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Not True: It’s Better to Give than Receive

gift giving

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.

Are you someone who receives as graciously as you give?  For many years I was not someone who was comfortable receiving.  I was fine and even ecstatic to give.  But when it came to receiving I would shut down.

I know where it came from. All of my growing up years I heard the adults in my life say, “You shouldn’t have” or “I wish you would not give me things” or “I don’t deserve this” or “it’s better to give than receive.”  In my parent’s generation, and even to a large extent today, we don’t encourage one another to receive with the same enthusiasm that we give.  Something within our collective dysfunction prevents us from see the importance of maintaining a healthy balance in giving and receiving.

When we say things like, I’m not worthy, you shouldn’t have, or I wish you wouldn’t have,  etc., we are in essence discounting the gift giver’s feelings.  When we do not accept graciously we are robbing the giver of the joy giving brings them.

It feels horrible to give and have someone tell us they are not worthy. That they wish we would not have given them the gift.  If they were unworthy we would not be giving a gift in the first place.  Unless we give with an agenda. But, that is not the type of giving that results in true joy.

When we give something to someone, a gift, a reference, our time, and we have expectations or stipulations on how our gift should be used or how someone “should” respond, we have given from ego. When we give from ego we will always find something to be disappointed about in how our gift is used, received, valued, and reciprocated. The only true gifts are those we give from our heart; without expectations or conditions. Heart (Love) gives simply to give.

Love also honors others by receiving as graciously as we give.  If we do not receive graciously we are not loving ourselves or those who are giving to us.

Is it easy for you to receive?  Or is receiving uncomfortable for you?  If so, why?  Were you also raised in an environment where “it is better to give than receive?”

While I completely understand how important it is for us to give generously of ourselves, our time, money, and caring, there is a fundamental imbalance in thinking it is better to give than receive.  I know this goes against what many of us are taught. But think about this.

If we’re only comfortable giving, if we truly think it better to give than receive, then how can we extend to others the courtesy and respect of receiving as freely as we want them to receive what we give? Love does not say no to a gift given in love. So, as with anything in life, there needs to be a healthy balance between giving and receiving. A comfortable balance is necessary to create the best life by honor the exchange of gifts in the relationships we have with others.

On the journey of writing my book and securing endorsements I asked a ton of people for their support.  At first this was hard to do because I had nothing of value to give to them in return.  Yet, anyone who truly knows what it is like to be in the position I was in, because they too had been there at one time themselves, readily jumped at the opportunity to support me.  To this day I must continue to ask friends, strangers, and people I meet for their assistance.  That is what self-promotion is all about.  There is no way I will ever be able to return to the countless numbers of people who support my dream.  The only option I have is to, like my father and mother, pay it forward.

If you are uncomfortable receiving, I challenge you to open your heart.  The next time someone gives you something just say, “Thank you.” Put yourself in their position.  Remember how it feels to give and be told, “You shouldn’t have or I don’t deserve this.” You don’t want someone who gives you a gift to feel bad because you cannot accept graciously.  It is love that lets you feel what it’s like to be the one who gives. It is love that also lets you feel what it is like to graciously receive.

Love yourself and others by accepting the gifts you receive with the same grace with which you give. Doing so is giving the gift of respect to those you give to you. Remember a joy-filled heart is one that graciously gives and receives.

You Don’t Need a Magic Wand

magic wand

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.

Victim or Victor, Our Choice

rys-tire

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.

Five Years and Counting

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In our lives there are days when time just stops.  Each moment is captured on some special film within our heart so that we never, ever forget. October 26, 2012, is one of those days for me.

I had to make the very hard decision to say goodbye to one of the best friends I’ve had the honor of knowing.  My little dog, Madison, a Corgi/Sheltie rescue, was too sick to heal. She’d been in doggie intensive care for three days, suffered a seizure, and had no chance of recovery.

The last thing I said to Madison was, “Send me another little one.” While I was prepared to wait, apparently she wasn’t. Almost immediately I felt the urge to look. So I went to Pet Finders and began scrolling through the sweet faces in need of a home.

I spotted one, but it had already been adopted. Then another, but it had been adopted too. Then on page six, a sweet little foxed-faced beauty jumped off the page and into my heart.

Following the link, I landed on the Sam Simon Foundation Web site. There was a video and more photos of a little dog that looked almost exactly like our Madison. Immediately I called, and with tears running down my cheek I struggled to convey to the nice woman on the telephone that we wanted to come see Ruby Red immediately. I begged her, “Please don’t let her be adopted by anyone else.”

On November 1st, Barbara and I drove an hour to meet Lori Ramey and Ruby Red, a Corgi/Pomeranian mix. It was love at first sight. On November 2nd, Ruby was at home on our living room sofa.

The interesting part of this story is that Lori thought she had posted Ruby on Pet Finders back in August.  She could not figure out why no one had called about her sooner. Later she discovered that Ruby’s ad never showed up. She only learned of the error around the time Madison died.

The strange power that often works in mysterious ways on our behalf had done its magic to ensure I was the person to see the ad for our new angel companion. Each day sweet Ruby, a bright and shiny gem saved especially for us, creates countless precious memories that are forever engraved upon our heart.  Sweet Madison is smiling from across the rainbow bridge.

Positive In, Positive Out

Negative People

Have you noticed a life filled with drama is just not that entertaining?

We’ll it just isn’t. Yes, life is going to suck at times. Life is going to provide lots of drama. There is much negative going on in the world. But when we only focus on the negative, the drama-rama of life, we find ourselves in the middle of a bleak existence where we feel powerless, depressed, and victimized. And we wonder why. Because of what we’re letting in to influence us.

There is a saying, “We are what we eat.” What we feed our body can nurture us. Or, eating without awareness can set us up for illness, excess weight gain, and stress. The same is true for what we feed our mind and heart.

Someone I know became addicted to television court dramas—so much so she experienced frequent panic attacks and no longer found value in her daily life. Her relationships suffered, and she gained a tremendous amount of weight from eating while glued to the endless spectacle as it unfolded daily over the television.

We have to keep in the forefront of our consciousness what we concentrate on, we create. What we allow in does influence our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Just like Earth is constantly being hit by cosmic radiation you and I are constantly being hit, too by endless advertisements, news programs, commentary, billboards, radio shows, pessimistic people, and websites designed to capture our attention and influence us. Much of our exposure is negative or opinionated, condones reckless behavior, or promotes the pursuit of meaningless goals.

Subtly and overtly, we are struck with untrue messages, such as:

  • Sex is love. No sex is not love. There is no love in the porn industry. Greed, abuse, denigration of women and so much more negative behavior all of which is never love.  That does not stop advertisers from bombarding us with the notion that sex is love.
  • Or hitting us over and over with the huge lie that people who regularly eat fast food look exactly like the models and actors starring in the commercials. They are skinny pictures of perfect health and happiness. They are happy because they got a nice paycheck for shooting the commercial because it is absolutely not true they eat fast food.  Living in Los Angeles, California and being exposed to the inner working of the entertainment industry (yes it is an industry) I can absolutely guarantee you that none of the paid actors eat fast food.  They share a lettuce leaf and a carrot while drinking a gallon water in between working out at the gym, running, stretching, Botox, incessant weight lifting, and waiting tables at organic, vegan, gluten free, sugar free, starch free restaurants.

We are constantly being impacted by steady streams of negative news and opinionated commentary. With the current news trend of having commentators reduce complex global issues to cynical, dualistic arguments, it is easy to develop an attitude that’s apathetic and fearful of a gloomy world. There is a difference between responsibly staying informed and allowing ourselves to be swallowed up by negativity.

We may view the onslaught of drama and negativity with the cavalier attitude, “I can just tune it out,” or “I am not influenced by it,” or “It’s just a movie or television show.” Yet, scientific research points to how messages and experiences actually change our brain, both positively and negatively.

In The Brain That Changes Itself, Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Doidge advises we carefully select what we listen to and the experiences in which we participate because our brains are vulnerable to outside influences.

We become addicted to porn because repeated exposer rewires our brain.  We become addicted to violence because repeated exposure rewires our brain. We become addicted to negativity because repeated exposure rewires our brain.  Negative in and negative is going to come out.  Our focus cannot be on the negative, drama in life while expecting to create a life of joy, fulfillment and peace.

To create the positive life we want does not mean turning our back on what is happening in the world.  Absolutely we must stay informed and plugged in.  We need to remain empathetic to the trials and challenges of our fellow human beings.  But remaining aware of and immersing ourselves in a sea of constant negativity are two very different things.

It is our heart-responsibility to pay attention to what we expose ourselves to. We have to stay aware of what we’re letting in so we do not let ourselves be influenced by negative, unrealistic, and untrue ideas of what we should be, what our lives should look like, and what should make us happy.

We can start by questioning how the messages we are exposed to impact our worldview. Pay close attention to what is emotionally intrusive and what makes you physically uncomfortable. Notice your stress level when you are exposed to negative editorial commentary or are listening to loud, violent, or denigrating music, television, or video games.

Yes life can be dramatic at times.  And life is also filled with comedy, adventure, and fantastic action. We are surrounded by so much good. To stay plugged into the positive, into the great and wonderful things going on in the world pay very close attention to what you allow into your mind and heart as entertainment. Search out programming that inspires your intellect and supports the positive values you desire to see in yourself, your children, and our society. Send television and movie decision-makers incentives to develop positive, inspirational, and intelligent programming by turning off anything that insults your intellect or offends your values.

Seek impeccable reporting from news organizations you consult. Research the facts regarding current issues, rather than accepting editorial opinion and hearsay as truth. The time has come to use our brain. And, no matter what you do DON’T engage with Trolls. Talk about drowning in negativity.

Remember a little bit of drama comes with being alive but a life filled with drama will never be that entertaining.

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.

My Part in Your Happiness

Wake for Video

We’ve all heard happiness comes from within. Someone else cannot make us happy. We must create our own happiness.  That we are not responsible for another person’s behavior, only for how we behave in response.

I agree. Yes, I am in charge of choosing to be happy, for seeing my glass as full rather than empty, for concentrating on the light at the end of the tunnel, for not depending on others for my overall peace and joy, and for opting NOT to ego-box with people who behave rudely.

Yet, the longer I live, the more I observe the daily interactions we have, I am convinced there is another side to the personal happiness coin that needs a lot more press.  The flip side is you are not the only one responsible for your happiness. I play a role too, because my behavior creates a wake of energy sent outward just like a rock creates ripples on a still body of water.

When I was young, I often went out on the boat with my dad. He liked to fish and I enjoyed being with him. I adored the chill of the early morning air and the sunlight dancing on the surface. I was in awe of my dad’s skill as he took aim, casting the lure between the branches of a long-dead tree, now partly submerged in the water near shore.

To reach the magical spot I enjoyed, we first had to cross a big lake. My father made certain my life jacket was on tight. Then he pushed the boat away from the dock. Once we were safely clear, he put the motor in high gear and we were off, speeding toward our destination.

I didn’t enjoy facing into the strong wind created by the high speed. Holding on tight I looked backward, observing the effect the boat had on the water as we raced over the calm surface. Spray shot up over the bow, wetting us. Buoys jerked up and down as we sped by. A flock of ducks quickly took flight, their tranquil morning disturbed by our waves. When we were closer to land, our boat’s wake crashed hard against the shore.

After what seemed an eternity, we arrived. My dad slowed the boat down and turned the noisy, smelly, water-churning engine off. He moved up front to an electric trolling motor that silently propelled us the rest of the way, leaving only a small ripple as evidence of our passing.

As we moved slowly, without upsetting the wildlife, I delighted when dragonflies landed on the boat. Fish swam close by, undisturbed by our presence. Once, a bird came and sat for a brief moment on the steering wheel.

When it came time to head back, I became disappointed. Too soon we were off again, zooming across the lake, our wake disturbing the water and everything on it as we went by.

Many years later, during an especially hard period, it dawned on me: I am like a boat. I too, leave a wake as I travel through life. Today I choose to move at a slower, more purposeful pace, although I have not always selected the right speed and direction – in the form of responsible behavior – that represented me well to myself and the world.

When I wrote a check that bounced, embarrassment caused me to take my frustration out on the people at the mean old bank. When I had loud parties, I ignored the impact on my neighbors. The plastic cup, or bag, or take-out container I carelessly threw in the gutter became part of a swirling mass of trash in the Pacific Ocean. As a smoker I rarely considered the negative impact my cigarettes had on others or my pets. I did not think about who was responsible for cleaning up the cigarette butts I threw on a public street.

The same was true about leaving my shopping cart behind a car, or in the middle of the parking lot with the rationalization, “someone is paid to put it away.” When I was financially irresponsible, it was not responsible to expect family, friends, the government, or strangers to bail me out.

There was a time when I behaved as a fast boat, churning up waves of drama and chaos that crashed hard over me and others. Looking back, I realize my careless behavior was the result of not thinking about anyone but myself. Finally it dawned on me I could not possibly be the only person who is impacted by the results of MY behavior. That open-hearted aha moment was what it took for me to stop seeing myself as separate and alone and to start seeing myself as one part of our Earth family.

Asking “How will it feel?” is the key which opened the door to my heart. Taking time to put myself in another person’s shoes before I act allows me to be aware of how uncomfortable, frustrated, or lonely it feels to be on the receiving end of rude and thoughtless behavior. It does not feel good to be jerked up and down like a buoy. Being sprayed with or battered by the wake of another person’s unconscious behavior is not enjoyable.

Yes, your overall contentment with life is absolutely your responsibility. And, the other half of that truth is that no matter how much you take responsibility for creating your own happiness – Congratulations by the way! – what I do DOES impact your happiness factor.

You are not going to be happy no matter how much deep breathing you do if I have a cell phone conversation during the middle of your child’s play, a movie, or at a concert.  You can focus all your energy on remaining peaceful but happiness will elude you when I ignore traffic signs and make an illegal U-turn causing a traffic jam. Your calm and balance will go out the window when I behave thoughtlessly and cause a ripple effect that washes negatively over you.

The flip-sided truth to your happiness factor is that although I may live in a free country, I am not entitled to behave as I please! I am not free to do what I want without regard to the consequences of my actions. Action without accountability is not free. There are always consequences!

Our satisfaction and fulfillment in life comes from actively creating and nurturing good relationships with everyone, not just our family and friends. I learned good relationships are not possible if I speed through life carelessly behaving as if I have a special pass to do whatever I want. Today I realize caring about the effect my actions cause is what makes me feel fantastic about me. I now accept there is nothing naïve, submissive, or weak about choosing to stop rushing through life without paying attention to my actions. Real courage is slowing down to keep my heart open to care about you too. That is the responsibility I have for your happiness. Caring about the wake your behavior leaves is the responsibility you have for the happiness of others too.

Positive Skepticism

What The

Do you believe people starring in fast-food commercials actually eat fast food on a regular basis? Do you think your 50 year old wrinkles will go away and you’ll look like the 18 year old in the magazine face-cream commercial? Do you believe you’ll finally be happy when you get the big car, fancy house, cool wardrobe, and hot partner? While there is supposed to be truth in advertising guess what, advertisers lie.

Sure they do with photo shop, by hiring skinny actors who NEVER eat fast food, through deception, altered imagery, and by leading us to believe things are sexy.  How stupid do they think we are?  Pretty stupid because we’re buying their lies hook, line and sinker.

The woman who is wearing the leather mini-skirt does not come with the car you purchase. Dying your grey hair will not have young hot chicks knocking down your door. One fast-food meal packs more calories, fat, sodium, sugar, and preservatives than those commercial actors eat in a month. Those 18 year old cosmetic model photos have been doctored to the point their facial features are perfect. Not to mention the 100,000 dollar lighting system and high-paid photographers. But hey we buy the lies, never once questioning how come our butt can’t fit into our pants since we started the fast-food routine?

How come our 50 year old wrinkles don’t magically disappear? How come all those things we surround ourselves with don’t make us jump for joy 24-hours a day. People who sell us stuff will do anything to sell us stuff.  We have to be smarter and ask ourselves if it’s too good to be true then it is.  Happiness, personal satisfaction and fulfillment in life come from what we put into our hearts – pleasant memories, being helpful and kind, self-respect, family, friends, what we do to give back – not how we look, how much money we make or what size we wear.

The time has come to be honest with ourselves about the dishonesty of the consumeristic society in which we are living. We must be the ones who change this by educating ourselves so we don’t fall for the next tonic salesman who pulls into town. Think for yourself because when it comes to selling, advertisers, newscasters, and corrupt politicians all have swamp land they are eager to unload. We must be smarter than to think miracles come in the form of sexy, or fast, big and shiny things or that we can trust habitual liars to grow a conscious and tell the truth. The time has come to stop selling ourselves so short.