It’s Noisy In Here

The past few days I’ve realized that my mind is noisy. Without a daily venting space like Facebook, I find I am left to the echoing of caverns in my mind – and that’s not necessarily a good thing. 

I want to be able to share my message of love with those who most need to hear it – my friends who are disenfranchised because of their heritage and religious affiliation, and my friends who struggle to see their fellow humans as humans. It makes me very sad. What makes it worse is that even when I share my thoughts and feelings, there are still those who don’t “get it”. 

My mind turns in circles trying to rephrase things or use a different analogy, hoping to somehow create an “aha!” moment that finally breaks through the mental and emotional barrier that this hatred has created. And these thoughts take up a lot of emotional energy in my brain…emotional energy that could be used for helping me focus on a more important task such as cleaning the dishes or finishing my work notes, or planning the structure of my day.

My poor brain is exhausted from thinking and feeling. It’s why I had to step away from Facebook for a while. I have more important things to accomplish in my day than sitting and reading through articles and status posts, processing the emotions, then attempting to respond in an appropriate way. It often involves me spending multiple hours invested in this process.

So, I completed my first Facebook-free week rather successfully. I did sign on for some time on the weekend, responding to relevant interactions and checking out the latest social reports. But, for the most part, I realized that the notifications were just another distraction and the posts I missed sharing could just as easily be shared here on my blog. And here I preserve my sanity by not having any back and forth interactions with people who feel the need to prove their point. I am just as bad as the next person at letting myself get worked up about something in wanting to prove a point. (It’s something I am actively working on and why I step away). 

I do hope, though, that some day we can all recognize that we are being fed a line. A good portion of the North American nation is being duped by the manipulator in the hot seat.  The fear mongering is feeding a hatred that has welled up from the underbelly of society. The only way to stop this is to practice radical love and acceptance. To my fellow Christians especially, I speak a word of caution. Jesus came and lived a life of quiet love. His radical acceptance of those who were different is what set Him apart and drew people toward him. This is not the practice of a good portion of today’s so-called Christians. Let’s change that.

Peace be with you. 

Re-Awakening Joy

“Do something everyday, regardless.  Nothing will happen unless you first initiate a process of cause and effect.  This starts with an action.  Reawaken the possibility of possibility.  Reawaken it with play.”

This week I saw the above post on Facebook and it re-awakened in me an awareness of my current adventure.  I speak often of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel that we each write as we watch our personal stories play out in real-time.  Every day is a new opportunity to create the life we want for ourselves.  Every moment presents us with the beauty of “newness” that we might choose to better our situation or, at the very least, awaken to and appreciate the moment in which we find ourselves.  What are the  possibilities in the possibilities?

We so easily get lost in the monotony and obligation of the “grind” of every-day life – going through the motions, watching the clock, just putting in time until we can get to the weekend.  And the interesting thing is, this means of existence is understood as “normal” and the average person out there never questions it.  We grow up going to school, we find a job, “work hard”, acquiesce to social obligation, and somewhere along the way we more than likely end up looking for a way to take our minds off the unbearable expectations (both societal and personal) which become our impending doom.  Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?  I know I’m being dramatic here, but this is the place in which we find ourselves at times.  We’ve all been there to some degree.

It is from this place which I speak today.  Actually, I’m probably a few steps out of this “pit” right now which gives me enough perspective and courage to be able to speak about it.  From the bottom, having regained some strength and renewed determination, I can’t help but think “there must be a better way”.  Being the reflective individual that I am, I keep wondering “what would happen if we allowed ourselves to prioritize the experience of true joy on a daily basis?”  I don’t just mean “pleasure” or the art of distraction – whatever form that takes.  But how cool would it be if we each understood ourselves enough to become aware of our circumstances, aware of our inner person, aware of our heart’s true love and passion? What is it that makes your heart soar?  What is it that makes  you swell with joy inside?

And taking that one step further, what would happen if we were not afraid or hesitant in any way to express that?  How would our own lives change if we were more generous in spirit – with both ourselves and others?  How might we influence the lives of those around us?  I have been touched this week by the concept of “being with” – the beauty of an embrace and its way of communicating without any words required, the comfort of shared company (to laugh, joke, sing, listen), as well as the depths touched through time alone learning to “be with” ones own “stuff”.

Through the re-awakening of our joy, I believe we can learn to appreciate and express  the beauty which is in and around each and every one of us.  Through the art of play, the acknowledgement of our gifts, and the uninhibited expression of our true self, I know we can re-awaken that joy.  What is it that you love to do?  Do it!  What is it that scares you the most?  Face it!  With whom do you enjoy spending time?  Tell them!  Be with them!  Life is too short to live in fear, condemnation, or guilt – directed by obligation (both imagined or verbalized).  Are you feeling weighed down with “should’s” or “ought to’s”? Do you dread the dawning of a new day for the obligations it involves or the pressures it brings?

Know today that you are not alone.  But please don’t let the weight of your obligations drag you under.  Start by acknowledging the things that make you smile today, the moments of gratitude that helped to dispel the fear or the pain.  That is your joy being re-awakened.  That is your heart fighting for its life.  Now take a deep breath and follow it.  Follow the bright light of possibilities and give life to your heart’s inner joy.  It is there that you will find what you have been looking for.

Gratitude

Gratitude – it’s a game changer. It’s amazing to me how I can be having the most emotional and overwhelming week, yet still somehow gain the perspective to turn my attitude around and “about-face” to step toward a more positive direction.

Yesterday was another overwhelming day back at my old job. Having been away for a month and a half attempting a different job altogether, I am back filling a more comfortable and familiar position that I literally helped create. There have been a ton of changes in that short time, though, plus there are processes and details that have been complicated due to errors left un-corrected. But they are all things within my power to fix, they are all details I am more than capable to look after. And THAT, that makes me grateful.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude today – grateful to have a job I love, with amazing clients, working for someone who has vision and direction and is very approachable. I am grateful to feel empowered through this position, with a sense of “mastery” or being good at what I do, entrusted with responsibility. I am grateful today to wake up filled with gratitude.

So that is today’s topic: gratitude. Do you wake up grateful every day? Why or why not? If you don’t know, perhaps it is time you do some personal inventory and figure it out. Our thinking dictates our feelings and actions. You can literally re-create your life through the process of affecting your thoughts. So what are you waiting for?

The best thing you can do is start small. If you’re anything like me, it is way too easy to get overwhelmed by a current state of negative emotion. So start by noticing the little things. Deal with each moment as it comes. And once per day think of one thing you are grateful for.

Over the years I have lived through days after which I couldn’t think of ONE positive thing for which to be grateful. My brain was just so focussed on the negative that I couldn’t see past it. So on those days I stuck to recording a gratitude journal with just one detail per day for which I was grateful (and some days I wasn’t even grateful to be alive, so even that was a stretch). Eventually that grew to a simple list of 3 things, and then 5 because I couldn’t contain the list. I think you see where this is going.

Even further down the line, my gratitude practice has become so big that I have days where I am literally overwhelmed with this new positive emotion. I’m sure my friends and family shake their heads some days as I gush with words of thanks and appreciation. I’m not just posting Facebook updates, I’m writing entire blogs about it! And my gratitude practice is so “accessible” now that I can literally change my entire mindset mid-day or mid-task simply by making conscious choices to be grateful, noticing the small things. It’s pretty cool.

Of course it doesn’t mean I’m not ever frustrated or sad or angry with life or the people in it – you’ve heard some of my daily struggles! But why dwell on those things? With a grateful heart, I’m glad I don’t have to.

…this is my life…

Emotional Girl

Another country song that depicts my life…imagine! This is one my dad has so lovingly associated with my personality. And all we can do is smile…because it’s so true. 🙂

As I alluded in one of my recent posts, one of my “blessings” in life has been my increasingly emotional nature and heightened sense of awareness or empathy. I have always been a sensitive person, but it seems that since my injury and over the years I have become even more so. This doesn’t just mean that I cry at the drop of a hat – which I DO, but that’s not all. It means I have a heightened appreciation for life, a deeper sense of gratitude, a more passionate sense of justice on behalf of others, and unfortunately a more defensive sense of responsibility for my own emotions.

I have learned to own my emotions, acknowledge their reality, but not give them the power to run my life. Of course, they motivate my actions quite often, but through some cognitive behavioural techniques I try hard to live beyond and despite them. And you can bet no one will dictate how I “should” feel in any given situation without my adamant response.

So today I am feeling particularly emotional. Why? Probably because of my monthly hormonal changes, because of stresses at work, and because my best friend’s mom just passed away. Crazy how all of these details collide to promote a seemingly unmanageable moment or series of them. So instead of letting the emotion immobilize me, I cry, I write, I pray…and I clean myself up, get some fresh air, drink a cool glass of water, and focus my energies on this present moment. Controlled breathing makes a world of difference in calming a rapidly beating heart, the tight anxious feeling in my chest, and the sore muscles in my neck.

I am preparing to take on my day, and this is the routine I face. Add to that the planning and preparation of my meals, what I will wear, and any errands on my way to work, and my mind is already tired before I even leave the house! But all that matters is this moment. I’m going to finish my second cup of coffee for the day and then I’ll deal with the next moment.

This is how an emotional and anxious person makes it through the day…all the while smiling to make sure the positive energy is the more prevalent influence. 🙂

…this is my life…

Making the “Impossible” Possible

Between the anxiety, borderline depression, an overwhelming mental/emotional fatigue and a body that aches all over, sometimes the days get to be too much. Sleep is intermittent, lack of routine and energy makes proper eating and exercise non-existent, and the will to do anything but lay here is gone.

Tomorrow will be a better day. The beginning of a new week and a fresh start in my “old” job will be just what I need to “get back on the horse” so to speak. I am very much looking forward to the familiarity and consistency – they are just what I need to feel a sense of “mastery” or accomplishment again. And I have really missed all my clients and co-workers.

But today is still today. And I find myself somewhat “stuck” in a negative mindset. In these moments it sometimes feels “impossible” for me to get past this, to get started at my cleaning – which is so desperately needed – or to finish the laundry and get it all put away. I know I will feel better once it’s done, but here I sit.

Today’s sermon talked about making the “impossible” possible with God’s help. I am always encouraged and motivated by the words of scripture. They breathe life and love into my tired, discouraged body. Even as I write about it I am already feeling a bit better in that I’ve got the dishes started in the dishwasher and I’ve had something to eat. Next will be a nap to supply the energy for some bigger tasks of laundry and cleaning.

The sermon this morning described Peter stepping out of the boat in faith. He’s the only human to successfully walk on water (even if it was just a few steps). That’s inspiring! But Peter was stepping out IN FAITH…knowing that if he responded to God’s call then God would provide the circumstances needed to get Peter there.

So, in much the same way, I’m living “by faith” these days. God brought me out of a coma, healed my seizures, and strengthened my mind and body to the point that I can work full-time and socialize like any other person out there. At one point in my life, as I lay in a hospital bed, hooked up to a million machines for life support, today’s reality seemed “impossible”. So I know I can trust that God will provide whatever support I need for this seemingly “impossible” moment. I just need to take the next step in faith.

…this is my life…

Lifelong Learning

So, tomorrow is my last day at my most recent job. I’ve been in a position for the past 4wks as a server. I had been looking for work by the end of last year and, through networking connections, I was offered a job in the hospitality industry. But I had really never done this sort of thing before. Let me tell you…this has been one heck of a learning experience!!

Never in my life have I felt so inadequate! (Not even at my first school dance holding the wall up in the corner). LOL! Yes it has been that bad! Between my anxiety issues and slower mental processing, this was probably not the best choice I have ever made in my life – but how would I really know till I tried it, right?

My bubbly personality and willingness to learn are no match for the memory challenges, noise, and distractions that come in this type of work. For anyone reading, if you don’t already tip your servers well, I hope after reading this you will. I have now seen first hand how disrespectful and rude some people can be. Your servers work hard and depend on your generosity to make a living. Please keep that in mind.

After 8-9 hours on my feet each shift, a quick half hour lunch as my only break, an overwhelming barrage of stimuli including physical, emotional and psychological stresses, I know now that being a server is not for the faint of heart! Keeping the bakery stocked, cleaned, and running efficiently is a huge part of our duties (outside of being attentive to clientele, refilling drinks, and getting the orders right). But – just as in many jobs – no one thinks about the work that goes on behind the scenes. Let me tell you, I was appalled today as I watched a handful of clients who had the nerve to leave mere pennies or nothing at all as a tip for one of the most bubbly and helpful coworkers I have (and we’re not talking just a drink or dessert order but an entire meal for up to 8 people!)

Though I am very grateful that tomorrow will be my last day in this position, I am equally grateful for the glimpse that it gave me into this other world. I have a new found appreciation for the hospitality industry. And its not that I didn’t already tip well or say thank you a lot, because it’s just what I’ve always done.

As well, though, the past 4wks have given me a fresh perspective about myself (I’ve become more confident and sure of what I CAN do well, and a little more clear about what I’m not so good at). I challenge everyone to try something new this year, to put yourself outside of your comfort zone and see the world from someone else’s eyes. It will help you appreciate – even just a little bit more – the world you live in .

…this is my life…

2 Important Principles for the New Year

In the eighties there was this super-groovy tune called “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.  It has been a long-time favourite of mine as it brings back fond memories of my childhood and still provides the same warm fuzzies that it did when it first came out.  How can you not smile and groove along when you hear Bobby McFerrin whistling away and singing in his fun island accent (with those cool sounding back-up singers)? 🙂

Well, my post today is a summary of some of my most recent thoughts – and there have been many! LOL – which, funny enough, this song more succinctly does.  At the end of the day, my reflections can be best summarized by the phrase, “Don’t worry, be happy!”  And, as I exegete this little phrase, watch me take all the amusement out of it. 🙂

Firstly, I think it is already evident from my previous posts that since my injury I have been consumed with the concept of balance.  For me, that looks like a daily battle with honouring my “challenges” while striving to optimize every ounce of my capabilities.  For you, it may be as simple (or not so simple) as making time for both work and rest, efforts dedicated to both self and others.  Everywhere we look, we are faced with the idea of balancing two polar opposite entities – yin and yang, light and dark, positive and negative. So let’s look at how we can use a bit of effort and a bit of ease, to “not worry” but “be happy”.

As a part of my process of enlightenment, I have been blessed to encounter several “experts” in different fields who have contributed to my personal awareness and education – one of whom is my friend and boss who owns and runs his own gym and holistic health corporation.  Tommy teaches people to be resourceful, be a sponge in learning new things, but discerning in their application.  One of his common recommendations of late has been that each person should become his or her own experiment.  What that means is, each of us is responsible for observing and reflecting and interpreting the data for ourselves, then applying the appropriate adjustments and “solutions” as necessary for our situation.

Inspired by this piece of advice, I have more enthusiastically taken the initiative to begin the regimented task of creating change in my life – one step at a time.  Sometimes this endeavour is so big that it becomes overwhelming.  But with a focus on one item at a time, one DAY at a time, I am already seeing positive change.  Whether it be in my attitude, daily routines, or relationships, I have discovered the following two principles to be a key part of my establishing and maintaining the elusive state of “balance”.

Principle #1 – Don’t Worry.  This principle is ironic for a few reasons.  It is generally an empty exclamation used in situations that are clearly worrisome to some degree or another.  The phrase is set in a negative tone, warning not to do something of a negative nature, which in turn intends to emphasize the positive.

My interpretation and application: we can positively contribute to our life by avoiding the negative.  As I reflect on my life over the past year – my jobs, friendships, and personal “life stuff” – I can see in retrospect that so many problems could have been avoided (or altered) with the simple choice of NOT doing something.  For instance, I chose to eat something I shouldn’t have, engaged someone when I could have said nothing, or perseverated on a worrisome thought (about money) rather than immersing myself in a more positive investment of time (like writing a budget).  Overall, I think we can create more ease with a little effort in NOT emphasizing the negative of a given situation – and, so, increase the positive!

Principle #2 – Be Happy!  This principle is also a paradoxical balance of effort and ease.  The concept of “being” has the connotation of having no effort, yet in this context the speaker is giving instruction.  Ironically, we really cannot “instruct” another person how to “be” as that contradicts the essence of the word.  The phrase, however, has only the best intentions as it is usually used in the context of encouraging someone.

My interpretation and application:  due to the very personal nature of this phrase, I believe it is the responsibility of each of us as individuals to invest in our own happiness.  Contradictory to the passive nature of the verb “to BE”, I don’t think we should fall victim to living life with our emotions (or the seemingly natural state of “being”) when we were given brains to direct them.  So while my last point was more passive in recommendation, this point is more active.  I believe we need to actively participate in our lives more – as I mentioned Tommy recommending above.  Whether it be investing in time with friends, or allowing for quiet times of reflection to rest and recharge, we can choose!  Whether it be taking on a second job to pay the bills, or scaling back expenses to make the budget more manageable – it is within our power!  Whether it be sulking at home feeling sorry for oneself watching mindless t.v, or cleaning and organizing the house to achieve a sense of accomplishment – in the end, it’s up to us!

I speak from lots of experience, folks.  I am so grateful to sit here on this end – having struggled with bouts of depression, anxiety, overwhelm and utter despair – now feeling a sense of relief and empowerment as I see for myself the difference I can make in my own life.  The balance is different for everyone, and it’s ever-changing, but let me tell you with certainty that the balance CAN be found and it’s up to us to honour it.  All it takes is a little effort…and a little ease.  Be good to yourself.

…this is my life…