Month: November 2016

Spare Me Your Toxicity, I’ll Take Insight and Kindness Instead

This is the little story that caught my eye on social media the morning after Thanksgiving.

Thinking of the young woman walking in a dress and high heels on the cold Thanksgiving day; the young man that had the nerve to leave her at the gas station when she was in the bathroom; all of the people who passed her by; and my brother and niece who picked her up and went way out of their way to take her home.

Wow. Hmmm.

Until the heartfelt kindness shown by someone’s brother, it’s safe to assume there was no Thanksgiving spirit going on for that woman in the dress and high heels. No feasting on good food, family togetherness or reasons to feel gratitude, seems more like pain and cruelty. There are a good amount of people who don’t enjoy a Normal Rockwell family portrait no matter how much they want it or how hard they wish for it, or even pretend they have it.

shoesThere’s always one, or maybe a few, sitting or standing next to you who make you stop and wonder. You are just trying to live your life happily, peacefully, you know – the way you are entitled to by the simple fact you are alive. But like the noxious smell of gasoline, there are some who make you feel sick.

You ask yourself if it’s you. You look in the mirror again and again, maybe even for years, you have tried to understand why some people don’t see how they come across – or more like won’t see. Because to them it’s you, it’s always you not them. You are the problem no matter what.

But you know deep down in your heart of hearts that just isn’t the case. You’ve worked hard, learned, evolved, grown, and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will likely keep living from their own little closed-up space that prevents them from valuable soul-inspired insight.

It takes work – insight – it’s hard and uncomfortable, it’s so much easier to blame instead of waking up and really seeing who we are and what we are putting out there into the world. It becomes a right-wrong thing. You were wrong so I left you at the gas station. No you were wrong to leave me there.

A few minutes after I saw that little story, I heard a news report that statistics show more and more young people are having heart attacks and strokes. They didn’t say it was due to one particular thing because there are so many thingspeople…situations… that create stress. These physical repercussions, including illnesses like cancer, are sometimes referred to as “wake up calls” to living better – more healthily, more clean, less stress, less toxic whatever it is.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the wake up call came before our life was threatened? How do we feel better in spite of things or people who make us feel sick, who have no interest in addressing their own poison?

We’ll never really know what happened with the woman in the dress and high heels. But when you really think about it, truthfully it’s our journey and ours alone. Thank goodness for kind strangers who stop to lend a hand along the way.

do-what-is-right-for-yourself

 

Everybody’s Got A Story, And We Sure Stick To It

Story of my life. Everybody’s got one. Anybody want a do-over? Like hitting stop on a Netflix movie and watching something else? Not so easy to do when it’s the story of our life.

It’s usually built on our past, made of memories, and what perplexes me is why people stick to it like glue. It’s our personal narrative that defines us. But why? Who says we have to live by our story like it’s written in stone? And why are we so invested in it, especially if we don’t like it?

everyones-storyI noticed this about my own life when a few years ago someone whispered in my ear that she was tired of hearing me moan and groan day in and day out. It was like I had my unhappy story on instant replay. I constantly focused on the same miserable theme over and over, no matter what was going on. I had a good reason for it, my friend didn’t deny that, but she told me if I didn’t start to re-think my story I would never feel better about my life.

I got what she was saying, intellectually. It’s the whole change your thoughts, change your life thing. But that’s huge. I mean how do you even do that? First of all most of us don’t even recognize it – we’re just living our life, doing the best we can. When she pointed it out to me I was a little defensive. It felt natural to just be me – however I was being.

never-too-lateNot to mention, it seemed impossible to just let go of my history, let go of the unhappy happenings and the situations that were part of my day-in and day-out existence. Was I just supposed to pretend that things were not as they seemed or appeared or felt, or in all actuality, were?

Well…yes. I don’t know if it’s habit or simply human nature to be invested in our story. We live it, sometimes in such a deep rhythm we actually get lost in it. Then we become a magnet for like-minded storytellers. And if it’s a sad story, we get caught up in that particular vortex. After all, misery loves company.

let-goI knew my friend was right, but I realized after losing most of my happy tribe from my drama and doom I knew I would have to change my thinking and as hard as it felt, invest in joy instead. I had to not only want it, but be willing to give up my story. It was definitely a major task.

I saw on the Today Show that genes determine 50 percent of our happiness and circumstances account for 10 percent, which leaves 40 percent up to us. Whether that’s true or not, what it comes down to is how badly we want to feel better. What we’re willing to give up in order to make gain. Whether we will opt to work with our situation as it is, not the way we wish it was.

Whether feeling joy is worth letting go of the pain.

No need to overthink it. It is.

go-all-in

Click here for some facts and tips on how to feel the joy.

 

If We Wait To Long To Do It, We May Forget How To Relax

On the flip side of what felt like an insurmountable task – relatively speaking of course, some days life can feel insurmountable – I said out loud, Now what?  It was the million dollar question.

relaxNothing, Sir Husband said. Enjoy the peace. Just relax.

Say what?

This may sound pretty crazy, but I don’t know how to relax. I mean sit down and read a magazine, peruse channels on TV, sip some tea, the ‘I’ve finally caught up on my to-do list’ kind-of relaxing.

Until now, Now what always meant “Oh no. What’s wrong now? ” Because something was always wrong. For as long as I can remember I’ve spent most of my time tending to crisis after crisis, problem after problem, chaos and strain brought on by some of the key people around me whose swirl engulfed me like the plague. Relaxing wasn’t an option.

youhave-done-enough

Instead I was busy trying to fix everything. There was always something to do, something to mange, handle, someone to help or save, things to endure until that light at the end of the tunnel appeared. I didn’t allow myself some quiet respite amidst the ongoing noise. I’ve been too distracted to do nothing.

It’s no secret women have a tendency to put themselves last on the list, back-burner their needs until everyone is taken are of and everything is “done.” Didn’t know there was a place on the list for relaxing – and here’s the big ah-ha – a stressful life became my way of life.

This weight-of-the-world way of living contributed to chronic pain, health conditions, mental strain and daily fear. It’s only recently that I discovered I didn’t know how to relax, because when I tried, I couldn’t really sit still. I have a perpetually and habitually busy, buzzing nervous system. Even yoga – my go-to daily soother – relaxes me for just a few minutes before I’m up and moving.

Then I got this surprising peephole of relief after conquering a major task. It was almost symbolic – like I’ve been climbing a mountain my whole life and didn’t see the peak. But I do now. Now what?

take-a-break

We get to these turning points when a door opens for us to try a different way of living. Enjoy walking downhill for a while. We may have to reprogram though, and be willing to put ourselves first. Force ourselves to do nothing. But haven’t we earned it?

I have, I’ve more than paid my dues. Living in the space of  “now what” and “nothing” is starting to make sense.

“If you’re not loving what it feels like between your various life destinations, get off the ride…be still long enough to find your inspiration.”  (Danielle LaPorte)

For me now that is peace…and reading a magazine.

chinese-proverb

If You Do What You Love Do You Love What You Do?

love-what-you-doWork that feels like play? Possibility or myth? I for one always believed the play theory is for real. If we do what we’re naturally good at, then we’ll not only get a job we love, we will do it well.

I had that – I was a good mom. The task of raising three boys amidst complete chaos was my forte, without one cent of pay. But they got older and my life’s mission needed shifting, despite my struggle with ongoing health issues and survival fatigue. I had developed a hearty self-sufficiency for emotional resilience in a life with extraordinary circumstances, but years of trauma wore me out. Still, I wanted the normalcy of a paying job I love, before it’s time to retire.

Luckily I believe anything is possible, even at my seasoned age. So I figured out what I’m good at and where my passion lies – writing – and along with a zillion other self-proclaimed writers ventured into the field. Without any professional experience, I grew my confidence after several years as a feature writer for small publications then one day clear out of the blue I was tossed onto a playing field of top-of-the-food-chain educational writers.

Although super-intellectual, using-big-words-and-thoughts writing felt way outside my wheelhouse, I tried to rise above the occasion to get the job done. People around me cheered me on and told me I could do it. “You got this, you’re a smart gal and a great writer.”  But that’s like telling a kindergarten teacher to go teach a graduate class on nuclear physics because she is a teacher. “You can do it! It’ll be fun!”

listen-to-understandIt was way over my head, and I struggled and fought and cried. And what I found unsettling was that nobody really listened when I told them this was stressing me out. Instead they told me to simmer down, I would be just fine. But I wasn’t.

What I really needed – besides a couple graduate degrees, worldly experience and a brainiac mind – was for people to meet me where I am and honor that, not where they thought I should be. Sure it’s interesting to learn new things, explore unchartered territory, expand our mind. But not on demand, or when our income is on the line. Work that feels like play? No way.

comfort-zoneWe all have self-doubt at one time or another, and sometimes it clouds our confidence and our thinking. Sometimes we need to be nudged, a little hand-hold and pat on the back to get us to the next level. But I knew deep down that this particular level was not on my achievable or successful list, not yet anyway. So I had to just honor myself.

That’s when I realized I’m a player in this big game of life with my own little piece of know-how, my own niche of knowledge and expertise, and that doesn’t make me a fail. I jumped right back in with a renewed quest toward work that feels like play, and now I’m starting to really like this role.

I guess anything’s possible. It just takes recognizing our own uniqueness that makes it all work out.

i-can

 

 

I Prefer My News On A Need-to-Know Basis But Then I Botched A Job

be-who-i-amIn spite of our world’s news, life goes on. Truth be told, I sort-of stopped watching the news a long time ago. It’s too much negative input for me and feels so unhappily intense. I don’t look at life through a peephole, but I choose where to comfortably focus. So when I was recently assigned a story to write about a devastating global crisis, I cringed. It was beyond my expertise.

I was no more than two sentences in on the story research when I became a daydreaming child. I looked out the window. Sang to myself. Jiggled in my chair. Thought about getting some food, or even a glass of wine, never mind it was barely past noon. This stuff wasn’t light reading.

While Frank Sinatra was piping out of Pandora in my living room, I couldn’t wrap my head around the horror of this worldwide situation and my first-world pinhole view. How do you reconcile the juxtaposition of those two realities?

The assignment also involved attending an event with high-level experts whose lives focus on world news. I dreaded going for two reasons. First, serious embarrassment as I talked to the high-profile players, and second, sadness about the intense topic. I had to exercise that old fake it till you make it although I just wanted to forget it.

courage

But I tried. I toiled. I went to the event then attempted to write an article that felt extremely hard for me – over my head, out of my realm, out of my knowledge range, out of my experience, out of my skill. So I spent the next several days beating myself up and feeling pretty low. This wasn’t something watching the news would fix. Just because I’m a writer doesn’t mean I can write about this. This was about expertise in a world I know nothing about.

Everybody has discomfort in their lives, their jobs, their relationships, their personal world. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had a task they couldn’t do. And I didn’t go into it trying to fail, but if we can’t bring ourself to the table before a task even begins, how do we do it? We can say we sort-of don’t care what people think, but in this case I actually did.

Nobody knew I botched it, some magic dust and a brilliant hand-holder saved the day. There’s a lot to be said for teamwork, we don’t always have to go rogue. I am grateful I had support and came across this quote that validated that.

The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us become the best version of ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. No man or woman becomes great on their own. The people around them help them become great. We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the best versions of ourselves. 

Thank you people. And while I won’t be watching the news, here’s to trying again.

kitty-climb

Bearing Witness to This Changing World May Be The Only Thing To Do

life-is-but-a-dream

I’m screaming on the inside. Well, the outside too. It started the day after the election as I was voicing my upset on social media (which I rarely do,) responding to posts calling for my input. I  “watched” myself do it – let my emotions publicly come out. I wanted to step back and just let it be since we don’t have any control over it other than casting our vote – and that’s an iffy control with our contorted Electoral College – but I couldn’t.

As I watched and read what I typed, I felt the sheer terror of what our world may look like in the upcoming months and years – not just with the President-elect, but with the great divide we see between American citizens – and I had an overwhelming surge of negative emotions, much like many others who were clearly feeling the same.

Part of my intrinsic upset comes from knowing deep down what may be in store, as I have experienced a few “psychological terrorists” up close and personal in recent years, much like Donald Trump –  narcissistic elitists who live from their massive egos that are beyond normal comprehension. Not to mention their visible indicators of emotional ignorance not only to those around them, but more importantly to their True Self – their soul – and Divine Love.

Living from the pureness of love is not an easy place to live whether we are the average-Joe-everyday narcissist or not. Projecting love instead of fear when emotions are reeling (and even when they aren’t,) is tough, even for the teachers of human compassion.

The election results in a spiritual frame of reference call for long overdue healing of the human race. But I’m not sure the task of wide-span healing on any profound, impacting level is going to happen in our lifetime, it’s too gargantuan. I’m guessing that this Divided States of America will go on for generations to come, because there seems to be this ongoing question of boundaries. Not just national border boundaries called into question in countries around the world. But personal boundaries. Who has authority over our private lives?

That is the question. Who is in charge? Ourselves or someone else? Because the fight for control is often deadly. And the fact that there is even any question of who can dictate our private lives – who we are, what we feel, who we love, what we believe, what we say, do, where we can live, work, eat, play and pray – is immorally absurd.

Then to tie all of that in with the color of our skin, our gender, our race, our nationality, our incomes, ourselves, casts our hopes and every scrap of our dreams – American and otherwise – out the window, and worse, into the fire.

And yet it goes even deeper, to the boundaries around dialogue, personal and public conversation that is so important in these unstable, uncertain, seemingly dark, catastrophic times. For the common man, for you and for me, dialogue is all we have right now, that’s how we engage with the world we live in. I’ve read and heard so many conclusions and predictions already of this impending new regime – just the beginning of speculation twisted with fact, without any hope of true knowing until hindsight reveals it – and it’s confusing.

So I decided to step back just for a minute and really think about it. We know fear begets fear, and there’s plenty of that everywhere we turn. But in that moment it occurred to me that I don’t have to ride the rollercoaster. I can simply observe life as it unfolds – wherever and however it does that – on television, on social media, online, on street corners. I can exercise the peaceful neutrality of witnessing, not as a bystander but as a person engaged in my own personal evolution occurring alongside the rest of this topsy-turvy world. It may feel like mayhem, but by witnessing I can protect that little space inside me that still wants to believe in a fairy-dusted existence. Even though the worst may be yet to come… or not.

It’s like that sweet and symbolic ditty Row Row Row Your Boat that we learned when we were little. Sing along…at least on the inside.

row-your-boat

poetic-rhythm

 

Where Can I Find A Little Peace And Is There Room For It In The Budget

 

black-fridayOnly 17 days until Black Friday, the countdown has begun. There were years when my children were growing up that I had all the gifts purchased, wrapped, and hidden long before this enticing annual event. All it took was a trip to Toys “R” Us filling up back of the old Volvo wagon with the items on their lists, done.

Although it didn’t seem easy at the time, I had the time, energy and budget back then. Time only proved, that while the gifts got physically smaller, the price tags got much bigger. The boys got older, technology got newer, and gift-giving got harder.

vintage-christmasBut no matter our circumstances, my children have wanted for nothing really, despite my incessant frugality. To this very day I still prefer scoring the absolute best bargain on anything from clothing to food to holiday gifts. I’m far from extravagant but always provide a suitable stash for my kids.

This year though, we’re in a bit of a bind. We’ve had to shoulder some hefty unexpected expenses for the boys that required our hard-earned holiday stash. It’s no secret that our lives drastically changed after Mr. Ex revealed his gambling addiction, we ended up nearly homeless with empty bank accounts, retirement and college funds. That was 10 years ago, and he is happily recovered.

But unfortunately the boys and I have been unable to recover from his losses, even to this day. What they say about the lasting domino effect of someone’s addiction is completely true. So when things come up, like college tuition or emergency car repairs, we find ourselves hard-pressed. Sadly Mr. Ex says he can’t assist, so unless I find a way, my boys are on their own.

behaviorNot whining, I totally have their backs. Except, as the most wonderful (and most expensive) time of the year approaches, I am worried about how to manage. Like Charles Dickens writes in A Christmas Carol, it’s not about the gifts. But do kids really buy into that? Will they feel happy waking up on Christmas to a tree with no gifts underneath? Sure it’s about feeling the love – of family, of the season, of life. But how will it really feel this year when our small gift budget went to their emergency expenses instead? Let’s be real, they will be disappointed, and I will feel pretty bad.

Mr. Ex says he is at peace. That’s great, we all could use some peace.

Peace is an interesting concept. It’s easy to imagine, it’s highly desirable and naturally sought-after. We hear about it, read about it, sing about it, talk about it, and we’re even told it’s already there inside, so why, for some of us, is it so hard to really feel?

This is what I want to give my children this year – the feeling of peace – which could possibly be the best gift I could ever give them. First though, I have to believe it’s possible. In order to receive we have to believe, right? Just like in the beautiful story The Polar Express, believing is seeing…and feeling.

It is a special season, full of miracles and magic – and if we believe hard enough – even peace. Beginning of course on Black Friday.

tom-hanks

believe-gold

 

Halloween Is Over, Bring On The In Between

Welcome to the Christmas Season! It’s just two days after Halloween – the official holiday launch. We can tune in to Christmas music on satellite radio now, and we better start shopping for all the popular gifts.

Nah. I’m headed to the store to get a bag of Halloween candy for 50 percent off. We didn’t really get to celebrate Halloween this year, nearly empty-nested for the first time. Our 16-year old wasn’t interested, and we live in a big old house-turned-condos that sits well off the road in the woods, nobody rang the bell here.

At first I didn’t mind the lack of festivities – much to my holiday-loving surprise – the last halloween-04-064-copyoctober-05-010-copytwo decades of hazy Halloween memories were more than enough. No costume quandaries this year, messy pumpkin carving or mad dashes to the front door making idle chit chat with wee fairies and movie characters who aren’t old enough to eat a Skittle. No boys up past their bedtime sitting in a pile of open wrappers in the middle of the floor, no candy coma, no weeks of chocolate sitting around the house. Yea it’s all cute, and I loved it year after year…including raiding their bags when nobody was looking. But they’ve grown up and moved on.

Then the sun started to set on Halloween night…and some sadness crept in.

Halloween was over and it hadn’t even begun. I didn’t miss the hoopla or mess, I missed tradition – the anticipation of the doorbell ringing, trying to keep our hands out of the candy fullsizerenderbowl, pumpkin seeds toasting in the oven, glowing amber candle lights in each window, decorations, black and orange everything. Nope, none of that this year. Just a couple of full-size candy bars that Sir Husband sweetly brought home and placed near our teeny pumpkin. We missed the kids.

But “it’s whatever” as our millennials say. They are able to move forward in time without batting an eye, something I continue to try. I think there is an “in between” phase for parents, when we’re conscious of the big change adjusting to the empty nest. The shift in circumstances is noticeable.

But why do we always try to hurry our way on to the next thing, the next phase, even the next day?

water-restIn between is underrated. Nobody wants to hang out in between anything. Whether it’s between life phases or in between holidays, the world just pushes forward instead of embracing the void in between. What’s so bad about the void? That’s where we can pause, take a breath, and just be for a minute or three.

There’s something cool about being in the gap. Suspended between destinations or phases, hanging out in this space of has-been and will-be. Like when you are looking at a candy bar sitting on your table and you know it’s there and you are psyched about eating it but you don’t go for it. You wait. You anticipate. In between.

That was my favorite part of Halloween back in the day. The part just before the sun set when everything was ready but it was too early for trick or treating. We just hung out in those moments of peaceful readiness for whatever was ahead. We enjoyed the scenery. We enjoyed the pause.

Anyway…in the meantime, Merry Christmas.

charlie-brown

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