Tag Archive | work

Following your own path–How to be a socially acceptable non-conformist

Part of being an inspirational page owner on Facebook, for me anyway, is trying to convince people that they can become authentic and they will still be loved.  It means sending out messages, often in poster form, encouraging people away from that life of quiet desperation and towards a life of their own making, full of love, joy, and happiness.  I work very hard to plant seeds that give people permission to be themselves even if it means not totally conforming to what most of us seem to think society wants from us.  I am hoping to let people know that you can become a socially acceptable non-conformist, but few people seem to trust that.

Follow the road only you know exists.

I often hear, “I would love to do this, but…,” or, “I wish I could do that, but…”  These statements are always followed by why they cannot do this, that, or the other thing, and in the end if comes down to their fear of bucking what society and the media feeds us, telling us all what we should be doing, and wanting, and attaining.  It would seem that we are all supposed to be working ourselves into the ground, squeezing our families in when we can, and most definitely, we should be trying to please everyone even if it means denying ourselves.  I used to buy into that, too.  In fact, I owned the company.  I cannot buy into it anymore and I so wish that more people understood that life is all about choices, and we DO have them in nearly every part of our lives.  The real question is, are we willing—are we brave enough to make choices that others might not agree with, or see as a little too different to fit into their comfort zones?  Are YOU brave enough, if you are living a life of quiet desperation, to make serious changes, and not to follow the pack?

I have a friend who is in her mid 70’s and I do not think she has ever known real happiness and contentment.  She worked herself silly as a younger woman and stayed in a marriage that made her miserable.  She lives in a large, gorgeous, home that is decorated within an inch of its life.  You cannot find a single surface, floor included, where there is not some piece of brick-a-brack every six inches.  Her deck has lovely patio furniture with cushions that must be brought inside every time there is a threat of rain, and under the patio furniture are rugs that get soaked when it does rain.  She is constantly on the go, doing for others at the drop of a hat, never able to relax, or just to say “no.”

If she leaves the house without being well dressed and in full make-up, she worries that people will talk about her behind her back.  When she entertains, even a barbecue, no one can relax because she cannot relax.  She has a grandson who is an absolutely wonderful, kind, giving, and grounded young man and of him she says, “Yes, but he’ll never be rich.  Not enough ambition.”  What must I look like to her, I wonder?  I wonder, but the thing is, I do not care.

She looks tired or scared a lot of the time, and every night she drinks too much.  I know at this point in life chances of her changing are slim, but how I would love to see her relax and just find the joy in herself and in life.  I would love to see her just plain happy, and yet, I used to be just like her.  I was constantly on the go, chairing this committee, or that one, or serving on this board, or that one, or more often, all of them. At the same time, I was raising a lot of very young children, and married to a surgeon which meant frequent entertaining, and when I entertained, my goal was to out do those who had gone before me.

I had to be the best at everything and as much as I truly cared about all of the things that I was doing, the reason I was doing them was to feel better about myself.  I had been raised with the notion that perfection was the only acceptable result, and I constantly missed the mark.  It got to the point, shortly before we moved from the community in which I was the go-to person for most everything, where I was out of steam completely, but found myself yelling at my husband who had already moved, “I will not leave this town with anyone thinking I am anything less than perfect!”  He had suggested I drop a thing or two and I could not conceive of doing that.  And just like my friend, I drank every night after I got the kids to bed to ease the pain of another day of being less than perfect.

Of course, that desire to be perfect was a swell cover for many pains that were far deeper, and in the end, that drive to be perfect took me into some places darker than black, and deeper than any bottomless pit, and it very nearly killed me.  However, I had to be knocked down more than a few times before I became willing to make changes in myself, and how I lived, and to be true to myself, and my temperament, and to get to the core of the pain I was hiding from with the need to appear perfect, and the drinking, and the excessive activity.  It took a lot of work, and massive amounts of courage, and a real commitment, and a long, damn, time, but I have found a place where I fully accept myself and am happy in my own skin.  When you get to that place, anything is possible, but far fewer things seem attractive, necessary, or even close to acceptable.

It is no longer attractive to me to pursue perfection.  I would be lying if I said I was totally over the need to be perfect.  The word perfect is one of my favorite words to hear, especially when it comes to my cooking, or writing.  However, I can now easily accept the phrases, “very good,” and “nicely done.”  Before, those would have been seen as insults.  I no longer find it necessary to please everyone to the exclusion of myself, nor is it necessary to say yes to every opportunity that is offered to me.  I derive my sense of self-worth from within—from God and from how I operate in this world.  It is no longer acceptable to me to strive beyond what is healthy for me, nor is it acceptable to have things I do not need, buy things I cannot afford, live somewhere that is far too big, or act like I am anyone but me–the genuine, essential, flawed, imperfect, happy, joyful, me.

Some may view me as lazy.  I know that I am anything but lazy.  Some may think that I need to acquire more things, or have more of what people think that everyone needs, like cable TV, for instance.  I do not want or need cable TV, nor does my son need anymore exposure to vile programs or inappropriate media stories than he already gets other places.  I do not need anymore things, or shoes to match this, or a handbag to go with that.  I now know exactly what I need and that is God, to love my family and friends, to work to pay the bills, and to write to honor God and the gift He has given me.  I have goals for the future that I pray will be a blessing to many, and dreams that I know I will see fulfilled.  God did not create me to be perfect, or run myself ragged in the pursuit of an illusion, or to deny myself and what He has placed in me.  Add a bit of solitude and quiet and my life could not be better.

I live a life so simple and honest that it is hard for many not to see it lacking in some way.  Yet, I know from what they tell me, that they want the same things.  It is just too scary.  The path to get there just looks too scary to take.  I had to go very far inside myself to find my path and it is only the right path for me.  Today, I encourage you to be brave enough to find your own unique path, even if it does not conform to what society wants for you.  Have the courage to go deep enough inside yourself to know who you are and what you really want and be willing to get rid of all of the rest, even if it hurts.  I encourage you towards a life of simplicity, joy, peace, and genuine happiness.  How badly do you want it is the real question?

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 theory of enough–The (sweetened) condensed version

There is a theory out there that is known as the theory of enough.  The theory of enough basically says that if you have enough that is all that you need, no more, no less.  The Amish practice the theory of enough and it is the basis for a life of simplicity, which I believe is something that could be practiced a whole lot more in our world.  Unfortunately, few of us believe that having enough is really enough.  We always seem to want more.  In countries like America, we have so much few of us have any idea what enough even is in reality.  It has been said that people will strive for more, and getting more will go on to desire even more.  Yet, once they lose it all, they will finally realize that a little was more than enough. That statement is entirely true, or it has been for me.  I am someone who lost it all—what most people would define as “all,” meaning possessions, reputation, and even my freedom.

It was when I had nothing, by society’s standards anyway, that I came to a realization.  I realized that I had my integrity with God, and I had my integrity with myself, and integrity within my personal relationships, and once I knew that one thing, I suddenly realized that I had everything that I needed for a happy and successful life.  I had more than enough, and I had always had more than enough, even at the lowest points in my life. I was loved.

But how does a person even begin to understand enough without losing everything?  Begin by asking yourself if you’ve had enough to eat today—maybe even too much.  Every minute, it is estimated that 15 people in the world die of starvation.  That is around 50,000 people a day, many of them children.  If you had enough to eat today you are blessed, and if there is food for tomorrow and the next day and the next day, then you have more than enough.  I have more than enough food.  I am blessed.  I also chronically cook too much, so I share with others.  I was raised to always cook more than enough in case someone dropped by, then I went on to raise a large family.  I cannot cook for two, so I share my extras.  Since I live a very simple life, it is what I have to give to others, and it is always appreciated.

Do you have a roof over your head, even if it leaks, or you think your house is too small, or it is in the wrong neighborhood?  In the United States there are over 600,000 people who are homeless, and that includes many, many families with children.  If you have a home and food and clothes on your back, even if they aren’t the latest style, you have enough.  Most of us have more than enough clothes, and shoes, and toys, and books, and stuff.  So much so that we have to work harder to buy bigger houses to store all of our stuff.  As a result, most of us have way more than enough stress in our lives, so we eat too much, or drink too much to try and cope with having to keep up with keeping up.

Now, lest you think I am going to tell you to sell all of your stuff and go live in a little cottage in the woods because if you don’t you are a greedy, selfish, glutton, or you are thinking that I have never had anything more than a little cottage in the woods so I have no idea what I am talking about when it comes to the greatness of having lots of stuff, let me tell you that I have lived on both ends of the spectrum.

My first husband is a surgeon.  He made a lot of money. He probably still does 😉 We lived in a 4500 square foot house filled with expensive furniture, and knick knacks, and doodads, and a very expensive Victoria art glass collection.  I had lots of lovely jewelry, mostly diamonds, and we had nice cars.  In my second marriage, for reasons I cannot fully comprehend, we lived in abject poverty, with no heat in the winter, no working bathroom, no washing machine, and in the end, no running water.  At one point, I had one pair of pants to my name that I had to wash by hand in the sink every few days.  I have truly looked at life from both sides now…  There is a middle ground in there.  There is a balance we can reach and it is called enough.

Not only do not think that we have enough, at the very root of it, we do not think that we are enough.  We are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, funny enough, thin enough, liked enough, and the list goes on and on.  We wouldn’t have a “not enough” list if we didn’t compare ourselves to others so much, but we do it relentlessly.  Our eyes are always focused on others, and the exterior things in life.  This draws us right into the cycle of striving harder to have more because certainly you will finally be enough if you have more cool clothes, or drive a nicer car, or have a bigger house, or get thinner, or work harder, and have more fancy stuff right?  Wrong!

You will be enough when you look inside of yourself and decide that you are enough already.  You will realize that you are enough when you stop comparing yourself to others and begin to love yourself for who you are now.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t, and shouldn’t, make improvements if they are needed, but knowing that you are enough will give you the strength and courage to make those changes.  Once you realize that you are enough, some truly amazing things will happen.  You won’t be so busy looking around at everyone else, comparing yourself to them.  That will free your eye, heart, and mind up enough to look around you and see all of the people in your life who love you for who you are, and you will have relaxed enough to love them far better, and more honestly.

As time goes on, you will also begin to know that you have more than enough and you may reset some priorities.  You will worry a lot less, and care about others a whole lot more.  You will begin to take notice of all of the people who really do not have enough in their lives, be it food, housing, clean water, clothing, love, or attention, and you will want to reach out and share with those who do not have enough because suddenly your life has become an embarrassment of riches.

Your world will become much bigger, and far more colorful, and happy, and filled with joy.  Life will simply feel lighter and less burdensome.  You won’t need as much from the outside because you will be at peace on the inside.  You will be enough, and have enough every day, and love enough every chance you get.  You will live in the moment, because each moment we are given to love God, and ourselves, and others will become a precious gift.  Isn’t that really the heart of enough?