August 17, 2015

Milestones

 
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.
-Michelangelo



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Moving slowly out of shelter feeling safe as hurt rescinded,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!