Yes, You Are

Growth is an erratic forward movement:
two steps forward, one step back.
Remember that and be very gentle with yourself.
Julia Cameron

Having come to understand that a good life contains many episodes of “fall down, get up, try again”, I find personal truth in Ms. Cameron’s quote from “The Artist’s Way”. However, the part that says “…be very gentle with yourself” is something I’m not as good about as I wish.  Even years into facing my “stuff” at times I still struggle with being kind to myself.

Too frequently still such thoughts as “you could have done better” or “I’m just not good enough” bounce around. Of course, intellectually I know for certain they’re rubbish and my ability to throw off such thinking is steadily improving. Emotionally the grain of this type of ‘stinkin’ thinkin’ runs to my core. However, awareness has helped the prominence of the grain to fade somewhat so episodes self-depreciation come less often with smaller impact.  I discovered a passage in Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” that could easily have been placed for me in a case with a glass door marked “Break In Case of Emergency”. When I catch my self beating up on me I go find the piece hanging on my fridge and it usually helps me realize the person I most need to be a best friend to is myself.

I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long. I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it—I will love you through that, as well. If you don’t need the medication, I will love you, too. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and Braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.

I have an inner voice some call the “judge” and others refer to as the “critic”. It’s that little piece of consciousness that holds incredible sway over how I feel and the general quality of my life. Spotted for what it is, a liar, scoundrel and a cheat, this self talk began to show itself as coming from the weak bully that originates it; my ego.  As I’ve learned to dispute my own internal bu!!s#!t it’s been healthy to argue for my sanity by silently saying “that’s not true” or simply “no, stop it!”.  Simple, but it works.

Writing here today I feel stronger that I did when I started. I am a darn good friend to myself most of the time now. My inner-self steps up with pride and says “yes, you are!” as I type. It continues with the reminder “what you wrote is true so don’t forget it!”.  I am  grateful to realize to a large degree I can control what I think of myself and over time temper my ego by simply being good to my self. The battle to gain control over the “critic and judge” is life long but thankfully with effort those old enemies grow weaker with time and my friendship with myself grows.

If you really put a small value upon yourself,
rest assured that the world will not raise your price.
Author Unknown

More Important than Facts


Fifteen years ago if someone had earnestly tried to explain the impact a person’s attitude has, I would have listened patiently while thinking the premise was mostly new age swill. I would have been wrong but staunchly convinced I wasn’t.

Albert Einstein was accurate when he said, “Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character”.

So was Khalil Gigran when he more poetically wrote, “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens”.

When I thought my life sucked the most and had the guts to take a close look why, I found the culprit most often staring back at me from a mirror. About a decade ago I decided to stop having bad days and over time was able to do just that. As you chuckle to yourself about how crazy that sounds, let me say I have very difficult and challenging days. But they are never bad.

As long as I breathe I will relish the gift of life. What an amazing difference an attitude shift made for me. Now I embrace the knowing that grief, heartache and pain are as surely parts of a good life as joy, happiness and contentment.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.
It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances,
than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.
It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.
It will make or break a company… a church… a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude
we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…
We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.
We cannot change the inevitable.
The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have,
and that is our attitude.
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me
and 90% of how I react to it.
And so it is with you…
we are in charge of our attitudes.
Charles R. Swindoll

All in all today is a typical day. I am neither boiling over with joy nor wandering around in the shadow of grief. But it’s a damn fine day. As much as anything because I chose to label it as a good day. My attitude is my choice and I choose to be grateful for every second of today.

Attitude is a little thing
that makes a big difference.
Winston Churchill

“The Rules” From The Male Side

Toilet Seat Flow Chart larger1. Men are NOT mind readers.
2. Learn to work the toilet seat. You’re a big girl. If it’s up, put it down. We need it up. You need it down. You don’t hear us complaining about you leaving it down.
3. Sunday sports: It’s like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.
4. Crying is blackmail.
5. Breasts are for looking at and that is why we do it. Don’t try to change that.
6. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it that way.
7. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.
8. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one! Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!
9. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.
10. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That’s what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
11. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become Null and void after 7 Days.
12. If you think you’re fat, you probably are. Don’t ask us.
13. If something we said can be interpreted in two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.
14. You can either ask us to do something OR tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.
15. Whenever possible, Please say whatever you have to say during commercials.
16. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.
17. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have NO idea what mauve is.
18. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.
19. If we ask what is wrong and you say ‘nothing,’ we will act like nothing’s wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.
20. If you ask a question you don’t want an answer to, expect an answer you don’t want to hear.
21. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine… Really!
22. Don’t ask us what we’re thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as Sex, Sport, or Cars.
23. You have enough clothes.
24. You have too many shoes.
25. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!
26. Thank you for reading this; Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight, but did you know men really don’t mind that, it’s like camping.

This list has been posted many times over the years, but I could not resist putting it up again. A good bit of it does not fit my feelings well (particularly numbers 3, 15, 16, 18, & 22) but a lot of it is just plain common sense. I am grateful to have lived long enough to be able to express to any woman what I do and don’t like (well… most of the time). That was one hard learned lesson!

Men marry women with the hope
they will never change.
Women marry men with the hope
they will change.
Invariably they are both disappointed.
Albert Einstein

One Year Ago Today

comfort zone2

Kissed My Comfort Zone Goodbye
Originally Posted on December 31, 2012

Over time my comfort zone has become something of a trap; safe and comfortable, but stifling to my growth and realization of my dreams. My ‘rut’ is a sweet pill similar to “Soma” that Aldous Huxley described in “Brave New World”: … a quite impenetrable wall between the actual universe and… mind…

A little rhyme Huxley included about “Soma” is:
Hug me till you drug me, honey;
Kiss me till I’m in a coma;
Hug me, honey, snuggly bunny;
Love’s as good as Soma.

Psychologists have long told us that “man tends toward pleasure and the path of least resistance”. There is some deep down desire to get benefits without any more work or discomfort than absolutely necessary. Given a choice between something that is neutral and something that gives pleasure, humans most often choose the latter.  Today I throw off another layer of the old to embrace the new that comes with a fresh year tomorrow. 2 0 1 3 is going to be a remarkable year! (It was a remarkable year, but 2 0 1 4 is going to be even more so)

I used to have a comfort zone
Where I knew I couldn’t fail.
Same four walls and busy work,
Were really more like jail.

I longed to do the things
I’d never done before,
But I stayed inside my comfort
Zone and paced the same old floor.

I claimed to be so busy with
The things inside my zone,
But deep down inside I longed
For something special of my own,

I took a step with new strength
I’d never felt before.
I kissed my comfort zone good-bye
And closed and locked the door.
Taken from “I Used to Have a Comfort Zone” – Author Unknown

Just because a tendency is “normal” does not mean I must succumb to it. However, it takes a conscious leap of faith to move past my comfort zone. I am ready to make it and grateful that 2013 (2014) will be the year where I take big steps to break free and embrace my dreams.

It does not take a new day
To make a brand new start,
It only takes a deep desire
To try with all our heart.
So never give up in despair
And think that you are through,
For there’s always a tomorrow
And the hope of starting new.
From “Another Chance” by Helen Steiner Rice

A Hasty Word You Can’t Recall


Once in a while a realization comes of how perception was distorted or incorrect. In the times of anger or hurt, things get said one regrets; things that can’t be taken back. And the humbling part of such behavior is those closest to us suffer.

You always hurt the one you love,
the one you should not hurt at all;
You always take the sweetest rose,
and crush it till the petals fall;
You always break the kindest heart,
with a hasty word you can’t recall;
So if I broke your heart last night,
it’s because I love you most of all.
From an old Mills Brothers song

In situations in which we have nothing of value to lose, we seldom experience disappointment. In love, which involves our happiness and many of our most precious experiences, there is a great deal to lose. Hence, disappointment and frustration, and consequently hurt, are common. It has been said that completely blissful love does not exist. Indeed, in a survey of over 500 lovers, almost all of them assumed that passionate love is a bittersweet experience. Similarly, it has been found that people low in defensiveness have more experiences of love than do highly defensive people. This link suggests that to love is to make oneself vulnerable in ways that enhance the possibility of pain.

Since the beloved is a major source of happiness, this person is also a major threat to our happiness: more than anyone else, the beloved can ruin our happiness. Similarly, the security involved in love goes together with the fear of losing that security. Feeling happy is often bound up with the fear of losing that happiness. Caring for the beloved sometimes goes together with hurting the beloved. From article by Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D.,

Perhaps we should say “I’m sorry.” “I love you.” “You are the only person who really knows me, and who still wants to be my friend even when I am terrible.” “Your love is something that allows the rest of the world and all of its small aggressions to not feel so cold.” Chelsea Fagan

To “not hurt the ones I love” is a lesson I still trying to master and consistently practice. Old abandonment issues from childhood conditioned me to anticipate being hurt. The problem with that is a manifestation of expectation can sometimes actually be the cause of what I fear. I am grateful for the reminder that I have not arrived and never will. Life is a classroom and school is never out.

It’s ironic how we ignore the ones that adore us,
adore the ones that ignore us,
hurt the ones that love us,
and love the ones that hurt us.

Living Takes More Courage Than Dying

Whatever you do, you need courage.
Whatever course you decide upon,
there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong.
There are always difficulties arising that tempt you
to believe your critics are right.
To map out a course of action
and follow it to an end requires
some of the same courage that a soldier needs.
Peace has its victories,
but it takes brave men and women to win them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Until my time comes there is no way to be certain, but experience makes me believe that living takes more courage than dying. Whether spending time well or badly, healthfully or sick, heartbroken or happy; being alive takes strength and guts. With severe illness or great sadness, even more so. And the older one gets and the more hurt and mistakes accumulate, the braver one must be to live well.

It is a fact of life that we find ourselves in unpleasant demoralizing situations which we can neither escape nor control. We can keep our morale and spirits high by using both coping and hoping humor. Coping humor laughs at the hopelessness in our situation. It gives us the courage to hang in there, but it does not bring hope. The uniqueness of hoping humor lies in its acceptance of life with all its dichotomies, contradictions, and incongruities. It celebrates the hope in human life. From one comes courage, from the other comes inspiration. Cy Eberhar

There are times when I get pulled down thinking “my life is difficult”, “I’m lonely”, “why do I have to go through this” or even the proverbial “why me?!”. Any human being who says they don’t think and feel such things is a liar. It’s the human condition to resist the difficult, to wish away what brings discomfort and to want ‘calm waters’ all the time.

When difficult or grueling times come I find relief in reminding myself life is tough; always has been, always will be. If it were easy all the time much of the value of life would be lost. I am grateful for the reminder this morning, that hardship, uncertainty and pain are just as much a part of a good life as love, peace and joy. Without the former, the latter would not mean nearly as much.  Learn to smile at yourself and you’ll always be amused!

It has been said that brave people are not necessarily fearless;
they are simply accustomed to, and more comfortable with,
facing fear and moving ahead in spite of themselves.
Tracy Cherpeski

Originally posted on September 20, 2012

Become the Watcher


When I become aware of my thoughts, it does not make me become my thoughts. Quite the contrary, only then do I have a chance to sort out what’s real from what’s misapprehension, distortion and nonsense. Without attention most thought bounces mindlessly in my brain like light reflected back and forth between a hundred mirrors; lots of motion but getting nowhere.

The musing of my mind is most often barely me at all and instead some creation loosely based on a combination of all I have been through, felt or experienced. This kind of thinking is created like a mindless chemical reaction. When I pay attention to what is bouncing around in my head I become the watcher who is able, with good reliability, to sort out the good stuff from the ravings of a lunatic (which is exactly what the thoughts of an unattended mind are!).

A frantic mind misses opportunities and pushes them away. If a good opportunity comes your way, and your mind is going a mile a minute, that opportunity will wiz right by you.

When opportunities come, you need a quiet place for them to alight, to rest. A frantic mind actually pushes them away. Multi-tasking creates more stress and makes the mind more frantic. Do one thing at a time and complete it.

It is the nature of the mind to have thoughts. We mistakenly identify with our thoughts and think that’s who we are. But to the mind, all thoughts are the same. The thoughts that make our ego feel good, we pull towards us, and the ones that make our ego feel bad, we push away. This push and pull is what makes the mind frantic.

Truth comes through the mind, not from the mind. The mind is the vehicle for truth, not the source. The source of truth is the universe, spirit, God, whatever you want to call consciousness. Chandra Alexander

When beginning a meditation practice about a decade ago, my mind wrestled with me. It did not want to be closely examined and fought back by increasing the stream of silent babbling within my brain. Only for a few seconds could I redirect my thinking before the ‘bully’ that was my mind took over again. The majority of the time my unconscious thoughts still win, but over time I have found moments of peace while sitting still with my eyes closed and allowing myself to just be.

The key lesson learned has been once I started paying attention to my thoughts and attempting to sort out what is fact from fiction; what is reality from complete lunacy; an amazing thing happened. Gratefully I began to be able to sort out with decent consistency what was my own BS and what was truth.

The rational man doesn’t hate it
when he is proven wrong;
he is actually grateful,
since his knowledge
has been enriched.