Tag Archive | change

Giving Thanks for Forgiveness and Healing

This is going to be one of those busy weeks around here with Thanksgiving and children coming home and my youngest son turning 8 years old, so I am taking this single opportunity that I have to write about what I am thankful for this year.  Because I am now twice divorced with six children from the first marriage, and one from the second, all of the holiday arrangements can get cumbersome.  Who is going to be where and when takes a lot of time to pin down.  Being flexible becomes more important than ever.

Until two days ago, it looked as if my adult kids–the ones who will be home–might have to try to stuff themselves with two Thanksgiving dinners only a few hours apart.   I was grateful that my meal would be first so that they would have some room in their stomachs for all of the delights I had in store for them.  However, on Saturday, my first husband and his wife invited us over to their house for Thanksgiving dinner.  My youngest son was thrilled with the idea, and even if I had to give up complete control of the meal, it made perfect sense to accept the invitation on the one condition that I get to bring a lot of food.

When I left my first husband I told anyone who would listen that, “He will never change.”  Guess what?  I was wrong.  He has changed quite a lot.  So have I, for that matter.  I got sober and grew up.  He made changes that I know were hard for him so that he could have a better relationship with our children.  I admire him greatly for all of the work that he has done that has so hugely benefited our family.  I think he admires the changes that I have made, as well.  Because we both cared enough about our kids to make some huge changes, we have been able to forgive each other, and we have both healed to the point where we can get together as a family with our kids, and his wife’s kids, and my little boy, and other new people thrown into the mix.  I still think this confuses some of our adult kids a bit, but they are adapting, like it or not.

I realized today that these big family gatherings would not have been possible ten years ago.  We were both still extremely stuck in our own garbage.  I got rid of the drinking and a whole lot of other things.  He gave up a lot, too, including a wife who did not support our family as a whole.  His wife now has a heart big enough, and an ego healthy enough, to open her arms to everyone.  As confused as our adult kids may be at our fairly recent hospitality towards each other, I know they are learning a lot even if they are not aware of it right now.

They are learning that even grown ups have to do some growing up before there can be health in the family.  They are learning about forgiveness that was a hard-fought battle with huge benefits.  They are learning that people can change if they have courage enough, and they are learning that healing is possible even after a bad ending.   They are also seeing that, even though they are all grown up now, that their father and I will support them forever as a unit.  There is no tug of war anymore, unless, of course, his wife will not let me make the gravy like she did last year, then there might be a battle for the whisk. 😉

My little boy adores his “Uncle Garth” and Holly and since he spent six months of his life living in their home while I was in prison, they are a very important part of his family.  It took an awful lot of people coming together, and a huge amount of love coming from all directions, for my little boy to have come through that experience as healthy as he did, and for that, I am very grateful.  I am grateful to all of my children, especially my youngest daughter who was his primary caregiver, and to my first husband and his wife and her kids, because they all played a big role is caring for my little boy.

I am so grateful for healing and forgiveness and for reconciliation as it works the magic that brings all of our families together on one day to celebrate growth and love and caring and support.  My introvert kids will survive the event, and we will get together the next day, just us as a smaller unit, to celebrate my little guy’s birthday.  It is having the best of both worlds all in one love packed weekend.  We are all having to give up a little something to open ourselves up to something much bigger and far more grand.

This kind of love and compromise and healing and forgiveness is a rare thing, and I know that.  I also know that they are right (whoever they are) when they say, “Never say never.”  I am so grateful for the kindness, love, flexibility, and generosity of this big, messy, cobbled together family.  The blessings that come from healing and forgiveness are almost too big for words, so I will use just three.  Thank you, Lord.

Signs That You are Becoming an Authentic Person

I am always wary of books and such that offer promises of happiness, or whatever, in three, or five, or even seven easy steps.  Do you notice that easy steps usually come in odd numbers, but you never see nine, eleven, or thirteen easy steps?  After seven easy steps, you will see a jump to ten easy steps, because ten is a number that even those of us who hate numbers can like.  Odd numbers are good up to seven, it seems, and then we move into the realm of ten or twelve steps.

As an aside, odd numbers are also best for any kind of floral or table or candle arrangement.  You will have to trust me on this one.  If you want to give someone a balloon bouquet, pick three or five balloons, never four or six.  It just will not look as appealing, and that is your Suzy Homemaker decor tip for today.  Odd numbers win when it comes to most the most appealing decorative arrangements.

Have enough faith that you can be authentic and still be loved.

Back to the topic we go now.  I do believe that happiness is an intentional choice that you have to make every day, and that you will probably have to do a lot of work to make it an ingrained habit.  You may have to change the way you see things, and react to things.  You will have to turn those negative messages in your head into positive ones.  You will probably also have to change the way that you view yourself, treat yourself, and care for yourself.  You will have to learn to reframe life circumstances and interactions with other people.  You will have to let go of blame and grudge hold and the need to always be right.  You will have to be grateful as much as possible.  You will have to be forgiving.  You will have to get rid of old, worn out, ineffective, coping mechanisms and trade them in for new, healthy ones.  None of that stuff happens overnight.  It takes a lot of work, and willingness, and many more choices, and action, and actual change, over and over and over again.   It cannot be accomplished in three, five, or even seven easy steps.  It is an ongoing process.  Sorry for the bad news so early in the week!

The good news is that the really super cool thing about making the choice to be happy is that, along the way, you are apt to discover your authentic self, and unlock the door, and let the real you out of wherever you have been hiding yourself.  Again, you will not wake up one morning, look in the mirror and exclaim, “Oh, look!  It’s the authentic me and I look mah-vel-ous!”  It did not happen that way for me, anyway.  If it happened like that for you, I would love to hear from you because that must have been one great day, and I love to hear about people and great things happening to them.

Finding my authentic self took a lot of work, and years of peeling off layers, and digging through a lot of muck and garbage until I found the core of my personal pain.  Once I found that core– that pain– I brought it out from down in the depths of my soul and I carried it up into the light of day and then I released it.  That did not happen in one day, or even seven, or ten days.   It took a while, with rest stops along the way, and missteps, and back steps, and the Texas two-step.  Finally, I did it, though.  However, I suspect I am not fully there even now.  I do know, with completely honesty and clarity, that I am far more authentic today than I was a year or two ago, and do not even ask me to look back to three or five or seven years ago.  Gads!

If you have been sitting there reading this thinking that I am fixin’ to tell you how to become a more authentic person in three, five, or seven easy steps, I am not.  No-can-do, I am afraid.  After all, I barely know you.  We have only just met!  It would be highly presumptuous of me to think that I know the road anyone must follow to become authentic.  We are all unique.  Your road will be different from mine, and besides, I really do not recommend my route to anyone, even if I do not care for you a whole lot, because it was rough.   No, what I plan to do is give you some signs that you are becoming a more authentic person.  I do not know at this moment in there will be an even number of signs, or an odd number, so we will find out together!

1.  The first sign for me was that I truly was happier more of the time.  Because I was finally being true to myself, I was happy with the choices that I was making, and with the people who were in my life.  Good choices, good people, all good.

2.  I found that I had stopped caring what other people thought of me.  I am who I am and I worked hard to get to me, so as long as I know and feel that I am being true to myself, and am adhering to my beliefs, and enforcing my boundaries in a kind fashion, it is okay if you do not like me.  Frankly, most people do like me, and that is lovely, but I am all good with the few who do not.  I do not need to be liked by everyone anymore.

3.  I am far more honest.  Now, we all know that active alcoholics lie a lot.  It is the nature of the disease beast.  Also, as Dr. House points out, everyone lies.  However, there was a time in my life, even when sober, that I would lie because I was afraid people could not accept the truth, or that I would somehow be punished if I told the truth.  As I have become more authentic it would seem that I have also become more firm in maintaining my integrity, and I also put on my big girl panties, too.  I have no reason to lie now.  Sure, I may still be inclined to tell you that your butt does not look big in those jeans, but so few people ask me that question, it is a fairly moot point.  If I tell you that you look nice, I mean it.  I do not do false flattery anymore.  Also, if I “liked” your blog post, I did actually read it.  The flip side of this is that I have a far lower tolerance for dishonesty in others that I care about and trust.  I love myself too much to allow myself to be treated that way anymore.

4.  I no longer always need to be right.  As the adage goes, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy”?  I would rather be happy so I do not need to be right all of the time anymore.  I also feel very little need to become defensive when someone points out that I may have behaved in a manner that might not have been particularly wonderful.  Instead of arguing, now I simply acknowledge the truth, and say, “You’re right.  I am sorry.”

5.  I take full ownership of my behavior, be it good, or bad.  I apologize.  If the problem is squarely mine, I admit it.  I still make mistakes, I still do dumb things, I am far more human than ever, but that is okay.  People really seem to like people who are human and know it and admit it and own it.  It is more than kind of cool to be fully responsible for myself.  I do not need to blame anyone, nor am I looking for a knight in shining armor around every corner.

6.  I feel lighter—oh-so-much-lighter!  I do not have to carry around various masks and disguises to change the way I present myself to the vast number of people in my life.  I have nothing that I feel that I need to hide.  I feel bold, and colorful, and vivid, and free!

7.  You now get to be whoever you are, too.  I have no need to change anyone anymore.  I hate to see people miserable and in pain and unhappy and if you ask for my help or advice, I will give it, and if you choose another path, that is cool.  It is also cool if you choose not to change.  If you want to be unhappy then I have no right to tell you to be otherwise.  I am not inside of your head.  I do not know your hurts or your motivations.  I will pray for you, though, and you cannot stop me from doing that.

Looky!  It is an odd number!  It is a good thing, too, because had it not been seven I would have had to proceed forward all of the way to ten and that might have been stretching it.  For me, were I prone to doing stuff like cost/benefit analysis types of things, which I am not, the benefits of doing whatever you have got to do to continue to move closer to your authentic self would far outweigh the cost.

I still have a way to go yet.  I can still be too nice sometimes, if there is such a thing, and there is.  I can still hold back the truth to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, even though I am fully aware that I can present the truth in such a way that little harm will be done.  Each day I take another step forward, and that is all any of us can do.  Give me a little more time and I just might have ten signs of authenticity.  You just never know!

Stop fighting change before it knocks you out cold

A lot of people simply do not like change, and yet change is inevitable.  We grow up.  Our children grow up.  We get older.   There is not a thing we can do to stop those things from happening, aside from girding our loins, doing our level best to roll with the punches, and slathering our faces with the best anti-aging skin care products we can afford.  Still, time marches on and if we have acquired enough healthy coping mechanisms we learn to accept these changes, even if we do not completely love them.

Why, yes, I do take all of my own pictures because copyright infringement scares me silly, and well, it is just wrong!

Maybe it is because change scares so many of us so badly—the changes we cannot control–that a lot of us seek out constant changes elsewhere.  We change our wardrobe, hair color, jobs, cars and our cereal in the constant pursuit of something new that will make us feel new again, for a minute maybe.  Of course, all of these external changes do not change a thing.  Most of us are hurting inside somewhere.  I am not excluding myself from “us.”  I am right smack dab in the middle with you.

As I have mentioned before, I have an inspirational page on Facebook.  I started it because Running From Hell with El said that I should, and in some rare fit of lunacy, I did it.  I like my page, and I love the people who I have met on that page, but more and more, the Book of Face is hiding what the people who follow my page get to see.  They hide what I post so badly that fewer 5% of my “fans” (I HATE that term) see my posts.  This is because they want me to cough up a heck of a lot of money to promote each and every post and I just will not do it.  Sorry Charlie, er Mark…  So, here I am knowing that spending an hour a day scheduling my page is a waste of my very precious time, not because I do not care for the people who do see my posts, but because I have bigger fish to fry.

I have a book to write.  (I know exactly what you are thinking. You are thinking, “Yeah, that is what they all say.  They are going to write the next great novel, but it will either never get written, or it will be garbage.”  My book will get written and it is going to be a knock out, I assure you!  One of a kind!  Seriously…) It is right up there in my noggin waiting, but it is not going to fly from brain to page without me doing a little work.   That hour I spend on my Facebook page every morning should be spent writing.  Lord knows I have been told that a time or two, but I simply hate to be pushed.  It a nasty habit, but the more I feel that I am being pushed, the more I will push back.  I am also one of the best procrastinators alive.

I still have comments from last week’s blog post that I need to respond to, and it is not because I do not want to respond, it is just that sometimes someone says something that I need to think about.  I need to chew on it before I respond, and because I have terrible TMJ, this chewing can take me quite some time.  This is also why I do not chew gum, or eat Grape Nuts anymore.  There is just too darned much jaw popping to make it worth my time and energy.  If you make a comment after someone has made one of those comments I need to chew on, you will have to wait until the prior comment has been thoroughly masticated to death before I can get to the back log.

By that time, I feel so badly for not having responded sooner that I get paralyzed.  Last week, Renee A. Shuls-Jacobson suggested that I let go of the mess, and start sharing the message.  At the same time, Livvy at Real Manure told me that she had quit Facebook all together, that was the jaw breaker, because that has been on my mind quite a lot, and then Stephen at Life Revelation said something really sweet, and I have a hard time taking a compliment, so there I sat, stuck.  I am still sitting…

Here is what I know about all of these behaviors.  They are all based in fear.  I hate to be pushed because, even it is the opportunity of a lifetime, something about it scares the daylights out of me.  I will put off doing something that will benefit me greatly because something about it has me scared silly, and oftentimes, it takes me a while to figure out what it is that is scaring me.  I have put off scaling back on my Facebook page in order to write my book because something about making that decision has scared me beyond rational prioritizing.  At first I thought it was because I did not want to let anyone down.  That has pretty much been sorted out to all ego.  Then I did not want to appear to be a quitter.  I am so good at not quitting things that no longer serve me that is has almost killed me many times over.

I am not the only person who does these things.  I see it all of the time in my line of work.  I clean houses for elderly women and nearly every week now I get a call from someone who has been unable to keep up with their home for some time, but they have been scared to ask for help.  By the time they call me it has gotten so bad that they would sooner drink paint thinner than try to tackle it themselves.  They are embarrassed that they let things get so bad.  I go in and within a few weeks, it is manageable and they are unstuck and much happier.  I am sure that I am not the only one that sees this sort of thing.  I imagine counselors, and clergy, and doctors, and even lawyers see this thing all of the time, too.  People are put off making good changes because they are scared and embarrassed and there is that pay off thing, too, that Todd Lohenry mentions.  When I was getting my B.S in nursing and doing my psychiatric rotation, we called it the secondary gain.

Todd is right.  There is always a pay off.  If we choose not to make beneficial choices to change it is because the pay off, or secondary gain, is too great.  What is a secondary gain?  It varies from person to person.  Some people do not change because they like feeling like a martyr, or they like to be felt sorry for, or they like to blame the world, or make excuses, or they thrive on feeling miserable and angry.  People will come up with all sorts of rationalizations not to change.  “So and so would be crushed if I..” or “I have tried and it just did not work,” or my personal favorite, “That will never work.”  I like “That will never work” the best because at least it is true.  It you do not try it, it absolutely will not work and you are 100% right.  So, we all stay stuck until we realize that we would rather drink paint thinner than go on as we have been doing, when all the while we have been happily drinking the grape Kool-Aid of justifications and rationalizations under their various pick-your-poison guises.

I have not wanted to embark on my book because I am going to have to type out some incredibly painful truths.  I now know that I am not going to heal fully until I type out those painful truths, so I am going to do it.  It is not going to be fun, and I know this.  Only two people know this, but after some of the blog posts I write are done I cry for a good half an hour or more. It is all good, though.  That is healing.  That is release. Imagine all the tears that will be shed writing an entire book!  Don’t you fret now!  For every painful truth I reveal, I promise to counter each one with a lot of hope and inspiration, and at least one hysterically funny story.  It will be the- you will laugh, you will cry, you will become a part of it-sort of book.  And it will be based on a true story, too, because I do not write fiction.  No more grape Kool-Aid for me, thank you very much.

If you are stuck in a web of pay offs and secondary gains, the first step is to figure out what your pay off is, and why you are scared of giving it up.  The second step will make itself clear once your sort through step one.  If you are trying to heal from childhood trauma and have seen counselors before with no forward progress, please try again.  As Scott Williams points out, some counselors are just not good, and let me double that for psychiatrists, especially the ones who prescribe medications primarily.  I was told in nursing school that psychiatrists would be the weirdest doctors and people who I would ever meet, and that was the stone cold truth.

If you are thinking, “But my counselor/psychiatrist is super sweet and nice and he/she cares about me,” let me tell you a secret.  A counselor can be super sweet and nice and care about you and still stink at their job.  I had a psychiatrist who I absolutely adored.  He was one of the rare 2% of psychiatrists who was a nice, down to earth, regular guy, and funny, too, and he cared about me one heck of a lot.  He also had me drugged out of my gourd on nine different medications for years for bipolar disorder, which I did not have then, and do not have now.  You see what I am saying here?  Super sweet and nice count for something, but progress counts for a lot more.

If you are stuck in a bad relationship, get out, please.  You will make it.  You will be fine.  You will survive.  You will be happy again.  Also, since I am handing out advice like Tic Tacs tonight, if you do begin the divorce process, do not expect to get 100% of what you want, no matter how jerky the other party may be.  Aim for getting 50% of what you want.  It is called being realistic.  Maybe you will get lucky, as I did, and get 80-90% of what you wanted, and then you will get to be all overjoyed and so on, but start with realistic.

That is another thing about Facebook.  Poster after poster telling us to aim high, set the bar high, reach for the stars, and most of us end up curled up in the fetal position in a huge pile of expectations that were too darned high from the get go.  If you are already thinking to yourself, “This is going to be the BEST Christmas ever” you need to step back and plan on having a good Christmas, because we could all benefit by letting good be good enough.  Word from your mama.

If you are also wanting to remove yourself from the Book of Face, try reading some blogs.  Facebook is like a soap opera.  You could be gone for a year or two and nothing would have changed.  It is true.  I was in prison for six months with no Facebook and when I logged on after my release all I had missed was some birthdays and 100,000 Farmville requests.  (I no longer play Farmville!  You can stop sending me requests now.  It has been well over a year.  I also have no interest in Bubble Safari or Lucky7 Slots.)

Reading blogs provides fresh content daily from all sorts of different perspectives.  I am very fond of Journey Through the Chrysalis, Waiting For the Karma Truck, Morning Story and Dilbert, Tracie Louise Photography, Reflections of Life Thus Far, Roots to Bloom, and Teacher as Transformer.  That will get you started and this is a healthy mix of reality and lovely and pictures and prose and all good things.  There is another thing that I do not write.  I do not write poetry, because I end up sounding like Dr. Suess, it is a good thing I am about to let you loose, because this paragraph is nearly the caboose.  You see what I am saying?  Uh huh, I thought so.  Oh, one last thing….

You Like Me!!

Earlier this week, Yoga with Maheshwari nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award.  I am very thankful for such a gift!  The rules were to thank the person who nominated me, which I just did, and to tell you seven things about myself, which I belief I have done within the body of this post.  I am also supposed to nominate 15 other bloggers, so if your name is hyper-linked and mentioned within this post, tag, you are it!  Do with it what you will.  You did not even see that coming did you?  You would have run sooner if you had, but I got ya!  Yes, I am a sneaky one…and I probably did not hit 15 bloggers, but I am tired.  Now go.  Make some changes for the better!  Yes, there will be pain, but I promise you will not die.  Yes, there will also be tears, but no one ever died from crying, although I am admittedly behind on a few seasons of House, M.D, so if I am mistaken, please accept my apologies and do the crying anyway.  You will feel better.  I can almost guarantee it!

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.

Fear–The greatest motivator to stay absolutely stuck

Fear is a strong emotion, and one that can serve us well, warning us of dangerous situations, and propelling us into action to protect ourselves, whether through fight or flight.  That is fear in its best and proper form.  However, how many people are slaves to fears that keep then so stuck in life that they can barely move, or if they do move, the movement is some misguided form of self protection, be it anger, nastiness, or simple inertia? It is still fight or flight, but you are fighting life, or fleeing from it. This type of fear is never healthy and it sucks all of the joy right out of most everything.

Most people aren’t aware just how much of their lives are dominated by fear.  People alter who they really are because they fear not being liked or accepted.  People do not ask for help when they need it because they are afraid of being seen as weak, or being told, “No.”  People lie because they fear others won’t find the truth acceptable.  People do not share their thoughts because they fear being wrong, or that someone will disagree, or that no one will listen. People don’t try new things because they fear failure.

People don’t try to change an bad situation because they fear they may fail at that, too—“It won’t do any good, anyway.”  People stay in bad relationships and bad jobs out of fear, and remain in unhealthy lifestyles because they fear change.  At its basest form, fear become anger and meanness.  People fear getting hurt so they hurt others first to protect themselves.  They fear looking at their own behavior because they are afraid there will be nothing left if they tear down the walls of anger, nastiness, and arrogance.  How will they protect themselves without lashing out, being defensive, blaming others, or making excuses?

Fearful people are often lonely, and unhappy.  At the heart of fear is almost always the fear of loss–loss of possessions, loss of safety, loss of reputation, or a loss through an insult to their pride or ego.  Fearful people take the hurts and losses in life and turn them into weapons, walls, and shields, yet we all have hurts and losses in life, so why isn’t everyone living a stuck, angry, small life with no joy?   That’s an excellent question, and I certainly don’t have the entire answer.

I’ve always told my kids, “Face your fears, and they will disappear.”  I try to live that, but like everyone, I have my own fears, though over the years they have diminished to a very few things.  I’ve had a lot of losses, some at the hands of other, many self-inflicted.  I’ve had hurts, and some pretty awful experiences, again, some events coming from outside of me, and many self generated.  But, at the same time, I have had to face a lot of my fears because I didn’t want to stay stuck in the ugliness that I had created by believing false information, or by feeling like a victim, or blaming the world for all of my problems.  At the heart of it all, I feared that “me” wasn’t good enough, and from that sprang many mistakes, poor choices, and much self sabotaging behavior.  Who would want to stay stuck in that muck? Not me, but to get out of that muck, I had to own my role in my life, my choices, my behavior.  That was scary business, indeed, and not gobs of fun.  Being stuck in fear and anger and poor choices was a lot less fun, though.

Fear gives a person a very small, myopic, world view.  It creates a blindness to all of the color, and goodness in the world.  Fear holds people back from discovering the beauty in others, and the beauty within themselves.  How can anyone truly live and enjoy life when everything is a perceived threat to their ego, or their limited sense of self worth, or their position, or their power?  But fear does not give one power.  Fearful people prefer to have power over—power over others, power over the situation, power over the world.  Power over is not personal power.  Power over takes personal power from others.  Again, not a happy, or healthy, way to truly live and enjoy life.

Personal power, on the other hand, gives joy to life.  It allows its owner to set healthy boundaries, make good choices for themselves, be vulnerable, be open, be willing, and in the end, be genuine and happy.  Personal power can empower others to places of goodness.  It is a light that shines, not a wall that blocks out the sun, and the light of everyone, and everything in your world.  You cannot get to a place of personal power without facing many fears, without having the courage to heal, make mistakes and start anew.  You cannot have personal power without the courage to admit your faults, ask for forgiveness, forgive yourself and others, and change your course.  When you have personal power you don’t need or want power over anyone.  Personal power is not the freedom from fear, but the knowing that fears can be faced, and erased.

Leaving a fear based life starts like anything else—with one step in the opposite direction, and then another, and another for a life time.  You can change fear based behaviors and actions by looking your fears in the face, making friends with them, then showing them the door.  You can change your mindset from one of suspicion and avoidance to one of joyfulness and openness, but it will take work.  It’s work that is well worth it, and you can do it.  Please, don’t be afraid to try.  Don’t let fear motivate you to remain stuck.  Get yourself out of your own muck.  You’ll be amazed at the results.