulfill some dreams for 2017?

Next YES: After years of wanting to take an improv class since I moved to Arizona, I finally signed up for a sampler class at Unscrewed Theater, a local improv theatre here in Tucson AZ. It is the home of the improv troupe Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed. Our instructor, Mike, bubbled with enthusiasm and out poured one idea after another for three fast-moving hours. But here are the words he said that pulled me into the commitment to improv. The moment I started applying the tenants of improv my life got better across the board.” What! Really?

Another gem: The one and only rule stated by our instructor: Support and follow up what is said with “YES AND…” This opened up a memory of using “yes and” when I was teaching elementary kids. “No” can be a red flag for most people, not just little ones. NO can be so awfully final. It means to your battle stations, argue, pout. So why not turn it into yes?

“Can we go out for recess?” “Yes as soon as we put all these books on the shelf.”

“Can I sit next to David?” Sure, you just move your desk next to his.”

Extrapolate that. Can I ever get a Distinguished Toastmasters certificate? Yes, just do one project after another and you’ll get there.

Can we afford to buy this house? Yes, if we stick to this budget we’ll have the down payment in six months.

Can I get my book written? Yes, put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard regularly, and it WILL happen.

“Yes” is connected to action, either mental or physical. Kind of like a post-it reminder in my office: Parties who want milk should not seat themselves on stool in the middle of a field in hopes that a cow will back up to them. ~ Elbert Hubbard

After the three-hour improv sampler I signed up for their eight-week class. When I told Hank, my husband, and main cheerleader, he dryly remarked, “Oh what a surprise.” Yes and, he also said it with a smile.

Personal YES: My friend Rose sent an email: (When I took improv) I also became a much better person. I developed the capacity to have even more patience with my husband (a two-time stroke survivor) and allow other people to be who they are.

 I may not want to live their lifestyle but I allow them to be.  I also say yes to life.  I am more supportive of other people.  My creativity in all areas of my life grew leaps and bounds.  Out of improv I had to courage to expand the puppet business with puppet shows and me singing and playing the ukulele. “ Rose, the Tucson Puppet Lady

I’m not writing this to be preachy, but because there may be folks out there who are looking for a simpler way to get along in life. Improv or improv “games” could offer that, along with fun. Improv is about not being perfect, not trying to be clever all the time. Whew, the pressure is off.

Literary YES: Looking for a new Kindle book a few days later, I googled “improvisation.” One title really caught my eye: Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan Madson. Learn about improvisation and get a shot of wisdom at the same time? There’s a yes for me. I thought the book would have a listing of icebreakers, warm-ups, and action games.

Not so, but Ms. Madsen is giving me just what I need. Not out of the box ideas but simpler in the box suggestions for daily use. Just say yes for a day or a week. Just say yes to someone in your life. Rather than “no” or the oblique “no” of “Why not do it this way, aka my way, instead?” (which is labeled a blocker) simply accept the way something is suggested.

My life doesn’t have room anymore for folks who suggest overly risky or illegal ideas, so to try the exercise of just saying yes for a week has been enlightening. I do love to have my way, not only because I cling to the belief that I’m right, but I just like to get my way, and it’s a habit that perhaps has run its course.

From my brief Improv Sampler experience, I believe the “yes and” suggestion in improvisation means 100% yes to your scene partner’s statement. Not simply agreeing and then going off on your own path, but adding to their statement. Making your partner look good.

When you are in a relationship in life, whether friendship, intimate, or professional, and you make your partner look good (and that does not mean you have to look bad – it’s not about you) it becomes fun to see how many ways you can say yes, agree, add to the ‘scene.’

Bonus to boost the YES: Over the years I’ve gotten a lot of positive back-up from a book that scared the bejezzus out of me when I was a kid. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Queen’s fondness for cutting off heads added to more than one childhood nightmare. But Alice also offers some aid for YES I CAN:

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.”

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Hey, I’ll say yes to that.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

What an Attitude!

Posted by on Jun 2, 2017 in Writing | 1 comment

What an Attitude!

“Boy, she’s got some attitude!” I think how you take that can be different depending on what you think of yourself to begin with. Could be positive or negative. The negative can often slide into first place if I’m not careful.

A refrain that still can echo in my mind is “You better change your attitude, young lady.” It’s definitely an oldie and meant I was speaking out of turn, being “fresh,” or breaking the “children should be seen and not heard” edict. Isn’t it interesting that years later, it still has some remnants of power?

My attitude is how I look at something, which in itself cannot be wrong. Perhaps how I express it may ruffle some feathers, step on toes, or just push some buttons. And I admit, bids for power led me to do just that for many years. I’d just let fly with whatever words came down past my non-operating frontal lobe. It sure got a rise out of folks. I think I have learned to be more diplomatic, and compassionate. Today remarks about my attitude in a way that may be an attempt at behavior control, invoke either a Mona Lisa smile or a simple “Thank you.”

Charles Swindoll’s writing about attitude came into my life at least twenty years ago, and has been a mainstay since then. Other quotes have bolstered what he said: “Folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Thank you, Abe Lincoln. A paraphrase of Henry Ford: If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right.

Swindoll’s piece is still one I take out and read when I’m unsure of myself. Reading it over, I can look beneath what’s bothering me about a situation– maybe it’s really some relationship tension, a too much to do perspective, or an “I’m too tired” feeling. I can stop and make a decision about what’s really bothering me. I can then step away from over-involvement with my self and choose a positive attitude. Sometimes it calls for an “I’ll get back to you on this.” But the decision comes lots easier.

I used this piece when I started seriously writing, not dabbling, and some naysayers asked, “What makes you think anyone would want to read/listen to you read what you write?” Ouch, huh?! But I knew if one person nodded their head in recognition, or laughed, or got teary-eyed, I had a valid message to share. That was enough for me.

Try it: and thank you, Charles Swindoll

Attitude

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstance, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.

The only thing we can do is play on the one thing we have and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10 % what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes. ~ Charles Swindoll

Charles Swindoll has been sharing his nuggets of Christian wisdom for decades, and is still going strong in Texas. https://www.insight.org

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

 

Current List of Bumper Sticker Philosophy

Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

Snippets for writing

Bumper Sticker Philosophy #3

And the most recent updates to my bumper sticker list:

Words are powerful! – ELM

There’s no percentage of return in worrying – From my chief mentor, Hank Miller

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself – Recovery talk

Are you a cheerleader or fogger? – ELM. Uh-oh, sometimes I’m both.

Drop the storyline – Thanks to Pema Chodron

No means next! Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections for Gone with the Wind; William Golding’s Lord of the Flies – 20 times

Life is fragile like dew on the grass – From the Buddhist book, Offerings

Just say yes – Improv Wisdom

God made me a twin so I wouldn’t be lonely- paraphrased from Jack Kornfield

Life is a gift!

-Feel free to submit yours-

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

More Bumper Sticker Philosophy

Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Writing | 2 comments

Snippets for writing

Some More Bumper Sticker Philosophy #2

Often there’s no time to read an entire book on motivation, self-awareness, self-esteem, or inspiration, or you may simply want the shorthand blurb for an idea. Yesterday’s blog had my early “helpers.”

I call these shorthand blurbs, my life reminders, or Bumper Sticker Philosophy. Time goes on. The list gets deletions, additions, revisions

Here’s my Solid Gold Bumper Sticker List, first used publicly in 1997 ( and they still work) when I started presenting life skills seminars:

And If Not Now, When?

Follow Your Bliss

Is Your Glass Half Empty Or Half Full?

Just Do It!

Who Are Your Cheerleaders? – Stick with folks who support and cheer you on in achieving your goals. Be your own cheerleader too!

Keep Chippin’ Away- What seems like a huge task, is lots easier when chipped down into smaller doable steps.

Respond Rather Than React- React is all emotional- sometimes helpful; response includes some introspective thought before reacting. It works!

May Your Spirit Soar

Oh Yes, I Can!

ASK! ASK! ASK! For What You Want and Need – If you don’t ask, you (usually) don’t get. So ask!

What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

Don’t ‘Should’ On Yourself

You Are A Prize!

-Tell me your bumper stickers, aka,  tips for positive living-

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

Resuming the Writing Life

Posted by on May 16, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

Snippets for writing

After a four-month hiatus from writing stories, snippets and essays, my brain, hands, and sit-me-down are feeling the renewed activity of writing. My snippets pad is full; scraps of paper get emptied out of my handbag every evening with the day’s gleanings of overheard conversations, or ideas that pinged into my brain “out of the blue.”

The consistent issue I have with my writing life is not of ideas, but time. I’ve never felt stuck for ideas. I can only answer the question “But what do you write about?” with a huge sigh. I sigh not because of a dry spell in writing ideas. Just the opposite. It’s a flood, an ocean, a tsunami of ideas.

There’s the snapshot writings about situations. Dog walkers in the neighborhood. Marveling at the excitement of coming home after being away for three weeks. The very young couple (probably in their late twenties. I know, young is a relative term) having a love spat. He, leaning in beseechingly. She, pouting, teary–eyed. When does that technique lose its ability to solve problems? All grist for the writing mill.

My favorite ideas grow from character sketches from people-watching or conversations with friends or new acquaintances. Seeds of ideas.

I have journal books filled with celebrity and historical quotes, and author quotes just waiting to be written about. Wise words from friends that could be t-shirt phrases or bumper stickers, and if expanded, personal essays. My own personal list of bumper stickers began when I started writing down positive phrases in 1985, which was a pretty significant year for me. I had post-its all over my apartment, the bathroom mirror. Bedroom closet door. Car steering wheel. All to keep me on track. I started out small. None of the words were original, but they were gems. Some of you may recognize them.

The list looked like this: Bumper Sticker Philosophy #1

F.E.A.R.: False Events Appearing Real

Fake It ‘Til You Make It!

Act As If

Keep Your Head Where Your Feet Are

Stay In The Present

Let Go—Let God

GOD- Good Orderly Direction

Stick With The Winners!

One Day At A Time

You Are A Prize!

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

D.E.A.R. Time 4/6/17 “Bazaar” magazine

Posted by on Apr 6, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

 

“I’m going to the gym.” Hank stood in the doorway of my office, sneaks on, and water bottle in hand. It’s a quarter-mile walk there and back, which adds a half-mile to his elliptical total. He’s got a whole routine of machines and weights and usually comes back sweaty, panting, and pretty pleased with himself.

“The gym? Oh, the community center.”

Our community center is an eclectic place. Great equipment, mirrors, TV (often ironically tuned to the Food Channel) and free weights. Also the bulletin board for events, and business cards of local entrepreneurs. A corner closet holds folding chairs and tables for meetings, and there’s an open shelved book rack where folks drop off used books and magazines, making it a free no-fee lending library.

The other day I dropped off my used “Toastmasters” magazines and posted some notices, then did the bend and stretch to eyeball the latest books. Hmm, some D.E.A.R. time selections, perhaps. Someone got rid of a whole bunch of Debbie MacComber books. Did them already. Murder mysteries, which I’d rather watch on Netflix. And a pile of old glossy mags.

I could hear my third grade teacher sniffing, “That’s not real reading.” But D.E.A.R. time in my second grade classroom acknowledged reading any kind of printed material. Including hardcover books, paperbacks, poetry, research, maps, comics and magazines. We were not exploring ranking fine literature, we just wanted the kids to curl up, read, and enjoy the time. My adult D.E.A.R. time holds true to the same tenets. And good readers make good writers.

I took home two magazines. Yes, yes, I remembered my Kindle downloads. The Liars Club and The Kiss were waiting patiently on my Kindle. Knowing my reading habits, I can foretell hours of reading once I start Liars Club. But for now, an hour of glossy page turning and fast scanning.

I chose the “Bazaar” magazine. June 2016. Eye candy. Skipping over articles that tout aesthetic body procedures I can ill afford, I clicked mental photos of how I may adapt some styles to my clothing. I enjoyed a guilt-free trip through couture art, amid Bazaar fashion firsts from a bikini in 1947 to the LBD to mini skirts. It was a lot of skimming, scanning, color intake and faint urge to go out shopping. Fun.

“Vanity Fair,” and mail deliveries of “The Costco Connection” and Viking Ocean Cruises 2017-2019 await. “Vanity Fair” will make the cut, with a cover of a very fit Bruce Springsteen on bike promising to bare his art and soul in his autobiography, Born to Run.

I know I’ll be into The Liars Club tonight and then The Kiss. Can’t promise another daily post … Have a great weekend.

Have you tried D.E.A.R. time yet?

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.

D.E.A.R. Time 4/5/17 “Crossing the Unknown Sea”

Posted by on Apr 5, 2017 in Writing | 0 comments

I stood in front of the bookshelves in our guest room/meditation room and took down three books. I’ve added them to the small stack of books and magazines on the floor. My growing wish list for D.E.A.R. time.

One of them is David Whyte’s Crossing the Unknown Sea. After the original readings, I used each of these as cafeteria-style books–read a chapter here, a section there.  David Whyte shares in lyrical phrases (he is a master) creative ideas that I can tap into and adapt as my own. I first read Crossing the Unknown Sea when I retired from teaching.

I began counseling and life skills presentations for adults. My clients were working full-time and grasping for time and ways to develop their spiritual and creative side. Whyte’s idea of bringing our spirituality to work was both awe-inspiring and a bit scary. Most of us had been brought up that work was work and spirituality was for someplace else. After reading and rereading it over two decades, I can see how each of my careers was an expansion of spirituality in every part of my life. The seed for it was planted in childhood.

In describing the Inner Template of Belonging David Whyte gives an example of his young nephew stating in simple terms what he wanted more than anything for his life. A profession unlike any academic dream his family wished for him. “To be like my Uncle Michael driving around with a load of washing machines in the back.”

“Whatever particular horizons drew us as a child are the original patterns and templates of our adult belonging.” I spent my childhood summers in a sleepy Long Island beach town called Miller Place. We spent two months each summer in our idyllic small world encompassing an acre of green property, gardens, trees for climbing and a five-minute walk from the Long Island Sound. This world was inhabited by interesting people. What made it idyllic was the time and space to observe, to watch all this, …and to be.

“They are clues as to how we find our measure of happiness and satisfaction in the world.” The times I have been happiest, most content, and also most productive were when I inhabited a world that held freedom within a structure and time to laugh, observe and see new ways. Teaching did that. Counseling teens and families did that. Writing does that now.

My marriage does that also. I am in a space in my life, just past my 70th birthday, nurturing a willingness to let go of certain activities, to be open, to widen my horizons–new people, places, and things. It feels good.

What will be next? D.E.A.R.

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships