When I applied to colleges, I applied to Tulane School of Architecture, a five year program. I was accepted. My best friend was accepted to Tulane and planned to attend. I on the other hand, got waitlisted at my first choice school which was in California. When I was accepted to Oxy, I really wanted to follow the Beach Boys out to the land of surf and sun. And, so I made a choice not to go to architecture school. While I don’t regret that choice, I still love architecture and design. I had a great experience in California and my life was changed by my encounter with the living God who I found wanted to have a relationship with me. For that reason alone, I made the right choice.
But lately I’ve been reflecting on my love of architecture and design. A friend recently invited me to a workshop about the psychology of design and the importance of our experience of place. As a result, I bought and read Toby Israel’s book, Some Place Like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Environments. My daughter got her degree in interior design and is now a practicing junior designer. The university where I work has a consultant advising us on campus master planning and giving presentations about our needs for space. The confluence of all these things has me reconsidering my lifelong interest in architecture and design as a possible career path. When I look back over my adult life, all the coffee table books that I’ve purchased have to do with residential architecture and design.
In the mid-1990s, my father served as his own general contractor to build their dream retirement home. I spent six weeks that summer visiting my parents and enjoying the close up view of the construction process. Ever since, I’ve loved to walk through houses under construction. My years working for a custom yacht builder also developed my love of interior architecture and design. In 2004, we designed a custom house for our family and hired a design-builder to help us bring this dream to life. The result was fabulous and we enjoyed living in that house.
Now we live in a marvelous custom contemporary that is one-of-a-kind. And as I pursue graduate studies, I think again about studying architecture and design. I may be a perpetual student for life!
While serenity is closely linked to home, it is not exclusively found at home. But a home contributes a great deal to one’s sense of serenity. But at the same time, serenity is something you carry with you. Hopefully, you carry it with you most places, if not everywhere. But it takes practice, patience, and fortitude to take it with you every day and every place. For the moment you leave the sanctuary of your home, your personal space, you encounter people and situations that threaten your serenity (if not your sanity!).
But your serenity must not be based on reactions or provocations, for there will always be people and situations that vex and annoy. Serenity is a mindset; In order to live in serenity, you must choose to be at peace no matter the chaos around you. This takes practice and self-reflection. You must consider what things are triggers for stress in your life, and then you must consider how you might handle those people and situations differently. How might you approach them with a different attitude?
Of course, your serenity and your stress level often are mirror images of each other. So, serenity requires finding the margin in life to rest and rejuvenate, to de-stress. While there is no way to avoid stress in life, there are ways to manage it, to overcome it, and to learn to let it affect you less. And if this is possible, why not cultivate a better life through serenity and de-stressing?
I captured this somewhat blurry image as we drove over a bridge (don’t worry, I wasn’t driving). To me it is a metaphor for life. We were traveling fast and I was trying to hang on to the last moments of our trip. The sky and weather are always interesting in this place near the ocean. I am forever trying to capture sky, water, clouds, and pretty vistas with my phone camera. I stop for photos on every walk we take. But no matter how many photos I take, I can’t stop time. I can’t even slow down the pace of life for very long.
But taking photographs is my way of trying. And of pausing to remember and of pausing to truly see. I take photographs as a way of noticing. I’m intentional about stopping to see. I want to be present in the moment. Some would argue that I should just stop and enjoy the view and not photograph it. But photographs give me something to come back to, a way to extend the memory. They give me pleasure in the remembering.
But this particular photo wasn’t taken while stopping; it was taken at high speed in the middle of life. We were on our way to the next destination. Christmas was over in a blur and we had a plane to catch. We were on to the next thing, as we so often are in life. So the photo reminds me that life can be a blur if we are not careful to slow down and enjoy.
So, I’ll keep snapping photos to try to slow my life down. What will you do?
My daughter gave me this lovely bracelet for Christmas. In addition to being good looking and fashionable, it expresses a great sentiment: “Healing comes in waves.”
Such a beautiful metaphor for one who loves the ocean. Can’t you just picture the relentlessness of the waves? Some days the waves are soft and gentle, sometimes they are almost imperceptible, other days, they are crashing onto shore with ferocity. Healing is the same, it is gradual, sometimes fast, and sometimes slow. This bracelet helps me to remember to accept the healing as it comes. I can’t control the pace, but I can choose to allow it to wash over me (or crash over me). Sometimes it will knock me down, but I will rise again. Listen to the waves.
This journey of life is gradual. Our healing comes in spurts and fit, not all at once. Like waves upon the shore, healing is continual. Healing keeps coming. As I wear this bracelet, I am reminded that I am not yet finished. I will not stay standing still at this same spot. I will grow and I will heal. I will be better than I am now. And this brings me peace and serenity.
Sometimes its the little things in life that matter most. Like hot cocoa, or a sunset, or a note from someone, or a hug. Some of these things are in your control, others are not. But if you live with intentionality, and bring joy to others through small gestures, it will come back to you in beautiful ways. The key is to appreciate the little things. Not to make a mountain out of a molehill, necessarily, but to appreciate the small niceties of life. And to choose joy and gratitude. When we allow our mind to dwell on the positive things, our attitude improves and our serenity is increased.
Building this gratitude muscle makes a habit and this habit has such a big impact on your serenity. Think back over the last few days; can you think of some things you are thankful for? Why not try writing them down. Did you have an experience this week that made you feel less stressed and more serene? Write it down. Cultivate the habit of noticing and appreciating those little things.
So, here’s your challenge for today – and don’t talk about it, just do it: do something nice or thoughtful for someone today.
Leave a comment and tell me what little thing you are thankful for today.
Love this quote that was sent to me as a gift a while back. I want to inspire others to find serenity in life, to live with intention, to be present, and to become all they were created to be.
Hoping you’ll stop for a moment today and treasure a quiet moment of serenity – look at some art, watch the sunset, kiss a baby, take a deep breath of fresh air, listen to the silence around you, or close your eyes and just be still. Serenity is within your grasp every day if you choose it.
Years ago as I was coming home from a cruise sailing down Long Island sound, I was towing my dinghy in increasingly rough seas. The dinghy flipped and the rope broke. My dinghy was left floating upside down in Long Island sound as I navigated in a brisk wind. I was unable to retrieve the dinghy as I had no means of getting it aboard the boat. Luckily I was fairly close to home. After I got to my destination, I called my dad. He studied the wind and the tide and went out in his motor boat with a pretty good idea of where the dinghy should be and he found it! Together we got it aboard his motor boat and got it home.
From my dad I’ve learned lessons about life on the water and life in general. You have to know the wind and the tide. You have to understand their effect on your boat. You have to be prepared for anything. You have to learn not to panic in an emergency. You have to be willing to let go. And you have to be open to creative ideas and to dads who can rescue you. Life has wind and waves and tides and seasons – for sailors and for regular landlubbers. How you approach these daily challenges and the attitude with which you sail, have a huge affect on your well-being. From my quiet dad, I learned to approach life with serenity. Keep calm and carry on!
I have a wonderful husband; he is very committed and loving. And he gets me great Christmas presents. Like this one that is a work of art and comes in pretty packaging. This brings me joy and serenity. To have a husband who loves to buy me nice things and treat me on special occasions is a treasure. I’m thankful for 30 plus years with him by my side. I’m trying to be the soulmate and cheerleader he deserves and to return that love in many big and small ways.
My PhD program has a strong emphasis not just on the theoretical, but also on the practical. We are encouraged to learn more about our own leadership style and gifts. These are a sample of the books I have acquired on self-awareness, gifting, and calling throughout my life – not including the grad school books. I realized recently that this is a topic I’ve been interested in for most of my adult life. Recently a prof used the term ‘quiet leadership’ and that resonated with me. I’ve been writing about and pondering serenity these last two years; I know that it is a gift and I’m thankful that I’ve been given this gift. Trying to determine if that is the direction I might be going with my dissertation topic.