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Teachers of Unconditional Love

Ruby 4 x 6

This is my little dog and friend, Ruby. She is the eleventh rescue dog I’ve had so far in life. She is sweet and loves me unconditionally. I am so lucky Ruby and the other ten rescue dogs came into my life.  They taught me so many things.

Like what it really feels like to love unconditionally and to be loved the same way. They taught me patience, respect, forgiveness, persistence and the depth of our connectedness to all life. They also taught me animals are not fashion statements. They are not meant to fight for our amusement or financial gain. They are not meant to be breed and abused in tiny cages. They are not objects. They are feeling beings.

They get hungry, tired and lonely.  They get cold, hot, thirsty and scared.  They experience post-traumatic stress. They feel pain and hurt. They are not meant to stay home alone all day. They are not meant to live in chains. They need to be around their people and other life. They reason and think and make decisions.

Of course they don’t reason exactly like us humans but they are smart and can learn. Like us, animals learn and respond best when treated with kindness, when offered praise and when the relationships we have with them are based on patience, trust and respect.

Animals like Ruby know the true heart of people.  In order to be deserving of their love, respect and trust we must treat them with love, patience, compassion and respect.  We do not take our anger out on them.  We do not expect them to be perfect or to reason like a human being.  We do not use them or abuse them.  We do not neglect their physical and emotional needs. We do not puppy-mill them. We do not experiment on them.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” The kind of relationship we have with animals tells people the extent of our greatness too.  We must never forget we human beings are animals too and we must be the kind of animal that respect, cares for and nurtures all life. Or else we’re taking a step back on our evolutionary journey which will in no way ensure our future.

Alone But No Longer Lonely

cliff

I spend much time alone and love each minute of me-time.  Periods of solitude are healthy. I engage with myself, support myself, have established intimacy with myself which means I know me inside and out and am comfortable with who I am. It’s in my alone time when I am most creative.  Today I am absolutely okay being alone. But there was a time in life I spent most of my time alone and I hated it. And, there were good reasons why I felt lonely even when I was surrounded by other people.

I felt lonely because I told myself I was lonely.  I know it sounds funny but our thoughts create our behavior.  I was completely focused on the huge chasm between my desire for hanging out with people and the reality of my social interaction level.  That means I wanted lots of friends and to be popular but I wasn’t. What I focused on – my being lonely – I created.

Even though I wanted to be around other people I remember panic set in each time I had to go to a party or be in a social setting. I felt lonely because I did not initiate conversation. I was uncomfortable talking to others and tended to retreat into a corner to be alone.

The lack of self-confidence to initiate conversation and personal interaction caused me to go inside my head. My mind made up all sorts of untrue things such as people were judging me. I felt like an outsider, like I just did not fit in.  I did not feel anyone understood me. I felt separate from other people and disconnected from life. One day I just could not live this way any longer. That is when I learned to stop being lonely I had to be okay being alone.

To become okay being alone meant I had to go inward to heal the causes of my shyness and feelings of unworthiness and shame.  I healed my loneliness by taking action in two specific ways. First, I did my own kind of therapy. I was lonely because I told myself I was lonely.  I’d done so for years without once questioning why I was telling myself I was lonely.  So I started unraveling my muddled mind by making a list of everything I was fearful of with regards to being alone, to having friends, a life partner, public speaking, conversations with strangers.  The goal was to identify what thoughts were driving my loneliness such as “You’ll never fit in or no one wants to talk with you.”

Who says?  Where did those thoughts come from?  Finding the source of why I did not feel worthy of friends and being the belle of the ball was less important to me than identifying the thoughts I’d been playing in my mind for so long. You’re not pretty.  You don’t have anything important to say.  No one is interested in you.  People are judging you.  You’re an outsider and just don’t fit in.  You’ll never be liked.  WOW what horrible things to think about myself.  And most importantly they were NEVER true.

Somewhere in my early life these kinds of thoughts began taking over. Maybe people said them to me.  Or maybe I had created all of them in my mind. Over time the same negative self-loathing tapes caused my horrible lack of self-confidence and feelings of unworthiness, which resulted in isolating myself causing my feelings of loneliness.

Regardless where the negative, limiting “You’re not good enough and will never fit in” thoughts came from, the real healing came in realizing all of the thoughts that drove my feelings of inadequacy – the reasons for my social isolation and feeling lonely – were not true.  I realized I felt lonely because I was telling myself I was lonely. I was believing my thoughts rather than to confront them and change them.

The second step I took was getting up and doing things for myself to make me feel good about me.  Isolation only fed the negative thoughts of being lonely.  So I began doing positive things to build myself up. I began exercising, joined a gym, worked on my body and eating healthy, took long walks alone in nature, and spent lots of time with my pets.  When I felt more confident I began seeking out people to join in activities I liked.  I joined a bowling team.  I began volunteering for an AIDS organization.  I signed-up to be a stage manager for a local theater/music group.

While being with other people helped me develop my communication skills and feelings of making a difference, the change for me that came from being among other people was feeling more connected to who I am.  By putting myself out there I was intentionally connecting to my heart, the inner workings of Regina. By connecting to who I am bu appreciating my own company I finally ended the negative mind chatter of “You’re not good enough” and “You’re so lonely.” By mastering my negative “You’re lonely” thoughts it opened the door for me to learn how to see myself as I really was, not who I had been telling myself for so many years that I was.

Today I can honestly say I have not felt lonely in many years.  I don’t feel lonely because I am very okay being alone with myself.  I now understand me. I know what I value and work hard each day to stay true to being an honest, kind, compassionate and happy person.  I seek my own counsel as my own best friend.  I like myself because I like my behavior.

It took work to get me to the point where I don’t feel lonely.  I had to accept my warts and all to become my own biggest fan.  I had to work hard to change things about myself I did not like.  I had to care enough about me that I stayed true to myself rather than caring about pleasing others.  I now define success as begin a person of good character.   That is why I can say from experience, you will stop being lonely when you see yourself as the best friend you’ll ever have.

Feel Your Way Through Life

Egg Emotions

It is my experience, and maybe yours too, showing emotion is often associated with people who are weak.  We’re been taught to hide our emotions, to be afraid or ashamed of them. Seriously how healthy does that sound?

What a twisted fantasy it is that stuffing our emotions will cause them to somehow magically disappear and we’ll go on our merry way filled with happiness, inner peace and love.  I don’t know who started the “it’s good to stuff your emotions” idea but it’s not right. We are specifically designed to feel our way through life.  You know what happens when we stuff the natural emotions we’re born with?  Nothing good at all.

For many years I never saw my father express healthy emotion. He grew up in a society where real men didn’t express emotion – ever. I resented him for it. No, let’s be honest, I hated him for it.

Unable or unwilling to accept the vulnerability of expressing healthy emotion made him an angry tyrant. He raged, snorted, and slammed around like a bull in a delicate china shop of two little girls and a scared wife.

“You’re too emotional,” he coldly said as tears streamed down my face at the cruel and horrific scenes of baby harp seals being beaten to death and the close up, slow motion images of prairie dogs being blown to smithereens in the documentaries my father watched on television in the 1960s.

Once my father dragged me out of the shower because my mother had breakfast on the table and he thought I was taking too long. Later that day picking me up from school where I spent the entire day crying, “You’re too emotional” again felt like daggers into my heart. My father stormed through life not giving a damn about the emotions of other living things.

Then one beautiful crisp autumn day all that changed – for good.  My father was hunting and knew he had fatally wounded a deer but could not find it.  Regardless of what an ass he was to me, my sister, our mother, harp seals, and prairie dogs, he was a responsible hunter always using what he took from the natural world. It went against his values to just leave the deer so he searched for hours and hours without success. My father was so exhausted and upset he sat down on a log, buried his head in his hands and sobbed. I believe for the first time ever, or at least in many, many years.

We never know what life-event holds the potential to shake us to the core of our being.  The frustration and helplessness of killing that poor deer and not being able to find it cracked my father’s heart wide open. Years of stuffed emotion came pouring out and through the deer’s death my father was reborn.

From that day forward my dad has been a new man – one who does not hold back tears of sadness, joy or pain. He has a new-found respect and kindness for the natural world and all that call it home. My father is no longer concerned with what “real men” are supposed to do. He knows it takes Super-Men to accept that being gentle enough to express healthy emotion is one of the strongest things they do.

There may be people in your life who seem to manage normally in the day but then they all of a sudden explode.  Maybe you are that person that was exactly my dad. Through his example he taught me to do the same thing – stuff your emotions and then explode.  All we are doing by stuffing is repressing our emotions but emotions can’t be repressed.  Emotions ALWAYS leak out, and sometime gush out onto the innocent in our lives.

You are alive to feel.  You create a healthy life by learning how to positively deal with your emotions.  Don’t stuff them, thinking you’ll deal with them later.  Yes, there are times when it is not appropriate to express anger at your spouse while you are in front of your children.  But don’t ignore the anger by stuffing it.  When it is the right time, express why you are angry but stay calm and communicate clearly.

We cannot continue to perpetuate the stupid idea expressing healthy emotion is not socially acceptable.  Look at the world we are creating as a result or being unfeeling.  Let’s teach our children healthy ways to express their feelings.  That means you and I must know what we’re feeling and why too.  Are you confused, happy, uneasy, positive, fearful, or negative?  Are you tired, excited, motivated, tearful, or shocked? Are you devastated, hopeful, irritated, eager, or compassionate?

Whatever you feel, validate those emotions.  And support those you love in expressing their emotions in healthy ways too.  True healing comes from feeling what you’re feeling.