Judging Yourself Harshly

Just listened to a Love + Radio podcast called “No Bad News.” The hypnotist Larry Garrett told his story of being asked to work with an unlikely and world-hated client. What struck me hard about Mr. Garrett is his knack for being “in the moment” and seeing someone as s/he is right then and there. This struck me because I do that, too, and always think of it as somehow wrong. Now, in this new moment, I see it as a gift.

So, two things here. First, I understand as a human being that I’m gonna tend to judge everyone and everything, putting them in neat little baskets with labels: GOOD. BAD. UGLY. SCARY. IMPOSSIBLE. But there’s no need for that, because I can allow myself to (and here comes my second point) be where and what I am, which for me is a lingerer.

I stay in the moment, as my friend Cindy says, a little longer than the rest of us. And I always feel embarrassed when she says it. I’ve spent almost my whole life feeling embarrassed and apologetic and confused. Sorry, I think, I didn’t mean to…  There’s a whole other post I might write about why many women apologize too much. Today, in this, particular moment, I see something I didn’t see an hour ago. I see it’s OK to be the moment-whore I am. I am that way for a reason, and I’m betting it’s a really good reason.

Once again, I realize. I realize that when I start my day with a prayer, with an acknowledgement that I need help, that over some things I am completely powerless, a whisper into God’s always-tilted-towards-me ear, I very soon wind up with an answer.

It of course involves my (reluctant) letting go of distractions. That’s yet another topic for a new post. Until then, more moments to you, peaceful ones.

Stuck In The Weeds (Again)

Been a while since I posted. I was “in the weeds” for a while, again. In a funk. Really stuck.

What the heck! Do I like it there in the weeds for crying out loud?!?

Could’ve been all the rain last month, and the stupid cold temperatures, (Not. Normal.) Could be I left my job last July and don’t know what the heck to do with myself 10 months later. Maybe it’s Donald Trump’s popularity. And, was mercury in retrograde?

<Sigh>

Eventually, when I got quiet enough to listen, I realized that I was having symptoms of–drum roll please–stress.

I was a little embarrassed to have been roiling about in my misery all that time, only to come up with “stress” as the reason. It’s just not that interesting. So cliché.

But there it was, the truth of it. Stress. Light started to pierce the fog. I began to understand what to do. I started a list.

  • Medical bills
  • No job or direction
  • Taxi-cabbing everyone everywhere
  • A kid with some special needs
  • Getting Mom into new house
  • Concern for my dear husband’s job stress
  • Worrying about my DH coping with physical changes caused by cancer
  • Worsening physical problems of my own
  • Me, not talking about it
  • Me, not taking care of myself

The weather’s nicer now. Sunshine helps, especially if I actually go out in it. Exercize helps, too. (Dammit!) And naps.  Eating real food. Meditation and prayer. I did more of all the above, but the very best help came from a friend, when we met for mini-golf and lunch.

I hadn’t been up for much socializing. My body was expressing my stress level, and I just had to do something. I really wanted to keep avoiding, stay right where I was in my my own little patch of yuck. And, weirdly, I also wanted to be not there. I didn’t know what to do with myself. But my friend did. She can reach that place where I curl up and hide, and she does it in the kindest, gentlest way. And, she hears from God.

It took me all the way through mini-golfing and most of the way through lunch before I blurted out, “I have been struggling.” Then this friend, a gifted, compassionate listener, did for me what I could not do for myself: led me out of the weeds.

Not for the first time, I quietly marveled at my impressive ability to hold onto dark, stinking thoughts, beliefs, and feelings so tightly, despite the misery they cause me. It’s a skill I developed a long time ago. And it no longer serves me.

During this time of transition–coming out of scary family medical issues, quitting my job,  questioning my understanding of God’s place in the universe–I’ve prayed for help getting to the “next  place,” wherever it is, whatever it needs to be. I naively thought that this wouldn’t take God very long. Ha! If you want to know who isn’t is in charge, just ask God to take you where you need to go. For me, I always get what I ask for, and it’s never in a way I expected. It’s actually better than I expect, every time.

My friend told me, in a nutshell, that:

  1. God’s crazy about me.  In fact, God’s doing cartwheels because of me.
  2. God wants me to now enjoy the garden I sowed (the literal garden in my yard, and the one in my head–because they are now BLOOMING) when I was working through my struggles.
  3. God isn’t condemning me for struggling.
  4. God wants me to “get in the boat” with Him/Her and give Him/Her the oars. (Not the first time I’ve received that message…)

So, now that I’ve been reminded, I’m letting God’s universe of Love set me free every day. The worries do still nip at my heels. I fight fear and doubt daily. But, now, I’m sharing my struggles with people I trust. And you. Hope it helps.

Still In The Eating Phase

IMG_5046Before the holidays, as you may have read, I started reading “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I haven’t gotten very far; I’m still reading about her eating phase in Italy.  I’ve also been in my own eating phase–eating the last of the Christmas chocolates, eating up time as I hibernate with my bestie Mr. Netflix. Also eating up the good and light-filled spiritual messages that manage to penetrate my January stupor.

It’s OK, though.  I’m OK.  No need to be hard on myself. Just changing gears, as I seem to always be doing, as we all have to do. Some things I happily eat up (not caring so much about others’ opinions, setting boundaries). Some things have been forced down my throat (my husband’s cancer, aging, my child taking Driver’s Ed). And some things I invite right in, despite the harm. (“Hello, Negativity!”  “Hello, Apathy!” “Hello, Overwhelm!” “C’mon in!”)

Do I want to feel terrible?  Sometimes it seems that way.  But I don’t love feeling terrible.  There are too many fantastic things to enjoy, and heaven knows how little time to enjoy them.

I gave a pep talk to my teenager recently about trying a different approach to the same struggles.  I told her about the idea that humans will usually stick to what’s comfortable, that we tend to keep doing things the same way, even if we don’t really like being there, because there’s some kind of psychological benefit we’re getting.       Maybe someone will feel sorry for us.  Maybe we’re afraid of what’s next.  Maybe we need to wrestle with something before we can let it go.

I’m calling this post “Still In The Eating Phase,” because it really is just a phase.  The heartache, frustration, impatience, fear–whatever we feel about our situations–is just a part of the whole of our lives.  We can go ahead and be in the good/bad/ugly of it.  We can decide not to spend too much time there.  Then we can find a way to let it go, even if it’s a little at a time, even through our sobs or our rages.  (Heck, I am the biggest kicker and screamer I know.  God has to sometimes drag me by the ear ’til I finally make the change, the change I asked for.)  I say:

Go for it!  Embrace where you are. Become ready to let it go.

Then, go do what you love.


Feeling my feelings is one of the tools in my healing toolbox.  It’s an ever-growing arsenal.  What phase are you in?  What are your go-to helps?  Comment or Email. You may say something that someone really needs to hear.

An interesting article: “Are You Addicted To Unhappiness?”

To buy the book, click here: Eat Pray Love


 

 

RE-Vision: A New Year To Play With

Here’s what I wrote on FaceBook early in this new year:

I usually come up with a personal theme each new year, a guiding thought. This year, it’s “Do what you love.” As I regroup after a hectic holiday season, I think about the 5 a.m. wakeup tomorrow to get my dear daughter up for her first day back to school. Blechhh! I don’t want to leave my cozy holiday cocoon–morning coffee in the glow of Christmas tree lights, pondering the lyrics of seasonal music, the warmth of connecting with so many dear people these past weeks. Going back to the old and usual doesn’t feel much like doing what I love, but isn’t it, really? And, if not, what will I do to change it? So, tomorrow, I’ll make it my good pleasure to wake up with my daughter. It’ll be my joy to sit down at my computer, work on my blog, pay bills, and put in some hours at my job. Do the dishes, plan dinner, solve some personal problems, take down the Christmas tree. All in peace and comfort, and with joy. Until God sends me to do something else. That’ll be something I love, too; I know it.

Ah, so sweet and peaceful was I…

Here’s what my FB post, had I written one then, would read a mere three days later:

Peace and comfort and joy? Yeah, right! Getting my teenager out the door for school after a long holiday vacation is like waiting for molasses to pour out of a measuring cup and into the bowl. The last time I signed her into school late, I wrote in the Reason For Lateness column: “Ask her!”  The Christmas tree’s needles are crunchy and brown and falling off in waves, and why did I feel compelled to put so many dang ornaments on it?!? Our kitchen counters aren’t cleaned off all the way yet, and the laundry is piled high in the bedroom. We need groceries, and my dear mother needs a ride to the dentist. I have work (the kind that pays) to do.  I’m tired!  Next year, I’ll handle Christmas differently…

Uh-huh. Maybe. But, instead of getting on my own case about what’s done and what needs doing, I’m deciding to let it all the heck GO!  And be easy on myself, for heaven’s sake.

In October, I revised my list of goals/visions from last year, labeling it “REVISION.” Here’s a piece of it:

REvisionList

I jotted this on a tiny piece of note paper in about 6 minutes.  A very inspired and inspiring woman encouraged me years ago to write a list of what I wanted down on paper, to create a  vision for my life, in detail. She’d done it and wound up achieving what she’d envisioned.  I didn’t attempt mine until years later. Recently, to my surprise, when I looked over the things on my first one, almost everything had been achieved, acquired, or improved. (Cool, right?)  So I had to write a new one!

Why don’t you try writing a vision list? Here’s what I did:

  • Sat in a coffee shop, alone, having hot coffee and an egg sandwich.
  • Realized how right and good it is for me to eat a decent breakfast.
  • Looked at my FaceBook notifications on my phone.
  • Realized it might be better for me to put the dang phone down and enjoy my food and the atmosphere and the freedom I have to just be there in that cute little coffee shop.
  • Felt cranky because it was too warm for October in my neck of the woods.
  • Felt cranky because I thought I would know by then what I was going to do next with my life.
  • Realized it’s good to be in touch with my feelings, and even better to do something about them.
  • Eventually started to notice what I was thinking about.
  • Put what I was thinking about on paper, using one of my favorite pens. Plus, the paper was from a note pad that one of my favorite peeps gave me.
  • Realized for the zillionth time that, noticing is important, starting with noticing how I’m doing, if I’m hungry, what I’m longing for.
  • Realized I felt extremely grateful.
  • Whispered “Thank You” to God.

FYI: I wrote this second list in October. Now it’s time to write the next one.  Because all but one thing on this list has happened.  Exciting! Top of the next list?  “Do what I love”–my aforementioned theme for this new year. I’m pretty sure I’ll be posting some day about how that’s going.

If you write a vision list for yourself, I’d sure like to know what it was like for you, how you did it, and/or how things are happening in your life as a result. You can comment on this post, or send a message. And, always, I appreciate getting “Likes” on my posts, if you’re so inclined.  Thanks for reading!

BTW:  The talented and kind woman who inspired me to write my first list is Kathy Dempsey. I read her first book, Shed or You’re Dead 31 Unconventional Strategies for Growth & Change, which tells her hard-to-believe personal story and how it inspired her to achieve mucho success inspiring others.  You can get to her web site here.

 

Eating, Praying & Loving Through The Holidays

The celebrated and movie-fied book Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert lived in the dusty back row of my bookshelf for over a year.  I tried reading it once before, but got hung up on this sentence in the introduction:

“Sincere spiritual investigation is, and always has been, an endeavor of methodical discipline.”

I’m not a big fan of the D-word: discipline.  (If you know me, you are probably shaking your head vigorously in agreement. Stop it! 😙)  Anyhow, my spiritual path has been guided more by J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Not all those who wander are lost.”

I’ve started reading Eat Pray Love again, because I had the movie on recently while cleaning out my side of the bedroom 😷 in preparation for Christmas.  I found myself cleaning only during the commercials and sitting on the bed watching when the movie came back on.  So, I decided to read the book as a sort of meditation, a focus, for the month of December.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s story speaks to some Very Big Questions with which I’ve been wrestling for years.  In particular, why am I, a so-called cradle Lutheran, steeped in church tradition and Bible-reading and such–so extremely uncomfortable with the idea that the only path to the Divine (whom I call God) is through a rigid script that goes something like this:   1) Realize you’re a sinner.  2) Repent from all your sin.  3)  Confess your sins to Jesus.?

I mean, what about the person sitting on a rock somewhere in Jabip in the mountains.  What if they don’t know the salvation formula?

I know; I know: Paul said in the book of Romans in the Bible that here’s how you are saved.  Please don’t get your Christian panties in a bunch.  Couldn’t we just entertain the idea that people need to embrace living in Love and then share that Love with everyone?  Wouldn’t living in Love be our salvation?

Okay, I’m not looking for a debate here. I’m a big fan of Jesus. He has shown me the way to heaven, although I’m not talking about where I go when I die; I’m talking about where I’m already a citizen and where I can learn how to act like it.

But I digress.

Two-ish years ago, my husband began a before-mentioned (in another post or two) cancer-curing journey. Three months before that was the surgery on the back of my teenager’s skull to give her brain enough space to hang free. Before that, five emergency trips to the hospital in two months for my mom.

They all got better, thank God!  Except for me.  I got worse.  I’ve spent the last year-ish recovering from the worry and hurry of addressing my loved ones’ needs. (FYI I’d do it all again for them.)  I’ve been learning lots and, in the process, shedding a whole lot of stuff that has weighed me down for years, stuff that had become a habit.  Fear. Worry. Dread. Hopelessness. Guilt. Toxic Shame. Hesitation to act on my own behalf. Caring about what people think about what I’m doing or how I look. Self-Criticism. Wondering endlessly about getting it right spiritually.

That last one is the latest to go.  Worrying about my questions about Jesus’ purpose and plan for me and all people. You see, I noticed that Jesus did something amazing for humanity, yes, and also said that we would do greater things than he did.  There are so many places in the Bible that hang me up, that make the God of the Universe that I know so unrecognizable that I’ve been known to toss the whole notion of God right out the nearest stainglass window.

You see, I see God (aka Love) in people who don’t profess Jesus as their savior.  I’ve seen God in people who do bad things. (Ahem! Like, all of us.)  I saw God in a dog the other day. Really!  Here’s her pic:

Gloria Closeup

And let me say here that I know the hackles of many a Christian will be raised by these notions I’m putting forth. I know that they will point to the Bible and say, “It says right here that…”  But I have a problem with that.  I think that, perhaps, we’ve gotten the Bible a little wrong here and there. I can’t see God excluding anyone, for any reason, from His/Her Love. I can’t. It’s too capricious. God isn’t capricious. The Universe is designed to be good to all, isn’t it, no matter how we act? God The Father & Mother Of The Universe is loving, supportive, perfect, inclusive, forgiving. Right?

Or, perhaps we can lovingly agree to disagree.  And we can pray for each other.

Back to my story. What I’m reading in Eat Pray Love is resonating deeply in me. It’s about emotional and spiritual and geographic journeys.  It’s about leaps of faith. I relate to so much in what I’ve read so far.  Five months ago, I left my job of umpteen years. Didn’t know why at the time, but I needed to.  Since then, I learned that I’d been living with lung-restricting stress from all those family emergencies, and that I needed self care in a way I’d never needed it before.  That realization has brought me to mind-blowing heights of insight and inspiration, and down to my knees as I surrender, one by one, my need to hang on to unhealthy habits of thinking and doing and being.  I know I’m loved by the Lover Of Everyone In The Universe.

Today I see madness in my city, country and all over the world. I’m shocked, as I’m sure you are, at the daily news of bloodshed, political shenanigans, unbridled greed, and…but, wait!  I remember to stop daily, breathe, and I see what I have, where I’ve been, and that Love is with me.  I’m eating good spiritual food. I’m praying for and consciously loving everyone, including the people I see as enemies. I’m terrible at it, sometimes.  I don’t let that stop me, though.  Please don’t let it stop you.

1520807_10202587737792493_569376622_n

I’m an Amazon Associate.  If you want the book, click here: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia  by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Signs and Symbols, and Paris

Recently I went for a mammogram.  It was my  third medical appointment in two days, an effort to catch up with myself after a couple of challenging years.

(BTW, Click here for info about low cost or free mammograms)

On the way to the appointment, I found myself humming and suddenly feeling grateful to be past those tough times. I simultaneously understood that there’s no guarantee of a trouble-free future…

On the side of the road, I saw a lone fiery red maple tree, branches parallel to the ground as the wind whipped through its leaves.  I understood right then and there that taking myself to these appointments signals to my inner self loud and clear,

You’ve hung in there. You are taking care of yourself. Go, girl!

I connected somehow to the fierce color and strength of that maple tree, holding on to its blazing leaves. Bending as the wind tugged. I spoke out loud in the car, “I know the feeling, maple tree! Hang onto your colorful self!” I was laughing.

Symbols, signs, and certain gestures help me deal with life, in times when I’m full of life and color, and in times I’m navigating dark gray storms.

I often wear this necklace.  It reminds me to stop and breathe for a moment, to take care of my needs, to remember who I am.

IMG_4606

I use lots of verbals and visuals to encourage myself.  One time, when I was in the middle of an unpleasant disagreement with a friend, I deliberately wore the shirt she’d given me so that I could “wear her” around with me, reminding me to think of her as a human, with a beating heart.  Rather than as a monster.  Earlier this year, I bought these socks:

beautiful socks

That is one heck of a good message!

I’ve read books (see below) and articles and heard speakers say that what we expose ourselves to, we become. The “garbage in, garbage out” idea. People, objects, music, art, and places have big effects on humans. When  I saw that maple tree, I realized that I’ve absorbed this truth as my very own, and can use it to my advantage.

What symbol, then, can I wear or post for Paris, for the world, for the future of the human race?  FaceBook was full of profile photos bathed in the stripes of the French flag.  I’m touched by the response of the world to the horror that happened there. I’m also touched by the posts that remind us that Baghdad and many other places have also suffered terrorist attacks.  Here’s an extraordinarily loving post from a man who lost his wife in the attack at the Bataclan concert hall:   Antoine Leiris.

As for the symbol I’ll hold up to cheer myself and others on?  I haven’t found one yet. I think it’ll be about renewed commitment to answer the clearer-than-ever call to act when I see a need I can fill from my own basket of skills and resources.  Maybe I’ll find a piece of jewelry to wear or a meme that echoes a scripture I found once, a while ago:

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated.”*

For me, Love needs to be the ultimate goal, even to the point of loving our enemies.  The passage continues:

“Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”**

So be it.

So, be it!

In the meantime, here’s a symbol I can wear for strength and alertness:

IMG_4608

🙂

*(The Message, Deuteronomy 31:6)
**I prefer not to use masculine-only language for God.  In this case, the message was so good that I quoted it directly from the book, which meant that I had to quote it as is.

To Find Items Alluded To, Mentioned Or Pictured:

Book:  The Power of Positive Thinking

Affirmation Calendar:  I Can Do It® 2016 Calendar: 366 Daily Affirmations

Book:  You Can Heal Your Life

Book:  Gratitude: Inspirations by Melody Beattie

Book:  The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language

BE necklace (bought it a LONG time ago, so may not be available): Delaware Art Museum Gift Store

You’re Beautiful socks:  Blue Q You’re Beautiful dont change Socks Womens Shoe size 5-10

Coffee/Tea Cup Charm:  Dirt Road South

 

For You, Reader, When You’re Overwhelmed

Hello.

Today’s not the day for you to entertain overwhelm for more than a minute.

Go ahead; feel a little sorry for yourself and all the things you think you have to do RIGHT NOW.

Now, do the exact opposite of that.

Do nothing.

That’s right. I mean it.

Do nothing.

You might even leave the space you’re in now and go sit somewhere with a nice view.

Then, take a nice, deep breath, just like all the gurus urge. Do it a couple more times.

There, now, listen closely:

You’re ok.

Good things will happen, are happening even now, just for you.

Maybe there are things happening in your life which are causing you distress.

That’s part of life. But I promise you this:

It won’t help you to push the panic button. All that does is make a tough situation worse.

That is why you can work on doing the opposite of what your distress dictates.

You can get quiet for a few moments and get some perspective.

You can slow time down like a supernatural zen ninja Buddha. The rest of the world can wait a minute.

While you’re sitting there breathing, you could do some other simple thing to ease your stress.

You could pray. Hum. Notice colors. Close your eyes. Listen. Write. Feel. Smile. Cry.

It’s ok. It really, really is. Even if you don’t feel ok and circumstances may not be ok now.

There’s an absolutely capable, totally powerful person there inside you, underneath the chaos of the moment, and NOTHING can change that. You have access to that part of yourself whenever you want or need.

Don’t beat yourself up about what you are or aren’t doing right. No one knows exactly what it’s like to be dealing with what you’re dealing with right now.

Please, just take excellent care of yourself, without guilt or hesitation. You are worth it, and others in your life will benefit from it, too. Sit a minute, and start breathing.

I love you.