There are no three bigger words in our vocabulary outside of truth, knowledge, and happiness. Each word taunts us, each word beguiles us, each word makes us hope we can figure out why we’re here on earth and what we have to live for.
I started writing and sharing my thoughts publicly a few years ago. My kids and I have had more than a few laughs over my being mystified that people could “find me on the internet.”
I’ve sporadically shared my thoughts through writing and art over the past four years. For the most part, each post has been carefully considered before publishing it. Several thoughts in my mind –
if i write what i really think, will the people i love still love me?
if i write what i really think, will the people i love still respect me?
if i write what i really think, will the people i love listen and be open to what i believe?
Although my original plan was to post an affirmation or positive thought daily throughout my spring and summer project, I’ve ended up missing a few days here and there. As it turns out, that’s a good thing.
It’s meant that I’ve taken a break when needed, and I haven’t been so caught up in following my original and completely arbitrary deadlines and rules of creation. This may sound silly to some, but it’s no small thing for me to have “missed the goal” without quitting, apologizing, or thinking less of myself.
The quitting part may puzzle some people. In my past I’ve tended to place too much emphasis on achieving perfection and when I found myself unable to quickly excel or compete, I moved on to something new. At the time I told myself it wasn’t quitting; it was recognizing my limitations, another way of describing a fear of failing.
I’m finally smart enough to know that this weekend it was far less important for me to meet a made-up target than it was for me to rest and recover from my ear infection and take time to evaluate options and think about the future.
A couple of days ago I received an email about an opportunity that is tempting because it has the potential to improve my cash flow quickly, but not without a price. The price would include committing to an unpleasant and long commute along I95 twice a day, losing the momentum I’ve gained in building my own business, and I’d have to put my dreams on hold for at least another few months.
Some deadlines are real and can’t be pushed off. The recruiter needs an answer so she can move on; I need to make my choice so I can move on. There is no guarantee that I would be the one selected for the temporary engagement, but it’s still important to consider the possibility that I might be; and if so, is that what I want?
Many factors have been considered, not the least of which was the quality time I got to spend with my youngest son and his girlfriend over the past few days. A close second was the time I’ve spent on my beautiful porch, enjoying the summer weather and opportunities to create and recharge.
Last but not least is the realization that I either have to believe in myself and the direction I’m going or not.
I’ve spent a lot of time listening to my inner voice, tempered with logic and the input of trusted mentors and friends, and have made my decision. I won’t be pursuing the opportunity for short term financial gain; my choice is to continue to have faith that I’m pursuing the right dreams.
In many ways we never know for sure whether or not we took the right fork in the road. The only thing we can do is make the best decision we can, based on the information we have, and hold it as our own.
July 11th was the second Friday of the month, which for the past four months in my world meant it was time to enjoy another drum circle.
This one was extra special to me because my youngest son and his girlfriend agreed to be my guests. At dinner I did my best to give them a preview so they would know what to expect.
The one and only prediction I knew would come true is that they would be by far the youngest people in the group. Beyond that, each circle creates a unique footprint that becomes a part of each participant’s memory but impossible to recreate.
During my short exposure to drum circles, it’s common for our leader to start the evening with a question. He asks each of us to describe how we feel with one word. The words included perplexed, nervous, anxious, happy, optimistic, flurried, and uncertain.
Stormy weather got in our way in June, but we lucked out in July – and instead of playing our instruments under a roof, our heads were covered by clouds and the only light was the setting sun followed by the rising of a nearly full moon. The sounds of city life were present but unimportant as each of us found and followed a rhythm that was uniquely ours, but also part of the group’s.
It may only be me, but in my mind, together we traveled to distant lands while beating our drums. We became part of a rain forest; alive with chirps, clicks, and the gentle rhythms of nature while each of us played a small hand held instrument. We also learned that almost anything can be used to create a musical sound, including an empty coffee can – as long as it still has its yellow lid. 🙂
The sun set, the moon rose, and the evening ended with a walk along the beach.
Each of us played our own quiet sound, keeping in harmony with the underlying heartbeat that led the group. I have no doubt that others also heard the waves and felt the sand between their toes as we took a moment to imagine and dream.
The evening ended with the same question it started with.
“How do you feel?”
We all used different words to describe feelings of gratitude for the chance to be temporarily transported away from our worries and fears to place where our hearts felt surrounded by peace.
It’s interesting to think about how much easier it is for us to offer help to others than it is to ask for help when we need it. I wonder if it’s because there can be such a fine line between asking for assistance because we’re too scared to try something new and asking for help because what we want to accomplish is bigger than we are when standing alone.
There’s also a fine line between equipping and enabling someone when we extend a helping hand or take care of someone’s problems for them.
Depending on the situation there can be a variety of reasons that we don’t, but should ask for support. We might not ask because we care deeply about the work we do and believe that no one else can do whatever it is we pride ourselves in with the same level of quality. It could be stubborn pride that gets in our way or maybe we fear feeling vulnerable.
Likewise, there are different reasons that it can be difficult to decide whether or not to loan money, ignore irresponsible behavior, or offer guidance as listen for the umpteenth time to the same diatribe of dilemmas and self-inflicted problems.
As humans we’re faced with some difficult questions. How do we know when to ask for help and when to tough it out and solve our problems on our own? When is the right time to loan someone a few, or more than a few dollars so they can make it until their next paycheck? At what point does listening to someone rant change from being supportive to detrimental, both to ourselves and the person who can’t move past the issue?
Like many people, it can be hard for me to ask for help for all of the reasons I mentioned. I guess I have to ask myself a few questions.
Am I reluctant to delegate certain tasks because I’m afraid they won’t be done right or because I’m afraid of becoming big? In other words, am I engineering myself to be small by hanging onto the little tasks and because I’m a little afraid of what it means to be reach my full potential?
It’s a no brainer for me to say that sometimes both stubborn pride and a fear of being seen as vulnerable or weak kept me from reaching out many times. I can say with confidence that I’ve overcome the fear of being seen as weak, but there is still some work that needs to be done when it comes to the stubborn pride.
Knowing when and how to help someone can be equally as challenging. Reality is that sometimes the best way to help someone is to let them figure things out on their own. If we go through life fixing things for people, they never learn how to problem solve and end up in a constant state of needing help.
There’s also a very real part of life, and that is, that sometimes people stumble or bad things happen to them and they have no way out of the situation unless someone reaches out a hand to help them get back on their feet or take the next step.
Honesty, trust, confidence, and communication are key for both the recipient and the provider of help.
Honesty about the cause of the problem or issue so that an individual can either heal or grow as a result. Mutual trust that the assistance offered will be put to good use and not squandered away. There’s a need for confidence that the offer for help is made with the belief that the person receiving it is worthy and will succeed and confidence that the request for help is made with a sincere and open heart.
Last but not least communication; there’s nothing worse than finding out there’s a problem when it may be too late. The earlier and more openly the discussions occur the more likely the problems can be solved.
I’m a nice person, but that doesn’t mean my head is always filled with nice thoughts. Sometimes my thoughts can be quite mean-spirited and unloving. Over the years, as an avid avoider of conflict I’ve had a tendency to keep my feelings inside to the point of being detrimental both to myself and to the person they were directed at.
When we’re in a relationship of any kind, whether it be personal or business after a while we start having the unrealistic expectation that the other person has somehow become a mind-reader. We can’t understand why they don’t see their actions or hear their words as hurtful or upsetting. It’s most likely true that they wonder the same thing about us.
Being honest about our feelings isn’t always easy and we think it comes with risk. The risk of hurting someone’s feelings or opening the “can of worms” that may lead to an outcome we’re not sure we want or are ready for. So instead we often-times keep those feelings inside, waiting for the “right time” to bring the subject up.
Not being honest comes with a higher risk than being honest. Swallowing our feelings of frustration or anger only makes the size of the emotion bigger, hotter, and more volatile. It stays inside of us until it spews out in angry words and accusations or it stays inside and poisons us.
In recent years I’ve learned that there is a “right time” to be honest. It’s when the problem is the size of a pebble in your shoe and you can easily address the issue and toss the pebble to the side of the road, not when it’s become a boulder that’s too heavy to move.
Timing is always important and so are the words we choose, but unless we share our feelings we can’t expect others to know what they are and we certainly can’t expect them to change. Reality is that they may not change even after we’ve shared openly and honestly with them, but at least our feelings are out in the open and not eating away inside of us.
Honesty, sharing our thoughts with love, gives us choices and opens up doors. Not all of the outcomes are pleasant, but certainly better than the alternative, which going through life carrying the burden of buried feelings.
What do Mahatma Gandhi and Ray Kinsella, the character played by Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, have in common? One man is real, of great historical significance, and influenced people around the world. The other is a fictional character who hears “a voice,” builds a baseball field in the middle of his farm in a film which is described as fantasy-drama.
Gandhi stood firm in his conviction that the British would leave India, Ray Kinsella followed his instincts and did something that seemed crazy. We all know people who have achieved great things that have nothing to do with being famous or wealthy.
From everyday heroes to world leaders the thing they have in common is that they were not only brave enough to have a dream, they believed in it, they followed it, they inspired people, and they made it happen. I’m sure that even Gandhi had a restless night or two and felt doubt creep in between his head and the pillow, but when morning arrived he was true to his beliefs and didn’t waiver in his pursuits.
On a much smaller and maybe more practical scale, what they do is what I like to think of as creating their own reality, which for me means choosing to look at things in a positive way and not from a negative perspective. If the thoughts that are constantly going through our minds are things such as:
Why is life so hard?
Why do “these things” always happen to me?
I’ll never get ahead”
If only “this” hadn’t happened…
You get the gist. We all know people who are all doom and gloom and on the one hand it maybe seems understandable because they have a lot of bad or difficult things going on in their life. But on the other hand maybe they are creating their own reality.
I actually started experiencing the power of words and how they affect our reality many years ago. I was working at a job in which I was very unhappy, felt overlooked and under-appreciated. I was “hoping for the best” and sitting back and doing nothing to proactively better my situation.
My passwords rotated every 90 days between things like “life sucks,” “my boss is an ass,” and worse. One day I noticed that every time I signed onto my computer using one of these passwords I immediately went into a negative state, even if something positive had just happened.
I’m not sure what prompted it, but I decided to try something new and I changed my password to “new opportunity.” Believe it or not things started to change. I started getting emails from recruiters, which led to interviews. Internally things seemed different as well. People were listening to me and doors were opening.
From that point on I’ve used what I call “the power of the password” to help me create my own reality. It’s gotten more difficult in the age of special characters, capital letters and numbers but I still find a way to keep my passwords focused on the direction I want my life to go and not on what’s wrong with it.
My point isn’t so much about the power of using a positive password as it is about how we create our own reality through our thoughts and the messages we send ourselves throughout the day.
I wonder what people like Mahatma Gandhi did to help them stay positive and focused on their dreams and not on the obstacles in their path. In the end it doesn’t matter what we use to do so, as long as it works for us.
Negative thoughts create a negative reality and positive thoughts create hope and opportunity.
Author’s note: I stole the introductory paragraphs for this post from one I wrote a couple of years ago, they just seemed to fit. 🙂 If you want to read the rest of the post, you’ll find it here.
I’m just about at the half-way point in my daily affirmation project. An affirmation is a positive statement that reinforces the good things in life and about ourselves as individuals. They can be used to help re-frame they way we view the person that looks back at us in the mirror.
I’ve created and shared 50 affirmations; my original intent was to share an inspirational quote by Louise Hay on a daily basis, using the affirmations I circled in the back of her book You Can Heal Your Life. As it turns out, the journal has taken on a life of it’s own and has become a book of personal art and positive statements by your’s truly, inspired by Louise Hay and Julia Cameron.
Today’s affirmation is “I am perfect as I am.”
There’s clearly a trend here in my daily affirmation project and it’s centered around letting go, forgiveness, self approval, and living life fully.
What’s really cool about this body of work is that the source of inspiration for both the art and the words found me at exactly the right time in my life. If we pay close attention this happens far more often than many people realize.
It just dawned on me that the very first entry sums up what this affirmation project is all about, it’s about releasing patterns and behaviors that cause us to feel bad about ourselves and have a negative outlook on life.
One of the major themes is one of self acceptance and seeing yourself through loving eyes.
I don’t know why we’re so hard on ourselves. I think we all have different reasons. In my case, it started when I was a teenager. My first boyfriend liked to tell me things like “you’re lucky that I’m going out with you,” which at the ripe old age of 15, I interpreted as “you are unattractive and undesirable.”
The experience, combined with others resulted in nearly a life-time of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Thankfully, I have had many positive experiences and people come into my world in the past few years who have helped me see myself through their eyes and not the eyes of my doubting and unforgiving self.
The phrase “I am beautiful” does not refer only to physical beauty it also refers to internal beauty. When we look at ourselves in the mirror we do see our physical presence but I think we also see our internal imperfections as well.
Seeing yourself as a beautiful person is part of the process of accepting and approving of yourself. It isn’t vain to recognize our own beauty and magnificence. In fact I think when we do embrace it rather than reject it we can ultimately be more positive and giving to others.
Affirmations can also be a great catalyst for change and personal growth. By creating a positive thought process, we’re more inclined to do the things that contribute to a feeling of well-being. We being to realize that we have the ability to create our own lives.
Creating our own lives doesn’t mean we can control what happens, it’s more about taking responsibility for our actions and reactions. It’s also about letting go of blame, excuses, and being brave enough to live our lives the way we want to and not the way others might expect us to.
In order to create our own lives we need to remove the limitations we place on ourselves and be willing to try new things.
Inspired by: “I go beyond other people’s fears and limitations. I create my life.” Louise Hay
I actually kind of cringe when I read things like “there are no limitations,” the reality is that there are limitations. Age, education, physical ability, intelligence, talent, and economic means do play a role.
It’s unlikely at the age of 52 that I’m going to become the world’s wealthiest woman, a famous artist, or a world-class athlete. But because I’m 52 doesn’t mean that I should limit my options or my exploration of life.
I think that sayings like “there are no limitations,” really mean that we should allow ourselves to explore the unknown and to try things that we might not think we can do and often-times we will be pleasantly surprised.
Many times we don’t try something new because were afraid of failure and we’ve defined our own personal limits based on a false definition of success. It may also be because we’ve allowed ourselves to be limited because of past events. My third grade art teacher told me I couldn’t draw, it took me until the age of 50 consider the possibility that she was wrong.
We, as human beings, are capable of far more than we realize. Many times are limitations are self-imposed.
Don’t define the outcome; enjoy the process of trying something new.
This project is also largely about reinforcing thoughts about having faith, choosing harmony, and being present in the moment. These three ingredients coupled with self-acceptance and forgiveness are the keys to living a full and joyful life.
I can honestly say that this project is having a positive affect in my life. These are things I’ve been working on for a while: self acceptance and self forgiveness, letting go of past mistakes and being kinder to myself in all ways.
One of the most significant shifts inside me is that I’m not obsessively worrying about everything in life. I’m aware of my legitimate fears and concerns, but I’m not constantly focused on it. I feel a greater sense of calm and a stronger feeling of faith that things will all work out just fine with hard work and a focus on doing the right things for the right reasons.
I’m learning to release fear.
It’s not possible to completely remove the worried feelings we have as human beings, but perhaps it’s possible to embrace our worried energy and turn it into creative fuel.
Julia Cameron and others believe that “restlessness is a good omen.” It means that destiny is getting ready to knock and prayers will soon be answered, although not always in the way they think things are going to unfold.
Maybe things do happen for a reason, and maybe that reason is because we finally acknowledge our fears as well as our dreams and in doing so we quit clinging to Plan A and we become open to Plan B or C or even Z.
I know that when I look back at major breakthroughs in my life, they are almost always preceded by a time of doubt, discontent, and fear.
Although we all encounter negative emotions like fear and uncertainty along our own journeys, we can combat them, wait them out, and use them to our creative advantage, and most importantly remember that self-acceptance and self-respect will help lead us to our destination and to embrace life.
Listening with an open mind isn’t always easy. As human beings we come into most situations with our own predefined thoughts based on our individual experiences and beliefs. Most of the time we believe that what we think is right and often-times we go into conversations with the intention of changing someone’s mind and not our own.
Listening with an open mind means more than being open to someone else’s opinion or point of view, it means that you are receptive to being influenced by what you hear. It means listening to each and every word without jumping to conclusions and striving to understand what the other person is saying without judging whether or not they are right or wrong.
Hearing with love is partly about listening with empathy but it’s more than that. Empathy helps us understand better where someone else is coming from emotionally and conceptually but it’s not the same as hearing with love.
Hearing with love takes it a step further, hearing with love not only means understanding it also means compassion, kindness, and goodwill. When we listen with love we listen with both an open mind and an open heart.
Our opinions may or may not change as a result of the conversation but if the end result is a greater understanding of the other person and a mutual feeling of acceptance and goodwill, it was a success.
Strive not only to understand another person’s experiences and thoughts, love and embrace them for who they are because of them.