The holidays are a difficult time for me. Our culture has high expectations, and there’s no way for most of us to live up to those. We are disappointed. Somehow I must change my way of living. I need a new view of life, so I will not cry half of the day for two months.
My challenge is yours. Start your own traditions by creating a holiday or non-holiday for you and your family. Live on your terms. Release yourself from other’s chains. And may each year be better than the last
We’re rushing headlong toward a new year, and that means new resolutions with new false promises. Why set ourselves up for puffed-up expectations. Instead, let’s take a look at what we have that’s working. Let’s keep our hopes tied to what we are loving now. We don’t need to fling our energy out into the new year like a scattered seed when we can keep it close and grow more. We can grow stronger.
You have skills. Ideas float in your head. Do you know how far away you are from success? Where is a success? Is it a place? A feeling? Will it find you? Or do you put on your hiking boots to climb the mountain, kissing the hand of the King that grants special favors?
Can you name one thing you do rather well? What about five? This week it would be good if you could find the time to grab some paper, any paper, even the back of an envelope, and a writing implement. Write the numbers one through five in a list format. Put this list on your bathroom mirror or your refrigerator, somewhere you will see it. We are going to list our best skills.
Let’s start. Write five skills.
Do you keep your promises?
Maybe you’re on time.
Can you write a moving speech?
Do you care for children who love you?
Taking care of your body with good food and walking is a real achievement.
Have you recently learned a valuable lesson for life?
These are items and others like them could be on your list. What do you do well? What is going right? This is the foundation upon which you can build a better life. If you remember, place the paper in a prominent place.
There are too many passwords to remember. I carry a badge for work and a FOB, keys for my car and my home, multiple identification cards, money cards, and insurance cards of various types. The doors at work have levels of protection, so outsiders can’t enter. Has it always been so difficult? Have you counted the number of passwords you need daily now?
Are we safe yet? Or is this about something else?
When I came into the world, I met my first gatekeepers. I didn’t realize how much my family’s lack of acceptance disabled me, not until I peered back with adult eyes. I understand why my tiny self raged. I was stubborn and battling an invisible wall of resistance.
Many feel threatened by others who enter their area. It’s normal. Others change the way worship, the way we eat, and even challenge what we rights we have. Fear of others is a survival skill, but so is expansion and acceptance. Learning new skills can keep us pliable and young at heart. Consider before you react in fear.
I know I’m supposed to believe. I’m supposed to visualize good things and make vision boards. But in the end, you’ll find me yelling profanities out my window-maybe not literally, but figuratively I do curse the depression.
You will not torture me!
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light…-
There are three common responses to abuse. Fight, flight, and fawning. Fighting, raging, not trusting anyone, that’s how some handle life. They walk taller, live faster, and work harder than others. But a cockfight is not my first tendency.
My first response to problems is panic! I freeze, like a fawn. I’m a deer in the headlights, and my mind stops functioning. I swear that running would be healthier.
Depression, that deadly chill, is why I curse the darkness. It’s a night which can swallow me, and I hate it. But, I force myself to face its ugliness. I build massive fires to fight the chill.
I curse the darkness. I use any of the tools I have. I love music and watching movies. Writing and studying my ancestry are more than a distraction; they bring me joy. These are my bonfires. My friendships. My family. Memories of favorite moments. I’ve stockpiled a cache of fireworks for whenever I need them.
People who really want to make a difference, usually do it, but it’s not always how you expect. Years ago, when I was a young woman, I craved to help and even make a dent in the universe. And maybe I did.
We who are idealistic have a faulty way of seeing things. If we don’t help by teaching or doing some large mission like Mother Teresa touching thousands, we feel we have failed. Our purpose is misty and unfocused.
With maturity, I’ve developed wisdom. I know there small steps can change your life. One moment can make a difference. And if you can hold out a little longer than others you can be mighty. But I’ll tell you what has become the pièce de résistance.
There’s a habit I’ve developed, and this little detail has made the most significant difference in my life. It’s the practice of saying thank you and acknowledging those things I appreciate.
Worry, Worry, Fret, and Worry
Before, I spent my time fretting over what I didn’t have, praying for more, listing my needs, and planning how I’d get them. I still ask, but now I put more emphasis on my gratitude. This is how I focus. This is how my vision comes with a better focus.
Darkness. We don’t sit there often. As soon as I get home, I turn on the light, feed the cat, and get the activity going. The dark seems empty. But it doesn’t have to frighten us.
Go back to what you know for sure. Those were the words that I heard when I was in my dark space. It’s taken me some time to understand their meaning.
In the Bible, there’s the story of Jonah, the man who didn’t want to preach to the people in a city called Nineveh. He hid on a boat until he was thrown out into the storm and he was swallowed alive by a great fish. Darkness. Crazily, he ends up back where he was supposed to be in the beginning.
I laugh because if you call the customer support line for help with your computer, the first thing they ask is, did you try turning it off and on again? Restart. That’s their answer for everything.
But start overs are impossible in real life. Aren’t they? A start over, a cleaning, a bottom level, that was the message I got when I heard the words, “Go back to what you know for sure.” What did I know for sure? Love.
Where is the love?
I was uncertain of religion. I couldn’t tell you at that moment if I believed in God or the devil, heaven or hell. I didn’t know if the Bible was real or if the teachings I’d grown up with were true, but I did know there was a love that was buried deep inside of me that I’d felt all of my life and it wasn’t of any religion.
What does that mean? What does it look like? I had to stop trusting in everything else. I only had love. So I let myself sit in the darkness, in the emptiness with nothing to light me but the one candle of love. It sounds silly, but when you’re a traditionalist, and you let the old teachings slip away, the emptiness around you isn’t lonely or scary. The love you feel grows. There’s a freedom in that love. Joy unspeakable.
My favorite characters are usually the odd ones. Just a bit off beat. They’re likely not the girl to be invited to the party, but not because they’re hated, or ugly, more likely because they were wandering in the forest, gathering mushrooms or rare moth larvae. Let me introduce you to Auri, from Patrick Rothfuss’s series – The Kingkiller Chronicles and Luna Lovegood, from J.K. Rowling’s, Harry Potter series.
Auri was a young genius whose spark burned too brightly to function in what most of us call reality. Instead, she created her own reality in the tunnels under the university. Her days are spent making order of the abandoned areas in that hidden world. Her one friend is a current student, Kvothe.
Auri hopped down from the chimney and skipped over to where I stood, her hair streaming behind her. “Hello Kvothe.” She took a half-step back. “You reek.”
I smiled my best smile of the day. “Hello Auri,” I said. “You smell like a pretty young girl.”
“I do,” she agreed happily.
She stepped sideways a little, then forward again, moving lightly on the balls of her bare feet. “What did you bring me?” she asked.
“What did you bring me?” I countered.
She grinned. “I have an apple that thinks it is a pear,” she said, holding it up. “And a bun that thinks it is a cat. And a lettuce that thinks it is a lettuce.”
“It’s a clever lettuce then.”
“Hardly,” she said with a delicate snort. “Why would anything clever think it was a lettuce?”
“Even if it is a lettuce?” I asked.
“Especially then,” she said. “Bad enough to be a lettuce. How awful to think you are a lettuce too.” She shook her head sadly, her hair following the motion as if she were underwater.
Luna Lovegood – Harry Potter series
At first, you dismiss Luna, especially when she’s talking about mysterious things that go bump in the night that steal shoes. But, she also knows things that no one else seems to know. Besides, just listening to her talk is enchanting enough for me, whether she speaks by book or by movie.
The girl gave off an aura of distinct dottiness. Perhaps it was the fact that she had stuck her wand behind her left ear for safekeeping, or that she had chosen to wear a necklace of Butterbeer caps, or that she was reading a magazine upside down. – From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“Mistletoe,” said Luna dreamily, pointing at a large clump of white berries placed almost over Harry’s head. He jumped out from under it. “Good thinking,” said Luna very seriously. “It’s often infested with nargles.”
Harry Potter: [sees that Luna is barefoot] Aren’t your feet cold?
The flip side of survival and the fear of failure is thriving. Thriving shouldn’t be difficult. How is it so difficult to win? To succeed? Well, the difficulty is when you have achieved, what’s next? You’ve met your goal. Do you coast or do you keep pedaling?
Keep pedaling. This is why slow growth is better than the lottery winning. If you’ve slowly grown a business you got there and grew into your success. Lucky breaks give you false hope.
We are good at striving. Making changes, adjusting, sacrificing, but actual thriving seems so dull sometimes. Oh, yeah we all have the fantasy of buying an island and not having to work for a living, but how long would it be before we would want more? A month? Six months? A year maybe? Somewhere in that time, you start feeling the itchy feet. The need to contribute is too great. Building something even if it’s only a garden is a rewarding experience.
The nice thing about the internet and our current global society is that we choose our influences. We choose our world. You may not realize how much of this you do. Our world is no longer the gas station attendant on Main street and the store clerk on Broadway. Our news isn’t from the local barber. It’s from around the world, even foreign websites if we wish. Our world is made up of people that we see everyday in blogs and news casts. I recently realized how different this makes my life while talking to my parents. My mom still gets her self-esteem from her high school days while my dad’s morality is from his own generation’s creed. And they are not alone. Certainly they aren’t the minority in this. It’s their generation.
I often daydream (seriously) about creating my town. I’d populate it with people I admire and enjoy being around, which can change daily. On the most part I choose people like Seth Godin, Derren Brown, and Meadow DeVor, because they represent the values that I want to encourage in my life. They value people and honor individuals. Who do you have in your perfect society?
What values would I want? I pick Seth Godin because he makes me think by saying things like this,
Society benefits when people selfishly choose the long view and the generous view. The heroes we look up to are those that sacrificed to build schools, to overcome evil, to connect and lead–even though it didn’t necessarily help them in the short run. Culture and Selfishness
I also pick Derren Brown, a British illusionist. He challenges my perceptions and makes me think. But not only is he an illusionist, he encourages people to live their lives to the fullest and not to let opportunities pass them by. I saw these on YouTube, episodes The Secret of Luck and The Apocalypse.
And I can’t forget Meadow DeVor and her blog. There are so many wonderful people out there, I can’t name them all. I think you understand. The people in my imaginary village are the laughing, kindhearted, generous people who make you proud to be human.
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