October 21, 2015

Nailing Jello to the Wall

What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.   - C.S. Lewis

The longer I live the more convinced I am that we do indeed create our own reality. A recent conversation brought this into focus.

As I listened to a "horrible" experience shared with me, it became clear that the worn out platitude "There is no reality, there is only perception" lives on for a reason.

As the tale unraveled, and knowing well the entire cast of characters, I looked at the events as though they were playing out on a  3-D sphere that I could manipulate and view from different angles. Each angle told a story of its own.

 Songs are as sad as the listener. 
- Jonathan Safran Foer

There was the story that was being told with all of its rawness from the perspective of the storyteller. If I turned the ball, a completely different story appeared as I factored in my knowledge of a different person in the story and took into account their motivations. Another spin showed a completely different tale told by a different participant. Tilting the ball another way presented the event at the center of the story - all by itself - before anyone had a chance to color it in hues of perception. As is most often the case, the event was the only neutral element.

Being uninvolved in the goings on allowed me to see it from a detached point of view. It became clear to me that what could have been something completely benign had become highly significant to the storyteller. So significant in fact that she will filter other events through her perception of this one and look to validate the beliefs she acquired from this in future interactions with these folks.
From her perspective, her feelings were invalidated. She feels her property was violated, her objections were unheard, and therefore she is unimportant. Since that's how she internalized the event, this forms her reality of not only the event but also of those involved. Hopefully those feelings will mix with contrary evidence from earlier experiences with those same people and will become tempered or even outweighed.

 Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change. - Wayne W. Dyer

This same event has created a different reality for the others parties involved. They have colored it with their own points of view so that their picture probably bares little resemblance to the storyteller's picture and my guess is that they are unaware that the impact made on the storyteller was significant.

I have seen firsthand how perception can affect relationships. As a parent, I hear stories from my own children that flabbergast me. I hear them recall events from their childhood that I can barely make out because their experience of the event is so completely different than mine. I have seen my own actions interpreted in ways so far from my intention that I am completely bewildered and perplexed. It's been a rude awakening that has caused me to reflect on my own upbringing - events that have had a significant impact on me - and to re-examine them. I try to see them from that 3-D spherical perspective to see what other perspectives those stories may hold. This practice has changed me.

It's caused me to have more compassion for those I once believed intended me harm or appeared to show reckless disregard for my feelings. I also try harder to see people less as one dimensional and instead in their fully fleshed out forms including as many of their life situations as is possible. For example, instead of seeing something my mother may have said or done as "how could a mother do such a thing," I now realize that no one is ever "just" a mom or just any one thing for that matter. My mother was and is also a human being, with feelings, problems, disappointments, and dreams all her own. She is also a wife, a daughter, an in-law, and friend. Like all of us, she was sometimes acted upon by outside forces that she couldn't control. In short, she said and did what she did as all of those people - not just as a mother.

 Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, "What else could this mean?”
  - Shannon L. Alder

It's, apparently, also caused me to become aggravating. Aggravating because when someone comes to me with a "story" I try to take the sphere approach and offer different perspectives to what they may be experiencing in order to help them reframe it - see it from another point of view. It's been a rude awakening to me that others don't want to hear a different perspective. They want me to get mad at those they're mad at and take their side in that moment. The different perspectives might be welcome after they've had time to cool down, but my sphere approach makes them feel as though I'm not validating their feelings! See what I mean by intentions being misinterpreted? It's happening to you too! Every day.

The only reality that seems consistent to me  is that nothing we say or do is without effect. Life is like soup. We can't keep the flavors of the individual ingredients from combining. Once they're tossed into the pot they become part of and flavor the entire batch. An insult by a husband at breakfast can easily simmer and be served to the children at lunch.

Life is complex and we each view it through lenses colored by perception - perception that may or may not have any basis in reality - whatever that is.

 Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.  - Shannon L. Alder

Uncovering reality can be as tricky as nailing jello to the wall. Reality shifts and changes shapes constantly as it's acted upon and perceived. It's one color to one person and another to someone else. What tastes sweet and refreshing to me might activate your gag reflex.

It's raining. That's a terrible thing to a bride who's planned an outdoor wedding - and a wonderful thing to a farmer who's watching his crops wilt in the field. The rain is only water falling from the sky but each person's reality of that truth depends on how it's affecting them at the moment.

The terrible thing about all of this is that we are all observers - packed full of experiences that color our observations. We filter each experience through other experiences and base our observations not only on present information but also on our personal history and accumulated belief systems. That can make things tricky. New relationships are acted upon by our past relationships - so much so that our new love interest can sometimes be expected to do penance for the sins of their predicessor or at least be punished for those sins.

Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.  - Marcus Aurelius

The wonderful thing about this is that we can change our perspective and thereby change our reality! Awareness is the first step to making it possible.

All of life's events are happening on a sphere - metaphorically and literally. How much better would things be if we could find a way to step back and see them that way? Would we be more understanding of other points of view? Maybe even more tolerant? Would we think twice about our own actions if we could see the impact they may be having on others? Would we all become aggravating? There's a lot to unpack here and this is just my limited perception of it! I'd love to hear yours!

September 28, 2015

Of Clouds and Rainbows


 They sicken of the calm who know the storm. 
 - Dorothy Parker 

Each Sunday I teach 11 seven and eight year old children a Sunday school lesson. If you've never been in a room with that many seven and eight year olds, you're really missing something! The sheer energy and excitement in that space could power a small city for a week - if we could find a way to contain it - which I haven't. Moreover, the things I learn in my attempt to educate them on life, faith, and the undying love of Someone unseen to them, makes me wonder if I wasn't put in there to be taught instead of to teach.

A few weeks ago, one of my usual little firecrackers just wasn't herself. In fact I'm not sure who she was. Her normal effervescence and sparkling eyes had been replaced by a sullenness that was disturbing by contrast. It turned out that the cause for her demeanor had to do with another boy who's usually in the class. She'd seen him earlier in the day but he never made it to our room. She was worry stricken.

I pulled out all my best stuff trying to get her to cheer up but she was having none of it! At one point, she feigned a need to visit the "necessessarium" in order to investigate what had caused her friend to be absent. She returned saying she'd leaned that his family had to leave because he was bleeding.

More information did not make things better. In fact if her mood had been dark before - it was now black. She refused to open her eyes. Any attempt to speak to her was met with a turned head and folded arms. Even my suggestion that she call and check on him when she got home fell on deaf ears.

It was interesting to see that the lesson  earlier in the year about loving each other had taken root - but it was still hard to see her tortured.

After our lesson time, all the children's classes meet together. The children rotate turns addressing the entire group and giving a talk on an assigned topic, offering a prayer, or sharing a scripture. I never cease to be amazed watching these kids do with ease what most adults would rather be shot than do - speak in public! It brings to mind how brave we were before the world taught us to  be afraid of each other. Fear and unease are not our undefiled states. Those things are acquired over time and it's refreshing to see what pure trust and confidence looks like once a week.

During this time, my little brooder became darker still - even angry if someone spoke to her. I thought it best to give her space to work through her emotions without further intrusion so I let her be. She used the time to further steep in her anxiety.

A few minutes before we were to go home, I leaned toward her and whispered:  "If I have to go home today without seeing one of your beautiful smiles, I might not make it till next Sunday. I look forward to those smiles all week long!" To this, she folded her arms and snorted. 

Moments later her countenance changed. The scowl vanished and a peaceful look replaced it. She tilted her head toward me and  flashed the biggest forced grin I'd ever seen! Then - without warning - she exploded into a story of how she had seen a double rainbow. She told me how exciting it was and how it landed in a field. She was excited for me to know that she'd run to get her family and that pictures had been taken as proof it really happened. Then she said, with complete astonishment, "And the whole time, IT WAS RAINING!"

I explained to her that if it hadn't been raining, there couldn't have been a rainbow and how the rainbow gets even brighter when it's against a dark sky. She beamed at me with complete wonder - and in that moment it hit me! SHE had just become a rainbow! 

It was freshly clear to me why the rainbow is such a beautiful metaphor for hope. It's during the darkest hours that it can shine its brightest. The rainbows of our lives are those flickers of light that we see - if we're looking for them - just as we feel we may drown. The darker the circumstances the brighter the potential for the light to be. Life is stormy. Life can seem to be a dark and dangerous place. In that same space there is evidence of something more - something better if we can just hang on a little longer and let it take shape. That's not easy with the rain getting in our eyes and the winds beating against us, but in every storm there is the potential for something beautiful to appear and to transform us into something spectacular.

These aren't just flowery platitudes I'm sharing with you today. I'm speaking from my own experience of life. I've lived in the sunshine and basked in it's warmth. I've lived through the clouds. There have also been times when the skies have been so black that I'd almost given up hope of the light ever returning. After weathering each storm the light has come back and some of those storms have produced the most beautiful rainbows! Some came in the form of insight. Others - new people coming into my life to replace the ones who'd blown away. Once the blackness disperses and I've picked myself up and dried off, I've taken time to pick through the aftermath to see what's left - worth keeping.

I deeply believe that life isn't suppose to be all sunshine - and what a blessing that is! My greatest strength has come as a result of weathering storms, not basking in the sun. (Wear sunscreen by the way! You'll thank yourself in your 50's.) Storms - even the worst of them - carry trans-formative power. Just as the lightening nourishes the plants, so does adversity feed our souls if we drink deeply the lessons and experiences. We can also choose to reject those and dwell in bitterness but that leads to shriveling instead of growth.

I'm not going to tell you that you'll ever reach the point where you see dark clouds gathering and greet them with shrieks of excitement. What I will share though - and what's been true for me - is that the time may come when you can face them with wonder instead of horror and understand that they may just land you in OZ.

How about you? Have you learned to weather the inevitable storms in life? What insights can you share? How have you been made stronger?

September 14, 2015

Fry Big Fish

The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it.  
- Lou Holtz

I recently had an experience that caused me to scratch my head in utter disbelief. It was a small thing. A very small thing. A small thing that suddenly became a thing of monumental proportion. Work had been done - hard work and a lot of it. The end result was resplendent and far exceeded initial expectations. Moods were high and celebration was in full swing when someone decided to take offense at the most ludicrous, puny, and highly subjective thing. My jaw dropped in disbelief. This guppy in the ocean suddenly became a great white shark - not because it was a bad thing - but because of the fatal effect on morale that pointing it out caused. This was a very small fish yet someone decided to fry it anyway.

I struggle to understand why people waste their time looking for reasons to be dissatisfied? Do they feel it gives them an air of superiority to create issues where no issues exists? Are some people just inherently unhappy and desperately in need of the tiny morsel of attention they receive by pouring cold water on the good fortune or elated moods of others? Maybe it's the result of a life devoid of real problems or just having too much unoccupied time? 

 When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself.  - Earl Nightingale 

Being critical is only one of many optional response to a given situation. Having mercy, giving the benefit of the doubt, and even choosing to overlook some things are examples of other possible responses that leave us (and others) with a much more peaceful experience of the world. I'd like to understand it but honestly, it's a small fish and I'd rather hook a big one.

Just as frying a small fish leaves the fisherman as hungry as he was before, complaining offers no nourishment to body or soul and causes others to starve from withheld appreciation for well earned praise. Is that the point?

Some other examples of frying small fish include: knit picking, fault finding, criticizing, and gossiping. A complete list could fill several blog posts. 

Complaining isn't fishing. It's pointing at people who are fishing and declaring they're doing it all wrong. Sure, our hands don't get as dirty while complaining as when we're fishing, but complainers carry their own kind of stink. When we are busily engaged in working toward a worthy achievement we have a lot less time for small fish frying. 

Complaining and criticizing are attempts at diverting attention away from our own shortcomings using the "look over there" tactic - and often it works. Instead of being seen as a slacker we're seen as a complainer. When's the last time you cleared your calendar to spend time with a complainer? Me neither!

I know someone who believes SO strongly that toilet paper should be put on the roll with the paper coming off the front instead the back that they are offended when they encounter it WRONGLY positioned. Not only that, but they make it a point to FIX IT - even at other people's homes. This is a perfect example of frying a small fish. I look forward to the day that my life is so well ordered that I can fit this in as something to worry about.

If I could give any advice that may change the course of someone's life it would be to only fry BIG fish. Don't waste your time championing petty plights. If you have the passion to fight for something, make it something BIG. If you're going to go through all the trouble of dragging out the oil, and getting flour and grease all over your kitchen, ONLY FRY BIG FISH! Your life (and stomach) will be fuller. 

Photo Credit: Original Artwork by Sarah Kopp

September 2, 2015

To Do or to Be...

That is the question!

I saw an interesting video yesterday that my daughter posted on Facebook. It pictured an older woman and a caption that read: If I had my life to do over, I'd spend less time doing and more time being. Sadly, the benefit of that wisdom becomes clear, often, only after we've almost worn ourselves out trying to figure it out. 

Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat!

As you can see by the erratic nature of my posting schedule, I've figured it out. I want to blog - not be a blogger. There are other things I want to be. I want to be a grandmother who spends time with her grand kids, a gardener who's at peace in her garden - no matter it's state of completion. I want to be a poet - a writer who writes about what's meaningful to me. Things I want to remember. I want to be friend who has time to be there at just the right moment and an eternal student of life who learns something every day then gleans the best pearls and shares them here with you - just in case you miss them in the frenzied pace of doing.

Don't think for a moment I'm preaching - I too have done!  I've done and done until I'm done. It took years to realize that there are some things that we chase that just can not be caught. Laundry is a great example. I remember the day that this realization distilled upon me just as I was folding the last washcloth. I breathed deeply and exclaimed a glorified sigh and marveling at my accomplishment. Every article of clothing in the entire house was finally clean. Then I remembered I was wearing clothes, that as soon as  they were removed, would become laundry. As if that wasn't disheartening enough, I recalled that I shared a home with 7 other people who were doing the same thing! Laundry is never done.

In a recent post, I went into great detail about a complete meltdown I had over weeds that had the nerve to regrow. Gardening is never done. The list of the unfinishable - yes that's a word - (now) could circle the globe so many times that it would block out sunlight and yet we continue to chase them like we can grab them by the tail.

Relationships are also things that are never finished. Even the ones that end echo either sweet melodies or discordant refrains that reverberate around us as we search to find new ones.

There is so much we could do. So much we should do! (Just ask your mom!) But, if we chase haphazardly down all the roads of "doing" we may just miss the "being" completely.

"Being" is what it's all about! Even our greatest accomplishments are wasted time if they haven't made us be something. Happy. Enlightened. Content. Proud. Peaceful. Something! 

I'm an ever evolving spirit who wants to be without perimeters - and so are you. I've reached the age where I've finally broken through the walls that kept me caged in the deep, dark, shoulds. It turns out they was made of fear. I was afraid that without all the doing, there would be no me. How astounding to find that the opposite is true.

In the midst of a busy life, don't forget to live. 
- Marty Rubin

There are so many wonderful things to be! In love for instance. At peace. Tranquil. Satisfied. Complete. Kind. Grateful. Patient. Genuine. Honest. Take your pick! There are plenty of options. There's just one catch! Finding one that fits requires that you stop doing long enough to try on a few.

How about you? Is all of your doing helping you to be something that's meaningful to you? If not - why not?

August 17, 2015


Deliberately to pursue happiness is not the surest way of achieving it. Seek it for it's own sake and I doubt you will find it.  - Robert J. Mc Cracken

Milestones are great right? They're important! They need to be celebrated and honored and stuff - but I have to tell you that I'm not feeling what I expected to feel! I've just reached 50,000 views on my blog - a goal, that when I started rambling away on my keyboard, wasn't within the farthest reaches of my imaginings - and for some reason I don't feel the epic sense of accomplishment that one would assume would accompany the occasion.

What I DO feel is an overwhelming rush of gratitude for all of you who have spent a part of your precious lives traveling with me from one adventure to the next. I'm grateful for the connections I've made with other kindred spirits. I appreciate all I've learned from your comments and am humbled as you trust me enough to share part of your adventure with me as well.

I consider it an honor to be received into your inbox and to have a post opened and read. I've seen my readership climb over the past few months and there is never a day that I don't meet it with complete surprise and delight.

You've each given me a place to examine my experience and share it for what it's worth. Your comments have given me cause to reflect as well.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say in way too many words is THANK YOU! 

I appreciate your readership! I hope to continue to bring you meaningful offerings - and when I have nothing worth sharing, I won't waste your time pretending I do! 

I hope you have the same wonderful day that you've given me!  - Anita

The greatest danger for most of us lies not in aiming too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.

August 13, 2015

On Becoming

The Becoming

It started with a reaching out, and turned into a reach within,
And led me to another, who’s light was outward shining.
It took me past the edge of safe - the place becoming can begin,
Through length and breadth and depth revealing - each re-birthing and refining.

I felt the stir of life returning,  from that place so long suspended.
Then the tiny whisper of a voice so long without a sound.
Moving slowly out of shelter feeling safe as hurt rescinded,
Toward the distant light that beckoned - hope of trust profound.

Endless days flowed into months as months flowed into healing.
I learned the gentle blessing, of sharing hearts and laughing tears.
So it goes - the moving forth - from darkness into hope revealing.
Laughing, crying, sharing caring, holding hands against the fears. 

(c) Anita Stout 6/2/07

So. I write poetry. This particular poem was written from one of the darkest places life has yet to take me. See how I typed yet? That's because I can't begin to know what's right around that curve ahead. Also note that I wrote one of?  There have been many dark corners to date and I anticipate that there will be more of those as well. Those facts, however, are not the topic of this post. The topic is the "becoming" that happens as a result of those and every other life event - good or bad. 

Each experience carries within it a seed - a seed of becoming. The seed is always the same. What it becomes depends on the person nurturing it. We can water our seed with bitterness and discontent and misery will grow. We can water it with anger and resentment and disharmony springs up. We can also choose to water our seed with patience and contemplation as we seek to understand its potential to transform us and from that sprouts any number of beautiful potentialities.

Becoming is our own personal evolution. It takes us from point A to limitless points of possibility - some of them awesome destinations. Others less so. 

I like to stop sometimes and take notice of clues that tell me toward which of these directions my life is moving. One such clue presented itself while I was out in the yard today with my dog. As I looked around my usually well groomed space - realizing that it's gone completely Jurassic as a result of my knee injury, a strange thing happened. Actually the strange thing was what didn't happen!

Let me take you back two years to give you some perspective. Two summers ago, there was a day where I had a complete emotional melt down - over some weeds. I'd spent a lot of time that week working outside - trying to restore "order" to the chaos that is nature. (Because that was my job in case I've failed to mention that. Yes, it was a lot of work but someone had to do it. Does it sound as crazy as believing that actually was?)

Exhausted, I stood to admire all I'd accomplished. Feeling like balance had once again been restored to the universe, I headed inside. On my way, I passed the area that I'd groomed earlier in the week. What I saw was horrifying! In the very place where I'd left clear ground, new weeds had dared darken the space. 

What happened next scared the kajeebers out of my husband. I ran into the house in full blown sobs carrying on about how I'd never be able to manage all of this. (I should have checked myself into some kind of mental rehab that day - but I didn't from sheer lack of self awareness.)  When I calmed down enough for David to finally ask what had wreaked all this havoc, and I told him that weeds were growing where I'd just finished clearing, he wasn't sure what to make of it. HE should have checked me into some sort of mental rehab at that point but, strangely enough, he somehow manages to love me around all of this. 

To say I felt discouraged would be to laugh in the face of reality. I behaved, at that moment, as though all of life had reached critical mass and complete annihilation was imminent. Can you say DRAMA? (David sure can!)

Fast forward to today - out in the yard with my dog. I looked around noticing that nearly every spot where something was not intentionally planted was still covered in a blanket of green. (You guessed it! WEEDS! 

Then, a strange thing happened! I didn't melt down. Instead I looked at the weeds - some of them lovely in their own right - and realized that all of nature was not out to get me after all. Nature, in my time of being unable to tend my garden, had done it for me. It filled the voids with oxygen producing, ground cooling greenery. From a distance, it all looks green and beautiful. (Sadly, my next door neighbor might need a bit more distance to appreciate this.)

At that moment I was keenly aware that I had evolved on some level. I've moved, at least some distance, away from the perfectionist that could only see weeds to a new creature who can appreciate the whole instead of only its unsavory parts. I breathed in the smell of it all and it was intoxicating. (Excluding my pup's recent contribution.)

This tiny moment felt better than all the victory dances I'd ever done after all of my weed killing frenzies combined. My neighbor may see it differently. He may wonder if I've lost my marbles. It's a valid question - they'd be hard to find in all of that over growth. I would be hard pressed to explain to him how only now I have actually found them - and how wonderful it feels!

How about you? Do you watch out for small glimpses that you're watering your seed with the right stuff? Are you nurturing what's truly important in your garden? Are you giving it the care and love it needs to produce a beautiful crop of wonder for you and those you love? If what's growing there doesn't delight you, it might be time to check what's pouring out of the can and begin again.

August 5, 2015

The Lost Art of Taking Responsibility

 If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month.”  - Theodore Roosevelt

We live in a time when passing the buck seems to be the rule instead of the exception. It's become so prevalent that we almost expect people not to take responsibility. It's like we've given up hope that the buck actually ever stops anywhere and just brace ourselves for the excuse when we need to follow up on things. Has taking responsibility become a lost art?

I read a post today by Frank Sonnenberg, someone I admire and respect, about blaming. You can read Franks article here. I thought I'd also share some thoughts with you on why blaming isn't to our benefit.

Blaming may seem convenient as it seems to get us off the hot seat - temporarily. The problem with this, even if we never get found out, is that we innately know when we are weaseling around something even if others only suspect. When we pass the blame off onto someone or something else, a bit of self respect goes along with it. I don't think I need to tell anyone the pitfalls of diminished self respect. When we compound that with the respect we lose from others nothing good can come of it. Better to take our medicine early - while it's easier to swallow!
It can only get worse!

My psych teacher said something that's stuck with me all these years. He said that the fundamental purpose of the brain is to make the body comfortable. Explaining what he meant, he gave several examples such as temperature regulation, signals for thirst and hunger, and even rationalization. 

Rationalization may seem like an odd example but it's true that our brains will find a way to rationalize anything that we find unpleasant, uncomfortable, or unacceptable. Say for instance a married person decides to break their vows and enter into an extramarital affair. You can be sure that it will rarely be their fault. They will have a "reasonable explanation" as to why someone else was to blame. The alternative is too uncomfortable to live with.

If we do something that flies in the face of our belief system or encounter something we can't explain by ordinary means, our brains will jump in and create something feasible for us. Ever heard that strange "bump in the night" that unsettled you because you couldn't readily identify it? How long did it take before you had a "perfectly reasonable explanation" that calmed your nerves?

I once saw the word rationalize spelled like this: rational-lies. We often tell ourselves rational-lies to insulate ourselves from feeling bad, to soothe our consciences, or to delay dealing with emotions that aren't pleasant. If rationalizing becomes habitual, we can begin to believe our own excuses! Once that happens we've disconnected from reality and our integrity has slid down a slippery slope.

Another problem with blaming is that when passing blame to someone or something else, we hand our power over too. If we believe someone or something outside ourselves is responsible for our problems then we also believe that we are powerless to change the situation. Habitual blaming causes feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. 

Let me give you an example: I blame chocolate for my jeans being tight. So yes, I've given chocolate power over me and I feel helpless to resist its allure. At this point, I haven't given it enough power to jump out of the cabinet, unwrap itself and hop into my mouth, but it could yet happen! Once it does, I'll have to admit I've lost touch with reality. In my own defense, chocolate can be wily! AGH! There I go again! Rational- lies-ing! By now I'm feeling hopeless that those jeans will ever be comfortable. See how the cycle goes? 

On the other hand, when we take responsibility, we hold on to our personal power. We know and accept that we're strong and able to make new choices and improve. (As long as chocolate isn't involved.)

While blaming seems like a short term fix, being responsible is the long distance winner. It keeps up firmly planted in reality and helps us see things clearly. It boosts our self esteem and gives us the confidence to tackle bigger projects and overcome obstacles. Taking responsibility allows us to keep our personal power where it belongs to avoid feeling helpless.

In the end, being responsible is much more important to us than what others may temporarily think of us. Yes, there are times when taking responsibility may have short term consequences that may not be pleasant, but the power to face ourselves in the mirror with integrity, knowing who we are, is worth any short term cost. Often those we may have disappointed will be more willing to work with us to find a solution when they know we are willing to take responsibility because our honesty engenders trust.

To sum it all up, there is no real upside to blaming and the surface of the downside hasn't even been scratched in this post. While we may not think we're doing harm, the ripples of the "quick out" spread farther and are more damaging than we can know. Just ask my jeans!
What are your thoughts on taking responsibility? Do you too feel like it's becoming a lost art?

August 2, 2015

The Power of the Purge

The more you have, the more occupied you are. The less you have the freer you are. -  Mother Teresa

I-Am-Through! Through living a congested life. Through keeping stuff just for the sake of keeping it - and that includes emotional baggage as well as stuff I don't need, and in some cases, have no idea how I even ended up with.

I have a friend who has become deeply engrossed in energy healing and the idea of trapped energy as the cause of many of the things that vex people. She offered to check me for trapped emotions. Most people might think this concept absurd. Most people would discard such absurdity outright as hooey. Then again most people haven't lived the emotional roller-coaster that has been my life. I know I receive residual hauntings from the "ghost of heartache past." He lingers around - rearing his ugly head at the most inconvenient times so I said "Heck yeah! you can check for and release my trapped emotions!"

Saying I believe in such things is one thing. Having actual hope that there is a "process" that could undo the wreckage is another - but being an eternal optimist wanna be, I remain open minded and reserve my hooeys for after the fact instead of before even trying something so try it I did.

There have been some surprising results from that releasing session. For instance, I have a long standing and well earned reputation for not being a "morning person." Getting up and waking up are two separate events for me that happen about an hour apart. My brain absolutely refuses to engage until it feels like it - no matter what time my body is in motion. That can lead to some pretty interesting things happening. I often ask myself questions like "Where was my brain while my body was doing that? That could be a stand alone post - but I digress!

Back to trapped energy and why I agreed so readily to give what my friend was proposing a try. I am not a depressed person. Having said that, I will say, that I've been a very disengaged person. Not unhappy. Very grateful for my life and the people and things in it - but disconnected. I haven't felt passionate about anything for years. It's a difficult thing to explain to someone who's never felt it and no explanation is needed for those who have. The only way I can sum it up is it's like floating around your life instead of being firmly planted in it - feeling a lack of direction and generalized apathy without a concrete cause. As you might have guessed, this is a less than ideal way of feeling.

I went to our agreed upon session and left feeling no different than before. I was told, according to the testing, it would take two days for my body to process the releases.

I went on about my business and a few days later an odd thing happened. My brain woke up at the same exact moment as my body!  I got out of bed conscious for the first time in as long as I can recall. Not only did I get up and wake up all at once, but I woke up on purpose - with a purpose - and that purpose was to purge!

I'll post more about the process of emotional release at another time. Today it's all about the purge!

This process of waking up - not just getting out of bed and arousing from sleep - but actually WAKING UP has been unexpected. The first thing that happened is I looked around my space and wondered Where did all this stuff come from. It's got to go! 

I began ripping through every nook and cranny of our home, dragging out things that haven't seen the light of day in years and actually seeing them instead of just looking at them. It started in the laundry room. I have cabinets and drawers where tools, nails, screws and other assorted junk live. I saw with clarity what belonged and what didn't and started mercilessly building Discard Mountain. I moved next into my office. I spent a nine hour day sorting books - CDs and other things and thought I was through when I took those items to be re-purposed - only to spend another eight hour day emptying file cabinets and filling up garbage bags with shredded papers.  Not feeling quite finished with my office, but being tired of shredding, I moved to my bedroom.

Boxes and bags began to accumulate at an alarming rate. Into the trunk - over to the resale shop, and back with more empty boxes to fill. At one point my husband mentioned he was leery of napping on the sofa for fear of waking up in a dumpster somewhere.

With each load removed I felt freer. More space to move, more air to breathe, a lightness. The crazy part of this is that I've never been a "keeper" to begin with. My husband has asked, on more than one occasion, if his body would still be warm when I started discarding his belongings after his death. I've admitted I'll probably be calling Goodwill - full of sobs and tears - from the coroner's office.

This time feels different though. I don't feel like I'm getting rid of things. I feel like I'm making room for something. Something new - like a new path has suddenly emerged and I've found myself over packed for the trip. It must be something big considering all the space it seems it will need!

(Sidenote: I left my computer to get something to drink while writing this. While in the kitchen I dumped "the junk drawer." It's now beautifully organized with everything in plain sight and housing nothing unnecessary or extra. Ahhh. This may be some form of mental illness but I hope I don't recover before several more trips to the thrift shop.)

In the middle of 'everything must go" madness, we took a long road trip across a particularly flat and dull part of the country. To preserve my sanity, I decided to download a book to listen to. While perusing the available choices one called out to me.  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  by Marie Kondo. I downloaded and began listening to the book.

In her book, Marie explores the idea that everything around us is energy - that even our possessions are made of energy. As such, they vibrate right along with everything else that's made of the stuff - which is everything. The point is that there is an energy to everything we own - positive or negative. Her idea of the ideal life is only to be surrounded by things that resonate well with us. She advocates picking up each of our belongings and asking if it brings us joy. If not - it's another one for the heap.

It seemed terribly simplistic and unrealistic to me and this is a very over simplified synopsis of her entire concept, but once I'd heard those words - they resonated with me. That meant revisiting areas I thought I'd already decluttered for one more go through. What I released the second time was greater than the first.

No longer will I keep a pen that was gifted solely to promote the person or business forking it over unless I love how it feels and works. Many of those usually end up driving me crazy when they don't work well. (That meant discarding a scary number of pens!) Most of the books I parted with were given away. I felt they'd served me well and could do the same for someone else. Others - though in perfectly good shape - I felt didn't serve to elevate anything. Those were discarded.

I've decided to take responsibility for my own energy. That means for the energy that I transmit into the world as well as the energy in my personal space. If it isn't uplifting, it's a waste of time - and time is something we have limited access to. It isn't a renewable commodity. It's precious and we're well within our rights to protect it at all costs.

I've often said (I wish only jokingly) that if I had back all the time I spent looking for my cellphone, I'd be back in my teens. If I added to that the time spent looking for my keys, I'd be in diapers. While that's hyperbole (to some extent) I'm sure I'd be horrified to actually have an accounting of those lost moments.

We strive to own things - then, when we're not looking - we find that those same things own us. They eat into our joy with their care, and cleaning. They clutter our minds and our space until we can no longer enjoy our possessions because they've grown into too much to even remember - much less use. HONESTLY, raise your hand if you've ever bought something you needed only to find out that you already had one you'd forgotten about.  My hand is high above my head.

My questions for all of us to ponder are what is the actual cost of our possessions? Not just the price we paid to obtain them - the actual cost. How much have we paid in lost time? Lost space? Peace of mind? If we could eliminate all of our "un-necessaries" and "don't care abouts",  and no longer had to fuss over them, what kind of space would open for things we might rather be doing? 

How would our lives flow? Would our minds also be uncluttered and exploring new horizons? Would our relationships have a renaissance brought about by the freed up time and energy?

I can't answer these questions definitively yet - I'm not through purging, but I can tell you that getting ready to go places has been a cinch! I haven't lost my keys or phone all week and when I need a pen, there's one that I love right where I need it -and paper with it! These little things are making me breathe easier these days. So far my husband has been safe on the sofa - and I'm far less anxious. I hope you consider taking time to evaluate your stuff to life ratio and find out which way the scale tips. 

One other side note: Since I've taken responsibility for MY stuff, I'm less grouchy about my husband's "stuff." There's a theory that when our lives are congested and out of order that we look to transfer our frustration at ourselves onto others. Maybe there's some truth in there somewhere.

Now, back to purging!

July 22, 2015

A Walletfull of Wisdom

 Knowledge comes from learning. Wisdom comes from living. -Unknown

It is a sad truth that the acquisition of wisdom increases in the exact proportion that our influence on those it might benefit decreases - and maybe, that's just as it should be!

It's another sad truth that we may never know someone in life as well as we do after we've lost them. Going through a loved one's "things" brings insight that can be gained no other way and would be a terrible violation of privacy while they're still the keepers of their treasures. Once they've left the treasury however, there is nothing left to do but sort, sift, and decide. The process of doing these things for my deceased mother-in-law have brought a great deal of enlightenment. The first morsel was to be careful what I keep!

What I save will leave an unwritten story for those that follow to write in their own words. It will be left to them to decide the value and importance that each object held for me. They may get it right sometimes  and correctly assess my attachment to and love for a thing. They might also, without the benefit of my input, decide some hideous something I'd picked up at a garage sale, intended as a gag elephant gift, was a precious memento. (Perish the thought!)

Back to the sorting, sifting, and deciding. During the process of "settling the affairs" my husband needed to contact the Railroad Retirement Fund - from which Mom received her benefits. To that end the search began for account numbers and contact information. The place of last resort became Mom's wallet.

Mom's wallet is no ordinary wallet - it's more of a traveling vault. Fashioned like a man's bi-fold, it's devil's food cake brown with small patches of the burgundy red it used to be still showing in areas protected from constant use. It has a small single snap and a row of closure options to allow for expansion. It had reached the end of it's expand-ability. The imprinted - almost Celtic looking design over the snap has a spot that's worn white and nearly through from openings and closings. Its leather is soft and well worn from its years as a traveling Sherpa. Unpacking the contents made me think of Doctor Who's Tardis. There was far more inside than its outward appearance made possible and it felt oddly like unpacking a life. The wallet itself tells quite a tale but its contents contain an epic novel.

Besides the coins from the U.S., Canada, and England, there was also a coin from Cuba. There's paper currency from Canada as well - no surprise since Mom was born in Toronto and visited family there. There are family photos, business cards, and tokens - each a memory of a day spent - and $23.00 in cash - at least before today when I found a secret spot where three $2 bills had been folded and tucked.

Along with all of that Mom had collected a library of philosophy housed on bits of paper, cards, and news clippings containing sayings, verses, and sometimes poems that she'd carried with her everywhere she went. Each of these are windows into her view of and way of being in the world. On a tiny yellowed newspaper clipping:

A Bag of Tools

Isn't it strange 
That Princes and Kings,
And clowns that caper,
In sawdust rings,
And Common people
Like you and me 
Are builders of eternity?

Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mask, a book of rules;
Each must make - ere life is flown -
A stumbling block,
Or a stepping stone.

On a brightly decorated card featuring a smiling sunshine:
A joyful heart makes a cheerful face.

Typed on a piece of red card stock and cut to fit:

Great Spirit; Grant that I may not criticize my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins. - Indian Prayer

Another small yellowed clipping contained a reader's note to Ann Landers sharing what her mother had taught her about successful living: 

Wash what is dirty. Water what is dry. Heal what is wounded. Warm what is cold. Guide what goes off the road. Love people who are least lovable because they need it the most.

On a card from a church my husband had pastored earlier in his career:

Faith is the map. Hope is the guide. Love is the way. 

And on another from the Michigan Council of The Boy Scouts of America:

The average of the world's great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations progressed through this sequence:

From Bondage to Spiritual Faith
From Spiritual Faith to great Courage
From Courage to Liberty
From Liberty to Abundance
From Abundance to Selfishness
From Selfishness to Complacency
From Complacency to Apathy
From Apathy to Dependency 
From Dependency back into bondage.
This cycle is not inevitable. Tomorrow's America depends on YOU!

(Scary to think about where we are in THAT cycle!)

Time and space permits me to share but a small fraction of the collection, but I think you get the point. We each travel through life collecting. Some of our treasures are physical, some emotional, and many are snapshots or memories. Each collected item serves to craft the lenses through which we view the people and world around us. It became clear to me that the currency in Mom's wallet held the the smallest portion of its value for her. I'm sure it's the same for many of us as well.

My lenses were polished by the opportunity to peek into a lifetime collection carried carefully in a well worn wallet. Mom's carefully chosen pearls now combine with my own gatherings. Her collection was bathed in a richness and depth that make me want to leave behind the kind of things that will enrich the lives of those tasked with sorting and sifting my things. After all, I have no control over the story that will be written about my life once I leave it, but I can make sure I leave  meaningful material to draw from.

How about you? Where do you store your philosophy library? Do you carry it with you in a well worn wallet? Maybe you keep a journal or create beautiful memory books. I keep mine on this blog!

July 14, 2015

Rebel Without A Cause

 "I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing..." Thomas Jefferson

Go ahead! Call me a rebel - my mother sure does! I can't say her allegations are completely without merit, but I'm with Thomas Jefferson on this one. I do believe that a little rebellion now and then is not only a good thing but a sane thing.

TRUE CONFESSION: I am a rebel blogger. I say this not because I set out to stir people to riot. I say it because I blog when and how I want to blog and ignore what is considered traditional wisdom on what makes a blog successful.

I've read countless articles on the topic of blogging. I've been schooled on how to blog, how NOT to blog, how often to blog etc. I believe there is wisdom in each bit of advice. The problem is what may be wisdom for one person is folly for another and that's where my rebellion kicks in.

  Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. -Albert Camus

Yes, it's probably a good idea to post on a regular schedule. The wisdom contends that followers like for us to be consistent. That may be true but I have a hard time believing that my blog could be so important to anyone that their life would change course if my offering was delayed. My ego would LOVE to believe otherwise but my grasp on reality absolutely refuses to let it go there.

Originality is the best form of rebellion. 
- Mike Sasso

Some experts say the more frequent the posts the better for success. I guess that depends on how we as bloggers define success. Yes, if my blog was monetized and my bills would only get paid if my blog was visited, clicked through, and a sale was being made, I might actually take the more is better advice more seriously. As it is, no one is paying me a dime for the time I spend writing, so meh! (I purposely don't monetize my blog because I want to continue loving it and making it a "job" would suck the joy right out of it for me. There are some things we do for love that we'd never do for money.)

With rebellion, awareness is born.
 - Albert Camus

I've also read that where we blog is what it's all about and if we're not on WordPress we'd might as well forget about being seen or followed.

NO! It's SEO! (Search Engine Optimization) It's all about SEO - except for when it's really all about promoting the snot out of each post or getting "Freshly Pressed."
(I take offense with anyone who wants to press me - freshly or otherwise.)

The freedom we are looking for is the freedom to express ourselves. - Don Miguel Ruiz

So yes, I'm rebellious! Call me crazy but I need to believe something makes sense before I have any inclination to do it. I also don't believe in a one size fits all approach to anything. (Have you ever tried to squeeze into a one size fits all shirt only to find out that one size fits all who aren't you? Harrowing experience!)

Blogging is as unique as each individual blogger. There are so many reasons a person sets out into the blogosphere. Some are strictly about online marketing and making a living. Others like to promote books they've read or written or any number of other products or businesses. 

My reasons are more simpler: I want to. I love it. It makes me happy. It's how I make sense of my life and the things that happen in it. I blog to share what I learn in hopes that someone else may benefit from my experience. I blog because it helps me to clarify things that seem a misty mess without blogging to bring them into sharper focus.

Is my blog a success? It is for me and would be even if no one ever read a word that I've written. It leaves a history of who I've been and how I became that person for me to revisit when I'm confused about who that is. We're all evolving and my blog reflects where I've grown, where I've shrank, and how far I have left to go.

It is both conformity and rebellion that attack you with success. - Amy Tan

So l may be defiant, but more, in my case, would not be better because if I don't have anything worth sharing I can't see the point of wasting readers' precious (and it is PRECIOUS) time. My time is also precious so I won't be held to my keyboard by an arbitrary schedule when being somewhere else in actual time, learning something valuable, spending time in my head or with those I love, would be a better way to spend it. The sand is passing too quickly through my hourglass - and even Amazon doesn't sell lost time! (I've checked!)

It seems some bloggers beat themselves into senseless deadline submission - seeking ratings and numbers - when they could be gaining insight,  experience, and loving it instead. While reading their posts they seem to have made it a to do on their already exhaustive list of things to accomplish. What a harried waste of creativity.

I posted this on Twitter this week: "Somehow I let my real life distract me from my social media virtual life!" Yes, I got behind on Facebook, Twitter, and even failed to check Instagram. I'll bet it cost me some followers! (Meh!)  What I did instead was spend time becoming and learning and loving the people in my "actual" space. I don't regret a minute of it!

Creativity is the greatest rebellion in existence. 
- Osho

How about you? Do you have a blogging rebellious streak or are you guilt ridden if you don't adhere to a definite schedule? Do you still love blogging or has it become just another chore?