Don’t care what the world thinks: 7 steps in the pursuit of peace!

In a quest for a more peaceful existence (I really wish I could live in the world of Books 5 and 6 of my series), I’ve been eliminating that which causes undue stress. No, I’m not abandoning my house or nine children, but I’ve been thinking about my dad, how he was the most calm, pleasant, peaceful man I knew.

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My dad, Rudy Strebel, in 2007, holding a granddaughter.

Not that his life was easy—he suffered as a child in WWII Germany, then had a wife he dearly loved but who had frequent and violent bouts with PTSD from her traumatic life as a refugee. In their 50+ years of marriage, I never knew him to lose his temper with her but did his best to soothe her paranoia and terror, every time. And I can count on three fingers the amount of time he slightly raised his voice at me.

He chose to be peaceful, and he was also very careful as to what he let into his life. He didn’t read, watch, or listen to anything that could harm his spirit or drag him down.

He wasn’t ignorant of the world, but he purposely distanced himself  from it to remain unspotted as it splashed in filthy waters.

Lately I’ve been trying to pursue peace as he did, and have implemented ways to limit what weighs down my mind and soul. I’ve incorporated a number of minimalist ideas, and I’m finding greater calm in my life by doing the following:

  1. Unsubscribe! To those emails that entice you to see what’s on sale, what the latest thing is, what you “really don’t want to miss!”

Miss it anyway. Don’t be lured in, don’t be tricked into buying something simply because it’s a great deal, and don’t waste time reading what can’t elevate you. It’s all distracting, even just deleting it, having to swat it away like a pesky mosquito. Get rid of them altogether. I’ve been opening, scrolling down, and unsubscribing from dozens of emails–even from places where I still buy something once or twice a year–and my feeds are cleaner, sleeker, and calmer. All that remains now is that which is really important for me to consider.

2. Unfollow! Here’s an awesome feature on Facebook: stay friends, but stop seeing every little thing they do.

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I’ve realized that I care only about my family (we have a secret group just for us), and some neighbors and friends who consistently demonstrate insight and humor–qualities I value.

The other hundreds of “friends”? I’ve unfollowed them. I can always check on them every few months if I feel the need (if I remember who they are).

In the meantime, I’ve cut out a mind-cluttering stream of whining, bragging, complaining, and comparing. It’s been like leaving junior high all over again–sweet relief!

Now I have a feed of primarily funny, inspiring, and heartfelt posts.

Twitter, Instagram, all those others? I don’t even go there, but you can also pare those down significantly to refine your life.

3. Tune out! I quit listening to the radio years ago and felt my blood pressure in the car normalize instantly. We never watch TV news, I skim the newspaper for only important news, and I’ve quit following nearly every online news outlet.

The result? The world keeps on churning but I don’t have to swim in that muck. I know what’s going on, but I observe only from a distance. Getting angry over the world doesn’t fix it. Stepping away from it, however, allows me to continue raising my family with peace of mind.

4. Ignore trends! Years ago, I quit following trends in home décor, clothing, and etc. by eliminating magazines and TV shows that told me what I had was out of date. How much more I love my house and wardrobe now that I’m not worried what the world thinks of it! And I’ve saved a lot of money, too.

And no one, ever, has said anything about me not being trendy enough. It’s like no one really cares.

5. Don’t participate! Like my dad, I’ve chosen to not listen to music that degrades or is “hard.” I listen to soundtracks and trailer albums instead. I read only books that satisfy and uplift; one summer, I sent back nearly a dozen library books after their first chapters because they were smutty, suggestive, or crude. I don’t watch rated-R movies or anything excessively violent, vulgar, or profane. All of that introduces anger and angst to my soul, qualities I’m purposely ushering out.

Yes, it’s sometimes hard to find something current to watch or read, but there are also a lot of classics out there waiting to be discovered. I’m also taking up my dad’s habit to read more biographies of truly great people, and more doctrinal works that teach me deeper about the nature of God.

6. Choose kindness! This one can be tough, especially for me because I inherited my mother’s cynical mind and tongue (when she was well, she was acerbic and hilarious). My father, however, while full of dad-jokes (he invented them all), was also unfailingly kind, even to his end. He suffered from Alzheimer’s, but the staff at his assisted living center said that while many in his condition became angry or violent, my dad never did. It was as if his mind had been choosing for so long to be kind that it simply didn’t understand rudeness.

Kindness softens the soul, and when I’m kind to people, especially strangers, sweet peace comes. As an introvert, I don’t like talking to people and tend to be abrupt with strangers, especially when I’m checking out with my groceries. I need this t-shirt:

Introverts t-shirt

But I’m trying harder to smile genuinely, thank sincerely, and respond to their questions with more than two-word answers.

I’m also trying to consider everyone with a kinder heart, and a more generous attitude. Even just thinking kindly brings peace.

7. Be quiet! No, not “kindly shut up,” but I mean, take time to be quiet and disconnect. Yesterday it was 85 degrees, so I took my 5-year-old son to a splash pad. I watched him for 45 minutes racing the sprays and screaming when the water went up his nose. He dried off for ten minutes and we watched a front-loader moving dirt the whole time, seeing how much dirt he dropped as he drove.

It was “quiet” in that I wasn’t listening to music, or playing on my phone, nor was I even reading. I was simply enjoying the water splashing, the boy yelling (happily), and the truck moving dirt. Purely peaceful, purely disconnected from the bigger world. I could focus on the most important part of the world, right in front of me. 

I am finding greater quiet and calm in my life in a world that’s increasingly not, and I’m always looking for new strategies. What works for you? How do you eliminate the world and its nonsense, and find peace and serenity instead?

“We don’t care about what the world thinks of us, Young Pere. You know that. We left it behind and have never regretted it.”

Peto realized there were many pure men and women, but they couldn’t exist in the polluted world.

~ Book 6, Flight of the Wounded Falcon      

Book 6 teaser–What do you find entertaining?

Just as you can learn a lot about a person by what they laugh at, so too can you understand their character by what entertains them.

What one watches, reads, puts up on their walls, and pours into their minds will tell you a lot more about someone than what comes out of their mouth.

book 6 world's entertainment

(I can’t help myself–the first thing I do when I walk into someone’s house is evaluate the art on the walls and glance at the titles on the bookshelf, if there is one.)

Title of Book 6, and it’s coming May 2017!

Here’s my Valentine’s treat: the title of Book 6:

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The current plan is to release in May (thus the nebulous “spring”–gives me some wiggle room).

This is the back cover of the book; the front is still in production (ooh, and it’s gonna be good!), but a note on this image: if you’ve read book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti, you’ll recall that Perrin and Peto create a tree-slashing method for marking paths to the ancient temple ruin.

I wanted to make sure this strategy would actually work. So about two and a half years ago, when I was first drafting the series, I went out to my little aspen forest in my front yard and slashed a tree with a knife.

(One of my kids saw me doing it, and he was aghast. “For research,” I explained, and because I sometimes do odd things in the name of research [such as pushing down a dead tree in a burned out forest to see if I could; I could, and it’ll be in book 7] he didn’t ask anything else.)

The slashes on the aspen healed into beautiful, dark lines, as you can see by the photo.

Now, if you should visit my house and can’t find your way to my massive blue fifteen-passenger van in the driveway, just consult the aspen and it will tell how many paces in tens, and in what direction, you need to go. (Or get your eyes examined because, seriously, that’s a huge vehicle.)

Teaser lines from Book 6 will be coming at you every week now, and the countdown’s on!

On book 6, planes, and the best friends you don’t remember at the airport

Random thoughts, in no particular order:

#1: Book 6 went out to my beta readers last week, which means it’s well on track to be revised and released by (hopefully) May 2017!

#2: I’m going on a plane Wednesday morning for the first time since 2003, when I had a genuine panic attack upon take-off. So if you hear on the news of anyone melting down on a flight on to Philadelphia, just roll your eyes and say, “Lemme guess . . .”

#3: I sat for six hours at the airport yesterday morning, (I’ve been going there a lot lately) thanks to the inefficiency of the US army, and was fascinated to think of how many people passed by me for the first time, and the only time, on this earth. A man from India repacked his bag next to us and chatted with my son about serving in the military. Some folks on the other side of us were in town from Chicago for the Sundance Film Festival. A snowboard team waited forever to check their boards.

As I watched people parade by–some looking as disoriented as I usually do in the airport, some appearing to be well-traveled experts–I was almost struck with the notion of touching each person (except there were too many TSA agents around), wondering just how far those folks would go, and if our paths might ever cross again.

The lady with the high heel boots and the Yorkie tucked under her arm.
The mom with three kids who each hefted their own bags and followed her obediently.
The grandpa walking arm-in-arm with his teenage grandson who was flying for the first time.
The lady in the bathroom who called her friend in a panic because the car rental agency didn’t want to give her a Ford Mustang because she would be driving through snowy mountain passes, but told her she’d be better off in a Jeep Cherokee, and only after her friend assured her that was an excellent idea did she relent.

Where do they all come from, and where will they all go? Will I ever see any of them again in this life?

I believe that before we were born, we all knew each other intimately. We had hung around together for at least thousands of year, if not eons.

But birth is, as Wordsworth reminds us, “but a sleep and a forgetting,” and every time I’m in such a crowd, I wonder that if we were all allowed to remember what we meant to each other once before, if we wouldn’t stare in astonishment and embrace in excitement. 

I can’t help imagine that we wouldn’t hurry past each other, or grow impatient with someone slower ahead who is clearly inept (my apologies already to my fellow travelers on Wednesday), but that we would shriek for joy that finally–FINALLY!–we found each other again.

Occasionally I’ve experienced, when I first meet someone, a flare of recognition, a heart-leap of, “There you are!” I know that person, already, and am getting the opportunity to know them again on earth. But that’s happened for me only a handful of times.

The rest of the time, we barely make eye contact as we hurry from one place to another, engaged with one important task or another. Maybe we exchange a friendly smile as we negotiate a line, and we’ll sit next to each other on the plane oblivious to the notion that perhaps this was once one of our greatest friends, and will be once again after we “wake up and remember.”

And that’s the best part: I’m confident that in the next life we all will recognize each other again, and trade notes about where we were and when in our mortal experiences, and discover that once, our paths did cross in a busy airport on a bleak day in January.

But something burned in Perrin’s heart. It caught him so much by surprise that he almost gasped. He took the boy’s face in his hands, because something was so familiar about that moment, about that face . . . He had seen this before.

~Book 6, to be released in late spring 2017