Where the Wild Things Grow

I always feel so guilty when I thin out seedlings.  I even find myself apologizing; “I’m sorry sweetie, I know you were trying your best, if I had space each and every one of you would get the chance to grow to your full potential.”

In a way I find myself akin to the ones that don’t make the cut.  In almost every area of my life that has always been the case.   I may be well read and have a lot of knowledge in a wide variety of areas; a lot of skills in a wide variety of specialties, but someone else is always better.  Someone else always gets the lead role, the award, the solo, the contract, the promotion.  In the end I always get weeded out.

I don’t hold it against them, the ones who win. They worked hard for it.  In most cases, they have dedicated their lives to this one thing be it academics, music, drama, a career, or whatever else it is that they succeed at.  They deserve it, and I will be the first one to congratulate them on a job well done. 

It does sting though, to admit that I will never be quite good enough to be best; that somehow I always end up in the supporting role, in the chorus, as part of the team support, or as the wind beneath their wings, the one the successful ones mention when they thank all of those that got them there and made this possible.

It is the dabbling that it is my downfall you see.  So many successful people know what they want to do with their lives from the time that they are kids.  For most it has been their lifelong focus.  They start gymnastics or ballet at the age of three and go on to win tournaments and perhaps go on to the Olympics or make a career out of being a ballerina or teaching others to dance or tumble.

Perhaps they have been playing the violin since the age of six and their dream is to play in a professional orchestra or come up with the next immortal symphony.  Perhaps they have been drawing since they were born and so it should come as no surprise when they open their own art gallery or become a famous illustrator or find their niche in teaching or painting. 

Some people find mathematics or science or religion and throw themselves into their vocation with a diligence that always amazes me.  Seriously, to spend a career studying one type of molecule or a specific type of invertebrate?  I am astounded by their dedication to their chosen topic.  Even more astounded at their insights and the advances that they contribute to humanity’s body of knowledge. 

These successful individuals work harder than I do, I will admit that.  They dedicate their lives to one thing; throwing themselves into their chosen vocation with a focus that is simultaneously admirable and terrifying, so it is no wonder to me that they succeed.

Part of me wishes that I could have that sort of focus, but another part of me shudders in horror at the thought of being locked into any one thing for my entire life.

And so, I will settle for being a weeded-out seedling.  After all, it’s not like they get tossed out in the trash.  They get tossed into the woods; discarded in favor of the bigger, stronger and more beautiful. 

But discarded seedlings still have the opportunity to bloom and grow and become what they were meant to be, even if it is out of sight in the woods where the wild things are.

Uninhibited by containers or boundaries, this seedling’s roots will grow deep and wide.  Her blossoms and fruit will be found in the most unexpected places and at the least expected times.

And so, I will perform for the ground hogs and the rabbits.  I will write stories for the crows and for the hawks.  I will sing for the deer and paint my pictures for the Fisher Cats.  My performance reviews will be written by moonlight and documented in the leaves of the trees and my riches will be in the golden spill of morning sunlight, the silver sparkles on the river, and in the knowledge of a life not contained by anyone or anything, but where every moment has been lived to the fullest.

HALFWAY TO DEAD

“Most peoveilple die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.”  -Benjamin Franklin

It was the damndest thing.  I was at the mall, eeling my way through a school of teenagers when I heard a snatch of conversation between two boys that stopped me dead in the water:

“Dude, she’s like 40 years old!  That’s like halfway to dead!”

Mind you, they were talking about a pop singer, but for some reason his words resonated in my brain like John Donne’s proverbial bell.

To be perfectly honest, at first I couldn’t believe what I’d heard and my initial reaction was simply to brush aside the comment.  After all, what did it matter that a fifteen year old punk thought that a singer over forty wasn’t worth listening to because she was “halfway to dead?”

But the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize that this one random piece of overheard conservation is indicative of everything that is wrong with our culture; of the prevailing attitude regarding anyone or anything that doesn’t provide instant satisfaction and gratification; of the tendency to view anyone over the age of forty (or anything that hasn’t been written, produced, published, aired, designed or conceptualized in the last 24 months) to be irrelevant; of the “me first!” mentality that has turned our society into a self-centered, ego-centric parody of itself.

We live in a take-out world of fast food, quick fixes, one minute makeovers; a world where if you either learn to adapt to the rapidly changing social structure or you get left in the dust; a world where old age is seen as a curse, education is seen as a joke and the answer to all of life’s problems lies in drinking from the fountain of youth and being able to fit into our skinny jeans even after we’ve had two children. And it is this youth-obsessed, egocentric culture that has generated the idea of the mid-life crises as joke; as a desperate bid by those past their prime to hold on to the glory of youth and try one last time to make their mark on the world.

Everyone has seen the characterization of the aging middle-aged man combing his hair over his bald spot, buying a sports car, and trading in his wife for a younger, perkier model.  For women this same time frame is portrayed as the 40-something year old woman or “cougar” getting plastic surgery and headed out on the prowl for a younger, virile man, because don’t you know, it’s all about the sex and, in a youth-obsessed culture – it is understandable (if laughable) that older men and women would be so scared of getting old that they would do whatever it takes to make themselves desirable once again.

The Mid-Life Re-Evaluation

You see, what it really comes down to is the mis-use of the term “crisis” for what happens to so many people at the mid-point of their lives is not so much about fearing death – about trying to regain their youth or proving their virility by taking on younger lovers as it is about the realization that they are at the half-point of their lives and have not yet begun to live.

Most people in western society settle down in their mid-twenties.  They acquire a full-time job, a spouse, and, over the years, children, a mortgage, credit card bills, social standing in the community and even positions of responsibility and respect in their churches.  But while for all intents and purposes they appear to have a “good life” too many are just going through the motions.  Far too many people are dying inside.

For their whole lives they have been living for the weekends, for vacations, intent on getting the next promotion, the bigger house, getting the kids out of school and into the right colleges, for retirement, convinced that eventually they will reach a plateau of happiness where they can finally draw a deep breath and where their lives will finally have meaning, where they can finally relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The only problem is, it never arrives.  There is always another bill, another event, another concern, another upcoming event; a web of responsibilities and obligations that keep them tethered to the soul-less job and the loveless marriage.  And so, many people “break out” of the mold in an act of almost teenage rebellion.  Having been immersed in a consumer society where the acquisition of things is equated with elevated happiness, most of those who hit this crises point do something stereotypical, like quitting their job, taking a younger lover, buying a flashy car thinking that these things will somehow give their lives meaning.

energy2And then there are those who instinctively understand that there is more going on than meets the eye; that this isn’t about things.  This isn’t even about reclaiming their youth.  This is about stripping away all of the layers of veneer and varnish that society insists that they wear in order to be considered acceptable.  This is learning how to reconnect with the authentic self.  This is about moving past what religions and governments and even friends or family expect from them.  This is about remembering who and what they really are while there is still enough time to experience life; while there is still enough time to appreciate the wonder and mystery that surround them.  This is nature’s wake up call.  This isn’t about being “halfway to dead.”  This is a clarion call to those who hear it and who have the wisdom to understand that it is time to stop going through the motions and truly start to live.

All Beginnings Are Hard

butterfly“All Beginnings are hard. . . . Especially a beginning that you make for yourself. That’s the hardest beginning of all.” ~Chiam Potok

 

It is not unusual at this time of the year to see dozens of posts touting an individual’s New Year’s Resolutions; posts about losing weight, finding love, getting their dream job.  The list is endless. And while I know plenty of people who scoff at the idea; people who say that making New Year’s Resolutions is pointless and meaningless, the concept behind it is really quite lovely; you are promising yourself a new beginning; choosing the turning of the New Year as a convenient marking point for tracking their progress.

The sad part of course is that most people renege on their promise to themselves fairly quickly.  In fact, the same people who will move heaven and earth to keep a promise to a spouse or a child; a parent, an employer or a friend will dismiss their promise to themselves with no more than a shrug and an amused chuckle.

Do we really have so little respect for ourselves that we can shrug away our chance to finally create the life we have always imagined?  Because when we fail to keep our promises to ourselves that is exactly what we are doing.  We are trading in those things we desire most in the whole world in exchange for convenience, or security or acceptance by those who don’t understand what achieving our goals would mean for our authentic selves.

I have no room to judge the person who gives in to those around them; who gives in to the demands of convention or of society and gives up their dream, for I am guilty of the same thing.  In fact, I am more guilty than most.  I gave up my dream.  I gave up my dreams willingly in the hopes that by doing so I could forget who I was; that I could bury my true self in normality and create a life for myself where I would not only not be hurt any more, but one where I would no longer hurt anyone else.

For a few precious years it seemed to work.  I was happy, or at the very least I was content.  But it didn’t last.

It was inevitable that one day I would wake up to the fact that burying my authentic self was the biggest mistake that I ever made.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret the life I lived; it gave me two beautiful daughters and hundreds of lovely memories that I will cherish forever.  What I do regret is that I gave up my true self for the illusion of security and belonging.

It has taken me a quarter of a century to come around to acknowledging my mistake and in taking steps to rectify it; to unearth the true me that has been buried for so very long.  Unfortunately she has been kept under wraps for so long that no one recognizes her.  Well, no one except those who knew me before I buried her alive.  Her resurrection has resulted in any number of problems as I try to explain to those around me that this is who I am.  That the person they thought I was all this time was nothing more than a façade; a mask worn to prevent those around me from see who and what I truly am; a choice I made because I was afraid of hurting or being hurt ever again.

Some have supported me in this excavation.  Others have fought it at every turn, trying their hardest to convince me that going back to the self they always knew is in everyone’s best interest; especially their own since that person was the one they were comfortable with.  But going back to the person I was pretending to be is something I will not do.  And if becoming myself means turning their world upside down, well then, so be it.  I have kept myself buried for far too long.  It is time.

And so it is that I make my own New Year’s Resolution.  This year I make a new beginning for myself – for my true self.  I will take the steps necessary to free myself from those people and situations that would keep me from being who and what I truly am.

Of course this means that there will be some tough decisions to be made over the next 12 months; some very difficult choices and overall upheaval for myself and those closest to me.  But like childbirth, once the process has begun, there really is no turning back.  I have made myself the promise of a new beginning, and it is a promise that I intend to keep.

Chutes And Ladders

“It doesn’t matter how bad things get.  It doesn’t matter how dark the clouds are.  You have to believe, deep in your heart, that the sun is still shining, even if, right now, you can’t feel anything except the continual downpour.” ~ SSHenry

There are times in each of our lives; moments, days, months even; when we feel like giving up; when we feel that going through the motions of daily life are just too difficult and it would be easier to curl ourselves into a small ball and just wait for it all to end.

I’ve had one of those years.

The details don’t matter.  Suffice it to say that a year ago something happened to me that turned my world upside down.  It began with a single event and cascaded (as single events tend to do) into a thundering waterfall of circumstances that swept away nearly every aspect of who and what I was.

If you don’t believe me, go ahead and look at the dates on my writing here on the website.  You’ll notice that since a year ago the entries became fewer and farther between.  There would be months between entries.  That is because I was spending every last ounce of energy keeping my head above water; trying desperately not to drown in my own tears.

I was left clinging tenaciously to one thing and, oddly enough, it wasn’t someone or something outside of myself that I found myself clinging to.  It was an inner knowing; an understanding that even though it felt as if all of my insides had been torn out through my chest and kicked about by people in very dirty and heavy work boots before being randomly stuffed back in, it was going to be ok.

Somewhere deep inside I knew that even though it felt as if things would never get better, that this was just one of life’s weird twists.  It wasn’t the end.  It was more like the square on the Shute’s and Ladders board where you plummet back to nearly the beginning before picking yourself up and beginning the climb all over again.

Mind you, that didn’t make it any easier to handle.  That didn’t make the days any easier to face.  What it did was enable me to use my meditation and mindfulness skills to focus on the right here and now, as painful as it was; on getting through today.  Not looking towards tomorrow.  Not planning for the future;  just on getting through the day; through the morning; through the next hour.  I survived moment by moment until the hole in my heart scabbed over and reduced itself to an aching throb.

And after nearly a year’s worth of mornings where the alarm would go off and I would groan in disappointment at finding myself still alive and at the prospect of having to deal with yet another pointless and meaningless day; after nearly a year’s worth of days finding myself bursting into tears for no particular reason; one morning I surprised myself by waking up with a smile in my heart.  I could feel the sun again, and see colors.

Sure enough, when I checked the scab that had covered the hole where my insides were torn out had finally fallen off, leaving new pink skin underneath.  Mind you, it’s still very, very tender, and painful when exposed to the air or vigorous rubbing.  But it’s whole.  And I can feel my insides carefully rearranging themselves.  I think there may be a few pieces missing, for there certainly seems to be an emptiness inside that wasn’t there before.

Or maybe there is nothing missing.  Maybe during this last year, while I was focusing on getting through the day; maybe I grew.  Maybe it is not that there is something missing.  Maybe instead it is that there is now room inside of me; room for more; more of everything.

Excuse Me, My Life is Waiting

walk“Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

 

Does purposefully surrounding yourself with people who will lift you higher; people who encourage you and strengthen you sound like a selfish thing to do?  Can you imagine the alternative?

No, most of us don’t have to imagine the alternative, because most of us live it.  I know I do.  Or, rather, up until now, I have.

When I was little it was family members who would discourage me from my dreams, telling me that I really didn’t have the talent or skill for this or that endeavor, or that what I was attempting was not something that a “good Christian girl” would do.  If I pursued my activities I would then have to put up with the disappointment of those same family members and see the hurt and pain in their eyes that I wasn’t living up to their expectations.  And so I would sigh and tuck away my dreams.

When I was older it was my teachers, friends or boyfriends that would discourage me from attempting what they saw as ill-conceived or inadvisable options.  And what did I do?  I would go ahead with them anyway, until of course someone looked at me again with that pain in their eyes, and then I would crumble. OK, ok.  I’ll fold.  Just stop looking at me like that.  I want you to LIKE me, to LOVE me, not to be disappointed by me. And then I got married and the whole process started over again. 

So why am I speaking in the past tense?  Because I have decided that I am finished with the negativity.  I have to be.

You see, the negativity of those who discourage, demean or belittle me and my desire to become the truest version of myself are not serving me.  And there – right there – is where I usually get a twinge of guilt.  The very term “not serving me” just reeks of self-centeredness, doesn’t it?

But there comes a point in your life where you realize that as much as you care about the people in your life; and as much as you want them to be happy, there is something that is more important, and that is that you be true to your real self no matter how others feel about it.

This isn’t selfishness; at least it isn’t selfishness in the traditional definition of the word.  No, this is taking care of what you need in order to learn and grow and become, and let’s face it, without growth things tend to stagnate and grow stale. That includes everything from your personal life to your relationships with others, so no matter what, there really is no point in spending your energy trying to maintain the status quo.

Of course those negative individuals in your life who encourage you NOT to change would be glad of change IF (and only if) you were to change in the direction that they wish to see you go.  What scares them is that you are changing in ways that make them uncomfortable, which is why they fight against it so hard. But a moment of reflection should show you that change to make someone else happy is actually counterproductive.  Yes, the other person may rest easier knowing that you will not break out in ways that they cannot or will not allow themselves to understand.  But you will be just as unhappy having changed into something that you are NOT as you were unhappy to remain in a stagnant or stale situation.

Actually, you will be unhappier having changed in a direction that is at odds with your soul purpose; even unhappier than you would be simply staying put and resisting the urge to become who and what you really are.

No.  The truth of the matter is that you HAVE to follow your instincts and intuition if you are going to truly live your life and not simply treat it as some sort of spectator sport.

At the risk of sounding cliché, you have to follow your heart.  If it leads you in a direction that others find uncomfortable enough, they will move on or move out of your life to a place where they feel more comfortable and where the people and things live up to their expectations.

So when I talk about surrounding yourself with those who will lift you up (and not pull you down) I’m not talking about walking away from people or situations that do not serve you.  Instead, what I am saying is that you need to stop giving those people and situations that you find energy draining or negative to the point of depression, your attention.

Just stop.  They are not worth the effort of either fighting their negativity or the effort of changing yourself in order to please them.  They do not serve you.

So focus on what does serve you; on those things that bring you joy and that fill your life with the wonder and mystery that feeds your soul.  Focus on those things that encourage you to grow and become who and what you truly are, and watch your life as it changes for the better.

Joy to the World and Pass the Eggnog!

 

I don’t know about you, but this time of the year can be stressful for anyone who celebrates the season.  In fact, there are days when I feel that Ebenezer Scrooge had it right before the spirits ever got a hold of him, particularly the part where he tells the gentlemen collecting for the poor that “I wish to be left alone!”

Just think of all of the things that you are ‘expected’ to do.  There is the holiday decorating and the baking, the gift buying and wrapping and party planning.  Then there are the concerts and end of school performances and recitals and drama productions and work parties and neighborhood celebrations, church celebrations and the addressing of about a million greeting cards and all of this in the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

With so much to do and so little time to do it in (not to mention even less time to actually kick back and relax) is it any wonder why so many people get so stressed out?

Here is a question for you.  With all the expectations attached to the holiday season, is it possible to live authentically; to be exactly whom and what you are in spite of everything that you are expected to do?

The answer, of course, is yes.

No, this doesn’t mean that you have to become a Scrooge and lock yourself away behind walls of cynicism for the duration of the holiday season. What it does mean is that you take a good hard look at those responsibilities and activities that you have agreed to take part in and ask yourself whether or not they bring you joy.

If they DO bring you joy, then by all means keep them!  Yes, I know that baking four dozen cupcakes for your child’s end of school winter holiday party may not be a joyful experience in and of itself, but the look on their face when you walk into their classroom with the cupcakes may be worth every moment you spent in the kitchen.

On the other hand, if you find yourself dreading the very thought of attending one more Messiah sing along, then don’t go!  There is nothing that says that you have to say yes to every invitation issued during this time of the year.  There is nothing that says that you have to bake all of your sugar cookies from scratch.  There is nothing that says that you have to reciprocate every gift you receive with another of equal or greater value.

What it takes is weighing each agreement that you make; every invitation that you accept against how much joy it will bring into your life.

Does that sound selfish? Perhaps in a way it is.  After all, at this time of the year especially we are encouraged to think of others first; to put our own wants and needs aside in order to provide for the needs and wants of others.  But what never fails to astonish me is how anyone can expect that a person can keep giving and giving without every running out of energy.  It can’t be done.

In order to care for others we must first take care of ourselves, and one of the most effective ways to do this is to pay attention to our joy.  If everything that we do comes from our heart and brings us joy and happiness then each thing that we do for others – which we WANT to do for others – each thing we do for someone else that brings us joy will be magnified tenfold.

It won’t be how much we do, but the quiet intent; the joy inherent that will fill up our lives, and our hearts this holiday season and every day of the year to come.

 

 

The End and the Beginning

Don’t you just love Halloween?  This whole time of the year – what with its Harvest Festivals and its Renaissance Festivals; the decorations and costumes and make believe; honestly, I find it refreshing, especially Halloween since in spite of the commercialization, it is still instantly recognizable as the pagan holiday that was celebrated by many of our ancestors for centuries before Christianity was ever introduced.

I find it interesting that in spite of the best attempts of the early Christian Church, the festival of Halloween (or Samhain) was one that has resisted all attempts at Christianization.  They may have replaced Yule with Christmas; they may have reduced the celebration of Imbolc to that of a groundhog predicting the length of winter; they may have been able to replace the Spring Equinox (an important fertility right) with the birth of Christ.  But in spite of everything, Samhain remains easily identifiable as a pagan holiday.  But what is the history of Halloween? Better yet, why is it so important to so many people?  What made it so important that it was able to stand up to everything that was thrown at it?

There really is no point in going into great detail regarding the history of Halloween.  You can find the accounts in hundreds of books and thousands of websites; all variations on a theme.  You’ll read in some places about how originally it was a pagan celebration of the end of the harvest; a celebration of the death of the Horned God (the consort of the Great Goddess) who had to die in order to ensure that the sun would be reborn and would guarantee a new cycle of fertility.  Others will emphasize the fact that it is a day when the veil between the worlds was so thin that spirits and dark creatures were free to mix and mingle with humans. You’ll hear people telling you that it is nothing more than a harvest festival and others who claim that it is a holiday dedicated to the devil himself.

All of these claims have the ring of truth; and equal tones of myth and legend, but what is it really?  Better yet; what does the celebration of Halloween – or Samhain mean for us, today?

One of the reasons that Samhain is still such a touchpoint in our culture is due to the fact that it touches a very deep and primitive nerve.  In ancient times Samhain was a time to celebrate endings.  It marked the end of the Celtic yearly cycle and the beginning of their New Year. Here in the northern hemisphere it marks the end of our growing season which is marked by the bringing in of the harvest and is punctuated by the falling of the leaves; a sure sign of the approach of winter.

But it wasn’t just the ending of the growing season or the ending of the cycle of the leaves, it also came to be associated with the cycle of life and the celebration of how, even though death and loss is part of the cycle of life, so too death and endings mark the begining of a new season; a new cycle; and the promise of new life with special attention beging given to those loved ones who had passed on and the inevitability of the death of all physical things.  But so too was it kept in mind that just as all things end and it may appear that the fields are fallow, the promise of spring and of a whole new season of life lies just under the surface waiting for the warmth of the sun.

Indeed, just as this season once it marked the time to stock up for the winter; to bring in firewood and fill the pantry with supplies for the cold months, even today you see homeowners buttoning up their property; covering rose bushes and making sure their oil tanks are filled.   Today you see many home owners using this time of the year to clear their yards of debris in preparation for winter storms and in making sure that their rain gutters are cleared out and their roof is free of leaks.  You’ll also find that many people use this time of the year to clear out their closets and cupboards of those things that they don’t need in order to make room for those things that they might need for the cold months.

So too this can be a time to prepare for what is yet to come.  And what better way to do that than to rid yourself of all of those things that might be weighing you down and detracting from your peace of mind?

Even if you don’t celebrate the season, there is nothing wrong with using it as a touch point for getting your own house and mind and life both literally and figuratively ready for winter.  Divest yourself of everything that makes you unhappy; let go of those things that weigh down your energy and make you depressed.  No need to head into the long dark months of winter weighed down by baggage that will just make it worse.

Instead, why not clear out all of those spaces?  Clean them out, but resist the urge to fill them up with something; leave them empty; an invitation to the universe that you are ready for something new and exciting to enter your life.  It is an ending, yes, but also a beginning.

Like a fallow field; one that has been divested of its harvest and left empty and bare; you’ll be ready when it is time to plant the seeds of a new crop; one that will make your life richer with more purpose and meaning.

 

 

Always In Joy

Do you remember when you were a teenager; when there was a guy (or girl) that you really liked and who you wanted to notice you. Do you remember how you reacted?  Do you remember what you did?  Do you remember finding out everything you could about them and then getting interested in it yourself?  Sometimes you’d give up your own interests in order to pursue theirs in the hopes that by insinuating yourself into their world; by showing an interest in their interests, they’d be more likely to notice you.

Maybe it even worked.  Maybe they did notice you.  Maybe you hooked up and had an awesome time of it.  Perhaps for a while you felt like true soul mates; perfect for each other in every way.  But chances are that somewhere along the line something went horribly wrong.  There came a point when you realized that it was all about them.  Everything was about them; all of it; everything that you did together; everything that you talk about; everything that you ‘share’ is really all about them.  Well, of course it is.  You created it that way.   And chances are that you started to feel shorted; slighted even.  You may have even attempted to start introducing your own interests into the relationship in the hopes to correct the imbalance.

Then of course there were probably misunderstandings and miscommunications due to the fact that the other person simply could not comprehend what was happening.  Weren’t the pair of you happy?  Didn’t you both enjoy the same things; enjoy talking about them and spending time together doing them?  Weren’t they the same as they had always been?  Why was it suddenly that what they were giving you was no longer enough?  Why have you suddenly become so demanding and dissatisfied?

And that of course made things worse didn’t it?  Because how do you tell someone that your entire relationship was based on your desire to get them into your life in whatever way possible?  How do you explain that you were never entirely open with them; that when you met it wasn’t on equal terms because you didn’t want them to get scared off or to lose interest?  How do you explain that what you really wanted, more than anything – what you still want – was and is to have a relationship of equals; where both of you were interested in what made the other person tick, even if you didn’t necessarily share all of the same interests?

I know, I know, it seemed like the natural thing to do at the time.  After all, how could you possibly have known that you were selling yourself short in order to get their attention and bring them into your life?  It’s a very easy trap to slip into.  In fact, it’s so easy that chances are, if you stop and take a good hard look at your life right now and at the people in it, you will find that one or more of the relationships that you are currently in are based on the exact same principles as those high school relationships.

It doesn’t matter which side of the equation that you are on; whether you are one of those people who gave up their own interests in order to capture the attention of another person, or whether you were the one who was enamored by the person who seemed to fit your life so perfectly in every way.  Be honest with yourself – is this truly a relationship of equals?  Is it?  Because if it is not, a relationship of equals you need to brace yourself; you see, there will come a time when one or both of you will realize that the relationship is lopsided and will want to correct that imbalance.

Better to take the time now to find out what makes the other person tick; to make sure that you are giving – and receiving – equally then to wait for things to fall apart.  Hopefully you will find that openness and honesty with your partner are enough to clear things up and to recreate your relationship as a partnership of equals; individuals who are truly interested in each other and in where your personal and spiritual journeys are taking you.  If not, well, it is never too late to become the person that you were always meant to be; to take the steps you need to put yourself firmly on your own path to authenticity.

If your significant other chooses to join you, or at least support you in becoming that authentic self, fine and good, you have nothing to worry about and the journey will be a joyful one because you will have the support and company of the one with which you share your life; a choice that true soul mates (or soul mates destined to work together for long periods of time) will do.

If they are not interested in joining or supporting you, do not allow their incredulity or anger with the changes in you to halt your own development.  Do not force them.  Do not feel that you have to hold onto them.  If it makes them too uncomfortable, they will leave (physically or emotionally).  This is not a reflection on you, and it is not your fault if the relationship disintegrates.  It is their decision whether or not they wish to include the person you are becoming;  your authentic self;  in their own view of reality.

Who knows, your authentic self, your path, may not be the one that is right for them and they may feel that to join you or even support you is undermining their own integrity.  Do not fight this if it happens, and do not allow it to influence your own becoming.  If another person’s path leads them in a way that does not bring you joy you do not have to follow out of loyalty for the joy and purpose that you once shared.

Move forward in joy.  Always in joy, and always in the direction that makes your heart smile.

Redefining Reality Now On Facebook!

Yes, I’ve gone to the dark side. Redefining Reality now has a Facebook page.

I’ve had enough people say that they wished they could have more of what Redefining Reality has to offer, only in multiple daily manageable bites. So I’ve created a Facebook page that reflects this. You’ll find links to some of the blogs entries from here, yes, but mostly inspirational bits and pieces; quotes, reflections, pictures and words of wisdom to make you smile and maybe give you something to think about during the workday.

So come on in, visit our Facebook page at: Thoughtful Reality  LIKE it (but only if you really do!) or comment on a post to start a discussion. See you there!

I Surrender to Me

“The concept of surrender is foreign to me.  The idea of giving up control, of ceasing to be myself; of turning my autonomy over to someone else – regardless of how wise or powerful is anathema.  It is only when I remember who and what I really am that I realize that there is only one person to whom I ever need surrender, and that is myself.”  ~ SSHenry

If you are anything like me the idea of surrender; of surrendering control of your decisions or your life to anyone or anything else is intolerable.  Seriously, you can quote Bible verses at me until you turn blue in the face, but the fact remains that the majority of us will cringe and squirm every time that the word is used.

Perhaps the reason that we dislike the word ‘surrender’ so much is because of what it has come to mean in our own culture.  Think about it.  The English word ‘surrender’ has come to be inevitably tied up with phrases of war; with the ideas of admitting defeat, of laying down your weapons.  Even when it is not used in a military reference, we see it as an admission of giving in or giving up and admitting that there was something you could not do or someone who was better than you.

Even the mildest meaning of the word “to submit or yield” puts our teeth on edge.  Why?  Because it by surrendering we let someone else get ahead of us; that we let someone else take the lead; that we weren’t good enough or fast enough or brave enough to remain in the lead.  And that is the real problem, isn’t it? We weren’t enough.

To surrender means admitting that, somehow, we weren’t enough.  We didn’t have what it took to get the job done.

Blame it on the early American settlers if you will; on the spirit of survival that came from knowing that there was no one else that you could depend on; no one to turn to if things went wrong.  Once you landed on these shores, you were on your own. There was no infrastructure or support system to catch you if you fell.  You had to succeed or you died.  Later the pioneers who headed west encountered the same mindset; it was all or nothing.

Maybe it’s ingrained in our DNA or something, but it is definitely ingrained in our culture.  You never admit defeat and you never give up.  This is probably why, even when the term “surrender” is used in a religious context it is viewed with not a little skepticism and definitely some raised eyebrows.  In Judeo/Christian based religions you admit that you are not “good enough” to be saved.  You don’t have what it takes (you CAN’T have what it takes) and so you “surrender” to someone who can make up the difference; someone who can ‘save’ you from your sins; who can serve as the go-between with divinity and plead your case like some sort of cosmic lawyer.

This view, however; this need to ‘surrender’ to a higher power; to admit defeat and to give up control over our own lives and actions to them depends on a person’s believing that ‘God’ as a being that is ‘above and beyond’ so to speak; a completely separate entity from us. But what if you believe that you ARE divinity (or at least a manifestation of divinity here on earth)?

If you believe that you ARE God, or at least a manifestation of God (or your higher self) here on earth; then the concept of surrender becomes something far different than what is traditionally (at least in western traditions) seen as an admission of ‘not being enough.’

I personally stumbled across this not so long ago.  I found myself at an impasse.  I had reached a point where there was nothing else that I could do in a particular situation.  Indeed, I had reached a point where no matter what I did or decided I was simply making the situation worse.  But somehow, the idea of surrender – even to my higher self and my knowledge that she knows exactly what needs to be done in order to bring things back into alignment – still grated on my sensibilities.  “Why should I give up?”  I asked myself – and then sat back and started laughing uncontrollably.

You see, I was attributing the cultural definition of “surrender” to my particular situation.  I was raised in a western society and within a traditional Christian religion within that society, it was only instinctive that my first impulse on hearing the word surrender would be to assume that I had somehow fallen short; that I hadn’t been ‘good enough’ to do it on my own. But that isn’t the case, is it?

You see, I AM good enough.  I am strong enough.  I am powerful enough and wise enough to do anything; to BE anything.  I have the understanding to make anything happen; to bring any set of circumstances into being; to manifest whatever sort of life my heart truly desires.  There is just one problem; I end up getting in my own way.

Yes, while I (my soul – my higher self) may be all powerful; all knowing; all compassionate and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, she’s sort of limited by the fact that she is, at least in this particular physical reality, dealing with (and through) a physical human body with all that entails.

These bodies are not only limited by the laws of physics and biology; by chemical impulses and fight or flight instinct, they are also limited by the overwhelming emotional responses triggered by all of these; responses that can cause us to believe things and do things that interfere with the higher self’s goals and purposes.

And sometimes it takes doing something stupid to remind myself of this. ”  You react or respond in spite of yourself; instinctively as urged by the body; gumming up the works and making things far more complicated than they needed to be. It is then, when I’m standing there feeling ridiculous at how complicated I have just made things or wondering how the devil I got this particular foot all the way up into my mouth, that I remember that the concept of surrender is not as bad as all of that.

You see, when I finally understood that it really is me who is in charge of my own destiny (albeit ‘me’ on a level that I’m usually not actively thinking about) I understand that by surrendering to my higher self I’m not surrendering to someone or something outside of myself at all.   “I” am still in charge, I’m simply getting out of my higher self’s way as an expression of trust that she really does know what she is doing and will do whatever it takes to bring my life and soul purpose into alignment.

 

 

 

One Perfect Life

There is no ‘one perfect life’ out there waiting to be lived.  What there is are a series of moments, each one complete and perfect in and of itself no matter if it contains joy and wonder or sadness and sorrow; each one lived fully and completely and in total awareness.  That is the definition of a perfect life, and that is the life that I am living.”  ~SSHenry

I don’t know about you, but there are definitely days when I feel as if I am spinning my wheels.  I’m not just talking about not being able to get anything done (though that may be a symptom of the larger issue).  What I’m talking about is the feeling that there is something I should be doing in order to bring the life that I was meant to live into my reality besides just visualizing the life that I want to have.

Oh come on, don’t tell me that you haven’t considered how your life could be better!  Most everyone has a picture in their heads; a picture of the ‘perfect life,’ the one they would be living if only things were just a little different.

When I close my eyes and focus I can actually see that life.  I can see the house that would perfectly suit me.  I can walk around and touch the things I’d have in it.  I can see the people that I would be sharing my life with.  I can laugh at the conversations and the experiences and the humor that fill our days.  I see myself in a position of being able to make the world a better place through my words and my example and the feeling of knowing that I am living my life to the fullest.  I can feel the peace that is in my heart and the love that weaves itself through every moment of this life like a bright and glittering gold thread unobstructed and unimpeded and stretching off into an infinity of tomorrows.

I’ll be honest.  The picture of that perfect life is seductive.   It calls to me at the oddest times; tangling me in a lover’s embrace; whispering words of undying devotion in my ear.  It is what I want most; my heart’s desire; and there are days when my heart cries at the thought of having to do without it for even one more minute and when I look around at the life I have and see just how far from perfect it is.

I told this to a friend of mine once, and they said “okay, so now you know what you want, so go out and GET it! Make it happen!”  And I tried to explain it to them – at the time I failed miserably.  Maybe I’ll do better with the explanation today.

You see, while my heart has set its goals; while it knows where it belongs and what sort of a life it would best be suited to, there are still aspects of my reality that I have to deal with right here and now due to decisions that I made yesterday (or years ago) that were not in alignment with that vision for my perfect life.   Those decisions have created situations and have brought people and circumstances into my life that may not be part of that picture of perfection, but they cannot simply be tossed aside either.

Yes, there are some people, who would drop everything to pursue their heart’s desire; who would drop all of their responsibilities and obligations to pursue that perfect but elusive life.  But that is not something I can do.  Not yet.  You see if I did that; if I dropped everything and went out looking for it; once I found my ‘perfect life’, it wouldn’t be perfect any more due to all of the pain and drama I had to go through and that I put other people through in order to get there.

What I can do is to stop being something that I am not.  I choose to be exactly who and what I am at every moment of every day.

This is perhaps one of the hardest things to do; ever.

Go ahead, try it.  Close your eyes and picture that perfect life.  Feel the love and the joy that course through you when you imagine yourself immersed in that life; the places, the people, the experiences that fill you up.  Imagine how you respond to the people and things around you.  Now open your eyes and take a good hard look at the life you are living.  My guess is that most of it doesn’t match up at all.

Now, instead of moping about what you don’t have in your life; about what you are missing, instead of sighing and saying “I’ll just have to wait for heaven,” there is, as I said, just one thing that you can do to change it right here and now; one thing that you can do to bring that life that you were meant to live into existence and that is to change the one thing that you do have control over; yourself.

How?  That’s easy. Stop trying to be something that you are not.

You’ve seen who you really are; that person that occupies that perfect life.  You’ve felt how passionate and enthusiastic they are about life.  You’ve experienced (if only in your heart and mind) the fullness and richness of the life that they lead.  Now stop pretending that you are not capable of living that kind of a life right here and now and start making the kinds of decisions and taking the kinds of actions that they would take in the same situation; actions and decisions that would support and encourage that perfect life and not a continuation of the life that you are currently living with all of its drama and angst.

It’s really not as difficult as you may think.  Actually, it only requires one thing; Attention.

Start paying attention to yourself; to your thoughts; to the beliefs that you incorporate into your life as a result of those thoughts, of the decisions that you make because of the beliefs that you hold and the actions that you take as a result of those decisions.  Are these the thoughts and beliefs and decisions and actions of the person in your perfect life?  Is this how your higher self would act in this situation?  Is this a belief that would support that life that your heart yearns for?  Is that a decision or an action that the person living that perfect life would make?

If yes, then go ahead; entertain the thought, accept the belief; make the decision and take the action.  If no, then slam on the breaks.  Do a 360 if need be and choose something entirely different.

Yes, you may get some astonished looks and some frustrated people who expected you to behave in the same way that you always have.  But remember, this isn’t about them.  This isn’t about fitting into their expectations or about maintaining the guise of you as the person they always thought you were.  This is about being exactly who and what you are in order to manifest your perfect life.

It will not be an overnight transformation.  Most of us (myself included) have far too much baggage stored up to be able to simply change things overnight.  It is going to take time; time and infinite patience and the ability to see that baggage drop to the side of the road and not do the instinctive thing and pick it back up again but to let it go.

As you become more and more yourself you are going to lose things.  You will lose the respect of individuals that you thought were your friends (but who obviously aren’t).  You will lose influence with people who liked the fake you; that persona that you cultivated and who find your authentic self to be absurd or irresponsible.  You may even find that relationships with people close to you crumbling because you are no longer living up to their expectations.

But remember, it is all a part of the process.  And in truth, when it comes right down to it, it’s all about the process – all of it.  Because even though your heart feels the pull of that perfect life, even once you find it, it is not something you simply have.  It is something that you do; something that you are; something that you continue to be, voluntarily, on a day to day basis.

Yes, there are days when I become impatient; when I think that the life I was meant to live will never become a reality.  Then I have to laugh, because I am LIVING the life I was meant to live.  Each moment – including the impatient ones – is part of the process.

Each desire for something more; each longing, each yearning that spurs me on to thoughts and beliefs and decisions and actions that lead to change to bring those things into my life, each new person and experience that brings me another moment (or series of moments) to savor- it’s all a part of the life I was meant to live; the life I AM living.  There is no ‘one perfect life’ out there waiting to be lived.  What there is are a series of moments, each one complete and perfect in and of itself no matter if it contains joy and wonder or sadness and sorrow; each one lived fully and completely and in total awareness.  THAT is the definition of a perfect life, and THAT is the life that I am living.

The White Knight Complex

“Don’t get dependent on that Knight in Shining Armor.  All being rescued does is remove you from your immediate circumstances.  It does nothing to address the question of how the devil you ended up in that situation to begin with.”  ~SSHenry

Why is it that in every fairy tale that features a princess there is always a knight in shining armor (or sometimes tarnished armor, black leather or blue jeans and a cowboy hat) waiting right around the corner to rescue her?

God I find the princesses annoying; all perfect hair and fluffy dresses (usually long to inhibit freedom of movement) and more often than not under some sort of a spell that keeps them from escaping on their own or even realizing that they are just a pawn in some dark and evil chess game.

Yes, yes, I know, the princess is symbolic of innocence and purity and the knight is supposed to symbolize the noble instinct to protect and preserve those qualities.  But honestly, as a culture we’ve taken this to heart so deeply that we’ve ingrained the idea of the noble knight; the belief in there being someone or something out there that will “save” the princess (or the innocent child, or the weak and willful sinner) into our collective unconscious.

More disturbing to me than the idea of a savior, however, is the thought that so many people who are capable of saving themselves believe that they need someone to do it for them.  Why is that?  Why can’t they see that they have the power within themselves to not only to take care of the problem at hand but to take responsibility for themselves; for today’s thoughts and beliefs; these choices and actions that will become tomorrow’s reality?

That is how it works you know.  It is the thoughts we entertained yesterday; the beliefs we held to be true; the choices we made and the actions that we took that determine where we find ourselves today.

Every thought that enters your head (and more importantly, those thoughts that you tend to dwell on) impacts the beliefs that you hold to be true.  These beliefs in turn affect the choices that we make on a day-to-day basis.  And, just as one domino is responsible for knocking down the next in the line; the choices that we make directly impact our actions; actions which determine the look, feel and flavor of the reality that we will find ourselves in tomorrow.

Ah yes, I know there will be some of you that say that this is far too simplistic of a view; that it can’t possibly be this easy.  It can’t possibly be that all a person has to do is to pay attention to the thoughts that are passing through their minds and to select those that they want to bring into their reality (this is called mindfulness by the way).  I can hear the questions now; “What about the bad things that happen to us; those things that we have no choice in?” or maybe “What about the influence of god or the devil; of good or evil?”

It is true that we do not get to choose all of yesterday’s circumstances (well, true that is unless you believe in reincarnation and soul destiny, but without going into all of that we can still address the issue).  There are things that happen to us that we have no direct control over.  But even so, this does not mean that choices we made in the distant (or not so distant) past may not have some impact on whether or not we put ourselves in a position to have those particular experiences.

And yes, there are some things that are done to you; things over which you have absolutely no control.  But what we do have control over (at least outside of those extreme situations where the trauma is so extreme that the mind disconnects from reality altogether and makes it impossible for the person to change their thought patterns) is how we choose to react and respond to those experiences that we did not consciously choose to participate in.

We can choose to react from fear; allowing those circumstances to control our lives and seeing them as obstacles on our path to happiness, or we can change our perspective and choose to see those circumstances as opportunities to prove that we are in control of our own destinies.

Of course if we do not acknowledge the fact that it is our thoughts as well as the beliefs that are spawned by our thoughts, the decisions we make due to these beliefs and the actions that we take that even in regard to those circumstances that are beyond our control, then it is perfectly understandable that we would look around desperately for someone or something that will rescue us from the tangle our lives have become; a white knight in shining armor who will cut through the crap and free us from the mess that we have gotten ourselves into through our thoughts and words and actions.

Of course relying on these knights opens up its own can of worms; like dealing with the fact that until we learn how to take responsibility for our own lives we will continue to revert back to those thoughts and beliefs and actions that got us into trouble in the first place (and we’ll have to call on the white knight once again to work his magic).

How much simpler to simply acknowledge the fact that it is ourselves and ourselves alone that have the power to change our lives for the better; that by accepting responsibility for everything our lives are right now at this moment in time that we can take positive action to ensure that today’s thoughts, beliefs and actions will work together to create a tomorrow that is everything we could have hoped for.

The Tsunami of Emotion

“This tsunami of emotion never gives you adequate warning.  Of course it doesn’t.  It waits until your back is turned…until you are sure that you have everything that you could possibly want or need and then, oh yes then it crashes over you with an unstoppable force; ripping your feet out from under you and washing you away on a tide of passion; out to an uncharted sea of possibilities.”  ~ SSHenry

Have you ever stood in the ocean; pants rolled up above your knees; feeling the pull of the tide around your legs; the way it tugs the sand out from under your feet throwing you more and more off balance every time the wave carves deeper beneath you?

But you aren’t afraid.  Not yet.  Not so long as you are only up to your calves in water; not so long as you can manage to stay upright.  And you’re balancing!  Yes, it’s not as hard as you at first thought.  Yes, having the ground pulled out a bit from beneath your feet can be a bit disconcerting, but it’s really not bad once you get used to it; once you learn how to regain your balance.

It’s sort of like life, isn’t it?  There is always something coming at you; a wave of emotion; of drama of issues and griefs and sometimes joys.  Each of them tugs at you; pulls at you; begs you to come “just a little bit deeper” or to adjust your footing to compensate.

It’s that siren song; the sea pulling you into its depths and soothing your fears and calling you home; calling you to surrender to the inevitable. But you’ve got this.  There is a rhythm here; if you can feel it you can remain upright and in control.

And then comes the rogue wave; the tsunami of emotion; that unexpected and (most times) unwanted tidal wave of passion that surges over you and through you and turns your entire world upside down.

This tsunami of emotion never gives you adequate warning.  Of course it doesn’t.  It waits until your back is turned; until you are sure that you are stable and steady; that you have everything that you could possibly want or need and then, oh yes then it crashes over you with an unstoppable force; ripping your feet out from under you and washing you away on a tide of passion; out to an uncharted sea of possibilities.

You can’t fight it.

Well, let me rephrase that.  You can fight it, but nothing you can do will stop it and the most you can hope for is to keep your head above water and to ride it out until the surge passes and you find yourself out in unexplored waters where even the powerful beams from the light houses of logic and reason simply cannot reach.

When you open your eyes at last and find yourself adrift on waters strewn with the wreckage of what you once thought was a stable life (that once upon a time world where the lifeguards of logic patrol the shores and keep a person from getting too far over their head), and find yourself beyond any visible shore, you have two choices:

You can either let yourself drown in despair over what you have lost, or you can lie back and let the current take you where it will and trust that the shore it brings you too will far exceed even your absolute wildest dreams.

My Desire

“They say that love is the fundamental core of the universe.  They were wrong.  It is not love that is the lynchpin of existence.  It is desire.”  ~ SSHenry

Have you ever known desire? Have you ever felt the pure unadulterated yearning; that all encompassing searing of the soul that is the heart of love, the inspiration of creativity and the igniter of passion?  If you have ever truly known desire – real desire then you will understand what I say when I tell you that it is the true sign of one whose heart is fully open to everything and everyone around them; to every experience, and to all that the universe has to offer.

Indeed, in order to love you have to have the desire to love; the desire to open your heart up to the possibility of being loved in return.

It doesn’t matter if the love being returned to you is genuine; temporary; or even a reflection or echo of the love that you have sent out.  It is the loving and the openness to receiving love that is important, and both are possibly only made possible by acting on the desire to love and opening up to being loved in return.

Yes, I know all the movies and romance novels portray desire as something deeply sexual; something that ignites physical attraction and brings the lovers together more often than not against their better judgment.  Either that or they portray desire as the first step to obsession.  But in truth is that while desire can indeed lead to passion of all kinds (physical, mental and even spiritual) that is not all it is, not by a long shot.  And yes, it can lead to obsession if one focuses all of one’s desire on one person or object or experience to the exclusion of everything else.

And it isn’t just love that is fueled by desire, though love is the most powerful of the emotions that desire generates.  Desire also powers the engines of creativity.  You have to have the desire to express yourself before you ever pick up a pen or a paintbrush and create something bigger than has ever been seen or read before.  You have to have the desire to play before you can pick up an instrument and make your heart-song heard.

Oh yes, with enough talent and training anyone can write a coherent sentence or draw a picture or play the notes as they are written.  But only desire can inspire you to express your soul through your artistic medium and to create something that expresses to the world the true nature of who and what you are and to open your heart up to the world in return.

But it is not only artists who use desire in their daily lives.  Every person who opens their heart up to another; every person who loves first without expecting anything back in return; each of these people is using desire  (the desire to be something more than someone who only gives if they get something of equal or greater value back) to make the world a better place.  They desperately desire that love be the underlying factor of their reality and they embody that in every action that they take and every word they speak.

And desire is not partial.  It can be used for good; to fuel love and strength; creativity and passion.  But it can also fuel obsession and greed as well.  Like the Tao it is not good or bad in and of itself.  It simply is.  It is how you choose to use it; how you choose to channel it that matters.

Which brings me to another point; true desire can’t be hoarded, as Yoda said “that way darkness lies.”  Keeping your desire bottled up inside of yourself is a sure way to turn your desire into an obsession.  To be fully functional desire has to be open to the elements and free, not only as something you do (desiring something) but as an experience (being desired) as well.

Only when you are completely open to knowing and being known; to loving and being loved; to desiring and being desired can you truly be open to every experience that the universe has to offer you; to experiencing your full potential as a human being; to being more you than you ever thought possible.

I want that for you.  I want you to have the opportunity to experience desire in its truest and most open form.  I want you to become more than you ever thought possible.  I want you to experience the joy and wonder that comes from opening yourself up completely to experiencing each moment totally; to loving completely and to being loved in return.

That is my desire.

What’s yours?

 

 

 

 

Take My Breath Away

Sometimes the wonder and beauty of life can be so overpowering that it takes your breath away.  In those moments; in those pauses between heartbeats when the world holds its breath in ecstasy; the joy of being alive wells up from that quite place in the core of your innermost self and floods your body, mind and soul with wonder and, for an instant that contains an eternity, you have no choice but to believe in magic.”  ~ SSHenry

Sometimes the beauty of existence really is too much to take in at once.  Sometimes it is so beautiful that it makes your heart hurt.  Of course there are other times when you feel as if your heart is being ripped out of your chest and the pain of it is enough to make you want to die.

But even the pain doesn’t discourage most people from sampling all that life has to offer.  In fact, most people treat life as if it were an all-you-can-eat buffet.  They skim down the line taking samples and tastes of those things that interest them.  Sometimes they go back for seconds of something, but more often than not they try a small variety of things and call it a meal, and most tend to focus on those foods that they are comfortable with; foods that they have had before and enjoyed or that are filling or that at least didn’t disagree with them.

Interestingly enough there are seemingly only a limited people who choose to experience all of what life has to offer. Have you ever noticed that?  Look around you some time. How many people do you see that truly throw themselves into their lives with sheer unadulterated abandon and enjoyment?  How many people do you see that take advantage of everything life has to offer them; who jump at the opportunity to go to new places, meet new people and have new experiences?

Not many.  Most people manage to find a comfort zone; an area where they feel safe and protected; where they feel as if everything is as it should be, and there they stay.  They may include occasional forrays into areas that trigger awe or wonder, but for the most part they walk a fine line; an admirable and successful balancing act.

And yet there are thousands, maybe millions of people who each devote an entire lifetime to understanding just one little aspect of the wonder and awe of creation.  They become enamored by and immerse themselves in one small piece of the puzzle and focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.  It’s like going to the buffet and only ever eating macaroni and cheese or spaghetti even though there are dozens of dishes available to choose from.

Don’t get me wrong.  It is important that we have those who can understand each of these interlocking pieces of creation.  The knowledge and expertise of those who study just one area or who devote their time and efforts to adding to one particular field are to be commended.  Their knowledge and expertise is priceless in the grand scheme of things, but I have to wonder how they do it.  Their ability to focus on their one particular area to the exclusion of all others never ceases to amaze me.

Try as I might, I simply can’t focus on one aspect; one piece, one part of the picture; I never could.  It’s not that I get distracted and can’t, but there is so much out there; so many beautiful and wonderful things vying for my attention; so many things begging to be understood and experienced that it seems a waste to focus on only one aspect to the exclusion of all others.

And so it is that I find myself sampling everything. Yeah, I’m one of those buffet eaters who will go down the line taking a sample of everything just because it’s there, especially if it is a dish that I have never tried before.

I actually had someone tell me once that they didn’t know how I did it.  They couldn’t understand how I could have so many home improvement, gardening and organizational projects going all at once while simultaneously running my own business and keeping up with all of my other interests like playing the piano, writing, singing, learning guitar, painting, photography and reading nearly 200 books a year (yes, I do read that many, I’ve counted them).  They told me that they couldn’t imagine doing all of that, that it would give them a headache to even imagine doing it.

I don’t remember now exactly what I said to them.  I hope it was something nice, or at least polite.  What I do remember is being astounded when they said that they felt uncomfortable doing more than one or two extracurricular things at a time.  That they read at most a dozen books in a year and most of those were fiction.

To me the idea that there can only be one or two interests outside of your work and family (and those interests usually related somehow to the work that you do) was as baffling as my seemingly mish mash of a life was to them.

Now this in no way means that either of us is “right” in our approaches.  I mean, without those dedicated to one particular aspect of creation there wouldn’t be nearly as many things for me to learn; not nearly as many fascinating books to read.  As I said before, I admire their ability to focus; the dedication and commitment that they show to their work and the passion they bring to their area of expertise.

It also doesn’t mean that those who are only comfortable with one or two extra activities or those who aren’t big fans of reading don’t have a lot to contribute to our world.  In fact, chances are that they’ve got more to contribute than I ever will.  The house they built, the car they put together with their own two hands, the awesome food they cook that makes me drool when I smell it; I can’t hope to compete with that.

But man oh man; what I can do is to stop worrying about what other people think about the life I life.  So they may not be ready to live the way I do – to experiences that I do. In fact, chances are that they have found their comfort zone regardless of whether they are focusing on one particular field or whether they have struck their own kind of balance between those activities and interests that appeal to them.  This too is not “wrong,” it is simply how they choose to live their lives. But it is not how I choose to live mine.

I can’t.

I take one look at the buffet life has put in front of me and I have to try it all, or as much as I can get my hands on (and there are always those few people who seem to be hogging certain sections of the buffet, aren’t there?).  I’m not saying that I pig out.  I am not addicted to any one thing (such as food or sex or shopping, extreme sports or other addictive activities)  I simply have to sample everything, even if it is only a taste.

Hell, sometimes I don’t even eat it; I simply put it on my plate so that I can admire it for its sheer aesthetic beauty because you see, I never know what is going to trigger that breathtaking moment of awe and wonder; that sudden sweep of sensation that floods you with wonder and makes the magic of life come alive and there is something; something that drives me to experience that moment over and over again and in as many ways as is humanly possible.

Come to think of it, maybe I’m not as different from those who dedicate their entire life to one area of research as I originally thought.

 

The Big Picture

“Sometimes it is difficult to understand why certain things have to happen in our lives.  What may be even more difficult to believe is that everything; no matter how seemingly unfair or painful; is part of the larger picture a picture that is being created by a skilled and talented artist who knows exactly what they are doing.” ~ SSHenry

Have you ever watched an artist at work?  I’m not talking about the painter dude on PBS who whips his pictures out in a neat half hour show while talking to his audience about technique.  I’m talking about a painter who is creating something entirely new; something that has never been seen before; something straight out of their imagination.  It’s slow going and sometimes it is not always clear just what they are trying to do.  In fact, watching them step by step can be confusing to say the least.

Layers of primer and base coat colors give way to blotchy looking splotches which slowly meld themselves into vibrantly shaded backgrounds and open spaces.  Bold, angry looking lines and jagged chunks of seemingly pointless blackness become trees and rocks and valleys.

Sometimes it may seem as if the artist is moving quickly with broad strokes blending colors and creating textures in mere minutes.  But then they may let the painting sit for a long period of time while the layers cure, or they may leave one section of the painting to attend to another, leaving the one watching them in frustration as to how things are going to turn out and what exactly it is that is being created.

Sometimes the artist appears to attack the painting, using metal tools to cut through layers of already cured and dried paint in order to lend depth and texture where there was previously only smooth paint.  Sometimes they look as if they are attacking the painting with their brush; jabbing angrily at various patches where an object is slowly taking shape.  Sometimes the brushes slash; at other times they caress so gently and delicately that you could imagine that the artist is making love to the canvass, and sometimes the artist will use a spray bottle of paint thinner to remove entire sections in order to make room for something else.

Confusing?  Yes.  Especially for the one watching the painting take shape, but imagine for a moment that you are not merely watching the painting, but that you are the painting.

Doesn’t it feel that way sometimes?  Doesn’t it feel as if you are being manipulated by some master craftsman; some talented artist who doesn’t take your wishes into account at all but instead is manipulating the situations, events and people in your life in a way that you can’t even begin to understand?

Shall I tell you a secret?

It’s true.  You are being manipulated by a master craftsman; a master artist.  Your life is a canvass; a work in progress and I bet if you close your eyes you can feel the brush strokes on your soul; the colors coming together in vibrantly rich tapestries of detailed light and shadow.

You want to know something else?  This artist is no stranger.  This master artist is no separate and distinct god who is flagrantly manipulating your life for his own purposes.

You are the artist.

You are the artist and the canvass.

You are simultaneously the paint and the brush; the color and the texture; the light and the shadow.

All of it – all of it is you.

Every decision that you make – or don’t make; every action that you take – or don’t take; everything is part of the grand scheme; the big picture that your higher self is crafting out of your life.

You can fight it.  Of course you can.  You can wail and scream about the unfairness of the knife cutting through your perfectly laid paint layers.  You can gnash your teeth about the angry slashes that are marring up your background or the inexplicable color combinations that don’t go with the decorating scheme you chose for your life, or you can accept that there is a reason for what is happening, even if they don’t make logical sense in the here and now.

Or, you can accept that it is all part and parcel of the big picture.  You may not yet be able to see the picture in its entirety, but you can feel the canvass under your fingertips and smell the oils in the air and trust that you know what it is that you are doing and that as the painting begins to take shape you will feel things fall into place.

As long as you remember that every joy and ecstasy, every misadventure and painful goodbye and heartwarming hello is a necessary step towards the future that you are creating for yourself; as long as you remember that every personally painful experience and heart wrenching moment is adding shadow and depth to a work of art that would otherwise be flat and uninteresting you will be okay.

 

The Treat Truck from Neverland

There is an ice-cream treat truck that that circles our neighborhood during the summer. Actually there are a number of ice-cream trucks that make the rounds through our neighborhood due to the sheer number of children in the area. But this one isn’t like any that I’ve seen before.

First off, it’s not a truck, but a van, and it doesn’t have the traditional pictures of dancing ice-cream cones, or even pictures of the treats themselves, but multi-colored swirls on the sides, and a simple “Ice Cream” stenciled in elegant script on the sides. But the thing that really sets this treat-truck apart from the others is the music.

Most treat-trucks play jaunty children’s tunes, the better to catch the attention of the younger set. But this one not only has its music playing in a minor key, but it’s playing things like “Morning Has Broken” and “Imagine” instead of the standard kid stuff.  Yes, I know, this particular treat truck may sell something other than ice cream, but that is not the point.

This particular afternoon as I was sitting out in my yard enjoying the sun and the breeze, I heard the minor-key Ice-Cream truck’s melody blending weirdly in with the sounds of the birds and the rustling of the branches, and I had a sudden vision of this van going from neighborhood to neighborhood and the lines being composed not of excited children clutching dollar bills in their sticky fingers, but of jaded and world-weary adults with sad and empty eyes lining up outside of the truck, offering up their souls for the chance that the ice-cream truck would take them away, far away; away to someplace else; anyway but here. That it would take them away from the pointlessness of existence and the sameness of their lives, or at least offer them the hope and the dreams that continue somehow, in spite of seeming success and achievement, to elude them.

There is such emptiness in the world today.  So many people are searching; searching for something to fill the emptiness; something that will satisfy their craving for substance and depth and honesty. They line up for any activity or idea or belief that they think might possibly fill the void and, if it proves to be insubstantial, they continue on to something that will provide them with a diversion; something that will numb the pain and the emptiness and help them pass the time.

If only they knew.

If only they knew that they have the answers inside of themselves.  That there is nothing to “find”, that if they truly want to fill the void all they have to do is look into their heart in order to find the joy and the substance is missing in their lives.  If they knew, maybe they wouldn’t go chasing after that treat truck.

Living in the Moment

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.  ~Buddha

When I first heard the phrase “living in the moment” I found myself laughing sadly and shaking my head at the gullible fools who would buy into something so inane.  Live in the moment?  What fool would settle for living in the moment?  Man oh man, talk about boring!

I didn’t want to live in the moment.  What I wanted was to live my dreams, to achieve my goals; to make something of myself so that when I died the world would remember me!  Forget about this living in the moment stuff. Obviously it was a cop out by those who hadn’t done anything with their lives; people who perhaps had once dreamed big but who had failed to follow through and were now regretting it; something to fall back on in order to make themselves feel better.

I knew better.  I knew that if you wanted to be anything in life; if you wanted to make something of yourself, you had to remain in control; not only of yourself but of everyone and everything around you.  Leaving anything up to chance was just plain foolishness.

If you wanted to get anywhere in life you needed to focus on your goals and break your projects down into small steps that you could accomplish and then, when all of the steps were completed, presto, your goal would be achieved.  Well, that was the plan.  And hey, it worked for businesses, why not for me?

There was just one problem. The goals that I had set for myself were not in alignment with my soul purpose.  Hell, I didn’t even know what my soul purpose was.  I had created a nice neat fiction for my life; a belief that when I attained a specific level of financial security or professional achievement that I would, at last, be happy. Well, that was the plan anyway.

And so it was that even when I had achieved each goal there was always something missing.  It was like baking a cake.  I’d followed the steps – added all of the ingredients in the proper order – and had a perfect cake sitting in front of me, but even though it looked perfect, it didn’t taste quite right.  What had I done wrong?

Over time, however, I have discovered something; I found out what was missing, and it was far simpler than I could have imagined and all the more difficult because of that to implement.  What I was missing was living (dare I say it?) in the moment; enjoying what I had already achieved without the expectation of what came next; of what I could do better next time around.

For all of my lists and my schedules; for all of my hopes and dreams and plans; for all of my visualization and projection; without being able to step aside and get out of my own way I ended up with a picture perfect cake that had little if any flavor.

This isn’t to say that we can’t dream.

This isn’t to say that visualization will not bring you your heart’s desire.

All this means is that we need to take the time – right now – to enjoy the moment that we spent all of our yesterday’s dreaming of and visualizing.  It is the enjoyment of the moment that we have created that brings us the flavor of our days. And it is here, in the quiet of appreciation and the letting go of expectation where we will find that happiness has been waiting patiently for us all along.

 

 

Living In The Moment

To take each day as it comes

To live each moment as it arrives

To hope for nothing

To fear nothing

To expect nothing

Makes each moment a priceless gift;

A gift from the universe

Straight to your heart

A gift to be treasured and adored

A gift to be enjoyed, experienced

And then released.

~SSHenry

 

The Price of Love

As strange as it may seem, it is possible to love without attachment.  I’ll grant you, that is an alien concept in a day and age when the concept of love has been watered down to the point where it is used in regards to your like of soft drinks and computer games.  But it IS possible.

Love without attachment is also love without expectation.  The object of your love is not required to do or be anything other than exactly what it is.  If it should change from one moment to the next; if, like a rabid dog, they suddenly turn on you and attack for no reason other than the fact that you are there, it won’t change the fact that you still love them.

Most people can get to the point of wrapping their brains around the idea of unconditional love; of love without expectation and attachment when it comes to a parent’s love for their child, but what about love for a perfect stranger?

For love to be truly unconditional it has to be based on more than what the person (or object) can do for you (give you love back in return, provide you with financial or emotional support, give you validation for your choices or provide you with a justification for being alive).

Truly unconditional love comes from a realization that all of us; you, me, the person standing next to you, the homeless man on the corner, the obnoxious politician – all of us; that each and every one of us is instrumental to the well being of the universe and of life on this planet.  It comes from an acknowledgement that even though we may each seem completely different, at our deepest core WE ARE ONE.

The True Price of Love

 

True love comes with a price – the price of pain;

 Of giving up a tiny bit of yourself to the one you love,

Knowing full well that you will never get that piece back;

Of knowing that as long as they live they will hold a tiny piece of your heart and soul.

 

And the true cost of living a life of love – whether it is the one love of a lifetime

Or many loves throughout your life – is that by the time you are done;

By the time your heart stops beating; there is nothing left of your heart.

It has been spread across the world – across the universe.

 

It has become a part of everyone and everything you have ever interacted with.

No matter how large or how small a part they played in your life,

You loved them; and in loving them you gave them a bit of your heart;

And in them your heart beats on and loves forever.

~SSHenry