We have received over 8 inches of rain here in the last several days. It is cloudy, chilly and looks as though it may decide to rain again. Running errands earlier I noticed how brilliant the autumn leaves were against the gray sky and wondered how many others would notice. I chose the brightest yellow shirt I could find to wear to my meeting and looked around to see what others were wearing. Gray, brown, black and white hound’s-tooth….but no bright colors.
I was the sunshine in the room.
That was not always the case. Being the first one to break bad news was always an attention getter, and I was sure that others wanted to know what was happening around them. If I saw an awful news story it seemed my duty to be sure that everyone around me was informed. There was a certain satisfaction to be had from bringing everyone to the same misery I was experiencing or observing. Being a hopeless alcoholic kept me mired in that behavior for years. As I began to surrender my addicted life and started on my recovery path, I began to learn why I did those things. Finally, being tagged the “town crier” by a friend woke me up to what I had been doing.
I was the bucket of slops thrown in your face that ruined your day and frankly, proud of it.
Because I couldn’t figure out how to bring myself out of it, I invited everyone I came in contact with to my pity-party. The smart ones moved on, but I took many hostages along the way. Then someone introduced me to the idea of making gratitude lists. Just a simple exercise to look for things that made me feel good. Write it down. Consider why it made me happy. This one act began to shift my thinking so that I began to notice good things. The color of a flower, the sound of a bird, the precious sound of my child’s laughter, and the way smiling at someone and getting one in return touched my heart. Instead of noticing what my husband was doing wrong, I took note of what he was doing right. And the more I found to be grateful for, the better I began to feel. The better I felt, the better I behaved and treated others.
The more grateful I got, the more I had to be grateful for.
Being grateful creates beautiful healing chemicals in our bodies. Every time we laugh it floods our bodies with hormones that raise our energy, feed our cells, and give us a feeling of connectedness. Sometimes we can start simply by just telling others what we like about them. Writing down what we appreciate in ourselves and others, the world about us, and our experiences can be the compass that leads you from where you are to somewhere much better. Dependent on where you are emotionally, you should notice a gradual change in the way you feel and look at life. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a coach, a counselor, or someone you know can lift you up energetically. Sometimes we get stuck and need the assistance of someone who can look at our situation objectively.
Be the sunshine in the room, or find a room full of sunshine to be in…your happiness depends on it.
Are you faced with the temptation to give up what matters to you to do what matters to everyone else this week? Do the family traditions we are supposed to enjoy fill you with dread? Already sick of all the commercials urging you to buy, buy, and buy?
In this whirlwind of expectations we rush around and give up our self-care to please others. We lose ourselves in pursuit of an ideal that seems out of reach. Then we resent the people we are supposed to love because we keep trying to please everyone and forgetting ourselves. And then we resent ourselves.
We have to begin with ourselves.
Sound selfish? Maybe. Everything we experience is a choice – based on what we believe to be true. But what if you planned ahead instead? If you had a big project to do, you would follow a process. Why not go into the holidays the same way? If you know what you want out of it you will have better choices available to you.
What do you want to accomplish? How do you want to feel at the end of the week? I want to enjoy the company of family and friends and feel at peace with whatever comes. I realize that no one has to change for me to be ok…in fact I haven’t got a shot in hell of making that happen. At the end of every day I want to feel accomplished and good about myself so this is what I will strive for. We are all on the same journey and have a right to be exactly where we are, doing what we need to do to get there.
Assemble your team. Who do you need to surround yourself with that has a common goal? Which people in your life do you feel supported around? Take some time to reach out to people who make you smile, have a great attitude and who know how to look at the beauty in others and the world. Don’t have any? Join a church, a fellowship, a meetup.
What resources do you need? You don’t always have to cook a five course meal, spend the most money, and bring the most expensive gifts. Find things that will help you streamline the holidays in ways that free you up to enjoy the time rather than lose it in the pursuit of perfection. (Perfection is a lie anyway) Order some things precooked and dress them up. Shop on line instead of going out in the crowds. You will buy yourself the precious gift of time.
Budget your time, money and emotions: You may not want to spend all day at your parents so why not go for an hour or so instead? Even though you might have brought the fancy wine or truffles in the past doesn’t mean it is required. You can choose to do something different this time. If you can only take Uncle Harry for short spurts then call him ahead of time and have a conversation with him on your terms. Then when you see him you have already invested time with him and won’t feel guilty for bailing early. Decide what feels right for you and balance your time investment so that you carve out time for a run, a movie, or curling up in the chair with a good book. Feeling like you have a choice empowers you to make better choices.
If spending time with family is not in the cards, who can you help? Research ways you can volunteer in your community. If you have a talent you can share with others…find a way to do it. Honor your desires and needs right where you are. And if you aren’t sure…break out a piece of paper and a pen and explore. Writing down your needs and feelings will empower you. It gives you tangible evidence that you have made an effort to look for a solution.
The choice is yours. What will you do to make this a successful week?
I spent extra time in meditation this morning. I wanted my day to be unencumbered by the destructive energy that fills the news and the sadness created by recent world events. Meditation is my way to invite higher consciousness into my life. By making space for it, I am able to maneuver through the feelings that rise up in response to my environment.
Tragedy is part of the past, how we respond to it, is the present. We serve the world and the purpose of change by starting where we are and finding ways to be present. Look around. What is right...right now?
My own experiences with rape, addiction, emotional neglect and fear have become the foundation in which my happiness has been built. Seeking help through counseling, reading, recovery and other creative means has helped me build an emotional and physical sanctuary providing respite from the troubles of the world. I am resilient, strong and at peace because I built and maintain an emotional bank account and a faith in something much bigger than me.
I begin again every day. I make the choice between trolling social media and the news or reading spiritual or uplifting literature, I decide what I want to feel...because I know it is a choice. I can choose whether to be dragged down into the rhetoric, opinions and sickness of the world, or I can choose to make space for some higher purpose. I can see what is good and focus on the feelings those things instill in me...or I can let the world choose my feelings for me. My barometer for how well I am doing is evident in the actions I am taking and my emotions clear evidence.
Outside my window I see leaves taking on their autumn colors, water sparkling in the creek after a morning rain, and squirrels practicing their acrobatic prowess. I am warm, fed, dry, safe, and loved. My hands are able to type these words, my eyes capable of seeing the monitor, my ears receiving the calming music in the background. Choosing to see...really see my world, is the place I begin every day.
What will you choose today?
As a little girl I used to dance with abandon and joy. My parents would show off my talents proud of their darling first born. As a teen I was able to enter dance clubs without getting caught and at age 18 was able to do it legally. Dance connected me to something deeply passionate and spiritual and was the only thing I could let myself do without censoring my intentions. It was a way to communicate with something beyond my understanding, a way to draw attention to myself with the only thing I felt I could do well. I never took a class and am sure that no one saw me as a professional, but I LOVED it!
Body movement was my second language and with it I could convey a myriad of feelings. When I indulged I felt energetic, strong, enlightened and creative. But dancing happened in bars. With men. And for over 25 years I had given it up, along with the freedom that I felt when I let myself go. I gave up my freedom (or once thought I did) to become a wife, a mother, an employee, a member of a fellowship that discouraged hanging out in dance clubs. I proceeded to work with the cards that life seemed to have dealt me. There was no time to dance.
Many years and multiple life lessons later, my daughter reintroduced me to the nightclubs after my divorce. I was hesitant at first as I could not imagine someone my age stepping out on a dance floor of young writhing bodies. What place would there be for me? Sobriety had taught me that bars were not a good place to meet men, and that really wasn't my objective. I just longed to move again.
The night I stepped under the flashing lights to dance again after nearly 25 years, sober, and with no agenda - was amazing. Pressed by fellow revelers, some obviously there for more than dancing, I realized that not one person had any concern for my age, my abilities or my size. Something deep within me was awakened by the music and the surrounding energy. This was freedom from the world of responsibility and fear. For a year or so, my daughter and I would make regular forays to a local hangout and allow ourselves to be carefree and fully present in a ritual as old as humanity. The memories of the ancestors in my DNA rejoiced and I allowed them all to take part in this other-dimensional space. It released me from the need to do anything but be fully present.
Research has shown that dance can improve memory and effect physical and mental health in many ways. There are even dance therapists that help to treat those with autism and dementia and can provide a safe outlet for freedom of expression ( http://www.goodtherapy.org/dance-movement-therapy.html). If the experts say it is good stuff...why argue? Often I suggest to my clients who are stuck to get up and turn on the music and move. It brings in oxygen, moves it through the body, and allows stuck energy an outlet that often leads to insight, relaxation and sometimes even euphoria.
Today I don't hit the dance clubs any more (seems I am asleep before the music starts) but I haven't stopped dancing. Why not give it a try and see how just letting your body go can help you move through the day?
What activity have you stopped doing that you love? What would it feel like to pick it up again?
For some of us, growing up doesn’t always provide the tools we need to have successful or fulfilling relationships. We come into the world innocent and dependent on our caregivers to show us how to maneuver the world. Whatever we are surrounded with becomes our frame of reference. If we are raised by emotionally mature and available parents, then we are more inclined to gravitate toward that type of relationship. Disinterested, addicted, or otherwise neglectful caregivers can set us up for disappointment in our choices and a feeling of never getting it right. Some of us can transcend that…it took me a long time. I realized after several years of sobriety and a lot of therapy, that I had to feel complete as a person and like who I was in order to ready myself to receive the kind of love I had longed for.
Every relationship prior to my marriage with my current and “favorite” husband was a competition and filled with compromise. I spent all my energy trying to figure out how to fix or how to change what I perceived as being wrong with me and was sure I could do that with others as well.
I depended on others to shape my reality. I kept looking for someone who would show me HOW to be happy and being angry because THEY couldn’t figure it out. How unfair of me to run through relationship after relationship expecting them to guess what would please me when I didn’t know myself. The poor men were branded “losers” without being invited to participate in a fair game. They never had a chance. Because I didn’t possess the fundamental tools to create peace in my own heart, I created a battleground in every relationship I participated in.
I found someone who ignited my lust then tried to fashion them into someone I could love. I finally got it after an extremely painful breakup when one day he walked out to go to work and never came back. There was no fight. No phone call. Nothing.
So I took a break for a time and learned who I was. I tried new things. Attended concerts and events on my own. I created beautiful meals for one and explored the kinds of things that interested me. I journaled and tried painting. I became an observer of my own feelings about the world around me and changed the language I used to speak to myself and others. I experimented with mirror work and read loads of books on every subject that I thought would enrich my life. I created a dream book with pages devoted to every area of my life and what I desired and felt curious about. I had coffee dates and more coffee dates and analyzed my feelings about the conversations and got clear on the things I had given up to be in relationships. Next I made a list of all the characteristics I desired in a partner (not a thing about how he looked) and stuck it into a corner of my bookshelf. I said a prayer and went on with life, enjoying the new “me” I was discovering and the new energy I was creating for myself.
Then one day I wrote an ad that was an expose on who I had discovered in those 3 months. I laid myself emotionally bare without holding back and described all of the things that I found joy in. I spoke of my love for family, the joy I found in dancing alone to change the way I felt, what I found interesting, my spiritual beliefs, and all of the things that I believed gave me wings. And I invited anyone who found that interesting to contact me. And he did.
Six years later we are happily married and a fantastic team.
And the list? I was able to check off everything on it. When I became the person I wanted to be loved by, that person naturally came into my life.
What is your deepest desire today?
Every blog I share comes from the heart and has a challenge or a question within it to help others explore new ways of thinking. I hope that as you read the blogs you would consider starting conversation by commenting. We can learn so much together!