January 31, 2014

Refiners Fire

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger” – Friedrich Nietzsche

 There seems to be an epidemic of discouragement these days.  Many people are struggling with one challenge or another, but that has been true throughout human history.  There have always been cycles of financial prosperity and times of financial downturn.

People will continue to be born, live, suffer illness, and die.  Wars will continue to rage, and people will continue to be challenged for as long as the planet keeps turning and being repopulated.  That is a given.

So, what's changed?  Why so glum chum?  I believe it's because in the face of all that will ever be continuously thrown before us, we are losing faith.  Faith in each other, faith in possibility and ingenuity.  Faith that there is a bigger picture than the one we can see and especially faith that there is someone bigger than us to turn to.

We seem to be conditioned to only see what is and not what could be.

There are no NEW ills that have befallen mankind. It's all the same stuff that has been going on in waves since the beginning.

As I look back at my life, I find the quote by Frederich Nietzsche to be true.  I'll admit, that as I passed through some of what eventually made me stronger, there were times I thought having it kill me would be easier...but it didn't.  I can remember how it felt to feel the sun begin to creep back into my soul after it seemed to have been away for so long.  As its' rays began melting the ice of sorrow, I felt stirrings of determination replacing the frost.

I will also admit, I would never have "chosen" those trials.  I further admit that while I was passing through them, I didn't enjoy them one bit!  But, I need to add, there was a sweetness that came from knowing that I'd lived to fight another day.  My resilience, born of suffering, is something that no one can take away from me.  It's mine.  It's the prize for a hard fought fight.

Take heart!  After the blackest night, the dawn does surely come.  It may not come at our beckoning, but it does arrive, always on time.



January 29, 2014


Today the sun came out and I noticed!  While I'm aware that the sun rises and shines on a regular basis, I'll admit that I don't always notice. (I also don't notice putting the dishwasher soap in the refrigerator but that's another post all together.)

The reason I happened to notice the sun today had less to do with it's brilliance than it did with with contrast.  Where I live, in the winter, there are many more days that are overcast, cloudy and snowy than sunny. That isn't always pleasant, but it turns what could be an ordinary sunny day into something spectacular!  Mostly because I notice.

Contrast.  It's what allows us enjoy the wonderful things in the world.  We need it to grab our attention.  We hate it when it brings darkness and sadness as comparatives, and we love it when the light comes shining back into our lives.

I'm learning to enjoy contrast for what it is during each of it's phases knowing that my life would be forever bleak without it.


January 26, 2014

WHAT Was I Thinking??

I had a flashback this morning of one of my more outrageous "WHAT WAS I THINKING" moments.  Most sane people would never admit to something this ridiculous, but I've never quite fit neatly into any official definition of sanity, so what the heck...

A friend was visiting on this particular day. (I always save my most embarrassing stuff until I have an audience.)  The two of us were in the kitchen and I reached into the cabinet to get a glass, when horror of horrors, I broke a nail off on the cabinet door.  NO PROBLEM!  I keep nail glue around for disasters such as this. This just happened to be a particularly stubborn tube of glue that would not yield to my repeated attempts to twist the cap off.  So, what would you do?  EXACTLY!  Put it in your mouth and try to open it with your teeth!  RIGHT???  (I'm visualizing you nodding in agreement. It makes me feel better somehow.)

After struggling with it for a bit, the top finally twisted and came off. That was the good news. The less good news was that all that struggling had squished the tube and as the top came off, some of the glue squirted onto my front teeth. My teeth responded instantly by grabbing my top lip and forming an amazingly secure bond. (The like of which I've never been able to achieve on stuff it's suppose to work on.)

So - there I was, standing in the kitchen trying to carry on a conversation as though nothing had happened. It worked for about 2 minutes until my friend caught on that I sounded a bit funny and turned to see my talking (but not moving) lip.

Sadly, this friend has witnessed more that her fair share of my "what was I thinking" moments. I think she stays on just for the satisfaction she gets from the seemingly instant rise she perceives in her own I.Q.when we're together.

We all have moments that make us wonder where our brains were while our bodies were carrying out some absurd activity. Goof ups are just standard operational procedure. They're part of the "human condition." Maybe it was that relationship where we chose to ignore the entire parade of red flags followed by a marching band and entered into it anyway.  Maybe it was the job we knew would be horrible for us but accepted. Or was it that business deal that we knew seemed too good to be true? It really doesn't matter what it was or yet will be. The important thing is that we don't define ourselves by them. (That's what the people who witness them are for!) 

If I chose to measure myself only by the dumb things I've done, I wouldn't be able to pull the covers off my head each morning, much less crawl out of bed and face the possibility of doing something worse.

It's so easy to beat ourselves up. All we have to do is compare ourselves to others. The problem with that is that we always compare our worst selves with someone else at their best - in part, I believe because most of the time that's all we allow each other to see. 

I had a friend who had a hard and fast rule. She said "Never judge anyone until you've looked through their closets." What she meant by this is it's easy to walk into someone's perfectly ordered life and assume it always looks like that. We forget that we all have closets where we put the things we don't want seen.

Another important thing I've learned is that it's vital to be able to laugh at myself. It makes it so much easier than just standing and looking dumbfounded while everyone is. I'm learning to be OK with my humanness. I've lived with myself long enough that I've grown accustom to my eccentricities. My husband thankfully has a sense of humor too or we'd both be in trouble.

If we just start out knowing that not everything will always go according to plan, it makes it easier to shake it off and bounce back when they don't. It's been said that "when we don't get what we want, what we get instead is experience" - and that's something we can't buy at any price - that and a new lip!

I can only hope that none of you can top gluing your lip to your front teeth, but if you can, and you don't mind sharing, I'd love to hear all about your craziest "what was I thinking" moment.  My I.Q could use a boost too!

January 25, 2014

The Day The Mountain Moved...

 ...One shovel full at a time.

When I went to bed, we had a  driveway. When I woke up this morning it was gone!

Admittedly, we live in a place where this type of thing happens during the winter months.  This morning however was different.  Rather than just the foot deep blanket of the white stuff, there were drifts in some spots that were 2 1/2 feet high.

We are shoveling people, my husband David and I.  I'd love to spin tales of how much  better for some reason that makes us than those around us with show blowers and plows, but the truth is I just don't want to fight my way around either of those in the garage for the 9 months we're not using them. (cursing myself and my logic today)

David, who takes pride in his man over nature triumphs, went outside first. (Getting up and waking up are two separate events for me that happen about an hour apart.)  By the time I was fully engaged in consciousness, he'd been at it for awhile.  I was surprised by his discouragement when I joined him.  "I think we might have to call the plow guy to get us out this morning." he said.  Those drifts will be impossible."  Having already moved a small mountain of snow, he was beginning to tire and what was still ahead threatened defeat...something I'd never seen in him before.

What I did next, didn't seem like such a big deal.  I went directly to the snow drift and took off a layer of snow.  Then another.  And another.  One shovel full at a time, it gave way.  Soon the drift was smaller than what was left around it.  When David turned and saw the drift gone, he immediately brightened up and took courage.  Is there a lesson here somewhere?  There always is!

Don't we sometimes look at our goals and see them as insurmountable "drifts."  We imagine ourselves with our shovels, trying to lift the whole 2 1/2 feet of it all at once.  That's a rather daunting picture.  Many times, just this image, is enough to stop us from taking the first step that will could eventually change our lives.  Often, just a small shift can make all the difference.

Here's an example:  When David first starts to shovel the drive, the first thing he does is shovel one long path from one end to the other.  Next he comes back to the first quarter of the drive and shovels another path all the way across it.  Whether intentional or not,  he's "chunk-ing" the job.  As he finishes the first area, he goes down to the half way mark and does another path across.  He keeps this up, working  just in each of the small "chunked" out areas, until the drive is finished.  What at firsts seemed too much to handle is successfully completed...and he celebrates and regales me with his conquest. (insert chest thumping here.)

Just practicing seeing huge jobs as "chunks" instead of a massive undertaking, makes the impossible seem possible. 

This is just one of the many lessons that life serves up for us each day in the ordinary goings on.  Who knew that being buried by snow could be so enlightening?


January 24, 2014

Center Of The Universe

Have you ever wondered where the geographical center of the universe is?  Well for a time, I believed it was me.  

It wasn't because I felt that I was more important or better than anyone else, I just believed I was responsible for "fixing" everything that was wrong in the world.  If I heard someone was having a problem, it became MY problem. If someone was feeling an unpleasant emotion, it must be because of something I'd done or didn't do.  I can tell you for certain, life really seemed broken back then.

Life will always seem broken when we try to own and fix situations that do not belong to us.  There is nothing more discouraging than taking responsibility for things over which we have no control.

"Other people" is a great example of something over which we have no control.  We can love them, want the best for them, be a good example, put in our two cents and be there to listen and support them.  That's pretty much where it ends.  We can't, nor should we try, to fix them or their problems.  I learned this the hard way.  When we try to "fix it," we're sending the message that they are broken and we have no confidence in their ability to handle the situation themselves.  That, in turn, can lead to a cycle of dependency and insecurity that in no way leaves them better than we found them.

Is it hard to stand by and watch as someone, especially someone we love, struggles?  Absolutely.  But the struggle will bring them strength as they overcome it on their own.

I, like all of you, have been through some tough situations (none of them that I would have chosen for myself) and I'm still standing. Were there times I doubted myself? Constantly.  Did I believe in the beginning that I had what it took to get through it?  Not on your life.

I did however, find inside myself a deep well of strength and tenacity I might never have discovered any other way.  While I wouldn't wish any of those challenges on someone else, I will also try my best (I'm still in recovery) not to deny them the gift of resiliency that those struggles brought me.

Challenges bring with them experience.  Experience is a springboard from which we can bounce back higher and better than before.  Like holding a beach ball under water, the lower we sink, the greater the momentum for our triumphant reemergence.

Have a great day!


January 23, 2014

Maybe Sucess Is Just Not Giving Up!

 I LOVE this!

Genius is only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it: so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many people have thrown up their hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success. As the tide goes clear out, so it comes clear in. In business, sometimes, prospects may seem darkest when really they are on the turn. A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.
Elbert Hubbard, 1856 – 1915)