Tag Archives: self-love

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…

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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.

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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…

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*