Power Sheets: First Impressions

I promised to let you know what I think of Lara Casey’s Power Sheets. My box arrived yesterday, and my first impression is that it’s living up to all the hype and enthusiasm I’ve seen on YouTube.  I think I’m going to find this to be a most helpful tool in facing the New Year.

For one thing, the product itself is sturdy as well as beautiful. Heavy paper to write on — and she urges you to make a mess of it, not limit yourself to your best and most beautiful .  .   sturdy dividers. Lovely stickers — and I am not a sticker fan. (Confession: I’ve already used stickers. My favorite are the gold foil arrows that help draw attention to salient or memorable points in the explanatory/inspirational text leading into our personal reflections.)

But the really important point is that these evaluation and planning prompts aren’t trite. They invite one to go deep, to think long and hard, and honestly, about a particular question.  I’ll be revisiting the pages over the next few days and trying to go more deeply and broadly into each one.

This is a workbook that invites deep reflection and conscious planning. And, I must say, realistic goal-setting.  I appreciate this more than I can say. Lara even has review and evaluation re-visits on a monthly and quarterly basis; this is not a one-off, trivial News Years Resolutions exercise.  She also has a video series that she emails to you when you order, that goes through the book in very manageable segments.

There are also YouTube videos in abundance that show you particulars of what the product looks like and what the prompts are. My favorites (so far) are Elyssa Nalani’s and Ashyln Writes.  You can do a basic search for PowerSheets in the YouTube search bar and come up with loads more. They’ll also have links galore in the info box.  I won’t add more here.

But, yes, I recommend this product. It’s pricey – I would never have bought it had I not been deadly serious about making some changes. But since I am that serious, I’d say the money is well spent.

Life adjustments – Getting Well

I love Advent. It’s the beginning of the liturgical year, in the liturgical churches, a full month before the calendar changes over, but even more, Advent is a season of preparation. We need to reflect and prepare for the big events of our lives, and probably for our lives, themselves.  Yes, I’m quite certain of that.

For too many years I’ve drifted on the currents, had no particular plan or purpose. Vague generalized ones, but not particular. The reason for this is understandable: when I was growing up, and later in my marriage to TFP, plans were the prelude to disappointment. All those broken promises!  And again, and again, there was that open and subliminal message that I was too unimportant to have any legitimate purpose in the world, apart from being TFP’s “beard.”  That’s a message that cuts deep, long after we’ve realized the lie it is. I’ve just been drifting along, feeling pretty helpless to change things.

Also, I just have a temperament that does well under still and quiet, not trying to push or force events or answers.

But it does have its limitations. If we’re not happy with something — a job, a piece of furniture, a relationship — then we either make changes or we become the victims of our own inertia. Resentments can fester, precipitating a crisis that might have been avoided had we taken initiative early on in the dissatisfaction.

I have decided it is time for some substantial changes. There are things I want that I can’t achieve in my present circumstances.  I am 62 years old; I want the remainder of my life to be fruitful, joyful, productive, and spiritually and emotionally rich.

That’s Step One: Decide to make a change.

Step Two, for me, at this time, is to take time to very particularly evaluate just what it is I DO want. It’s not enough to say, “I’m ready for a change.” Changes can be for the worse, not just the better. I want to have a clearer understanding of what motivates me, what I truly care about, what  — well, since my Catholic faith is important to me, I couch it in these terms: what I perceive God wants from me, and for me.

I’ve ordered a couple of resources to help me work through those great existential questions. When they’ve arrived (later this week, I expect), I’ll do an evaluation here for your benefit. This particular one — Lara Casey’s Power Sheets — has gotten a lot of good mentions on the YouTube channels I have been watching. I’ll let you know if the product lives up to its reputation by my expectations.

Step Three — and these can be concurrent (they are for me, right now) — research your options. Want a new career? A new home? Research the options, and the costs, and the risks, and the values.  Knowledge is a form of empowerment, and one that I believe will allow us to step out in confidence in the new direction we’ve chosen for ourselves.

 

Forgiveness Is the Key

We’ve heard clever explanations of hanging on to a grudge, such as letting someone live rent-free in your head. That’s okay, so far as it goes –

But let’s take it further:  do you spend a lot of time thinking and/or talking about the bad hand you’ve been dealt by the Fates? the wrongs you’ve suffered? how unappreciated you are?  how you suffer?

We all know people who do. I know several on social media who rarely post anything other than the attention-seeking whining and complaining.  It’s boring.  And you know, I just don’t see how they can be happy people.

You want to be happy?  You want to be at peace?
1.  Give your whole life to God, and walk with Him.  That’s worthy of a series of posts, right there, because it’s important to understand Who God Is and what He requires of us as we live for Him and reflect His Divine Nature to the rest of the world. But nothin’, and I mean NOTHIN’! is better than that!

2.  Forgive the people who have hurt you.  Yeah it’l come round to taunt you from time to time.  Some times it’s a torment and it might not even be easy to recognize what’s going on.  It took me weeks, this winter, to figure out I was still living under the shadow of my parents’ choices.  But keep trying!

Forgiveness isn’t forgetting the past or pretending it doesn’t matter (things that hurt you at the core of your being matter a lot).  I think of it as letting go of the very human desire to be avenged.  To get even. To persuade the person who hurt you to see the hurt and regret it and to make amends. Tha’s out of your hands and you’ll drive yourself batty, obsessing about it. God will rightly judge and hand out penalties in the Judgment (yes, I believe in Purgatory, and it’s a good, healthy place); our job is to release our need to be made right to and to go on living. Yes, 70×7 for the same offenses.

Learn, if you’re still stuck, to get out of being the victim or someone’s emotional punching bag. Or rescuer or one to hide behind. Forgiveness is NOT about letting other people willfully and viciously use and hurt us!  Become strong!  Learn to value yourself (get counselling if you find this difficult — not for the rest of your life, but for a few weeks/months while you find yourself)

3. Choose to be happy.  Count your blessings.  Can’t find any?  Start a notebook.  You got a roof over your head? Clothes on your back? Food in your belly? Start there.  Recognize daily beauty — the song of a mockingbird or the flash of blue of a bluebird, or the serene ambling across your yard of a doe and fawn — and make a note of it.  Note the brilliant colors you encounter in Nature.  Find beauty all around you.  Put a pot of flowers on the table (heading into spring, I splurged when I really couldn’t afford it on bunches of tulips from our local grocery store.  My spirit needed them more than my body needed the food, and I can’t begin to say how much they lifted my spirits, what pleasure they gave me for a week at a time).

Study other people.  Who do you admire and respect? Why? Reach for those qualities in yourself.
Who makes you feel happier for being around them? Why? Emulate them!

Do you have friends? Be grateful for them. Look for ways to be a blessing to them.

Is there someone you know who needs help? Help her. Take the neighbor to the doctor and the grocery store when she’s not able to drive.  Pick up an extra bunch of tulips to cheer her up, too — or, this time of year, it’s little pots of miniature roses that are so beautiful.

Cultivate the habit of smiling at people.

Discipline yourself to stop bellyaching over every little thing. Everyone knows your sufferings by now; no need to belabor the point.  Now let them see your more cheerful and good-natured side.

Find one thing nice to say to everyone.

Get out of yourself.  Yes, take some time to rest and to be quiet and alone. But — bit by bit — “This week I will do this one thing” — get out of the rut.  It really won’t take long before you really have found some unexpected peace and joy and have become, very truly, your better self.

More to Life

 

The arrival of spring invites us to reflect on how wonderful the seasonal changes are. My Gratitude Journal has been filled primarily with a record of the horticultural indicators that winter really is ended and spring is at hand — important when our temps are still a bit below average, right now.

The natural year and its seasons finds their match in our interior lives as well. The winter of our souls comes to an end, for a time, at least, as well, as the lengthening and warming days revives our energy levels.  And we discover that winter, with its cold, dark, starkly bleak days, is a time of hidden growth, a preparation for the fruitfulness of the coming summer. Winter isn’t only about rest from heavy productivity, it’s also a time of living off of resources, processing what we harvested before, of being still and quiet in preparation for an outburst of glory, with the lengthening of days and the warming of our lives.  Winter is when soil rebuilds itself. Winter is the season that makes us wise. Winter is the time when we go deep.

But at last it’s spring. Days are much longer, and for the most part a bit warmer, too. A lot of the trees and flowers have been blooming for the past month or so, and after this week my area is forecast to be out of the freezing temps for our nighttime low, even though our daytime temps are still running a bit below average. My energetic neighbors have long since planted their early gardens: potatoes, onions, sweet peas, cabbages, etc. Now that Easter is at hand, they’re looking at getting the warm-weather vegetables in the ground, too.

This is also a season when my neighbors are burning brush pruned earlier in the year, or “prescribed burning” the undergrowth or wood or yard debris of prior years. It’s a time to clean up – not just to make things tidy and manageable in appearance; it removes the fuel for out-of-control wildfires, such as the ones that swept through this region and destroyed so many homes a little more than fifty years ago.

A new season of productivity is at hand, in our minds and hearts as well as in the natural world. I’m spring cleaning. I have joint issues, so it’s going embarrassingly slowly; what might take a friend or family member an hour to accomplish, in a whirlwind of activity, I took a four-day weekend to do, this week, one step at a time. But the results are satisfying. “Brick by brick,” that’s how Rome was built, and it’s how my life is being rebuilt, too.

Like my neighbor burning brush cuttings last week, I’ve been trying to purge household debris that makes it harder for me to navigate the life and work God has given me. I’ve been living out of plastic bins for too many years; this weekend those bins and a metal cabinet went to the trash bin and a lovely wooden cabinet replaced them. Those bins were cheap and they were adequate, but the new cupboard, an old wardrobe fitted out with shelves, not only holds more, it’s also beautiful. We need beauty.

I got other things done as well, that aren’t so immediately visible, but also are satisfying. Writing work, administrative work for an organization I volunteer with. Music prep for Eastertide.

It’s a time to re-evaluate all sorts of activity. I told a friend Sunday evening that I really need to cut back on my social media time; it isn’t just a time suck, it has also left me habituated to the quick sound bite and short bursts of “conversation” that become a habit, a habit that makes it harder to focus for these longer (!) efforts like a blog post — much more so, an article or book.

Cutting back — reducing or ejecting — the clutter and debris. Cultivating the things we decide matter most — the relationships we value, or the skills that God has given us to use in His service —

Cultivating our own character: resolving to purge weaknesses, faults, defects and to cultivate virtue.

This is a season for renewal.