Thursday, November 30, 2017

Learning to be Happy and Living Whole-Heartedly

I’ve had a number of conversations lately about being happy, finding happiness, choosing happiness. Some people seem to be born happy and are able to carry that throughout life. Others are born under a cloud, or their early experiences cause them to bury their emotions, and they learn to act as they believe others want them to. And it doesn’t matter where they came from. Those who come from wealthy families can have just as many issues as those who are poor. 

This isn’t about blame. It’s not finding fault with our upbringing. It’s not about hiding or brushing off our true feelings. I don’t know if all babies are born happy. (I kind of think not, but as I have no memory of birth, I don’t know for sure.) For most, happiness is learned. It’s how each of us encompasses what we are taught into our own selves. True self happiness becomes mixed with what others expect of us: parents, family, teachers, friends and peers. There are rules and ethics and morals, right and wrong. Do this, don’t do that. Money is often a big issue.

Then there is the media telling us what we need to make us happy. Oh, those Sears Christmas catalogs when we were kids! The commercials on TV pounding into us all the time how we need this or that. So-and-so getting some fabulous toy or snowmobile or iPhone, and we want one, too. Even with how we look is questioned and commented on, and we’re always made to feel less than. When does it stop?

It stops with individual choice. It stops when we make the decision to not have what everyone else has. It stops when we realize stuff only makes us feel happy for a few moments. It stops when we stop listening to commercials. It stops when we stop going out of our way to please others to the extent of our own wellbeing and happiness.

It comes down to deciding for ourselves what makes us happy. We have to find that piece deep inside us that feels true joy and satisfaction. Deep inside is the key. Yes, we love our families and they make us happy – because it’s love and that’s good. But happiness goes beyond family and friends. Happiness goes beyond having what you want. Happiness has an inner glow, a vibrance. It’s a passion for what’s good and beautiful.

Happiness sometimes comes at a high price. Maybe a lot of it comes with wisdom, when we are older. Maybe it’s when we realize that a lot of what we used to believe isn’t so true anymore. Perhaps it comes after we have known heartache and loss; when happiness becomes a part of our being, not just a surface emotion. It’s riding the wave of joy and despair and coming out in balance. It’s discovering simple joys in nature or finding a creative outlet that makes your soul sing.

Don’t let others dictate your happiness, and you don’t have to be a martyr. Choose to be happy! And realize it doesn’t mean every day because life gets in the way sometimes. Choosing to be happy is doing the best you can. It’s a treasure hunt to find the little joys and that means being open to the possibility of finding happiness. Take the time to acknowledge the things that make you happy; those things deep inside that feel good and exciting and true to yourself. Taking care of yourself and your feelings will allow you to be more open to love and care for others. 

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. 

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.