Sunday, February 27, 2011

You Will Not Destroy Me

My daughter brought home a book from her school library called, The Quiltmaker's Gift.  I was so inspired by the book that I bought a copy for us to keep.  It's about a quiltmaker who makes quilts for the poor and needy and a king who has ruled he shall have two birthdays every year and that everyone in the land must give him a gift on each of his birthdays.  When he finds that the quiltmaker has not given him a gift, he and his army march to her home, demanding she make him a quilt.  She told him that she only makes quilts for the poor and needy and that when he is that, she will make him a quilt.  Angry, he ties her up in the cave of a sleeping bear to be eaten by morning.  He is ridden with guilt and goes to rescue her, only to find that the woman has befriended the bear and has made the bear a soft pillow to sleep on.  The king was again enraged and put the quiltmaker on an island only big enough for her to stand on and allowed her to drown.  Again, he felt too badly and went to rescue her, only to find that a large flock of birds had flown the woman to dry land and that she was stitching small shawls for each of the birds.  The king finally gave up and with much angst, decided to give away his belongings one by one.  At first it was very difficult, then became easier and easier as he saw the delight that it brought to others.  He traveled the world giving away everything he owned, and was rewarded with a beautiful quilt.  He declared himself a rich man in the end, having experienced the joy of giving. 
There are people in my life who have tried to keep me from growing, hoping that I will give up and fall to the ground in defeat.  When I catch myself wanting to do just that, I think about the quiltmaker living purely with love no matter what others are doing.  She actually makes friends with someone who is meant to be her enemy just by being fearless and loving.  I think about myself standing tall and proud, firm in my principles, moving forward with my life despite the evil around me.  "You will not destroy me," I say to myself, and I pick myself up and trudge through whatever I need to trudge through.  And most of all, I focus on the power of love.  The strength I feel from thinking this way is indomitable.  Love really does conquer all things.  It is unbreakable and cannot be destroyed.

The Bigger Picture

Have you ever witnessed a flock of starlings in the air?  It's so spectacular.  The graceful moving and bending of the shape of the flock is hard to believe.  Every bird is flying its own way and from inside the mass it probably looks chaotic.  But when you observe the effect from outside of it, which is an elegantly choreographed dance, you can see that the apparent disorder serves a beautiful higher purpose.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Be the Captain of Your Ship

I sometimes find myself wishing I could blame someone else for how I feel or for my lot in life, but when I do, I meander along the victim end of the continuum, where I feel quite crummy.  There is a continuum on which lie the two extremes of how much responsibility we can take for ourselves.  On one end is complete victim-hood, where we feel that we are passive recipients of life's circumstances.  On the other is where we feel we are the captain of our own ship, leading ourselves through calm and stormy seas.
We create our own reality, whether we think so or not.  We use our free will to navigate through our day and if we don't pay attention to what decisions we make, then we may make them out of habit or because of old hurts, etc., and that usually causes harm.   Living consciously is to live with purpose.  This can only be done if we know ourselves well enough to understand why we make the choices we do. 
Isn't it so easy to push the blame for how we feel onto other people, institutions, or rules of some kind?  It's not worth it.  I trick myself into thinking I'm better off because the problems are someone else's fault.  If I'm so well off, then why do I still feel badly?
When I spend my time waiting for something to change, someone else to make a decision, complaining about how things didn't go my way, it feels as if my power is sealed in a jar up on a shelf.  I can only use my power if I open the jar and decide which way to go.  The emotions that go along with feeling powerful are all good and reproduce themselves as long as I remain in the captain's seat.  In those moments when I don't know what to do yet, I can use my power to maintain my confidence within the uncertainty.  I can feel good knowing that I will know what to do when the time is right.
Regardless of what happens in my life, I am always in control of myself and that is actually quite comforting, as scary as it sometimes is.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Get Real

With the divorce rate so high, we are left to search for explanations and speculate on what could be at the bottom of it.  Who doesn’t know someone who is divorced or going through a divorce?  We attend weddings and wonder and hope about the future of the couple.  “‘Til death do us part…”  Are you sure about that?  We all know how it goes:  the sweet couple is happy and excited and can't get enough of each other (the honeymoon period), then reality sets in.  Every day, huh?  You mean you're still here?  I can only be happy and joyful for so long, you know.  Each member of the couple is at least a little scared to be real.  What if she finds out I’m scared?  What if he sees that I really get upset inside when he pays more attention to the TV than to me?  Would he hate me?  Would she leave me?  I better pretend everything is okay.  I better pretend I am still happy with him.  And so it goes. 
You pretend to be who you think you ought to be to please me, and I'll help you with that by pretending that I'm happy with who you pretend to be.  It sounds exhausting, doesn't it?  It's really not much different than telling a little white lie and then telling more and more to keep up with the first one.  You suddenly find yourself in over your head and as if there is no way out.
What would happen, then, if you actually told the truth?  Would the whole thing fall apart?  How will you know?  The answer is simple.  You will only know if you try.  You already know how the pretending works.  Things will not change much while the pretending is still going on.  You can make minor adjustments that make a situation more tolerable, but until the truth is out in the open to discuss and deal with, the relationship will remain pretty much the same.
Why is it we are taught to pretend?  What's wrong with the truth anyway?  So what if I'm scared?  So I am.  Is there really a problem with that?  Somehow our culture has deemed that the most acceptable emotions are happiness and joy, and that fear, anger and sadness indicate weakness.  It seems that the popular belief is that self-confident, strong people don’t feel “negative” emotions.  Instead, they “toughen up” and smile through it.  They are considered by many to be strong if they are unaffected by petty emotions.
It’s important to differentiate between being strong and being phony.  It takes courage to actually admit that you are no better than anyone else and that, you, too have feelings that can be hurt.  Fear, sadness and anger are all healthy emotions under the appropriate circumstances.  Each of them helps to protect us.  When someone is hurting us, we may be angry.  Good.  We should be.  Then we alter our behavior to stop the hurt.  When we are grieving a loss, we may be sad.  Allowing ourselves to feel the sadness is healthier than potentially lashing out later because we have stuffed the feelings.   It takes strength to look our emotions in the face and handle them in a responsible manner.  It is phony to pretend we don’t have them.
Being aware of our emotions and dealing with them in a responsible way is how we take care of ourselves.  It is liberating to feel able and willing to express whatever true emotions we are actually feeling.  Sometimes taking care of ourselves appears selfish because someone else’s feelings may be hurt by the truth.  It’s important to take others’ feelings into consideration, but truly, we are supposed to take care of ourselves.  It is our job as a human being.  It is being responsible.  No one else can do this for us, for they do not know what we need as we ourselves do.  We know how we feel when someone else does x, y, or z.  We know we feel sad or mad.  If we do not respond to these emotions, they are left unresolved and only add to an exaggerated feeling the next time x, y, or z occurs.  This is unfair to the other person, who is left to guess how we are feeling and why we have overreacted. 
The misconception is that we might hurt someone else’s feelings by having our own, so we pretend we don’t have them and try to move on anyway.  Then comes the part where we get fed up.  However, if the truth is shared, we can attempt to come to a middle ground with each of our truths.  In actuality, both people are able to grow and live fuller lives when faced with the truth. The better we take care of ourselves, the more energy we have available to help take care of others.  If we keep pretending, no one can stop us, even if they try.  We have to be willing to be real.  It is liberating and it turns out we have more energy and love to share with others when we feel better ourselves.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Prayer, Patience, and Abundance

I have cards that have motivational messages on them, each from an angel.  You choose one randomly to discover what the angel wants you to know.  One day I chose three cards at a time.  I was delighted to see the messages Prayer, Patience and Abundance.  I felt inspired since I had been praying and patient, and was hoping for a lighter load in my life and good things to come my way.
After that, I saw the word "abundance" all around me.  I read it in books, saw it on a poster at the store, and read in several places on the internet.  I could hardly believe my eyes each time I saw it.  I have no doubt that the word was placed there for me to see.  Then for my birthday, a friend gave me a little gift.  She chose it because a year before my life was so intense that I was practically unable to discuss anything of a superficial nature.  I had told her, "I would love to discuss something as simple as curtains, but I just can't right now.  My mind is too involved in all this mess".  So this year, she chose something that was insignificant just for fun: a little glass fish with rainbow colors.  Now keep in mind I hadn't told her about my Prayer, Patience, and Abundance message.  When I opened the box, there was a paper inside that explained that the significance of the fish is that the Chinese word for fish is, no kidding, "Abundance".  Wow!
I put the fish on my kitchen windowsill and looked at it at every opportunity, each time thinking of the word abundance.  At first, I was more focused on obtaining financial abundance since I was concerned about my financial future.  Then it dawned on me one day that the message may be about abundance I already have.  I began to focus on gratitude for my beautiful, healthy children, clothes, shelter, and joy.  I don't need any more than that.
A few months later, I fell into some financial opportunities, obtained a couple great new friends and the success of a creative endeavor.  I feel tremendously grateful for all that is provided to me and how much abundance I feel in my life when I focus on what gifts I have.