When the Spirit Moves You to Love

Over the last six months or so a rewarding pen-pal relationship has developed with a woman down in Texas.  Our communication is on an irregular and infrequent schedule, but when we write there is openness and sharing like you’d expect between two who have long known each other.  Seems a bit odd to say about someone I have never met, but we’ve become trusted confidants and probably good friends.  Maybe it’s the safety in distance that allows us to openly share of ourselves as we do.  However defined, I do know the connection is good.    

Today I received an email from my Texas friend after not hearing from her for several weeks.   She seemed a bit sad and a little troubled, but on the move forward and focused inward to reposition herself in a better place.  She wrote of desiring less of what blurs life and more simplicity in living as she progresses past a near-miss love relationship.  

Like me, she hopes one day to love and be loved again deeply and profoundly.  My friend wrote:   It should be an exciting peeling of layers. Instead flags of red loom in the distance…  I have tried the life of love 3 ways:   heart and mind lead, heart leads, and forget both, just let them lead… In summary, it seems to me I have failed to listen, absorb, apply and discern. But it also seems I will not settle… the challenge remains to never hurt another’s heart. It is impossible… 

I relate to what she wrote.  Being single in middle age with the weight of experience, previous marriage(s), children, protective barriers, responsibility and the like, it can feel impossible that the magic of love will ever sparkle again.  The hapless romantic in me, says it can, but I still get lost and disbelieve a good bit of the time.  Finding this passage by Erika Harris helped:   It is good to feel lost… because it proves you have a navigational sense of where “Home” is.  You know that a place that feels like being found exists.  And maybe your current location isn’t that place but, Hallelujah, that unsettled, uneasy feeling of lost-ness just brought you closer to it.    

In my life there have been times when I have been lost and I have been found.  There have been times I have proven my courage and other moments when I have shown my cowardly side.  With courage I have helped others and myself, but overcoming cowardice has been the greater teacher.  Today I am a coward about opening myself up to fall in love once more.  One day though I have faith a woman will again move me to my spiritual core and the courage to love will return.   But how will I know? 

There is no logical answer I can give to how I will know when she arrives in my life except to say my spirit will know.  The cue will be my fear of pain and heartache will be overcome by courage that will compel my heart open again without thought to how things will turn out.  Spiritually I will just know.  My spirit is the only force that can bring harmony and balance between my heart and my mind. It is then when falling in love becomes “can’t not do”. 

Often I get lost in my thinking and allow my ego to convince me that I am what I think.  It is impossible to stop my whirring mind, but it is possible to relax my attention to it.  When I am able to do take a few steps away from my constant storm of thoughts through meditation, prayer or stillness, I find there is a softer and quieter awareness within me that has nothing to do with my mind.  There I find a certain knowing without conscious thought that comes from the depths of my being where my soul resides.  My spirit always answers true if I am in tune enough to hear its soft and gentle voice.  

So the advice I give to my distant friend is there exists a fourth way to experience the “life of love”.  It is to spiritually be on the lookout for someone who moves you; one you can willingly and easily risk your heart for.  Let it be when you can hardly stop yourself and when logic makes no sense. When the spirit brings harmony between mind and heart the miracle of true love is possible. Like a magnet to iron, two are pulled together by the magnetism of their spirits through an knowing beyond unconsciousness.  The key is to be aware enough to notice when the spirit is trying to move us. Sometimes a chance for love knocks so softly if our “spiritual radar is down” we can miss it entirely with no second chance. 

I am grateful to whatever force drew my Texas pen-pal and I to share with each other as we do.  She is a good friend.  I am grateful for our connection and the insight writing here today has given me.  And, oh, by the way… I just checked.  My “radar” in “ON”… 

Loving can cost a lot but not loving always costs more, and those who fear to love often find that want of love is an emptiness that robs the joy from life.
(Merle Shan). 

Codependence and Interdependence: What is Normal?

Choice is the exploration of desire and then the selection of action.  In every moment, you are choosing either to align yourself with your own true path or to veer away from it.  There are no neutral actions.  Even the smallest gesture has a direction to it, leading you closer to your path or farther away from it, whether you realize it or not.*   

While that paragraph feels true it has not been factual in all of what appear on the surface to have been my choices made in free will.  In relationships I have been compulsive and driven, often by a force I did not understand if I was even able to notice it. The force has been with me for so long I do not remember life without it.  Learning and acknowledging that my compulsions even existed was the biggest step yet in understanding my self.   

There is a certain flavor to a codependent relationship that might be described as ‘driven’ or ‘intense.’ There is a compulsive nature to it. The members are tied to each other almost as with an invisible rope. The slightest move in one causes a reaction in the other. The positions are rigid. Every word or thought is guarded, weighed against the other’s imagined response.** 

And there it is; that word codependent.  I have come to know it well as my primary dysfunction has come into focus in recent years.  In a broad sense, a codependent can be defined as one having an addiction to people, behaviors, or things. My codependency has been an unconscious fallacy that caused me to attempt to manage my interior feelings by maintaining power over people, things, and events on the outside, sometimes through control and at others through compliance.  By its very definition, being a codependent means I have a tendency to make relationships more important to me than I am to myself.  

In codependency, control or lack of it is central to every aspect of life. There is emptiness within that originates in childhood from parental neglect, abandonment and abuse. Emotionally a child does not mature and exhibits child-like and immature emotional behavior when grown up, but can not see it themselves.  As an adult each codependent struggles relentlessly to fill a great emotional vacuum within themselves.

While a full list of codependent tendencies is quite long, here is a short list:  
1.  Lacking appropriate levels of self-esteem.
2.  Inability to set realistic, functioning, boundaries.
3.  Difficulty knowing who you are.
4.  Having trouble defining needs and wants and meeting them.
5.  Difficulty in expressing ourselves moderately and knowing what “normal” is.

What about healthy relationships?   How different is the closeness of an interdependent relationship! The desire is there but not the intense need. Love, whether for a spouse, a child, a parent, or a friend, is a matter of choice. **

People in healthy, interdependent relationships do whatever is best for both partners.  They make sincere, reliable agreements with each other, based on their separate wants and needs, and they generally stick to them.  There is no happily-ever-after on this plane of existence.  I may find a princess but she will have issues to deal with.  We all do.  Relationships are something that needs to be worked on – not some magic wand that makes everybody happy.

Codependence and interdependence are two very different dynamics.   Codependence is about giving away power over my self-esteem.  Interdependence is about making allies, forming partnerships.  It is about forming connections with other beings.  Interdependence means that I give someone else some power over our welfare and our feelings.

It is impossible to love without giving away some power.  When I choose to love someone (or thing – a pet, a car, anything) I am giving them the power to make me happy.  However, I cannot do that without also giving them the power to hurt me or cause me to feel angry or scared.  That is “normal”.

Much progress has been made, but there is much yet to make. Writing here today is a sort of ‘homework’ assignment that helps me maintain clarity and growth and one I hope may help others.  I am grateful to have knowledge now about my part in past relationship problems and to have new hope future relations will be far improved by what I have learned and am learning.  Class dismissed…..

Oh, the comfort – the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person – having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.  Dinah Craik 1859

 * From “If Life is a Game, These Are the Rules” by Cherie Carter-Scott, Ph.D.
**Love is a Choice” byHemfelt, Minirth, and Meier

The Flame in My Heart

What a range of emotion this past weekend contained.  Friday evening through Sunday morning contained an abundance of good times including three delicious meals and other quality time with a total of six friends.  How very richly blessed my days are to have such caring people in my life and I am exceedingly grateful. 

Being positively charged from the comradery in the first 2/3’s of my weekend, Sunday afternoon I felt poised with equilibrium mentally and spiritually.  Feeling strength and balance I decided to spend the afternoon doing a serious introspective meditation of the sort that digs down deep into the underpinnings of my emotional self.  While these journeys are always good, getting this real and close with one’s self can be painful.  Rarely have they hurt as much as what I encountered yesterday and into the night. 

The subject of my contemplative hours yesterday revolved around a central theme including questions such as:  why don’t I date, why won’t I allow any woman to reach my heart romantically, what holds me back, what am I afraid of, will I ever fall in love again and so on.  An answer came, but it took a good while to peel back the layers to get at it. 

For close to three hours I floated along in meditation without much consciousness of time.  In the opening up to my deeper self came realization of how much I value my friends.  They are my modern-day family.  Digging deeper I contemplated past romantic relationships until I arrived at realization that stunned me.  I came to know that even after much pain and sorrow and the passing of several years, the love for my 2nd wife still burns brightly in my heart.  Yes, I knew I still cared about her but discovering the depth of what remains astonished and humbled me.  

The answer to my self inquiry of “why” is simply in my heart I am still married to A., my second wife; nothing more, nothing less.  There is enormous irony in realizing that is probably truer at this moment than we actually were a wedded couple.  

There is a line that comes to mind which I included three weeks ago in a blog here titled “Unclouded Wisdom” https://goodmorninggratitude.com/2011/08/05/the-unclouded-wisdom-of-youth/ 

Never stop loving someone because you never know when they might start loving you back. But if that person won’t change, wait until your heart voluntarily quits

Now I realize I had feelings stuffed down deep within me and had ceased to recognize them.  Of course, that did not mean they were gone.  I had hidden my feelings away in a sort of misguided self-protection.  What was in my heart was waiting to show itself if I ever cared to look.  Now I will continue on with the knowledge that given time the point will come when my “heart voluntarily quits” or resolution will come in whatever form it arrives in

So I openly acknowledge what I now know to be true.  The first step with moving forward with anything is to accept what is.  In spite of the pain acceptance brings me this morning, I know it is a big step toward healing in a way I did not realize I was still wounded. 

What poured salt on an exposed wound yesterday was when I went to my jewelry box to find my wedding band from my second marriage only to find it gone.  Somewhere in my recent move and with workers in and out of my home the ring, along with a few others things, was stolen.  I have no idea when or by whom and can only guess.  There are several possibilities.  There would be no purpose to filing a police report and I care not to go though an insurance claim.  Just too painful.  Maybe it is life’s way of starting me on the break that I need to make to heal my heart.  That at least is how I find a silver lining in a dark cloud. 

Yesterday was a time of tears and the release of great pain.  While it was all healthy for me, this morning I am exhausted and running on the fumes of a few hours sleep.  I know I will be better for the experience but also that it will take a little while for that goodness to come over me completely.  

Of course, you can guess who I reached out to at the peak of my misery yesterday.  Yep, my ex-wife.  In spite of her having moved on with her life, she was exceptionally kind to me.  It had been well over a year since we had spoken and we talked for a long while.  It seemed neither of us wanted to get off the phone. I am grateful to her. 

Life goes on.  People change.  Things don’t work out.  Life is full of disappointment.  But living is filled with enormous goodness as well.  As long as I shall live, life is full of possibility.  I accept fully and openly whatever life has in store for me.  Always I will do my best to live my days well with deep grateful for the joys I am blessed with and thankfulness for the lessons I am taught.  

Change is never easy, you fight to hold on, and you fight to let go. 
from the TV program “The Wonder Years”

Yesterday, Tomorrow and the Power of Now

From one of my favorite books “The Power of Now” by Ekhart Tolle: 
A beggar had been sitting by the side of a road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by. “Spare some change?” mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap. “I have nothing to give you,” said the stranger. Then he asked: “What’s that you are sitting on?” “Nothing,” replied the beggar. “Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.” “Ever looked inside?” asked the stranger. “No,” said the beggar. “What’s the point? There’s nothing in there.” “Have a look inside,” insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold.  

I am that stranger who has nothing to give you and who is telling you to look inside. Not inside any box, as in the parable, but somewhere even closer: inside yourself.  

The “gift inside the box” is my own life and it can not be found in the past for what I recall of it is only partial fact spun with delusional memory of what happened.  My life is not in the future for nothing there has yet happened and that time will materialize far differently than any way I imagine.  My life is here and now in this very instant and no other place.  The more I am able to experience each moment of my life as it happens the sweeter the taste will be and the grander the outcome will seem. 


There are two days in every week about which we should not worry.
            Two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One of these days is yesterday with its mistakes and cares,
            Its faults and blunders, Its aches and pains.
            Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control.
            All the money in the world cannot bring back yesterday.
            We cannot undo a single act we performed.
            We cannot erase a single word we said. Yesterday is gone.

The other day we should not worry about is tomorrow.
            With its possible adversities, Its burdens, 
            Its large promise and poor performance.
            Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control.
            Tomorrow’s Sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds, 
            but it will rise.

Until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow, for it is yet unborn.
            This just leaves only one day . . . Today.
            Any person can fight the battles of just one day.
            It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternity’s –
            yesterday and tomorrow that we break down.
            It is not the experience of today that drives people mad.
            It is the remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday 
            and the dread of what tomorrow may bring.

Let us therefore live but one day at a time.
Author Unknown

An abstract way of looking at my life story is thinking of “today” as a comma.  Grammatically a “period” denotes an end, but a “comma” indicates a transition.  So each of my “today’s” is a transition and not an ending.  Today is the only place where my life happens. 

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Today has little to do with the yesterday I keep in distorted view over my shoulder nor does today have a lot in common with what I anticipate about the tomorrow on my foggy and distant horizon.  My life is all about today and today is found between my ears and in my heart.  It is happening  “Now” and I am grateful!

Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.  Eckhart Tolle

Five Biggest Regrets Before Dying

Life became more difficult to bear as I aged due to collecting an ever growing quantity of regrets.  Over time qualms collected were thrown on my conscience pile.  Little by little that burden became heavier and heavier.  Eventually it was a single huge regret that broke the back of my resistance less than five years ago.  Then all my smaller regrets began to surface buoyed by the repentance I was attempting to make for what I considered the great wrong I had done.  As the smaller misgivings have been taken out, examined and some sort of peace attempted with them I made a discovery that many were not that small at all.  In hurting others, ultimately I hurt myself as much or more. 

Some of my regrets at random:
– A friend and I got 200 bait crickets and let them lose in our basketball coach’s new car when we were 16.  We were upset at him because he got mad at our team and made us practice way too hard late one night after a game.
– Telling my eight or nine year-old son who was behaving badly that he was not acting like a human being and taking him outside saying he could come back into the house until he decided to act human.
– Not making car payments when I was eighteen and my car getting repossessed.  I caught up payments and got the car back.  A year later the same thing happened again and I lost the car for good.
– Sleeping with a woman when I was 19.  Then the next morning hurting her when let her know I was engaged.
– Not staying in better touch with my three half sisters and completely losing track and now having no idea where my sister Kelly is.
– Throwing a sandwich in a guy’s face that I worked with, even though he lost his temper and spit on me.
– Not going to more of my son’s hockey games when he was growing up.
– Refusing to accept that I suffered from depression for so many years and the damage to me and those around me that self-chosen blindness caused.
– Getting into a verbal tiff with my ex-mother-in-law in the car and her getting out and walking when we all were in Lake Tahoe.
– Not being truthful when my 2nd ex-wife told me she would stand by me no matter what if I would just tell her the truth.
– Losing track of a good friend and former roommate/co-worker fromJackson,Mississippi named Bruce Owen.
– Stealing a camera from K-Mart on a dare when I was 17.
– Not flying home for my favorite Uncle Jimmy’s funeral.
– Hurting a woman whose initials are RW so badly she will not even speak to me. 
– Not showing more appreciation for my first wife who always took such good care of me.
– Letting my personal life affect me to the point that I got fired from a company I was employed by for 18 years.
– Realizing what I felt about Desi Kershaw long after I had lost track of her.
– When home visiting, driving by the nursing home where my grandfather was living and not going to see him before he died two months later.
– For falling out of touch with my half sister Lisa and not finding out she even had cancer until after her funeral.
– For telling my Father off about his drinking and drugging then not speaking to him at all for the year and a half before he died at an AA meeting.
– Allowing sexual compulsiveness to take me into darker behaviors and today having that  knowledge even thought the behavior is long behind me now.
– Having no idea where my 1st cousin Vickie is now for over 20 years even though we were best friends growing up.

Bronnie Ware is women who once lived on the street and went on to become a nurse for the dying.  She has written about the top five regrets that terminally ill patients express during the last three to twelve weeks of their life.   http://www.inspirationandchai.com/Regrets-of-the-Dying.html

Here are the Top Five regrets she heard and has written about:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.  This was the most common regret of all.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.  This came from every male patient that I nursed.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice.

While all five points touch me, I am especially moved by the fifth. It is in that spirit that I come here each day to share of myself without walls and allow the world to see me as I am, warts, mistakes and all.  For the admission of my random regrets today I am a little healthier mentally and my psyche has been lightened.  Contained within me is much gratitude for each of you for sharing my path of learning to live life better and more happily. 

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.  Bronnie Ware

The Pain to Stay the Same

(Continuing on the theme from yesterday about personal change)

More than usual this week I have been experiencing a feeling of gratitude for the quality of my life today.  In looking over my shoulder I can see what appears now to be a somewhat straight line path that brought me from where I was to where I am.  However, from where true change began to present day the path I walked was much different.  It actually zigzagged all over with a greatly varied pace containing many stops, starts, successes and failures.     

The beginning:  “When the pain to stay the same exceeds the pain to change, you change.” 

The first time I saw those fourteen words was on a bulletin board.  They have been burned into my psyche ever since.  The initial glimpse was at the time when realizing I could not read or learn myself into life changes through applying my intellect.   I had to do the emotional work and face what I had long avoided.  

Lobsters grow by molting, or shedding their shells.  When its shell has been shed the lobster spends time under a rock or in a crevice while growing a new shell.  During that time the lobster is vulnerable without the protection of its old hard shell.        

The process of “change” caused me to feel a lot like a lobster.  For a while it had been evident to me I was stuck inside a hard shell that resulted from childhood abandonment and abuse.  It was stifling me.  I needed to shed the old casing and grow a new one.  I had to be vulnerable in order to change. Yet, doing what I needed to do felt impossible at the time.  I could not muster the courage to “jump in and do it”, but knew not changing meant I would continue to suffocate in my old shell.  

Did I muster the courage to shed the safety of my old hard outer armor plate and jump into the sea of change?  No!  I wish I could say I became brave enough to do that.  Instead life events came along and left me only with drown or swim options.  My old shell was shattered and stripped away and then “the pain to stay the same exceeded the pain to change”.  

Pain and discontent was stage one of my growth and change.  Suddenly I saw myself more clearly and could view my past at least with some accurately.  As if being slugged, the force of it crushed my shell and  figuratively “knocked the wind out of me emotionally”.  Getting knocked down and broken open was step #1.   

Admitting I had problems was stage two of my growth and change.  There had to be an end to my running away.  I had no choice but to let the issues take me over.    Opening up and allowing myself to feel the full force of what I had so long avoided was what I needed.  Accepting my issues was step #2.  

Realizing I needed help was stage three of my growth and change.  One of the effects of childhood trauma can be to become an overly self-reliant and a seemingly needless adult.  I became quite good at denying my own needs.  Seeking outside aid was rarely an allowed possibility.    Accepting that I needed help was step #3. 

Doing the work was stage four of my growth and change.  Being one who wants to begin today and have everything accomplished tomorrow, this step was difficult.  Coming to grips with my dysfunction took lots of time.  Gaining the upper hand on it took much longer and now spans years.  Putting in the time and making a long-term effort was step #4. 

Realization I was getting better was stage five of my growth and change.  At first it seemed as if nothing was changing, but over time I began to feel a little different.  Life began to taste better.  The better I got, the more I wanted.  Working past setback and disappointment without completely losing my momentum became a key for me.  Realizing I could heal was step #5. 

Real change takes a long time.  Clinical perspective says real personal change takes at least three years to be fully implemented.  That is why small changes I made and continued to repeat over a long period of time have yielded a positive impact.  On my path there has been an abundance of stubbornness and hanging on to the past combined with emotional dread and frightful depression at times.  What began with “baby steps” and became one step at a time, one day at a time has now several years later brought me to much better mental and spiritual health.  There is joy for living I have not known before. 

I am not fixed and will never be completely.  The scars will always remain, but I am better and continuing to improve.  To even try to express the quantity of thankfulness I have for my life today would be completely futile.  I am grateful to a power greater than me for the inspiration and to every person who has helped me along the way.  

Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.
Richard Hooker

Road to Self-Acceptance

A perspective of youth:    The more things change, the more they stay the same. I’m not sure who the first person was who said that. Probably Shakespeare. Or maybe Sting. But at the moment, it’s the sentence that best explains my tragic flaw: my inability to change.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. The more I get to know other people, the more I realize it’s everyone’s flaw. Staying exactly the same as long as possible, standing perfectly still… It feels better somehow. And if you are suffering, at least the pain is familiar. Because if you took the leap of faith, went outside the box, did something unexpected… Who knows what other pain might be waiting out there. Chances are it could be even worse. So you maintain the status quo. Choose the road already traveled and it doesn’t seem that bad. Not as far as flaws go. You’re not killing anyone… except maybe yourself a little.

When we finally do change, I don’t think it happens like an earthquake or an explosion, where all of a sudden we’re like this different person. I think it’s smaller than that. The kind of thing most people wouldn’t even notice unless they look at us really, really close. Which, thank God, they never do. But you notice it. Inside you that change feels like a world of difference. And you hope this is it. This is the person you get to be forever… that you’ll never have to change again.  (Insightfully written by Everwood)

Taking in again the meaning of the thoughts above while retyping them I find myself feeling OK with, and even thankful for my quandaries about my own personal change.   Frequently I have brutalized my self for an inability to be what it was I thought I should be.  Not infrequently such musings have focused on things that hardly mattered a month later. 

There is much I can complain about concerning getting older.  Yet the passing of years have allowed me to become wiser and to find less to be unhappy about.  As there is less discontentment the easier change seems to come.  There is something about loosening my grip on everything the way it is, the more life becomes the way I want it to be.  Yes, I have unfulfilled plans, goals, hopes and dreams, but they are not the heavy obsessions I once labored under.  Now such desires are more like coins tossed in a wishing fountain with faith such things can happen.  Figuratively, as I toss them into the water I let the wishes go keeping a hope the wish might come back to me manifested one day.  Often a wish is about a change I want to make within or about my self.   I know all my wishes won’t come true, but many of them can if my desire is sincere, my need is consistent and I am willing to bear the discomfort of change. 

On one hand maintaining the status quo can become very easy as I have made it to middle age.  Change can become my enemy if I allow it to.  Or change can be my great friend.  By a person’s 40’s and 50’s either he or she is either completely stuck and will slowly fade into oblivion with age just as they are.  Or else, he or she realizes time is precious and earnest change becomes much more possible, even mandatory.  Either a person just evaporates slowly or realization hits one upside the head with thoughts like:  “you don’t have forever… get moving if you want to accomplish what you promised yourself to do… you can change if you truly want to… gain takes pain so don’t fear it… you can do it…” and so on.

The last five years have been the hardest and most painful of my life.  At the same time the last half decade has also been my most insightful and wisdom producing period.  The thinking for most of my days has been an uncertainty if I was happy, but felt at least I was not unhappy.  Those thoughts have changed in recent times to where frequently I say with a smile “I’m happy”.  Some of that knowing comes from real personal change and coming to grips with old tragedy and heartache.  However the majority does not come from change, but rather from acceptance of my self and living better the live that I have.

Plainly, I have discovered the major culprit causing dissatisfaction and discomfort in my life:  ME!  That epiphany did not suddenly cure, fix or change anything specific except my attitude and view of things.  And with that simple adjustment, my life now has wonder and possibility I did not see before.  I’m a very grateful man for that slow to come and difficult, but simple insight. 

It doesn’t matter what we do until we accept ourselves. Once we accept ourselves, it doesn’t matter what we do.  Charly Heavenrich

100 Last Words

Yesterday in conversation with a friend about writing this blog, I was asked how long I had been doing it.  My response was “one hundred and twenty two days… a third of a year”.  The person then questioned “you’ve done it every single day?” to which my response was “yes” spoken with a sense of accomplishment. 

I appreciated my friend’s interest and our discussion ended with a sort of challenge.  Having only seen a few of the daily postings, she asked how long most were and I said usually around 750-1000 words.  Then her challenge came:  What would you leave behind if you had only 100 words and you knew it would be the last you’d write for your son to find.  In general my comment was I’d try to leave great advice for living, but had no specifics except “live well, love deeply and be grateful”.    

Throughout yesterday, on and off, I thought about my friend’s question.  Notes were made and I searched for inspiration, sayings and things of the sort.  The list got longer and longer and longer with the difficult part coming last night when I edited down to the essence of what I would want to leave behind for my son.  Here is what I ended up with:

You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly. (17 words)

Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.  (6 words)

There are two ways to live your life – one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.  (25 words) 

Laugh your heart out.
Dance in the rain.
Cherish the moment.
Ignore the pain.
Live, laugh, love,
Forgive and forget
Life’s too short to be
Living with regrets.
(28 words) 

The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least. (16 words) 

I love you. I am proud of you. (8 words) 

Total words = 100

(In order, thoughts above are by Sam Keen, Doris Day, Albert Einstein, Unknown, Unknown, me) 

Yesterday in our little talk that originated the 100 word challenge, my friend was interested to know why I began goodmorninggratitude.com and where the inspiration came from.  My answer was I had no specific idea, but know the motivation came in large part from beyond my ability to explain.  Call it divine inspiration or what ever, but one day I woke up on a Saturday morning and knew for certain I had to do it.  Having never done a blog before, I did the homework to learn how, signed up at wordpress.com and on Monday morning, April 25, I began.   Now four months later… here I am.

Today writing blog #122 I am struck with a feeling of intense gratitude to all who find meaning in what I write here.  Hundreds now coming by daily to check out my ramblings is a humbling motivator to continue to share my thoughts every day.   I am appreciative of every reader whether this is your only visit or you frequently stop by.  Thank you for your support!

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.
Henry Ward Beecher

“Superb Disputer”

Late last week a friend made a negative comment about how I was handling something at work.  Initially the feeling was he was right and I was not managing properly.  What I heard irritated me and I cut short the phone conversation.   From the spark of a though I got from him my mind began adding more non-flattering commenting of its own.  This continued until I was feeling pretty rotten.  I doubted myself and my ability. 

After having my friend’s thought kick around in my head for several days, I concluded he had an incorrect view of things.  Yet, for at least two days I was beating myself up and coming around to his way of thinking although I really did not agree.  To make it worse, I was piling on a bunch of my own negative thinking to what was said.  Combined, it all left me feeling lousy.  

While not always well-practiced, I learned a while ago that my world without is but a reflection of my world within.    My thoughts create the conditions my mind imagines.  Had I continued to accept what was said to me, I would have been misleading myself down a false path.  Realizing I had started doing just that walk was a wakeup call to remember to use something I know about call “superb disputing”.     

“Superb disputing” is a skill that everyone has, but is more apt to use when OTHERS accuse us wrongly.  Like any other skill, it is keenest when used regularly.  When not well-practiced, the skill can take a while to kick in as it just recently did with me.  

“Supurb Disputing “is an effective tool for inwardly sorting out my own thinking.  All I need to do is remind myself that I have a lot of control over what I think.  From experience I know I can sort my thoughts into ones worthy of further attention and the ones that are garbage and proceed accordingly. I just have to not forget I know how to do this. 

For example, I know if a friend tells me I am a lousy employee or bad father I can marshal evidence against the accusation and fire it back at him or her if I choose.  What is most important is that I know, even if I never speak a word of that knowledge to anyone else.  

How well I remember the days when I was almost completely lost in my thinking.  I believed my thoughts were “me”.  It was not that long ago when I made all sorts of negative accusations to myself, about myself many times a day.  Things were common like being headed into a party thinking “I have nothing to say.  Now one is going to like me.  Or I look terrible”…and so on.   

When negative accusations came from inside me, once upon a time I treated them mostly as if they were absolute truth.  It took a long time and consist work to realize the automatic pessimistic thoughts I had about myself were just as irrational as the ravings of a jealous rival or a well intended, but mistaken friend. 

I had to learn that unconstructive thoughts about my self do not necessarily originate in hard fact and often come from criticisms from my past.  Sometime from ones made by a parent in anger, abuse from others, a mean teacher, mocking from other kids and all sorts of life experiences, all absorbed passively.  My thoughts are frequently only my conditioned responses learned previously, mostly while growing up.   

With just a little discipline I can be a “superb disputer” of these untrue thoughts about myself.  When I look closely I often realize much of what I think about myself is utter BS and nonsense.  The process of “disputing”  helps me to stop paying attention to that type of thought.  I know I can not completely stop my mind from thinking what it will, but whether I pay lots of attention or little attention to those mental ramblings is my choice.  

Frequently I do get good and accurate input from friends and appreciate their caring very much.  However, they are not always right.  Right or wrong, today I am thankful for what my friend said.  It was a catalyst for a reawakening of a life skill .  This morning there is much gratitude for the wake-up call and being reminded to dust off my ability as a “superb disputer”.  

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.  William Shakespeare

Talent, Compassion, and Honor

There is an old fable about a young man who inherits three locked treasure chests from his father.  

One was a heavy chest marked “Talents” and was filled with ability, gold and jewels.  With it could be bought all in the world. 

The second treasure chest was even heavier and marked “Compassion”.  It was filled with magic rings that when worn, would let him feel the emotions of another. 

The third treasure chest was marked “Honor”.  It was the largest and heaviest of the three treasure chests but the contents were a mystery.   

There were two keys given to the young man.  One key was to open the chest marked “Talents” and the other was for the chest marked “Compassion”.  The instructions that came with the keys said that “Talents” and “Compassion” were meant to be used.  There was no key to the third chest and the instructions said “Honor” was a thing too easily squandered.  To have the contents of that chest the young man must find his own key. 

As the story unfolds the young man goes out into the world and uses the chest of “Talents” wisely and carefully.  Each time he did he was given a parcel of land until in time he came to possess the entire world. 

Now owning the world, the young man turned to the chest called “Compassion”.  One at a time he put the magic rings on his fingers so he could understand the hopes and fears of all the people in his world.  He became a great ruler and champion of justice. 

For the third box marked “Honor” the young man tried and tried to find a key to open the chest.  He ordered his people to find a key to open it.  None did.  Many offered to break into the chest for him, but he always refused saying violence was not a key to honor.  

After many, many years the now old man said to his people “I have not found the key to “Honor” and I can not rule this world or the hearts of the people without it.  So he began to give away what he had gained through his use the chests of “Talents” and “Compassion”.  He gave every person a piece of land and a magic ring until he had given everything away.  

Then the old man thought to himself  my “Talents” are gone and my “Compassion” is spent.  I have nothing to give to my son except this chest I can not open.  With that thought, to his amazement the lock on the chest called “Honor” suddenly fell off.  

This is when the old man knew, Honor is not something to be spent or used, but to be kept.  The key to honor is to keep it, always, and pass it on.  He was so glad he had not given in and broken into that chest.  

With the lock off the heavy chest marked “Honor”, the aging man lifted the lid and to his amazement inside he saw two more filled and heavy chests, one marked “Talents” and the other “Compassion”.  So he took those two chests out, closed the lid on “Honor” and put the lock back on that chest.  When he did it instantly became the heaviest chest of all once again.  Then the called his son to him and said “Son, I am very old, and I want you to have these three chests…..” 

And so it has been so with me.  I went in search of money, success and fame and was blessed with all three.  I obtained them in abundance but was actually more unhappy than I had been at the start.  As I grew older, experience of living and pain from my own mistakes taught me and broke the seal on my heart.  Then I began to be much more compassionate of others.  When money, success and fame were not of great meaning to me any more and when helping others became one of my primary motivations, I began to find the honor that I had sought my entire life.

So now the tattoo on my left arm of two Chinese characters that mean “Honor” are beginning to match the man whose skin they were inked upon years ago.  It is my sincere hope that my son can see clearly what I have become and through that example encourage him to pay little attention to things I once was.  Within I feel gratitude in great quantity for the insight I have today.  And in doing so I must thank the trials and tribulations that taught me the lessons that brought me to where I am.  

Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.  There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.  J.C. Watts