What if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the statement above was a given? How would your day begin and end and what would be sandwiched in between those two slices of fragrant, raisin flecked cinnamon toast (if that is your bread of choice…for some it might be hardy organic 12 grain with a whole bunch of seeds, or a a delicate, fluffly croissant)? I invite you to take a moment to contemplate if it feels like a ridiculous question or the most ‘of course’ one in the world? For this born optimist (as I referred to myself in yesterday’s entry), it is as natural as breathing and yet, there are times when I need to be reminded, in the hustle and bustle of daily activity, to take a deep breath, just as I need to be tapped on the shoulder and recognize that something wonderful has ALWAYS come out of even the most painful experiences.
Yesterday, as I sat with patient after patient in my day job as a social worker in a psychiatric hospital, it took all I had at times, to maintain that knowing. Hearing stories that would curl most people’s hair, I am always amazed at the resilience some people exhibit and the utter will it takes at times, for folks to keep on keepin’ on. Then there are others who, in some ways, continue to identify themselves by their wounds, rather than the triumphs over the adversity they have faced. I asked a few pointed question of one such person who sat in my office…”What if you could see yourself as a healthy, functioning (I hesitate to use the word ‘normal’, joking that it is a setting on washing machine) person? How would you act, what choices would you make, how would you feel?” She responded that it would feel weird, she wouldn’t know how to feel, but she did know that she would refrain from harming herself as she had so many times before. I challenged her to take a look (as I do with many abuse survivors) at the ways in which she continued to perpetuate the abuse that had been inflicted on her in her life. It’s a common theme among survivors who still feel like victims. She smiled and seemed as if she was REALLY letting it soak in, that she could have a different type of life than she had been experiencing. She then asked me for literature on one particular treatment modality that could benefit her.
Last night, I attended a class that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, called No More Difficult People, taught by Dana Lightman and found that these ideas were reinforced, that we are always at choice with the ways we respond vs. react to anything that comes our way, once we realize the mental mechanism behind it. It is not about what anyone says or does, it is the lenses through which we view anything that occurs. Any of us can get scooped up and carried away by our emotional overwhelm and overload. It is referred to as emotional hijacking. I think of it as a tidal wave of feeling that sometimes sweeps me off my feet and knocks me on my tush. My recovery (and yours) depends on how readily I/we can get back up and dry off. There have been times when I have remained soaked and feeling much like a drowned rat and then there are others when I have basked in the warmth of the sun, shaking my head in awe at what I have rebounded from. As Oprah says at the end of each issue of O Magazine “What I Know For Sure”…is that, regardless of appearance, something wonderful is ALWAYS there for me and for you.
In the midst of any given day, I can find something to ‘kvetch’ or ‘kvell’ about. For those who are not familiar with those Yiddish terms…here is a primer. The first word means to complain persistently, to whine or catastrophize. The second is to burst with pride, joy and excitement over an accomplishment. What amazes me is how quuckly I can shift back and forth between those polarities. All it takes is mindful recognition. It also takes intention setting. Each morning, sometimes even before I open my eyes, I state my affirmation that I am attracting amazing people and having extraordinary experiences and each day I do. It doesn’t mean that things flow smoothly all the time. It does mean that I am better able (sometimes with a pretty wild internal 2 year old temper-tempest) to gracefully recover when things don’t go ‘my way’…although, since I believe that the Universe is on my side (and yours).
What wonder do you anticipate today?
A little reggae to begin and end your day? http://youtu.be/zVdfANgPAz4 Wonderful World Beautiful People by Jimmy Cliff
Did you know that October is Positive Attitude Month? I just found out and it lit a smile on my otherwise sleepy face this morning. As I look out my window, I see a grey sky and have the desire to go back to bed. Flannel sheets feel pretty appealing on a chilly morn. In this moment, I KNOW I have a choice. I could grump and grumble “I don’t wanna” get out of bed and go to my full time job that is 45 minutes away and then take a CEU class tonight to help me maintain my Social Work license, which lasts until nearly 10 pm on a night after a day like yesterday when I kept a similar schedule. OR I can take a deep breath and recognize that I am beyond grateful that I have a job that allows me to make a difference and pays my bills. Many people can’t say that.
The class I am taking is called No More Difficult People and is being offered by the dynamic and engaging Dana Lightman who I was thrilled to have met a few years back when she taught one called Power Optimism. The idea is that optimism (although she claims to be a born optimist…me too:) is also a learned skill and with it in our tool kit, we can move gracefully through even the most challenging situations. She uses a concept that she calls re-interpretation, that I refer to as re-framing. What it comes down to is viewing ANY situation; even one that could be excrutiatingly painful, as something meaningful from which we can learn and grow. It doesn’t mean we have to like it, or even desire it, but can use it to heal old issues and move forward. It comes down to this…while we may have no control over the circumstances we encounter, such as the death of a loved one or being at the whim of someone else’s choices, we ALWAYS are at choice about how we either respond (with mindful awareness) or react (with impulsive, shoot from the hip 0-60 in ten seconds flat behavior that doesn’t serve us or resolve the problem) .
At my day job, I come face to face with folks whose default mode is often victimhood. While many of them were at one time, ‘victims’ of someone else’s behaviors, one of my chosen roles is a guide who shows them that there are alternatives to continuing to see themselves that way. Sometimes a person will get an incredulous look on his or face as if to ask, “You mean I don’t have to keep feeling like this? You mean things can change?” I assure them that this is indeed the case. And then there are others who steadfastly and with entrenched beliefs, contend that the way things have been are the way things will always be. That’s when I think…”Ok. game on!” and I pull out my own tool kit of metaphor, concept, life lesson that has come my way, in order to reframe their beliefs that have kept them stuck where they are. Think of the movie Groundhog Day as a symbol of the definitition of insanity…’doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’
Keep in mind that I’m not talking about sugar-coating or denying the events that are occurring. If you wrap dog poop in a pretty package, it’s still dog poop. What I am saying is that it is possible to find meaning in the madness. Think of times in your life in which you overcame challenge and turned it into triumph. I can list many in my own life and I remind myself frequently when confronting the ‘it’s not fair, how come….’ doubt monsters that tell me that I am not where I want to be in my life.
Last night, I came smack dab against one of my own doubt monsters. Most people see me as bright, cheery, confident and optimistic, or so I’ve been told. I had a book signing that had been set up for several weeks and I was excited about it. Heading over there, the old thought “What if no one shows up? What if no one buys the book?” hammered away at me. That chattering monkey mind can be so very clever. I walked around the store which I love since it contains so many cool things to peruse and many of the items are spiritually eclectic. I took deep breaths, reminding myself, as my friend Reid Mihalko loves to say, and had encouraged me when I was feeling nervous about facilitating Cuddle Party workshops “Darlin’, the event will go as the event will go.” And so it did. By the end of the night, I was delighted to have had a steady flow of folks coming in and taking home the book and some sweet surprises of friends that I didn’t expect, but whose bright smiles and celebratory hugs brightened my night. Sometimes it really is that simple a reframe. I look back on the past 53 years of my life and am certain that (although it may not seem that way at the time), things always work out for the highest good.
Do you see yourself as an optimist or pessimist? Are you a glass half full or half empty kinda person? My contention is that the glass is always filled to overflowing, since, even if it is only partially filled with liquid, the other portion is filled with air. In what ways will you celebrate Positive Attitude Month? What ‘impossible’ beliefs of lack and limitation can you transform into ‘I’m possible’ briliantly shining reality? I daresay that you will enjoy the outcome so much that you will make it an every day event.
I encourage you to go to Dana’s website and learn about ways to ‘optimize’ your potential.
POWER Optimism Quick Tips
Start A Positive Bank Account
Say “thank you” for the little things that happen throughout your day, like finding a great parking spot, seeing a beautiful butterfly or meeting a deadline. Making daily “positive deposits” pays off…you can draw on your positive surplus to offset setbacks.
Freedom from Fretting
Create a worry box to curtail constant rumination. Write your worries on a piece of paper and put them in the box for safekeeping. Set aside a worry period to read the papers in your box and remind yourself that these thoughts are off limits while they are in the box.
Whistle A Happy Tune
Take a catchy tune, one that really gets your toes tapping and your blood flowing. Now, create your own positive lyrics to go with that tune and have some fun singing your new creation. Before you know it, you’ll be humming the “positive” throughout your day.
Mental Rehearsal Pays Off
Tap into your imagination’s positive potential by rehearsing your desired performance in your mind. Be sure to put yourself in the visualization. Now, play the scene in your head as if you were watching yourself in a movie. Enjoy the scene. Smile and feel the satisfaction of success.
Turning Your Desires into Reality
To turn your new desires into your current reality, try creating a collage that describes your desires in pictures and words from magazines or clip art. Hang the collage in a prominent place where you can easily see it. Look at it often and feel yourself growing into the ideas expressed in the collage.
http://youtu.be/iJgxJ6JrPkc Wake Up-John Legend and The Roots
Today I was musing with my friend Cindy, that a year ago marks the last time I saw my mother prior to her passing on November 26, 2010. Halloween weekend had me heading southward to sunny South Florida for what was to be a final period of laughter, sharing of stories, hugs and cuddles and chocolate with the woman who 52 years and two weeks earlier, had birthed me into the world. Little did I know at the time, that we were in the final stages of birthing her into her new life.
I asked if she wanted to go trick or treating and she said that she would rather that the little ones come to her. I suggested that we dress in costume and she said she didn’t want to scare the kids. So, instead, we sat together with a big bowl of mixed candy on her lap and with pumpkin colored bags on my lap, and scooped up handfuls and dropped them into their containers. Later that day, three of the neighbor children came into the living room in their costumes, wanting to spend time with this eternally youthful kid in an old person’s body who they saw as a surrogate grandmother. I was delighted to witness that they found her company to be as sweet as, and more compelling than the treats she offered them.
We reminisced about the Halloween party we had at my childhood home for which she sewed pumpkin costumes for my father and herself, my sister and me, including hats with stems that tied under our chins. We stuffed the costumes with newspapers that rustled when we moved. Green leotards and orange facepaint adorned our bodies and cheeks. I thought it was the coolest thing to have a mother who was so creative. Even my dad got into the spirit of it, since he too was a big kid. I reminded her of the year that Jan and I both dressed as Mary Poppins, complete with little parasols that we twirled and pretended could help us fly.
As I look back on that particular weekend, I realize that, even not knowing at the time that I would not be holding her hand or hugging or kissing her again in this lifetime, I felt complete, holding nothing back, saying all that needed to be said. I am amazed when I consider how this year has unfolded, from her death, to her funeral, from handling her affairs to completing my book with her encouragement on this earth plane, to the ongoing support from wherever she is at the moment, to the opportunities to connect with so many kindred spirits, to the “Mom Miracles” and butterfly sightings that have occurred…I am simply blown away. Lest I forget…love lingers…and I am grateful~
For the sweet soul she will always be~
http://youtu.be/eKfbVAO6VGA All Souls Night-Loreena McKennitt
Over the weekend, I found myself sitting in a circle of friends; many that I have known for years and one I was just meeting for the first time. What we had in common was a love of life, a keen interest in learning and expanding our horizons and abiding connection with spirituality. Another thread was that we were all over 50 and therefore were part of what they call an Elder’s Circle. Since I turned 53 a week ago, it was no big deal to recognize that I am now a seasoned woman; a term I love, by the way. Aging looks and feels nothing like I anticipated and yet, I had not considered that I am now an elder with wisdom to share as a result of having clocked more than half a century on the planet. I am noticing a few changes in my ability to retain information and find just the right word; which can be frustrating at times as a born communicator. My steel trap memory seems to be wearing a bit thin around the edges and I accomodate by injecting humor. I used to strictly say I was having a ‘middle aged moment’, but that seems to reinforce the belief that I have to have memory lapses. Instead, I now say that I am having a ‘wise woman moment’, since the older we get, the wiser we grow. I also tell folks that the mental hard drive is getting full. The truth is, I have so much to remember that the un-neccesary things get pushed to the background. Often times when I am presenting, people have asked me to repeat what I just said and sometimes, I just can’t, since the info often comes through me and not from me in a channeled/downloaded from Source kinda way.
I do know, that in my 50’s I have far more get up and go than I had in previous decades. I seem to require less sleep, which is a good thing, since it has been at a premium lately. I have enlivened passion for life, zest for taking it all in AND the discernment to know what is good for me and what quite simply, does not serve. I am grateful for the energetic resources to live fully.I have earned every laugh line and grey hair, which I have decided to let go natural…Jamie Lee Curtis and Emmy Lou Harris wear it well, so I suppose I can too. I have gleaned insight into what makes me tick and what makes the world go ’round. I have an ever-expanding circle of loved ones. I am more comfortable in my own skin and take better care of myself every which way around than I did in my 30’s and 40’s. I take ’emotional bungee jumping’ risks…not the least bit interested in the real thing, thank you very much. I say yes to what I want and no to what I don’t want. I have connected my wish bone with my back bone and stand up for what I believe in. I ask for what I desire without stuttering most of the time. I can gaze backward at accomplishments with a sense of appreciation that I have a solid track record. I can envision forward into the next decade and know that it will be magnificent.
I have wonderful role models for successful aging, including my friend and mentor, Yvonne Kaye, who I mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry. My parents who lived to their middle 80’s, were shining examples of activity and volunteerism into the 8th decade of their lives. My mom taught a senior stretch class called Stretching with Selma and my dad worked in a gym until a few years before he died. He too volunteered at their town center, once playing Santa Claus…likely the only one in their history named Moish who had to stuff the Santa suit with a pillow, because he was so trim. My Aunt Edith lived to be 103 and was independent into her 90’s until she fell, broke her hip and spent the remainder of her years cared for in a nursing home. In her 60’s, she took up painting and I have a few of her pieces here in my home as a reminder that creativity knows no age limit.
My friend Jim Donovan wrote a book called Don’t Let An Old Person Move Into Your Body
There is a wonderful article in Yoga International Magazine about the subject of graceful aging in the face of physical challenge by Deborah Willoughby
Rabbi Zalman Schacter Shalomi wrote a book entitled From Aging to Saging
One of my favorite songs about aging You’re Aging Well by Dar Williams and Joan Baez http://youtu.be/1uIAVpM-D_A
And one more for the road….The Traveling Wilburys http://youtu.be/cwqhdRs4jyA
May we all age well~