Tag Archives: self-evaluation

Be the Exception to Be Exceptional

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking: Cain,  Susan: 9780307352156: Amazon.com: Books

In the book Quiet, Susan Cain masterfully discusses the implications of our societal shift from a “Culture of Character” to a “Culture of Personality” as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. Her use of the term ‘culture’ is particularly powerful to me. Personally, I have always been aware of negative societal shifts and thought of them as very old issues that, once set into motion, became like a genie that could not be put back in the bottle.

Ultimately, collectively, we cannot turn back the clock to kinder times. We must find our way individually among the hedgerows of our current labyrinth.

The single, most tragic consequence of our cultural shift of focus from character to personality is the loss of true individuality. In a world so focused on persona, self-editing—in multiple forms—rules the day. Who are we if we haven’t been defined by others?

What would happen if we defined ourselves? What if we decided what we should think or feel, or what should really be important to us?

Here’s a challenge:

STOP BEHAVING AS THOUGH LIFE IS A SOLO PERFORMANCE

Influencers, social media, falling in line with the majority in thoughts and feelings…all are toxic to true individualism, but why should we care?

I mean, it does feel better to be part of the group, and what’s wrong with beautiful people leading (apparently) beautiful lives, or aspiring to be like them?

It’s true, it doesn’t feel great to be outside of popular opinion. It’s tough to stand up for what we think if what we think doesn’t align well with the majority. We risk being outcast. If there’s one thing a culture of personality seems to communicate best it’s that we all need to just fall in line. If you try to march to a different drum, it better be preordained acceptable. Image is everything, even at the expense of your personal happiness and fulfillment.

The things that ‘matter’ have become increasingly shallow and meaningless.

My husband and I recently spent time in Costa Rica for our 30th wedding anniversary. We descended over 500 steps to arrive at the most amazing waterfall. My first thought? Shed the clothes (yes, I had a suit underneath) and jump in! As I enjoyed the briskness of the water and looked around feeling incredibly grateful to be a brief part of the awesome power of a 700 meter waterfall, I noticed a young woman nearby on the bank. Hard not to, she was quite beautiful, wearing a very pink bikini, and holding a selfie stick. Unfortunately, she was too self-involved to notice she was hoarding the only point of easy access to the waterfall, even as people were forced to navigate a series of rough volcanic boulders around her to gain access to the water. She never acknowledged a soul, including her boyfriend who kept prompting her to come into the water with him. I’m certain she got what she came down 500 steps to get, and it’s true she was the most physically stunning human being at the waterfall that day. But she never got in the water. In fact, she never seemed to offer a second glance at the awesome waterfall that served as her selfie backdrop. Personality in this case was overly managed, while character needed a lot of work.

SAD.

Wholly manufactured lives and experiences are a commodity that is both bought and sold in our culture of personality. It doesn’t matter that pink bikini didn’t get in the water, only that her image carries the perception that she did (the perception being that she really enjoyed it in a way ‘average’ people are incapable of). In a culture of personality, buyer’s remorse comes in the form of an increasingly detached personal identity, closely followed by an increasing dissatisfaction with life in general, a life that consistently fails to live up to unrealistic, fabricated ideals.

A culture of personality doesn’t care about you. Fabricated images and experiences aren’t intended to make you feel better about yourself as an ‘as-is’ individual. On the contrary, they intend to prompt feelings of inadequacy that will lead you to buy-or-try whatever is being sold, something that’s ‘better than you’. The amusing but sad truth is, not even the person peddling that garbage is that thing. They are performers and a liars, most often for their own financial gain or vain image promotion.

Because image is everything.

Even though we cannot put the genie back in the bottle, there is a remedy at the individual level. Be kind to yourself and stop swallowing the personality pill. Find happiness in the ways that suit you, not others. Celebrate those aspects of ‘you’ that make you special and set you apart. Cherish and value your own thoughts and opinions. Have you ever found yourself in fundamental opposition to a group opinion, but kept silent for fear of ridicule? Stop it. Why should we be a world of clones? Why boast the merits of individualism if we aren’t willing to allow individual attitudes, expressions, or beliefs?

And if you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum: if you are that person on your cellphone at the stoplight that is now green, stop it. Stop being ignorant and inconsiderate of all the people behind you waiting to make the light. If you are the person sizing everyone up who walks through the door, stop it. You should ask yourself why outer appearances mean more to you than inner character. Look past your own nose. In short: consider others. You aren’t the only person on the planet.

No matter what culture we live in, our thoughts, ambitions, and actions constantly collide with other souls and we should be cognizant of the fact. If we are kinder to ourselves we won’t find the need to change who we are or manufacture an image to please others. Likewise, if we are kinder to others we instantly make the world a better place for them. Character is what truly matters. Don’t buy the hype, put the selfie stick down and step away.

Be the Exception to be Exceptional.

A Man Walked Toward Me, Stumbling…

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I message with my mother pretty much every day. Since she is on the East Coast and I am in New Mexico, messaging is a way to constantly check in, make sure all’s well. When I receive a message from her, my phone sends me a notification that usually includes the first line of text. The title of this blog post is from one of those notifications.

Most of the time things we receive don’t grab our interest. Obviously, this one made me curious and had the same effect on you, Dear Reader, or you [likely] wouldn’t have bothered to click on this post. I won’t tell you how her story ended. It isn’t important. What is important, at least to me, is our reaction and awareness.

Are we so desensitized that we need shock value to register a response?

I’m desperate to grab your attention. I am not a ‘master blogger’ by any stretch of the imagination. I do my best to write honestly about topics I find interesting or important in the hope I can connect with people I’d never get the opportunity to meet in person. I am not out to make a buck. I am not looking to build an empire of ‘likes’. I am keenly aware that I am one small fish in a very large ocean. I merely make these attempts (blogs & visual art) to send a signal into the abyss with the hope of experiencing a camaraderie with others who also appreciate and identify small, profound aspects of the human condition.

Yet, for all my effort real connection is rare…

Why? We have grown impatient and shallow. We have less free time than ever before and we are bombarded with empty media content all day, every day. Everything is at our fingertips; entertainment, world news, goods & services. We don’t have to be seekers anymore, we’re only digesters. Hunter gatherers had to seek out food & water, shelter, companionship. Now, most of the world sits fingering device screens, digesting a steady stream of…well…dare I say it?…garbage. Content void of nourishing substance. Connection requires too much energy and time. We’re too busy. Too busy being dumbed down, and enjoying it.

I hate that this sounds so pessimistic, but truth is truth and it sets us free. Generically speaking, it’s true that there is a lot of good in the world, but it’s really rare for people to truly connect with other people these days and we are suffering for it. The power of touch, eye contact, and face-to-face communication has been steadily replaced by 1-minute virals and shock value. It saddens me in ways I cannot begin to describe. Social media is not connection. Most of it isn’t even real. It’s a lie, hollow and deceptive. Most media content delivers a false sense of belonging, connection, and happiness, aspects of life critical to the human experience. The eyes see, the brain digests, and over time people end up feeling more and more detached and inferior. What it offers is simple & tasty: something fast and easy that doesn’t require more from us than we’re willing to give. In contrast, relationships take time and effort.

Fleeting moments of kindness and sacrifice are nice, but they cannot provide longterm mental and emotional sustenance. It’s like taking a supplement in lieu of eating healthy food…the body can go a little while but eventually sickens and dies. We need to engage to nourishtouch more, love more, see more, experience more, be more…not just for ourselves, but for others. Seeking active engagement with others enriches the human experience. It exposes us to a variety of situations, confrontations, and conversations that prompt greater creativity, compassion, and wisdom. Engaging with others enlightens us and teaches us more about ourselves. In turn, we have the opportunity to enrich the lives of others with increased positivity and hope. Even the little things will take on a significance that blows the mind and enhances the senses. We need each other. There is no supplement or replacement therapy for human connection.

Are you there, Dear Reader?? I devote my time to this blog in the spirit of hope that you are there, and you care. Catch someone’s eye today, Dear Reader. Meet their gaze and engage. You won’t regret it and it’ll be time well spent. Rock on…

Mistakes: A Different Perspective

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I make mistakes…all the time.

I forgot my wallet once (ok, more than once). I left it at a busy, locally popular restaurant and made it all the way home before I realized it was missing. In a panic, I sped to retrieve it knowing, just knowing, someone probably took it and was at that very moment making frivolous purchases…like jet packs or collectible trinkets on eBay, or both. I pulled up, jumped out and ran inside, but before I could muster a syllable I was approached by one of the staff, who held out my wallet.

“I thought you might be back soon. A man brought this to the counter, said it had been left in the booth.”

I stood dumbstruck for what felt like a solid minute, blinking and looking around. I thanked her, took my wallet, and headed back to my car, shaking my head the whole way, staring at it as if it was a unicorn. Once inside my vehicle I feverishly checked through it because I just couldn’t believe someone would actually do the right thing. I grimaced in shame. First, because of my unforgivable stupidity (leaving my wallet, really??), second because I’d thought the worst of my fellow man for no reason.

Let’s stop right there…

It was one mistake, not the end of the world. A mistake.

That being said, if you’re like me, Dear Reader, you find it especially difficult to forgive your faults and mistakes. For some odd reason we’re less likely to allow ourselves the same latitude we allow others. We set impossible standards and when we inevitably fall short, we find it impossible to forgive ourselves. We hold on to a mistake, playing it over and over in our minds, questioning every detail and our role in it. We perform this tidy little exercise again and again, even though if someone else made the same mistake we would tell them ‘not to worry’, ‘it’s no big deal’, ‘you’re doing great’…and we would meant it. But our own mistakes, it seems, are uniquely unforgivable.

Mistakes trigger complex emotions in us. They can be internalized differently depending on delivery and elicit various responses, such as fear, disappointment, and anger. If someone confronts us with a mistake we usually respond defensively, whether we acknowledge the truth of the mistake or not, feeling as though it is a personal criticism of our character. If we personally recognize our own mistake we’re not off the hook because we tend to replace defensiveness with our own brand of harsh self-criticism. The trouble is, we tend to be ‘mistake collectors‘. We curate them as a single, large-scale exhibition of our lives, viewing them collectively as the narrative of our life, which then takes on all the charm of an enormous, matted ball of yarn that is impossible to untangle. Fortunately Dear Reader, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Perfection is a MYTH.

We are incapable of perfection. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to do our best, but we need to acknowledge perfection is a myth and we are quite adept at making small, medium, and even epic mistakes, and that’s okay because mistakes are necessary. A mistake is nothing more than a catalyst.

Consider the situation I described at the start (forgetting my wallet). My mistake was personally recognized. However, it forced me to return to the restaurant which carried some potential for criticism, either privately or openly, from others (staff or customers), and this elicited fear and defensiveness, which in turn enhanced the myth of my mistake’s enormity. Contrary to the myth, several incredible things were catalyzed by my ‘mistake’. First, it induced a response from another human being, allowing him the opportunity to decisively exercise agency, positively or negatively. (Thankfully, he chose to respond positively by turning in my wallet.) His response then held the potential to impact others. (Again, thankfully, his choice of response radiated positivity and kindness to the staff.) Likewise, his response renewed a sense of confidence and optimism in me toward my fellow man. The mistake I made also prompted me to make positive behavioral changes. In particular, I exercised greater vigilance and awareness, and suffered less fear that others would choose to exploit my mistakes if given a chance.

I made a mistake, sure. But this perspective demonstrates that mistakes, big and small, have the power to yield a myriad of positive results.

Mistakes are necessary catalysts. Take them with a grain of salt, own them, but don’t collect and curate them. Don’t relive them, but celebrate their contributions. Move on. Respect the counsel of those who love and care and have confidence that honesty, from ourselves and others, is always the best policy. We are fallible but there’s really nothing to fear but fear itself. We are better for our mistakes, and as long as we don’t try to hide them or lie them away, we will use them in ways that make our lives better and make us better people.

Take heart, Dear Reader and be kind to, and forgiving of, yourself and your mistakes. Life’s full of ’em, so rock on…

Image cred: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fmarketingland.com%2F18-fatal-mistakes-i-regret-committing-on-social-media-in-2013-70855&psig=AOvVaw2qiCvVJEw-Rk45Aqz2VMJC&ust=1617131294343000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CA0QjhxqFwoTCIiFkteZ1u8CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAX

Saying Goodbye.

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In Latin, the term pretiosis means ‘of great value’.

The sun peaks above the mountain, a glowing orb pregnant with possibility, and I am reminded that this day, like every day, is pretiosis. I watch birds play in the cottonwoods and bees flitting among flowering bushes, and I understand what they do not. They are transients of nature. I am too because I live. The mountains I have climbed, rivers fished, down to the smallest bits of earth underfoot change with each passing day and bear witness to the inevitable. All living things exit this realm just as new arrivals make song with the dawn.

We shun thoughts of life’s finiteness. It is true (whether you believe in an afterlife or not) that life as it is known here is temporary. We’re not comfortable contemplating what that means in terms of the day-to-day grind. We go on with our get-and-give, get-and-give…letting the worries, boredoms, tasks and responsibilities dominate the day so that once a peaceful moment finally arrives, we want to numbly take it in as a reward for all our race running. We live for the weekend…for that vacation…for some future promise. But we’re not promised tomorrow, and we don’t want to acknowledge that we know, deep down, the race has an end. We know it nonetheless, and it causes a deep sense of urgency to matter.

It is the need to matter that drives negative perceptions of death. We tend to wander in a fog of false invincibility until we are surprised by it. Death holds up a mirror and says, “No, no, not true, my dear. See? Nothing stays the same”. All the mundane redundancies of life become bitter pills to swallow. Death has the power to confront us with wasted time and regrets. We are afraid of forgetting, or worse, being forgotten. We rail against its truth because we are self-important. We don’t want to fade into obscurity, but we recognize obscurity is promised with the passage of time.

Death can make life seem so small and insignificant.

But tears shed for death tell a different story. They stand in violent opposition to the notion that life is small and insignificant. There is merit in slowing down to seriously contemplate the finite nature of life. Doing so nurtures in us a greater appreciation for life in general and intensifies the introspective moments of it. Never underestimate the power of touch, a kind word or smile to reorganize the world. It matters, being present in the millions of tiny moments life grants us. This is what death does; it slows us down and illuminates what matters most. In our fear we fail to apprehend the transformative beauty of what death accomplishes. If anything death is a teacher, revealing with great clarity the insignificance of the material, and the weighty significance of time and love.

When we are forced to say goodbye something remarkable happens. The colors of life’s tapestry defy the boundaries of the known world to grow richer and more vibrant than ever. Suddenly dull browns shift to rich red and black turns to deep violet. An average blue sky now dawns bright turquoise. Experiences and stories, every touch, breath, and idiosyncrasy are transformed into precious pearls of light and celebration. Suddenly, defiantly, life matters. Each introspective moment is made new and we see that what we perceived as inertia never actually stopped moving. We appreciate kindness more and see the significance of little things. When we are forced to say goodbye we are motivated to a renewed sense of profound appreciation and gratitude for the uniqueness of our experiences and the love we share.

If there is any doubt in the truth of death it might be useful to turn it on its head. What if at the time of our death we were given a choice: a brand new life, a new start, but in return you must give back your previous life as though it never existed. All the people, experiences, love, hate, laughter, tears, lessons learned…it all gets wiped away. You never lived. Would you do it? I think most of us would answer no because we recognize life is pretiosis. Regardless, the answer, yes or no, will speak volumes about the life currently being lived and may provide one with either a greater sense of appreciation, or a humble appeal for direction.

The most intimate moments of any human life are birth and death.

The very nature of each is utterly remarkable. As soon as a human being enters this world their personality and character (good and bad) forge ripples in a greater, never-ending pond. Death ensures those ripples are transformed to carry on a deeply meaningful, and lasting impact. We matter, and tears stand in testimony. Uniquely, in ways only we can, we usher in change that impacts and shapes the world. One-of-a-kind in every case, we live our choices, experience joy and sadness and everything in between, get-and-give, and venture outside of the known world. We are remarkable, and our life and death give profound meaning to nature’s simple but beautiful, monotonous churning.

Let’s appreciate the gifts of life and death as part of the same journey and cherish the blessed gift of memory. Live fearlessly knowing every life lived matters because it is, it was, and will be immortalized in the collective lasting legacy of human feeling, sentiment, and experience.

We will rock on, Dear Reader.

Seeking the Profound

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We are seekers.

When I was younger, the idea of ‘finding myself’ was appealing. Taken literally, it’s a ridiculous statement. Find myself? I can answer that one: I’m here, writing these words. And you, Dear Reader, are where you are, reading them (and hopefully enjoying them?). But ‘finding myself’ isn’t a statement regarding physicality. And, although its use is often dripping with undue romanticism, its merit is its intention to communicate a base desire. Specifically, the desire to intimately connect what it means to be and become.

We are living beings encapsulated in the complexity of being and becoming.

We know who we are. To be is current, and immediately relevant. Not static per se, but less unknown, more identifiable. In contrast, becoming is completely unknown to us, occurring in some abstract future impacted by constant change, choice, and consequence. Still, we want to manage it. We like our control. But deep down, we innately know it cannot be managed because we recognize life involves the persistent convergence of happenstance, action, and response that often lead us down roads we never knew existed.

Look back Dear Reader, could you have imagined today as little as five years ago? How about 10 years, or 20? Our past serves as evidence that plans rarely manifest as planned and we are, to large degree, the architects of our here-and-now, a today constructed from the choices (good and bad) of our past. Knowing these things and the unpredictability we face, we tenaciously seek the profound. This is what ‘find myself’ means: that we understand the profoundness of our moments. Seeking the profound is an exercise whereby we simultaneously identify the importance of wanting for, and seeking out, those things that will make the future an improvement on what we know and live now.

Change is the one true constant.

We know it, but we endeavor to set up our moments to be deeply meaningful. The tapestry of our life has enough hiccups in the fabric. We yearn for a deeper color, that one amazing, flawless design, that will move us (and maybe others) to a higher plain of existence. The problems arise when we don’t see the potential of our current circumstance to move us profoundly. I am guilty of this, Dear Reader. I’m betting I’m not alone in it.

The mistaken romantic notion of ‘finding myself’ is that it involves an exit strategy, or the shedding of one’s skin. But the circumstances that prompt us to seek the profound are rarely as simple as location. As Gus said to Lori in Lonesome Dove, “Life in San Fransisco is still just life”. Yearnings are mostly romantic, but the why behind the yearning should be scrutinized. Romanticism often leads us far off course into barren, dry soil searching for a movie ending. In other words, the profound has more substance and can be found right now, in the heart and mind, without ever leaving your seat. The profound can be something witnessed sure, but it can also be something realized from within, in a simple encounter, a conversation, a daydream. We should never deny the potential of any moment to be profound, otherwise we risk being unable to recognize the profound when it’s staring us in the face. Before we go packing that bag to set off on some great adventure that will end with a hollow sense of disappointment we should ponder why we feel the need for such abandon. Are we running away? How did the here-and-now lose its sense of profoundness? When was the last time we felt we touched it? Sometimes a deep dive dissection of our being is a valuable way to determine what our becoming should look like.

Let’s grab more of what’s truly profound and live our best life. Rock on beautiful beings…rock on.

Image cred goes to: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fquotefancy.com%2Fquote%2F1141218%2FCharles-Caleb-Colton-Mystery-is-not-profoundness&psig=AOvVaw3yq_GtyRl1mBfQeNxmsPx5&ust=1614709510764000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CA0QjhxqFwoTCJjC-Ovbj-8CFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

Own Your S***

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Personal responsibility & Hard Truths are essential for a good life…

GOOD LIFE /ɡo͝od/ /līf/

  1. A life enhanced by greater fulfillment, contentment, and happiness as the result of embracing one’s contribution(s) to their struggle and adversity in an effort to exercise personal growth.
  2. Do better, be better

Let’s start with a quick self-check:

Consistently makes mistakes. Check. Doesn’t know everything. Check. Levels unrealistic expectations on situations and others. Check. Intentionally avoids things out of fear. Check. Lies. Check. Subject to poor judgment. Check. Experiences shame. Check.

‘Welcome to the club’, as they say. Move along folks, nothing to see here. Turns out, we’re all human.

News flash: Not One Among Us is Perfect.

As if life isn’t complicated enough, each of us is burdened with our own special brand of baggage that influences how we feel, react, and see the world. Sadly we often fail to offer much compassion for the weight of our neighbor’s baggage as we practice stuffing our own ugly under the bed. Out of sight, out of mind. Truth? It’s still there…waiting…always.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to lighten the load is by exercising hard truths and taking personal responsibility for aspects of our lives that make us feel unhappy. Seems simple enough, right? Unfortunately, human beings are inclined toward comfort, and admitting the myriad of ways we orchestrate our own unhappiness is a tough order. It hurts to be brutally honest about the part we play, our missteps and mistaken choices. I get it…it’s uncomfortable.

We don’t want to feel bad. Our friends and family don’t want us to feel bad either and they’re always willing to let us off the hook because we all recognize that honesty is hard, and it doesn’t feel good to admit when we screw up.

Do it anyway.

Be courageous, exercise personal integrity, admit your choices and accept their consequences. Being brutally honest with oneself in the spirit of taking personal responsibility for our mistakes and failures (aka: owning our s***) is critical to our personal growth and happiness. Comfort breeds complacency. Noooo bueno. Complacency is the opposite of critical assessment. It is uncritical satisfaction. It’s a lie, and it isn’t lasting. Lie long enough and you’ll get real good at playing the blame game and playing the victim. It’s a bad, bad road that leads one to believe there is no freedom of choice, that the world and circumstance exercise complete agency over our lives. “Poor me, the world has it out for me. I didn’t want to do things this way, but I didn’t have a choice, and now my life sucks.”

Doesn’t sound like the kind of life I want to live. You?

While it is true there are external pressures that wield some power to negatively affect us, it is also true that our perceptions can provide us with the best course of action to combat negative spiraling. If we’re honest, we recognize and own our choices and their consequences, we learn from them, and we get on with things. We are not victims of circumstance. Complacency is a lived lie. Comfort cannot be a permanent state of being. Success and happiness are hard-won by doing the work, doing better, being better. Give yourself reasons to be proud of yourself. Get honest: who are you? what do you want, what work do you need to do to achieve it? Life can be stagnant or lived in a forward motion. It’s a choice.

Remember, Dear Reader: Lies enable complacency. Personal responsibility fuels forward motion. Another key point to remember is that you alone are responsible for your choices. It is not for others to help you fulfill or manage them. Your s***, YOU own it.

Own Your S*** and Rock On…

Sorry, Not Sorry…

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There is something to envy in the nakedness of trees. An unabashed, shamelessness. They are as they are, in whatever season they occupy. Each has its own distinct beauty, regardless of time or age.

We are like trees…

Except that we are thinking things consistently under threat from a manufactured world that can make us blind to our own beauty. Other experiences, mostly manicured, are marched before the eye via all forms of media. They often appear fuller, more beautiful and impactful than our own, even if we know better. A steady diet of such media does little for the soul and tends to enhance a sense of meaninglessness and destructive internal dialogue.

“I’m not good enough…I’m not doing enough…I’m not enough…”

Self destructive, loathsome internal dialogue. We wouldn’t think of treating a friend or a loved one the way we treat ourselves. Yet it’s so common to be kind to the world, but unkind to oneself. We let outside sources communicate to us who we aspire to be and we abide.

The simplest remedy for negative internal dialogue is to disengage from sources that reinforce it in ways that enable us to see our self worth. To take time to meditate on our abilities, identify our gifts, and recognize we exist to contribute something meaningful and profound to life. When the world creeps in and we start to feel inferior, it is important to stand up for oneself and acknowledge the profundity and uniqueness of life. Even the simplest actions we engage in during our lifetime are meaningful and profound in ways we may never know. Have faith…

You. Are. Enough.

Try this to retrain negative internal dialogue: refuse to be apologetic. Try listing a few:

I will not apologize for my life experiences, good or bad.

I will not apologize for the way I look.

I will not apologize for aging.

I will not apologize for the way I feel.

I will not apologize for my anger.

I will not apologize for my flaws.

I will not apologize for my opinions.

I will not apologize for my faith.

I will not apologize, for I AM ENOUGH.

And you are, Dear Reader. You are enough. I am enough. And we do not need the approval or affirmation of an outside world to believe it or live it.

Let’s be like trees, unabashed and shameless in the nakedness of our individuality. We are each beautiful and profound, in every season.

Rock on…

*Image courtesy of: http://www.womenlivingwellafter50.com*

Optimism and the Promise of Potentiality…

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Optimism naturally seeks ouFreedom Faith & Letting Got the potential for what is hopeful, kind, and promising.
Every experience possesses potential.
Potential occupies powerful neutrality, good or bad, catalyzed and shaped by individual interaction.
If we approach the potential of a moment with optimism, we allow it the power to gift us with good things. Moments cannot be owned or controlled, so expectations are out of the question. Freedom to exist in the moment dictates a level of surrender to what is unknown. The freedom to surrender is only achievable through an optimistic spirit, and it opens the senses to that which is beautiful and wondrous.
Feed yourself a steady diet of optimism by making habit of opening yourself to the experience the moment has to offer.

The lyrics of the Matt Simons song, “Catch and Release” provide a wonderful description of this process…

There’s a place I go to
Where no one knows me
It’s not lonely
It’s a necessary thing
It’s a place I made up
To find out what I’m made of
The nights are stayed up
Counting stars and fighting sleep
Let it wash over me
I’m ready to lose my feet Take me off to the place where one reveals life’s mysteries
Steady on down the line
Lose every sense of time
Take it all in and wake up that small part of me
That day-to-day I’m blind to see
And find how far
To go
Everybody got their reason
Everybody got their way
We’re just catching and releasing
What builds up throughout the day
It gets into your body
And it flows right through your blood
We can tell each other secrets
And remember how to love

There’s a place I’m going
No one knows me
If I breathe real slowly
Let it out and let it in
It can be terrifying
To be slowly dying
Also clarifying
We end where we begin
Let it wash over me
I’m ready to lose my feet
Take me off to the place where one reveals life’s mysteries
Steady on down the line
Lose every sense of time
Take it all in and wake up that small part of me
That day-to-day I’m blind to see
And find how far
To go
Everybody got their reason
Everybody got their way
We’re just catching and releasing
What builds up throughout the day
It gets into your body
And it flows right through your blood
We can tell each other secrets
And remember how to love

{To listen, use this link to hear a great version: https://youtu.be/HZm9P0w61_U}

Adventure and happiness often coexist within the courage of great abandon. The practice produces an affect not unlike the way filtering sunlight through a dense wood finds the dark ground beneath to illuminate and induce healthy new growth.  Optimism becomes a light that spawns the growth of happiness and new forms of optimism.
It is its own confidence…
Confident optimism is born of a million faith-tested moments. Be courageous. Run off the edge. Work without a net, arms wide to embrace the inherent potential of a moment to change and color your life forever in ways that defy all logic and definition 🙂

Sad is not bad, it’s necessary…

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Recently, we experienced the ordeal of our daughter, our youngest, leaving home for college. What followed were several evenings of looking awkwardly across the dinner table at each other, lots of silence, and a profound, unshakable sadness.   Obviously, there was some anticipation of emotional pain prior to the event, since our son had left home three years earlier, but it did little to cushion the blow of our suddenly-empty house and empty hearts.

When your children leave home, even in happiness and excitement for their future, your life completely upends. Everything changes, and the loss of their presence is tangible.  Adjustment begins slowly and naturally, in urgent necessity, accomplished through the process of grieving what has been lost.  A shroud of sadness settles over us like a healing cocoon, incubating against a world that continues to move, unmoved, by our personal hell.  For a time, we curl into our memories of hugs and spoken words, the sheets that smell like a distant perfume, and trophies lovingly packed away into boxes with labels.

Such an incubation period is necessary to healing, yet people outside our grief are not comfortable with our sadness…

The concept of ‘being sad’ has somehow been perverted. It has become a status of disdain, to be avoided or treated away as quickly as possible.  But just as happiness has its place in our life journey, so does sadness.  If we weren’t so preoccupied with the belief that one should be in an impossible state of ‘constant happiness’, we might be better equipped to see the positive aspects of something that makes us, essentially…’feel bad’.

Sounds like a contradiction…I mean, how can something that makes us feel bad, be good for us?

In the case of our daughter leaving home, I can say my sadness is good, because it comes from a place of deep, intense love. I’m grieving my personal loss of her presence, which added so much immeasurable happiness to my daily life.  However, I grieve for me, yet rejoice for her and for the world that will now have the unique opportunity to get to know her.  It is in the hope for her future that I find my way through the grief of her leaving.  Thankfully, I grieve a change, impermanent in that I still have her in my life, though no longer under my roof.

A few days after her arrival at college, one of the students on campus went missing. Two days ago, as we visiting our daughter, a body was found just off campus and identified as the missing young woman.  I will not pretend to be capable of comprehending the level of grief her family is now experiencing…

What I do know is that their grieving, like mine, is necessary

Grief, on all levels, is an acknowledgement. We are fragile creatures.  Without acknowledgment of the truth, the pronounced permanence and unpredictability of change, we cannot find the acceptance necessary to move on.  Grief simultaneously teaches us and puts us in our place.  The stages grow in us a steady, burning desire to continue to live, learn, love, and inspire.

When we’re on the outside of grief, watching another in pain, we want to make it better. We recognize pain is painful and our compassion wishes it away, especially when it’s someone we love.  We just want to make it all better, but we need to exercise patience and respect for the process and acknowledge it.  It’s important to remember that grief, sadness, and pain are necessary components to the human experience.

Nothing highlights great happiness as much as marked sadness. Never was one so overjoyed to come into the light, as one who has just emerged from the darkest forest floor.  The key to grief and sadness is maintaining, and promoting, hope.  Hope is the tiny light that beckons through the darkest hour, pointing us toward acceptance and beyond.

No matter the cause, we really shouldn’t seek to counsel those who are grieving. Grief is a natural process, like breathing, so let it be.  Grief shouldn’t be chastised simply because it makes us uncomfortable.  Instead, grief should find respect for its process.  It should be met with patient compassion and loving hopefulness for its promise to yield to brighter days  🙂

 

*Image courtesy of:  http://evolvingfaith.blogspot.com/p/grief-quotes.html*

Please listen to your flight attendant….

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Before every plane ride, the cramped individuals of the cabin are always treated to the preflight safety instructions.  They’re always the same; the flight attendant walks us through what to do and where to go in case of an emergency.  If you’ve flown more than once, it’s more likely you will be fumbling with your tiny airplane pillow or an electronic device, rather than listening to this standard briefing.  But I’ve chosen it as a blog topic for good reason.  There is actually a really great bit of advice to be found, metaphorically, within the mundane instruction.

Included in preflight safety instructions is what to do if cabin pressure changes.  When cabin pressure changes on an airline, it triggers the emergency oxygen masks to drop from overhead each passenger.  The instructions given for what to do when the masks dropped always perplexed me when I was younger.  The flight attendant tells the passengers that they must ‘first secure their own mask, before placing a mask on their child’.

I always used to think that seemed a bit selfish.  I mean, isn’t the first instinct of a parent to run to the aid of their child, without regard for themselves?  That seems right…save the child first.

Then, I had children.  And now I see the wisdom in the words.  I think it’s natural, especially for women, to forget your own needs.  We get good at putting ourselves on the back burner for others.  Anything else seems selfish.  After all, taking time for yourself is frowned on, because the perception is that by making time for yourself, you are taking it away from someone else.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reason the flight attendant insists on putting your mask on first is so you can take care of your child.  Without that mask, and the oxygen it provides, you will lose consciousness while trying to help your child.  The result is a child left without a parent to care for them, without protection, and in grave danger.  The metaphor is pretty powerful; if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot possibly hope to be present to truly provide the care those you love really need.

This week, the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of drug overdose in his New York City apartment.  Alone.  On the bathroom floor.  I can think of few, more sadly preventable ways to die.  Police found 40 bags of heroine in his apartment, and he was found only because he failed to pick up his three young children as promised that day.  Please don’t interpret any anger on my part as being aimed at Mr. Hoffman.  I hate addiction, not the addicted.  Mr. Hoffman, a beautiful, talented human being, filled with the same potentiality for life that every human being possesses, chose in a moment of emptiness to believe the lie of addiction.  It is a lie which says that something other than living and being ever-present in your life is somehow better in a given moment.  It says there is no truth in human pain and suffering, nothing to be learned.  It insists pain simply be eradicated, even if only as a temporary reprieve.  But in truth, addiction is pain.  It is a thief that robs life and replaces it with more and more hollow emptiness.  Numbness replaces presence.  Game over…

Addiction allows us to play the victim.  It hides the ability and free will of the human spirit which empower all good practice and positive thought.  Addiction is the lie, because we are not victims to anything but our own minds.  We live our choices.  No one chooses to be an addict, but we do choose to do the things that set addiction in motion.  Life is a powerful experience that merits responsibility for identifying what is best and discerning what is good and right in our lives.  Life is precious and fragile…so respect the journey.

So please, listen to your flight attendant.  Take care of yourself first.  Feed yourself full to the top with good things, so you can be ready and able to be there for all those other human beings you love so much  🙂

*image provided by: http://williamtollefsonvalues.blogspot.com/2013/07/addiction-recovery-southwest-florida.html