Sunday, April 24, 2016

4/25/16—Keeping Something for Yourself

Let's talk about secrets. 

My siblings had a discussion recently that brought up a family secret I've been wondering about all my life. It involves my family and another family and why our two families spent time together growing up. At the center of the secret is my mother and something that happened before my parents ever met. 

We know the part of the secret that happened before my parents met. While "scandalous" at the time, it's nothing you'd even blink at today. But the part we don't know is why that occurrence turned into an enduring relationship between us and this other family. And the "why" of all of it, I suspect, would reveal aspects of both my parents' personalities that would surprise me. We'll probably never know the answer, because everyone involved likely brought the secret to their graves and they've all been dead for decades. 

I knew my mother for 21 years and my father for 25. While most people end up knowing their parents longer, I think the amount of time I knew mine allowed me to pretty much know who they were—their morals, their positions on certain issues and whatnot. And the only logical explanations I could come up with as to the dynamics of this situation just don't make sense in the context of what I know. And, oddly, this has been a question mark in my head going back to my early childhood when I didn't even have the vocabulary or life knowledge to fully form it in my head. I've just always a niggling that something about this situation just doesn't make sense. 

Because I lost my mother so young, there were so many things I never got to ask her. During the last four years of her life, I was in college many states away, so that didn't help the situation. One of my sisters takes these kinds of queries and writes up autobiographical information so her kids won't be left wondering after she dies. I think that's kind of a cool practice, because no matter how old you are when your mother dies, as you age you think of questions to ask that didn't occur to you when you were younger.

But back to secrets. It doesn't surprise me that my mother had secrets. For the 1950s, my parents married late in life and my mother had been married before. She married her first husband to get herself out of WWII England, where her life was pretty hard. So she lived a lot of life and was a single lady for a long time before she married my dad. Then, once she married him, her life took a dramatic turn. She plopped out six kids in eight years. And if we, say, ate all the ice cream in the house, she would complain "why can't I have something for myself, just once?" Well, she clearly had secrets to herself...haha. We know very little about her first 28 years or so of life, and what we do is really interesting. I can only imagine all the gems she kept to herself.

As far as big things go in my own life, for every secret I have, there's another person out there who knows the secret. But nobody knows all of them. And though I've never had a husband or child to "share all my secrets with", I'm not sure I ever would regardless. Like my mom, I like having some things just for myself. And I believe, especially in a day and age where our every meal and mood is put on display for others to see, some things are meant to be kept just for ourselves. 

So can we ever really know a person? And does anyone ever leave this earth without taking a few secrets with them? As I said about my parent's secret in particular, it likely reveals a side of them that I had never seen in all the time I knew them—and my parents were very consistent, predictable, measured sorts of people. So you just never really know. 

Also, we tend to think of our parents as just that. We sometimes forget they are men and women who once had dreams that never manifested, hijinks that showed poor judgment, gaffes they'd rather not relate, crushes that they longed for and relationships that preceded their marriage. I never got the chance to know my mother woman-to-woman. That will probably remain the most epic disappointment of my life. If I had any advice for those whose mothers are still alive and able, it would be to spend time digging deeper into their personal lore. We know them as mothers, but that's just one aspect of who they are. And once they're gone, you'll wish you knew them as humans, women, professionals, dreamers and otherwise.

I'm glad I know as much as I do I know about my mother. She was really a fascinating woman with a compelling inner life I only saw rich, intensely colored glimpses of. Many people, for one reason or another, know far less about their own mothers. So while it drives me batty that I'll never know the story behind this one bit of family lore, I'm grateful for what I have. And I'm glad my mom can look down upon the children that ate all the ice cream during the last half of her life (not to mention my dad who rarely ever took a minute to himself) and know she managed to keep something for herself.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

4/18/16—Managing Fears

I talk to myself.*
That probably doesn't surprise anyone who knows me. I do it the most when I'm having fears. I'm not fearful all the time, and, in fact, I'm pretty good about not allowing fears in. But for the past week or so I've been having a lot of fears.

Most of my fears are about fear of failure. Fear of screwing up really badly. Fears around money. Fear of risk and the unknown. Fear of illness. Fear of death, dying alone and dying horribly in a gutter somewhere...haha. I even have fears of success. None of these things are unusual. 
I don't know how other people handle them, but I know what I do. I have created a practice around them. And the practice is that, when the fears come up, I have something prepared inside my head to make myself feel better and make the fears go away. I call it relanguaging, but it's really just talking myself out of the fear. 

The first part is the hardest, and that's becoming consciously aware that fear has taken hold and that your head is filling up with fearful thoughts. Sometimes people walk around filled with fears and they're not consciously aware of them. Some people don't like to cop to the word "fear", so they call them worries, concerns or issues. But by being conscious of those things, whatever you call them, you can usually nip them in the bud before they take over. 
So the first step is to stop and recognize when you're feeling this fear. Then determine what you're afraid about. Then tell yourself one of your prepared things like a mantra until you replace the fear with confidence. Here are some of the things I might say to myself when I'm afraid:

--"The universe (or God) didn't lead you here to fail."
--"You've never come across anything in your life you couldn't handle, why would this be different?"
--"You've gained benefit from everything that's ever happened in your life. There's no reason why that shouldn't continue."
--"You are blessed and guided by love."
--"Everything is here to help you grow."
--"There's something good on the other side of this."
--"This is only temporary."

For difficult things, like fears of utter financial destruction, I work out contingencies—Plan As, Plan Bs and other solutions. This calms the fears because the worst case scenarios are never as bad as I fear. 

Coming up with worst case scenarios is also a valuable tool. I learned this back when I started freelancing. My worst case scenario then, for example, was "I get a job." Now, as horrific as that option might be, it is a reasonable worst-case scenario. The dramatic scenario would be "end up homeless and whoring my body for spare change." And if that's how you want to play it, I suppose you could. But for most of us, there are other more realistic options. Like getting another job, even if it doesn't pay as much. Or moving to a place where jobs are more plentiful. Or moving in with a relative. Or getting a roommate. Once you start considering all the options, you see how unlikely the fear of homeless whoring really is. 

You also see you have far more options than you think you have. When you don't think out all your options, then of course fear is going to have power over you. You haven't discovered who is really in charge of the fear and you haven't set up a defense against it. In my freelancing example, seeing as how I had just had a job, getting another wasn't as awful as it seemed. Which made me feel better. And which gave me my power and confidence back. The "big risk" of quitting my job (and I won't pretend it's not a big risk) shrunk in my imagination when I realized that failure would just land me right back where I started. When you make the decision to go out on your own, that's a horrible outcome, but not insurmountable. 

Nothing that I can think that's worth having comes without a risk. And with risks, come fear. But you don't have to let that fear control you. Recently, I saw fears coming in throughout the week, culminating in a fear-filled day. I knew I'd feel better in the morning if I could just sleep it off. And I did. But in the meantime I spoke with my sister, who helped me realize that I was already living my worst fear in this particular situation. Sure, there were more dramatic scenarios we could have come up with, but realistically speaking, the reality of staying stagnant and not challenging myself forward was the worst case scenario. 

So if you're feeling fearful about something right now, ask yourself what you believe about why the universe led you here and what the universe's intentions were for doing that. Think about times you've had fear like this before and how that all turned out. And consider your most realistic worst case scenario. Then maybe sleep on it. Chances are the greatest issue you have is fear itself.

*Today's post is a classic post that I have revised and updated for today. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

4/11/16—Letting the Light In

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the times I made some of the greatest leaps in my personal and spiritual growth…about the stories that brought about change in me.

While some came at the hands of age/time/maturity, most of the big leaps came in the midst or aftermath of struggle or adversity. I’ve been thinking about why this is.

For me, there are a number of reasons. Sometimes we see a repeating pattern in our lives and, at some point, the consequences of continuing on get kind of bad and we know the universe will just keep upping the ante until we learn our lesson. And sometimes crisis shocks us into recognizing that some behavior—or some aspect of our personality that we hadn’t recognized before—isn’t working for us and we need a change.

Some of the more game-changing shifts, however have come in the midst of some of my biggest crises and I surprised even myself with the leaps I’d made. They came in times of great loss or personal challenge. And I think I've pinpointed why this is, at least for me.  

Some moments in life are so jarring, we’re shocked out of our routines. We’re in crisis. Life is seen through a different perspective. We’re broken. We don’t have the strength or wherewithal to focus on maintaining our defenses. We’re cracked open. And those cracks let in both light and darkness.

In those times, we look toward either the light or the dark. But if we don’t look toward the light, the cracks will grow larger and larger or they’ll crack and re-crack until we can’t ignore the light. Sometimes that takes decades. Most of the time, the shifts happen quickly, though.  

When my father was murdered, for example, I didn’t have the energy to both hate and deal with the surreal circumstances of his death. So I made a leap in my ability to forgive. Another lesson I learned then wasn’t quite as high-minded. It was the lesson of how alone we are as individuals. Surrounded by the insanity of the situation, the differing emotional journeys of others, the dearth of precedent (in that I have never, outside of my siblings, met anyone else whose stepmother was a black widow) and the fact that the systems we rely upon for justice aren’t always just or fair, you definitely go home at night and realize that, while you might have support, sympathy and people who love you, you are nonetheless alone.

Some slip into the darkness in situations like that. After all, the darkness is all around you and you’re mourning and dealing with whatever you’re dealing with. Emotions like anger, revenge and hate bubble up and keep acceptance and letting go at bay. For some reason, I was blessed with a spiritual awakening and some big insights that changed the course of my life for the better at that time. 

All I can sense about why that is is that, with all my defenses stripped and weakened, I couldn’t take on any more darkness. And also,  the more that's asked of me, the more I generally deliver. This was a large order and with the stuff in front of me I HAD to deal with, I didn't have much energy left to feed darkness and let it grow. So the same circumstances that may have shocked others into anger and hate, shocked me into a kind of understanding and forgiveness. It's like a switch turned on inside me that brought me clarity. A divine insight that couldn't have breached my defenses and gotten through so quickly under any other circumstances.

I noticed the same thing when I was sick. At times when I would normally protect and defend myself, I found myself making different choices, grounded in forgiveness and acceptance. Many (but not all) things seemed to just flow off my back. In some ways, I had enough fear to manage not knowing what was wrong with me or if I was going to be able to function tomorrow, that I didn’t indulge other fears so much. And interestingly, as I’ve gotten stronger and healthier, I’ve backpedaled a little on some that growth...haha. Things piss me off a little more now. But still when I look back, the net result is significant growth.

I can't say bad things happen to us so that we grow. I struggle with what things may or may not be fated to happen…or come “at the hands of god” or are karma or any of the other mystical reasons we assign. But I am certain bad things present an opportunity for us to experience big growth...if we choose to look for the light that comes in through the cracks created by whatever was broken. 

I think letting go is key. Letting go of wanting to control a situation out of your control. Letting go of needing to blame someone. Letting of wanting to fight back. Letting go of wanting to displace your anger. Letting go of fear. Letting go of denial

Like I said, I find this more possible the more severe the “crisis” is. So I’ll be less generous of heart to, say, a stranger who stole my parking space as I’ll be to a stranger who stole my wallet. Go figure. And, again, some of the letting go just comes with age, for much the same reason—we no longer have the energy to put toward the kind of emotions that drain us.

So there's something here to consider if you're in the midst of a situation like this. There is no shame in letting go or forgiving. It’s not a betrayal to the deceased, it’s not a matter of principle, it doesn't give anyone the permission to hurt you again and holding on is not what god or any caring human would want for you. Not when it’s painful or toxic. 

What's important is to take care of yourself. And sometimes we need to indulge ourselves in the darkness, at least for a little while. But remember we can choose differently at any time and turn our darkest moments into something triumphant and beautiful—a last gift left behind by someone who passed or the light at the end of the tunnel in a bad divorce or a valuable lesson that prevents you from being taken advantage of in the future, whatever the situation may be in your life. 

There is no shame in finding light within the darkness. And some of the moments in which you feel most vulnerable, actually hold the greatest power for change. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

4/4/16—Stepping Outside Our Story

Being objective—taking yourself out of the equation and seeing things through fair and balanced eyes—is, I think, one of the hardest things people learn on their spiritual path. 

There are two contexts I'll use to illustrate why. Of course this depends on peoples' beliefs, but I'd venture to say most people reading this will agree:

  1. We are all here for a reason and we walk different paths based on that reason... and we all come here with different struggles to overcome and pains to heal. 
  2. There is a higher power that is good and is the one true higher power.  
Now, while most people can agree on those points, many of us struggle to find our balance, fairness and impartiality on those points. Because when something happens that involves us, we often "complete the story" in our minds. Our brain likes answers and we give them to it. And those answers usually involve ourselves because we see the thing as happening TO ourselves, rather than something that someone did BECAUSE OF their own issues. Here's what I mean.

Let's pretend you have a "mean" and "immature" boss. Well if you believe we're all here for a reason, that boss is on a path just like you are, and they're just in a different place along that path. They may be ahead of you in, say, manifesting success and behind you in treating everyone like a beloved lamb of God, for example. And maybe you allow them that, because you understand that's their path. 
But let's say they make you take the blame for something they did at work. In that moment (and all moments afterward, probably) you might have a tendency to dehumanize them. They are no longer on a path and struggling just like you. They have been after you for years, stealing all your ideas. They are a monster, demented, abusive and something must be done about them. Bad monster! MEAN monster!!!! SICK MONSTER!!!!

OK, that example is a little dramatic, but admit it. You do that. You've done that. We all have.

Being objective in our beliefs requires us to move past that kind of "us and them" thinking. Having integrity in the belief that all humans are here on a spiritual path that is uniquely their own and not for us to judge, means allowing the "monster" their imperfection. It means understanding that your vulnerabilities may have been triggered, but not in some plot to undermine you. When you see the boss as someone who is so pained by insecurity that they can't take responsibility for their actions, well gosh, haven't we all been there at some point in our lives? Aren't we kind of there in that moment of dehumanizing them?

Being fair means realizing that others struggle just like we do. It means looking into that person's eyes and seeing yourself, even if their lessons are not yours to learn in this lifetime and even if they're way behind schedule learning it and even if they hurt you in the process. Because, let's face it, we all have something crappy to deal with on our plate that someone else skates effortlessly past. For me, one of those things is my struggle with my weight. Something so easy for many of you—moderate diet and exercise—is something I feel powerless against and overwhelmed by. 

Being fair and balanced is allowing everyone else their own crap, even if they are a serial killer. Yes. Even if they're a serial killer. It doesn't mean you have to be their friend. Doesn't mean you have to approve of their behavior. And it doesn't mean their actions don't hurt or piss you off. It just means that if you believe we're all here for a reason and can't judge another's path, then you can't judge their path and label them a monster. You can't continue to see them as something separate from you. Because they're not. They ARE you. They're a spirit struggling in their human skin, just as you are. They're simply learning different lessons and having different difficulties than you in this lifetime. 

If you believe in reincarnation, you will, in one lifetime or another, do something so heinous that you will be reviled, too. We all have it in us. Thank god only a few of us have to go there this time around. And thank God their issues aren't your cross to bear this time around. Your issues are the ones triggered by their behavior and it's not their fault you were triggered. Your issues are your responsibility, just as theirs are theirs. Your feelings are a byproduct of what they did, but the fact that you see the situation as "them vs me" is all on you. THAT is why you feel hurt and taken advantage of. You see it as something they did to you rather than something that emanated out of their own pain and unhealedness. It was about them, not you. Being able to see that is the "distance" both healing and objectivity give you. 

And yes, it's really hard to remove yourself from the situation. But it is possible. For example, being dumb isn't one of my insecurities. So if someone accuses me of just not having the intelligence to grasp a concept, it won't poke at something unhealed within me. I can freely admit when I'm ignorant about something or when something is over my head, because I know I'm a smart person. So I can remove myself from the situation much easier because I don't have any fears around that part of my being. 

Allowing others their stuff is a hard one and probably one we'll always have to work on. So is the next one...the one about God is good and there is only one God.

Years back I had a terrible dislike of anything Christian. I saw Christians, in general, as misguided hypocrites who talk about Christ like he's his Father (I still don't understand that one) and preach about forgiveness and non-judgment in the same breath as they tell you you're going to burn in hell for being a non-believer. Certainly that was my experience, as seen through my lens at the time.

Meanwhile, I would talk about MY god and how MY god was the SAME god as their god, but MY god was nicer and wouldn't burn anyone in hell. And I'd wonder, "why can't those hypocrites see that my god and their god are the same god, but we just see him through different eyes?"

I should have been asking that question of myself, right? Because if I was fair and balanced in my assessment that there is only one god—a god adept enough to show itself to us in different flavors to accommodate the free will we have here on earth—then I would love their god, too. Because there is no "my" god and "their" god. There is only one god. And instead of looking for the hypocrisy within their beliefs, I'd look in their eyes and see that the love and reverence and hope they had Him all wrapped up in was the exact same as mine. If I were truly fair and balanced and impartial and walking in integrity with my belief, I would allow them their god and their beliefs and their struggles on their paths with their beliefs, rather than see them as something outside of me, different than me, less than me.

It doesn't mean I don't still see hypocrisies and inconsistencies in the beliefs of others, just as my earlier point doesn't mean I don't see when people are acting unkindly or unfairly. What it means is that I'm honest enough to see the hypocrisies and inconsistencies in my own beliefs and behaviors—no belief system is bullet proof. And I'm fair enough in my assessment of others to see that they're struggling and in pain just like me. Just with different stuff. And, of course, there are still times when something hits on something unhealed within me and I lose my objectivity. But now I at least know when I'm doing that.

So those are the two examples I can think of on the spiritual path where people think they're being fair and impartial and good and right and are totally missing the mark. We're quick to recognize it when it's "them" that's doing it, but not so quick when it's us. And while you may not believe as I do, but I'll bet you can apply this to your beliefs, as well.

Years back, I was told that anything that causes an immediate and emotional reaction from me is something I need to look at further, because there is something left unhealed. You've probably heard that, too. I have found over time, that it's a) very true and b) hard to see the truth of when we're embroiled in the moment and still emotional. Sometimes people are trying to offend us, right? Sure. But it is still only about them...unless they hit on something where we're unhealed, then we *make* it about us. When we step back and understand that we're a completing an unknown story in such a way that it offends our sensibilities, rather than in a way that see the situation as being all about the other person, that's when we know we're on the path to healing.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

3/28/16—Being Yourself

At sometime in our lives—in childhood, especially—we think of magical thoughts and wish for magical things. Then we learn that kind of magic doesn't really exist. But what if it does?

All my life I've been called words like idealistic, a dreamer, weird, bohemian and a "magical thinker". All of these things have been said in judgment and criticism by much more "practical" people. I'm sure some of those people thought I would "drift" and not accomplish much in my life and, in fact, one even told me as much once. But I've run my own consulting business for 20 years, own my own home, have a hobby/career on the side...I have friends, I have blog and book readers who are not related to me and I'm a good, kind person despite the knocks and jabs I've encountered in my life. 

In short, I have achieved everything "practical people" have and did it all on my own terms without sacrificing too much of my individuality to the paths society says we must take to succeed. Even though I'm not fabulously wealthy or notable, my "magical thinking" and bohemian ways have worked for me just as well (if not better in some regards) as have the ways of those who color carefully within the lines, subscribe to all social mores, pay attention to appearances and act like good boys and girls. 

In fact, if I were being totally honest with you, I'd say my bohemian ways work better, because I see a lot of unhappy, angry people out there who may not know why they're angry, but it very well may have to do with all the choices they make to conform to a norm that doesn't value the individual. They want and/or need to stir up a little weirdness in their lives, but won't out of the societal-based fears imposed upon us to keep us in order. 

The truth is, at this point in our lives, very few of us are going to go rogue if we just. let. go. of some of these rules we just take for granted and never question. I've zigged when others have zagged all my life and have never gone so goofy that I've made a huge "mistake" or ended up with regrets. In a way, it's the difference between commissioning a custom-made life rather than just buying the ready-to-ship model. I think, for some, it never occurred that an off-the-rack life existed. And, of course, for some, the ready-to-wear life fits into their plans just fine.

Somewhere along the line, society created a livable structure and great ideas for the masses, but some of those ideas are just too restrictive for individuals. We've been trained to over apologize, put ourselves last, not cause a commotion, be politically correct and adhere to standards of dress, behavior and all outward appearances—and those are just a few examples of the bajillions of things we do each day without thinking. 

And, hey, sometimes society is right. But sometimes, depending on who we are, these things are suffocating. And sometimes we don't realize it, because we never gave our individuality a chance, because we were too busy being homogeneous and accepted and not judged for expressing ourselves too colorfully. And the price of that is reaching a certain age and not really knowing what's "you" and what's been manufactured for you. And nobody is immune to that. Self knowledge is a journey more than a destination.

A number of years back, I had a bit of a crisis over this. I started asking myself "what part of me is genuine to me and what part is something I wittingly or unwittingly adopted out of fear of judgment, bullying, mockery or rejection?" Try it and you'll find it's extremely difficult to excavate the "you you came here to be" out of the "you you've become." It's not a black and white thing, especially when you consider a certain part of you wants to be liked and accepted, so therefore choosing to conform in some cases *is* genuine to who you are.

And it's not a case of the self-actualized being "free" and everyone else being in prison. There are prisons on both sides of the issue. To be individual, you live in the prison of being on the edge of society and not understood by all the others. To be be like all the others, you live in a prison where you never quite explore the boundaries of your individuality and learn who you are. 

A long time ago, I learned that my happiness depended on which prison I could be more accepting of (or free myself from). It really depends on what you believe about why you're here and what your purpose is in life. In general, I believe I'm here to explore my individuality and actively grow as an individual and as a soul. More specifically, however, I believe part of my purpose is sharing the kinds of thoughts I'm sharing right now. Spiritually speaking, "idealism" and "weirdness" are the most practical choices for me because I'm here to see life through a different lens and share that with others. Anything else would have limited my soul's journey here on earth. I couldn't write of the things I write of if mind were too tethered to conventionality and the kinds of things that "shouldn't be discussed publicly."

I think we often miscalculate (or don't calculate at all) what we're here to be caretakers of. If your beliefs include a soul, we're here as caretakers of our souls first. And if we're doing that properly, it begets being a caretaker of the earth, a caretaker of others, a caretaker of self, society, dogs or even shiny floors, depending on where your soul guides you. But there's one thing most soul-believers can agree upon—souls are boundless. And boundlessness doesn't fit well into the mold of convention. Each time we shoehorn ourselves into an aspect of persona that doesn't fit, that's when we experience disharmony in our lives. 

I may not be the highest achiever in society's terms. I earn an average living. My home is in a working class neighborhood. I don't toil over my lawn. I'm not the best housekeeper. But I do think I'm an overachiever in terms of my soul. I wasn't always this way, but have become more so as I've been freeing myself from the prison where the opinions and acceptance of others matters to me. Of course, I'll probably never be fully free of that, but as I chisel away at that, I'm clearing away issues that the next person my soul inhabits won't have to deal with. Plus I'm bringing myself more to peace. It's a win for all. 

Geez, I have so much more to say on this many rabbit holes to dive deeper into. But for now, I'll just leave you with some questions to think about on your own. You don't have to answer them all at once, and you get your entire lifetime to come up with the answers. :D Some "very practical" people may not see the point in even asking, but for the rest, think about how you'd feel about about leaving this earth without even considering the answers and move forward with that in mind.

  • What are you here to accomplish? And what parts of you are integral to making that happen? Why were you born who you are? 
  • Why did you end up with your particular family? What parts of who you are now were shaped by society? By your family? By yourself? What have each of those influences (whether negative or positive) contributed to your mission?
  • What is your plan for your soul in this lifetime? What do you hope will be your legacy in terms of your soul?
  • What part or parts of yourself have you tuned out (or turned the volume down on) because, somewhere along the line you got social cues that it wasn't "acceptable"? And is that ok? Was society right about that? Or is it something you want/need to reclaim? 
  • What will you have healed in this lifetime so the lesson doesn't have to be repeated by the next iteration of you? What did some previous person who had your soul heal so that you wouldn't have to deal with it this time around?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

3/21/16—Being Counterintuitive

For the past week or so, I've been doing something I normally wouldn't do.

One of my Facebook friends nominated me to post a photo a day for 10 days that represents an act of self love. I'm not much of a joiner and I have philosophical issues with many of these canned, viral posts, even when they're something positive and loving like this. You know what I'm talking about. The posts that say "I'll bet my friends won't even read this post" and "if you believe children shouldn't starve, put this story on your wall. If you don't, I'll understand." While those are  overt examples of guilt manipulation, this whole notion of "nomination" to do something that could only be considered good, is just one step down, imo. It's all done to encourage a yes...and induce guilt and/or shame if you say no. (And this is NOT a commentary on the person who nominated me. They didn't think this idea up. They were nominated themselves and thought I'd enjoy it. They came to see what I wrote each day. This isn't about them. It's about me and how I normally feel about these kinds of posts. I usually want to say "no" on principle.)

But anyway, I had done some interviews of young people for a client and this one really impressive young woman told me about how, when choosing a summer project, she chose the one she thought she'd like least. When I asked her why, she said you can't make a decision about something because you *think* you won't like it. You have to try it first. And since the consequences of her particular choice were minimal, she thought "why not?"

I'd had that discussion in my head for a couple of weeks and hoped an opportunity would come along where I would make a counterintuitive choice. Then this came along. And I'm glad it did. 

Of course, my first thought was "how will I ever come up with 10?" But, frankly, I feel that way all the time at work—"how am I ever going to approach THIS challenge?" :D But I always figure it out. So I decided to just take it one step at a time. And what I discovered surprised me. 

See, I have this idea in my head that I don't really take good care of myself. I got that idea because it's true in regard to my weight and fitness. And also because there was a time in my life that I took way better care of myself. Back then, I was fit, had much lower living expenses, rented an apartment and had no dogs. So what else did I have to do but nurture myself? But now there's a house to keep, a yard to tend and dogs to care of—there's more that draws me away from my self care. Add that to the low energy I had those years I was sick and I was at the bottom of the priority list when I probably should have been at the top. 

About a year ago, though, I started doing nice things for myself, mostly nail care and skincare type things. But I never changed my self perception as someone who doesn't take good care of herself. For years, I had been told by my doctor that that's why I felt so bad...because I wasn't doing the diet and exercise stuff I should. I thought maybe I caused my issue. So while I knew I've had a lot of baggage around the self love issue, I guess I didn't realize how much. Until I did this photo exercise. 

What I found out was that, without even trying, I did multiple things a day that would be considered "self-loving". In fact, some days I had a hard time choosing. Today was my last day doing the photo post thing and I used the self-love practice I had been keeping in my pocket in case I needed one in a pinch—the time I spend with Kizzie watching sunsets. I didn't even need to use it today, but I didn't feel like I could do this exercise without mentioning my favorite thing ever. (BTW, other things I highlighted over the 10 days were napping, appointments with energy healers, home decoration things, taking "me" time and indulging my hobbies...stuff like that.)

In fact, I could do this damned thing another 10 days—all month possibly—without duplicating anything. I didn't know that 10 days ago, but I know it now. This has made me more aware of my self-love habits. And now I have to start seeing my capacity for self love differently. 

The perception that I didn't take good care of myself, fed on itself and perpetuated. It was intertwined with how I felt about myself. It was intertwined with fears. And depression, the heaviness of how I felt for so long and baggage that goes back to childhood.

It's both a relief and liberating to realize that my worst critic and frequent enemy isn't really as bad as I thought. Instead of wanting to destroy me, it's actually looking for ways to lift me up. It sounds a bit silly to say, but discovering I wasn't undermining myself as badly as I thought changes everything! It kind of reverses some of the momentum of negative self talk I have inside. 

So my experiment in being counterintuitive and challenging my opinions has been successful. Will I start cutting and pasting manipulative posts about starving children on my wall? Not likely. Will I do a photo thing like this again? It depends on the theme. But this one was right up my alley, I learned a lot about myself doing it and other people enjoyed reading about it. So it was an all-around win. What could you do to challenge an untested opinion or belief this week?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

3/14/16—Building a Wall of Love

Each week, I've been trying to clear a corner here and a surface there in my home. And in doing so, I keep running in to little bits of myself that I forgot I had. 

For years, it was a miracle if I managed to vacuum each week, much less clear clutter or even decorate. So things got dusty and cluttery. I can't entirely blame it on being sick, because it was already on its way before I got sick, but it just got worse. 

So since I've been better, I've taken on a small clearing project each week to keep the momentum going and also to accommodate my general laziness and lack of desire to clean. It might be clearing a corner where stuff got piled up, going through papers, cleaning a cabinet in the kitchen or whatever. I'm moving slowly, but I'm making progress I can see and appreciate and that fuels more progress. 

A couple of months back, I went through all the artwork I'd accumulated over the years. I have nice art on my walls. Most everything is an original work, but some things are limited edition prints. I like to support artists I enjoy, so long as I can afford it. And as I went through the stuff I got, I took out a few pieces to get framed. I wasn't really sure how I'd use the art, but I knew it had go up somewhere. 

Finally I chose the wall at the top of my stairs. I'm one of those people who uses my bedroom only for sleeping. I don't have a TV up there. I do have an iPad, but I rarely use it at night. I tend to lay my head down and not wake up until morning. I didn't used to be that way. I used to have insomnia. And when I read about how to avoid that, I learned the trick about using the bedroom only for sleep. 

So I only go upstairs at night. I've always had something hanging on that focal wall, but it was always something I only kinda liked or something I thought might look interesting from the bottom of the stairs. But now I've decided to make a wall that just embodies me. It's similar to how people hang pictures of family members in their hallways. It's my private space and should have private things. So I started this wall. 

So far I have a Patrick Valenza print, which is a little on the odd side, but I like it. There's a Joanna Powell Colbert print of one of her tarot cards. The original artwork for The Star card for Dana Driscoll's Tarot of Trees. A custom switch plate I had made on etsy. And a little painting I found many years ago that used to hang in my office, but now hangs here. I also have two pieces I've commissioned that will take a while to arrive—whimsical tiles depicting each of my dogs and a tile of "me" with cardinals and robins, birds I feel are symbolic of my deceased loved ones.

When I'm finished, a good portion of this wall will be covered in things that have meaning for me. I'm being careful not to make any one piece so bright or commanding that it draws attention away from the others. I want for each time I look at it, at all the many angles I see it from, to remind me I'm more than what I am the bulk of the time...the time spent at the bottom of the stairs, working.

It's all mixed media and mixed frames. If it looked too uniform, it just wouldn't be me. And while most of it is very peaceful, there's the juxtaposition of "The queen responds with an obscene gesture." In a way, I'm creating art from art—a collage of things that speak to me and of me. 

It had been such a long time since I'd infused new energy into my home. So changing that spot has been meaningful. I can't count the number of times I have caught a glimpse of it from downstairs and thought, "hey that looks really good". And every night I climb the stairs with it in my sights. It makes me feel good, not just about my home, but about what the wall says to me about who I am and the artists and things I like. It will be all that much more meaningful when I get my dogs on the wall and the one with me and the birds. And for those who don't like my tarot art or my choice in artists, I can always refer them to the queen. :D

I have lost so many parts of me for so long to illness, depression and illness-induced depression, that's it's nice to be able to get back to feeling like me again. I have a lot of physical and life things to reengage with now that I'm feeling better. And even now, months later, I'm still peeling off layers of the spiritual ick that covered me for so long. I'm experience happiness—and even just general everyday-ness—that was unimaginable six months ago. It's amazing how you don't even see parts of you falling away. They just do. And so there's a lot to rediscover...hobbies and things I take pride in. I've had some help from my brother, but I'm so far ahead of where I usually am with things in the yard, which bodes well for my herbs and flowers this year. I'm feeling good and better almost every day. 

There's an opening up happening for me and I feel like I'm still only just scratching the surface. The clearing is part of it. This wall is part of that. There was a time long ago that I built walls of fear and anger and hate within me. And now I'm building a wall of self love. I'm looking forward to seeing where it all goes from here.