Tag Archive | beauty

Are you wearing sewage stained glasses?

It’s a lovely day out there and the little man is headed to school having recovered from a bout with the stomach flu over the weekend.  Although he was feeling better, this morning he woke up with a spirit that was lacking in gratitude. He’d forgotten all about his excitement on Saturday at finding an Army duffel bag from the Korean War, and many other treasures, when he helped clean out a friend’s garage.

He’d also forgotten about all of the board games, books, and DVDs, that we had gotten for free after a yard sale closed yesterday, on our way home from a ginger ale and Jell-O run. What did he feel he was missing in life? Television… He had a sleepover at a friend’s house Friday night and was able to watch copious amounts of television.  Suddenly something that we have not had for nearly two years was all that he could think about.  I am considering it, television, but it is not a top priority to say the least.

Flowers from the front yard!

Flowers from the front yard!

When we go through a day feeling lack…lack for what we do not have, or lack of gratitude for all that we do have, it is like putting on a pair of sewage stained glasses, and everything we look at is tainted by the color and stink of that sewage. We become blinded to all of the goodness in life, and close our hearts to gratitude.  However, it does happen to the best of us at times, even me. 😉

A sense of lack often leads to thinking that we lack even more, as we continue to compare what we have to what others have and end up feeling even more ungrateful and lacking, whether it be lack of personal attributes, or lack of things.  Comparison almost always leads to a feeling of lacking in some way or another, which is why God cautions us not to compare ourselves with others.  It this world, that is hard not to do, but not impossible.

The little man is only 8 years old and at his age, comparison at school, and out in the world, is common.  He is using comparison to figure out how he fits into the world.  His teacher tells him not to compare, and I do the same, but it seems to be human nature, whether we are 8 or 80 years old.

I know several people in the late 70’s who constantly measure their own worth by what they have that others do not.  At 8 it is something that is fairly natural, and provides many teachable moments to help the child value who he is as an individual, and to help him to know and appreciate just how blessed he truly is, and how he can use his blessings to bless others.  At 80 years of age, it is a sad sight seeing someone who feels that the only way to measure up is to outdo everyone.

God loves people who are content with what they have, and who feel as if they are lacking for nothing.  God loves people who feel that they are enough, and have enough, and likewise, other people are drawn to those who are content within, and without, both literally, and figuratively speaking.  Gratitude does not come naturally to everyone, but I believe that it can be nurtured within, and learned over time, and strengthened into a habit.

Once you begin to appreciate all that you do have, it is amazing just how much more begins to show up. You will find yourself surrounded by grateful, content, people, and as you open up to feeling that you have enough of all that you need, you will also open yourself up to receive the things that you may have been blocking with those sewage stained glasses—opportunities that you just could not see, or did not believe existed will become visible, and obtainable.

So, today, put on a spirit of plenty, and glasses stained with the color of joy and gratitude, and don’t be tempted to take them off.  If you need to wear a pair of blinders for a time along with your joy tinted glasses that is perfectly all right.

Once you establish your focus on gratitude, goodness, and plenty, and make it a habit, the blinders will naturally fall off in such a way that your view of life will be brighter, balanced, and the scent will be so sweet that you will not believe that you lived with the scent of sewage for so long.  Take the time to develop a habit of contentment and gratitude.  It is a very worthy summer project with such beauty all around!

Celebrating life every day

Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!

 Amanda Bradley quotes

Today I am celebrating life because life is good every day, and God is good every day.  As a culture, we tend to wait for a holiday or a certain event to feel as if we are allowed to celebrate, but this way of thinking robs us of the opportunity to celebrate every single day.  We need to give ourselves permission to find cause to celebrate each day no matter the date, or the reason.

Perhaps you are thinking right now that there is no real reason to celebrate–that you have nothing worth celebrating.  That sort of thinking usually stems from a lack of gratitude for the miracles present in each moment of life.  It can take practice to develop an attitude of gratitude, but it is something that will change your world, and your view of life in general.  Even on a day filled with annoyances, distractions, and unfortunate events, there are things for which you can be truly grateful.  Start small by making a list of five things that you are grateful for and do this every day.  Over time you will find that your list begins to grow and then it will grow again some more.  Look around you, wherever you go, specifically searching for often unseen things to dazzle and amaze you.  As you begin to notice more, your gratitude will increase yet again, and as your gratitude increases, so will your desire to celebrate life daily.

Certainly, there are many conscious choices that you will need to make if you are not in the habit of celebrating life.  Deciding to feel grateful is one of them, and deciding to be responsible for your own happiness is another choice you will need to make.  You will have to choose to slow down and look around.  You will have to choose to begin to work towards becoming someone who sees the positives in life more than you see the negatives.  You are going to have to let go of grudges, and complaining, and blaming, and feeling sorry for yourself.  Those are big choices filled with huge responsibility to yourself, and others, and it will take work.  Begin by believing that, step by step, you can do it.  Choose not to get discouraged, or berate yourself if you have to keep starting over.  Just begin again and keep moving forward.

As you make headway with these thought changes you will find that you will begin to celebrate life without having to force yourself to do it.  Sometimes you will find yourself swept over by random gratitude waves so big they nearly wash you away.  You will feel joy and wonder for reasons others cannot quite comprehend.  Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.  Go on and celebrate anyway!

What does celebrating life look like in practice?  That will differ for each individual, so be creative and follow your heart in how you celebrate.  As you become a happier, more grateful, and celebratory person, do not hide your sparkle and shine, not that you really will be able to hide it.  Imagine what a gift you are giving your family and friends with your new way of life!  Think of the many excellent and valuable lessons you are teaching your children each time you dance with them for no reason, or bake cupcakes just because it’s Friday, or watch a special movie together just because you are so happy to be with them.  Your personal changes will have a huge ripple effect on the people around you, and you will find more and more to celebrate effortlessly, and so will the people around you.

For me a celebration can be as simple as painting my nails, or watching a movie, or dancing in my living room with my son, or outside under the stars by myself.  It may mean making a nice meal, or baking cookies, or cupcakes, or counting Lady Slipper’s as I walk up my hill.  I counted 43 yesterday.  I think that is cause for celebrating life, and I am doing that today, all day.  How will you celebrate this amazing life that you have been given today?  When you think about it, there is no reason not to celebrate!

The Beauty All Around Us….

Today I am going to do something a little different.  I am going to tell a story using pictures.  I am not known for my stellar picture taking skills.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  I am known for taking an endless series of extremely blurry pictures, with one exceptionally good photo taken of the whole family on Christmas morning.  That single good picture per year is known as “The Silver Tuna,” a Home Alone reference, another cult classic movie in our family.  I live for “The Silver Tuna.”

My son and I live in a little cottage in the woods.  From the outside, it doesn’t look like much.  I have chosen an image of it from the fall, because it looked so cute then, with the mums and pumpkins.  I need to get my flowers planted in the planters out front this weekend.

On the inside, it is quite cozy, and very comfortable, and it has everything we need.  A living room and a dining area, a small, but very useable kitchen, a large pantry, a wood stove that heats the entire cottage beautifully, and a full bathroom make up the lower level.  It is tastefully decorated, too.

Upstairs is a huge loft, where we sleep.  There are dressers aplenty, two huge closets, nooks and crannies, and sitting areas everywhere.  You see my bed.  My little boy sleeps in a nook under the eaves off to the left.  As you can see, it is quite nice, too, despite my crooked comforter.

Each weekday morning, we hike up a steep hill to the school bus stop.  This hill is affectionately know as “the luge run” in the winter, a term coined by our one neighbor.  It is about 1/4 mile long, and walking up and down it is very good exercise, no matter the time of year.  This morning the hill looked all greened up with spring splendor.

When we got to the top of the hill at 7 o’ clock in the morning, we were met by a host of swarming mosquitoes.  Blackflies and mosquitoes dominate spring and summer in Maine.  Seeing more mosquitoes than blackflies means summer is surely on its way, and it is time to head indoors until fall, unless you love being covered in DEET around the clock.  I do not like to be covered in DEET, but I am also allergic to mosquito bites.  So, we stood there swatting at the air, and ourselves, until the bus arrived.  My natural instinct would have been to head back down the hill, and into my comfy cottage, as fast as my feet would carry me—away from the dreadful mosquitoes.

But this morning, on my way up the hill, my eyes spotted some things I wanted to explore–some extremely beautiful things.  I was seeing a blur of little wildflowers all around, and I was determined to endure the mosquitoes so that I could enjoy the wild flowers on the way down.  I wanted to see the beauty all around me, and not just notice the negative.  This is what I found:

I found a patch of lovely purple flowers.

Then I found a patch of glorious, yellow, bell-like flowers.

I was thrilled beyond words when I found not one, but two, pink Lady Slippers!

If that find wasn’t good enough, I then went on to see a beautiful Jack in the Pulpit!  Amazing!

I found violets, and little white flowers, and and some pretty cream colored flowers, and some magnificent, mossy, tree stumps, but those images didn’t turn out so great, so you will have to imagine them 😉  Then it began to pour rain, so I did head inside, but very happy that I had taken the time to bend over, and look at all of the hidden wonders on the forest floor.

There is beauty all around us every day.  You may live in a city, but there is beauty to be found there, be it in the architecture, or the flowers in people’s yards, or in the people themselves.  However, if you are too wrapped up in the negatives, the mosquitoes in you day—traffic, unpleasant co-workers, long waits in line, bills, or the high price of gasoline–you won’t notice the beauty that is all around you.

If you are impatient to get through the grocery store checkout, and mad that the cashier is too slow, how will you ever notice the pretty, elderly lady in line behind you who took the time to put on powder, and rouge, and lipstick?  I bet it would make her day if you told her how pretty she looked.  Your neighbor, who has been working so hard to plant flowers might like to hear how nice her garden grows, and your spouse would probably be very appreciative if you noticed how hard she worked on the meal, instead of noticing that dinner is late again.  Look into the face of your child—really look–that is perfection, right there.

It can still be a perfect day even if there are clouds in the sky, or rain on your walk to work.  Your own attitude will determine how much beauty you let into your life.  Open your mind to seeing the beauty and shutting out all of the negatives.  They are only distractions.  It may take practice at first to override your habit of seeing only the negatives, but over time, with some work, you can rewire your brain into one that can find beauty anywhere, on any day, in any situation.  What do you choose to see today?

 

 

 

 

 

Some thoughts on judging others…

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Judging others is something we all do in the course of a day, and if we say we don’t we are big, fat, liars.  Much of it is somewhat unconsciously done.  As we walk through the grocery store thoughts run through our heads.  “Wow, that shirt is awful.”  “Boy, that’s one big person.”  “She sure looks like a grump.” On it goes right up to the check out line, where we begin to judge the contents of the shopping cart of the person in front of us, as well as their payment method.  This goes on all day long, little and big judgements made about people, what they do, what they say, how they act, and what the look like.  Maybe you are not that bad.  Maybe you are more inclined to see the people who smile at you, or notice those who look especially pretty, or maybe you are like me, off in my own little world of “get it done and get out of here.”  Whatever the case, we all judge to varying degrees, and it is rarely beneficial to us, or to the person we are judging.

However, it is hard to even begin to enter into the topic of judging without becoming judgmental.  “That person said a hateful thing.  That is wrong.  That person is nasty.”  I said that just last night, in my head.  A person who doesn’t know me made some insulting comments, judged me based on information she is being spoon fed, some of it true enough, much of it not.  Because the comments hurt, I judged her as a bad person, and I do not know her personally. Is she a bad person?  I don’t know.  How could I?  Do I like, or condone, her behavior?  No, I do not.  The behavior and the actions go completely against my personal beliefs of what is right, and her actions are less than attractive, in my opinion.  But, that is just my opinion.  I do not get to be the judge.  I must answer to a higher authority, God, who tells me that I do not know her past, or her hurts, or her insecurities, and even if I did, I would still have no right to judge her.  God tells me to turn the other cheek, stop looking, forgive, and move on.  Easier said than done, of course, but doable.

Dorothy Parker said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.”  That’s not how I roll.  I do not enjoy disliking others, bad mouthing others, or diminishing others so I can feel better about myself.  Does that mean I have never done any of those thing?  Heck no!  I am guilty as charged.  I am very human, too.  The greater portion of my life is filled with wonderful, kind, caring, loving individuals who roll like I do.  Yet, human nature, flawed as it is, will generally cause me focus on the one or two meanies in my life, and forget all about the lovely people and things all around me.  That is a backwards way of living, and changing that is something I work on every day.

That work requires taking a thought, or feeling—a judgement—and turning it around to something positive.  It changes, “That person is just plain nasty,” to “That person must really be hurting/be insecure/feel threatened.”  Those thought changes opens the mind to compassion.  We do not need to like the comments, behaviors, or even the person, but viewing them with compassion rather than judging and attacking right back is the healthier, kinder choice, for ourselves, and for them.  It is saying to yourself, and the world, “I may disagree with you, but I am pretty sure you’re not Hitler,” to borrow a line from Jon Stewart.  If you cannot change your thoughts from ones of judgement and condemnation, then the least you can do is turn and walk away in kindness.

We do reap what we sow.  The law of attraction is real.  The more we judge harshly, respond to judgments with revenge, or insult and degrade people to elevate ourselves, the more of that same sort of thing we will get coming back at us in our own lives.  As people say these days, “Haters are gonna hate.”  I suppose that is true enough, but I have a choice to make for myself, and that is not to be a hater.   The Bible says we can sow blessings or curses with our words.  In this age of the internet, we can do the same with our fingers, faceless behind a computer screen.  This also allows us the convenience of judging people we do not even know.  Do not get sucked into it all.  It is a trap that will effectively take your eyes off of yourself, and your own areas that need attention, while you focus on someone else and their flaws. Go find the goodness inside of you, and in others, instead.

What if someone is judging you right now–hurting you, insulting you, demeaning you right now?  Turn away, walk away, calm yourself and reframe your thoughts, if you can.  Count your blessings. Ask yourself if the person’s judgment is truly hurting you, or just hurting your pride, with no real damage done to how the important people in your life perceive you.  Step outside and look at the splendor all around you.  Release, relax, forgive, and remember that, in the end, you are not the final authority on anyone, or anything, but yourself.  In the end, it is all between you and God.  Do all you can to maintain your integrity.  It is okay to hate evil, but the evil and the person are usually two separate things.

This one, too, this topic of judging, or stopping the judging, take a lot of work, yet again.  I know, I know…;-)  I am working at it right along with you.  I am working at the judging, and forgiving, and moving on.  Today, turn towards the beauty in the world.  Right outside my front door is the most gorgeous day. The sun is shining.  The trees are the most vibrant spring green, and about ten steps from my front door is a breath taking patch of wild violets.  That is where I am going now.  I am stepping towards the things that can truly be judged as beautiful.

On Forgiveness of Self…It’s Key

I am a writer.  I wrote this the other day and I have to put it somewhere for now.  Take good care of it 😉

I am a recovering alcoholic.  I have been sober over 8 years, and I love every day of my life now, which is some form of major miracle to my mind, both the sobriety and the sheer joy and happiness.  I love who I am today, and I believe that I am finally the woman I was meant to be all of my life.  That this has finally happened at the age of 52 carries with it certain sense of poignancy, though I try not to dwell on what life might have been like had I found myself sooner, or more to the point, never surrendered myself in the first place.  However, I intellectually know that when trauma and sexual abuse happens to a person at the age of 4 or 5, that person is in no solid position to decide what they surrender or do not.  This is especially true if there is no supportive adult to guide the child through, or someone to simply bother to acknowledge that it happened in the first place.

Did you notice that?  Did you notice that as soon as I began to talk of sexual abuse, and a person, not a child, being 4 or 5, that I switched from writing in the first person to the third person?  Amazingly, I caught it instantly, which I think means that what I know intellectually is moving ever closer to my heart.  To that place of actually feeling the pain, rather than just having the knowledge that something happened that should not have. Since tears are rolling down my cheeks, I know I am feeling, not just thinking, which I am so very good at doing.  Think, think, think… Maybe I can think the pain to death, though that has been wholly ineffective to date.

I was sexually abused repeatedly at the age of 4 or 5 by my mother’s best friend’s 16 year old son.  I have a sister that is 13 months younger than me.  It was when he began to go after her as well, that’s when I went to my mother and told her.  The abuse stopped and not another word was ever spoken about it–ever.  Through my growing up years, I had to see this man time and again, each time our families got together.  I don’t know that if my father ever even knew, and since both my parents are long dead, I will never know.  Now, this is something that I have always known–that this happened to me.  But, who is, or was, me?

Until a few months ago, I never realized that the little girl who was molested was me, and that I was only 4 or 5…a baby, a tiny, little, defenseless, child.  Little 5 year old Ann.  I see her in snapshots looking so childishly smug, as if she knows all of the secrets of the world already.  There’s a certain air of superiority there, also.   I believe that, in my mind’s eye, I saw that little girl, me, as a perfectly capable mini-adult person who should have done something to stop all of it sooner.

Because I had failed then, I gave away myself in order to take on the role of the buffer for the world.  A buffer steps in protect others from pain.  A buffer gets beat up a lot.  A buffer learns to feel no pain, because if she did, it would hurt too much.  And that is what I did.  I learned how to feel no pain in a great variety of ways.  I was the buffer for 47 long, excruciatingly painful years.  It makes me so sad to see that now.  So sad for me as a little girl, and a teenager, and a woman.  I lost a lot of life being a buffer, and that hurts in ways words simply cannot capture.

At first, dissociation was my main trick, and I was especially good at it.  There is very little in this life that I undertake that I do not do especially well, expect for life itself, maybe.  When I found alcohol, it was like an answer to a prayer.  Something that took the pain away, and was socially acceptable, up to a point.  Of course, because if I am going to do something, I am going to do it extremely well, I reached that point, and passed it by many, many miles.  And now I am flogging myself with key strokes for not knowing another way to deal with my pain, or for putting a stop to the drinking before such a huge toll was taken…on me.

Certainly, many others were hurt, my children, especially, but for the most part, they seemed to have healed, or are healing, and have moved beyond it.  It’s me that’s stuck and oh, so mad at the person I became.  I don’t even what to think about that person, or believe that she ever existed.  I have hated her for years now, and hidden her, but she is long gone, so, in truth, it has been me hiding from her—long dead, and gone.  Just like I have been hiding from my anger at my mother, who set me up for such a life of pain by her coldness, detachment, and her absolute insistence that I be strong, and never shed a tear, no matter what happened to me in my life, because somehow it was always a reflection on her.

And so, me, who is finally almost free, is still a subtle slave to these two dead women.  Had my mother been able to love me, and accept me, and care for me, in the way that I needed when I was 4 or 5, and every year after that, perhaps the second women, that part of myself that I am looking at today in the hopes of finally forgiving, well, she may have never come into existence.  She wasn’t, my mother, able to do any of those things, and I cannot change that.  She loved me very much.  I know that.  I was also a great disappointment to her, as well.  I know that, too. More than I know that she loved me.   I wasn’t smart enough, in the right way, for her, or strong enough, or whatever enough.  Or, maybe, I was too much of it all, smart, strong, talented, and pretty.  Maybe it was that she hated me for… Whatever the case, because of her, always cloaked in disappointment at her life, and some great internal misery none of us could reach, I have spent my life, both the parts prior to her death and after, trying to prove something to her.

I have been trying to prove that I am worthy, maybe, but I picked a funny way to prove that.  Or, maybe I wanted her to know that her pain had become mine, and had tripled in size and it was eating me alive, would she please come rescue and protect me now?  If it got bad enough, and it certainly did, would she finally reach out a hand to help me up?  Would she finally love me just as I was, so flawed and so in pain?  Would she hold me and comfort me and tell me it was okay.  That I was okay?  Of course, that was my 5 year old magical thinking, and it never happened.

The other day, my seven year old asked me what was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life?  How could I possibly choose, I thought?  Molestation, incest, rape, abuse, alcoholism, prison… I gave him a believable answer, and he told me that the worst thing that ever happened to him was when his Dad wouldn’t let his sister take him to Funtown, but took him himself.  I know full well when the worst part of my life was, it was a year midway through my 5 year relapse.  It was the year where the woman I do not want to look at was alive, and well, and fully running my life.  She was finally out in the open, so to speak, and it made her mad, and uncomfortable beyond words, so her actions spoke the most loudly.  She was trying to kill the pain, and her and I in the process.  That she did not is yet another miracle.

That year, I drank constantly.  I had lost my kids to their father because of my drinking, and the pain of that was unbearable. I was living alone in a strange house, having lost my house, and I was so cold all of the time.  Her, me, us, lost a baby at 9 weeks while I had been sober for 6 months, and after, we fell apart.  In some ways I wonder now if she was trying to save me from the man I was involved with at the time, who would years later become my sociopath husband.  I know now she was seeing what I did not want to see.  I have flashbacks every day from that time.

It was a horrid time when I would blackout for days at a time in the upstairs bedroom, to wake up completely naked, bedding torn off of the bed, covered in bruises and a rash, large knots all over my head.  I shook too badly to light a cigarette, or dial a phone for help.  I could not move my computer mouse smoothly enough to find out what time and day it was.  I’d find realtor’s card on the kitchen table and know that the house, which was on the market, was shown while I was blacked out.  I would find myself getting into the car with the express purpose to get drunk while driving.  I wrapped my car  around a tree in a blackout and ended up in the hospital.  Another time a friend could not reach me, and an ambulance came to my home and dragged me out of bed, again naked, and screaming, while my friend cried and watched.  I was in the hospital for days, not knowing what day it was, save for the note on the chalk board.  I didn’t eat.  I could not walk normally.  My arms would not swing by themselves, I had to force them to do it.  I was weak and spent hour upon day upon month sitting at the kitchen table just staring, even when my kids were over.  My hair was falling out.

I was back in the hospital again, days before I was to enter a rehab, having fallen and broken my nose in a blackout.  For three weeks after that, they, the hospital, the detox, and then the rehab, wondered if my brain would come back enough for me to live a normal life.  Amazingly, it did.  Amazingly, after another rehab, and two jail stays, and a 6 month half way house, I finally got sober, but she, the one who was trying to kill us, lived on, this time, feeding on shame.  She had plenty to eat, even when the rest of us didn’t.  I was getting stronger, and her far, far, weaker.  What finally killed her, the protector, and the queen of dissociation?  I believe in was the arrest that led me to spend six months of the last year in prison.

That was the last straw, and I woke up and looked around at the abuse I was suffering through yet again, and I took control, finally.  I got mad.  I said enough is enough, and I remember every single day since that day.  That’s a real first for me who has entire years in my life completely missing.  It was in prison that I finally knocked down the walls to the bunker that had held me, the 5 year old me, prisoner for 47 years.  That child is a part of me now, and I can feel her pain, and love her properly.  But what of this extremely strong, extremely angry, extremely protective, and extremely self destructive, woman who is dead, but not buried?

I look at her and see that she was the exterior wall of the fortress that protected me from a lifetime of pain.  She was the buffer.  She’s the one who stepped in and took all of the hits, and absorbed all of the shocks and insults.  She’s the one who stepped onto the plane and flew across the country to take care of whichever loved one was dying. She always found a way even when a way seemed impossible.  She not only took care of me, but the entire world she knew.  She’d gotten oh so very tired.  It’s an exhaustion that I still feel.  It was a terribly thankless job.  She carried all of the pain and kept me smiling a fake smile, and moving through life in the best, muddled, way that I could.

What human could endure such an enormous amount of pain and responsibility without help from anyone?  Not me.  I never would have made it without her, and her beauty, and her strength, and her tenacity, for as much as she wanted to die, she wanted me to live.  She gave me the time I needed to grow up, and grow strong on my own, and then she just disappeared when I was ready to take over the reigns.  She is me.  She was the very best of me crying to get out, and she was the very worst, most devastated, part of me, dying inside.   I have been hating myself for weakness that was really strength, ugliness that was really pain, and behaviors that were really just attempts to get love from a woman who just didn’t have it in her to give, alive or dead.

We are one now.  Me, and that tiny, little girl, and that tough as nails woman with a heart so big that she was willing to take on the pain of the world.  That person is me, and I am beautiful, and happy, and passionate, and talented, more than smart enough, and certainly good enough.  Forgiveness I give to you now, because you are me, and I love me, and I thank you.  We made it through to the other side, and on this side is healing and happiness.   It’s going to be okay.  I am okay, just the way that I am.