On a scale of 1-10, how much do you like yourself?

piano-1396971_960_720. be yourself

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day,    Thou canst not then be false to any man.”  – Shakespeare

The other day, a friend asked me, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how much do you like yourself?”  I hesitated and wondered for a moment, letting self-awareness and self-confidence do a do-si-do with any real (or false) sense of humility and low self-esteem that was hiding inside me.

I was struggling that day.  Unbeknownst to me, it was apparent to this person.  I thought that I had been holding it all together so well with just enough breezy positivity to keep me afloat.  In reality, my world felt to be Continue reading

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Be brave when it comes to thorns.

rose-vintage-painting

theunseenwordsproject.com

Groucho Marx said it well: “Don’t let the fear of the thorn keep you from the rose.”  We’ve all experienced moments in life when we have been pricked by thorns in our quest for life’s beauty and goodness.  When we have taken risks and been hurt as a result of our bravery.

There are always going to be those times Continue reading

The Things I Thought I Wanted: a diary with a lock and key . . . and the thing about secrets

diary-1449287_960_720Oh, how I wanted a diary when I was a girl.  You know the kind . . . a beautiful girly girl’s diary with a lock and key.  And I was simply ecstatic the Christmas when I was ten years old and I received one.  Mine had a navy blue cover with gold embossing and “1 Year Diary” gold-stamped into the cover.  I simply loved it!  I can still remember the sound that the gilt-edged pages made when I opened it for the first time . . . It felt like that crinkly sound was opening its pristine, glued-together pages to the secrets I was about to share with it.

Well, that’s the thing about secrets.  No matter how much we try to preserve them or hide them from the prying eyes and inquiring minds that intersect our life, they are [sometimes] doomed to be discovered . . . paraded . . . maybe even disrespected.  We feel violated when our secrets have been made public without our permission.

It takes a lot of risk and guts to commit a secret to the page . . . a lesson that I was quick to learn at this young age.  My hopes of finding my true self via those gilt-edged pages were temporarily dashed when my big sister read my diary entries aloud — pages that detailed my first big crush [Dean W.], in front of said crush, who was my big brother’s best buddy.

maple-leaf-638022_960_720I learned a lot that day about secrets and sisters and writing and locks and keys.  I learned that just because something has a lock on it, doesn’t mean that it can’t be jimmied open.  I learned that secrets can be made un-secret when they fall into the wrong hands.  That, although it can be risky, it’s okay to be honest with my thoughts.  That what someone else chooses to do doesn’t define who I am.  That although I might feel a wee bit discouraged, I am going to keep writing.

It took some time to view things from my sister’s perspective.  I learned that people do things that they don’t really intend to be hurtful in long-lasting ways.  That what might seem funny at the time, never really was in the first place. And that sisters somehow stick together, even when they do things that aren’t very nice.

french-1040839_960_720I am happy to have survived the awkwardness, and — now all the stronger — I have maintained my love and discipline of writing.   And in the ways of true forgiveness, I have since pardoned my diary-reading, secret-disclosing sister.  We are still the best of friends.

But you know how writing is.  It liberates us, even when life sort of sucks.  Writing asks us to pay attention to the details, even when it hurts.  Little does this sister know that she is the muse for an extremely unattractive, glowering villainess who gets her payback comeuppance in one of my current short stories.

But this is the way of writing.  You can change what is now by writing it into a different room or even onto a different planet.  Does reality change?  I don’t know how to answer this.  I only know how to live it.  And write it.  And tell my sister that I love her dearly, because I do.  And keep my journal hidden when she comes to visit.

Your Personality . . . & the Glory of the Choice

Vision Board 058Your personality . . . what is it exactly?  Aside from the usual adjectives of fun or moody or sunny or temperamental or intense or Type A or laid back or . . . what exactly? What does it really mean to be assigned a personality type?

We’ve all pondered the big debate of Nature vs. Nurture . . . how the spark of life is blessed/cursed/or combination-therein by congenital behavior . . . or wait!  Is it actually shaped by environmental and emotional factors?  And then these is all of the vice-versa stuff that leads one to accept and embrace both and then not think much about it.

Fascinating research points to many interesting findings that help us to understand Who We Really Are, our emotional and social intelligence, and our perception of positive and negative influences.  Nature or Nurture?  It is an enormous question that no one can really answer with total authority.  Take the story of the two children — identical twins, actually — standing on the ocean shore.  They are enjoying themselves while the salt water is gently lapping at their toes.  Suddenly, a rogue wave washes over the top of them.  The same wave, the same temperature of water, the same element of surprise.  One of the twins starts to cry and scream and run from the water. The other twin splashes back at the wave while laughing.   While this story would neither withstand nor support the rigors of a research study focused on Nature vs. Nurture, I like it nonetheless.  It gives me pause: Why not laugh?  It’s a heck of a lot more fun than crying and screaming.

And in the midst of all of this wondering and debating and agreeing, I do believe that there is much to be said for the concept of timshelthe Hebrew word for thou mayest.

When I think on topics of this sort, my mind wanders back to a Time of Great Impressionability in my life, and I was reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  What a book!  Well, “the story bit deeply into me,” and Lee’s treatise on timshel has stayed with me all of these curious years later — a testimony to the notion that life is one great impressionable moment after another.

It is my hope that sharing this gem of Steinbeck’s brilliance and wisdom will not act as any sort of spoiler.  The book is brilliant and one worth reading.  Like life, Steinbeck’s writing is intense and provocative and profound.  He writes the sort of story that stays with you throughout the years.  I thank Mr. Steinbeck for opening my eyes, my mind, my heart, my soul, and my sense of wonder to the notion of thou mayest“the glory of the choice.”

Last week, I came across this quite lovely Personality Test online.  I normally don’t click on these tests, expecting some sort of hook to be set before you receive your “results,” but something prompted me to go ahead and try this one.  Before reading any further, go ahead and click on the link and visualize your responses to the prompts.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliapugachevsky/this-cube-personality-test-will-absolutely-blow-your-mind?utm_term=.onK9zJNbz&sub=4259074_8744597

All done?

What do you think?  How much of the explanation of your visuals did you feel was accurate?  At the very least, I felt that I was given a sideways glimpse into me — parts of me that are actually true that I generally don’t consciously associate with my “personality.”  I think about Steinbeck’s artistic weaving of timshel into East of Eden . . . and I am reminded that thou mayest carries with it a personal(-ity) responsibility of creative and paradigm-shifting mindfulness that requires daily cultivation, acknowledgement, and celebration on my part.

Personality assessment aside . . . overall, we need not be so hard on ourselves.  I think we sometimes embrace the opinions of  people — people who truly don’t know us — with far too much zeal, and we assign too much authority to the editorializing that is done by others.  We have a proclivity toward jumping into the sinkhole: a morass of self-blame, regret, and guilt that we assign to nature- and nurture-defining personality quirks . . . epic actions that play with our hearts and attempt to define how we choose to forge present moments into future goals and dreams.  Or . . . is this just my personality?

I used to have a quote taped up in every room of my house: Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.  In the midst of one particularly Challenging Time, I was re-reading the quote, and I realized that I needed to make an edit.  I crossed out about to happen and scribbled in happening right now:

Always believe that something wonderful is happening right now.  

The current paradigm of Overwhelm in that moment screeched to a halt, and life felt like it took a gentler curve toward heart-healing and happiness.  When I realized that I had a choice to become someone new on the inside, my whole life shifted.  This epiphany didn’t segue into some neat and tidy story-book ending, but it did nudge me into a new place, such that I could get back into a timshel state of mind: “the glory of the choice.”

toaster ovenI leave you today with the prayer, the wish, the hope, and the thought that today is a good day for you.  A truly good day.  One of gratitude and filled with micro moments that tell you that Now is Now and life is evolving, constantly evolving, as something that is wonderful.  If this moment isn’t all that great, just wait for the next one.  It will be here before you know it — full of promise and full of timshel.  With some refining, life really can be borne from “the glory of the choice:  . . . keeping “the way open.”

Click on the highlighted link below to download today’s free journaling exercise.  Have fun journaling and putting a new spin on perceptions and keeping your way open!

The Glory of the Choice. A Different Spin. journaling prompt

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A reminder that gifts of beauty await when we keep our hearts open.  So lovely.

 

[P.S. Here is the real Spoiler Alert: To read a longer excerpt that discusses timshel in greater detail from East of Eden, click here.  If you are planning to read the book . . . do not click here.]

The Way Things Stack Up

Stones pyramid on sand symbolizing zen, harmony, balance. OceanThe way that things stack up don’t always make sense.  You look at a rock cairn and you see dissimilar shapes and textures and sizes.  What doesn’t naturally fit together neatly and perfectly into one whole structure has the potential to allow for balance to offset the dissimilarities in size and shape.

Cairns represent a balance that requires delicacy and a measure of hope. They offer natural beauty presented in a random-deliberate-natural sort of way.  A lot like life.  They do not ask for some added adhesive that will make the balancing act a little easier.  The rocks defy gravity by leaning on each other. Cairns have the potential to  stand for a very long time.  They represent the possibilities that I might have overlooked otherwise.

I am thinking that cairns in the right setting appeal to me.  I do like to see them on the beach below high tide such that the tide will roll in and eradicate the evidence of man — restoring a different natural order.  The ocean is persistent that way.

I have an old scale that I bought at an estate sale.  This scale has seen better-balanced days.  In order for the pointer to balance the beam, I had to add several tiny antique French coins in one of the weights pan.  The coins bring everything up to true.  Balance.  What is it exactly?  We seek it.  We desire it.  We believe that we would appreciate how it feels . . . if we could only be certain that we are actually experiencing it.  There are books and poems and songs written about balance.  Still, I do not know exactly what it means or how it feels in my life.

Vision Board 058We weigh decisions.  And justice.  And mercy.  And priorities.  And options.  We weigh fairness and love and life.  We somehow intuit when something isn’t feeling quite right, so we start to mess with the scale.  We add more coins.  Or we pick up a different rock to add to the cairn.  We deliberate.  Or we sometimes say the-hell-with-it and just give it a go.

Life’s events tumble together, and my carefully-constructed towers of well-thought-out plans are strewn all willy-nilly.  Sometimes I am left with the oddest of pieces to balance back together again.  I see the beauty in the pile of rocks that are before me, and I seek guidance and allow my intuition to lead me.

I recently read a great Irish proverb: “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.”   I so agree.  A good laugh is like medicine and a long sleep restores the body and the soul.  Along the vein of cairns, I was thinking about which life blessings provide me with balance: laughter, sleep, forgiveness, appreciation, humility, kindness, patience, travel, adventure, discovery, learning, courage . . .

The way that things stack up at times doesn’t always make sense, but I continue to attempt to counterbalance with those things that point me to true.

 

 

 

 

Forgive and Remember

dried flowers IIA few days ago I was cleaning the house and came across some dusty and faded dried flowers hanging from the antique bare-wooden door that is propped up in the corner of my living room.  The flowers had been preserved for reasons I can no longer recall.  I do remember that I had received them from someone in an attempt to beg forgiveness for something that wasn’t kind in the ways of relationships.  But why I thought to save them as a reminder?  Beats me.

When I came across them in my cleaning, I asked myself: Why do you have these things in your house, collecting dust and preserving negative memories?  Why are you keeping them? It didn’t take long in the deliberating.  I cut the yarn that was attaching them to the door.  I took the flowers and dumped them in the garbage can in the driveway — almost ceremoniously so.  It felt great.  I then found some other memorabilia that was conveying the same less-than-happy memories.  Another trip to the garbage can.  It felt good to rid my home of these things.  Thursday morning came along, and I wheeled the can to the curb and said, “Good!  Done!  Bad memories be gone!”

121I came home from work mid-afternoon that day and took the dog out for his afternoon romp.  There were two neighbor boys playing up the hill.  When they saw me with my dog, they came tearing down the hill to pet him.  After cautioning them that this 8-pound Chihuahua-boxer mix might tear their arms off at the elbow if they bent to pet him, they started to ask me all sorts of questions . . . reminding me of what it once felt like to be 8-years-old and curious and lacking distinct social filters.  Why does your dog bite?  Does he bite everyone?  Where do you live?  What’s your dog’s name?  Can we pet him how?  Are you married?  Is that your truck?  Why is that cat following you?  Is that your cat?  Can we pet your cat?  

I stood there and answered all questions.  They looked like brothers, the younger one not having quite grown into his grin or his ears.  Questions answered and curiosity satisfied, they turned to run back up the hill — the elder swinging and beating at the younger with some sort of weapon.  My first thought was, That looks like fun — remembering what it was like to play rough-and-tumble with my Irish-twin brother on the physically-competitive and sometimes-painful battlefield of my Little Sisterhood.

Then I looked at the boy’s flailing weapon of choice.  It was the bunch of dried flowers that I had thrown into the trash, looking somewhat less robust since the game of Chase, Beat, and Flail had ensued.  The flowers had somehow avoided the tip into the garbage truck.  Swish and whap.  This big brother had his little brother on the run.  The younger was yelling at the elder to stop — which was added fuel.  More swish and whap ensued.  The way I am describing the story sounds awful, but they were, in truth, having fun chasing each other around . . . and it made me laugh to see such a miserable reminder of past unfaithfulness being utilized in such a fun and hearty fashion.

I doubt that these two are going to remember the summer day when they stopped to talk to the neighbor woman about her dog, her cat, her truck, and her marital status.  I don’t know if this day will live long in my memory either, but it started me a’thinking about my wonderful big brother –who now is one of my most amazing friends.

In childhood, the way we treated each other at times must have looked to be appalling.  We grew up tough and recognized the importance of knowing how to take care of oneself in the face of conflict.  But, as we grew older, our conflicts grew into a more collaborative and supportive state.  We joined the same team.   We had grown close through those years of pushing, shoving, and wrestling.   We had forgotten the fighting and had grown to appreciate the loyalty that living in the trenches of childhood had created.

It’s odd because I never thought to cry, to tattle, or to demand a cease fire.  None of this was an option.  Tattling was taboo.  It was how we learned to test each other’s mettle, and it was how we built the friendship that continues to grow in our adult years.  It was how I came to understand that forgetting is a huge part of forgiving others.  Because once you forget, you are done with the whole thing.  It’s easy to forgive when I have forgotten.  But when I am not forgetting?  When I am reliving the moments that weren’t so pleasant while attempting to complete the forgiveness cycle?  These are the moments that snag my flow and hold me back from becoming me and from choosing the life that I want for myself now.

So I am happy that I cannot recall the reason for the tossed-out-dried-up flowers.  And I must be in a good state of forgiveness if I can get a good laugh watching that little brother howling and sprinting up the hill.  I could tell that these two weren’t tattlers.  Their parent or guardian wasn’t going to hear about the Dried Flower Flailing Episode.

My mother was an extremely patient woman.  She knew how to hold her tongue when appropriate, and she knew when to let loose when the situation invited it.  She was smart, clever, and intelligent.  And she had a great sense of humor.  I sometimes wonder what she must have thought as we were tumbling each other down the stairs or slaughtering each other with ice-hard snowballs.

She was a good mother in so many ways.  She let us discover Truth in our own hard-headed ways of comprehending fairness and meting out justice and bequeathing mercy.  I intuitively knew that had I simply asked my brother to be nicer to me, he would have been.  Right then.  But there was something in the way that we played and interacted — it grew our hearts to be braver and stronger.  I think that my mum, having gone through tough times in her childhood, knew this.  There was not going to be any coddling in situations that demanded us to use our brains and hearts to figure out the solution on our own.

It is an odd feeling to recall Mother Love.  It is visceral and hits you in all the right places.  And in all the painful places.  As an adult now, I wanted so much more for my mother.  I wanted her to experience more calm, more zen-like moments in her days.  She was an intensely creative and musical soul who worked too hard raising a brood of fiercely independent children.  We didn’t demand much from our parents, but we had a large presence as a result of this.  It was as if Life had tapped a part of her creativity and circumvented it into an elusive place.  It made me sad then, and it still does a little bit now.
And those dried flowers from the garbage can?  They gave me a bonus by linking me to a memory of a time when my brother and I were four- and five-years old.  We put our heads and hearts together in order to give my mum a Mother’s Day gift.  We were without financial resource, so we got creative.  We agreed that my brother would sing my mum one of her favorite songs — “My Wild Irish Rose” — all while holding to his heart a plastic pink carnation from the “bouquet” she kept on her dresser.

can canAfter he sang, I was going to be a floating romantic magical bubble while singing “Tiny Bubbles” — my costume being my mum’s voluminous and starched white “can-can” half-slip.  During rehearsal, we critiqued and coached each other.  He sang.  I bubbled around.  We were ready.

Show time.  My mum laughed and clapped.  My brother looked so sweet and earnest.  His sincerity being hard to believe — what with me having just recently been assisted/pushed/rolled (It all happened so quickly) down the steps in my beautiful Bubble before the show started.  I was scolded for ruining my mum’s starch job on the can-can.  And my act was hopelessly ruined — my brilliant costume being my main mojo.  But the show must go on.  And it did.

I remember the look on my brother’s face as he sang, and I now wish that I would have taken even a moment to see the look on my mum’s face.  If I did, I can’t remember it.  And this makes me the teency-est bit sad.  I can only imagine how proud she must have been of his creative gift of song.  I makes me happy to think that the musician and artist within her must have felt “seen” that day — which is a very beautiful thing to experience in life.  It makes for a bittersweet surge inside my heart remembering this day.

My bruises from my Tumble of Terror eventually healed.  And I forgave my brother for rolling me down the steps and destroying any future hopes of performing on Broadway.  It makes me laugh out loud now to think of how it must have looked.  My scuffed-up Buster  Browns — hand-me downs from him– poking out of all of that lace and crinoline — me howling all the way — terrified and wondering if this is how it felt to travel to heaven.

But I haven’t forgotten.  And I am so glad.  I love my brother for singing to her that day.  For looking so earnest.  For trying to have a good singing voice.  For remembering all of the lyrics.  For reminding me that not all that is forgiven needs be forgotten.  For him growing into such a good friend.

My mum always used to say, “Light hands make for light work.”  I love her for saying this.  I have been blessed with many light and healing hands in my current experiences that help to grow me into a new state of Remembering.  My brother helps me to remember the good things that have helped me to grow.  And grow some more.

Dried flowers.  Plastic carnations.  An Irish song for our mum.  Forgiveness.  Forgetting.  Remembering.  Rewriting the script.  Leaving things in a really good place.  Moving on.  Releasing my memories from the snags in the flow of things.  Valuing Experiences not for what they were but for what they are now in a new context.  Remembering and celebrating in a new time of life.  A different context of Light and Love and Loyalty.  Lightness in Laughter.  And Trust and Truth. toaster oven

 

Skipping in Place

needle-recordI was thinking last night about how stuck we feel when we realize we are in a negative place.  Stuck like a needle in a skip on vinyl.  

We feel that there is no hope for forward movement, and we can hear the inevitability that it is we who are going to have to make the skip stop. Sometimes we hope that the scratch is sufficiently insignificant such that we can wait out the monotony . . . when all we need do is pick up the needle and move it to the next track.  I sometimes “kick myself” after realizing that I have invested time into something that is, in all actuality, cancelling out forward movement and quality of  life.  But maybe this is part of life’s learning, and I should be easier on myself.  

Regret is an emotion wasted.  It is the groove that is holding the skip in place.  By being present and freeing ourselves from being stuck, we are renewed with the energy that fuels our happiness in the present and our dreams for the future.  By taking action and removing that needle, we allow self-forgiveness for those What was I thinking? moments.  Time to move on.  Time to put on a new album and move to a new rhythm.unstuck-2

Life is brimming with gifts and treasures and happiness.  The discovery of this abundance is the best part of life for me, like opening a box that is filled with exactly my heart’s desire.  Perhaps bumping up against those not-so-positve places is not the villain after all . . . knowing that I have the strength and the courage to get up from my spot of stagnant acceptance, pick up the needle, place it on its holder, remove the album, pick a new album, reset the needle.  And enjoy.  Sigh.  It wasn’t that hard, truly.  Time to move on to a better-feeling place and dance to some new music.

Who knew that being brave could be so liberating?  Certainly not a unique concept for those who regularly beard the lion in the den before breakfast . . . but definitely something to consider when feeling stuck in a groove that shows no promise of movement.  Move the needle or change the vinyl.  Take a chance.  You never know what wonderful thing might happen.