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.
One of the first personal essays I remember writing was about the definition of success. As many idealistic teenagers do, I challenged traditional ways success is measured and questioned whether or not money and material things equal happiness. I’m sure it wasn’t, but at the time I thought the writing was brilliant and wise beyond my years.
I’ve waged a quiet and strange rebellion against the notion of personal achievement for a very long time.
Our society expects us to make life choices at a very young age. We also live in a world that encourages young people to put their hobbies and interests on hold so they can buckle down and focus on “what’s important in life.” Don’t get me wrong, earning a living and providing for yourself and your family is important. I just sometimes wonder if we do so at the expense of excelling at who we truly are as human beings.
In some ways I regret that I didn’t discover my inner writer and artist until later in life, in other ways it’s probably a blessing. I’m fortunate enough to have had the option to pursue and do well in a business career. It’s been a wild and very strange ride. Looking back, I can’t help but think that I worked too many hours and had my eye on the wrong goal.
Actually, I’m not even sure if I had a goal in mind other than to advance to the next rung on the corporate ladder. Truth to be told, I climbed each rung with hesitation. I’ve come to realize that my qualms about taking that next step were twofold.
I secretly knew that I could do the job, but was afraid that becoming “bigger” would change the way people viewed me. In my mind, there was a risk of being seen as either conceited or foolish, two traits no one wants in a friend. There was also a fear that that I would be forever trapped living a lie instead of following my dream.
I have to admit that there was a fundamental problem; I didn’t know what my dream was. You can’t expect to be able to follow your dreams if you don’t know what they are and can’t articulate them.
It’s also difficult at best to excel at something you’re not passionate about.
There are more than a few things in my business world that honestly excite, amaze, and motivate me; but the time I spend on my creative writing and art brings me far more joy and satisfaction.
The harsh reality is that the left side of my brain (the logical business minded side) is in a much better position to pay the rent and buy groceries than the artistic side of my brain is. And we all know that it can be difficult at best to achieve financial security, let alone prosperity through a career in art.
So the question is this – How do I follow my passion, become financially secure, and also have money and time left over to have fun and find a way to contribute to the community?
Through Julia Cameron’s teachings I have come to understand and appreciate that the world isn’t an “either/or” one. There are artists of all kinds who earn a living by working a day job and pursue their craft on the side. Some are eventually able to devote themselves to their passion full time, but most do not.
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to work with a personal coach, I thought the sessions would help me define my business goals and map out a plan for success. When I wrote my “dream” statement, not a single word about my business came out of my head.
I have a dream, and my dream is to become a published author with books in multiple genres. The most important one to me is entitled “A Leap of Faith, an Artist’s Journey into the Light.”
It is a story of discovery; it is my story of self-discovery and coming into my own. It will be inspiring to people who think it is too late for them and for people who have similar feelings about themselves as I do, but don’t have the words with which to express their thoughts.
I am driven to write because I want to be of service to others, I want to help young people make good choices and I want to help people at any stage of life realize that they can change, they can recover and soar. I particularly want to help women understand that they can be care-givers without giving up their identity, the importance of being in positive relationships, and we are all stronger than we know.
I want to teach and inspire, I want to help, I want to change the world and make it a better place. My dream is to do so through my writing, I will make people laugh, make them cry, help them feel, and make them think. I have experienced and survived things that should be shared in a way that will be helpful to others. I have the talent, I have the drive, and I now have the conviction to pursue my dreams and write my first book and many more.
A few months after defining my dream in words, I chose to put “A Leap of Faith” aside so I could focus on building a business. It was the practical and right thing to do.
Recent conversations with a new connection in my business world have made me realize that I’d lost sight of my dream have also been selling myself short career-wise. Over the past couple of weeks, my vision is beginning to take shape again and surprisingly it’s also growing bigger.
It’s time to do redraw the boundaries within which I’m living and release my fears about becoming bigger. The time has come to really define the dream and turn wishes into actions.
Last night I could not get past writers block. I did write for about an hour, but only managed to squeak out 2 ½ paragraphs that sounded forced. It’s easy to get carried away and strive to be profound when the art journal entry that corresponds with the written piece is “My Choices Shape My Future.”
This morning I deleted the words written last night and started over with a fresh heart.
Just as I was settling in, the steady low roar of the lawnmower stopped abruptly with the clank of the blade against a rock. I didn’t have to see what happened to know that my son felt the vibration from the impact, there were sparks involved, and the clatter was without a doubt the last noise the mower would make.
My writing direction changed once again. I was going to write about the fact that I’ve made some pretty bad choices and how they ultimately shaped my future in a good way. Thoughts about the power of positive, the importance of self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness raced through my brain.
The sound of the lawnmower brought me back to reality and to the smaller kind of choices we make every day. How we choose to handle life’s minor mishaps and whether or not we allow them to ruin the day.
This morning I had two choices, one was to be mad and ask my son rhetorical questions like, “why weren’t you paying more attention?” and then remind him that money doesn’t grow on trees and he really should be more careful. The other option was to take a deep breath before going outside, accept his apology calmly, and ask him to help me find a replacement.
For whatever reason, the first approach seems to be human nature but it really serves no purpose. My son already felt bad and knew he should have been paying closer attention, his face told me so. It wouldn’t have made either of us feel any better if I’d yelled at him. We’d both be feeling miserable, small, and angry.
Together we shopped online for a new mower. He selected an old-fashioned push mower for the following reasons: it was the most affordable, it’s environmentally friendly and quieter, and it will provide him with a little more exercise. I’m proud of the way he handled the situation. He also had choices, and he handled it maturely by owning what happened and remaining calm.
It wasn’t the way either of us wanted to start the day, but life happens and mishaps are part of the deal and we have no control over them. We only have control over how we react to them. I’m learning that facing problems calmly is far more effective and pleasant than hiding from them or living in a constant state of hysteria and discouragement.
I’ve come to believe the way we handle the little things life throws at us has a significant impact on shaping our future. It establishes a pattern of behavior and sets the stage for how we handle the big things.
Some days, my affirmation or thought for the day keeps thoughts churning in the back of my mind during the day as I focus on the tasks at hand. Today is one of those days. In fact tonight, I’m even wondering what prompted me to create this entry, “My Future is Secure.”
The notion of a secure future is almost laughable on the surface. No one has a crystal ball or can predict what will come to pass. Financial stability is a myth because one never knows what will happen or what will not. We all live day to day hoping for the best and working hard to avoid the worst. Much, if not most of the future lies outside of our control.
I don’t mean to sound like a doomsayer, because I’m not. The reality is, life is unpredictable and uncertain and there are many reasons we have every right to doubt the security of our individual and combined futures.
I can speak from personal experience. I’ve gone from owning a beautiful house to near foreclosure and being thankful for the opportunity to rent and care for my current home and artist’s vessel.
One of the most embarrassing moments of my life was when a Sheriff knocked on my door to serve me papers about my house and the debt owed. I knew it was coming, but I was mortified all the same. Thank goodness I was home and my son, who was 14 at the time, didn’t have to answer the door and wonder.
I’d done everything humanly possible to avoid the situation, but when the money runs out – it runs out, and you are only left with the options offered or allowed by the rules and regulations. If only the options had included compromise and reason instead of legalese and a lack of humanity.
I thought I’d never get past the experience, let alone be able to share it.
I’ve learned that my future isn’t secure or certain in the traditional ways we think of our lives. We’re taught to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely). What we’re not taught is how to handle it when things like the housing market crash turn our world upside down.
What has gotten me through the difficult times and keeps me focused on the unbelievable and amazing possibilities the future holds, are the people in my life.
My future is not certain, but it is secure. It’s not secure in that I know where every dollar is coming from or that I have any idea what tomorrow brings, but I know that no matter what tomorrow morning brings my family and friends will be there for me and I will be there for them.
When things are going well in life, things like self-acceptance and a positive attitude about the future is easy. However, when we go through times that are fraught with setbacks and disappointments it’s difficult to keep feelings of self-doubt at bay.
For whatever reason, the first half of 2014 has come with more than a few challenges that have caused financial strain and stress. Just when I think I’m going to get ahead, another unexpected expense crops up or a deal that seemed promising falls through, there have even been weeks that contained both.
It would be easy for me to focus on the negatives of the first six months of this year. There have certainly been more than a few moments in which I’ve felt desperate about the present and doubtful about the future.
When I look at this year from an objective perspective, I know that the number of good things that have happened far out-number the setbacks. I’ve also never felt better about myself or more certain that I’m on the right path.
Sometimes I think people equate having a positive outlook with not having any negative feelings or fears. There’s no way on earth that we can expect ourselves or anyone else to go through difficult experiences and disappointments without “feeling.”
In fact, when we allow ourselves to feel and express emotions such as anger, doubt, fear, anxiety, and remorse it’s much easier to move onward and upward with confidence. The feelings are real and if we try and ignore them, they only fester and undermine our progress for a longer period of time.
I’ve learned the difference between acknowledging the feelings and sharing them with the intention of seeking support and a helping hand and dwelling on a topic and ranting just to hear myself talk.
Reaching out for help during times of trouble can make us feel vulnerable and can even cause feelings of shame. As human beings, we want to succeed on our own. I don’t know if it’s innate or societal, but it can be hard to admit that we’ve made a mistake, had a lapse in judgment, or that something bad happened to us.
Allowing others to see our vulnerabilities isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of self-confidence and courage. It takes guts to be honest. We conjure up worst case scenarios as a result of telling the truth. In my experience, they are never as bad as I imagined and usually result in something positive.
A big realization for me has been the importance of accepting myself and that believing I am worthy is the first and most important step to success and happiness.
I have an awesome feeling about the future and believe someday the events during this time will make a great story. While I can’t do it today, there’s no doubt in my mind that the stories will be told with laughter and joy.
Friday night I went to a drum circle. I learned about drum circles a few months ago. Never in a million years did I think that I would be comfortable sitting among a group of strangers while playing a drum or another type of percussion instrument, but I am.
My chiropractor isn’t a doctor you go to see because your back hurts, she’s a person you see because you want to live a full life and understand what it means to accept who you are and how to tap into your potential. She understands a lot about how the mind, the body, and the universe are intertwined.
I know the whole “universe” thing sounds hokey to some people and that’s ok, it’s not important that we all phrase things in the same way or believe in identical concepts. What I think is important is that we all understand that as people, if we band together in a whole-hearted and authentic way we can literally move mountains.
The reason I bring my chiropractor up is that she’s the reason I attended a drum circle on a Friday the 13th when the moon was full and the night air was heavy and wet from the rain earlier in the day. Plus there’s the fact that she’s a master at going with the flow of life.
The original plan for the full moon drum circle was to play our drums, shake tambourines, and laugh like children outside on the lawn. The weather forced us to plan B and we met on the second floor of her office building.
About half-way through the time we had together, the facilitator of the circle selected a small hand-held instrument for many members of the group. He directed each person to stand with an upward sweep of his arm as he handed them a cymbal, a triangle, a shaker, or a gong. When everyone had an instrument we heard him say, “Follow me.”
It was immediately apparent that we were going to “plan C.” Two drums helped keep the beat, mine and one other. With my drum strapped over my shoulder I took my place at the end of our impromptu parade. The parking lot was wet, and my feet were bare.
15 or so grown-ups of varying ages, shapes, sizes, colors, and experiences danced and played instruments while splashing through small puddles on the pavement under a cloud-filled sky that covered, but couldn’t hide the power of a full moon.
We ended the night with a meditative and peaceful walk along the beach. The walk took place behind closed eyes and through relaxed spirits. It didn’t matter that we were sitting in an office building nowhere near a beach; we allowed our minds to take us there.
The event could have been cancelled because it couldn’t be carried out according to the original vision or it moved inside. We still had an amazing time. Moving an event from outside to inside is a very small but meaningful example of the power and value of being open to Plan B and sometimes maybe even plans C through Z.
We think about plan B’s easily when it comes to things like making back-up plans in case it rains, we’re not always so good at coming up with alternatives when our original “life” plans go awry. I believe this is especially true during highly stressful and transitional times. It’s that whole, “can’t see the forest for the trees” thing.
During these times is when it’s most important to listen to our inner voices and pay great attention to what’s happening around us.
Plan B may be right in front of us and opening doors that we never imagined but might miss if we’re spending our time worrying about why our original idea didn’t work out.
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.