There’s always something to appreciate if you think about it. Even on dark, gloomy mornings, the fact that you woke up to see it, is a blessing. Life is something to be thankful for, and as tough as it may seem now, things change and the road levels off.
I find my own life goes more smoothly if I focus on gratitude at least once a day. Before going to bed is an excellent time to be reflective of the day just lived. I know, some days you’d like to forget. We all have those days. Bad things often happen to make room for new opportunities and growth.
If you can’t find the silver lining in that day, then look around at the people in your life. No doubt many of them love you more than you will ever realize. Love is always something to be grateful for. If there are no friends or loved-ones there, it’s an invitation to step outside your comfort zone—join a group or get involved in a charity or church group. Reach out to a neighbor, co-worker or a stranger who needs help. There are plenty of them around.
Some people keep a gratitude journal. While that doesn’t work for all (me included), it’s easy enough to say outloud five things (events, people, objects, feelings, etc.) you are grateful for each day. Be sure to actually feel the gratitude as you think about each one. Can’t do five? Start with three.
We frequently take people and things for granted. Remember to search for the joy in whatever and whoever is in your life. As the saying goes, tomorrow is promised to no one. Make the best of each day and remember that the more you appreciate your life and the people in it, the easier it will be for more good things to come your way.
After a recent trip to Cape May, NJ, I noticed that many of my favorite photos centered on this walkway from a Sunset Beach cottage to the Delaware Bay. Thinking back, I realized how I have always been drawn to photos of pathways.
Perhaps, the times I enjoy them the most are when I am examining my own life’s pathway. Following a new road can be exciting, scary, and wonderful. The uncertainty of it all can be very enticing. The opportunities it brings can be challenging and stressful. Nevertheless, there is one magnificent guarantee – it will bring change…change which is the driving force of life that frees us from stagnation and allows us to grow.
It’s time for introverts to stop feeling like they should be more like them…extroverts, that is. It seems like there are many more of them than us, or at least it did when I was growing up. I was encouraged to be more outgoing, speak up and, “for heaven’s sake, raise your hand more in class.” Research is now showing that there are differences in brain chemistry and in the way these so-called personalities respond to stimuli and recharge energy. Extroverts are energized by being around others while introverts thrive when they are alone or spending limited time with a close friend. Too many people, loud noise or constant activity drains their energy. However, there is no such thing as a one-hundred percent introvert or extrovert; the majority of people fall somewhere in between.
Introverts, give yourself permission to be you—the deep thinker, the intellectual, the writer, the poet, the artist or silent creator who looks at the world from a place deep inside yourself. If you are happy in your world, don’t allow others’ expectations to be forced upon you. They may perceive your quiet tendencies as uncaring, rude or stuck-up. That’s their stuff, not yours (unless you really are). The only reason that some people may call you out is because of their own emotional response to you. They worry that you are judging, or thinking badly of them, and that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Parents and educators, teach your children, introverts or otherwise, to love and accept themselves as they are. A little person who is made to feel “less than” will waste years trying to measure up. Sadly, some go on feeling defensive about themselves their whole lives. Those who learn to appreciate themselves as children are more likely to embrace their full potential as adults if they build upon a solid foundation that celebrates their special talents and uniqueness.
Introversion has graced us with many brilliant and talented people, i.e. Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein and even, Christina Aguilera. It’s okay to be quiet—some of us need our silence and thrive within it. Don’t make us try to fit into a mold. That’s the quickest way to destroy our spirit.
Forty years ago, when I moved into my first apartment, I came across a beautiful plaque and purchased it for my new home. The wise words written upon it resonated with me from the moment I read them. Back in the 70s, the author was unknown, but it was later discovered to be Max Ehrmann, an American, who had originally published this piece in 1927.
I hope you enjoy reading, or re-reading them if you’ve come across this before.
Happy New Year! May 2016 be one of your best!
Desiderata ( in Latin, “desired things”)
“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.’
Recently I spent a week in Cape May Point, New Jersey hoping to find the magic that I wrote about last year in Magical Moments. Although this trip with my daughter was just as fun and relaxing, I still hadn’t experienced that deep sense of inner peace and connection with “all there is” that I had found there previously…until the night before we left.
I love when the sun or moon sparkles on the water. It speaks to the innermost part of me in ways I can’t describe. Frolicking dolphins are a sure sign that there’s magic in the air. This is when it began for me, about an hour before sunset on Sunset Beach.
I looked at the water through the lens of my camera and the magic began (at least for me).
It’s exciting to catch a wave crashing on the shore.
Just before I left I had to capture this from the parking lot.
I hope you enjoyed sharing my special memories of Sunset Beach! Have you been to a beach lately? Any special moments you’d like to share?
I came across this on Facebook today and was really struck by the warm emotion and thoughts that Mr. Nimoy’s words evoked in me. I smiled as I realized that I have been fortunate enough to have known a few very special people in my lifetime that I can say this about…people who are comfortable sharing the intimacy of silence.
How about you? Have you shared these special moments of silence with others?
Do you ever take the time to notice and reflect upon an unexpected flash of nature? A couple of months ago I looked out of my back window and was amazed to see petunias bursting through a crack in my pavers. How pretty they looked among the hard, gray stones that encased them. I don’t grow any petunias in my yard so that made this sight even more fascinating. It seemed like it was reminding me that beauty can be found anywhere.
Recently, I came face to face with a hummingbird that paused in mid-air and looked directly at me for about ten seconds while I was sitting on my front porch. This amazing creature was only about twenty inches from me. That glimpse into each other’s eyes felt meaningful, like a reminder that all of God’s creatures are one.
While sitting on the same porch two weeks ago, I turned around and saw a huge, green praying mantis crawling along the sill of my front window. I stood up as he came close to my shoulder. Even though we are “all one,” I wasn’t sure that I wanted him crawling along the back of my neck. I went to get my camera and returned to find him climbing up the shutter. I hadn’t seen a praying mantis in a few years, let alone one this large. It is said to be a symbol of stillness and peacefulness. Maybe he was encouraging me to continue in the meditation practice that I’ve been struggling to make a habit.
Could it be that signs like these jump out at us when we get so caught up in our busy lives that we don’t take the time to feel or reflect?
An unexpected smile or reassuring touch from a stranger can brighten our day if we take the time to notice and appreciate it. A quick hug or kiss form a loved-one can do the same especially if we are not expecting it. Do we take the time to feel and appreciate the love in these actions?
The sky is filled with never ending hues of color and unique cloud formations. How often do we look at it or take the time to notice the gentleness of a breeze blowing across our face?
The world is full of love and beauty; we have only to take the time to notice it. Although focusing on it will not remove the bad and ugly that exists, it goes a long way in enhancing our quality and enjoyment of life, as well as bringing more of these lovely experiences into our existence.
For the most part, I enjoyed the time I spent as a therapist working with couples. It was rewarding to see that often all they really needed for a better relationship was improved communication skills. Of course, the tips I am going to give you only work if the two persons involved truly want a better relationship and are willing to work on it.
Many times when a fight begins, it quickly escalates into a shouting match. As both persons become emotionally wounded, it turns into a contest to see who can shout the loudest. The result is that neither person is actually listening to what the other is saying.
The first tip involves clarification. If this heated discussion is going to be productive, it’s important for both parties to understand what the other person is saying. Try responding like this to the first disparaging remark: “Are you saying I’m a fat pig?” The answer may be, “yes,” or the other person may back down and give some type of explanation that diffuses the anger.
The second tip revolves around the use of “I” versus “you” statements. “You this or you that” almost always is perceived as an attack and will incite anger in the other person. Use “I” statements to help the other person to understand how their thoughtless remarks make you feel. “I feel really hurt when you call me a fat pig.”
Remember, both people have to be committed to working on their communication skills to improve the relationship. If so, a dialogue between relatively mature adults could go something like this:
“You’re such a fat pig! Nothing I ever buy for you fits your fat ass.”
“Did you really say I’m a fat pig?”
“Well, yeah. You’re fatter than you should be.”
“I feel really hurt when you talk about me like that. I’m trying hard to lose weight.”
“I don’t like to see you so heavy; it’s not good for your health.”
“Are you saying that you’re worried about my health?”
“Yeah, and I feel frustrated when I buy something in the size you tell me, and it doesn’t fit you.”
“I’m worried about my health, too, but I feel like I want to eat more of the wrong things when you yell at me for being fat.”
“I’m sorry. I want to help, not hurt you. Why don’t we start taking a walk every night after dinner?”
“Okay, and do me a favor and take me with you when you want to buy me clothes so I can try them on.”
“I think we’ve got a deal.”
Well, of course you are good enough! But why is it we don’t always feel that way?
We come into this life packaged with a mixture of genes and energies ready to take on the world. There is no question at that point, that we are equipped to forge the trail of the life that lies ahead. So why is it that when we journey into adulthood we find that fears and doubt have crept in? It’s true that life repeatedly shapes us as time goes on and often chips away at self-esteem, hopes and dreams, allowing negativity to slip into the cracks. But some of those cracks did not begin in adulthood; they developed during the powerful formative years in childhood.
Well-meaning parents may have repeatedly sent us messages such as:
“Your dreams are fantasies that can never happen, they are silly.” The child feels, “I am silly.”
“Shut up; I don’t care what you think.” The child comes to believe, “There must be something wrong with my thoughts and opinions.”
“Why didn’t you get all A’s like your sister? You can do better.” The child who has already done their best believes that the world, as reflected by their parents, will never see them as good enough. “I can’t do well enough even when I try hardest, so why even try?”
“You have to think of others before yourself.” The child hears, “Others are more important than I am.”
Lastly, one of my favorites for children born back in the day, “This hurts me more than it hurts you,” as they are being spanked. The child internalizes, “Love must always involve some pain.”
Of course, everyone’s childhood is different and the effects of repeated messages vary, but the words parents say frequently to their children during the first ten years of life are critical in their developmental foundation. At the end of that period, the child has some scratches and chips in that positive, enthusiastic, loving spirit that was born into the world.
The child becomes an adolescent where conformity is the watchword. This is the period where children learn how to interact in the world with others and parental messages are not as acceptable as the mores dictated by their peers. Trying to fit in by dressing, talking and behaving like the “in” crowd often robs the adolescent of more of their already fragile individuality.
We reach adulthood and the messages continue. Just listen to how TV, especially commercials, portrays the “ideal” woman or man and how social media can crucify an individual because anonymity allows it. By now, though, we hopefully begin to learn that we do have choices in life and don’t have to be dictated to by anyone. We realize that society will respond to us in certain ways depending upon how we present ourselves. Face to face interaction encourages a more realistic appraisal than social media of how we fit within the world, but that is unfortunately becoming less common. Romantic involvements become fertile ground for recreating the unresolved dramas of childhood. Some of these relationships foster emotional growth that is positive in itself but comes at the cost of more injury to that strong and vital birth spirit. Death, divorce and disease happen.
Many of us later in life begin to realize that who we have become is not who we want to be. We may feel discouraged, that something is missing in our lives. We have lost our true selves playing the game of life. All that programming of the earlier years and the busyness of adult life has hidden our true essence. We may have learned to please others and become neglectful of our own wants and needs.
The good news is that at the core of our being, our true self still exists. It is capable of being found if you begin peeling away and letting go of the layers of guilt, inadequacy, and stress that you have allowed society to place upon you. Begin by realizing that your true happiness does not depend on anyone or anything else. It simply lives inside of you as the joy of your existence. This is what you felt when you were born; it is the true essence of who you really are. Spirituality and meditation can help you find it. If that isn’t enough, play back some of those positive tapes from your childhood. Not all parental messages are negative. My father used to say to me,”You can do anything anyone else can do, and chances are you can do it better.” The bottom line is that you are good enough; you always have been and always will be good enough to accomplish whatever you truly wish to do in life.
We came here to connect with, not disconnect from, our true selves. For some of us, this takes a lifetime; others seem to be born with a knowing that we are more than our physical body. Sadly, there are those who barely connect and continue to live a life of quiet desperation, with an empty feeling they try unsuccessfully to fill. Others never connect at all until they die and reunite with their true higher self.
Some of us feel our soul in the whispers of the wind; others in the crashing of the sea upon the jagged rocks. It might be heard in the spring song of a robin or seen in your baby’s first smile. It is that feeling of joy and infinite peace that you experience when you hook up with all that you are – the part of you that never dies but lives through all eternity. How do you connect? What is it you do when you lose yourself completely and time no longer exists?
When you take the time on a regular basis to experience soul-filled moments such as losing yourself in a hobby you adore or quiet moments of meditation, you will find it easier to keep your life in perspective. You will tend to detach, not escape in addictive behaviors, from the pain or complexity of your existence. You will be able to see through more neutral eyes as your ego-driven personality relinquishes control, and you become capable of seeing who you really are, in love and light. Not only will your health improve, but you will feel at peace as you see the wholeness and magnificence of this unique, loving being you were created to be. Nothing will seem impossible to you then. All problems are solvable, and they no longer even matter. Isn’t that a good place to be?