Guest Bloggers

Early Christmas Morning

As I write this, it’s early Christmas morning, 2019. It will be a quiet day here at Chateau Cullen, except for the swishing of a broom while I sweep the porch and the hum of the washer and dryer, getting ready for our holiday party this weekend and for my granddaughter’s third birthday.

Today will be a busy day for some, filled with happy feet and sparkling eyes as young and old open presents under a decorated tree. For others, it will be quieter.

Today’s guest blogger, Bella Mahaya Carter shares her holiday thoughts.

Dear Friends:

I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season—or getting through it with as much grace and ease as possible. One thing that helps keep me calm is walking our dog, Katie, who insists upon frequent and leisurely outings. I don’t mind (usually), because they provide exercise, time outdoors, and inspiration.

Check out this leaf she’s circling:

This reminds me of a stanza in Mary Oliver’s poem, “Sometimes”:

Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.

I feel like I don’t do these things often enough. But it’s what I love most about my creative life. 

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, a snarky inner voice says, “Yeah, right. Get real. You don’t have time for this.” 

But I’m learning to ignore this voice, which I know is stale, conditioned thought, and instead listen to my wisdom. My wisdom reminds me that my sense of joy and well-being goes up exponentially when I follow Oliver’s instructions, and also, my busyness is up to me.

I’m at a place in my life where much of what I do is by choice, and not a requirement. Even when I was younger, a lot of what I thought I had to do came from within. It seemed like I had to achieve certain things, or behave (or appear) a certain way, but I realize now that I was taking orders from an inner voice that wasn’t particularly kind, expansive, or helpful. It sounded more like a drill sergeant than a wise guide. Mary Oliver is a nourishing companion. Her “instructions” are both simple and complex. Let’s take a closer look.

Pay attention.

We are designed to pay attention. But we forget and become distracted. If you’re like me, you might spend too much time judging, expecting, evaluating, proclaiming, analyzing, defending, and protecting, which is the opposite of paying attention. However, the instant we remember to pay attention, everything changes. A world of possibility opens to us and we are free to observe (and relate to) what’s here in new ways.

Be astonished.

Life is astonishing—especially when you’re able to see the beauty around you (particularly during busy or turbulent times). Allowing yourself to be astonished might mean shifting from a fearful perspective to a loving one. And we cannot be astonished if we’re not paying attention, which happens when we’re hijacked by our thinking. We also cannot experience astonishment when we think we know what to expect. In this context uncertainty is a gift–if we can embrace, rather than fear it.

Tell about it.

Even after thirty-plus year’s writing I still have inner voices that heckle, taunt, and say things like: Don’t write that. Don’t share it. It’s no good. You’ve said this all before. Who cares? Who do you think you are?

Many writers worry about speaking their truth. They don’t want to make waves, or they’re afraid of hurting someone they love, or they believe old, limiting, fearful beliefs that stifle or even paralyze them. Many don’t realize that their vulnerability is their strength and also their gateway to creative freedom. When you relinquish your illusion of control you invite something large and luminous to come through you. Your job is to get out of your own way and share it.

I have my own instructions for living a life. They were given to me over time, in small doses, during meditations, when I needed help in my life. I had to get out of my own way and become quiet to hear them.

Bella’s Instructions for living a life
(especially during the holidays):

Slow down.
Stop fighting.
Let go.
Trust life.

I will unpack these “instructions” in a future post.

Meanwhile, I began this one saying that I feel like I don’t pay attention, allow myself to be astonished, or tell about it often enough. I’m realizing that the key is to make room for these opportunities, to give ourselves these gifts daily, if only for a few moments.

If you’re ready to explore what’s possible in terms of “pay[ing] attention, be[ing] astonished, and “tell[ing] about it,” check out my upcoming writing circles (online and on-site), which are almost full. I have two openings in my online class and three in my on-site class. Happy to answer any questions you may have. Start the new year (and decade!) savoring your life, speaking your truth, and sharing your wisdom! 

I also have two private coaching openings if you’d like to work with me one-on-one. Contact me if you’re interested.

My memoir, Raw, is for sale through my website.

Here are two bonus photos from this morning’s walk.

A neighbor left these treats out for UPS, Amazon, FedEx, and USPS employees to thank them for their fine work delivering packages. It inspired me to ask, How can I be more thoughtful and generous this holiday season?

This made me smile. I love these trees, and have used their berries to make wreaths and floral arrangements throughout the 20+ years we’ve lived in Studio City.

I appreciate having neighbors who bring beauty and joy to our neighborhood—and I appreciate you for being part of my journey!

Happy Holidays. I’ll see you in the new year!

Blessings and gratitude,
Bella Mahaya Carter

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