Have You Met Yourself?

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with my age.  I will be 47 in May.  This is way…WAY too close to 50.  I don’t care what anyone says.  50 is a big number and I’m not happy with it; however, I want to be.

I want to be excited about getting older.  I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like aging can mean life is over.  We think a lot about our younger firsts – first time we ride a bike without help from Mom and Dad, our first kiss, our first date, our first home on our own and we wonder what’s left.  Somehow along the way I became convinced I would have no more firsts after a certain age.  I was wrong.

This recent (and disturbing) obsession I have with getting older is on the heels of my Daddy being diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure.  My rational self knows people live for years with CHF.  My irrational self will freak out and tell you this is MY Daddy and losing him isn’t an option.  Losing either of my parents is a thing that honestly is beyond my realm of comprehension but the truth is they are older, I’m getting older and I need to get gripped.

Our parents get older and drag us right along with them.  Unfair all over the place, isn’t it?   All of this obsessing over aging has got me thinking…more.

I’ve not been pleased with myself.  I waste a great deal of time wishing instead of doing.  I waste too much time dreading instead of embracing.  I also waste time wanting instead of getting.  This all MUST change.

Having had some time to contemplate what all of this might mean, I realized something.  We go through life growing up and changing…we’re children, teenagers, young adults and through all of this we meet new people.  We put an effort in getting to know people.  We talk to them, ask questions and want to understand what they’re about but how many of us have truly gotten to know ourselves?  How many of us have thought about or brushed off our own quirks, delved deep into our own psyche, paid clear attention to our own habits – good or bad or explored our own dreams and desires?

I’m wondering if you’ve met yourself?

Until recently, I don’t think I had.

Humans are a constant work-in-progress which, I feel, is as it should be.  To sit still and do nothing is a shameful crime we commit to ourselves.   I met myself and realized I’m a criminal. I’ve concluded I’m robbing myself completely blind and I’m ALLOWING myself to be blinded by fear, doubt and if I’m being honest (which is how I roll) sheer laziness has also gotten the best of me.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate myself.  Overall I think I’m a decent person and I have qualities that I truly love so my focus from this point on needs to be – WILL BE – reminding myself daily of the things I do love while changing what I don’t love and there is where I’ll find more firsts.  If I continue to move forward and continue to evolve there will always be new first moments.   There, in the midst of personal transformation I will find happiness and ultimately peace.

Today, I met myself and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to meet someone in my life.

Parents Need to THINK

Today while shopping for Em’s birthday, I overheard a conversation between two of the store employees.  I overheard it because I’m nosy and they said something that caught my attention so I decided to eavesdrop.  Don’t judge.

One of the women made a comment about how her child was misbehaving and acting a fool.  The other woman commented that maybe she should make a video and upload it to YouTube so the child will be embarrassed and maybe stop acting a fool.  I thought to myself, “If only parenting required a license.”

My message to parents is:  DO NOT HUMILIATE YOUR CHILDREN.

Do you know what that makes a parent who does that kind of thing?  A bully.  No better than a bully.  Period.  You know what else?  It’s abusive.  It is 100% emotional and mental ABUSE.

Now, I realize there are parents out there who suffered this from their parents while growing up.  STOP THE CYCLE.  Just because you went through it does NOT make it okay for you to perpetuate this insanity.

A parent should provide acceptance, compassion, safety, protection, guidance and love.  Those are essential in a healthy parent/child relationship.  A child who does not have this, who can not rely on their parent(s) for a soft place to land is a wounded child, a negative child, a fearful child.

I ask…no, I beg all parents who read this to PLEASE give some serious consideration to the kind of relationship you have with your own child(ren).  Is it loving?  Do you feel your child can come to you for anything?  Do you unwittingly put your child down?  Kids can be hit with words and words can’t be taken back once they are out there.  THINK.  Be confident in your parenting and please, for the love of all that is holy, never EVER embarrassed or shame your child.

Need help?  Many resources here:  http://www.parenting.org/

This world needs more love.

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To Feel or Not to Feel?

Recently, I read an article on Facebook from a page called The Mind Unleashed.  My boyfriend posted the article because he knew I’d argue with it.  Does he know me well or what? I’m going to argue. The article is titled “How to Stop Absorbing Other People’s Emotions” and it was written by Judith Orloff, MD.  Now before I go any further, I should add a disclaimer here:  I am NOT a doctor although I’ve admittedly felt I was smarter than some a time or two.  What I’m offering is not medical advice.  I’m offering commentary based on my real-life experiences so read on at your own risk.

In the article, Dr. Orloff discuss exactly what the title says – not absorbing other people’s emotions.  She offers strategies such as distancing yourself from negative people and/or situations and shielding yourself.  While these may be good strategies, I don’t consider them good advice.

I’m an Empath or maybe I should say I have “Empath tendencies.”   I feel what others feel.  I pick up on negative emotions.  Over the years I’ve learned to manage it but would I distance myself from the negativity?  No.  Not at all.  Why?  Because I want to help.

My biggest problem with what Dr. Orloff says is that I feel this is exactly what is wrong with our world.  We block out the bad.  We turn the other way.  We don’t look at the negativity.  When that happens we, as a society, begin to lose our compassion and assuming you live on planet Earth, I figure you’ve probably noticed the same lack of compassion I have.  Bullying, walking past the homeless on our streets and not making eye contact,  crimes against one another, being nasty to that cashier you encountered yesterday because he/she was nasty to you…these situations all show a serious lack of compassion.  Now, I’m again going on an assumption that most of us actually have the ability to get a moral clue and know the difference between right and wrong but being honest – do we really take the time to try and feel what others feel?

Who exactly taught their children that it is a good idea to capture a video on their cell phone of a kid being beat up at school or anywhere, for that matter?  Who neglected to teach their children that taking that video then uploading it to the Internet would scar that bullied kid for life?  When and better yet WHY did parents stop teaching their children compassion?  Why did those parents not teach their children to put down that cell phone and go get help?  Why are children going through life thinking it okay to bully in the first place?  When did parents stop teaching the “walk a mile in my shoes” lesson?

When you walk past a homeless man, woman or child on the street, do you stop and try to absorb how he/she must feel having no home, having to beg for money, not knowing where they will sleep at night or if they’ll even make it through the night?  Have you tried to pick up on their fear?  How many of us have had this thought, “I’m not giving them any money because they’ll just use it on drugs/alcohol!”  How do you  know that?  Wouldn’t you rather FEEL kind?  Wouldn’t you rather put yourself in their shoes for just a moment and try being a little compassionate?

That cashier to whom you spoke so coldly, did it cross your mind to take a moment to try to feel what he/she felt?  Maybe she just lost a family member or is sick and has to work anyway because it’s all he/she can do or possibly this person is just dealing with depression and is feeling sad.  Maybe a kind word could make all the difference in this person’s day but how many of us walk away feeling as if we’ve been cheated out of good customer service instead of choosing to be compassionate?

What about that stray that keeps coming in to your yard and digging in your trash?  How must that animal feel every time you shoo it off and refuse to give it a little food and shelter?  Scared, hungry?

I can think of so many more examples, but you get my drift.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I do not believe everyone possess this type of “hyper-sensitivity” to others emotions but I feel we all CAN to some degree if we’d try and I sure wish everyone would try.  We have a chance to take the focus off ourselves and do some good in the world if we would simply let ourselves feel what others feel.

I once read an article about the benefits of being an Empath.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember the source but it stated the following about being sensitive to other’s emotions:  it brings people together, it heals, it builds trust and it can close a loop (stopping the bad by being able to introduce the good).  Now, if we all had that choice – and we DO have a CHOICE – why would anyone not want to achieve those things?

I can recall vividly a few experiences in my life that occurred simply because I made the choice to allow myself to feel. When I worked in Atlanta, there was a homeless man who stood on the same corner of an exit I took to get to work.  He was there every single day.  I gave him money as often as I could.  His smile radiated the entire block.  It did not matter to me what he did with the money.  It was a gift and he could do with it as he chose but I felt his despair, I felt his anxiousness, his fear and I knew what I needed to do.

There was another homeless lady named Brenda who stood outside of my Mom’s building and as often as we could, we helped her.  If we could not help in a monetary way, we always took time to stop and talk to her, to offer a kind word and give her a hug.  She was in a wheelchair, she was elderly and yes, I let myself feel what she felt, too. These people I met many years ago and they still stay with me to this day.  I’ll never forget them.  I don’t want to forget them or how they felt because it is fuel to keep me going.

I also remember going to Walmart in the middle of the night to get groceries.  Our cashier was huge pregnant, she was the only cashier there and her line was crazy long.  She felt so unhappy, so tired, so worn down.  I checked out then went back to the bakery, pick up some cupcakes, paid for them at the self-checkout then walked them over to her and thanked her for her kindness and told her to enjoy.  What I felt from her at that moment was instant relief and what I saw was her shoulders relax, even if just a little.  It mattered to her.

You want to talk about strays?  Our house is home to almost 20 cats, many of them strays.  I’ve also fed plenty of raccoons when they’ve shown up so I’m going my part for the animal kingdom!

See, to me, it’s a trickle-down, domino kind of effect.  I think by NOT allowing ourselves to feel the negativity around us we simply perpetuate it.  It keeps going.  We don’t let ourselves feel the bad long enough to allow the good and that good is what stops the bad in its tracks!  If we teach our kids to understand the lasting effects of  bullying, give a few bucks to the homeless person, offer a smile and “thank you” to the grouchy cashier or feed that stray – if we allow ourselves to FEEL  then we’ll possibly, very possibly, opened up a hole for some light and happiness to shine bright.

If you’re going to be “a hole” be the right kind of hole.  Think about that.

With life and I’m being realistic here, there is both good and bad.  We seldom, if ever, get to pick and choose.  If we make a conscious effort to block the negativity then how are we allowing ourselves the opportunity to allow in the positivity?  If we go through life not letting ourselves feel what others feel, how can we ever make a difference?  Maybe it will be some simple act of kindness that changes an entire person’s day but we will never know if we don’t try.  Our world has become a bad place to live and it seems to me we’d all want to open ourselves up to becoming a source of compassion and positive energy.

Eyes on Your Own Picture!

I’m about to share words with you that, if you take them to heart and heed my advice, will change your life.  Ready?

“When someone shows you who they really are, don’t try to paint a new picture.”

Please take a moment to let that statement sink in.  I’ll wait…

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Did they sink?  Good.

Now before I proceed, I must give you a bit of back story.

When Billy and I started living together our fights were frequent.  Frequent and explosive.  There were issues involved that I won’t go into but to bottom line it all I’ll just say while he and I have quite a bit in common, our life approach was vastly different.  We found ourselves fighting simply because we wanted the other person to react and/or respond in such a way that WE felt was right.  We wanted to dictate one another’s words and behaviors.  There was a lot of “YOU said that wrong thing” or “YOU did the wrong thing.”  Why was it all wrong?  Because we expected each other to follow leader – do it my way, say it my way or NO way because your way is wrong!   Instead of finding solutions we were creating more arguments.  Instead of accepting that each of us has an opinion, a method, a brain of our own we were attempting to force behaviors and reactions that weren’t natural to us.

Then one day I read those words and BAM!  It was like a lightening bolt has shattered my world but in a good way!

I gave our rough beginning some real thought and realized we need to stop being enemies and simply ACCEPT.  If he did something I disagreed with that did NOT make him wrong.  It only made him different.  If I said something he did not agree with that did NOT make me wrong.  It only made me different.  Different is okay.  Different is good.  In fact, I firmly believe different is necessary.  Otherwise, imagine the boring world we’d live in if everyone felt, thought, did the same things!

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I took my concerns to Billy and we talked about it.  We agreed something needed to change if we were going to make our relationship work and we agreed we did want it to work.  The love was there but the blinders were on and it was at that moment we removed them.  We decided the smartest approach was to stop working so hard to try and change each other but to change the way we reacted to one another.  Makes more sense, yes?  I think so, too.

See, when relationships are new there is a period, albeit brief, where we think we’ve found the PERFECT mate – this amazing person who will fill all of our needs, say all the right things and make all the right gestures of affection exactly the way we want them to.  Then that moment happens when you realize the person you’re in love with does not fit into your Fantasy World of Perfection.  You panic.  If you’re an idiot like me (I’m not scared to admit it), you think to yourself  “It’s okay.  I can make the necessary changes.” You set about this effort of trying to change the other person and (again, I’m an idiot) not giving one iota of thought to what YOU are doing wrong and how YOU can change.

I believe it is Stephen Covey who said something like we immediately become more effective when we realize we must change ourselves instead of expecting things to change for us.  My apologies if I’ve not quoted him verbatim, but you get the gist.  He uses this quote in a more business-like manner but the same logic applies.  For us to become the mate we want to be and speaking for myself, I want to be a good (make that great) partner then we need to search within ourselves, admit our mistakes and decide what needs to change.  It takes a lot of courage to face our own adversity.  It’s easy to sit around and point out troubles in others but to point out our own faults?  That is quite a challenge.

For me, it took deep soul-searching.  I had to go back and examine past relationships.  I had to give serious consideration to how I reacted to various situations from my past.  It was necessary for me to admit that I ALLOWED men in my life to affect the way I viewed myself and yes ladies (men too), we ALLOW others to muddle our perception of ourselves.  Once someone has made you feel inferior or insecure then it is absolutely crucial to recognize that we only feel that way because we have allowed someone to make us feel that way.  Once we understand that then it’s time to get to work on making changes because the truth is only we should have the power to dictate how we view ourselves.  Unfortunately for Billy, he had to witness my ugly self before I had the ability to show him my not so ugly self and let’s face it, our ugly selves can’t have a successful relationship.

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Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t believe all relationships are destined to be great.  The thing to remember is that while we all have our breakups they can serve as valuable lessons.  Instead of harboring bitterness or anger towards someone who has broken your heart, resolve to use that heartbreak as a tool for making you stronger.  Don’t carry around guilt or anger at yourself, most importantly.  Use that ugliness to make yourself more beautiful and instead of worrying so much about someone else’s behavior, work on your own.  Once Billy and I made the agreement to stop trying to change each other and work on ourselves our relationship became so peaceful.  Granted, we still have our moments mostly because I can be horribly bitchy sometimes (I always ALWAYS blame hormones because I’m a woman and I can) and he’s human so he has his icky moments but the bad moments don’t last a fraction of the time they used to last.   We acknowledge the bad then move on.  There is no more harping on mistakes.  There is now more time for love and talking instead of yelling, there is more time for happiness instead of going to bed angry and there is very little finger-pointing and blame.  Why?  Because we made the simple choice to keep our eyes on our own picture.