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.
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.
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.