Last Friday I drove by my neighborhood school and the marquee stated, “Beautification day is cancelled”. What? How could they do that? I was really amazed at my reaction.
Now I don’t have a clue what type of project was planned but it got “my dern thinker ah thinkin”. Why did it get cancelled? Why wasn’t beautification a priority?
One of the many gifts of “growing up and older” is that you realize self-beautification is the key to mastering a happy life. I am not talking about Botox and wearing fancy labels. That would be too easy! I am talking about making the commitment to do whatever you need to do in order to shine from within.
Beautification is shedding the clutter surrounding your heart that fertilizes negative thinking.
It is deciding to let go of what no longer fits, whether that be people, clothing, a job or a habit.
Beautification cannot be outsourced.
Recently I’ve been feeling so much sadness that frankly I worried I may be headed into a depression. But stop the presses! I came to realize that this sadness was different; very different than my time in the DARK PIT. When I was clinically depressed, my brain was mush and there was on ocean between my reality and the real world.
Today my active brain is acknowledging the sadness then reshaping or shedding the thought that creates the sadness. The sadness is in a loading zone—no long term parking allowed!
I’ve never had the courage to sit with uncomfortable feelings. Who wants to do that? Wade through disappointment, jealousy, doubt and fear? I would rather do just about anything else so I became quite comfortable over-scheduling myself or just stuffing those feelings for a later date. With the help of my support posse, I have developed a method I would like to share with you. If you really like it, please send cookies.
- Hello there [insert thought here]. Where do you come from? It is like meeting someone new and asking them where they live.
- [Thought speaks].
- How can I change this thought from a negative one into a positive one?
- Or is it such a useless thought that I can just let it go? (no re-gifting please)
For example, my “X” repeatedly called me the N-word; NEEDY. Sadly, I believed him. I told myself if I were smarter, stronger and worked harder, I could overcome my neediness. Well, thank goodness the cray cray fog has lifted!! I turn that negative thought to a positive one like this:
Although he says I am needy, I simply want to feel connected to that stupid Mother Fucker. It is a basic human need.
By the way, the thought doesn’t have to come from someone else. It could be your critical voice speaking to you. Same method applies! And don’t forget, if you like this, please send...
Hello there friends! Wondering where the heck I have been? Well, let me tell you, I have been “embracing change”. So as I nurse my heat wave induced headache and my second pineapple margarita, I am happy to bring you up to date.
My friend Jo asks me what is going on with my divorce or rather the “UN-divorce”. Don’t you love that? The divorce that never progresses! Despite the tease of mediation, I still have nothing substantial to report. I got sidetracked when I found out I had to move. I will get to the divorce as soon as I recharge my tanks. Lesson learned? What does a piece of paper have to do with my happiness? Nothing unless of course we are talking about a settlement check. :0
Let me say a little more about Jo, a friend from my first days in California (notice how I didn’t say OLD friend?) We haven’t seen each other in a very long time. What is miraculous is that we had lived in the same neighborhood for the past two years without running into each other. As soon as I move to a new place, we see each other at a local grocery counter during lunch! Twenty six years ago she gave me a place to stay when I arrived here all white bread and corn fed from the Midwest. She is still as genuine as ever and I consider it such a gift to have reconnected. Lesson learned? It was’tn by chance we ran into each other. It was meant to be. I needed to feel grounded.
Yes, my big move. With little notice, I was told the house I was renting was going on the market. Nothing like being thrown head first into a big stressor but then again, I firmly believed that there would be something good awaiting me. Three weeks later when another friend Katy found me at the gas station searching for a Tootsie Roll at 10pm in tears, she reminded me of the power of visualization. After sucking down the candy, I wrote out exactly what I wanted in my new home and hung it on my refrigerator. One day later the perfect townhouse was listed on Craig’s List and I grabbed it. It was meant to be. Lesson learned? VISUALIZE while eating a Tootsie Roll.
Now that I had the move conquered, it was time to put a little attention to romance. Why several gentlemen couldn’t see my “fabulousity” (a Real Housewives word!) is a mystery to me but it is clearly their loss! Finally I met a fine man I’ll call Mr. Sweetness. We had a record three dates only to find out that there is this little thing between us that I find incompatible. Today I am bummed out, feeling the letdown. The excitement and attention made my 50 year old brain feel 15 again. Mr. Sweetness gives me hope that there are other wonderful, communicative men in the world! I will get back on the horse (stallion preferred) and keep trying! Lesson learned? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
There were a few other things going on too like a minor surgery, seeing a loved one’s resilience after relapse and wondering if I would still be employed by end of...
There is nothing like a trip to another part of the world where you don’t speak the language! Not only do you have to rely on your intuition and read non-verbal signals, you have plenty of time to think and practice surrendering to the moment.
I traveled to Italy to attend an international conference on pain. While my day job looks at the science of pain, I find myself drawn to the developments regarding the psychological management of pain. In one particular conversation with a vivacious Physical Therapist, I shared my personal “health” philosophy. Although I am in good health, the pain in my life is emotionally driven therefore I must focus on finding happiness. She quickly placed her hand on my arm and said, “Do you mean finding meaningfulness or is it just happiness you seek?”
She went on to explain that she looked at happiness as a close ended question—a yes or a no response. “Does this cappuccino make you happy? Today it is not hot enough or big enough so it is easy to say no, I am not happy. However, sharing this time, these thoughts with you is making me happy. I find this time meaningful which makes me happy and I will carry this moment with me. I’ll forget about the coffee but I will not forget about you.”
I felt an electricity course through me. This was an AH HAH moment! Yes, it is meaningfulness I seek—not just happiness. With meaningfulness, happiness is one component but it also includes love, truth, hope, reason, joy, sorrow, purpose, connection……and so many other rich feelings. Meaningfulness is a spectrum of which happiness is one aspect.
THINGS may or may not make you happy but it is through our experiences we extract meaningfulness.
A wave of contentment washed over me the last two days of my trip. While I live with appreciation and gratitude, my experiences and future experiences continue to shape me. Yes, I could do without many of the decisions I face and the sadness I carry, but in the end, I am richer for it having shed the tears and shared the laughter. I have acted on my dreams while the all too familiar voice of fear and criticism taunted me.
I am a better friend, a better woman because I rest on yesterday while I drink in today.
I seek meaningfulness.
From the heart,
You can always tell how out of control my life feels by the number of organizing projects I complete in a week. For instance, there is something intensely satisfying after I clean my desk drawer, delete useless computer files or organize a closet. It is only Saturday night (yes, I chose to stay home and clean!) and I’ve run out of things to organize while chaotic worries jump around in my brain. Tomorrow I am going to move to my “creative projects” like the amazingly funky dresser I bought for $15. Once I clean it up and paint it, I’ll move it into my home office – then I can re-organize for another full day!
I joke with my therapist saying how good my silverware drawer looks after an emotional week. Organizing my silverware drawer is a technique I use when my emotions are spiraling out of control. I line up the forks, spoons and knives in pretty fashion and ten minutes later they lie there like little compliant soldiers. Whatever was bothering me seems long gone. You may call this crazy but I don’t care — it’s simple and it works.
I can’t control the people and situations in my life but I can control the heck out of my flatware!
I’ll never forget the time a doctor suggested I take advantage of a cognitive behavior therapy program for depression and anxiety at a local medical school. Yes, a class on depression – for depressed people. At first I resisted because I could think of nothing more depressing, than sitting around with other depressed people. After all, I can just organize something to feel better!
Sarcasm aside, this class turned out to be a pivotal learning experience and I am ever so grateful to have participated. Out of respect to the others in the group, I will not share any details from our discussions. I will however tell you that I have the highest respect and regard for my classmates and the courage they displayed over the six week period.
Getting by with a little help from my friends, the “FRIENDS” being a few techniques I learned in my class and continue to incorporate into my life. I have limited my list to 5 because frankly, I have a hard time remembering more than 5 things at a time!
1. Pleasure Principle (I bet that got your attention!) Think of a teeter totter with the end on the ground holding your negative thoughts, your problems, and anything that is difficult. On the side up in the air, start to fill the seat with “pleasure providing” activities which begin to balance out the heavy side.
For instance, if I need to have a discussion about our divorce with the X, I make sure I have several fun things planned around that discussion to help minimize the pain (and his toxicity). If it is time for those lovely monthly/quarterly reports, I write from my favorite place (the library) and I reward myself with something...
I couldn’t help but love this poem by Rumi. I have so many things to write about this week that I am having trouble settling on just one idea. In the meantime, enjoy this quiet reflection titled, “Guest House”.
♥ ♥ ♥
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
For most of my adult life I did not want anyone to know that things weren’t rosy behind the white picket fence. I thought if I admitted my struggle, it was a negative reflection on my character. It meant I was weak, incompetent, lazy, and maybe even stupid. Pretty harsh words, huh?
I was acting a part. I was the perfect wife, mother, friend and professional. What I didn’t know was that if you play the same role for years, you begin to forget who you are. You drift further and further away from your true self and become a character from your imaginary life; just going through the motions.
Avoiding those feelings or then deciding not to seek help meant that I could tune out what I didn’t like——-shut off the critical voice. I didn’t have to hear how horrible I was, however, there was a big price to pay. There were days that I would BLOW without provocation. More often I would cry in the bathroom or in the car – that is where I could touch up my makeup so no one knew I had been upset. Put on a pretty face and carry on!
Last week I touched base with a friend who seemed different but I couldn’t put my finger on it. They asked me for advice on how I remain positive despite the many things I have on my plate. I truly am happy despite living in one of the most stressful times of my life. My secret? Once I started to admit I wasn’t “FINE” every time some asked me, I started to feel much better. It sounds simple because it is.
Now I don’t go on and on, in intimate detail every time someone chirps, “Hi, How are you today?” I am not obligated to say FINE. I’d rather to say something I am happy or grateful for. It shifts my thinking over to the positive side.
Let me interrupt this thought with an important reminder. Before you start giving anyone advice, ask them if they WANT YOUR advice and if they do, speak only from YOUR OWN experience—that is your truth. If not, zip your lip.
Why did I choose to check my emotions? What was I avoiding besides the critical voice?
I thought my friends would judge me when they knew I was struggling. THEY DIDN’T.
I thought I would have to justify or defend my decisions. NOPE.
I thought they would abandon me to avoid the drama. NOT A CHANCE.
I thought I may intensify or attract more of what I wanted to get rid of. This is something to pay attention to. If you feel stuck and you are repeating yourself, there may be another issue at play. I am talking about letting the words flow through you—looking for a release and ultimately resolution. Solid and stuck versus fluid and liberating— can you see where I am going?
Acknowledging what you are feeling allows you...