Monday, May 23, 2016

Sticks and Stones



Dearest Friend,

A few days ago, I had a bad day. It happens. Sometimes it’s nothing specific. Just a menagerie of drama from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep. Other times it’s one specific thing that sets the pace for the day. For me it was a little bit of both. Stupid annoyances mixed with a giant dose of someone hurting me with mean words.

We’ve all heard the childhood saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” I don’t know who said that, but I assure you they are wrong. Words can hurt and sometimes they hurt in catastrophic proportions.

In spite of the hurtful words, I tried hard to stay positive the rest of the day and find the good in what was happening. A quote that I see often on the internet came to mind:
"Every experience no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it." - Buddha

Hard as I tried, I couldn’t find the good in what was happening. The more I thought about it, the more disgusted I became. I went to bed feeling discouraged and anything but grateful.

I was hoping when I woke up the next day that the frustration would be gone but it wasn’t. I carried on through my morning trying to ignore my funk and hoped that somehow the gratitude I should have would magically present itself.

It did.

I was sitting at my desk, partly working, partly wallowing when I came across advice on keeping a gratitude journal. “Acknowledge the negative, too. Use balanced thinking – don’t fight to find gratitude constantly.” I stared at the words for a bit trying to decipher their meaning. Was I trying too hard? Could it really be that simple?

It was.

Getting hurt and recuperating is a process. Some steps take longer than others but for me, it went something like this:

Acknowledgement

The sooner I acknowledged my feelings the sooner I started to deal with them. Ignoring them wasn’t making them go away or hurt any less.

Allowance

Allowing myself to be exactly where I am, whether that’s hurting or being sad, feeling anger and disappointment is okay. I’m allowed to feel and even wallow if I want to. Just as long as it doesn’t stay a permanent state of mind.

Balanced Thinking

Life is full of good days and bad days. It can’t all be good. And yeah, sometimes our experiences hurt. A lot. But there are a lot of good experiences too and they tend to get overshadowed by the bad ones. That means not giving the bad more credit than it deserves. If anything, it should get less.

Letting Go

Holding on to the hurt, angry, and bitter feelings is going to make me a hurt, angry, and bitter person. It doesn’t feel good and it doesn’t make me enjoyable to be around. So letting go makes sense. It isn’t worth it.

In the end, the quote from Buddha has merit. The blessing in all of it was I gained a better understanding of my healing process. I learned that I’m in control of my emotions and that I’m not defined by what happens to me. I’m stronger and because of it, I’m better.

So yeah, I get it and I’m over it. Stick and stones baby…

With Love and Gratitude,


Monday, May 16, 2016

Proud to Be Imperfect



Dearest Friend,

While growing up, and most of my life if I’m honest, I’ve been a perfectionist. I came from a childhood where not being good enough was a daily feeling. I thought if I tried harder, was a little better, I would get the love and recognition I sought so hard for. I learned each time that no matter how hard I tried, it wasn’t enough. So, I tried harder.

My childhood isn’t something I speak often about. Growing up in an abusive and alcoholic home is never a good thing. But like it or not, it’s a part of me and there isn’t anything I can do about it except learn from it and not let the experience make me bitter. I learned very early in life the kind of parent I wanted to be, and the kind of person I didn’t want to be.

Through the years, I’ve made peace with my childhood so I don’t struggle in the ways I did when I was younger. I have said goodbye to the demons and they no longer haunt me. At times, they still show their face in some form but I recognize them immediately for what they are. Negativity no longer has a place in my life.

Since I’ve started what I like to call my “walk of gratitude,” my life has changed drastically. I no longer focus on the things I don’t have. I see the good before the bad. My outlook remains positive even when life throws obstacles in my way. I’m learning to be kinder to myself by acknowledging my efforts. I’ve learned that gratitude takes what we have and what we do and makes it enough.

Gratitude has freed me from the chains that so firmly held me a prisoner for so long. It’s as if someone turned a light on after being in a dark room for a long time. Gratitude has been the sun in the sky for me.

Healing from bad life experiences takes time but I think gratitude can give comfort and hope in the process and it can meet you where ever you are in your walk of life.

With Love and Gratitude,


Monday, May 9, 2016

Are You the First To Let Go?

Mother's Day 2010

Dearest Friend,

My youngest son is turning fourteen soon. He’s busy most of the time doing what fourteen year old boys do. The normal things like socializing, playing video games, hanging with friends. We often pass each other in the hallway on the way to another room and he usually stops to give me a hug.

Most of the time our hugs are quick because my brain is going a hundred miles per hour with my next mission. Sometimes I give the “I gotta go. It’s urgent.” hug. You know the kind where you hug but don’t really hug. You tap the person on the back at the same time your feet are already moving on. We often laugh as we let go and the moment is lost until the next one comes along.

I try to live my life with intention. At the end of each day as I lay in bed all snuggled up in my blankets, I focus on one question. Did I show each of my family members that I love them today? I’m human, not perfect, so this isn’t always my question. Sometimes it’s, “Will someone please turn out the light?” Like I said, I try to live with this very specific intention each day.

Last night my thoughts lingered on my hugs with my son. I asked myself if where I was going in the hallway each time was more important than being in that moment. The answer was always the same. No. It became clear to me that my actions weren’t really cohesive with my intent. I vowed at that moment not to be the first to let go again.

This morning we met by the refrigerator and we hugged. I felt my son let go after a second but I held on to him longer and he hugged back. We stood there talking, not letting go of each other and it felt so good. Special, as a hug should be.

I know my son won’t be scouting me out for hugs in the hallway forever, but each time he is, I promise to be there with my arms ready to show him how much I love him.

With Love and Gratitude,



Monday, May 2, 2016

Important Things Aren't Things


Dearest Friend,

I discovered the KonMari Method.

The KonMari Method is the Japanese method of cleaning and decluttering your living space. A Japanese organizational consultant, Marie Kondo, developed the process. She wrote a book on the topic called, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In the book, Marie promises you will have a clean and decluttered home full of only things that are functional or that brings you joy if you follow her teachings. I listened to the audio version while ironically enough, cleaning my house one day.

I tackled the project with great gusto because I’m a bit of an organizational nerd. The Cliffsnotes version of the process involves going into each area of your house and making decisions about your belongings. The theory is, if after you physically hold an item, and it no longer “sparks joy,” you are to eliminate it. Every item goes through the same process.

I cleaned and sorted until finally, after an entire car was full of donations and five heavy duty bags of trash sat at the curb, I was left with a new and improved home. It took me weeks to complete but the time invested was well worth it.

I was surprised to realize how much I was holding on to for no particular reason other than laziness. It made me feel good to donate the items with the hopes that someone out there might find the items useful or even beautiful in their own home.

Through it all, I discovered a deeper appreciation for the items that I did keep. As I held each object in my hand and accessed its worth, I was reminded that the most important things in my life aren’t things at all. They are the memories behind the items and the people who shared the memories with me.

With Love and Gratitude,



Monday, April 25, 2016

Grateful to Pay Full Price



Dearest Friend,

Today my daughter and I went to the store for a few items that should have cost me about $30.00. When I checked out, the cashier told me the amount due was $9.00. Shocked, I looked at the register just to make sure I heard the amount correct. Yup, $9.00. I paid the cashier and walked out of the store fishing for the receipt in the bag.

Along the way, I said something to my daughter about the price not being what I thought. I handed her the receipt, since I didn’t have my glasses on, and rattled on about how we should probably go back in the store and stock up because the items were so cheap. I was ecstatic. That is until she started shaking her head.

We sat in my car while she explained to me that only one of the five items I bought rang up on the receipt and that’s why it was so cheap. Oh.

Now the way I saw it, I had two choices. I could rejoice in the cashier’s error and go buy myself some lunch with the extra money I saved, or, I could go back into the store and pay for the difference. A moral dilemma indeed.

I asked my daughter what she thought we should do and she shook her head and closed her eyes. I felt the smallest pang of guilt sitting there for even questioning the idea of not paying. In that instant I knew, leaving wasn’t an option. We went back into the store and paid the appropriate amount.

As crazy as it sounds, I got back into the car for the second time, feeling happier than the first time. Not because I saved a bunch of money but because I paid it.  I had no guilt and that felt significantly better than leaving with an extra $21.00 in my pocket. I’m not sure if karma is a real thing but what I am sure about is at the end of the day, I did the right thing and for that, I am grateful.

With Love and Gratitude,


Monday, April 18, 2016

What Do You Feel Good About?



Dearest Friend,

Over the last few months, I have been keeping a gratitude journal. Lately I’ve been feeling a little less motivated to write in it. It’s not that I’m feeling less grateful. I think it’s just the monotony of it. The daily repetition of doing the same thing over and over that makes the act feel more like a chore.

In a new book I’m reading, Attitudes of Gratitude by M.J. Ryan, there is a story about a man who was feeling depressed. He went to a therapist for some advice. The therapist suggested that each morning before he started work, he was to ask himself, “What do I feel grateful for about myself?” Each night he was to end the day asking himself, “What did I do today that I feel good about?” Through this exercise, he overcame his depression. When I read the story in the book, I instantly knew I had to try it.

For the record, I’m not depressed or even the tiniest bit sad but I’m always on board for finding ways to improve my life or my way of thinking. I recognize that I’m hard on myself and have a tendency to beat myself up when I make mistakes. Especially when I don’t reach the unrealistic levels of perfection I set for myself.  It’s just one of those things I constantly try to work on through my life right along with trying to eat better, get enough sleep and be a good person. So I set out to try this new endeavor.


Above is a picture of my planner. I used the monthly calendar to record my thoughts each day. My entries aren’t elaborate. I didn’t think about grammar or spelling. I kept it simple and to the point. It wasn’t about the actual writing that made the whole exercise a success. It was more about taking the time to acknowledge that I did something worth feeling good about.

The experience so far has proven to be invaluable and rewarding. I find that I focus on the good stuff instead of the negative. I’m not only appreciating the people in my life and my circumstances but myself right along with it. That’s something I never did before. As a result, everything feels better. Life’s obstacles don’t seem so big. The sun shines a little brighter, my step feels a little lighter and my smile feels a little bit bigger.

With Love and Gratitude,


Monday, April 11, 2016

Cheeseburger Rookie


Dearest Friend,

I have a confession to make to you. One I’m not very proud of. I’ve never made a cheeseburger before. I know, it’s shameful. Cheeseburgers are an American pastime. That’s why it’s embarrassing for me to admit never making one before. That is, until a few days ago.

When I did some research on the internet, I learned quickly that there are a million different ways to make a burger. It seemed more like an art to me than cooking. There are all kinds of advice and tactics so the burgers don’t turn into pucks. A million different ingredients you can add or none at all. It’s confusing and intimidating. So I just threw caution to the wind and put in what sounded good to me and voila! My very first homemade cheeseburger.

Now I realize it might not seem like a big deal to you that I made a cheeseburger for the first time ever in all my forty some years but to me, it is a huge deal. I tried something new and didn’t let intimidation get the best of me. It’s important to take pride in accomplishments, even if they are little in comparison to others. It was delicious and it made me happy. That’s what matters at the end of the day.


With Love and Gratitude,