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. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Relationships and Whole-hearted Living

This morning I woke to the thought, “Do you love the person (s)he is becoming or do you only love the person (s)he was?” 

These are important questions to consider. Are you willing to allow your partner to evolve or are you trying to get your lover to stay the same? And what about you? Have you and are you changing? If you are trying to get your love to stay the same, is that fair to either of you?

Everyone knows relationships are tough, and, as with many things, I don’t know if there is any one true answer. I may believe it one way today, but does that mean it has to be that way tomorrow? I choose not to be in a relationship, and just because I’ve made that decision for myself, that does not mean I don’t admire those who choose otherwise. 

I watch people. I listen to people. I have been in relationships (more than one), and I am old enough and wise enough to see multiple sides to situations. I have seen this scenario over and over (and I’ve experienced it). It is not up to me to tell people what to do when they talk to me. If a couple is struggling with their relations, it is not up to me to judge them or urge them in either direction. I listen and offer insight. And if I should happen to hear from both partners, I’d offer the same kind of insight to both. I don’t take sides. It is up to them to make their own decisions.

I often hear, “We’re trying to make it work,” but it usually feels one-sided. One partner feels there is nothing wrong and can’t understand why the other is not seeing things that way or that the other isn’t working hard enough to make it work. This one partner also usually seems very surprised about the situation. (S)he thought it was a good relationship.

What does this have to do with whole-hearted living? 

To me, whole-hearted living is seeing the other sides. I don’t have to agree or even like it, but I need to think about it so that I can make the best choice for me. Whole-hearted living is allowing the heart to live whole-hearted. When my heart is whole and my soul is happy, then I am able to freely give more of myself to others. 

It’s not easy. Sometimes there’s a lot of soul-searching. However, the end result has to be a decision that I can be satisfied with. The more I practice this, the more satisfied, positive, and happy I am with my life.

This is what I believe for everyone, too. Each relationship is about the people involved and their belief systems. What is right and what is wrong in a partnership can be different to everyone. People change, and if the partner is not able to adapt to the change, the relationship deteriorates. What then? What happens when the relationship becomes stretched like an old rubber band? Is it about sticking it out because of the marriage vows or the children? Do both end up living so-so lives and neither one being totally happy?

Again, it’s not for me to decide or judge for others. These are questions only they can answer. No, not easy, and when I was in a relationship, I didn’t have the courage to sit down with my husband to talk about it. It takes a lot of daring greatly and I didn’t have this knowledge and self-esteem back then – or the relationship reached a point where I had to leave for my own well-being and life.

I changed. I grew. I evolved. If we’re honest with ourselves, we all change as we grow older. We don’t go through life staying the same. Oh, some core beliefs may stay the same, but we change, we evolve. Is it fair to our relationship to expect it to remain what it was?

I’ve always believed marriage or a partnership should be a contract with a renewal every so many years. It’s a time to look at life and decide whether too much distance has formed between the two, or if there is enough love and friendship to work hard to make it work. When it works, it’s great. If it’s not working, move on before the relationship dissolves into hate. I’ve never wanted that and don’t like to see that. 

I believed that early on. To this day, I am still friends with my ex and with his wife.

What would it mean to you to live a whole-hearted life?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Freedom of Speech and Whole-hearted Living

The freedom of speech topic hit me this week set off by an email I received regarding a Letter to the Editor printed last week in which someone took offense. As the editor of a newspaper (thankfully not one that feeds the media frenzy of shock and horror), we welcome letters to the editor. We honor people’s freedom of speech and we often get responses to someone else’s letter and points of view are often conflicted. We may not agree with the writers’ beliefs, but we have an obligation to allow their freedom of speech. (We do, however, remove profanity.)

We suggest that people, instead of being upset with us for allowing freedom of speech, to submit letters of their own. They, too, are allowed that right. A response letter can state their beliefs on the subject without name-calling and anger. 

This situation made me think further about freedom of speech. I think more needs to be said and we need to look at what that means.

I try not to live in fear and that seems harder to do in these times. More and more I am narrowing my world to avoid listening to all the negativity that is so predominant right now. I am afraid to speak my truth because people are too quick to “take offense” and not only do they take offense, some get downright nasty about it. What happened to agree to disagree if you disagree? What happened to acceptance and tolerance of other people and other views?

Hatred and violence seem to be on the forefront of all newscasts and social media, and having this pounded into us day after day is taking its toll. The whole world seems to be affected (or it seems so because that’s all you hear about). Unfortunately, too many people find this kind of news exciting, and this is what sells so the media keeps pushing it. This repetitive daily negativity is pressed into our souls making it hard not to become what we see. If we let anger and hatred infiltrate our lives, we will live in constant fear which turns us into anger and hatred. 

I refuse to get caught up in it, and yet, it’s hard to avoid it. The news media makes it sound like that’s all there is to talk about it, and people are so uptight they blow up at everything said. They take the minutest of detail and blow it all out of proportion without understanding all the facts and seeing all sides. People can’t say anything without ticking others off; even to the point where words are misconstrued and taken out of context. It’s hard to say anything without offending someone else and getting verbally attacked. 

My thoughts are divided on how to talk about this. My biggest worry is that we are about to lose part of our First Amendment – freedom of speech. Isn’t that what this country was founded on? It’s already started with political correctness. What’s next?

What exactly does this mean? How did it come to this? How do we protect our freedom of speech? And what does this have to do with whole-hearted living?

I totally believe in freedom of speech, but there needs to be courtesy. To me, freedom of speech doesn’t mean name-calling and bullying. It doesn’t mean trying to force others to one belief. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean verbalizing every thought if it’s detrimental of others. Yes, there are those times when people spew off in anger and fear – sometimes that can be for a good reason – but for the most part, anger and fear fuels more of the same and it’s catchy and addictive. It becomes an epidemic. And it has.

Freedom of speech means being able to speak our truth. It’s an opportunity to share ideas, debate subjects, and communicate. Freedom of speech allows us to be open with others. Freedom of speech can inspire, educate, and create positive awareness to bring about necessary changes.

We can protect our freedom of speech by being mindful of what we listen to or read, and taking care in how we respond. Are we hearing just some piece of information given in a way intended to be shock and rile people up? Do we know the whole story behind what was said or are people just jumping to conclusions? If something said or read makes us angry and fearful, will responding with more anger help the situation or make it worse?

Freedom of speech can be protected by how we speak. We need to THINK before we speak. First reactions in a situation can often be negative. If we freak out and start screaming, does that make us look intelligent? Is that the kind of picture of ourselves we want to give others? Sometimes it’s better to walk away to clear those thoughts before we can respond in a positive, intelligent, and informative way. And there are times when it’s better to totally walk away without responding at all (or waiting for a better time).

Taking thinking further, we can teach ourselves to catch negative words before they leave our mouths, or the moment we realize we are speaking in anger or saying something not so nice, we can stop. Also, it’s important to understand that people have deep-set beliefs and they may not be willing to or want to change. It’s not our job to make them change. We need to honor that. This means there may be some subjects not to discuss when together. This is not denying freedom of speech, it’s just being wise in when to speak.

So, what about freedom of speech and living whole-heartedly? I, too, have strong beliefs, but I am careful with whom I have particular conversations, which is another key. Perhaps there are certain conversations that should only be made with like-minded individuals. After all, not every personal thought and belief needs to be public. Again, it’s being mindful and respectful. It’s about knowing when to speak and to whom. 

I am honoring myself by knowing when to speak and when to not get involved. I live my whole-hearted life in avoiding situations that are upsetting (whenever I can). I live whole-heartedly by knowing I am doing the best I can, trying to live each day in beauty and peace. Today I will find beauty around me.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What It Means to Me to Live Whole-heartedly

I live whole-heartedly in my heart. I feel it running throughout my being. I’ve been trying to put together, in words, the concept/belief so I can talk about it. It’s not a subject that can fit one page. It’s something to live, to work at, to learn to become. Some of these blog writings will cover this topic as I weave my way through the maze of thoughts and ideas that permeate my being.

First off, no one is totally perfect and to expect it to be so, sets us up for failure. I refuse to be a failure! Oh, I may have my downslides and I make many mistakes as I go through this life, but I am not a failure. I get up time and time again, striving to be better.

What does failure have to do with living whole-heartedly? It’s accepting there will be times when I fail at something. Admitting slip-ups is an act of bravery because I am willing to be open and vulnerable about it. It offers me the opportunity to learn and grow, and talking about the experience helps me release whatever it is that brings me down. Talking my truth creates a connection to others which allows support and advice and more chances to learn. 

The trick is knowing how long to allow myself to wallow in self-blame and self-pity. When is it time to jump right up and when is it OK to be in that down place. Sometimes staying there for a brief period allows the full experience. Sometimes it’s good to allow the gamut of emotions to run. It’s important, though, to not let myself get too mired. I have to crawl out of the hole because I am determined to be happy and live life whole-heartedly. 

Whole-hearted living means I pick myself up, dust myself off, and go on being the best person I can be. It means living the best I can for me (and best doesn’t mean perfect), believing that when I take better care of myself, then I am better able to love and care for those around me (and that includes loving myself). I care and love with my whole soul -- which is not a blind, obsessive love, but an open-minded, whole-hearted love.  

Whole-hearted living means living up to certain simple rules I’ve taken on for myself like: Do no harm, be kind to others, be polite, and do the best I can. I have an inner list of how I want to be in life that also includes: Being helpful when I can, knowing when to ask for help, knowing when to say “no,” staying true to who I am, and being true to myself. It’s also being adaptable to change. 

Living whole-heartedly means honoring myself. I am important. Just as others are important. It means recognizing who I am and celebrating my strengths. It’s accepting who I am, and although I will strive to be better (whatever better means in the moment), I can be good enough for now.

Being enough is a difficult concept for many. Society is full of not good enough, not pretty enough, not having enough, not fast enough, and not _____ enough, etc. Business marketing is based on the not enough beliefs. We spend billions of dollars trying to be “enough.” 

I am choosing in this moment to be and have enough! And while I may be enough today, I will work at being better tomorrow, at which time that will be enough. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Daring Greatly Outside the Comfort Zone

I like ruts. I like my comfort zone and it’s hard to get me out of it. So, it’s a good thing that life doesn’t let me get too mired in. I am challenged in one way or another; if not every day, then every other day. I am never allowed to stay on the easy road no matter how hard I try. Something always comes along to upset the proverbial apple cart.

That’s a good thing. If I never moved out of my comfort zone, there would be no growth. I’d stagnate – and stagnation is a precursor to death. The universe won’t let that happen to me (not now anyway). 

The end of 2016 introduced me to two concepts: Daring greatly and living whole-heartedly. I have taken these words to heart and I’m developing what this means to me. 

I wrote about daring greatly in my blog this past December (in “Living the Life of an Artist/Writer” blog before I divided my blogs into categories). It was a brief introduction of what it means to “dare greatly,” and since then, the act of daring greatly comes up more and more. Or rather, I am more aware of how often I dare greatly. I am learning to see challenges as opportunities to dare greatly and that lifts my spirits.

Still, I want my comfort zone and sometimes I feel I’m throwing a childish, inner temper tantrum when things don’t go smoothly. I can’t even stay home to avoid challenges! Life just dishes them up. I work steadily to be as positive about life as I can. Life isn’t perfect; crash and burns happen and I get what I call “freaky.” 

This is part of where the living whole-heartedly comes in. I take a deep breath and dive into the challenge. OK, I’ll admit there’s often frustrating tears, but I work through it! Sometimes it’s about figuring it out for myself or knowing when to ask for help. Other times I find answers by talking about the situation through writing, emailing, or posting on Facebook – just the fact that I’ve put it out there, offers mental relief from the downward spiral.

I take time to read my positive affirmations and I meditate and do Tai Chi daily. I go outside even if it’s just to walk around the yard to soak up the fresh air and nature. I watch the birds, play with the kitty, listen to comforting music, and remember to breathe in and breathe out. 

I dive back into my work with a clearer mindset.

I’ll be writing more about living whole-heartedly in upcoming postings.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I am the Journey; I am More than I Expected

It is all exciting, fascinating, and joyful.

Sometimes I read something that rocks me to my core. Sometimes it takes me days to figure it out. The other day someone posted this to Facebook:

“In the end, she became more than she expected. 
She became the journey, and like all journeys, she did not end.
She simply changed direction and kept going.” – R.M. Drake

These words tore into my soul (in a good way), and I don’t know why, even after sitting on it for a couple of days. It spoke (without words) volumes to me; almost as if it was written about me, and me alone. Tears filled my eyes and my heart wrapped around the words as if grasping a lifeline. It was like someone, something, out there recognized me, acknowledged me. I clung in desperation, and for a time, that’s all I could do. I turned it into one of my affirmations intending to write more about it later.  

Now it is later, and I’m still all topsy-turvy in my gut. I must find the words to describe what I’m feeling or I will float helplessly away on a sea of nothingness. I’m not sure where the contemplating will take me, but it’s time to take the journey, a treasure hunt through my mind to look for the gold within, to figure out why this saying/poem has shaken me so. I’m excited and a bit fearful. What am I about to learn about myself or admit? 

“In the end, she became more than she expected.” 

My dreams and goals of the past certainly didn’t show me in this place in life. (Those dreams and goals have long vanished and are now unimportant.) I envisioned something different, something more … however, I did get more … so much more,  and in a totally unexpected way. I could never have seen this person I’ve become, and yet, this is who I am, and probably, who I always have been. 

I had to grow into the person I already was! (Wow, how profound is this!) 

Maybe there was a part of me that knew (I feel an affirmative nod in my soul), and life is all about making the long journey to get here. 

“She became the journey …”

Yes, I am the journey! And it is one that does not end. Life is a continuous journey whether physically traveling or taking a trip through the realms of the emotional mind. It continues whether working at my desk or standing in front of the easel. It continues while meandering around the yard searching for items to photograph and it is with me while gardening. It continues whenever I leave the house whether for a short trip or longer travels, and like those physical travels, the mind journey is also full of potholes, detours, construction, interactions, and road blocks.

“She simply changed direction and kept going.” 

I certainly have done that throughout my life!

Thank you, R.M. Drake, for giving me new insight and another “Digging for the Gold Within” opportunity.