Recently I was in conversation with a woman who by most standards, is stunningly beautiful; tall and statuesque, well groomed and decked out…..and yet….she has inner hammering thoughts that say she isn’t thin enough and attractive enough. She is nearly constantly comparing herself with others; women in the supermarket, in cars next to her on a highway. How she looks matters more than who she is. I felt a sense of sadness as I listened to her. She is successful in most people’s view, with a well paying job and yet, she doubts her value. I wondered instead about her values, so I asked her if presentation matters more than perception. I felt even more dismayed when I heard her answer and applied it to my own life. I sometimes make how I present to the world more important than my own perception of who I am. One thing I know for sure, is that no matter HOW I present myself, I have absolutely no control over how anyone perceives me.
That’s when I need to take personal inventory and ask if my behaviors are in alignment with my values. Am I acting in such ways as to manipulate people into seeing me as I want to be seen or am I genuinely moving from heart and consciousness? There was a time when I attempted to micromanage my relationships, wanting only be seen in a certain light, so as to get my needs met. These days, my intentions are more pure (remembering that I am a human BE-ing and a work in progress) and not meant to control any0ne’s opinion. When I fall into that old pattern, life shows up in such a way that reminds me to be clean in my interactions.
When I look in the mirror, I sometimes see a different image than others do. Most people find it hard to believe that I am 54; but I can assure you by showing you my birth certificate that I was born in 1958. There are days when I feel 24 and some days 74. When I look on a surface level, I see wrinkles, and gray hairs and when I look more closely, I take in the image of a woman with laugh lines and well earned silver sprouting in between the dark chestnut elfin shorn hair. My energy peaks and ebbs depending on activity level and requirements of my day. I am not afraid of growing old, since my role models for aging have been mostly positive. Most who fear aging usually verbalize that it is because they see it as a downhill slide into losing vitality. Instead, I view it as an ongoing experience, a drinking in of life, slurping from the bottom of the glass, rather than pushing it away out of fear of loss. Such a paradox.
At the end of any given day, if I can look in the mirror and feel in harmony with the face gazing back at me, then perception and presentation are one.
For all who doubt their beauty and measure it by unrealistic standards.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOfhbLn8fw8 Beautiful by India.Arie
As I was sitting in a wooden pew, a few rows behind my best friend Barb and her family; we honored the life and passing of her father, Ralph. A little more than a month earlier, we were gathered around festively decorated tables, celebrating his 90th birthday. In the interceding weeks, life energy ebbed from him and last week he made his opening farewell and moved on to wherever his Spirit now resides. The presiding priest of the sacrament of the Catholic faith that Ralph embraced, assured those present that “God’s servant was now with his savior.” His voice, likely having recited the funeral mass countless times, was soothing, as were the prayers that were familiar to most there. A specific hymn reached my heart, since it was one that we sang at my ordination from The New Seminary, as an interfaith minister in 1999; called Here I Am, Lord. The service ended with the singing of Let There Be Peace On Earth. My experience of Ralph was that although he was not an overtly religious man, he did seem to be a peaceful man.
During the service, I took note of the line of heads from left to right of Barb, her husband Glenn, their son Alex; a student at Ohio State, Cady; my 14 year old God-daughter, Blake, in her first year at Temple University, and 7 year old Darah. The words to the Jim Croce song Time In A Bottle, ran through my head. Wishing I could capture memory and hold it literally, rather than figuratively in my mind. Barb and I met nearly 40 years ago on our competing community swim teams as we sat on the bench waiting to swim our events. We joked that we “swam on different teams together.” Hard to say what brought together a Catholic parochial school educated kid and a Jewish public school kid in such an enduringly bonded friendship. We had swimming, music, being the oldest of two (she has a younger brother and I have a younger sister), feeling a bit weird in a world of ‘normal’ people, in common. We loved singing along to records of musicals. It was she who introduced me to Jesus Christ Superstar and last year we saw the musical Godspell on Broadway. Jewish holidays were spent with my family, Catholic holidays with hers. For a few years, in my late teens, I was in relationship with Paul who went to her Catholic High School. Interesting the trajectory of her life led her to marry a Jewish man, send their children to Hebrew School; the oldest three having become Bar and Bat Mitzvot, the fourth, 5 years off yet. A few years ago, Barb converted to Judaism. As I watched her move through the inevitable doorway to becoming an ‘adult orphan’; her mom died more than 6 years ago, I noticed the same ‘get through it’ energy that I experienced when I crossed that threshold myself two and a half years ago.
It reminded me that ‘everyone is on loan to us’, as I was informed more than 14 years ago, when facing my husband’s death. It brought home ever so clearly that I need not waste time wondering ‘what it’ and instead embrace ‘what is’. In that way I can fully imbibe the sweet contents of each bottle.
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go Through time with
If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go Through time with
Songwriter(s): Jim Croce Copyright: Denjac Music Company
www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1YxczPEPrs Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce
I read this article by Miriam Hall, on another site for which I write, called Elephant Journal
The Basic Goodness Manifesto:
I trust in my own and others’ goodness.
I know that caring changes everything.
I trust my heart.
I trust you.
“We declare May 7, 2013 to be Basic Goodness Day, a day when people all over the world, no matter what their beliefs, religion, culture, or creed, collectively affirm their own and others’ basic goodness.
We want to live in a world of peace and goodness. We want a world where the highest values are tolerance, generosity, creativity, kindness, and fearlessness rather than self-absorption, aggression, and speed.
We all know—can feel—that there is an enormous collective longing for a world that operates on principles of sanity. But where to begin?
All you have to do is know beyond doubt that you are good, that you possess inherent worth and value.
When you do, something extraordinary happens. You come into your power. Your confidence rises and your distrust lessens. Your world becomes full of possibility rather than hassles. You see that others also possess this goodness and your heart opens to them.”
This came from the Shambhala Buddhist tradition and it echoes my own belief that people are intrinsically good and want to reflect light and love. It is when we lose our moorings and our moral compass goes haywire with the needle spinning about wildly, that we act in ways that counter this instinct. As a therapist for more than 30 years, I have witnessed first hand, the impact of erroneous beliefs of unworthiness. Addiction, violence against loved ones and strangers, and wars grow from the seeds of shame and self loathing. I was on Facebook tonight and saw a posting that appeared to be accepting of disciplining children by striking them with a belt and it was expressed in what seemed meant to be a reminiscently humorous way. When I commented on it, the person who posted it, offered the to-be-expected answer that all those she knew who experienced it turned out to be happy and well adjusted adults. My view is that they may have done so in spite of and not because of corporal punishment. When we attempt to control another person’s behavior out of fear, then we are on that slippery slope to the proverbial (as in Star Wars) ‘Dark Side’. I countered with the statement that if one adult hit another adult with whom they disagreed, with a belt, they could justifiably be charged with assault.
What if we saw everyone who crossed our path as that innocent newborn that they all once were. How would we treat each other and ourselves if we recognized that tiny God-spark that got itself born, before they/we were indocrinated to hate and fear?
How do we instill that in ourselves and each other?
Tell yourself each day that you are loveable and capable.
Take an inventory of the positive qualities you possess.
Affirm yourself when you engage in a loving act.
Write yourself and other people, love notes.
Compliment people in your life.
Praise for a job well done.
Express gratitude even for the things that may not feel wonderful, since they too are our teachers.
Be kind and compassionate.
And as E.T. said, “Be good.”
If you are of ‘a certain age’, you may remember the show from the 1960’s called Father Knows Best. While that may be so, in s0me cases, it is the contention of veteran journalist and award winning author Patti Murphy that indeed, Mother Knows Better! She has gathered together over 200 bits of wit and wisdom offered by mothers of women and men primarily from the U.S. and some sprinkled in from Canada and compiled them into a book entitled Mother Knows Better! Sense and Nonesense From American Moms. Her debut book was called Mother Knows Best – Wit and Wisdom From Idaho Moms, in May, 2011.
The idea for the book emerged from a conversation that Boise, Idaho ‘Chief Storyteller’ at Murphy Media Services had with a friend who was shrimp averse. When Murphy asked her why she wasn’t indulging, her friend responded that her mother always told her that shrimp tails were poisonous. (I’ve eaten plenty of shrimp and I’m still here to write about it!) She became fascinated with this particular brand of folk lore, intended to steer their kids in the direction of a successful life.
I chuckled as I read many, since some of these mom-isms were likely handed down from generation to generation without consideration of their meaning.
How’s this one :”GINGO-NETTIES!” was shared by Stephen Lowell whose mother Margot Lowell used to shout it out “when things got crazy with all the kids running around.” He goes on to say “All of us froze, calmed down and behaved. We took it as the word that indicate Mom has really lost it. Time to be good or else.”
When Rachel Kerstetter would ask her mother Charlaine Engelhardt what was for dinner, she would reply: “Lizzard gizzards and swamp weed.”
By way of reminding her of the importance of modesty, Nikki Conyers- Jackson’s mother Eloise Conyers-Jackson would admonish her “Keep your panties up and skirt down.”
“Your get up and go got up and went.” was offered by Helen Kennedy to her son, Academy Award winning actor George Kennedy.
From the mind of Lela Wing Benson, mother of Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson, came “Don’t walk on the carpet! It messed up the vacuum lines.”
And the reassuring “Don’t be scared. Thunder is just the clouds bumping together,” was declared by Deborah Hightower’s mother Shirley King.
I was honored to be included, with two (of many) pieces of guidance that my mother Selma Weinstein fed me throughout my life. The first was a question: “What would you do if there was a sudden freeze and your face got stuck like that?” and the second which served me particularly well:”Walk in like you own the joint with your head held high,” to which I would add “knockers up.”, so that I wouldn’t be intimidated by anyone. As a result, I have been able to interview notables in the arts, academia, politics, peace, healing and personal growth and take leaps into experiences that might otherswise have frozen me in my tracks.
This is an ideal Mother’s Day gift as it seems to have advice for nearly every circumstance, the profound and the profane with humor and grace, with guidance for how to be and how NOT to be. Think back on what words your mother provided you that serve you to this day and thank her.