Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Shrink And Expand

Sunset view from our back patio earlier this year

I haven’t stepped foot on a plane in two and a half years.  I used to fly frequently for business trips, sometimes once or twice a month, for many years.  My travel took me to countless locations across the country, but most often from coast to coast, California to New York.  In the earlier days, I enjoyed much of the travel and always appreciated the positive experiences of visiting different cities, meeting interesting people, socializing with friends, savoring delicious food and indulging in a bit of sightseeing during off hours.  Some of my favorite memories include exploring New York City’s art museums, attending Broadway and off-Broadway shows (and admittedly, a little shopping here and there!)  In the later years, however, and especially after our daughter was born, I grew very weary of all the travel.  Those who viewed my trips as “glamorous and exciting” weren’t aware of what I dreaded most…quietly, gently kissing our sleeping daughter’s cheek in the wee hours of the morning as a cab waited outside, dealing with missing (and once stolen!) luggage, forcing myself to eat airplane/airport food when pickings were slim and unappetizing, facing seasonal headwinds that elongated return flights home, encountering numerous missed connections after desperately running from gate to gate, huffing and puffing with my heavy carry-on (and sometimes in heels!), forfeiting moments with my husband and daughter, extended family and friends.  Last week I awakened from a nightmare that I was still in the midst of my old career at its “break neck” pace, about to leave home on another business trip and felt such an intense wave of relief upon realizing it wasn't reality.  Whew!
To some, my life has probably appeared to “shrink” in the past two and a half years (my income has certainly shrunk!), trading frequent flier miles for local commutes, big city performances and outings for small town events and activities, corporate presentations for elementary school programs.  In many ways, however, my life is actually expanding rather than shrinking.  As I aspire to lead a more simplified life and continue to work on my small business, I feel like I'm expanding creatively, intuitively, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and even socially (reaching out into the creative community locally and online.)  I’m learning that by simplifying our lifestyles, we can actually expand our life experiences.    
I’ve always considered myself observant, but as I’ve focused on slowing down and becoming more attuned to simple, mindful living, I’m growing more adept at becoming immersed in the moment and paying fuller attention to the details.  By doing so, encounters with life’s small wonders are expanding and multiplying.  This is especially apparent in nature, whether it’s in our own backyard, out on a hiking trail or on the beach.  In the last couple years, it seems as though I’ve witnessed more daily wonders than I can recall in the past.  Is it just that seasonal conditions have become peak for wildflowers, that our garden is attracting a greater variety of creatures as it grows and changes, that the tides are shifting and depositing a different assortment of the sea’s trinkets along the shore?  Perhaps to some degree, the cycles of nature are playing a role...but perhaps many of these wonders have existed all along, and I was too consumed with an incessantly hectic schedule and the distractions of stress and fatigue to see them.  These little discoveries…

Finding new shells, rare colors of sea glass, oddities on the beach for the first time

A rare find of yellow sea glass last month

Observing birds, insects and animals in our backyard that we haven't seen before (like our recent "friend!"
Noticing colors, shapes and textures in the sky, in the garden, along the trail, on the beach as if viewing them with a new pair of eyes


The sunlight on this pristine dandelion captured my attention the other day
while hiking at Garland Ranch Regional Park

…these small wonders represent a profound and positive shift.  I may be more of a homebody these days, yet rather than shrinking, I believe my world is expanding in amazing ways!

Have you ever felt that as a part of your life began to shrink, another started to expand into something more fulfilling?  May your life expand in many wonderful ways!