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Put Yourself in Another’s Shoes

I have not had the experience of serving on a jury. I have not been sequestered away from my family for weeks.  I have not been involuntarily thrust into a media and information vacuum. I have not been asked to wade through and make sense of mind-numbing and often contradictory laws and testimony. I have not been faced with having to listen and make sense of heart-wrenching and often contradictory evidence from both sides of a fence. And I have not been forced by judicial mandate to work cooperatively with a set of my peers to come to a decision that must by consensus both disappoint and please. 

No, I have not been asked to endure the psychological and emotional devastation that is the unavoidable fall-out of being a juror selected for a murder trial. 

One truth I have learned is that I do not have to walk in someone else’s shoes to know I do not want to follow in their footsteps. Another truth I have learned is that I would have to walk in their shoes to know for myself what mental and emotional hell going through such an ordeal is like.

 

Being Honest about Being Dishonest

At one time I was about $30,000 in credit card debt. I shopped and mindlessly charged in what I now realize was a desperate and misguided attempt to fill the emotional holes in my heart. My home was filled with stuff and no matter how much I bought, my heart was still empty. I was so tired of feeling out of control, like a hamster going round and round on a wheel.  

It was not easy to admit to myself how far removed I had been from personal responsibility. I ignored my gut and continued to lie to myself that shopping was good therapy. It was embarrassing and shocking to finally own up to the fact that I had been so dishonest with myself. Now I faced a huge financial challenge. Accepting the truth caused such a deep panic I remember falling onto the floor at the sheer impact of my situation. I was immediately filled with fear and worry.  I could not imagine how I was going to pay off all the debt. 

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and finally got control of myself. After a few days of living with the raw honesty of new reality I figured the only way to be free and to begin healing my heart-holes was to assume full responsibility for what I had created.  I tore up all my credit cards and established a payback plan. When the urge to shop hit I took a walk, sat alone outdoors in the natural world, called a friend to catch up, directly addressed the negative thoughts of my past, or went to a local organization and volunteered to help others. With time, each of the self-loving actions I took steadily wore away the need for something outside me to repair my broken heart. 

Over several years I did pay off the debt and today I am debt free. Getting free of such an irresponsible past was one of the biggest challenges I’ve overcome.  It happened when I became completely honest with myself. When I emotionally owned what I had created, instead of mindlessly ignoring what I did, I finally found the strength to successfully get off the wheel that was taking me nowhere.  

Today I am truly grateful for the experience. I know now the holes in my heart could only be repaired with self-love and respect. These are two of the things I found once I had the courage to be honest with myself about being dishonest with myself.

 

Setting Boundaries Brings Higher Awareness

Until recently I had no clue was a troll is.  But in the past month about two dozen people have been banned from my FB page. Most likely their comments were not seen as the security filters are high or I quickly caught their comments.

I am blessed that the majority of us choose to gather on FB to share positivity, support, and messages of inspiration to grow ourselves into better, more responsible, peaceful and loving people.  With that goal in my heart I am happy to engage in discussions that are respectful and beneficial. Also it is certainly okay if someone questions or disagrees with something that is posted. But, I do not engage with people who sarcastically attack others through cowardly cyber bullying.

Being a group of people who are working to live more from heart than ego does not mean we are weak or push-overs. We do not need to be intimidated by those who behave unconsciously motivated by a negative, misinformed egocentric belligerence. I encourage us to remain compassionate in the truth, “if they knew better they would do better.” We remain respectful.  We remain peaceful and calm. We accept the wisdom that there is no merit in ego-boxing with people. 

While some may feel that these people are the very ones best served by remaining a part of our group, each of us must be receptive to looking within to grow and learn. It is my experience some people are stuck in blame, one-mindedness, and resentment to the point they are only open to seeing their angry, condemning and often distorted view of others and the world.

To bring a higher, wiser level of awareness to our lives we refuse to tolerate abuse because abuse is never LOVE. Therefore, part of our responsibility is to set boundaries with people who attack, insult, or bully others. We block them from FB, ban them from hanging around our children, removed ourselves from abusive family and friends, and whatever other actions are necessary to clearly define acceptable behavior in how we treat one another.

The Power of a Smile

Walking home from the gym I passed a very old man in a wheelchair who was sitting next to his care giver outside a local coffee shop.  As I walked by he said, “Hello, gorgeous!” I turned around and replied, “Well hello to you sweetheart.” “Come back over here and say that to my face,” the old man said smiling from ear to ear. 

I bent down, taking his hand in mine and said, “How are you today, sir?” “Just wonderful, and you?” “My day was great but it is even more wonderful thanks to you,” I replied.  He smiled even bigger and winked at me. 

As I walked away I passed a group of women who were walking in his direction. I heard the old man say, “Well hello there lovely ladies.” They were smiling as they stopped to say hello to the old man. 

What a sweet encounter and a great reminded how powerful a smile and a kind word are to brighten someone’s day.

Tough Love

One of the most challenging things about caring for others is accepting we CANNOT control or change anyone else but ourselves.  Our adult child is being abused in relationship, or faces jail time, or is hooked on drugs, or cannot keep a job, relationship, etc.  Yes, these things are hard to witness. And no, we cannot make their choices or live their life for them.

Each of us has our own journey in life. That means when we reach adulthood and we stumble we must choose to pick ourselves up. We cannot do that if someone is there to soften our fall or always pick us up. We do not learn, grow and make positive permanent changes if other people try to do our work for us.

It’s not easy to watch those we care for collapse under the weight of their negative choices. Sometimes we witness this over and over again. But we cannot “fix” someone. Unless that person wants to fix him/herself, our words will fall on deaf ears and a closed heart. 

What we can do is set boundaries to bring a higher level of awareness to the relationship we have with those who are hurting themselves and others.  We can focus our energy on staying centered and balanced so when the people we love decide to pick themselves up and change we are there to offer support. That is why it is called “tough love.” Yes, it is hard and yes, it is still love. 

Yes, You Can

Have you noticed when we tell ourselves we “can’t” do something it actually means we don’t want to? Deep down we know we need to leave an abusive relationship, or master ourselves to say in control of our behavior, or to set boundaries out of love for ourselves. Yes, we can do these things but by saying “I can’t” we actually mean we are afraid to take the actions necessary. We are fearful because we are familiar with our current situation, no matter how bad it is. It has become uncomfortably comfortable. We don’t want to change because we are frightened of how the situation will be if we actually go through by taking the action we know we must.

The absurdity of believing the ego-motivated fear “I can’t” is that we are intentionally preventing ourselves from creating the life we say we want. The actions we are fearful of taking are the exact ones that will end our suffering.

Yes, it takes courage, determination and faith. Yes, we must love ourselves more than we fear the unknown. Yet the hard truth is, we must earn our freedom from suffering and fear because a happy, peaceful and fulfilled life does not just happen. We must intentionally create it. We start the moment we stop telling ourselves “I can’t” and began the self-support of “Yes I can and I WILL find a way.”

Trust Behavior Over Words

One of the most important things I learned is that love is not blind. People showed me exactly who they were. Too often I preferred to see who I wanted them to be rather than who they really were, even when they continued to show me the worst of themselves.

Part of loving me was learning to see people’s behavior for the truth of what it really was rather than the fantasy I was creating and clinging to in the name of love. The first step was learning to see my behavior for what it really is too.

Challenges are Opportunities

Within the first six months of 2001 I had lost my job, my home, my relationship, and the city where I had lived for almost 20 years.  Almost everything I identified with or cared about was taken from me.  This experience taught me that often it takes our being knocked down by life’s challenges for us to recognize there are changes we need to make.

Nothing we experience in life is without purpose. Each trial and tribulation presents an opportunity for us to learn how to be better people and how to do life better. I learned it is choosing to view the challenges of life as opportunities to grow, rather than viewing ourselves as a victim, that leads to our blossoming.

Look for the Truth

Growing up in the Southern part of the United States I was told, “People who live in California are weird.”  I moved to Los Angeles ten years ago this coming January and it is not at all what I was told it was.  Like most things in life we only get someone’s biased point of view when they give their opinion.  It takes real experience for us to know the truth. That is why I make it a point of knowing as many of my neighbors as possible.

We live together in the second largest city in the United States so we live close to one another.  In my neighborhood there are several apartment complexes along with single family housing. We have business owners with shops around the corner. There are several schools so there are lots of children. We are every color, nationality, religion, and for the most part, we live peacefully side by side.  So I want to get to know them as a part of my neighborhood family.

It is important to feel that connection with one another so we watch out for each other. We take care of one another. We appreciate and respect one another.  My life is so much better because I know my neighbors.  They are wonderful testaments to the peaceful, kind, and compassionate world we are creating. I feel blessed to live where I do.

I am also blessed to have learned that simply because someone believes something does not make it fact. People in California are not weird at all.  Just look at what I would have missed had I believed what I was told growing up. I am so glad to have a rebellious streak – at least when it comes to finding out truth for myself.

The Healing Power of our Natural World

During the period in my life when I suffered with depression I kept myself separate from the outside world. Day after day I plodded along doing what I must to survive while on the inside I was totally consumed with my suffering. I was completely focused on how lonely, sad and miserable I was.

One day I got tired of the drama and went for a long walk around a lake at a National Forest. Immersing myself in nature allowed something within me to shift. Completely surrounded by beauty and the wonders of life for the entire day I hardly thought about my suffering, my aloneness, my depression.

While that one outing did not cure my depression it did open the door to what actions I could take to make myself feel better.  Every day I continued to enter into the natural world.  With each outing I felt freer and more connected to all that is alive.  Simply watching a mother duck and her babies, or a dragonfly, or the sunlight dancing on the lake brought me happiness.  It was a very good start and a wonderfully positive habit that I maintain today.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if all we concentrate on is instant gratification, technology, negativity, and our loneliness. It’s easy to collapse into ourselves, our problems, and the negativity. Simply taking time to sit in nature is often just what we need to open the door to allow light into the darkness so we remember there is a way out.