Thursday, November 1, 2012

Who runs the world? GIRLS!

I got to spend an evening with a roomful of beautiful ladies this week, about 225 of them; all ages, shapes, and sizes!  Our local Health System’s foundation, held a fundraiser for woman’s health in support of breast cancer awareness month. With a name like Diva’s and Darlings, I knew it was bound to be fun!  The theme was Mardi-Gras and many of these lovely ladies donned bejeweled masks, dressy attire, and costumes.  It was a perfect girly night on the town, with live auction, silent auction, purse raffle, diamond and chocolate games of chance, and a spectacular spread of Creole style food.  Even the appetizers screamed New Orleans: tiny langostinos, and a huge shrimp bowl continuously filled by men in crisp, white chef coats.   The entertainment was an itsy, bitsy, little firebrand of a lady; a humorist, motivational speaker and breast cancer survivor, too. This little women, who exuded some powerful joy, was there to teach us something.  In a nutshell her message was:  the greatest expression of gratitude for life, is to love oneself.   With a funny, relatable, authentic, and self-deprecating humor she brought many of us to tears of hilarity as well as empathy.  Her narration all lead back to this single hope; that woman everywhere learn to accept and love themselves as they were created!   Her belief is- -  it is in acknowledging and accepting our individual uniqueness, perceived flaws and all, therein, lies a woman’s true source of real power.   

I gave some thought afterwards to that philosophy.   I didn’t do the exercises she suggested, like getting naked and checking it all out in the mirror.  It was too chilly this week!  A good excuse.  But, I did ask myself, “Self, does your behavior now reflect a woman who loves herself?”  It surely didn’t for so many years, and the saddest part was I didn’t even realize it.  

I haven’t always felt powerful as a woman and in reality my love of my womanhood has just come around in the last few decades.  I viewed men as overpowering forces of nature that would always come out on top (no pun intended).  Professionally, and as heads of households... and just because they were male, it seemed inevitable they would always exercise so much control over my life. Maybe they did because I didn’t feel confident enough to grab hold of my own choices and decisions and handed it  all over instead.   I just didn’t realize then, I could do much about it.   They seemed to hold the key to my security, survival.... and happiness.  Some of my female mentors and role models were successful females; doctors, lawyers, and CEO’s of companies, self-confident, attractive, intelligent, and financially secure.  But, they stayed in horrible relationships with men who were serial cheaters, lazy, abused, or controlled them.  Why did they continue to forgive or even stay with them?  They weren’t financially dependant on them.  They had the education, tenacity, and resumes to support themselves. They were good looking woman; attractive to other men.  Why would they choose a lifestyle of power in the Board Room, but powerlessness over their personal relationships and happiness.  Why didn't they believe they deserved to be respected and treated well in their own homes?   Those were the examples I honed in on in my younger years, and it just helped to reinforce what I thought.  Men ruled the world, especially the private, personal ones of most women. 

Things started to change for me in my early 40’s when I began to uncover my worth and discovered it did not revolve around the opinions of others, including men.  I loved me.  Amazingly, I then attracted a man who deemed me worthy as well, and loved me for my many  newly discovered assets, but also my insecurities and flaws.  He accepted my sarcasm,  my humor, my little pillow tummy, my obsession with make-up and stilettos,  my fears, my workaholism and my propensity to dissect and intellectualize EVERYTHING!   A few years after his death, I began to attract the same type of men from my younger years.  What happened?   I slipped into the old mode and  decided I wasn’t worthy of the kind of  love that supported my desires, dreams, and boundaries. I was ruled by fear once again and  I placed more importance on becoming what others (men) wanted or needed than what I needed. Fear!  What if I was wrong, really not good enough, couldn't take care of myself,  and what about this being alone?   A total betrayal of the essence of me,  I cast this lovable woman aside along with her boundaries and power.  

There was a popular commercial for a perfume in the 80’s. The theme song, touted, “ I’m a woman...I can bring home the bacon.  Fry it up in a pan.  And, never, ever let you forget you’re a man.  Why in the world would that be considered an asset and a priority? How about a perfume for remembering,  you are woman;  powerful and gentle, a contradiction; authentic and enough? Not just any woman, but a phenomenal woman!   We give life, nurture, learn, think, achieve, accomplish, create. We are deserving and perfect, without breasts, 50 pounds heavier than we think we should be, without a man, or an impressive resume, or a big bank account.  Until we begin to believe that, we contribute to the shriveling of all women. We hand over bits of our power where it could be used to actually change the world.       

Photo Courtesy of the Phenomenal Woman who
owns Angela Owens Photography
As I looked around the room at all of these gorgeous females, I could feel this movement of energy, bursting at the seams, ready to be expressed just as soon as everyone, in unison, could say, "I love this woman that I am.  I am unique. I am  powerful.  Hear me roar. Watch out world.  I am the change I want to see, and I am going to carve my own path of recognition, acceptance, and wisdom, for my daughters and yours." 

It all boils down to this little thing called, self-love.  A woman can do it all, achieve it all, have it all and still find she doesn’t love herself.... not at all.   Until we can, we remain truly powerless and what a waste of purpose and talent that is.  My goal,  (this week at least) is rediscover those traits that make me authentically me... lovable, unique, unorthodox, flaky, and unconventional... especially unconventional.  I am committed to gathering all those parts of me,  up in my arms, for a great big love-fest.  

Oh, and, sigh... I’ll do as I was told.... get naked and lay the loving affirmations on that image too!    Honestly, that will be a  bit of challenge.  I’ll do it, until I start to believe it.   Maybe a good beginning is take a look at the beautiful eyes that enable me to see so much beauty in women everywhere.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Small change, small wonders-- these are the currency of endurance and ultimately of my life. It’s a workable economy- Barbara Kingsolver

A recent blog post on Positively Positive invited me to come up with a birthday bucket list.  First, Happy Birthday to Me!  I’m immensely grateful when my birthdays arrive.  I don’t have a problem with getting older.  I feel blessed to increase the number of my years on this earth.  I’ve already lived to be 8 years older than my mom was when she died, and 20 years longer than my husband!    The temptation is there sometimes to wallow in a bit of survivor’s guilt, pine away about all they could have/would have enjoyed had they lived.... Like grand babies, retirement, and years of tender love and attention, but I don’t have the time to act martyr like or feel guilty about much of anything anymore.  Guilt of the blessings of learning and practicing being kind is more important than being right, doing the next right thing is lots easier than manipulating truth, and applying the Golden Rule as much as possible.  The reward is,  I don’t have anything to feel guilty about!  Besides, my mom and husband were fine examples of living their bucket lists, fully.

It’s a good thing for me to glance back briefly and reflect on the changes that can happen in just one year.  I'm always amazed.  I’ve done that again this year.  As wide open as I am these days about so much of my life,  some of those changes feel real personal and private, and I intend to hold them close to my heart, at least for awhile. Initially, upon investigation, it didn't appear there were many, but further reflection reinforced the truth.   I recognized the movements forward this past year or so (and it’s all been in that direction whether I recognized it immediately or not) were incremental, cumulative, rather than big gang-buster, fireworks stuff; the kind of events I've always measured a banner year by.   Like traveling to foreign lands, climbing mountains, jumping out of planes, hopping on Prince Charming’s white horse, hitting a jackpot, or achieving a little fame.   It seems I've always measured my progress and the quality of excitement in my life by all of that BIG stuff.  Or BIG dramas and changes.  Like the year I was downsized from a 17 year career, saw my daughter graduate from College AND get married within months... and lost my husband.  My nest was not only empty, my tree was stripped bare and the nest got knocked to the ground to be stomped on by squirrels.  That was a dramatic year.  Maybe when you've lived a life of major flux, which appears to be the majority of my story, it’s hard to recognize you’re still evolving unless you're in state of constant euphoria or chaos.   

I guess, that in itself is a change for me!  My measuring stick is a pocket ruler now rather than a yardstick.  I've begun to learn about accepting baby steps as progress, most recently in my attempts to drop the 20 pounds I have been trying to shake for the past 6-7 years.  I finally joined Weight Watchers, and unlike times in the past when I wanted to drop a few pounds and it rapidly melted off, the scales now, while reflecting a decline almost every single week, has drifted down in the teensiest of movement - 1/2 pound here, 1/4 of a pound there. Nonetheless, it's predominately been on the decline, ounce by ounce.  I am getting smaller.  Incrementally, over a course of time, it adds up to some big accomplishment. 

So, this year, rather than paste up a dream board that looks like a season from the Great Race, or design a bucket list from the perspective of a starry eyed 20 year old with few life experiences, I’ve kept it simpler.  This has nothing to do with the fire that still burns in my spirit, the spot where my dreams reside, or lowering my standards.  This is a simple recognition, that sometimes, it's the baby steps that get us there, and they do add up. That consistent acceptance and acknowledgement that there is an order to things and it's all good, even if it feels a little boring, like a hot, lazy, summer.   These are some of things I would like to shoot for in this next birth year. They're  just on the list... I'm not a failure if I find myself with an unchecked bucket list item, next year. 

Ready...stepping out there, leisurely and gently... 
  • Reteach myself French so I can whisper beautiful sentiments to those I love, including myself.  
  • Downsize.  My Bucket List. My belongings.  My lifestyle.  My expectations; especially of others.
  • Stir up those creative juices... tune up the sewing machine.  Have my friends teach me to knit, again...  Make a fun pillow for each one of my little girls to snuggle, giggle, and cry in!     Paint a piece of furniture a fun color. 
  • Design my own recovery/support cards.  Who better to understand what others need to hear?
  • Go on a spiritual retreat. Omega Institute? Yes! (Uh-Oh.  Here we go again, big bucket list item)  Perhaps. Or, at a local church.  
  • Treat myself to a pedicure or facial more often. Forgo the cheese and crackers, and use the money saved for a massage.
  • Write. Write. Write. Every day.  For myself or for publication.  Just do it.. Every day. 
  • Practice Yoga... often. Five minutes or an hour, doesn't matter.     
  • Nap.  Delicious afternoon respites cuddling with a loved one... Or a body pillow. 
  • Cook.  Host mini parties to celebrate everything, a new haircut, a new moon, life. 
  • Hand out a whole lot more hugs, kisses and love you’s. 
There’s more.  But, it’s a secret. I’ll tell you on my next birthday! 
La vie est bon!  

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you, yourself have altered." - Nelson Mandela

Friday, September 14, 2012

Forgivishness- Anne Lamott

I like to multi-task.  I know there is something to be said for being fully present, in the moment, but when I'm on the treadmill, I want to be somewhere other than the moment.  Anything to distract from the redundant slapping sound of my tennis shoes as they hit the rubber.  Listening to music is great... sometimes.  But, even if you have over 500 tunes on your I-Pod, if you're like me, you’ve sung them all.  My new love are podcasts. The free ones I can find on I-Tunes are the best especially if I can get them for the length of my workout.  I discovered a few of these writers' interviews this past week and Anne Lamott was one of them.  The interview was forty-five minutes long, just perfect.  I am a huge fan of Anne Lamott’s work.  I’m not always right there with her political beliefs (other than her stance on peace and ending the killing and war) but her relationship with Jesus, self-deprecating humor, sarcasm, humanness in striving towards spirituality, and most of all, her honesty, make me feel like I’ve found my soul sister.  She tears open her shirt and lays it all bare; every defect, insecurity, and struggle.    

In this particular podcast, she was discussing what was her newest book at the time of the interview,  Grace (Eventually): Further Thoughts on Faith.  The interviewer’s questions circled around to her liberal beliefs, her Christianity, and her personal relationship with Jesus.  The conversation headed in the direction of when others hurt you, the resentment it brings, and forgiveness.  Ann told the interviewer forgiveness for her, is more along the lines of “forgivishness”.  A process that went something like this...  I sort of forgive you today to the best of my ability, but I may be royally resentful of you tomorrow especially if the affront and pain pop back up in my head again.   Hearing that, I actually whooped.  And, jumped up and down on my treadmill.  Note to self as I tumbled backward and let the wall behind me stop my fall... with my head:  Don’t do that ever again.  

Forgivishness!  What a perfect term to describe the process of forgiveness. I can stop beating myself up over my inability to put the past completely behind me.  I've surely tried as well as handed it over to God because I seemed powerless.   I wrote about a recent "blue moon" experience a week or so ago and it was a perfect example of forgivishness at work.  Forgiven today.... pissed off again tomorrow.    Anyone who knows me well, will tell you, I’ve tried setting it all up in flames, but not everything burns so easily.  Upon further introspection,  do I really want it to?  Maybe my inability to annihilate chapters of my life, forgive forever, and move on completely, is a gift.  Because fire doesn’t burn everything and sometimes what’s left after the flames burn out, is the charred memory of spectacular moments, times of real love and intimacy, and the soul of another human being, just like me, capable of making mistakes, hurting others, and navigating their learning process.  All of this might still remain, just waiting for the soot to be rubbed off, so something of beauty can be revealed.  Do I really want to set off a nuclear bomb to all of it, just to move forward?  Wouldn’t it be better to do my best on an ongoing basis to gently squeeze the poison out, a bit at a time?  Let it ooze to the surface, rather than cutting it out and taking parts of the heart and soul that were present too and equally a part of the experience, or relationship, along with the excision? 

When these hurts, offenses, and pain from the past arise, isn’t it better to allow myself to experience it briefly, extract what that pain is trying to teach me.... maybe I played a role and I need to learn how to not play that role again.  And, then, do my best to forgive... myself and the others?  If I played no role and still was harmed, perhaps it behooves me to look for the love in the aftermath, in the arms of others who stood beside me, comforted me, and loved me into life again?  Doesn’t true healing really only arrive on the wings of love?   So, if we burn away or cut out the good along with the experience, will healing ever take place and can forgiveness ever really come? 

Forgiveness for me hasn't been like a one act play;  rich with colorful language, thoughts of creative revenge and prayers for karmic payback.  Final scene.... fairy dust drifts down on the stage and is finished. I tried that.  Forgiveshness is a process, an epic production of tragedy and comedy, and hopefully when we are finished sorting through the rubble, plucking and tossing away the anger, resentment and hurt, we retain the lessons, the memories... and most of all the love.  Forgivishness.. Finally, this feels authentic, and honest, much more in alignment with the peace, and positive energy I am trying to draw into my life. 

The pressure is off.   The guilt is gone. No longer do I need to beat myself up when I revisit unpleasant events and times I thought I had put behind me.  It can take a long time, perhaps even a lifetime  to clean off the charred remains of a past.  I think it might be so worth it to process it this way.   Gold doesn’t burn and never loses its value.  Sorting through the rubble from time to time to extract something priceless, well, somehow it all seems worthwhile,  even if I have to revisit the pain of the past to find it.   There’s always forgivishness.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Birthday Reflection... Written in gratitude

I’ve been spending way too much time recently thinking about how different my life would be, if only...... If only you were here with me to share some of these heavy, day to day burdens heralded in by this ghastly recession and too little: support, time, opportunity, money, energy.   If only you were here to savor the sweetest little girls ever... your granddaughters.  You would delight in their happy outlooks and inquisitive minds.  When I close my eyes, I  can see you and the relationship you'd have with each one of them.  Sydney would be your co-conspirator, partner in crime; the two of you exploring, being ornery together. Sydney tries it all, just like you.   Alex.. you would torment her... like you did Christi.  She’s the sensitive one, just like Christi.  She's the one with the soft little voice and spirit. And, she too would come to know, just like Christi, that your challenging her helped her  to acknowledge her intelligence, hone her many gifts.  The two of you, in reality, were so much alike. Sometimes seeing ourselves reflected in another is the perfect mirror in allowing us to discover the brightest facets of the prism of our personalities too.   Oh, my...   And, Cameron would be your little love bug. She'd make you laugh, and laugh at your silly jokes too. She would help you see the world as it should be seen; simply and delighfully with her awareness and innocent wisdom.   You would be so incredibly proud of both Scott and Christi.  The kind of parents they are and the kind of compassionate and giving human beings they’ve become too.  They're just like you with their community and volunteerism efforts, something I never really shared with you.  You knew I was better one on one, helping people in a quieter, more private manner, and you honored that.  Maybe that's why we made such a great team.  We both couldn't take center stage.   It would make you beam to see the desire and contributions of this lovely young family of yours,  towards a better community, and better world. I hope it would make you smile in knowing  that I've finally opened up to the world some too, sharing my experiences with the intent of helping someone else in their journey.
I thought about all of these things, today, especially.  How many adventures would we have had... How much of the world would we have seen by now?  Would we be working together towards our common dream of business ownership or even be business owners now?  Would our home be a haven and reflection of us, a place where others felt comfortable stopping by too and sharing in our good fortunes?   Would we have stayed true to our plans to make a difference in this world by continuing to be the change we wanted to see?  Would we still be traveling down similar spiritual paths? I know we would still be celebrating a family of fabulous July birthdays in the signature Mahoney style,  those big Irish celebrations of life.  I miss throwing those parties.    
It would take a large notebook to list all of the things I miss about you.  I think if I could only pick one, it would be the way you made me feel... always... in your presence.  Safe, valued, supported... adored.   You called forth the very best in me, and asked only one thing... that I love myself too and let my light shine.   
This morning,  as I sat in the spot where you took your last breath,  I prayed so hard for you to just touch in.  Give me some advice.  Tell me what to do next so I can let my light shine and make you proud, make me proud and leave a legacy of a happy life filled with integrity, goodness, and joy when its my time to depart this earthly plane. 
I know you are near.  I just heard your voice, shushing me, reassuring me, letting me know heaven has heard my prayers.  I just need to rest quietly and watch for the signs. Watch and listen.... The answers do come along with the rain, in the persistent pounding of the waves on the beach, the blossoming of my poor little half dead flowers, that confident little red cardinal staring me down from the kitchen window, and inside a spectacular full moon.  
Until we meet again, I will look for you with my heart.  I know it is then you will come.  Like the rain. Sometimes gently preceded by signs...the soft smells of nature and the cooling air:  I'll know you are on your way, slipping easily into my thoughts.  Other times surprising me with a downpour and intensity, chastising me for spending way too much time, dwelling on the what-ifs instead of celebrating and being grateful for the what was and IS. 

 If only you were here?  You are. 

Happy Birthday my love....

(Thank you my precious daughter for sharing this perfect Tracy Chapman song with me!  It does indeed say it all....)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

How I feel, isn’t the same as how I’m doing - Gemma Baker

Feelings... whoa, whoa, whoa, feelings.......
How I feel isn’t the same as how I’m doing.....This statement tapped me on the shoulder when I read it  recently.  It’s a great reminder to live mindfully instead of allowing the willy-nilly sea of emotion determine a perceived quality of life. It’s all perception too.  The quality of my life is up to me.  How you perceive it, is none of my business.  Your perception should never really matter to me in living my authentic life. 
I know this thought will continue to produce monumental change in the perpetuation of my serenity..... If/when  I remind myself of this when caught up in the thick of it; depression, anger, sadness or even happiness, love, and joy.  All just feelings.  After reading and absorbing the words over, I was struck by the times when I’ve felt depressed.  My body was healthy, I had a great job, plenty of money in the bank, and love surrounding me. What was the deal? I was doing well.  On the flip side, the last few years I have had surges of peace, joy, and contentment. In the eyes of those of the world, I appeared to not be doing so well, professionally, financially, or even physically.   
I’ve said this many times before, my feelings don’t define me.  Just because I feel crazy, doesn’t mean I am crazy.  If I feel sad, that doesn’t mean many things in my world aren’t beautiful. If I cry all day, it doesn’t mean I am weakling. If I feel lost, it doesn’t mean I am.  I know this now and have learned, for the most part to simply go with the flow of them, like an observer stepping back, quietly saying, “Huh, so that’s how sadness feels.”  I believe now it’s a good thing to experience what these emotions feel like in our bodies instead of running from them.  I used to pretend I didn’t know them and used all kinds of methods to hide out from actually experiencing them.     The problem was, they caught up with me and when they did, they overpowered me. They then became how I was doing for a time. 
I’ve noticed acknowledging my feelings and letting them flow, they no longer have a silent stranglehold on my life. I don’t have to stifle them anymore.  When I shushed them, they screamed at me. Now, they appear appropriately knowing they won’t be judged. Sometimes beautifully ebbing and flowing in and out of the hours in my day like the tides, gentle and predictable.   Other times I find myself holding on for dear life as a tsunami threatens to batter my spirit into a pulp.  No matter.  I’ve learned to accept them all.  And, be grateful for them all.... Yes, all of them.    
Having felt them fully now, I see how useful and wonderful they are.  Sometimes, they keep us safe from harm.  When the heart is beating wildly, and the nerve endings are jangling, those feelings might be telling us to walk away from something that could be damaging.  Or, when we recall the exhilaration inside our soul that cause us to lift our arms and rejoice, we could be on the right path.  Feelings help us to connect with other people too.   If we didn’t know the stabbing pain of grief at the loss of a loved one, how could we ever reach out and comfort another.  If we can’t identify with the goosebump thrill of great excitement and joy, could we hug another with authentic enthusiasm at their great joy?
Feelings are like markers along our path, leading us inward towards understanding and learning. They are that scent of holiness inside of us guiding us to healing. I like to think of feelings as the spirit part of me that dances, weeps, rejoices and, sometimes, recoils from the world for awhile.  They are the life line to God inside me, leading the way to my authentic home, in compassion and love.   
I can’t imagine a life without feelings, my Holy Spirit of the soul. I’ve learned it  behooves me not to use them as a measuring stick for how I am doing.  Although, I do believe without them, I wouldn’t be doing well at all.  Feelings are my tools.  I needed this reminder.  I am always fine.  My life is right where its supposed to be. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

People Pleasing - Part II- Playing yourself small....

Walking with my daughter the other day, the conversation turned to an affliction we share.  People pleasing.  Whether genetic or taught, I am happy to report this debilitating disease is in remission for both of us!   Our observations, took a turn towards her three little girls, my granddaughters, and the legacy we would leave.  We decided being an example of self-love, acceptance and authenticity is the best book on self-respect they will ever read.  My last post I wrote about how we dishonor ourselves by putting others first, compromising our values, and giving, with an ulterior motive... to be liked, or loved.  
There is something else we do in order to fit in.  Play ourselves small.  I fear I’ll battle this one from time to time.  I am often in conflict with remaining humble and that inner voice which tells me its safe to use my talents so others may benefit too. I’ve been blessed with examples of those who share their light and let it shine;  individuals who honestly know who they are, use their strengths in honorable ways and are a joy to be around.  Their genuine self-confidence and acceptance of who they are is worthy of following. 
This people pleasing... where did it start for me?   Maybe being a military brat and moving all the time.... I had to quickly assimilate into a group in order to have friends.  It seemed easier to fit in if I wasn’t tooting my own horn about anything and presenting myself as a threat to the status quo.  Even as a child I loved words.  Readers Digest used to have a section called “Enrich your Word Power”.  Every month, I took the test and studied the words carefully, moving on into using them in my conversations.  I recall, even back then, my dad telling me I should cool it with the big words, because it would just intimidate others.  I guessed it would make me friendless if I used a word containing more than five or six letters in it. 
When I moved from out West to Ohio, my clothing, taste in music, hair, and language was a little different.  I know it made my peers in the good old Midwest farmland, squirm. So, I quickly became more conservative even though I felt like a foreigner floundering in a country shut out by a major language barrier.  Oddly enough, two years later they were all indulging in the same trends.  Could I have been a trendsetter had I allowed myself to walk through the ridicule and let my fashion sense shine and be proud of who I was?  Perhaps, but, it was easier to become a part of the herd, than stand out and be the different one. 
That mindset has followed me all my life.  In the workplace, I feared speaking up because no one had much use for a smart woman with ideas of her own. Roles of authority were predominately relegated for many years, to the males in the company. It was clearly, a boys club. Ladies played the support roles.  The guys didn't even have to be good at what they did.  Just being a man gave them extra stars on their evaluations.  Rather than risk losing all, by speaking up openly, I played games and manipulated to get my ideas across and  allowed superiors to take credit and believe my ideas were their original thoughts.  Then, I sat by and watched as they were compensated for those same efforts, mine. 
I went back to school in later middle-age.   I was so much older than the average student.  I let the young-uns lead the way in group endeavors, hiding my working knowledge and experience for fear of being thought of as an arrogant old woman.  What  positive influence could I have had on the learning process of those younger cohorts in sharing my hands-on, practical experience and knowledge? 
In my relationships, especially with men, I have minimized my intellect, my talents, and my personality in order to be with someone.  I thought they wouldn’t be able to accept many of my likes and strengths and I could be perceived as too intimidating.  It made for very lonely relationships, not being able to be myself and shine.  Many of those relationships went by the wayside anyhow because its awful difficult to keep shoving your original thoughts, personality, likes and dislikes, and gifts out of the way and not become a little miserable. Others sense your misery and move away anyhow.   
Finally, in my relationship with my God.  Rather than celebrating His love for me by being my best self, I’ve often prostrated myself,  claiming I am not worthy. I’m not worthy?  I’ve come to know, He created me, His spirit lives in me.  Playing myself small, I play Him small too.   
I was visiting with my 90 year old friend and neighbor last weekend.  He’d received a packet from his granddaughter with a wonderful collection of her achievements, related to her College graduation;  a program, several newsletters featuring her, and an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal about College graduates and the tough job market they would be entering.  His granddaughter was mentioned in the article as being one of the rare graduates walking into a great job.  The  opening sentence of her cover letter to him said, “Grandpa, Here is some articles about my AMAZING accomplishments!”  And, they were! International study and awards were peppered throughout her list of achievements.  Maybe that’s why she has a job post graduation.  This is a young, self confident woman who refuses to play herself small.  
It’s not humble to hide our God given gifts.  The true definition of humility is knowing, acknowledging and accepting our strengths AS WELL as our weaknesses.  I am fully aware of my weaknesses and freely share those with others.  Witness this open examination of my unexamined life.    Why not share my strengths as well?  Sharing our weaknesses helps others to not feel so alone.  Sharing our strengths plants seeds for change, gives people hope, and helps others to grow as well. 
Today, I choose playing myself exactly as I am..... defects of character AND gifts. I love this quote by Marianne Williamson. Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.”  
Perhaps it’s true it is our light which scares us.  When we are walking in the light, we are out there for everyone to see and that takes a lot of courage.   The darkness might provide a degree of anonymity which we find safe, but few things of great beauty survive or grow in the dark.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

People Pleasing......................Part One of Two - - - Being authentic....

Nothing depletes our energy and ultimately creates more resentment in our hearts than people pleasing.  This is not to be confused with being a kind, giving, empathetic person. The difference is kind, giving people do it with confidence, from an unconditional open heart, knowing life is about a flow of energy... giving and receiving.   But, if the object of their attentions is unresponsive, abusive,  rude, or takes advantage, after a time, givers stop giving and take care of themselves, or direct their attention where their time and energy is wanted or better served.   People pleasers just keep trying to change other peoples' minds and outcomes.  People pleasers don’t stand up for themselves, tell you what they want, or need.  They’re too afraid you’ll reject them and they’ll be alone, out of a job, or a social outcast.  Healthy givers, do it because it enhances their lives as well.  It's a by-product of self-love, wanting to give back what they are already overflowing with.... life.  It doesn't come from a place of seeking love or being terrified of abandonment.   People pleasers always do it with a personal agenda.   They are unconscious master manipulators, martyrs with seething underlying resentment.   Maybe that agenda isn’t always clear even to them, but its always there underneath the behavior.   
I can say this, because I was a gold medalist at saying/doing anything to keep peace, get you to like me, love me, let me into your inner circle, accept me, spend time with me, or even stay with me.  This did not enhance my life.  People took advantage. I let them, trying to get them to change their mind---- I was a fun person.... I was a good woman, mom, girlfriend, friend, employee.  I deserved to be treated fairly.  I deserved to be respected.  I deserved for my feelings to be considered.  I deserved for my voice to be heard. I deserved to be compensated for my talents or hard work.  I knew all this about myself.  The problem was I never told them.  I was too afraid of losing...  There is this  saying, “We teach people how to treat us.”  I was Teacher of the Year. 
Living like that managed to steal bits of my personality and esteem, trashing my uniqueness and certainly impeded my journey inward to discover who I really was minus someone elses definition of me.    I was relatively wishy-washy about what made me tick.  How could I not be?  I really didn’t know because I was too involved assimilating what made you tick.   A very dear friend of mine told me one time, I was one of those people that rolled out the welcome mat for others dirty feet.  Really insulting way to open my eyes, but it was the beginning..... I knew it on some level too, but when you make your second home a place of fear rather than faith,  it’s hard to see God created you to be treated like He treats you.    On some level I knew that too.  We have the internal gauge we need to navigate an honorable life, and a lot of the time,  I was miserable. It felt dishonorable to the part of me that cried out, to speak up and let my light to shine too.  I didn’t know how to  invite/allow/keep those  people in my life who could see what God saw, and lovingly move away from those that were blind to what I had to offer.  I thought your time was more important, what you thought of me, and what made you tick.  It seeped into all areas of my life, not just intimate relationships.  Like a chameleon, I acquired the attitude/role/part you needed me to play professionally, socially and even spiritually too.   
 I don’t do that anymore.  I’m not even sure when that changed, but it has, slowly and dramatically at the same time.   This thought was triggered by a recent series of nice comments about my authenticity...from more than one person too.  When something is repeated, I’ve learned it behooves me to take a look at it, even/especially the positive comments.  Am I authentic now?  I believe I am.  I will tell you what I think, kindly.  I will allow myself to get angry and tell you when you hurt my feelings... How else will you know?  I will allow myself to recognize the value in my time and my talents and if you don’t see the same value in them, I will give myself permission to move on without regret or fear.    
 I laugh at my arrogance in my thinking that I even had that kind of power to change what you thought of me.  I cry that I would even want to. I’ve learned, when we do stop the people pleasing, the risk is that we lose some relationships, friendships, and perhaps even some security.  We can lose an awful lot of things.  I’ve found in losing, I have won so much more. Real, reciprocal loving relationships, insights into what makes me tick, self-esteem, confidence, and an authentic bio, that I’ve written, not someone else.   Maybe our security needs to come from our trust and faith in our God;  that all will be well, especially if we begin to treat His creation (ourselves)  with the reverence we deserve.  
Jobs, lovers, family, blessings and friendships that are mutually respected and treasured will remain as new ones evolve when I  celebrate authentically who I am, and please myself just as much as I am trying to please you.  
Yes, I do believe my hoop jumping days are over.  I am now giving from a heart that is mine and mine alone.  Finding my voice, moving out of trying to fit into places I don’t,  has allowed for a whole lot of people, places and opportunities that now do fit, to fill that space in my life.  And, that is truly living authentically.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The river of our soul which runs through us is what gives us our animation. - Elizabeth Lesser

Twelve years ago shortly after 9:00 a.m. the best man I have ever known, a beautiful soul, left this world.  He also happened to be my husband.  It was a bright sunny morning, and I remember being struck by how his hair shimmered and his face was bathed in sunlight giving him an angelic look even amidst the suffering.  It just seemed  too beautiful, not the kind of day someone should die.  Yet, if you knew him, you would say it was a perfect way for him to enter his new life.   In the sunlight... in his favorite room in our home.... in my arms.  He was surrounded by his beloved family and a favorite nurse who had become a dear friend.  She reached out way beyond her duties, and brought him comfort and laughter in his final days.  I swear I felt his soul leave his body, and then the room, as I hugged him and hung on tightly.  Along with it, he took a huge piece of my heart.   Only five minutes earlier I had whispered into his ear,  “Give my mom a big hug from me when you see her.”  In that moment, I thought everything that had brought any meaning to my life was gone forever. 
I’ve spent a good number of the years since his death in survival mode, limping along. I began filling the empty hole, that spot where the other half of my heart used to live, with anything I could find to stop the bleeding.  A little busyness, a lot of workaholism, some over-achievement, food, and a few relationships that hauled in a whole lot of drama.  Drama is a great way to avoid the grief process and dull the pain.  You don’t feel much when your life is in a constant state of turmoil and uncertainty. Just about the time the ache sets in, you manage to align yourself with some new crisis or addiction that diverts you from stopping, facing it head on, and walking through those stages;  denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.... step, by painful step. I stayed stuck in phase one, denial.  I was convinced if I stopped for too long, the pain would overtake me and I would be trapped in a limbo land of chronic grief and spiritual death. So I stayed, hung out... put my blinders on and settled in. 
I didn’t realize by staying there, I was not honoring the man who actually showed me what true love looks like. I wanted to forget, how it felt inside my spirit to be with another soul who calls forth the best in you.  I think we all already possess our gifts, but being with the one you are supposed to be, takes them off the shelf, polishes them all up, and walks with you hand in hand as you share them with the rest of the world.   After his death, I took the gifts we shared, and stashed them away.  I became a hoarder; holding onto his legacy, keeping it locked up, along with so many of those good qualities he brought out in me, all to myself. 

He believed in me.  I made him smile, and laugh.  He told me this every single week for 18 months via a card in the mail, while he was away, going to school.  It became a contest to see who could pick out the most humorous, outrageous cards.  I have the best collection of Far Side cards known to man. His favorite humor... oh, so sarcastic, and "sic".  I loved it, it suited me too.   We compared notes when he came home on the weekends, sharing the events of our respective week with each other.  I helped him study and became a whiz at Anatomy,   incorporating body parts in our conversations as a learning tool for him.  He told me my Patella’s were the finest he'd ever seen.   We treasured our moments; learned how to be mindful  long before it was a buzz word, savoring the minutes of our time together.  We planned adventures and  trips. We had long talks in the hot tub, reciprocally sharing our bucket lists and dreams; encouraged our differences and celebrated our similarities.  He taught me to step outside my comfort zone, lighten up in my frugality, have some fun. I taught him that the best things in life don’t always have a price tag.  He taught me to work harder at not judging others because we haven’t walked in their shoes.  I taught him it was safe to share secrets, and be who we truly are because sometimes we help others most when we are honest about the paths we’ve traveled.  Through his long, painful illness, he taught me what it means to have limitless faith and be optimistic no matter what. I taught him that often the greatest gift we can give someone else is to be still and receive... their support, their offerings, their help and their love.  We traded roles, from student to teacher and back to student again. We reminded each other, everything is in the hands of a Higher Power and our life together would be greatly enhanced if we let it remain there. 
Maybe on that beautiful sunny morning, 12 years ago, when I felt the movement of Mark’s spirit, it wasn’t his soul departing.  Perhaps it was a part of his soul entering and infusing mine with his animation, so I could pay it forward.  I like to think so now.  It’s been a long journey.   Maybe using those things we taught one another, those blessings... perhaps it's time to venture out there, love another again, help others to polish their gifts too, serve, and live the remainder of my days, with the same energy and joy I did when he was alive. It’s an aspiration and it would be an honor.....   
This realization has been a long time coming.  I’ve talked for years about THE BOOK.... My story... our story.  His life was so much about helping others, perhaps this is one way that his animation, wholly alive, inside of me, his legacy,  can live on.  This, is the year of sharing my experience.  Two steps forward, ten back, ultimately getting there, walking out into the daylight, no need for something to fill the hole in my heart.  It’s no longer damaged and broken.  It’s healed, and whole, and ready to give back and be joyfully used again. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.... Goethe

I heard this several times last week.  Since God generally speaks to me through others, I am thinking this is something I need to pay attention to. Especially, when it comes from people who genuinely love me.  The icing on the cake, it was reiterated by someone I haven’t really had more than a superficial relationship with for many, many years.  Was it that apparent?   Oh, it was said with kindness, caring, and a sincere desire to be helpful.    It went something like this... “I think you’re a terrific writer, but your talent is being wasted in the places you are sending it.  You need to THINK  BIG!  Sell yourself.  You have too much talent to be spinning your wheels right where you are at.  Take some bigger risks.”   Touche’.   Looking back, he wasn’t the first person to have said this to me. “Think Bigger”.  I kept hearing it over and over everywhere I turned.  In readings, on some of my podcasts and reviewing past conversations... with family members as well as a few  friends.   All these messages were like the pesky ghost of past, present and future all invading my private spaces.  I told them all... they just didn’t understand..... how hard I’d been working and how optimistic I’ve been.   
I haven’t thought big for decades.  When I was a child, I dreamed of being the next Amelia Earhart.  Better yet, the tormented author, sitting in a little Bistro in Paris. There I was, puffing really long cigarettes encased in a pearlized holder, tossing back shots of some hot liqueur; the kind that burned all the way down and chased the images out and onto my page of paper.  My imagination could take off and run with that scenario.   That’s one big dream that did come true.  At least the part about being tormented and tossing back the shots. 
I’m not saying I’m not a hopeful person:  my positive thinking has navigated me through many a maze.   I’m determined, and a very focused.  When I find something I want to sink my teeth into, I give it my all.  I just don’t stretch myself beyond, into the realm of what might lie out there, in the land of much more. After all, it could be painful, rejection is a searing white flame to the ego.   I think of it like my Yoga practice, I bend and move and do the posture, never quitting; but I don’t breathe into the pain, and those places that will take me further into the move and ultimately greater rewards. 
I’ve had a lot of excuses for not thinking bigger.  My brain chastises me and says, it’s just not humble.   But, is it really humility to downplay our gifts and not strive to become all that we are meant to be and do?  Is it honoring Him to play ourselves small?  Isn’t that tantamount to playing Him small too?
What’s really going on here?  Some residual unworthiness that needs vacuumed out once and for all?  Perhaps the thought of actually having some bigger success might then evoke an accountability I don’t think I am ready for?  If I have faith and believe things happen when they are supposed to, I have to assume I would be ready for all that comes with it.  It all boils down to, again... faith. What’s there to lose then by thinking bigger?  
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.... Isn’t that my word of the year?  I can’t be free if I limit myself to my comfort zone. 
This week, I made a decision to THINK BIGGER.  I stretched myself a little farther, came up with a game plan and acted on a few things outside of the realm of my safety net.  So, far, so good.  I put together a dream board and an action plan, combining the best of my heart and my mind.  I know just thinking BIG isn’t enough.  I know in order to gain momentum, I need to ACT BIG too.  It’s just time, to try something different.  Someone once told me its not enough to never, ever quit.  If you keep using the same methods and have the same results, then it’s time to never, ever quit... trying something different.  I am going to try to THINK BIGGER.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Self Worth comes from one thing... thinking you are worthy - Dr. Wayne Dyer

In a conversation recently with one of  my young friends who I love dearly, (and admire), the topic of self-worth arose.  She surprised me when she said, “Someone asked me one time, don’t you think you’re worth more than that?”  She said her response was one of genuine bewilderment when she answered her friend,  “Worth more?  What’s that mean?”  While I could totally relate to her sentiments, I was incredibly sad to witness the ravages of a childhood and young adulthood, similar to my own.  One in which you have no examples, direction, or tools to understand or cultivate the knowledge that you are deserving. Neither one of us learned all we had to do is claim it,  and stop settling for sloppy seconds, better than nothings, and others judgements and opinions of us.  
 I had no idea what it meant to honor my intuition, feelings, and respect myself enough to act and speak in accordance with my reality. I was too afraid, driven by what everyone else thought of me.  How you defined me, and what you said to me was more important than what I knew to be the truth. I looked into your eyes, and went to your well to quench my thirst for approval and worthiness. If you told me I would never amount to anything, I believed you.  If you told me I wasn’t the prettiest or the smartest, I believed that too. If you said, my talent was mediocre, or my work wasn’t good enough, I bought into that as well.  It held me hostage. I often hung onto things that were dishonorable for me in my attempts to get you to change your mind about me and gain your approval. Or, worst of all, I settled, because some demon inside told me this was all there was, and it was better than nothing. That demon had plenty of space to move around in because there was nothing in me to contradict it.  Oh, occasionally, others compliments fell into the hole and filled me up for a short while, but the demon inside was bigger and a real bully.    As a result, my life was a series of choices made from a place of fear and lack rather than faith and abundance. It's just a Universal Law; when we make choices out of fear, we attract more of it into our lives.  The Law of Attraction doesn’t attract what we want, it attracts to us, what we are.  If we live full of fear we attract that and many of its cousins; neediness, anxiety, loss of identity, dishonesty, and dependance. 

I don’t think we’re born this way.  I think we all enter the world with this tiny seed of confidence, wisdom, knowing our own unique greatness.  Somehow, that gets siphoned off early on,  from others who have nothing inside either, and need your light. So, when do you know you’ve  crossed the line and moved to the wrong side of the tracks?  When your needs are not being met and your soul is crying out for acknowledgment.  When you’re not content with the arrangement, job, treatment, or relationship as it is. When you walk around feeling like your whole life is a lie and it becomes unbearable to live that way any longer. When you find you’re making excuses to yourself and others, doing things you don’t feel comfortable doing, fitting into spaces that aren't your size.  When you are unable to speak up honestly about how you think and feel, you are probably operating from a place of fear.  People with self-worth won’t live there... at least not for long.  It just doesn’t contribute to our authenticity and actions that help us to engage our Higher selves. It doesn’t cultivate peace or any real joy in our lives.  
So, how do we begin to nurture ourselves and cultivate the kind of self-worth that enables us to plant our own gardens, and decorate our own souls, {Veronica Shoffstall- Comes the Dawn}.  First, by recognizing, it’s not the accomplishments we make, how we look, the initials after our name, who we know, who we sleep with,  what we do, or what we have.  If that was the case, the extreme rate of suicide, addiction, bad behavior, and unhappiness amongst celebrities, athletes, and politicians would be non-existent.  Second, by simply knowing, we are a creation of the Creator and that alone makes us worthy.  We don’t have to earn it, we just need to own it and honor it. We honor it by being who we are and accepting that is not only enough, it’s fabulous. We honor it by accepting our differences as a part of what makes the stained glass window of our souls so lovely in our diversity and talents. We honor it by being honest about where we’ve been, trusting many others have been there before too, and secrets make us fearful and very sick. We honor it by stating what we need. And, we honor it, by granting the same considerations to our fellow travelers in this life.    
Eventually, you find that you are no longer willing to be, do, or accept anyone else’s definition of you.  You are no longer waiting in the wings for someone’s approval, time, attention or love.  You no longer accept unacceptable behavior.  You no longer are stuck in relationships, jobs, and out-dated beliefs that don't bring out the best in you.  It’s taken me almost a half a century to discover my self-worth.  I pray it won’t take her that long. I don’t think it will. I am now the observer watching her peel back the layers, beginning to reveal her secrets only to find out they were someone else’s secrets too, and they don’t determine whether or not she is deserving.
What a beautiful way to live. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Still Examining While Engaging a Little of the WooHoo

Happy New Year !  I started a new blog.  I'm maintaining this one as well.  After all, I'm a work in progress.   As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  I am inclined to agree with him.  I wrote my own obituary one time.  It was an exercise suggested to me by an outstanding therapist, friend, and human being.  I was blessed to know him.  In my obit, I wrote, “She entered the world an old soul, eyes wide open; inquisitively searching for the meaning of this life from the instant she took her first breath.”  That’s true.  My curiosity and mind are rarely idle.
I forgot though, I also added to my greatly embellished obituary, the following description of this old soul, “It has been said, when she was quite small, she was a true free spirit, willing to try anything once (the very first in her kindergarten class to climb to the top of the monkey bars.  She was unafraid of the price, and always sought adventure.” 
So, it’s time in 2012 to practice the art of the woohoo.  Once a week, the end of the week, we’ll see what shakes out.  I know its a great exercise in mindfulness, paying attention to those moments, big and small.  It’s also a great exercise in abundance.  How much do we take for granted, mostly unwittingly?  I have no expectations and no plans to contrive my idea of a woohoo.  There will be no orchestration, control, or woohoo by design.   My plan is to simply be awake to the delights, be spontaneous, and take a few risks, if that’s called for.  There is a beautiful world of abundance just waiting for me to tap into it.  I think I will. 
You will find my first woohoo for the New Year at the link below.

I hope this exercise of mine sparks something in you as well.  Pay attention, be open, be real, seize the moment, live, laugh, love.  All together now..................