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.
Have you ever heard of Sometime Isle? Neither had I until I attended a book signing and luncheon at a small cafe’ in Dorset, Minnesota. The author’s style wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but her ardent fans clearly loved her story-telling and the God-fearing characters who lived on the plains.
I didn’t connect with the personalities she described from her stories and I was relieved when she moved from her books to her personal experiences because that meant the lecture was drawing to a close.
Suddenly I found myself listening and not daydreaming. She spoke of career, marriage, and motherhood; she revealed the dreams that had been tucked away with prayers that ended in “Sometime I’ll…”
She provided inspiration with her story of taking a risk, attending a writers conference on a whim, and becoming a published author after she turned fifty. I’ve often thought about that day and marveled at the fact that someone so different from me had such a big impact. She planted a seed that day and even I was unaware of it.
Creating your own life is about more than claiming your creativity and following your dreams. It’s also about growing up and taking responsibility for our lives and 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.
I was raised during a time and age in which pursuing a practical curriculum followed by an equally practical and hopefully financially rewarding career may not have been expected, but it was encouraged. I attended college during one of the first times in history that a career for a woman was not perceived to be limited to a teacher, nurse, or wife.
Like most seventeen year olds I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and in 1979 anything in the Business College was the degree of choice for those of us without an obvious gift or burning passion.
I let societal expectations guide my choices instead of following my instincts and being true to myself. I don’t regret my choices. I am the mother of three of the most amazing young people I know and I can’t imagine my life without them.
Now the time has come to move off of Sometime Isle and create my own life the way I want it to be.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost exactly two years since I read “Walking in This World,” by Julia Cameron. It would be an understatement to say that it changed my life; although would probably be more accurate to say it was a catalyst for change.
It took me more than 12 weeks to finish the book, but as with most things in life the outcome was better because I didn’t force the process.In my final essay, I summed up what I’d learned:
Savor life – live with humor, joy, and passion. Use feelings as fuel for creativity and creation.
Make something of yourself – do something, be something, make something. Be who you are and continue to strive to become who you were meant to be. Don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to succeed.
Accept yourself– be yourself, trust yourself, be childlike, own and understand your relationships, be aware and follow your instincts, be accountable, and last but not least, be kind to yourself.
Have faith – ask for and accept help, be teachable, life is spiritual, art is spiritual and it is healing. Follow your dreams and treat them as real.
We commune through art – when we create from the heart and not from the ego we experience a clarity of purpose and feelings of joy.
I continue to learn about synchronicity, serendipity, and faith. I don’t think it’s any mystery that many of the teachings of Louise Hay are congruent with the teachings of Julia Cameron. One of the concepts they both teach about is the concept of living life fully. Julia in particular reminds us to remember our inner child and to create time to play as an adult.
For some reason when we “grow up” we forget about the wonder of life we, forget about curiosity, and we take things too seriously. I know that happened to me. Life became about the schedule, the goals, and the perceived expectations. I had a career to build, a family to support, kids to raise, and an image to uphold. I thought I had to be “perfect,” I didn’t allow myself to be “me.” I worried about the future, re-hashed the past, and forgot to be present in the moment.
I’m re-learning the lesson that, being in “child at heart” doesn’t equate to being irresponsible or un-adult like, it means it’s okay to do something just because it delights us.
And now to share my most recent little art journal entries 🙂
I recently discovered the teachings of Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life.” She has an amazing story and her beliefs are very thought provoking.
Her philosophy includes many points which center around loving oneself and how our thoughts affect our present and future.
“Every thought we think is creating our future.”
This sounds like something super philosophical and esoteric, but it’s really very practical and true. A few chapters into the book I had a huge “aha moment” when I read:
“Rain doesn’t make a day awful, it just makes it wet.”
Wow, it really is up to us to make each day a good day or one that we want to forget.
She firmly believes that we can heal what ails us through the power of loving oneself and that aches and pains in each part of the body are associated with things like past experiences, negativity, fear, and a lack of self love.
Self love is not the same as self indulgence or self acceptance. It means that we treat our bodies and our minds well, enjoy the person we are in the present, forgive and release the people and things from our past that hold us back, and embrace our future with confidence.
Part of her teachings include using daily affirmations as a way of changing one’s world for the better.
After reading the book and thinking about this concept for a while, I decided to create a journal with the affirmations from her book that resonated most deeply with me. For the next 100 or so days I will create my book one a page at a time and continue to change my world one affirmation and one day at a a time.
At the end of each chapter is a longish affirmation that speaks to the lessons within the pages before it. Each one ends with the phrase “All is Well in My World.”
Just that affirmation on it’s own has a powerful meaning and I thought it was perfect for the cover of my new journal.
As I see it, the focus of her teachings is for each of us to love ourselves and use our thoughts and actions to “Be Whole,” which is the phrase that came to my mind and wrote on the back of my journal.
I already know how the story turns out so I created the final page and glued it to the inside of the back cover.
It’s interesting to me that this simple phrase, “I am,” keeps appearing in my life through different experiences, authors, and artists. Like, “All is Well in My World,” it stands on it’s own as a powerful affirmation.
I created the backgrounds for the first set of daily inspiration with watercolor. A fun side benefit of this project is the opportunity to explore and experiment with this medium.
The first affirmation is, “I release the pattern in my that created this.” I am at Peace. I am worthwhile.” (Louise L. Hay)
There’s a theory that we often-times create a pattern of chaos in our life without even realizing it. The chaos leads to accidents, mishaps and mayhem. Well mayhem might be a little strong, but the word fit nicely.
I’ve begun to wonder if we have “strings of bad luck” because we start and persist with internal thoughts that, “life is hard,” “nothing is easy, “things never go my way,” and “I wonder what’s going to go wrong next.”
It could be that life just simply runs in cycles or there could be some truth to the belief that our thoughts create our reality. Maybe it’s a little of both.
I’ll be sharing these daily inspirational quotes on Facebook and Google Plus. In sharing them, I hope the right affirmation finds it’s way to others just when they need it.
A couple of months ago I was asked to speak about Google Plus (Google’s social networking platform) at a conference for Freelance Medial Writers. I was really flattered about the opportunity and last Saturday was the day.
I took the train even though the hotel is a mile away from the airport. I like to avoid the stress that comes with driving on I95. It seems I almost always learn something new and I now know that the cabbies at the airport won’t give up their spot in line to take someone to any of the nearby hotels. It also turns out that calling the hotel to arrange for a shuttle works better than running down the sidewalk trying to catch the one that passed right by.
I was both excited and nervous when I stood up to speak; I teach workshops on a regular basis, but it’s entirely different to stand in front of a room of people holding a microphone. It went well overall and people enjoyed learning about the platform and my experience with it.
By the end of the afternoon I was tired and anxious to get home. My plan was to catch the 5:15 train back to Yardley. I missed the first shuttle and the next one was late, which meant I had to take the 5:43 train into Center City and catch the 6:40 train home.
Because of the delays I ended up with a traveling companion, a woman who had attended the conference. She was headed to Trenton and I helped her maneuver the airport logistics and read the train schedule. I convinced her to get off at Market Street instead of 30th Street because it’s a much nicer train station and she’d still be able to catch the right train.
I was right about the first part, it is a nicer station. As for the second part, I knew that the Trenton Line has departures from the Market East Station because I took it once by accident. What I didn’t think about was that even though the trains leave from different platforms it was impossible for both of them to leave at the same time.
Thankfully my new friend turned out to be a plan B sort of person and chose to laugh about the situation and make the best of it. It’s funny how sometimes you meet a complete stranger and within minutes feel like you’ve known them for years.
I shared some of my recent artwork with her, and my Embrace Your Second Grade Art Girl, sparked a conversation about the importance of being kind to yourself. When we parted she left me with a hug and this thought, “Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.”
I woke up Monday morning feeling positive about the weekend and looking forward to the week. My first self-assigned task was to delete my extra profile on Google Plus so the next time I wrote or spoke about the platform, my presence would be “perfect.”
Long story short, I deleted my active profile instead of my abandoned/duplicate one. This may not seem like a big deal, but I was devastated. Google Plus has become an important part of how I share content I write for my business blog and it’s been an amazing place to network and generate opportunities.
I can’t repeat what I said, but there was nothing kind about how I described myself after I realized what I’d done. Words like stupid, idiot, and failure followed me around all day. “How could I,” “why didn’t I,” and “I should have,” started nearly every thought that went through my mind.
I spent the day doing as much damage control as possible and accepted the fact that I was going to have to start over and make the best of the bad circumstances. I couldn’t help but think about the irony of the situation. Less than 48 hours after speaking about Google Plus as an “expert,” I did the unthinkable and deleted my account. I see the humor in it now, but I can’t say I did that day.
As I often do when something happens, I took out my journal to write about it. I find writing cathartic and it helps me work through the emotions and move on. That night the negative self-talk continued until I thought back to my traveling companion’s parting words.
I stopped and asked myself, “is this how you would treat your best friend?”
The answer was clearly no. If my best friend had done the same thing, I would have given her a hug, let her cry, and reminded her that she is smart, beautiful, and lovable. I’d have taken her hand, helped her put things in perspective, and come up with a plan.
The phrase, “Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend,” replaced the negative self-talk. It should come as no surprise to me that when the negative thoughts were replaced with kind ones things didn’t seem nearly as bleak.
The real point of this post is this – we all make mistakes and they are recoverable. Remember to be kind to yourself and sometimes you need to be your own best friend.
What the heck, I may as well write about the snow. It’s been one of the snowiest winters in Pennsylvania history and I can officially add surviving a Nor’ easter to my list of experiences.
I’ve decided that snow is much prettier when you don’t have to shovel it. (pretty sure I’m not the first one to come to this brilliant conclusion)
It could be my imagination, but I think even the stone lion who keeps watch over my front porch was distraught about the second snow storm in less than ten days.
Winter winds whipped through my summer paradise.
I’m not sure exactly how much additional snow we got this week. My best guess is 8 – 10 inches and it was easily a foot or more at the bottom of my driveway courtesy of the snowplows.
My shovel buckled under the weight of the snow. It’s amazing I didn’t as well.
It’s been the kind of winter that makes people wonder whether or not they can make it until spring, but they can and they will.
The events of the past few months have reinforced that we can’t control what challenges and difficulties will be sent our way, but we can control how we choose to handle them. It seems snow storms are a little like life storms.
They are challenging and sometimes unexpected, it can feel like there’s no end in sight, but there is always the promise of spring. The only way to get through them is to have faith and believe that you can.