Sometimes the Answer is No
Recently I dipped myself back in to the dating pool. I was feeling confident and hopeful to meet someone for a long-term commitment, maybe even marriage. My first stab at this has proven to be fun, rewarding, and disappointing. But most of all I take away the knowledge that it is OK to feel hurt and even a little angry. I refuse to let those feelings rule me! I will carry on!
It is exciting meeting someone new. From the start I was intrigued with Charles*. He was funny, polite, shared my dislikes, and had a caring side. What I have taken away from this is to be careful if a man wants to be friends first. From my experience this means that they have some baggage that they are not quite over. Friends first means to me we are not jumping in to living together within a month. But we are dating, more in the courting stages. To him it meant no physical touch, rare phone calls, and constant reminders that we are friends.
So after going bowling once and to church one Sunday, we went to dinner and talked for hours on a Friday night. We took a long hike one day and even offered assistance in a bad wreck. But Charles never fully engaged with me. A piece of his heart was still living in Rhoda’s* chest. Rhoda knew it so she was stringing along Charles with texts, phone calls, and through Facebook. I knew this, but I figured having all these good times with Charles, I could break Rhoda’s spell and we would get together. I forgot you can’t change people, no matter how hard you try.
Charles’ relationship with Rhoda came to a head and he made the decision to block her from his life. You would think that this meant he was ready to put me first. No, it was a talk about how he didn’t have romantic feelings for me, and that I had been amazing but he hadn’t healed. I suggested we move on, more or less forgetting about the friend thing. With that it was over.
I will miss Charles. A lot! But I am OK. I realize that Charles’ hang-ups weren’t about me. They were all of his past experiences. Basically cliché’ to say, “That’s his stuff”. So I came up with a little saying, “I get sad when things don't go (my way). When will I learn that God is telling me no gently? If I pursue my way the pain and misery will triple or worse! Thank you God! Today I will be grateful for your no.” I am sure my yes in some form or another is on its way.
*Names changed to protect identity.
Being Present With the One You Love
Have you ever sat in a room with someone and have your mind slip away to some other place while they are trying to share something with you? Have you ever shared a meal with someone whose gaze is somewhere in their own mind while your own thoughts drift into it’s own personal world? Without realizing it, you’ve eaten a whole meal and never said a word to the person you are with. Sometimes it is just hard to let go of the day to be present with your partner.
One of the ladies at Brookhaven Retreat asked me to write a blog and describe a nice evening that would bring two people into the present with one another before going to bed.
So let me tell a story about a boy and a woman named Bill and Bell. Bill was a 12-year-old boy trapped in a wheelchair and trapped in his mind by a hit and run drunk driver and Bell an elderly woman trapped in a wheelchair by age and Alzheimer’s. Both lived in an isolated world without the ability to communicate at a neurologic hospital in Kansas. It was 1988 and I was a communication coordinator, so the story I tell you is true.
Daily the nurses would bring the neurologic patients to the front lobby around my desk. Daily I observed the anguish of human lives trapped in bodies that would not respond to the will of the person inside. These people knew the abilities they had lost when they could not wipe the drool from their lips or the snot from their nose. They did not even have the capability to ask someone, anyone, for help. They were extremely depressed, bitter, and angry for they had survived traumas that took their gifts and their hopes along with the simplest abilities, like feeding themself or holding their own head up. And every morning, here they were, 6 or 7 in a semicircle facing each other and me, waiting for their long days of endless therapy to begin.
The nurses always put 12-year-old Bill by my desk so he could feel the sunshine on his skin, but he always moaned a sad sound as I would put his head back into the strap in order to keep him from helplessly leaning forward into a lap of his own endless drool. He watched the room with eyes aware, but never with a child’s gleam for play or laughter… But then came Bell, a forgotten woman whose only memory was written in a medical record. She had no remaining family, no friends, not a single visitor. Once, she was a music teacher and a Sunday school teacher, but now, for years, she was a woman tied into her wheel chair, lost in her own mind, never really present anymore. She was able only to speak gibberish that made sound but had no meaning.
Bell had a morning ritual or habit, if you will, of scooting her wheel chair across the lobby to the water fountain. As simple as a child, she liked to push the button and make the water arch across the water basin. It was very clear that Bell lived in her own private world when she would push the button to see the water and then raise her arms in the air, scrubbing one with the other as though she were taking a bath. Add to this her soprano shower song of lalala’s and the sight and sound was enough to send a 12-year-old boy into hilarious squeals of glee. Before my very eyes, I tell you the truth, Bell heard Bill from across the room and coming out of her private world, scooted her chair right over to Bill’s chair and began to have a gibberish conversation with Bill. A flood of joy came over Bill so strongly you could feel it wash over the whole room. Every hopeless eye from every chair, including mine, was fixed on the sight. The first time this happened the nurses came rushing to see what was the matter, only to find Bill and Bell completely present with each other in a wonderful and interpret-less exchange that brought two seemingly impenetrable human universes into the same realm.
This same scenario played out before us day after day with Bell never remembering yesterday, or a moment ago, but always, she seemed to know when Bill was having a difficult set back learning to talk and eat and push his limits for recovery. Without prompting she would scoot her chair up to Bill’s and have a gibberish conversation that never failed to amuse and encourage a 12-year-old boy.
With this story in mind, I encourage us all to leave our water fountains and go share a pleasant moment of simple gibberish strolling hand in hand in honor of the simple lesson from Bill and Bell.
*Bill eventually learned to talk and feed himself, even play video games, but he was never able to leave his chair. Bell has long since left this realm, but not forgotten.
Yummy Fruit Salad
As someone who is always encouraging people to get their fruits and veggies in, I am always looking for creative ways to sneak in an extra serving or two. This recipe is easy, healthy, and quite tasty! It’s great for an appetizer at a party or shower, or even as a healthy snack for yourself at home!
The Hopeless Quest for Approval
When we consider the need for approval, it may be helpful to visualize a hamster wheel. Why? Because seeking the approval of others is comparable to running as fast as you can only to end up right back where you started. It’s a hopeless and vicious cycle.
The praises and criticisms we received for certain thoughts and behaviors during our impressionable years of childhood served to formulate a distorted identity (i.e., the ego) which we continue to subconsciously consult as adults. It’s not hard to understand why we would seek validation in those areas for which we were criticized. For example, if we were told when we were young that we weren’t very athletic, it may boost our egos if we’re able to complete a 5K run later in life. But consider the well-meaning parents who may have told their daughter how beautiful and smart she was and praised her if she wore the appropriate kind of attire and made good grades in school.
These parents innocently believed this would give their daughter positive self-worth without considering the imprint they created. Believing that her worth as a person is now based on how smart and pretty she is, this girl will continually search for approval in these areas in an effort to boost her fragile ego. This ego promotes the false notion that, “I am loved and appreciated because I’m smart and beautiful.” Or, conversely, the girl will believe, “I am not loved or appreciated if I’m considered dumb and ugly.” Either way, the damage has been done. The result is a life lived with the impossible task of feeding an insatiable ego.
And when our parents are no longer setting the parameters for what it means to be smart and beautiful, who’s next to unwittingly receive the burden of this task. Our friends? Teachers? Bosses? It becomes a race we can never win. Approval seeking is just as susceptible to the clutches of addiction as the various substances we may abuse to get a temporary boost. The highs come in the form of praises and honors, and disapprovals and criticisms can be debilitating.
If you find yourself trapped on the hamster wheel of approval seeking, it’s time to stop running. Trying to measure up to a distorted sense of self based on long-held beliefs can lead to anxiety disorders, depression, and even thoughts of suicide. Fortunately, it’s never too late to seek help in re-examining the beliefs that are fueling this hopeless quest.
Until we learn how to begin chipping away at the facades upon which we base our identities, approval will always be beyond our reach. You see, it’s not other people’s approval that we truly desire. It’s our own. And approval of ourselves is unattainable as long as we’re presenting to others those parts of our egos that crave validation. Additionally, we can never really trust another’s approval until we have our own approval. And once we have that, we no longer need it from others. Then, and only then, will we be able to restate our original belief and say to ourselves, “I am a smart and beautiful person because I love and appreciate myself.” Not the other way around.
Shadow of a Shadow
When we think of mimicry, our minds turn to sinuous tropical snakes, dazzling butterflies and other fascinating animals that have an ability to look like something else. Often we fail to think of how we experience the concept in our own everyday lives.
In the Amazon, many small, brightly colored frogs are actually harmless, but mimic the violent warning colors of their poisonous relatives. Similarly, are we not careful of all insects with yellow and black bars, despite the fact that many of these are mimics?
As in nature, we use mimicry to hide and protect ourselves, though we may not even be aware of it. It is often defensive behavior; we wish to be perceived as something we are not, and adopt the dress, mannerisms or external characteristics of another. We may do so in an attempt to alleviate anxiety, depression or unhappiness with ourselves by mimicking what we wish we could be, and though we may not always do so consciously, we harm ourselves in the process.
For example, when I became a vegan it was because my friends were doing it, and I wanted to be like them. I grew dissatisfied at having cut out so many foods I enjoyed. It was only when I grew in my own direction, and opened myself to the wonderful world of raw foods and meat substitutes in addition to all of the healthy lean meats, eggs and dairy products available that I truly felt healthy and alive. In focusing on including what made me feel good rather than excluding what others didn’t like I wound up healthier and happier.
As Plato said of mimicry, it creates but a “shadow of a shadow.” The imitation is never as good as the real thing, because it did not develop on its own. In imitating others rather than being ourselves, we keep ourselves from blossoming. In failing to accept ourselves as we are, we prevent ourselves from growing. We cover up our insecurities rather than being mindful and conquering them, and wind up feeling disappointed and insufficient, falling short of an ideal we shouldn’t have.
Take the time to think: is there anything that you do to be like someone else, rather than simply to please yourself? In many cases, that is a sign that we need to listen to ourselves more closely and treat ourselves better. We need to focus on what is good about us rather than what we wish we were.
When we focus on being the best that we can be, rather than trying to be the neighbor next to us, we shine and find a confidence and joy in ourselves that radiates outward for all to see.
Even the Smallest Element Has Power
I love to meditate on the vast connections we have with food. To me, it holds unsearchable insights to the creative wisdom of our creator. Consider for instance that the earth produces food in every color and shade of the rainbow and comes in every texture you can imagine or feel. Each food has the power to trigger digestion with only its individual aroma. Food offers the essential gift of life and is shared within all stages, classes, and cultures of the human race, yet, unlike breathing, it is a gift that must be cultivated, preserved, stored, transported, and prepared. Then its refuse must be handled to prevent disease and illness. There is no exception without consequence. Furthermore, food is symbolically weaved into folklore and fairytales while deeply embedded in tradition and religions. However, what fascinates me most is the molecular science of food.
Like letters in alphabet soup, the sun through photosynthesis, translates and pulls together all of the individual elements of the universe and organizes them into decipherable coded molecules to form active functioning organisms. Without photosynthesis, which occurs in the leaves of leafy green plants, the elements and organisms of the soil and atmosphere cannot capture the sun’s energy for a living body to render a beating heart. This is a universal language existing without our cognitive awareness and is a never-ending source of comfort of absolute wonder and fascination to contemplate.
Powerful, even, is the smallest element on the periodic table, Hydrogen. This is a positively charged element and the source of acidic and oxygen deprived conditions in the body. pH, also called potential hydrogen, is measured on a scale from 0 to 14, with 7.0 being neutral. Anything above 7.0 is alkaline and anything below 7.0 is considered acidic. It is said that life is in the blood and the main function of breathing is to maintain an optimum blood pH of 7.4 so that oxygen can enter and be transported through the fluids of the body.
Consider that stress and anxiety along with the western diet of sweetened drinks and processed foods tremendously overrun the body’s ability to maintain a proper balance of potential Hydrogen. The kidneys and the liver prematurely wear out from trying to compensate and eliminate excess hydrogen. Negatively charged elements such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium are leached from the bone with every carbonated soft drink we consume not to mention the fear and anxiety that unmercifully has hold of our thoughts and hormone responses. When pH levels build up, a list of symptoms appear that include headaches, sleeplessness, confusion, muscle seizures, weight gain, weakness, diarrhea, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, nausea and vomiting, even coma; all from the lack of control over the smallest element on the periodic table.
At Brookhaven Retreat, we offer skills that help teach how to work with the natural design of living to eliminate toxic fears and habits that buildup in the body to restore power to the breath and balance to the whole person.
Have You Lost Your Mojo?
When life is going along and everything in the garden is rosy we are quick to forget how suddenly things can change through no fault of our own. A series of events appear from nowhere and you find yourself suddenly being impacted by them. A major disappointment you could not have anticipated sends your anxiety through a turnstile spin. The betrayal of a friend can be as painful as any known torture leaving wounds, injuries, and eventually scars that may never truly heal. The Achilles heel may be there for life. That term chronic depression may have become real for you. The times of even remembering a skip in your step are faint. Joy has become a foreign word and feeling nothing has become normal.
A renewed acquaintance may say, what happened to that girl with all the bubble and laughs. Your family might say, we want the woman we knew back, where is she. Sometimes others cannot understand where your experiences have led you. Your mojo of life or as the French say the joix de vivre is something that can be lost but it also can be found again. Nothing can happen if you spend your life leaning on a wishbone instead of learning how to build a backbone.
The saying 'no pain, no gain' seems to be true. The pain of emotionally rebuilding is a daunting and painful experience. It's like the rebuilding of Japan after the tsunami. When you are in your most dark depression remember nothing gets better by doing nothing and great feats come from little small daily efforts. It is actually the repetition that helps a person to succeed.
Once you find yourself in a cycle downward it's time to put the brakes on. The bottom of a dark muddy pond is not a lovely place. Start trying to pay three meaningful compliments a day. Think who you feel is doing a good job at something and tell them. Giving somebody the gift of knowing that you noticed them will give you the gift of noticing yourself.
As a technology professional, I should probably be a little ashamed to say that I am not a big user of social media. I have used Facebook and LinkedIn to reconnect with old friends and coworkers that I have lost touch with, and I recognize the great value in that. But I really only log in to these sites when I get rare email notifications or reminders, and occasionally when I am thinking of an old friend and want to leave a message for them.
I am actually mostly aware of these tools when people around me are having negative experiences because of them, which seems to be quite often. Usually it is some kind of conflict between "friends" carried out via wall posts and/or instant messages. People want to share their ideas, likes, complaints, and so on - which is great. And having other people post responses to them is what the social media experience is all about.
But all too often something rubs someone the wrong way. People even post things intended to irritate others. And it can set off a vicious free-for-all of biting, insulting, hurtful and downright destructive posts, which can quickly escalate to even criminal levels. I have seen bullying and hurtful posts severely affect the emotional state of loved ones for weeks at a time. I have seen people posting links to other people's public criminal records. I have seen people ostracized within real-life social groups based on expressing their beliefs and being bashed in the virtual world. We have all heard the reports of cyber-bullying, and most have probably seen many examples of it first-hand. It seems like every week I see a friend or family member upset to the point of tears or angered to the point of throwing things because of escalating social media conflicts.
In a very short span of time we have created all kinds of new ways to communicate - email, text messaging, wall posts, news commenting. Unfortunately they are popping up faster than we can adopt etiquettes for handling them respectfully and constructively.
For quite some time people have been able to write things in letters they would never say to someone's face. But at least with a letter you generally have time to think things through before it is sealed in an envelope, stamped, and picked up by the mailman. Email has shortened this process to the point that we zip off a nasty-gram in no time flat, and we can respond to one just as fast. Text messages have cut the response time even further. We can now misconstrue each other's intent and overreact in record time. Add to that the public humiliation factor of the message board or wall and you have a truly dangerous tool.
I have read concerned opinions that the explosive growth of social media is one of the reasons for the highly divided political environment. Sadly, I believe this. Social media has given us all kinds of new opportunities to divide ourselves into discordant groups. I have seen deep rifts develop among even members of the same family over social media. But social media was intended to enhance our lives, not ruin them.
When someone I know is upset by a posted conversation, I always tell them, "Walk away now!" When someone is angered by these exchanges, there seems to be an overwhelming desire to respond - to "put them in their place" or "make them see that they are wrong". But I have never seen a social media post anything like, "Oh, I see your point now. I was wrong. I apologize." No matter what you write, you are not going to put someone in his or her place, and you are not going to change his or her mind. The only path seems to be greater escalation - with more quoted facts, links to articles and videos and eventual name-calling or worse. An exchange of differing ideas may be healthy, but if you are already upset, then it has gone far enough.
Maybe in time we will all come to a mutual understanding about how to communicate through all these new channels without driving each other mad. Until then, sometimes the only correct response is no response. Don't write that hateful message. Or even the defensive one. Don't dwell on what has been said. Don't read the continued posts trying to goad you to a response. Don't worry that others of your "friends" will form a lower opinion of you if you don't impress them with a brilliant comeback. If necessary, walk away from your social media account for a week or a month. Or cancel it and start over. But definitely don't let it make you cry, give you anxiety, or prompt you to end relationships. If one of your "friends" wants to say something to you that will end your friendship, make them do it in person or at least on the phone. In short, make sure the virtual world remains a small, contained part of your real world.
Just remember that the engaging in social media is supposed to make your life more enjoyable. Avoid those parts of it that are not achieving that result and you can gain something positive from it.
"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
~ Alfred Lord Tennyson
After being part of a married couple, the road to independence can seem rocky and scary. Not only do you have to begin paying bills without the help of a partner, but you also have to find ways to have fun without your ex-spouse. Making new friends and new social activities can be difficult if you don’t get out there. While becoming self-sufficient can be challenging, it also presents many opportunities for you to create an enjoyable new life.
Starting over after divorce or the loss of a partner can be one of the biggest challenges in life, as emotional stress often accompanies financial and family demands. Yet you can take some positive steps to enhance your financial well being today and for the future.
Many express their feelings of loss, betrayal, and confusion. This isn’t the way the story is supposed to end. For many divorcees the question becomes, “now what?” Divorce is not the end of the road. It isn’t easy, and it often is not what we would have chosen, but there are still choices you can make as you deal with this new situation. Start making choices, which will keep you going and growing in the right direction. You need to make choices, which will keep you working through the grief to get on with life after divorce.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Seek a counselor and have support. People from the outside looking in may help you see things from a much different perspective and can help you process your thoughts.
- Journaling your feelings is very helpful when dealing with your thoughts and it can also help you from over pouring your emotions on others in this tough time.
- Start a job search if employment or finances are an issue. Get some help with your resume from someone you know who has some expertise in this area. Sometimes having a fresh start in a career is a great way to heal, take on a new challenge, and completely refresh the environment you’re in on a daily basis. Hopefully you can find a job that you love and you will grow as a person.
- Begin to make one goal a week, which will help your life improve. Exercise regularly. Eat nutritiously. Making small goals weekly will lead up to big goals and life achievements.
If you start to position yourself in a positive light it can be amazing the life you will begin to have. Have faith, wake up every day with a purpose and remember life will be that much more fulfilling.
Accept that life will be a challenge. But, look at the challenges as opportunities to grow in faith and in character and in new skills.
Accept yourself. You cannot build a strong, independent you if you can't live with yourself. Accept your body, your personality, your opinions, your choices, your preferences, and your life story. Do not say things against yourself. Everyone can be strong enough. Everyone has put up with something, proving their strength. Put behind you your mistakes and learn from them. Make an effort to be a better you and most importantly love yourself!
I’ve been doing a lot of Do It Yourself improvements around my house lately. Tiling the bathroom, putting in a vanity and sink top. With this comes a lot of sanding and painting of walls, baseboards, and trim. Everybody paints a little differently. I prefer to look at the surface, find the problem, fill, sand, prime, and then paint. Sometimes it is just plain easier to paint without preparing the surface. I have learned from experience that this is not the way to freshen up your walls.
In life we all have bumps, scars, and dents from our past. It seems for me the easiest way to deal with these “imperfections” is to roll over them. No matter how much I tell myself that I have dealt with the issue, smoothing over doesn’t hide the holes. The hole is still there, just a little brighter to look at. For me I have to dig deeper than that. That spot has to be repaired with the right type of material.
My life is a DIY project in the making. I have to look at my problems and apply the correct remedy, find the right fix, and then fill it. When it comes down to it, the painting is really just a result of a lot of hard work to make the valleys and peaks even. The painting is the easy part. Filling those holes that haunt me is the real work.
I am systematic, so I try to go at it one thing at a time. I first identify the problem. Where is it, what is it, what will it take to repair it. This can be very hard to do. Then I verify the problem is something that I can tackle myself without professional help. I then get out my tool bag and decide, what can fix this crack? What will it take? Prayer, meditation, mindfulness, journaling, or talking? What is the correct filler? Then I use the tool for as long as it takes to feel better about the result. Once I have done all this, then I can start to make the outside layer look better.
What happens is before I even start to finish up my painting, the whole thing is already so much better, It almost seems as if I just have some touch up to do. This might mean I am feeling better and I want to dress better, put on some makeup and I have a smile on my face. What a difference it makes when the job is done right. I must remember to quit painting over the problem and actually admit that it has to be worked on first.