Category: Travel

Maps For The iPhone Has A Mind of Its Own

I don’t have road rage…although some who ride in my car beg to differ. I have GPS rage. Maps is in charge, and I hate it. Oh don’t get me wrong – I love having global positioning at my fingertips to help me navigate the squiggly lines our state calls roads. Even George Washington grumped about that in one of his diary entries when he was passing through Massachusetts, but I find a squiggly grid of asphalt over horse tracks quite charming.

It’s that Siri wants me to go on the highway every single time I hit the road, even if I opt for the alternate route when she hands out the options. I type in the address, watch the spinning ball calculate, and most of the I time pick the back-roads option. Sure it may be a few more minutes in time, but it’s usually less miles in distance, and I just prefer a little more scenery.

But nope. When I pull out of my driveway and hear, “Starting out to <address>” and turn the way I know is the alternate route, all of a sudden I see a big REROUTING come across the screen. Say what?

Then when I hear, “Turn around when possible,” I know she wants me on the highway. So I defy her to stay on the back-road track and the big REROUTING game begins. She directs me toward the highway, I defy. She redirects, I defy. Back and forth back and forth until sometimes I trash my destination altogether just for the sake of defying her. Yea.

Sir Husband with his unbounded patience finds it quite comical, along with my irritation-turned-rage. It’s particularly bad at night, Siri really has the upper hand and knows it. It’s dark, my night vision isn’t keen and things look scary and confusing. She always wins.

I suppose it’s a control thing, I’m only a follower if I can maintain some personal control. Me against the machine, technology, Big Brother.

But, life’s idiosyncrasies prevail.

Because as I caught my breath after a particularly irritating rerouting adventure – in which I found myself on the highway before all was said and done – I learned that Siri is a real person. A woman named Susan Bennett, who in fact was not even hired by Apple to be the voice of Siri and beloved Maps. They took her voice from some previously recorded material she did for another company in 2005, and didn’t even compensate her.

I was feeling rage against a real person, well not really. But technically speaking, there is a human behind the device. There are over 700 million iPhones in the world now. She’s literally all over the map…and in my car trying to get me on the highway.

So I might maintain a little George Washington grump when I fight to turn right when pushed to turn left on a road that doesn’t even go in a straight line. But I know without a doubt, eventually Susan Bennett will get me where I am going and let me know it with her clear certainty.  You have arrived.

 

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.

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Our Comfort Zone Lies Somewhere Between Our Body And The Bus

Three nearly-grown babies and a whole lot of changes in life, I finally got some big news that for many years I thought I would dread. I officially hit the M-word. It’s like a big accomplishment – I would like a commemorative cake.

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unknownWhen I texted Sir Husband to tell him I finally crossed into the No More Babies On Board zone, he sent me a text of happy, celebration emojis. That’s because he has seen how uncomfortable I have been inside my own skin. No need to list all the symptoms of the post-childbearing years, but I have not fared too well.

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Discomfort by definition can span the gamut from body to mind and everything in between – it’s all interconnected. So when something is off balance we feel it, and it often shows. That goes for anyone – comfort zones are personal, life changes or not. Our comfort can be challenged, sometimes every day just interacting in life, our job, or simply out in the world.

red-lineThe other day we headed to a city festival where parking is tricky, so we took the subway. It’s not that I never liked the train, I just found driving more comfortable. I’m in my own little space, I can control the music, the temperature or stopping if I need to pee. But the other day we took the train as far as we could to get to this festival, then we had to hop a bus.

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I never rode a city busy in my life. Sir Husband on the other hand, loves public transportation and uses it a lot. So I did the best I could. I got my bus ticket (they don’t take cash,) I tried to put it in the right slot on the bus (the driver had to help,) I grabbed two seats in the front and pretended to be fine. I had no idea where we were going or where to get off, or even what to do.

To make matters worse, we had gotten on the wrong bus, and by the time we figured that out, we were in another part of the city. I maneuvered toward ear-shot range of the driver (are you even allowed to get up on a moving bus?) and asked her where we should go.

“You’re on the wrong bus honey,” she said. “You need to go the other way.”

tstopSir Husband of course was fine, but cringed at my expressions trying to stay calm. We got off at the next corner and walked several blocks to another stop. While we waited there for what felt like forever, we talked about my strain. I’m not going to lie – I was uncomfortable. Riding a public bus was outside of my comfort zone.

When the right bus finally pulled up and we got on, I acted like I knew what I was doing. But before I even had my ticket in the slot (this time I got it right,) the driver looked at me and said, “Well hello again!”

It was the same driver as our wrong bus. She had made a big loop around the city and was headed back.

I don’t know what happened, but she made me laugh and smile. We chatted all the way to our stop – and she didn’t make me sit down. I was actually kind of bummed when it was time to get off.

See how feeling comfortable works? Even when it’s something we dread? You just never know. Discomfort may be in our body, but it’s also in our head.

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The Gap Between Reality And Relaxing Sometimes Can Feel Huge

FullSizeRenderWe take vacations to relax. But I failed at that last week when we were away, and I’m not alone. Why? Because we can’t always get away from ourselves. It took four days and a hand-in-hand barefoot stroll with my man on the surf-side dunes of the Cape to finally unwind. Relaxing wasn’t easy no matter how hard I tried.

I’ve caught myself a lot lately in the thick of a nervous-system buzz. It’s like a fast-moving electrical current that goes speeding through my body keeping me revved up even when I’m sitting down. It comes naturally, from a lifetime of trying to reach a better destination – only the destination in this case is comfort, contentment and peace.

The good news is, I’m shifting it. But until recently, for the last forever years I have been living in what we un-fondly refer to as The Gap. It’s not an easy place to live. gapIt’s that land between reality and desire. Despair and hope. Existence and belief. And it can be uncomfortable, even when we’re determined to come out of it.

The trouble is, when we live in the gap for a long time, we can get stuck there in a comfortable discomfort that keeps us treading water when we aren’t drowning or desperately swimming trying to get “there.” This almost-there land becomes our focus, all the while our nervous system maintains its buzz.

I know a few people living in the gap. It’s self-defined, but we know it when we’re in it. It can be when we’re in between jobs, or homes, or life circumstances. If only  fill in the blank …  When  fill in the blank … As soon as  fill in the blank … happens, I’ll be all set/good/happy/healthy/fine. It can be temporary, but I’ve spent most of my life trying to fill in those blanks.

Lately I’m realizing something huge that wise people already know. The destination is actually now.

jimcareyWe hear about living in the present moment, or peace and happiness come from the inside – there are a myriad of memes out there telling us how to feel good. They make sense in the moment and can feel like our Jacob’s ladder out of the gap. But it’s not until we recognize it that we can do it.

The to-do list is a perfect example. That list never ends, but I have continually believed if I get through my list all will be right with the world. Mundane tasks become massive priorities, so I stay revved-up as I’m running toward the finish line. I know I can make it…I can do it…I’m almost there…just one more thing…Keep.On.Going. It’s almost subconscious.

Workaholics live in that habitual space – in between here and there, then and tomorrow, busyness and bliss. The question is, when is it good enough? When are we satisfied? When can we relax? 

Call me crazy, but the answer is now. And we don’t even have to go on vacation.

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When It Comes To Our Stuff It’s The Treasures That Count

It was like a scene from a movie. Wife sends husband out for a basket of flowers for the front porch minutes before the team of house-selling people arrive. It was listing day. Wife gives explicit instructions for color, sun-exposure and price. But she forgets to say be sure they are alive. Husband followed the instructions so explicitly that he didn’t notice the FullSizeRenderflowers he brought home were half-dead.

I adore my husband. He is the love and light of my life. To me he’s the most amazing and sexiest man alive. And when he walked in with a basket of brownish, wilted flowers, I whimpered and welled up with tears. We were out of time.

In his defense, he stuck to the price guidelines but it turned out to be a case of you get what you pay for. “They just need some water,” he said as he peered into the pot.

I’ve been crying a lot lately. They aren’t bad tears, they are change tears, as we embark on homeanother major life transition involving moving for the seventh or eighth time in less than 10 years. A military wife I am not.

I thought I was over the crying last week when we headed to Cape Cod for a few days of rest before Sir Husband starts his new job. But no amount of Om’ing helped. We stopped in Boston and signed a lease on our new condo, and that’s when it all started. We are moving “home,” and I’m thrilled. But as we tripped down memory lane where I spent most of my adult years, buried emotions surfaced. Not memories exactly, but feelings. I had no idea they were in there.

Instead of dwelling on what was causing the flow of emotion and tears, I tried to just go with the flow…the tears, the feelings, the experience. Sir Husband’s parade was not dampened by my unplanned avalanche – he held my hand as we drove through my past and soon-again future and smiled. His joy embarking on this Divinely-guided venture was irrepressible.

Before we got to the Cape, we stopped for a night at a dear family friend’s house who I have not seen in years. As if no time had passed, we simply picked up where we left off, although I have a different husband and her daughter is all grown up. Seeing her was medicinal. Time has a funny way of reminding us of those things that truly matter – like friendship and memories and the blank canvas of our future.

After a lot of laughs and wine around her big dining room table, we got to the nitty gritty of moving boxeswhat Sir Husband and I have to do to get ourselves moved. We are downsizing yet again to a very small space near the big city – more than half our belongings must go. That’s part of the emotional shift – truly letting go of our stuff.

“Keep only the treasures, only those things that tell an important story,” my friend said. She recently did this herself. It’s harder to let go of memories and experience than it is to let go of things, she explained. It took some digesting, but I began to embrace the reality of what “stuff” really means.

It means essence ~ lifeblood ~ nucleus ~ spirit ~ essentialness ~ substance ~ and soul.

So everything’s negotiable, but the basket of flowers stays.

 

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Take Time To Slow The Spin

FullSizeRender-2Your blog has my head spinning, said my beautiful friend who is the epitome of serene. Nothing phases her, so we better take it seriously. She didn’t think we were going to move with Sir Husband’s new job. Us either, we even surprised ourselves.

We’re feeling surprised a lot lately, and as awesome as it is, we are a little slow on the uptake. Like when we woke up yesterday and were just going about our business to get ready for the day and realized it was Sir Husband’s last day of work at the paper.

OMG THIS IS YOUR LAST DAY OF WORK HERE! came shrieking out of my mouth.

He has been trying to get out of the newspaper biz for a super long time. Not sure he even IMG_1087thought it was possible. Then to land a job at Harvard? Surprise! And score.

This last job did him in. It was the culmination of industry-thinking that he just did not subscribe. Day in and day out for the last three years, the drudgery compiled. He never thought it would end. Hallelujah it finally did.

But hallelujah comes after many years of trouble and strife from others in our life. Thank goodness we can live on love alone because most days that was the key. When we’re used to nothing but hurdles, “good” surprises take a minute to absorb.

Things will hit us when they hit us, whether we’re reacting immediately or not. But I felt my friend’s message clearly, we’ve had too many fast OMGs. From an unexpected new car, new job, impending move and new life, we’re sort of spinning too.

That’s why we decided to stop the spin and take a few days off. We’re going on vacation, just the two of us, to rest our weary souls. Even when change is good, it takes a daily toll.

We don’t get away too often, especially alone, so this one feels quite sacred. We need to recalibrate as we embark on our new path, which sort of means shutting down. Not our hearts of course, but our busyness – from computers to phones to blogs.

cape cod sunriseI saw a post on Facebook from a friend who is doing the same. She said she’s taking a break to regain some time and energy. I often wonder if hitting the off button on social media is a case of snooze, you lose. But it’s that whole putting yourself first thing, in whatever form that takes.

We’ll be resting for a whole week, and life will then totally change. Sir Husband will be headed to campus while I stay home and sell the house. The school year will end, the packing will begin, and off we go again.

Life is full of surprises they say, so we’ll just let the story unfold.

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See you May 23!

What’s The Story With One-Sided Conversations?

Did you ever try to talk with people who ask your advice, only to have them talk over you and negate every thought or tidbit you shared, or worse argue that what you are saying won’t work – even if you are just chatting? Because hey you were sharing your thoughts per their request.

I hate it when that happens. And listen, it’s not that I care if you take my advice or not – although I do care about you – it’s your need to shoot it down instead of just conversing. Graciousness is a good trait.

Same goes for people who take over a conversation and make it about themselves when you were just trying to enjoy idle chit-chat. Or even when you’re trying to talk with a friend about something that’s on your mind and she starts relating to what you’re saying so much that she interjects her own experience and thoughts without even listening to yours. It’s a conversation usurp. FullSizeRender

It can even be as simple as asking someone how it’s going, and their me-train leaves the station so fast you’re out of breath before they even come up for air.

I end up feeling defeated and think to myself, “give it up, she’s not going to let you get a word in edgewise.” Or I just give in to the present moment with an internal heavy sigh and that important graciousness that allows me to sit there making eye contact like I care. Most of the time I do, but that doesn’t mean it’s not draining.

coffee with friendsOf course then I feel guilty for feeling that way. It happens with one friend I have in particular. I adore her, but sometimes it’s hard because it’s like this every, single time without fail – phone, in person, even on email. But it can happen anywhere, even with people we don’t know.

A good friend of mine travels weekly for her job and stays in the same hotels, interacting with the same faces on each trip. She eats at the bar and is chummy with the bartenders, she’s a “regular” in these establishments. On her last trip she engaged with another gal at the bar who she sees frequently on her stays, and asked her how things were going. And that’s when it started.

The nameless familiar face proceeded to tell a long story about meeting someone special at that very bar six months earlier, in all its glorious detail. While my friend noted that she was a fun and interesting raconteur, other than asking my friend where she lived, the entire conversation was about her.

My friend enjoyed the woman’s story, but it got her thinking about what drives people in conversations. Do they want to share their story, or learn about ours? A bit of both? Or neither? Is it simply about connection, or is it about compassion or understanding? coffee

Even more curiously, how much do we want or need to share our stories with other people, especially people we don’t know? That’s a huge question for bloggers, or diarists, authors, writers, videographers and storytellers in general. Are we all storytellers? Social media is a giant vortex full of everyone’s stories, or any part of them we want to share.

Humans just want to be heard. So whether we are dealing with a naysayer when trying to be supportive, or we meet our match when being curious, or we simply just want to have an equal-footed dialogue with another person, the motto is be open. Because you just never know where the story will take you.

 

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Backing Off An Idle Fire Is The Best Choice For Moving Forward

You know you’re over the trauma and drama of your former marriage and life when you call your ex-husband to pick up your current husband who is stranded at a train station in another state and needs a ride home.

After a 15-hour day away and still two hours from home, Sir Husband called me from his comfy business-class seat on the commuter train to say the train had stopped. A brush fire too close to the tracks caused them to turn around and go back to a safer spot, which was fairly far from Sir Husband’s destination.

After nearly an hour of unknown resolution at a random station, I had to do some quick thinking to get my man back home. I was already in my pajamas after two hefty glasses of wine, so driving to get him was not particularly prudent. Mr. Ex was less than an hour away from where Sir Husband was, and was headed to our house the next morning at sunrise to pick up our son for plans they had that day. Seeing as how it was time for bed anyway, I asked Mr. Ex if he would pick up Sir Husband then crash on our couch, which would technically benefit everyone in the bigger picture.

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Mr. Ex didn’t bat an eye, jumped in the car, and headed to the station. Sir Husband sucked it up and agreed to the plan. I made the couch into a bed, prepped the coffee pot for breakfast, and turned on the front porch light. Tick tock…tick tock…they arrived no worse for the wear.

We all get along, although I get eye rolls from some close to my past who remember the train wreck of my life with Mr. Ex. Sir Husband in particular, still sees the man who hurt his wife, and works hard to look beyond. I get that, a lot of damage was done in my former marriage, and can sometimes feel irreparable.

I’m not sure people really “get over” the horrible pains from their past, but come to accept them, learn to live with them as part of their history, and move forward from them. Skeletons in the closet is a legitimate concept, and occasionally they may come out and whack us with their bones. But at this particular time, none of that mattered. We don’t have the energy or desire to focus on it anymore…or perhaps my trauma-based amnesia actually does some good.

Do people really change? Maybe, maybe not. But if they change enough so that interaction is tolerable or do-able, then so-be it. I have to say I have seen Mr. Ex come full circle. From his adolescent roots through years of nasty addiction, abusiveness, recovery, and now a complacent calm with his own new Mrs., she’s done wonders for the man I think, a much more compatible mate.

As I stood in the hallway before heading up to bed, I saw Mr. Ex out of my right eye in our living room, and Sir Husband out of my left eye in our dining room, and I was overcome with the strangest immense feeling of love for Sir Husband. After a soulful union late in the making, it was overwhelmingly clear that life was now as it should be.

If I had only listened to my then-best-friend-now-husband when we were 20…stopped my train and turned around. It only took three decades, but I made it through the fire.

 

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Unpredictability Is The Status Quo

The irony of rush-hour traffic is that when you live in a place that doesn’t really have any, even during peak driving times, on the very rare day it backs up, it’s easy to slip into frustration because you’re so used to never having traffic jams. traffic1

This happened to Sir Husband and me when I drove him to work yesterday. Several days a week I drag out of bed to put the teenager on the early high school bus and then jump into real clothes to get the husband to work in the nearby small metropolis 20 minutes away. And although I love spending time with my man, it’s extremely hard to share a car, let alone when we sit in a jam.

As we crept along the highway wondering what was going on, we finally saw two cars carefully nudged against the cement median, a police car blocking the lane. There aren’t any breakdown lanes on this section of the road, so it’s not the best place to stop. But it didn’t even look like an accident, not sure why the long hold up.

You know that phrase, an accident waiting to happen? Turns out a big one happened just a few minutes behind us when a couple of cars crashed at that exact scene, even requiring an ambulance. I thought about that now-dangerous spot as we crept by the cop car in the center of our lane, and was thankful to get on by. Mostly because we were now out of traffic and back to our status quo.

But here’s the irony of status quo. Is there really such a thing? Life can present so many mishaps, one minute we’re cruising along, the next we get tripped up. It’s almost the minute we think it – when we notice we’re in a groove – that something comes along to remind us that we may not really be in charge.

status quoMore evidence of that happened yesterday too, when my oldest son called to say he had been laid off. I had literally just sat down for a 4 p.m. tea break, took a breath and thought to myself that all was right with the world. Then my phone rang revealing the opposite of course. See? That’s how it works. And it happens all the time, we just don’t know when it’s coming. So we have to be prepared for – or actually open to – life’s bumps in the road.

I shared that with my son. He’s 22 but still my baby, so my heart broke as he spoke. This was his first “real” job, he was dedicated even successful, and we were all quite proud. He was one of three who got the bump, and it wreaks of the business shutting down. He wanted to come home for a few days to give his mind a rest, so the status quo in all of our lives is shifting as we speak.

Go with the flow is another phrase that I’ve had trouble grasping. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just not my personality to ride the waves with ease. Whether it’s innate or learned doesn’t really matter. It’s accepting that there’s a flow in our lives that trumps the status quo. Whether that’s about traffic jams or accidents or lay offs or worse, all we can do is try, and trust that we’ll make it through.

 

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Self-Awareness Starts in Our Own Corner of the World

I had a whole post written but not yet published about self-awareness and hurtful people, just prior to the news about the terrorist attacks in Brussels. My words seemed irrelevant at first, as I watched the frightening images and flooding fear. We are all directly connected to this whether we want to be or not. And as our world continues on its horrific destructive path, I realized that what I wrote a day ahead of the surprise attacks was not only relevant, but necessary, even timely.

It began with a stark contradiction from one morning to the next.

The seasons changed and with spring came several inches of snow. Spring snow is different, with its big, fluffy flakes and a billowy softness like milkweed seeds wafting through the air with no rhyme or reason. As it landed it piled on the ground with such lightness you could almost blow it away with your breath. I didn’t mind its silent, peaceful fall and swift departure. It melted off the pavement when the sun peeked out a few hours later.

We are ready for a steady, warm spring in both temperature and bloom, although there isn’t much life poking up from the ground nor a change in the landscape yet. Even the ocean is still frosty grey, the shoreline wintery at best.

This prickly feel is like the mood and temperament of many people. I am not alone in the ongoing struggle dealing with difficult people – some of whom I don’t even know. I’m afraid to watch the news – disasters waiting to happen that get worse every day. Then there are those in our own circles whose antics leave us suffocating in a cloud of toxic vapor.

It’s safe to assume that people won’t change. This is especially hard when the people we want – or even need to change – are mandatorily part of our lives. The irony is we can’t change anyone, only ourselves. That’s the whole Jesus-Buddha love thing that the world really needs. But not everyone can be like Jesus…or Buddha…or even the Dalai Lama or the Pope.

I read a blog post by a good friend of mine who said although her thoughts were turning to planting spring flowers and vegetables and all things green, bitterness is prevalent in her life. She said the growing hatred and anger in our world not only makes her her feel grumpy, but these weeds of bitterness have spread into her own life. Yet she was clear in her awareness – especially of herself and her ability to feel peaceful in the face of upset, and reinstate her own joy. That’s the key. Self-awareness.

We go around and around trying to escape people in our lives who have no clue they are doing huge damage to others from a lack of self-awareness. We fight it, we try to shield ourselves from it, but it seeps in with such force there’s often no escape. One encounter can leave us overwhelmingly depleted, and as my friend describes, literally choked by the weeds. 

What do we do when we are surrounded by hurtful people and we can’t muster up some Godlike kind-of love to endure, or when we can’t get away? It’s hard to remember in the moment that people who outwardly hurt others, hurt inside themselves. They lash out from their own inner turmoil, which usually has nothing to do with us – although they willingly place blame.

So we are left to just breathe and turn up our own self-awareness. First we remind ourselves that we don’t deserve to be mistreated and then we become mindful of what we choose to plant. 

My friend said it best: “I can show love to those who spread hate. Stay calm in the face of anger. Sew seeds of hope to those who lost hope, joy to those who need a smile, and peace to those who need calm. I can’t change the world, but I can start in my corner. Most importantly, I can never let those seeds die within me.”

What else can we do when faced with terrorism on a world level, or even a personal one. As if by premonition, wisdom flows – through the voices of many.

All that Life asks is that you move through Life with a reverence for Life.   Yet this reverence for Life must be displayed in all things.   Even in the littlest things. Perhaps especially so.   How you treat other Life forms does matter.   It says something about how you want Life to be.  ~ Neale Donald Walsch 

 

Many thanks to my beautiful friend Nancy Predmore for sharing her thoughts and words.

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