Well Manicured Writing


Well manicured hand and pen
©Anyka, iStockphoto® #8072944

What is it about a torn fingernail that demands to be torn, bitten, or sanded smooth? Why can’t a loose tooth or burned palate be ignored?


We seem to have an instinct to worry imperfections to death. Sometimes I awaken fussing with the previous day’s tricky punctuation or second-guessing an awkward phrase. I sleep-edit. Or I’m driving when the plot lines intersect, listening to something unrelated when my answer calls to me, showering as the logical solution precipitates.

If you’re worked something and struggled over it, and now you’re stuck, it’s time to make like Bo Peep and her sheep: “Leave them alone and they’ll come home.”

Do some Brain Gym®–of course. Prayer, always. Then let go. Just try to leave that ragged nail alone. If the problem needs solving, and you’re the one for the job, it won’t leave you alone.


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Photo © Anyka, iStockphoto® #8072944.


How to Stop Time

A student who’s juggling unemployment stress and family crises (while still getting his schoolwork done) asked, “Can you just tell me how to stop time?”

The same day, my son reported his friend Sarah’s Facebook update: “My oven has a button labeled Stop Time. I think they mean Stop Timer, but just in case, I’m not touching it!”

Beautiful Clock by J-eunit at Travelpod.com
"Beautiful Clock," Brussels, by J-eunit at Travelpod.com

Yes, it is possible to stop time: learn to meditate. I love the report of a Zen monk who said, “Usually, I meditate an hour a day, but today will be so busy, I’d better meditate for two.” It’s one way to stop the world and get off the ride for a few peaceful moments, then come back with the clarity to be efficient and creative. I love the way davidji of the Chopra Center puts it, saying that after meditation, we “carry a cupful, a teaspoonful, a thimbleful of stillness with us.” It sounds too simple to help–until you try it.

In several eras and situations, I’ve burned myself out, and I’m been flirting with that recently, so I’m calling more time-outs each day for prayer and meditation. Life is like swimming. If you struggle, thrash about, and panic, you’ll drown; the trick is to relax and float.

When we’re in that place of stress, panic, and burnout, we need expanded perspectives, greater self-care, and committed action. Check out these ideas:

Preventing Burnout: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Coping Strategies.

On my daily checklist is “someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.” (This might be Elvis Presley’s definition of happiness. At least that’s the earliest attribution I’ve found so far.)

As a working mom, the first two-thirds are a given. The third can be easily forgotten. But I’m easily pleased, whether it’s anticipating a simple salt soak and a good book, or the more luxurious gift of Shakespeare season tickets.

My ways of stopping time: release the past, savor the present, invite the future.

Information Radiation

Roentgen first x-ray Annas hand
First x-ray, by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen of his wife Anna's hand with ring / Thanks to Wellcome Library, London

My young scientist borrowed this laptop for school research. He’s preparing to impersonate Wilhelm Röentgen, the man who discovered and named x-rays (and had their units of measurement named for him), the winner of the first Nobel Prize in physics. That was 1901, two years before the Curies’ prize. Röentgen died of cancer. Are we surprised? Dangerous work—pioneering that radiation research.

On the same computer, before I grade my students’ papers online and write this post, I delete today’s batch of 35 or 75 e-newsletters, most of which I don’t even skim. I read an article saying that if Google and Verizon get their way, this Internet will cost us like it’s cable TV.  I register for a teleseminar before I translate time zones and realize I won’t be there.

I feel bombarded.

We are all bombarded—by all this information and by the various rays which transmit it. We all suspect this can’t be good for our health. We are the pioneering generation, experimenting with our own bodies, brains, attention and sleep patterns, creativity and happiness.

Time to unplug. Soak in saltwater. Savor the sunset. Pray. Read a poem. Converse. Sleep a dreamless sleep.

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2010

A Moment of Silence

American Flag at Half Staff
Image from Vivificat1.bloggspot.com


Give God some credit

When Scott Burkun (WordPress’s PostADay2011 coordinator) asked,  “Who deserves more credit?” I first thought of teachers–those who taught me, those who help me educate my sons, and those who try to create an intelligent and civilized populace for me to dwell in–but that’s my post for another day. First, what about the greatest teacher? When will God get a little respect?

"God's chair" copyright Serdar Yagci #iStockPhoto 000005292716
"God's Chair" copyright Serdar Yagci iStockPhoto #000005292716

God provides life.

We destroy it. We fritter it away. We whine that no life is long enough or easy enough. We explain away the miracle. We pretend we are not God’s children.

God invites us to phone home, direct, anytime, from anywhere.

We call when we’re in trouble.

God provides the plan for our present and eternal happiness.

We fail to seek it, or we wander away. We openly flout God’s principles of happiness and even ridicule others who live them.

God provides our freedom.

We blame God for what people do with their freedom. We beg God to stop them. God warns, people disobey, trouble follows, and God still gets blamed. We whine when our own choices have unwanted consequences.

God provides breath.

We smoke. So do our cars and factories.

God provides this stunningly beautiful planet, the only livable one within unfathomable lightyears of this one.

We desecrate it. We fight over it. We live most days where we can’t see the light of day. We explain away the miracle.

God provides our bodies.

We abuse, mutilate, and desecrate them. We worship bodies and their insatiable appetites. We say that we own our bodies and that they are no business of God’s. We fail to nurture our bodies. We fail to master our bodies and use our abilities for blessing God’s children.

God provides a beautiful variety of skin colors, features, and talents, so that each child is an original work of art.

We hate or fear those who are different. We get so busy with one little tribe we miss the binocular vision, the stereoscopic hearing, the enrichment available from trying on the perspectives of others.

God provides. Providence is one of God’s names.

We take credit for our own gifts, ingenuity, and hard work. We limit God by our lack of faith. We ignore divine guidance and take unnecessary detours. We wait around for spiritual welfare handouts instead of taking guided action.

God forgives.

We decline the offer.

God never sleeps.

We say God is dead.

By the way, this will be posted on a Sunday, which I celebrate as the sabbath: glorious sabbath, our weekly sabbatical, day of rest and divine restoration! I rely on it to renew me, and always have. My student days proved that I get more done in six days than in seven. And studies show that everyone needs a weekly day off, whether or not one is a worshiping soul. So I’m not really here, and I’m not going to blog on Sundays. If you’re looking for God, you might start with that one practice: honoring the sabbath. It’s one of the original non-negotiable 10 Commandments for a reason. If your faith celebrates your sabbath another day, I salute you; go ahead and skip my blog on your sabbath, and catch up on mine!

I’d love to hear what you think God deserves more credit for. I was only getting started.

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2010

Photo © copyright Serdar Yagci, iStockPhoto #000005292716