Where are you From

“The closer you come to knowing that you alone create the world of your experience, the more vital it becomes for you to discover just who is doing the creating.”Eric Micha’el Leventhal

Yup, I admit it proudly. It’s been somewhere between 15-30 days and I have restarted my New Year resolutions at least that many times so far. How about you? My restarts come by way of sitting down to write to you and by way of tackling a new recipe and by way of getting my ass to the gym on cold days that beg me to stay in bed cuddled up under my comfy king size blanket that wraps around me twice and just do absolutely. Nothing. but luxuriate in its warmth.

One of my favorite winter activities is to go through closets. I love going through last year’s clothes and shoes and papers and clutter and get to the end just to feel the unbelievable relief in taking a deep breath knowing I have new space to clutter up again this year. It’s cathartic, it’s rejuvenating, it’s therapy. What can I say, I like the routine of cleaning and purging the old stuff?

So, in my maniacal purging frenzy, I found myself in my daughter’s closet and came across a writing project she did when she was in the 5th grade. It was the start of the new school year and the teacher wanted the students to write about where they come from as a way of getting to know each other. In a prose kind of format my daughter talked about where she comes from in a self-defining kind of way such as her family and how and what we eat, her music, her books, her play time with her neighborhood friends. Of course, I started to cry because she is so far from 10 years old now and man, do I miss her at that age.

As a writer stuck for inspiration, how could I not take a good long look at this project and think to myself where the heck am I from? I have invented and reinvented myself so many times and each time is as authentic and real as the last time and as authentic as the next time I phase away from one persona and bring on the next one. What has changed and what has stayed true about me? What do I continuously go back to and what do I consciously stop myself from doing and remember, oh yeah, that’s something I want to get better at or that’s something I want to put way behind me. And isn’t that all part and parcel of new year’s resolutions? We want to make changes to go from old to new, to go from bad to good or at the very least better? We want to be a shiny new version of an old self. So, in keeping with the theme of the project my daughter had to do, here is the short”ish” version of who I am….(so far):

I am from childhood memories of staying out late during endless summer nights and waiting for mom to call us in for the night knowing full well that “5 more minutes” was the rebuttal.

I am from a family I helped to create and struggle to keep together during this self- discovery phase we are in as individuals now.

I am from outdoor activities that thrill me because it means getting in exercise without feeling like I’m exercising, gardening, volleyball on the beach, biking, hiking and walking trails that allow me dual time to bring my camera and get lost in nature.

I am from baking and cooking that excite my family and friends who wish I would make a career out of it, home sweet home making, celebrating for any reason, and curling up on the couch with a good romance novel and deep mug of green tea or hot apple cider on a cold day.

I am from “mom, where’s my favorite shirt”, “hun, do I have underwear for work tomorrow”, “what’s for dinner”, and no one at the table tonight except me because everyone is working.

I am from a barrage of photo memories mounted on the walls of my home that remind me of the life I had and wondering what lies ahead and my overflowing hope chest still filled with hope for a person I’ve yet to become.

“The bulk of life is discovering who you are—and then reconciling that with who you wish you were.” Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes: Quotes, Thoughts, & a Little Poetry for Every Day of the Year

So, if like me, you are struggling to keep those resolutions afloat, to keep trying to find who you want to be, to keep pushing forward and make those changes that so very much meant so very much only 46 days ago, then try to take some time to think or perhaps write about where you are from in every sense of the idea.

Are you from a collection you started when you were 5, are you from a tree you loved to climb when you were young, are you from a food you absolutely will enjoy until your last breath, are you from an entire generation of people that influenced who you are at this very moment and that is why you are pushing for some. Kind. of change. or leveling up or distance?

Get as real as you can and see what you can see from inside yourself, outside yourself, and the 360 view. If you need a nudge or a sounding board, write to me. I live for this kind of thing.

Call to Action

Here are some questions to help you get started:

  1. So, you want to change the whole but what’s going on with all the parts? What do you want to change on the outside that first needs changing on the inside?
  2. Where is fear showing up? How is fear causing you to do nothing or go backwards?
  3. If you could choose an adjective as your theme word for this year what would it be? How have you started living that word? Does the word need to be adjusted?
  4. There are reasons for everything we do. List 3 top reasons for wanting to make a change in your life and 3 top strategies for making each one happen.

The Seeds We Sow

 

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“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Sowing seeds and blossoming has never had a more poetic meaning than when I became a mom. According to the calendar I am now entering into the harvest time of parenting. The time when all the seeds have been sown and all the lessons I can teach my young fledglings has come to bear fruit and to see just what took root inside of them. In hindsight it took no time at all for these many seasons to pass and yet it has taken a long, long time of hope, nurture, love, sunshine, feeding and faith to get to this point. Sowing seeds in our children doesn’t always mean that everything will come up roses and I don’t always like what I see in the blossoming which has led me to ask myself….

How do I know I was a good gardener?

As a parent this question has been embedded in my soul from the moment I held my child for the first time. It became more specifically a question of how do I or will I know I did the right thing or did right by my children? The answer is, I won’t know. How can that be? Free will.

The idea behind free will in my children is that although they are a combination of 2 really great and loving human beings they have the God given right to develop their own set of values and life rules, opinions, choices and decisions, just like we did before they existed. In the harvesting time, like what I am going through right now, where the seeds are blooming in a crazy wild manner in every which way, it feels like weeds have taken root. They try to defy gravity and nature and it gets really scary and feels hopeless at times. As a parent I absolutely will not always agree with their decisions and choices and values, oh my, but above all, I know I must have faith that the seeds I have sown will yield a beautiful crop to be proud of.

“A weed is but an unloved flower.” Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Oh, don’t misunderstand. There have been and there are glimpses of good manners because that is one of the seeds I planted inside of them, there are snapshots of seeing me in the things they do or say because like it or not that is also one of the seeds I planted inside of them and there are moments of joy and love because above all else that is the seed I wanted to grow most of all.

It’s those times when all seems to be coming up weeds and those weeds threaten to choke the life out of the beautiful flowers I am hoping will bloom, that it all starts to fall apart for me and I over nurture and over water and over feed my seedlings. They are searching for their own growth space and I am trying to stand them up tall and proud. But they are not ready for that because they have not decided to stand up tall and proud for themselves yet.

“Parents can only give good advice or put their children on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Anne Frank

I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to wanting a full bloom in my children. All I can do as a gardener/parent is love them and be there if and when they need me and hope like crazy that whatever seeds I planted along the way of their growth will yield beauty of spirit and mind.

For all of those times when I realize that perhaps I didn’t always plant a good seed and for all of those times when I think that the weed that is growing right now is what will always be truth, I am learning that in order to ensure that the seed doesn’t turn into a permanent weed is to plant faith. Faith is a very needy seed. Faith needs constant nurturing, constant attention and constant awareness. Faith also needs a sense of humor and an ability to see life backwards. In the spirit of seeing life as backwards here is my short list for all those times when it all should make some kind of sense and doesn’t but in the end still has a chance…..

I might be a good gardener/parent if:

I make all kinds of mistakes from a horrible tasting dinner to turning a white shirt pink in the laundry. It means that although I may not be perfect as a parent, gardener, or human being I am always willing to learn and grow within myself for my children.

I have acted selfish or self-centered. It means that I am vulnerable and human just like my children are. It means that letting them see my true colors makes me more down to earth for them.

I feel deep inside of my soul I have failed. It only means that I have tried something and it didn’t quite work out the way I hoped it would but I am still standing and able to try again another day. “I’m sorry” is the same as Miracle Grow.

I find myself feeling scared and helpless. It means that my heart is so invested and striving for goodness. It is okay to experience every possible emotion that exists and still create beauty and love in my children. Living by example gives them comfort and room to bloom.

I know that without meaning to I have said the absolute wrong thing. It means that I was communicating and trying to find a way to break through verbal barriers with people who speak a different language from mine. Parent talk is very different from kid talk.

In any situation, being able to put myself in someone else’s shoes not only connects me to their point of view but it also grows empathy. In each instance I am becoming a more valuable seed within myself.

So……

What kind of gardener are you?

If you plant honesty, you will grow trust

If you plant goodness, you will grow heart

If you plant humility, you will grow connectedness

If you plant perseverance, you will grow courage

If you plant hard work, you will grow success

If you plant forgiveness, you will grow reconciliation

If you plant love, you will grow the world.

Call to Action

When you take a moment to see the world as your personal garden, what would you like to plant there?

How do you see your garden influencing the garden next to you?

If your garden seems to be growing weeds, what kind of nourishment does your garden need?

From your perspective, what are the signs of a great garden?

The Little Things: What was Your Life Made of This Year?

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“I’m not sure why, but when a person expects something to last forever, they don’t notice the little things. It’s only when the clock is ticking all those little things add up and become bigger.” Shannon Wiersbitzky, What Flowers Remember

As the year winds down I am so acutely aware of each minute that ticks by. I take stock of what the aging year has produced and what hope the New Year holds. I think about what I’ve learned, hoping that I have learned a lot of things. I think about how much better off I am now than one year ago and I don’t mean in terms of money. What I truly mean is in terms of personal growth and life experiences, which to me is so much more than money. It’s the little moments of my life this year that I hope made the biggest impact on my soul and then I think if I can remember all of those little moments maybe they were the big things after all.

“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

In the spirit of honoring the year as it takes its final bow out of time I would like to leave you with a few of the moments/memories that have left an imprint on my soul. A trusted colleague calls this his annual review. It’s made up of the very personal good and bad moments that made this year stand tall.

Perhaps you have had similar experiences but never thought to really pay them much heed or perhaps you will take these shared moments and watch for them in the new year or perhaps we are all on the same journey through time sharing similar experiences in our own unique perspective. Whichever way you honor the good and the bad of your life moments I hope you are better for them.

The most recent life moment I absolutely honor with grace and awe is the time spent celebrating my daughter’s birthday. It wasn’t a milestone birthday but it was a celebration of her birth nonetheless and that in itself deserves to make the list of little things.

“So much of life is in the smallness of moments…but they are harder to mark. So we need the grander celebrations and occasions. People like to feel significant.” Ally Condie, Atlantia

Glancing over at the large picture window in my office and stopping everything to go sit in the sunshine streaming through.

“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. Just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.” Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder – Volume One: On Wisdom and Virtues

Meeting new people and realizing that their impact on my life, be it good or bad, changed me for the better.

“That’s the ideal meeting…once upon a time, only once, unexpectedly, then never again.” Helen Oyeyemi

Seeing a hummingbird for the first time in my life.

“Some of my old memories feel trapped in amber in my brain, lucid and burning, while others are like the wing beat of a hummingbird, an intangible, ephemeral blur.” Mira Bartok, The Memory Palace

Silently celebrating the day after the first day of winter because for the next 182 days we add one minute of daylight and hope blooms eternal.

“I find it inspiring to actively choose which traditions to celebrate and also come up with new ideas for traditions of my own.” Sara Sheridan

Sitting at my favorite coffee shop enjoying the smell while sipping my green tea and writing. I am not a coffee drinker at all but I love a good, old-fashioned, wrap me in warmth coffee shop.

“A smoke, a book, a cup of coffee. These are the little things that get us through this sometimes weary world and all the rainy days.” R.M. Engelhardt, The Resurrection Waltz Poems R.M. Engelhardt

Window shopping in the winter and seeing all the beautiful colors of the flowers in the flower shop on the most gray, snowy day of the season.

“Somehow, those cold, lifeless winter months had prepared the land for something breathtaking. Something beautiful. Something brimming with life.” Katie Ganshert, Wildflowers from Winter

Laughing so hard when I’m supposed to be as quiet as a mouse. Whether it be at my job at the library as an adult or a teenager sitting in my English class I find that those quiet moments are the ones that really spark my uncontrollable laughter.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge

Hearing the perfect song at a time of day when I needed it most.

“Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn an emperor into a laughing-stock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams are gone. That’s the power of songs.” Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

Raising my level of gratitude so much higher than I ever imagined it could go but battling still with moments of unhappiness.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

Understanding the lessons in why it’s important to make quality decisions but not yet feeling able to make important decisions in my own life.

“The problem, simply put, is that we cannot choose everything simultaneously. So we live in danger of becoming paralyzed by indecision, terrified that every choice might be the wrong choice.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

Continuing to worry about the same problems year after year and finding it so hard to let it go or finding a solution.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34 ― Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version

Thank you for your indulgence with my annual review of the little things. I hope it sparked something inside of you to help you take stock of your life this year and highlight what you want to work on and grow in the New Year.

Call to Action

How possible is it to mine each new day of the new year for little life moments, for the little things that flavor life with its sweetness? That is the call to action for you. Find the little things in each new day of the New Year and see how it changes you for the better.

What went well this year?

What did not go well this year?

Where does growth reside for you in the New Year?

What little things became the big thing after all?

7 Tricks to Ease the Melancholy of the Holiday Season

Thanksgiving

“Your heart’s strength is measured by how hard it holds on. Your self-worth and faith is measured by finally letting go. However, your peace is measured by how long you don’t look back.” Shannon L. Alder

It’s hard to not look back on your life or certain memories especially during the holiday season. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it always gets me to thinking about the past even if I think only about the year that is almost ending. I think about family, the people I can still share the holiday with and the people that are no longer part of that tradition. I’m grateful for the memories of past family gatherings during the holiday season and I get a bit emotional when I dwell too long there but I find that as I get older I long for the new experiences to start so that I can add them to the list of things I’m grateful for.

A few times in my life I’ve been the host for Thanksgiving dinner, the most I’ve entertained at one time was for 23 people. Our family really isn’t that big but I never believed in putting a limit on how many were welcome to our table. We lived in a condo at the time and although it was a 3 bedroom unit the living space was small and so it was quite a feat to figure out how to seat 23 people for such a huge dinner. Funny that I was more concerned with how to seat everyone comfortably and not worried about what to serve and how to serve. My children were all under the age of 10 at the time so it took probably close to 2 weeks to prepare not only the menu and the seating plan but to prepare the house comfortably for those guests that were staying for an overnight .

The anticipation building in those 2 weeks was volatile. The kids were excited every day to count down to family coming over to their house. The smells in the kitchen radiated throughout the entire house for days on end. To this day my daughter associates certain foods that I cook throughout the year with Thanksgiving such as caramelized onions, sautéed apples, homemade bread, anything made with nutmeg, etc. Mmmmm…my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

“Hunger of the heart is much stronger than hunger for food.” Amanda Comer

I can’t help but think back to the craziness of preparing for Thanksgiving because the celebration is so different now. I definitely have a hunger in my heart to relive those crazy holiday times. I was busy, I felt purposeful and I felt needed and important. That is the magic and the power of family.

I have to admit right here that although it was a lot of work and I enjoyed the anticipation as much as the kids did not every ounce of it went smoothly or happily. I felt stress and I’m sure at one time I murmured to myself how I would like it if just one year we could be the guests and just show up to eat and schmooze.

“Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set. People marry in, divorce out. They’re born, they die. It’s always evolving, turning into something else.” Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key

Many years later, kids mostly grown, family moved away and/or defected I find myself melancholy about the holiday season for different reasons entirely. My soul feels alone. On the one hand I’m not alone because I am blessed to have my husband and almost all of my children still living at home to share in the celebrations of the season but the enthusiasm and anticipation is tempered to an extreme and I feel the emptiness of that. I don’t know, there is just something magical in cooking for more than just my immediate family; listening to different kinds of conversation; getting lost in someone else’s life for a while; listening to the children get involved around the table and really noticing them blossom into adulthood. It’s just the 4 of us now, no friends, no family and oh how I wish I could cook and bake and fuss over a house full of family now that I actually have the living space for them all to come over and spread out. Even with all the family members and their issues it would still be nice to fuss.

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” George Burns

Life is funny that way. It is my “life is backwards” theory. The theory is that things that should be obvious and make sense, don’t. When we had hardly any space to entertain, people came over in droves to spend time. Now that we moved up a bit I hear crickets. When I felt overwhelmed at entertaining I wished it would not be so stressful and now I’d give almost anything to have just one stressed out, manic, family crazy, I-hate-you-but-I-love-you Thanksgiving. I’m sure you can think of a few examples of life being backwards for you as well.

But what I’m realizing as time goes by is that we are in a transition phase. I will have family to cook and fuss for again someday because the children will bring new people to my table and one day I might even become a grandma and then not only will I have someone to fuss over but I’ll have someone to teach and play with and pass on a part of me to. I can look forward with anticipation to that.

In the years since the “great big Thanksgiving” we have enjoyed a few Thanksgiving meals away from home like the time we spent Thanksgiving in Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. It was cold and it was a beautiful grayish day with the smell of snow in the air. If you have never been there in any season, please try to go around Thanksgiving time. The village encases you in the past and helps you feel what it was like to live around the time when the pilgrims came to America. During our day long tour, before our dinner reservations, it did indeed start to snow. It was probably the most beautiful snowfall I have ever experienced. The snow blanketed the outdoor sounds and made me feel more intimate and connected to my surroundings. As the snow was falling it seemed like it was just for effect. The roads home stayed clear but the village was awash in seasonal holiday cheer made ever more magical by the snowfall. I let myself get so caught up in the holiday lights and spirit, the smells in the air and the historic feeling of it all and the snow just brought more coziness to the village and the warmth of a good meal waiting for us by the open fire.

We have created new traditions within our little clan. I have enjoyed experiencing Thanksgiving in many different ways with our children. I try to find new ways to anticipate the holiday season and to try to hold on to the magic of it all. For example we started watching the movie Scrooge and also the movie Elf as after dinner family time entertainment; and while cleaning up from our large holiday meal we get ready for the winter holidays by playing seasonal music and singing out loud. That’s always fun because not all of us have a singing voice. I’m happy for having had the experiences of holidays of the past but I consciously now choose to look forward to what could be. I try not to let my heart get too heavy for what is missing.

If this holiday season finds you with a melancholy heart or a yearning for what used to be, here are some tricks that might help ease the pain:

Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep at least 2 weeks before the holiday. Sleep keeps your body regulated not only in its basic functioning but also emotionally.

“Also, I could finally sleep. And this was the real gift, because when you cannot sleep, you cannot get yourself out of the ditch–there’s not a chance.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Follow a healthy eating plan. While this is something you need to do all year long, at least one month before the holiday reset your stomach and hormones by eating better before the emotional stress sets in.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” David Mamet, Boston Marriage

As best as you can, try to do some physical exercise even if you go for a walk for 30 minutes every day before the holiday. Physical activity just for yourself is soothing, refreshing and empowering. It naturally reduces stress and sets your brain to a more positive way of thinking. Exercise increases creativity.

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” Ellen DeGeneres

At least one month before the holiday purposefully allow yourself to enjoy activities that make you happy. Enlist some friends if you can but it is okay if you go alone. Having happy experiences to bring to the conversation at dinner time will be a big boost for you and the people around the table.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” Anne Frank

If, like me, your table will be short a few more people than you would like perhaps setting their pictures around the table as decoration would help. Include photos from holidays past and let the reminiscing begin. Before you know it laughter will take over and the trip down memory lane will feel like you traveled somewhere for a little while.

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, and the people you have loved.”Ansel Adams

Reach out to a trusted friend, mentor, coach, clergy or family member and talk through the melancholy you are feeling. Maybe ideas will pop up and help ease the pain and infuse hope. If talking to someone is not comfortable for you then consider writing out your thoughts just for yourself. Twenty minutes for 4 consecutive days does wonders for the soul.

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” Albert Camus

Take time to force yourself to do relaxing things leading up to the holiday. Go to a spa for a massage, sit in a steam room or Jacuzzi, play soothing music while falling asleep, light candles around your space instead of turning on lights, burn some incense, meditate, anything to help create an air of relaxation and peace.

“A massage is just like a movie, really relaxing and a total escape, except in a massage you’re the star. And you don’t miss anything by falling asleep!” Elizabeth Jane Howard, Mr. Wrong

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I know it can be a tough situation at holiday time for many reasons but in the whole of each person’s situation is the truth that our own attitude and perspective can make or break the moments we experience. The undisputable truth is that when things get really dark in my life I always have the choice to be afraid and sad or I can choose to see the stars more clearly. I am trying to train my perception of what appears to be a negative and find the hope that lives in the positive.

I wish you all peace, happiness, renewal, and an abundance of reasons to be filled with gratitude this year. Thank you all for your support and friendship. Happy Holiday Season!!!

Call to Action

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

How do you bring newness to the holiday?

Where can you try to see the good in the perception of bad?

If you are disconnected as a family this year, why and what does the disconnect mean for you?

Images by afieldofblessings.blogspot.com and simplereminders.com

Stop Believing Your Own Lie

 

 

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“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” — Thomas Merton

What are your challenges today?

What possibilities exist in just one of those challenges?

If you faced your right now with courage, faith and hope, then what would be the outcome?

I was reading an article referencing the story in the bible of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:30-37. The thought behind the article was about tangible things we can do to live our faith. The premise of the installation I was reading had to do with how “to love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31.

As I was reading the article I started to ask myself, what if I don’t love myself? What if I have such a deep belief that I am not enough, that I am not worthy of love for myself and from myself that I can’t find it inside of me to love any neighbor? What if the people that were not the good Samaritan also felt and believed they were not worthy of giving or receiving love and so that was why they just kept walking by?

This happens sometimes when I take my morning walk. Suddenly I freeze inside and don’t say hello or good morning first. I feel overwhelmingly shy and wish that the person I am walking past will say hello first and force me to say hello back. I hate when I start believing this shyness to be true about me. I’ve worked on this issue over and over and what I know is that when something I perceive as a negative about myself to be true it affects everything I believe about me. The bottom line truth of it is that I am too much in my own head and making something as simple as saying hello to someone all about me and not about them. In the story of the good Samaritan, the man that stopped to help the other was in no way in his own head. He wasn’t thinking about his own comfort or discomfort, he was thinking only of how he can be of aid to someone in need. He was using the gifts God gave him to help someone. Could life sometimes be as simple as saying hello to a neighbor and therefore setting the tone for the whole day in happiness?

“Reality is a projection of your thoughts or the things you habitually think about.”
Stephen Richards

It is hard to stand so far back from the experiences of my life and not take it personally sometimes. I have been looking for a supplemental job; something I can do in between coaching. It just seems like every time I send out my resume` I hear back with a rejection. Accumulate enough rejections and it starts to affect my psyche. Self-love and self-worth become an issue for me at that low point and it becomes difficult to keep lifting myself up. I try not to dwell on those negative feelings because I know it will become an everyday thought but sometimes……

I can probably do lots of internal work for the rest of my life trying to figure out where the heck these limiting beliefs came from, how it all really got started but until I can forgive myself, until I can truly have faith in myself this is my challenge. I know I must self-discover and recover from these limiting beliefs. It will take lots of courage and hope to work through this. A very powerful way for me to get started on this recovery process is to create my “if, then” statement. If I practice having faith in myself then I will come out of this a better person and a more peaceful person inside and out. This will help me step away from me and step into serving others.

Two years ago I decided I had had enough of looking in the mirror and not liking what I saw. I wanted to eat healthier and I knew I didn’t want to go on a diet so I started by creating my “if, then” statement: If I want to feel better physically and emotionally when I look in the mirror then I will choose healthier foods for my body each time I sit down to eat. Repeating this “if, then” statement has helped me lose weight and has empowered me to make the food choices a lifetime evolution not a diet.

“Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”
— Brene Brown

If I can be successful in one area of my life then I can be successful in another area of my life.What I have learned so far is that when I feel overwhelmed with a negative thought I see myself as a victim. A victim of my own creation. The first step is to work through my victim story and start to own my life again. I need to take charge of the decisions I have ever made and will ever make and be firm within my heart that what I decide is what is ultimately best for me.

So the questions are: What am I believing and what can I let go of within that belief?

In her book, Loving What Is, author Byron Katie asks the reader to go through 4 questions that guide the thought process and action steps toward letting go of limiting beliefs about our victimhood. As a victim we continually treat ourselves as if whatever hurts us we look to put blame on the person(s) that caused us to hurt. We deflect away from ourselves because it is too hard to admit that we could be inflicting the hurt.

The 4 questions are:

Identify your belief and ask yourself, “Is it true?” Ms. Katie asks the reader ” is it true that the name you answer to is really your name?” It was a name given to you at birth and was drilled into you as your identification but is it true that your name is really who you are?

How can you be sure that this belief is absolutely, without a doubt, true? If you believe that you don’t love yourself, where can you show proof that this belief is absolutely true? Within your proof can you continually find more proof as you ask yourself if each thought you are trying to justify is absolutely true.

How does it feel to believe this belief about yourself to be absolutely true? If you cry or whimper or bawl your eyes when you can feel what it feels like to believe this limiting belief you hold inside of you then chances are the belief is not serving any good purpose and therefore inner peace and outer peace toward yourself and others is not possible until you can let the belief go. Set yourself free and be at peace.

Who would you be without this belief? For me, I would be a kinder, more compassionate, a more loving and patient person with my “neighbors” and with myself. I would have a voice and be proud of it; I would stop letting myself be a victim of my own life. I would be free of a very dark and sinister cloud.

The 5th step is not a question but a call to action. Turn the belief around. Stop wasting life minutes by being the victim and believing your inner story. Look at the picture of the life you have created through this limiting belief and see the clear sky all around you. If control is an issue for you then recognize what you can do and leave the rest. Let come what comes, let go what needs to go.

So I ask again, what are the challenges/beliefs you are facing right this minute?

How can you start, right now, to face that challenge/belief with courage, hope and faith and turn that inner turmoil around?

Where would life expand and bring out the best in you because you are free from that limiting challenge/belief?

“I have known friendship love, parental love, romantic love, family love and unrequited love in my life time, but the only love that made a difference was self love. You don’t need confirmation from the world or another person that you matter. You simply do matter. When you finally believe that truth and live it then you can do amazing things with your life!”
Shannon L. Alder

When I read this quote I realized, God doesn’t make junk. I’m here because he loves me and wanted me to be here; he has a purpose for my life. If I believe in his love for me and that I matter then my gratitude for all he has given me should propel me toward using my precious life minutes for good thoughts and good actions toward and for myself as well as my neighbor.

Call to Action

In the next month (30 days) start to explore and work on the challenges and limiting beliefs you are facing and make it a goal to set yourself free. Create your “if, then” statement and begin. Here is a worksheet that you can copy over and over again that could start to help you be free of your victim story and start to propel you toward the love God intended all along.

Let me know how you are doing and if you need support through a tough spot call or write to me.

3 Questions to Help you Get Your Happiness On…

The Pursuit of Happiness….You Thought this Would be Easy?

capt underpants

What does happiness mean to you? Is it having everything you want or does happiness live inside of something else like good health, good relationships, or goodness itself?

Maybe it should be called the pursuit of goodness?

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama XIV

There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t see an article or a book or news report about the pursuit of happiness. It’s an epidemic of global proportions that everyone wants to be happy. We all go about finding our own happiness levels in various ways, ways that are as unique as our fingerprints. There are so many books written about happiness because each author has found his/her own slice of the happiness equation and has something to say about it. I have in my library 11 books on this specific genre and I’m sure I am not done yet and this doesn’t include articles I have found on the internet that I have saved in a folder somewhere or the countless quotes that I use to inspire me every day from my wallpaper.

I, like you, want to be happy. In his book, Happier, author and Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D, doesn’t waste much time in his writing to pinpoint what happiness means and what we instinctually need in order to be happy (page 33, 36).

“I define happiness as the ‘overall experience of pleasure and meaning.’ To be happy, we have to feel that, on the whole, whatever sorrows, trials, and tribulations we may encounter, we still experience the joy of being alive.”

Following that statement he then asks you to make a list of things, from trivial to meaningful, of all the things that provide you pleasure.

Here is my list in no particular order: Good food, meaningful friendships, feeling completely loved and cherished, reading, learning new things, a good night’s sleep, cooking and baking great tasting foods for my family and friends, taking great photographs, writing, walking, cycling, vacationing, hugging, family time, not working outside my home.

I’m sure there are many more items I could add to this list but this is a good start I think. In this list there are items that just exist to add to my peace of mind and overall happiness but there are also a lot of items that are experiencing items. The things we do that add to our happiness mostly come from the experience that created the feeling of happiness. In that experience lays meaning. In the experience and meaning is the action of the pursuit.

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” Guillaume Apollinaire

I’d like to take a moment and focus on one of the items I listed. I mentioned not working outside of my home. I have always been a home body. I can’t remember a time in my whole life where I didn’t get great pleasure from being home. I love to take vacations and see new places and experience new things but it’s the pleasure of being able to come home that allows me the freedom of spirit to go out into the world and fulfill those other needs. My life energy comes from the strength I get from where I call home.

I am in between jobs right now and to be quite honest, even though I know I have to go out to work and I am actively seeking new employment I am thoroughly enjoying being home, working with my coaching clients, writing my blog posts, taking classes at night, and taking care of my family and my home. In the spaces between not working for someone else and doing what I love doing as a coach, I volunteer. Where I can’t give to my family financially I give to those in need spiritually and organically. Volunteering is very spiritual for me because it gives me a sense of significance; it is important to me and is priceless in terms of helping to define my own pursuit of happiness. I truly believe that happiness is contagious and if I am happy then I am without fail going to be able to affect the happiness level of someone else. As the Buddha says, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

“Sometimes life knocks you on your ass… get up, get up, get up!!! Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.” Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Author Tal Ben-Shahar writes:

“We should also remember that going through difficult times augments our capacity for pleasure: it keeps us from taking pleasure for granted, reminds us to be grateful for all the large and small pleasures in our lives. Being grateful in this way can itself be a source of real meaning and pleasure.”

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” –James 1:2

Not everything about my working from home is perfect and happy all the time. We are struggling financially and have to face some really tough decisions in the very near future. I am also quite lonely sometimes while the house is that quiet for so many hours. I think it is an impossibility to appreciate the things that help us feel happy without the struggles of what makes us feel unhappy. The happiness level we reset ourselves to helps determine how we know when we are more happy or less happy than most days. Author and researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote in her book, The How of Happiness, that each of us is born with a happiness set point:

“It appears that each of us is born with a happiness set point, a characteristic potential for happiness throughout our lives. Although you may be temporarily ecstatic or miserable by what comes to pass, it seems that you can’t help eventually returning to your set point.”

“But just because your happiness set point cannot be changed doesn’t mean that your happiness level cannot be changed.”

I read a blog post recently in which the author writes about a course she took about miracles. She listed 3 miracles that we could practice every day but the one that really stood out for me was that “a miracle is a shift in perception.” I apply this idea to happiness.

Happiness is a shift in perception.

Getting truly, bitterly, vulnerably honest within ourselves is the first step toward happiness. By my truth of admitting how happy I feel working from home I am that much closer and in touch with all of the implications of that truth and of my happiness. If my perception of my own happiness is going to change for the better, here are some questions that will help get me there:

Are the things I am doing meaningful to me?

What is my mind telling me I should be doing differently with my time?

What is my heart telling me I must change?

What do I value most about myself and my life?

My children grew up hearing me constantly say to them to have patience and tolerance. It’s become such a repeated moniker that I now just say to them, “P & T honey, P & T.” This is a reminder and a reset of not only our perception of a situation but also of our heart because after all happiness lives and grows from the heart.

The other miracle that the author spoke about was to remember that infinite patience delivers immediate results. It sounds backwards but…. time becomes a non- issue.

For example, if you got a late start on your day it is not the fault of anyone you will come in contact with throughout your day.

Imagine this: you are at the grocery store and I don’t know about where you live but where I live our grocery store has 3 express check- out lanes as well as 6 self- check-out lanes. I don’t enjoy using self-check-out so I try to stay within the minimum grocery amount and use the express lane. Without fail each and every time I use the express lane I do not make it out the door in any express kind of way. I watch some of the longer regular grocery lanes and those larger orders in most cases are done long before I am even up to my turn. It is so easy to get frustrated and upset because if you are on express you truly are in some kind of hurry to get done quickly.

The next time this happens to you take a deep breath and remind yourself to have P & T and see how that works for you. Did it really matter that you were longer in the store than you wanted to be? How did time slip into oblivion because you decided to not let the long wait negatively affect you? Did you smile at the check-out employee even if you weren’t feeling a true smile? If so, how did that make the employee feel and how did you feel passing along that smile?

How we affect other people makes a great contribution to our happiness or unhappiness.

Hyrum W. Smith is not necessarily someone you might hear a lot about but he is a distinguished author, speaker and businessman. He is the co-founder and former CEO of Franklin Covey, Co., a global company specializing in helping organizations achieve results that require a change in human behavior through performance improvement. It may not sound very interesting to most of us but he has been quite successful in using his gift and wit and enthusiasm in the field of  perception and communications. This week I attended a live webinar about the idea of living happier. Mr. Smith was one of the speakers and gave me what I think is the most important 3 questions in determining each of our personal levels of happiness:

“Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.”

Is this something I have to do?  This is considered the lowest level of happiness. Feeling as if you have to do something puts you in a place of fear. If you are acting from a place of fear you have no chance of being or feeling happy unless fear is such an adrenaline rush that you thrive on its energy.

Is this something I ought to do? This is the medium or middle level of happiness. Feeling as if you ought to do something puts you in a place of duty. When you act out of a sense of duty you are more authentic to your happiness but there is still some fear residing inside. There is never anything wrong with doing the right thing so it’s not a bad place to be in action from.

Is this something I want to do?  This is the highest level of happiness. Feeling as if you want to do something puts you in a place of love. When you act from a place of love you are initiating happiness from within and spreading it outward with every move you make and every word you speak.

From my perspective of life being backward you would think that being happy was easy to achieve but in reality being happy is hard to achieve but it doesn’t have to be if we make a habit of pursuing happiness with perspective, patience, tolerance and heart. Let your life reflect your values in all that you do and happiness will not be hard to find and maintain.

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Call to Action

Here are some small ways in which you can live happy today:

Send an encouraging, flattering or loving email to 5 people today, this minute, this week. The way they will feel after reading what you wrote will undoubtedly be passed along to everyone they come in contact with that day. You can change a life today by doing just that one thing.

Ask yourself, what went right today?

Keep a tally this week of all the times your actions fell into the 3 levels of happiness then figure out how you can move up the ladder to the highest level of happiness:

*What were your have to’s?

*What were your ought to’s?

*What were your want to’s?

Please share with me how this action agenda has helped you. I love to hear your feedback.

Story Time

Story Time

starfish

“What you do may seem insignificant, but it’s important that you do it.” –Mahatma Gandhi

There was a little boy walking the beach and he noticed many starfish scattered all along the shore line. They were all still alive but he knew that if they didn’t get back into the water soon they would all start to die. Carefully and gently he started to pick up each starfish and put them back into the water.

After quite a while an old man came walking along the beach and stopped to notice what the boy was doing. He watched him for a time and finally went up to the boy and asked, “There are millions of starfish throughout this vast ocean, why are you bothering to put those starfish back into the water? “

The boy did not answer at first and kept putting the starfish back into the water. Finally, he held one of the starfish in his hand and he said to the man, “I do it because it might matter to this one starfish.”

“You will always feel insignificant if you never do anything to change the world or another person’s life, other than your own.” Shannon L. Alder

The dictionary defines insignificance as littleness, of no consequence, null, inconsequential.

Each one of us has a unique human print and for that matter each living organism has a unique organism print. There is no one like us in the world and yet we all go through struggles of insignificance many times throughout our lives. We are like the starfish on that beach and at times we each want and need someone to care so much and help set us right again and give us the hope and the chance to feel acknowledged and significant.

We are made weak by moments in life that bring us low or in the case of our starfish that bring us to an unfamiliar shoreline out of our normal element.

It is written in the bible (Corinthians 2, 12:10), “For when I am weak, than am I strong.” For some of us when we are feeling insignificant we look deep within and try to find self-worth but what we find is that we are really in need of a helping hand. In our weakness we become humbled and in our unique way ask for help. In the asking and in the weakness of our feeling of insignificance is where our strength lies. The asking and the weakness is really hope and possibility desiring to flourish. Whether you ask for help from G-d, a trusted friend or colleague, a husband, a wife or a child the lowliness makes us stronger and more compassionate because once feelings and emotions become known they leave a footprint on our souls and in our hearts that won’t ever go away.

To the boy in this story those starfish were not insignificant or invisible or worthless. They were in need and could only ask for help in their unique way by being their brilliant starfish selves and G-d sent the one person who could recognize their beauty and uniqueness and give the starfish the acknowledgment they deserved; their significance.

Sure, some starfish might wash back up on shore not believing in their worthiness but most will seize their moment and live their life as only each one of them can.

“To realize that everything in the universe is connected is to both accept our insignificance and understand our importance in it.” Jeffrey Fry

This quote got me to thinking about the purpose of a starfish or Sea star. In doing a bit of research I learned that starfish protect a certain kind of other fish by eating algae and starfish are great at decomposition. Did you know that starfish can regenerate their arms? If they are under attack they can detach the arm being pulled at and escape their attacker. It would take about a year to regrow the entire arm length but they have the ability to do that miraculous thing. Could it be then that starfish are here not only to be beautiful and help keep our oceans clean but to provide research into regeneration of limbs? What a miracle that would be.

What are your unique attributes? What makes you significant? Here are a few ways to find out:

Define who you are: Write down all the things you know for sure about yourself. Get real and above all be honest, then test what you think you know by taking a personality test online. Personality tests are a great aid. Sites like Personality41Q  or Humanmetrics or Personalitypathways. Learn about yourself through samplings of sites like these and get a clear picture of who you are and who you want to be.

Learn as you grow: There are things you may know for sure about yourself and the values that you live by but always be open to learning more about who you are. Your significance to the world around you is that you can always try to improve as you grow. Who you are today is not completely going to be who you are in 10 years from now so allow for room to grow and learn and evolve. Try not to stay stuck in old ways of thinking and being.

“Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.” Aristotle

The past is the past: When you are ready, let what happened in the past live in the past. Your significance plays strong when you can let a painful or hurtful moment of your life have its day in the sun and then die away, never to live long enough to define you. Everyone has a past and everyone has a mountain of memories labeled “my history”. Try not to let your history repeat itself or define who you are growing to be.

“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.” Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?

Comparison shopping is a no-no: Comparing yourself to someone else only hurts you every time. Your significance can’t be noticed if you are trying to be like someone else. Sure, you can like certain things about all kinds of people but putting those pieces together to create who you want to be, trying it on for size, that’s where it’s at.

“Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world…if you do so, you are insulting yourself.” Bill Gates

Treat others as you treat yourself: Your significance is in your authenticity, always and your authenticity is who G-d wanted you to be all along. Treat everyone and everything with the same respect you treat yourself. Use the same morals, values and ethics and your authenticity will shine.

“Respect yourself and others will respect you.” Confucius, Sayings of Confucius

Dump and recycle days: Allow for some days to really stink. Not every day can be good but we can find a bit of good in every day. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t quite stick to your plan or value code. Know where you went wrong and make tomorrow a better day because of what you’ve learned.

“Yesterday was not your defining moment. The calendar moved forward; why not you?” Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

For me the message is, you are one among many. Return to the world all that you are. Learn and acknowledge your uniqueness and significance. Be humbled when someone acknowledges you and notice how insignificance fades and your inner spirit is born anew.

“Tiny-perhaps.” Rovender kept his eyes fixed on the rings. “Insignificant-never, Eva Nine. No living thing is insignificant.” Tony DiTerlizzi, The Search for WondLa

Call To Action

At what times in your life have you felt insignificant?

Who helped you?

How are you humbled in weakness?

What is one thing you can do right now to start feeling your significance?

Image courtesy of bing.com/gambassa.com