Sunday, November 19, 2017

Another View on Giving Thanks in Living Whole-Heartedly

I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving week. Where does the time go? I know, this is said often. I’ve mentioned before that I do gratitude prayers every day, so how do I take giving thanks to another level? 

Sometimes it’s more than what’s the normal, just like-everyone-else, what-you’re-supposed-to-say level; those same old, same olds repeated all the time. Yes, I am thankful for those: family, my Pele kitty, my home, good friends, neighbors and good health, etc. But sometimes it’s more than this. Sometimes it’s about self-realizations.

Perhaps it’s my getting older. Maybe it’s over thinking. In spite of that, there are times I am thankful for the way I think. Yes, I have issues and strong opinions -- like many. Yes, I can go off on a rant when a topic sets me off. Yes, I get emotional, break down and cry … a lot.

But it’s not about finding someone or something to blame in those moments. It is all about me (a term a dear friend of mine uses a lot). And if I’m honest, it really is all about me. (As your issues are about you It’s how I react to everything around me. It’s knowing that I can choose to be happy, sad or angry, and knowing that choice puts the ownership of my emotions on me. I can’t blame anyone else, and it’s not about blaming me, either, because it’s not about blame at all. It’s about life and dealing with situations.

I am thankful that I can control my emotions … or if not in the exact moment, the instant I can think clearly. It’s about taking my experiences to live a better, whole-hearted life. It’s being OK that I can fall into the hole of despair and frustration because I know I will crawl back out into the light. It’s remembering to walk in sunshine. (I was reminded last week of the old Katrina and the Waves song, “I’m walkin’ on sunshine, wooo hooo, and don’t it feel good!” It has a happy, makes-you-wanna-dance beat.) 

The bottom line is through all this, I learn something about myself. I figure something out. It’s not perfect. It might not stop me from reacting the next time. But what it does, is it helps me understand the human condition better. It helps me understand me, and accept myself in the moment. When I can understand and accept me and my emotions, I can better accept and understand others. 

Yes, I am thankful for this knowledge – or at my age can I call it wisdom? 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Think About It -- Living Whole-Heartedly

Thursday was a slump day. I started off with good intentions to get a lot of work done, but I took time after eating to play Spider Solitaire (SS). That’s my break time; my time when I don’t have to be thinking about all the things I should be doing. I don’t want to be “working” all the time and “thinking” is working. I tend to think way too much!

Unfortunately, SS doesn’t occupy my mind enough to stop mind chatter. My brain still multitasks. I can have more than one scenario or conversation going on in my head at the same time, and when I slip into daydreaming, it’s often dreaming of things going wrong.

I tell myself to stop, but it’s like watching a movie. I want to see the end … until I force myself to stop. I try to think of something else; that turns towards disaster, too. Even thinking of the mini-vacation next week evolved into things going wrong like accidents, attacks, and issues with hotels or people. I try to envision work around the house or art work, but again, that’s about work and the daydreaming brings to mind everything that has not worked out right. 

Stop! Stop those downward thought patterns!

Yesterday I was determined not to fall into that funk again and get back to living a whole-hearted life.

The most important thing to do is not listen to or read the news. It’s hard to get away from it. There are headlines on Facebook, people are always going on about some issue or other and blowing everything all out of proportion or not having all the facts, the TV or radio are talking constantly about every bad thing that has happened. Then there’s all the commercials yelling about their products. 

I get a kick out of the radio station that comes on as my alarm clock in the morning. The news always starts with “Here’s what you need to know today…” and it’s always about someone getting killed, some disaster, or some political controversy. Do I really need to know that? No. I don’t think there has ever been anything I’ve needed to know.

Think about it. We are constantly bombarded with negativity, most of which we can’t do anything about. Commercials are constantly pounding us. The constant repetition of the terrors in the country and world, everything bad and horrible, all the grief and anger affects everyone. Is this what you want to surround yourself with? Is this what you want for your family and kids?

The more negativity pounded into us, the more negativity and horror there will be. It’s like mob mentality. People get caught up in it. They can’t help it. It’s psychological. The pumped-up attitudes, the adrenaline rushes, the need to strike out – it’s catchy. People’s emotions run rampantly out of control.

Think about it. Think about how easy it is to get caught up in others’ emotions. When they are angry, you get angry. When they are pumped-up and rallying against one thing or another, you get pumped-up, too. People stop thinking for themselves when caught up in all the emotion. And it doesn’t matter where you are -- even concerts, pep rallies, sports games, protests -- people get caught up in all that emotion and may end up acting in a way they never would. Think about it – is this the type of person you want to be?

Not me! I’m pulling back, refusing to get into it. Yes, I’m repeating what I’ve said before. Repetition is how we learn and my goal is to repeat things to myself that are important to me, that will bring me joy and mental well-being. (Not the repetition of commercials and negativity.)

Think about it – what do you want to have repeated to you? Think about the commercials, TV programs, newspaper stories, and such. Is this the type of stuff you want running your life? Think about it – anger begets more anger, negativity begets more negativity, terrorism creates more terrorism, violence promotes more violence … Think about it.

Think about it. What do you want to promote for your community, state, country, world? And what happens when so much effort and thought is being concentrated somewhere else and we are not taking care of our own communities? 

So, how can I live whole-heartedly? Whenever I think that, it brings me back to myself. It helps me rein in my brain when my thoughts are scrambling and feeling overwhelmed. Asking how I can live whole-heartedly focuses my thoughts in the here and now. Taking care of now will also build for tomorrow. 

And living whole-heartedly means caring for others. It’s helping when I can and where I can. It’s knowing what fights to fight and when to walk away. It’s taking care not to jump on the latest bandwagon because that’s what everyone else is doing. It’s taking the time to look at a situation instead of being caught up in the hoop-la. It’s choosing what types of repetitions will be beneficial to whole-hearted living because creating good for me will help create good in those I meet. 

Think about it. What kind of life do you want? I am choosing to live a whole-hearted life. I’m not perfect, but I am being the best I can be.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Reminding Myself to Live Whole-heartedly

I forgot. I got caught up in the media bombardment of all the devastation in the country, phone call scams, and the lack of good customer service from businesses that I was being torn away from myself. I feel crushed under the weight of media negativity. The constant pounding of all the horrors, drug problems, and things gone wrong in the world. It’s hard to get away from it. And they can’t just talk about it a couple of times. It’s over and over and over until your entire being is saturated with it all.

It’s the repetition. Repetition sticks. It’s how we learn: Alphabet, math, spelling, etc. But lately the repetition is of the negative kind. I call, “Stop!” This is not the kind of repetitive reinforcement that helps. Negativity breeds negativity and the media loves keeping everyone riled up because that’s what sells stories. People get caught in the “mob mentality” without truly understanding the situation. 

Think about it. People are addicted to negativity. They can’t get away from it. The more horrible, the more they want to hear about it, read about it, and see it. We’re constantly bombarded with it all and eventually we crack. It’s almost like they want a reason to be angry and cause a scene and the media keeps stirring the pot.

Yes, it’s good to know what’s going on in the state, country, and world, but it isn’t all bad – and it doesn’t have to be. We can choose what we want to hear, read, and see … and how much of it. Plus, I don’t want to be manipulated by the media. I don’t want commercials pounding products at me all day long. Isn’t it funny that we have such a huge drug problem and what are most commercials nowadays? Drugs! “Got these symptoms? Ask your doctor about …” So here, on one hand they’re saying how bad some drugs are and then they’re shoving other drugs down your throat. Again, think about it. What do you want in your life? And think about what kids are listening to and having beat into their minds. Is this what you want for your kids?

I think, too, we get so worked up by what’s going on out there, that we are not taking care of what’s here. We’re so busy looking at the bigger picture, we’re not working on making our lives better or helping our immediate family or community. (I’m not saying we shouldn’t be helping people recover from the hurricanes and such because we should.) But again, think about it. Where is your energy going? 

And, I have to stop talking and thinking about it, too! Too often, lately, I’ll go on a rant about these subjects and find myself getting worked up. I have to stop for my own well-being or I’ll slide into the well of miserable, hating people. So here again, I say, “I refuse!” I am pulling back. I am determined to live whole-heartedly. 

I’ll try even harder to not hear news, not see a headline. I won’t read the “Trending” news on Facebook and anyone who starts in on politics or other negativity, I’ll quickly pass by or “hide.” 

When I say “negativity,” I’m not talking about people having a hard time and needing a pep talk or advice. I don’t mean that people shouldn’t talk about issues. Talking is helpful. Just knowing that someone hears us and understands helps gives us the strength to go on. We all need support from time to time and sharing our personal stories can help one another. We experience life and we can’t hide from it. Something I go through may help you with something you’re struggling with and vice versa.

This is part of living whole-heartedly. I have to recognize what I need in order to be healthy in heart, body, and mind. That means taking care of me. Taking care of me, which includes my mental well-being, will allow me to have compassion for others. Taking care of me replenishes my energies and soul so that I have the strength and wisdom to offer others. 

I also recognize my strengths and weaknesses. This helps me know when, where, and how I can help others when it is needed. I look at how I can help family, friends, neighbors, and the community. I am not the out-going person who can jump on bandwagons and lead campaigns. I sit quietly in the background waiting for the right moment for which I am suited. I write stories, give words of encouragement, provide ideas.

Living whole-heartedly means avoiding the negativity we’re bombarded with from the media. It means knowing what I can do, what I’m willing to do, what I’m not willing to do, and having the courage to know when to say no. It’s knowing that I care about others. It’s knowing I will have pitfalls and knowing I will get back up. It’s knowing that every day I am doing the best I can and that I’ve done enough and I am enough.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Jumbled Ideas and Living Whole-heartedly

I am always amused when I start a writing project or poem thinking I’m covering one topic and it turns into something else. This is one such case. I was going to write about art, but as you can see, the words went in another direction.

I have notes and lists in piles on my desk. I’m always writing down thoughts and ideas as my mind jumps from topic to topic. Of course, I think all my ideas are good ones, but in the moment, I don’t want to work on those as I’m usually in the middle of something else when these ideas come to me. So, they become side notes on scrap paper from the backs of notices, mail, extra pages, etc.

The pieces of paper are all jumbled. The ideas and comments vary from gardening, pastel/art, shorts and fillers I’m putting together for the newspaper, things to do, stories and blogs, deck painting projects, things to tell others or write about later … oh, it can go on. Nothing is in order and if I remember writing something and want to add to it, I have to dig through the pile.

I’m feeling unorganized and scattered. I feel I’ll never get to it all. And I want to do it all. Most of these are things I care about; I’m passionate about. I want to write about every idea (because they’re good topics). I want to take the tips on pastel painting to the studio while I’m at the easels (but I don’t). I want to use garden plans in updating the garden itself or adding the concepts to the gardening reference manual I’m creating (but I never seem to get around to it). 

Some things I need to do, though, are more like chores: Paying bills, making out invoices, record keeping, housework, shopping for groceries (I hate shopping!), and running errands like getting gas, going to the bank, mailbox, or post office.

All these projects make it hard for me to eat. It’s not that I can’t eat, but I don’t want to take the time to prepare food. I don’t want to interrupt work flow even if I’m jumping from one project to the nest. I’m on a roll energy-wise and I’ll work past hunger because I want to get a piece of a project done. 

How does this unorganized spewing forth of jumbled ideas work into living whole-heartedly?

To live whole-heartedly means I have to accept that what I get accomplished every day is enough. (It’s also enough if I choose to have a lazy day.) I can’t dwell on what I didn’t get done. I focus and celebrate every accomplishment no matter how small. I know I am doing the best I can and it is good. (Lazy days also serve a purpose to well-being.)

Living whole-heartedly means I like me and I love what I do. 

Am I perfect? Heck, no. Yeah, I’ll make stupid mistakes. Yes, I sometimes spend money foolishly. And sometimes I am ornery and whiny as I tackle those must-do chores. But in the end, I make sure the good accomplishments are the highlights of my days.

My lists and piles of paperwork? OK, one more item on the to-do list, written again as it has been on past lists – organize. I’ll get to it someday … and if I don’t, that’s OK. I am satisfied that what I do today is enough. I am enough today and tomorrow I’ll do more and that will be enough, too.

Live is good!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Reminding Myself That Life is About the Journey – in Everything

The busy-craziness is getting to me. I just have to keep telling myself I am doing what I want. Maybe it’s a good thing I have many projects as I get easily distracted. My writing and art have taken a back seat to other projects. Right now, gardening takes up a chunk of time and my writing is only in journaling and writing articles for the paper. No time for my book, little time to blog, and the lists grow on subjects I want to explore.

No, I can’t do it all at once. I have to be satisfied with what I get done at any given time. I do get a lot accomplished – and accomplished doesn’t necessarily mean finished. It doesn’t have to. Yes, I would like to get projects finished, but it really is about the journey, and I do love what I do.

Each day is an adventure in where my travels take me (even if it’s just in my mind). The short gardening stints in the yard have expanded from 20-30 minutes to over an hour. That’s due to it being hot during the day when I won’t spend time outside. So, I try to do more in the morning when it’s cooler. There’s always something different. I go outside with a particular plan, and once I get outside, something else needing to be done distracts me. That’s OK. It needs to be done.

Then there is my work with the newspaper – editor, putting together the community calendar, and writing the Bradford Neighbors and the gardening columns. Thankfully, it’s not a full-time job and I can put in a few hours each day, usually Thursdays through Sunday. There are exceptions to those “rules.” Sometimes I go on an assignment to interview someone or take pictures. Sometimes I will have something to do on one of my “work” days and that means figuring out how to still work within the paper’s deadline. Plus, other projects occasionally come up.

There’s my social life to contend with; which is very important. I live alone and mostly work from home, so it’s crucial to get away from the house and spend time with friends. Sometimes it’s the once-a-week breakfast. Sometimes a few of us will go off on an adventure or meet with other friends or there are interesting events to attend.

My writing, besides journaling and newspaper columns, consists of blogging and various books in process. Art consists of pastel paintings and photography. Both of those passions are on hold, although I’ll go in the studio once in a while and pick at a painting. The writing is calling to me again and I keep pushing it aside.

Then, of course, there are usual things around the home that needs attention. Those chores include buying groceries (which I dread) a couple times a month as well as preparing meals (even more dread). I get so busy during the day I don’t want to stop to eat, let alone having to take the time to put a meal together and then do the necessary clean up. (And I purposely put in “having to” instead of just saying “taking the time” because that “having to” makes it an immense must do. 

It’s important, plus I have to get rest. Even if I wanted to work more, my brain shuts down around 5 p.m. It’s like someone flips a switch and I’m turned off. I need the couch time, meditation time, and TV time. Sometimes I’ll fit in a little reading or a little writing. Sometimes the meditation or reading will stimulate ideas which I take time to write down (turning into one of my many “lists.”)

Unfortunately, with so many passions, something needs to lay by the wayside for a while. I’ll eventually circle back around for it. Spring is my time to garden, but now with the heat and bugs, I’ll back off. That will allow time for another passion. Life is so darn interesting!

This morning’s writing was intended for the gardening blog, but as I began, it kinda (I love using the word “kinda”) fell into the art of whole-hearted living. It’s about being satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. It’s celebrating each step and taking time to see the beauty around me. It’s about allowing changes to routines and adjusting schedules as needed. It’s changing how I think by changing what I think about. (Some things I still have to work on like the dread of meal preps, ha ha.) And, it’s about creating beauty for myself which creates beauty for others.

This is whole-heated living! And it’s my goal to enhance this concept.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Adjusting to Changes in Routine

I think for most people, living a whole-hearted life would be first about food and eating healthy. I don’t fit into the category of “most people,” and as I continue the journey of defining what living whole-heartedly means to me, meals are not at the top of the list. I’ve been struggling awhile with making time for meals during the day and recently the inconsistent and poor eating has been affecting my health. 

Notice I said, “making time for meals.” Preparing, cooking, and eating meals is a chore I don’t like (along with vacuuming) because it takes me away from the work I want to be doing. How odd that work is more important and interesting than eating. (Don’t get me wrong, I love good meals and one of my favorite things to do is to go out with friends for great food and inspiring conversations.) However, this issue of meals when I’m home alone came to the forefront this week as I contemplated changes I’ve been making to my morning routine.

Last week was the realization that after 30 or so years, my routine of journal-writing as soon as morning chores were done had fallen by the wayside. I struggled with that. Half the morning was getting by before I finished the writing (which meant I wasn’t doing anything else). The morning writing is my way of syphoning off yesterday so I’ll be clear-headed and ready for today. Suddenly, I wasn’t getting that clean mental state. It was leaving me feeling … scrambled in my head.

Neighbor-kitty, Leo, waiting for me to come out.
But there were choices I was consciously making. I was choosing to go outside around 6-6:30 a.m. to do a little gardening (and visit with neighbor-kitty, Leo) before sitting down at my desk. Still, it was an upset to my long-standing routine. I know. Circumstances change. We have to change. It’s life.

Then came this revelation with the food. I shared my thoughts with my friend, Annette -- how my breaks from work is taking a break from one project to work on another. I do a little gardening, then come inside and do a little work for the newspaper or other computer-work project, then I’ll go back outside for a little more gardening or go into the studio for painting. When I am in work-mode (usually mornings when I’m full of energy and ideas), I hate to stop to eat. Taking that kind of a break interrupts the work-flow and I sometimes lose the motivation. I know, I have to change how I think about that, which I said to Annette. (“Change how you think” is an affirmation we use when we are stuck.)

She suggested something a little different. She said most people see food as a reward. As I don’t, why don’t I use my work as the reward – I can’t move on to the next project until I eat something. 

What a concept! I’m attempting to use this idea. It’s not easy. Even taking time to make a couple of slices of toast in the morning is taking me away from when my brain is most active. However, I need to eat. I have to feed my body and my brain. I can’t wait until I’m light-headed and feel forced to eat something or I might pass out.

So, I’m trying to put this new theory into the day’s routine. Yesterday, however, brought up another issue. There are times when my mind is spinning around a topic to cover in one of my writings, and during those moments when I am emotionally invested in the topic, I feel the presence of The Muse. I am consumed by the subject and it’s so exciting! I have to pay immediate attention when The Muse is present. It’s a driving force. If I don’t, she leaves … and yesterday I made myself eat breakfast first and she disappeared. It was like the bubble of excitement burst. The words and inspirational drive were gone and I was left feeling … disappointed, like I lost an opportunity, like I gave up on a special moment.

OK, there are exceptions to rules. Maybe I need to make one here. Writing is the most important aspect of what I do. Many times, the flashes of inspiration happen while I’m doing my morning writing or come from the meditation the night before which is enhanced while I’m journaling. That’s when The Muse drops in. I have to pay attention because often the subject contains interesting life-lessons. 

What does this mean? The Muse must be given attention when she is here. Breakfast can wait in these cases … and now that I’ve written, I should eat now.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Lessons from Stress in Living a Whole-hearted Life

I often compare my jumping from project to project to a busy bee going from flower to flower. This month it has been overwhelming and my normal, lighthearted go-with-the-moment and spontaneity has been crushed by trying to do too much all at once. I reached the breaking point and even my body was saying, “Enough!” 

osteospermum, rose magic
The big yearly project was completed on time and I am … recovering. I still feel mentally exhausted and my health is affected. I really let stress strangle me and various issues triggered adding to the anxiety. Finally, my part of the work on the summer guide came to an end and I can now relax a little and think. 

I’m still putting together the broken pieces of my shattered-ness. There are reasons I let myself reach the breaking point. It is often when I’ve totally crashed and burned, that the phoenix rises (not that I think of myself as a phoenix), and this last week was one of those times where I not only mentally collapsed, I felt stomped into the ground. (Not someone else’s doing, just my own stuff creating havoc within me.)

But I find this life totally fascinating and whenever I reach a breakthrough, I am excited. For instance, the latest was today, in rushing around to get the laundry done, I paused for a drink of water and happened to see one of my affirmation cards tacked to the wall. “I am focused on the present joy of creativity.”

Dahlia, midi pinta
Well, duh! How could I have missed seeing that the past few weeks? I try to read my affirmations every day. That’s why I put these cards where I see them all the time. But I also believe that things happen for a reason. I had to go through this experience. I had to reach that brokenness to get a better understanding of some of these life lessons. (Other revelations came up during the past few weeks, too – I’m only talking about today in this writing.)

One of the biggest issues adding to the recent stress is guilt that I am gardening instead of painting. Yes, it is a conscious choice and something drives me, just as I’m driven when I spend time at the easel. Working in the garden is my present joy of creativity. How can I find fault with that? Beautiful, colorful flowers make me happy. Creating new gardens and digging in the dirt bring me joy. Planting pretty annuals in flower boxes add bright splashes of color against the too-much green of trees and bushes or the dull white of the house. 
If gardening is my current focus and it’s bringing me much happiness, why should I feel bad about that?

Yesterday the affirmation card that caught my eye was “Creating beauty for myself creates beauty for others.” That is true about my art work and the flower gardens. My walls are adorned with drawings, paintings, and photographs. Friends and neighbors comment on how beautiful my yard is looking. Plus, I post photos every day on Facebook in my attempt to balance positiveness with the too much negativity that’s out there these days.

Creating beauty and focusing on the joy of creativity is part of living the whole-hearted life, and I can’t begin to describe how amazing that feels when I allow myself to be OK to do so. Let’s all focus on beauty and creativity and push away the guilt that we are not doing something else.