Growing up I wanted to be a beautiful, popular person. Pretty girls and handsome boys got more attention, had more friends, were invited to more parties, and had more fun. It seemed those who were born good-looking were more important. That is what society, television, and movies led me to believe. But I was not pretty.
To make matters worse, it was tough growing up and not fitting into the mold of how I was supposed to dress as a girl. All my life I shied away from wearing dresses and skirts and girly shoes. Ribbons, bows, lace, and frill did not feel right on me. I did not want to be Miss America or have my hair curled.
Until graduate school, I was a below-average student in a world where getting A’s was valued so highly. Reading was not easy for me. Studying was not enjoyable. Mathematics beyond the basics was as confusing as a foreign language. I had no comprehension of chemistry or physics, and spelling, grammar, and writing were some of my worst subjects. The thought of taking an exam or having to dissect a poor little frog, much less a cat, made me cringe.
I was not attracted to boys, and I did not want a house with a white picket fence. I felt uncomfortable being programmed to value finding a husband, having kids, being a good wife, and doing what I was told. Who I was supposed to be, according to society, religion, and my peers, did not come close to who I really was.
How was I going to survive in a world where I stuck out so much?
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave. When first we practice to deceive!” – Sir Walter Scott
Have you ever lied and then watched anxiously as the lie begins to weave a web of deceit? I have. More than once. I know from experience how important it is to be completely honest in order to create a fulfilling and peaceful life. No matter how hard it is to tell the truth, being honest with ourselves and others is a sign of self-love, personal power and respect. Sure, it can be quite challenging to always tell the truth but honesty is the foundation of all successful relationships, including the one we have with ourselves, and with God. Honesty is vital to establishing trust, so having the courage to be completely honest regardless of consequences is a choice we make in order to trust ourselves to do the right thing. But, temptation to avoid embarrassment or punishment or to defend our fragile ego is often hard to resist. And, rather than remain honest we choose to lie.
By lying, no matter what justification we create to defend our dishonesty, we have knowingly betrayed ourselves. Each time we choose to lie we feel the negative impact. We instantly become caught in a sticky web that grows as one lie weaves two more. Two weave four. Four weave sixteen and on and on until we are completely stuck in our trap of dishonesty. Once we lie we can only free ourselves by choosing to become honest because in a web of lies, Spider is truth. Truth always comes out, just like a Spider always knows something has been caught in her web. We can only free ourselves by being honest about our dishonesty.
Another aspect of being completely truthful is waking up to a refusal to do nothing when we know we are being lied to. We know a lie in our soul. We FEEL dishonesty, manipulation, and betrayal. When we choose to ignore our feelings in favor of listening to our mind’s justifications, we have been dishonest with ourselves. We have betrayed ourselves and what we know to be right. The entangling mistake of going against our feelings is that our head DOES NOT FEEL!
We’re four days away from the new year. Soon we’ll move out of the old and into the new. Along with the parties and fireworks, this is an opportunity to reflect on life. To look at what is going well and what about ourselves and our situations is not going as we want them too.
Often I think we make a plan for how we’re going to change with the New Year through a list of resolutions. We sit down with paper and pen to jot down all the things we want to change, about ourselves and our life. But is that the best way to achieve our goals? Honestly that never worked for me.
To be truthful, I no longer make a list of New Year’s resolutions. For way too many years I set myself up declaring all the things I was going to change about myself, yet did not stick with them long enough to actually achieve the change I wanted. Then I would spend the next eleven and a half months beating myself up for not keeping the resolutions I made.
I learned it is super productive and also a real boost to our self-esteem when we narrow our focus. So this year join me in breaking the habit of making a long list of resolutions. Let’s identify one thing to concentrate on, one thing we can master to the point we make it a consistent part of our new 2018 life-style.
I have a love/not love relationship with the holidays.
I love the multicolored twinkling lights that adorn homes and offices. I adore the aroma of warm cookies and sweet treats baking. I get teary-eyed at the sounds of carolers as I am taken back to pleasant childhood memories of doing the same with my friends. I cherish the tinkling of the Salvation Army bell that reminds us of those less fortunate.
I like the confused look on my little dog’s face when I snap a photo of her in reindeer antlers. I love spending a week writing holiday cards, reinforcing my connection to treasured people in my life. I appreciate the Jewish tradition of lighting the Hanukkah Menorah for the Festival of Lights and the heart-based motivation behind the Christmas tradition of God-consciousness being birthed in the form of the man Jesus.
Yes, I love the reverence for spiritual enlightenment, festivities, fun, food and gatherings for the holidays. And I don’t love the consumerism that is so pervasive this time of year.
It used to be well past Thanksgiving before holiday ads started to appear. Now I am still roaming around in my Halloween costume when the relentless assault begins. The twinkling lights, tinkling bells, and carolers are a mere whisper among the roar of ads for the countless “things” we should wrap up for our loved ones to show we care.
When did what we buy become more important than standing by?
When did presents become more important than presence?
When did “things” become the most important things?
I did not know the man. Most likely I will not see him again, but I will never forget the moment our hearts touched in the intimate dance of raw truth: he lives on the street and I in a warm apartment.
I wanted to take him home with me.
It began when I commented on his dog. He smiled very proud and said, “Yea, she’s great. I’ve got her back and she’s got mine.”
As he spoke, gently petting the dog, I reached into my wallet and took out all the money I had. Without counting, looking, or caring what he would do with it I handed it to him. He hesitantly took it. As our hands touched my tears began. The young man reached out, wrapped me tight in his arms and said, “It’s okay. We’re okay out here. Thank you for caring.”
As I turned to leave he said, “I love you.”
I looked him in the eyes and said, “I love you too.”
Until then I’d never said, “I love you,” to a complete stranger. To someone with whom I’d only met and exchanged a few brief moments. Yet, when I spontaneously responded to the man with “I love you,” I meant it from the bottom of my heart and with every part of my being. There was no thought. My heart was simply wide open and spilling out came the pure, honest emotion of caring deeply for him.
Have you ever considered your past is no longer a real moment in time that you can influence or change? The past only holds memories of your life as it was. Returning to fond memories brings you great joy, but the past officially ended the instant you stepped from the then into now.
You and I cannot go back in time to change the choices we made. Reflecting on the past and our previous choices is the way we learn. But, allowing our mind to dwell on what we think should have, would have, or could have been in the past takes our attention away from the present. However, only in the present is it possible to apply what we learned from the past and create a better outcome for the moment that is now.
The same is true of the future. Regardless of how badly we may want the future to come, we cannot rush ahead and live in a time that does not yet exist. The future is not real; it is only the next moment’s present, over and over, infinitely.
Permitting our mind to race ahead and attach itself to worries of what may happen disconnects us from the present, the only time possible to purposefully get ready for a future event. So, one key to living a fulfilled life is to patiently surrender to the truth: Life is only real now.
You and I have a conscious choice to make. We can live disconnected from the present while convincing ourselves we are actually plugged in, or we can slow down, remain patient, and focus our attention on immersing ourselves in the moment at hand.
One truth is that there is something wonderful hidden in every moment of life. Another is that our contentment comes from slowing down to find it by mastering our attention to stay right here, right now.
Each moment your mind is flooded with thought. You are constantly processing information. You are not without power over your mind and the thoughts it creates. You are not your thoughts. You are the conscious, present heart-self that is responsible for remaining aware of what you think so you stay present in the moment.
Have you seen the commercial on television with a huge red EASY button? Something horrible happens and with just one push of the button life magically transforms from disastrous to idealic? Have you ever wanted your own big red button? When life gets challenging or a relationship goes south or you need a huge pile of money, you just whip out that shiny button and BAM all of life’s troubles fade like magic.
Today I want to talk with you about one of the indisputable facts of life. That’s right this law is not debatable, period! There is no EASY button to life, ladies and gentlemen. Maybe we need a brief moment of silence to honor the death of a myth we’ve held for way too long.
Sorry if I’ve burst your bubble but YES it is true – everything is easier said than done. It’s obvious words are easy to say while action on the other hand is often a huge pain in the butt.
I sat around for twenty years telling myself and other people I was going to quit smoking. It was so easy to say it but a true pain to actually do. But I did it.
Mom and dad were eating at a restaurant. It was Sunday after church and they were sitting in a booth enjoying their lunch when a man they did not know came up. “I just wanted to tell you how good it makes me feel to see the two of you together, enjoying your lunch. Please let me treat you today,” he said as he placed two $10 bills on the table.
My dad is old school and at first there was no way he was going to accept money from the stranger. He continued to protest until my mom gently took his hand and said, “Reagan let the man give us this gift. We’ll pass it on.”
My father took the man’s hand. Shaking it, he thanked the kind stranger and assured him he would pass his generosity on. The man said he knew my dad would.
After the man left my mom and dad sat for a while thinking of what they could do to pass on the $20. I’m not sure they decided what to do, but I do know my father was reminded how good it feels to give to others. And, he was also reminded of how important it is to allow others to experience the joy that comes from giving and having the gift graciously accepted.
Have you ever wished you had a magic wand? You could wave that magically stick and people would change and at last your life would be happier, flow easier, and everything would be okay.
I grew up on fairy tales. Deep down I always knew magical wands are not real but I stubbornly clung to the idea if I just screamed loud enough, harped long enough, bitched long enough people would change and my life would suddenly be magical. Never happened! Not once did anyone change because of my wanting them to.
I realized this, for good, which means I accepted the reality of not being able to change anyone other than myself around my 43 birthday. I was throwing the biggest pity party anyone ever coordinated. It was a sight to behold but no one was there with me to see it, thank goodness. As I look back now I am glad I was all alone. I guess many miracles happen in our lives without any one to bear witness. I think we come to important realizations in life, those that truly help us change and grow, in solitude.
For me the miracle came in the form of finally surrendering to the truth I would never be able to change anyone but myself. Man I held on to that misguided and wrong notion for so many years. I grew up witnessing my parents try to change one another. Attempting to get other people to change seemed to be part of how we relate to one another in relationship. But that day I finally accepted after so many years of repeated trial and error that I was never going to get someone to change.
I came to this realization by candidly looking back at the changes I’d made in my life. I stopped smoking, breaking a 22 year old habit. I lost almost 63 pounds through hard work and changing how I eat. I stopped being codependent by learning to depend on myself and to look within for the validation I wanted to ensure my self-respect and self-worth. While other people cheered me on I was the one who had to take the actions necessary to change myself.
It is great to have other’s support us but in the end, the bottom line is we are the only person who can make changes to ourselves. That is the ‘aha’ that allowed me to accept changing other people was up to them also.
A wonderful thing happened to me and my world with this realization. As I took responsibility to identify and change things about myself I did not like the people around me were impacted in a very good way.
You cannot change anyone but yourself. When you let go of trying to get other people to change you can spend that same energy on identifying changes you want to make to you.
Make a list of all that is going right in your world. Then make a list of all that is not going right. Concentrate on changing one thing about yourself. Maybe that is to stop drinking sodas. Or stop smoking, reacting to rude people, or trying to change others. Remain dedicated to changing that one thing. When you have created a new habit by changing one thing about yourself move on to the next items on your list. Once you change one thing about you the excitement will grow about making further positive changes.
Focus completely on you and what you can change about yourself. Not with the expectation other people will change as a result of the changes you make to yourself. Just concentrate on how you can make yourself a better person.
When you meet resistance from those people in your world who do not want you to change, stay strong knowing that all positive changes result in positive coming back to you. No, at first people may fall away. Those closest too you may not like the new you. They may scream and yell and protest. Remember you are not changing for anyone other than yourself. Remember you are choosing to love and respect yourself enough to take the actions necessary to create the life you truly want.
I guarantee when you care enough about yourself to make positive changes to yourself then new people will come into your life who will support your growth. You changing yourself for the better will change your world for the better too.
I took my car to be repaired by a large and still popular chain of stores that will remain nameless because they have indeed changed their policies for the better. But, back then this auto repair department paid commission to their mechanics on parts sold and work done. So I’d walk in for an oil change and all of a sudden the basketball rolling around in my truck became a reason for a complete brake job with new rotors.
The truly sad part about this scam is the fact I’d just had new brakes installed and the rotors turned less than a month before. This mega-chain store auto department did not call to get my permission to do the work. They just charged me for it and attempted to get away with it. If they had inspected the brakes they would have seen the brand new work.
I was certainly not the only person (women most likely back then) to get suckered into the retail giant’s really bad policy of reinforcing dishonest behavior among unscrupulous mechanics and store employees. Bad people think nothing of doing bad things. Good people often fall prey and are victimized. But from my response to the manager, it was clear I was not going to be a victim.
I presented receipts for the recent repairs and demanded a refund with a threat of reporting them, which I did too. Enough of us did report the problem that a class action suit ended the commission policy among all auto repair facilities I have visited since.
We cannot always prevent being taken advantage of by people who think they can get away with it. Each of us has to set and uphold a personal standard of behavior. Then we have to be our own gatekeeper to demand the highest level of behavior from ourselves. But, not all of us sets a standard of positive and honest behavior.
Not everyone cares about keeping their word, or communicating clearly, or assuming responsibility for projecting their stuff onto other people. Not everyone appreciates negative behavior always returns in the form of negative consequences. Payback is hell for those who seek to use, abuse and victimize others or who assume no responsibility for their actions. But I am happy to report those folks who attempt to use us, abuse us, or victimize us do not have to get a second or third chance. We may get fooled once and forgive. And, we don’t have to fall for it a second or third time.
It’s always in our best interest to continue to look for the best in people. But when someone shows us who they really are through the behavior they put out that negatively impacts us or others, we do not allow their actions to cause us to suffer or for us to feel targeted, duped or a casualty. Feeling like people are using you is a sure sign you need to set some healthy and strong boundaries.
I have forgiven many people for treating me badly once. Today I still forgive but I do not allow them the opportunity to victimize me again. Choosing to be a victim, to feel powerless, used, and abused, never felt good or did anything to boost my self-esteem. Refusing to feel like a victim, even when I am victimized, allows me to move on with a solid determination to stay aligned with the behavior standards I set for myself. One of the behaviors is not allowing other people power over me by me feeling like a victim.
The ‘aha’ that you are absolutely capable of choosing to be the victor over situations is a pure rush of enthusiastic adrenalin packed self-love. It is intensely powerful to accept that although we want to share our lives with people, we DON’T need to keep people around who use, abuse, or mistreat us. We don’t have to support anyone or any business who does not listen to us, or who refuses to acknowledge our input, or who arrogantly looks down on us, or attempts to use us. We choose to give our loyalty to and invest our confidence in people who consistently treat us with respect, kindness, honesty, and professionalism.
You may be victimized in life but you do not have to be a victim. It is a powerful feeling to accept being a victim is not a pro-active position. I guarantee you from experience nothing feels better or more powerful than taking charge of yourself to create the life you truly want to have. Nothing feels more powerful than coming to your own rescue. Nothing feels more satisfying than choosing to be the victor over your life circumstances to set boundaries to not be victimized a second time.