Sticks, Stones, and Ugly Words

blackwhite heartBeauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is ugly. I once had an ex who told me he couldn’t give me a compliment because I wouldn’t let him criticize me. Ridiculous. I had a different ex that called me a fat N*gger. Seriously. Now, regarding the first, if I stand outside and enjoy the sunshine, it doesn’t mean I have to stand out in the cold freezing rain also. That argument’s illogical and stupid. As for the second insult, I was 120 pounds at that time and I’m the whitest blue-eyed blonde girl that I know.

Insults are jabs that come straight from the person that sent them, having nothing to do with you or me. They say that we can only see the qualities that we have in ourselves. If that’s true, then withholding a compliment seems like punishment to one person, but an ugly name is punishment to another. While both of those stung a bit, I must admit, they didn’t hold the pain or suffering either of those men intended.

Theres a song that’s been going around in my head all week long. Here are the lyrics.

Mamma told me not to waste my life
She said spread your wings my little butterfly
Don’t let what they say keep you up at night
And they can’t detain you
Coz wings are made to fly
And we don’t let nobody bring us down
No matter what you say it won’t hurt me
Don’t matter if I fall from the sky
These wings are made to fly- Little Mix

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Keep Nothing

Years ago I read the book, Simplify Your Life by Elaine St James. I loved that book. It was my manual. But time passes and life changes. I realized last night that clutter has once again become an issue for me. I have become a pack rat.

How many shampoos does one girl need? It’s possible to go into any woman’s bathroom and find at least 5 bottles of shampoo in various stages of use. If it’s something you can replace, toss it, give it away, or don’t buy it. If you don’t have to own it to enjoy it, borrow it. I went through my fingernail polishes and at least 5 of the bottles were half empty and dried out. Why did I keep them? The color was pretty. Did I use it? No, but the color was pretty.

Life should flow. Never stagnant. Out with the old and in with the new. Use it and be done with it. There’s more after that. Part of the reason I keep have used bottles of nail polish is a completely irrational fear of not having enough. It’s irrational. It’s subconscious. I know in my right mind that I can stop by the store at any time I need to and pick up a red or a pink nail polish. If I think about it with my rational self I know better, but irrational fears, like arachnophobia, work at such a base level. It never gets to my brain for sorting. I cling to that half empty, dried out bottle. I look at it a couple of times and place it back in storage with all of my nail utensils for another day.

Now that I’ve made my fear obvious, I think I can deal with it. I don’t follow all the woo-woo beliefs of the think and grow rich crowd, but I get the point. For me this fear of poverty has roots in my lack of confidence and self empowerment.

How does it work for me? I joined the subscribe and save program for my toiletries through Amazon. Since I know I have a new bottle of shampoo coming in 2 months or so, I don’t worry about running out. It’s not that I’m wasteful with it, but I don’t have to hoard it either. I use the current bottle and know that next one will be available when I need it. Strange as it sounds, it releases that knot of worry.

When I was married, we lived in a house in Kansas with this beautiful Sunset Orange Maple tree. Every Autumn it turned a bright reddish-orange. It seemed to glow. Over the years I’ve thought about that tree and how beautiful it was. And it was now gone. I don’t live there anymore. Driving home from work today, I realized that my whole block and neighborhood complex is glowing with orange and red. Not Maple trees, but gorgeous the Eastern Redbuds, blazing with color in the Autumn. No more worries about not enough. There is plenty.

What Color Are Your Towels?

Quite a few years ago I watched an episode of Oprah that didn’t sit well with me. Like food poisoning it made me feel ill and I just wanted to expel it. Normally she doesn’t bother me. Normally I agree with her style. But this one episode was about towels. Towels that match, to be precise. Actually the episode was probably a lot deeper psychologically than the blues or greens of your towels, but it’s been a few years ago.

Of all the things I can do to help the world be a better place for my children or other’s children, matching my towels is very low on the list. I can think of feeding the seniors in the Dallas/Ft Worth area that Dogma Debate recently promoted until the end of 2013 Dogma Debate-donate. There’s supporting the gift of water to those who have no access to clean drinking water that Matt Damon’s organization sponsors, water.org.  The ASPCA  programs to help abandoned and abused animals. Kiva organizes low-interest loans to those wanting to better their economic circumstances. There are hundreds of projects and programs to help those around me.

Also, throwing away perfectly good towels just because they are red, blue, brown or pink when I really want a blue bathroom today, seems wasteful. Replacing the towels and wash cloths will cost me, and why? To help my self-esteem? No, it really won’t. So when I get up in the morning and take my shower, if my towel is the red and blue striped one with faded spots on it, I really don’t care. I got to share in the water.org project and feed a low-income senior citizen for a month instead. That brings value to my life, but most importantly is there’s absolutely no reason that our elderly should go without a meal, EVER! And you know those people in India or Latin America? They can cook their food in safe water.

Alright, I’ll get off my preacher box now. It’s not that getting new towels is so horrible. It’s only that people with influence over the minds of others could encourage us to so much more. It bothered me then and it seems it still bothers me. Please, I welcome your comments. For or against? Let me know.

Is Anyone Looking?

What would you do if there was no one watching? If there was no one to approve or disapprove? Would you dance? Would you draw? Laugh at stupid things? Spin in circles? I think I would run. I also miss hiking. I haven’t been in a few years. I enjoyed the trails. I would do that even if someone was watching. We pretend we don’t care what people think and maybe that’s true. I may not care, but I don’t like being stared at. And doing anything outlandish makes them stare. So I won’t run naked down the street.

Shame keeps us in hiding. What are you ashamed of? Cracked feet? Mold in your shower? Thoughts that keep you awake at night? The funny thing is that we all have these things. I’ve never been great at cleaning windows. Like most of us, it’s the least important item on my list. Sometimes not even making the list.

I had a house that I never once cleaned the windows. Friends came by and never noticed that the windows weren’t clean. The carpet was pretty, the kitchen was updated, and the walls were newly painted. They praised my upkeep. And I kept silent. Later we left that house, rented it to some folks who didn’t keep it clean. Complicated story but, the friends from before wanted to buy the house. They had fallen in love with it. It was in a nice location and it was a perfect size for them. Later after they moved in, they remarked how the renters had let the place go downhill. Even the windows were yucky. They must have never cleaned them, according to my friend. It took a bit of effort on my part to stay silent.

It feels so good to have a loved one come and say, it’s okay. That ugly thought you have is normal. The hateful feelings are normal. The embarrassment you have is normal. It’s all okay. We all have shame. We all have embarrassing things like dirty windows that we cover up. Some of us just cover a bit better than others. My advice, for what it’s worth, show off what you’re good at. Don’t worry about all the other stuff.

So Sensitive

How sensitive is your alarm? Too touchy? Or do you barely notice when someone disturbs your peace? Do you hear your friend sigh and wonder if you’re boring him? I have problems keeping my personal alarm calibrated. It’s got an electrical short I think. Let me explain.

Sometimes when I’m with someone else, someone I care about, I interpret their facial expressions. Shall I say misinterpret? Psychologists call this mind reading if it’s done in the extreme. I’m always trying to forecast if it’s the best day for an activity, because somehow I should know. I also try to predict how someone will feel before I’ve even asked them a question.

Over-prepared. Excessive. Like gluing and taping the envelope closed. overcompensation is what the true issue is. I feel vulnerable and incapable, so to make up for my insecurities, I overcompensate. Good girl scouts are prepared, right? I don’t like to look unprepared. Incapable. So I come prepared. I’ve read about every possible scenario and kick myself if I missed one. MapQuest, GPS, Google map or whatever it takes to confirm the correct directions.

What happens if I didn’t prepare? What if I allowed myself to run out of milk? Would the world stop? I’m learning to sit with that. Because my alarm system is set on a hair-trigger, I interpret every frown, sigh, or eye roll as displeasure. Another person’s displeasure is the enemy of my well-being.

Things I’ve learned:

  • Speak up when something isn’t right. Too warm or too cold? If you have a group then negotiate your needs. Don’t just let your needs slide for the sake of civility. Giving up your rights, sacrificing your needs does not make a peaceful environment. Letting your opinion be heard and negotiating a beneficial compromise.
  • Don’t turn your alarm off for the sake of peace. That’s not true peace, that’s a vacuum. Something or someone will fill that empty space. You are not the only one with those needs. There are probably one or two others who are thinking the same thing, but are too afraid to speak up. Awareness is the object. Letting someone else know they’ve crossed your boundary.
  • The opposite is also true. Extremely overbearing, no one’s going to stand in my way attitudes are as hindering in life as being to nice. Just because we can’t change the thermostat all the way down to 68°F when you are having a hot flash, doesn’t mean your needs aren’t important. Maybe we can handle it a different way.

Strong Enough to be Me

If you were walking across a bridge and a gang of scary looking teens were partially blocking your way, would you stop and go a different way or would you walk on through? I was asked that question by my yoga instructor. My normal response is to feel the alarm. The crowd in front of me would scare me and I’d want to turn around and run the other way. A strange thing happens sometimes. A person who grows up feeling vulnerable will sometimes overcompensate by pretending to not be afraid. For a period of my life my approach to the gang of teens in front of me would cause me to assess the situation and “Do it afraid.” Chin up, shoulders back, don’t let them see you sweat. During my youth I became “not afraid” girl. Dare me. Double dog dare me even.

Now that I no longer have anything to prove, I know life is walking the balance. Stand up, ask for what you want, and voice your opinion. It may not always be listened to, but that’s okay.  I listened to a wonderful audio book recently by Brene Brown. I love her Ted Talks also. She’s been plowing through traditional taboos in the business world. Things like showing vulnerability. If you get the chance, listen to her talks or pick up her book. My favorite quote is, “Do not shrink. Do not puff up. Stand my sacred ground.” – Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability.

Recently I ran into some trouble. Really I stumbled, tripped, and fell face first into it. There was a situation in which I felt I could be helpful. So I offered. I helped with advice and even did some of the effort to get the situation bettered. After a few months of everyone’s hard work, I was still in the position of helping but the mood changed. It was no longer appreciated. A lot of misunderstanding happened. All through that time, my mantra was, “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Stand my sacred ground.” It’s not always easy to say your piece without getting upset, but it’s important to remember that even though you may not be heard, it’s okay to speak up. I continually remind myself to not be overly brave or cowardly. Just be where I am.

See also:

Personal Alarms

Teetering is Working the Balance

In the world of nature there are two known familiar states. Balance and imbalance. We humans are a part of this, teetering back and forth. Even if you just look at the last few hundred years, you can see how trends are on or off. Long hair is in style. No, long hair is out of style. Expansion and regression. Destruction, regrowth, and calm.

The other night I decided it was time to give my cat a bath. I got the comb and cat brush out and started brushing her and rubbing her head. She likes this. Then I get more serious, getting to the areas that really need some work. Before I wet and shampoo her, I try to remove as much fur as I can, so I brush her hair against the growth. Suddenly all of this attention is not fun for her. She protests and glares at me, like I should already know not to brush her like that. Don’t rub the cat the wrong way.

With everything going for us, all green lights, regular paychecks, no sickness, no cavities and all of those things, you would think we would be happy, like my cat. And maybe some people are. It does seem though that it’s not the case for most people. With all the drama in the government and all the drama on the job, I’ve come to believe that people get bored when things are smooth. When people get bored they stir up drama. Like a dirt devil in Australia, the dirt starts swirling and soon everyone forgets what started it all. The cat’s hair was rubbed the wrong way.

Life is about balance. Every so often a whirlwind needs to come along and stir things around just so we know we’re alive. It also has a cleansing effect. After the stirring, when things resettle, we can easily make the changes we want to make to our lives. Does that make sense? When things are in a pattern, if you start changing your normal way, people notice. They will protest and demand you fall back in line. When the cat’s hair and the dirt is flying around, if you change, no one notices. You’re not the drama.

The easiest time to make changes in your life is when everything is changing. Grab your chance. Freebie here – also, boredom is a sign to change your pattern in any little way. Do a different hobby. Change something in your routine. Change your hair. We need the balance and we need the imbalance.

What If I Thrive?

What does it mean to thrive? What are the ingredients that cause a person to grow and develop at a healthy rate? Does it mean continually learning and improving as I have always believed? Or is it more of developing at a rate that is comfortable for yourself? I have always enjoyed nature and plants. Watching them grow and develop in their own time is fascinating to me. Lack of water or too much water can both stunt the growth, even kill the plant. Insects, fungi or physical damage can harm the plant. If that plant grows in the correct lighting, with good soil, with proper care, the plant can thrive. But it’s not one size fits all. Cacti need a different environment than orchids.

I’ve been interested in self-help since I was a teen, maybe even before. I’m not sure if it’s because I thought I was broken or because I’m a health conscious person. Under the Chinese zodiac, I’m a green (wood) snake. In symbolism green is for growth. I was born in the season, year of growth. Maybe that’s why.

thrive  (θraɪv) — vb ,

1. to grow strongly and vigorously

2. to do well; prosper

How do I thrive? I must listen to my needs and meet them as best I can.

Where I’m at right now, I’m wanting to see a more complete picture of the ingredients. I’ve noticed a bit of greed that sneaked in during my survival crisis. I want to regain that calm that comes with satisfaction. Enough said. Enough done. Job well done.

Buddhism says that life is in the pauses. The god is within in the stillness we only find when we get quiet. The Christian Bible states, Be still and know that I am God. Like the fish swimming in the water, that doesn’t know what water is, it’s possible I’m thriving right now and I don’t even realize it. So, what if I thrive? I think I will. You should too.

Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen – that stillness becomes a radiance.
Morgan Freeman
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/stillness.html#dLFUPGTqDRivCgTV.99

Personal Alarms

Until you’re faced with a moment of crisis, it’s difficult to know how you’ll react. Years of conditioned responses go unnoticed until they fail you. It may be a major public crisis such as an earthquake or it could be a personal event that throws you into a tailspin. Crisis rarely gives us time to think through our choices and evaluate the best scenario. What feels right or is a knee jerk reaction may have worked in the past, but today it could leave you feeling helpless. The question is, months later, have you recovered from the trauma?

  • Do you want to say NO! but find yourself saying yes because you’re exhausted?
  • Do you need to make a decision but get more confused when you think about your options?
  • Slow down. There isn’t always a need to anticipate the crisis that lurk behind the doors.

There was a study done with monkeys. Meet Julio, one of those monkeys. He loves blackberry juice.

slate.com-Power of Habit excerpt

Wolfram Schultz, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Cambridge was working on a study of craving. A monkey named Julio was wired with electrodes to track his brainwaves. He was wiggly and hated sitting still. Until. The computer screen beside him displayed squiggles and shapes. Julio knew exactly which ones to touch. Touch them in the right order and he’ll get blackberry juice. His brainwaves showed his delight. After doing this same action for a bit Julio’s brainwaves didn’t wait for the sequence to be pushed or the juice to drop down, they spiked in anticipation. He was excited to touch the screen because he knew he’d get his reward.

Our brains go through the same response when we anticipate either pain, loss or rewards. If you know your boss is going to yell at you, your body goes on alert. You prepare yourself by preparing your thoughts, maybe even decide if you’re going to take it today. Maybe you have your exit strategy in hand. And these things build up. Maybe he doesn’t yell every day. It’s possible he just picks at you daily. Or some days he compliments your work and then others he tears you down in a group meeting. In any of those scenarios, you’re prepared for a battle. Your alarm is now set to go off at the slightest negative vibration. Like the runner waiting for the starting cue, you’re ready. Yes I’ve been there. Did I mention that this stuff builds up?

If you’ve been through serious trauma, whether it was continual or sudden, you’re personal alarm system may be too sensitive, causing you to be too alert. It could also be shutdown to protect you from caring. Either way you may need some help finding a healthy balance. Counselling, yoga, meditation or even talking to someone you trust can help. Sometimes you don’t realize how much pain you’ve held until you have a breakdown.