OK, I thought, nevermind the bugs, thirty minutes. That’s all I have to do. Focus Holly.
I narrowed my visual field and chose one set of shelves, telling myself that was all I needed to tackle today. I could organize one set of shelves in that time, right?
Thirty minutes later my phone played a happy, if somewhat muffled jingle from the back pocket of my jeans and I looked up to realize I had accomplished more than I set out to do. One whole wall of the pantry was neatly organized. I had a pile of recycling outside the door and a bag of trash. The children’s chairs sat in the next room awaiting their new home. Paper goods sat primly in their own corner of the space. Plastic containers, out of season kitchen equipment, disinfectants and cleaners occupied another set of shelves. Serving dishes and items for entertaining took up still another, ready for the next party. The time had whisked by and I was pleased with how much more open the pantry felt. I almost didn’t want to stop there, but I knew that if I left the job feeling that way, it would be much easier for me to pick it up again the next day.
Within a few days, the pantry was reorganized and I'd enjoyed the whole process, celebrating the product of my efforts. And that’s the secret, enjoying the process as well as the product.
But what could possibly have been enjoyable about organizing the basement pantry? I mean really, it’s the basement. The concrete floor and walls are cold. There might be spiders, or worse, those thousand-legged crawly things that jump out at you when you move stuff off the basement floor. Shiver. How is that a good time?
Well, let’s take another look at what actually happened.
First, I set a timer. I limited the amount of time I would have to spend on that particular job, on that particular day. This allowed me to quiet the voice in my head that whined about what a big job this was and kept asking me if I wouldn’t rather be reading that good book I started last night.
Limiting the time also encouraged me to focus my attention. I had to narrow my field of vision. No falling down the rabbit hole of figuring out where those children’s chairs or anything else that didn't belong were going to end up. Just pick them up and move them out of the pantry so I could reach the set of shelves I was working on.
As I focused my attention, I got fully present with what I was doing, and that is the key to enjoyment. I had all my attention centered in the process. I knew I wouldn’t finish the pantry that day. I wasn’t rushing or thinking about the future product of my efforts. I was attending to what I was doing in each present moment, flowing from one into the next, and that was really enjoyable. In fact, I’m looking forward to my next reorganization project.
Also, not a spider in sight, and the crawlees kept to themselves. 😉
Then there is the inaugural of our new president with all of its attendant political issues from insurrectionists and virus alike. Riots are threatened, but mostly we wait to see if this new president can do what he’s promised. The old authoritarian structures are breaking down all around us as we try to live our lives amidst the energetic rubble. Negative stress.
In odd juxtaposition with the outer world’s struggles, I gave birth to new aspects of my spiritual self at a small women’s retreat. At the risk of sounding woo-woo, I spread my angel wings. Words hardly do the experience justice. My inner life shifted dramatically as I stepped up and expanded into my Divine Feminine Self. I was stunned by this seemingly sudden transformation. Positive stress.
As it turned out, it was right on time. I, along with two other women, co-facilitated the first two classes of, Goddess: Seven Rings of the Heart. A course all about healing through Goddess energy and connecting with the Divine Feminine within.
Despite the fact that I have a Master’s degree in Education, facilitating this course pushes my comfort envelope. I have to be willing to step into my larger Self to do this material justice, and my small self balks at the exposure. Be that as it may, I’ll breathe and meditate through it, intending grace and ease as I move into the next class. Positive stress.
And January was not yet done with me.
Several days ago, I had a Zoom meeting with the developmental editor, Fritze Roberts, who I hired for Contract with a Guardian. She gave me some wonderfully insightful ideas for how to rework parts of the story arc to deepen and expand it. I’m thrilled with the possibilities. I’m also looking at months of rewriting. Positive stress.
The thing is, my body doesn’t know the difference between positive and negative stress. She has a set number of responses to anything that registers as stressful. My heart rate speeds up, my underarms and hands feel clammy and my body would really like to jump up and run around, or run away. As the stressful conditions persist, I’m looking at bouts of racing heart. A most uncomfortable sensation.
Exercise and getting outside help, giving my body something to do with that excess adrenaline. But what really supports me is regular meditation.
This week, I was busy and tired and missed a couple of days of meditation. My thoughts veered toward worry without my conscious volition. The peaceful feeling inside that is a result of regular meditation drained slowly away. The changes were subtle and I might have gone on like that for several more days. But my body stepped up with a short episode of racing heart. It was just enough to say, “Hey! Pay attention here. You’ve forgotten something.”
The racing heart thing is rare for me, but then so is the particular combination of stressors in my life right now. I take it for the communication that it is.
The physical stress responses in my body are initiated by the thoughts I think about whatever is going on. That’s why meditation makes such a difference. It’s like a reset button, bringing me back into alignment. When I am meditating regularly, the worry thoughts become less important. I feel an underlying sense of peace. I am aware of the love in my heart. My focus shifts from fear to love.
Meditation really works for me.
Will I miss meditation days in the future? Probably. But if I do, I’ll intend to get back to it before my body has to reprimand me.
I imagine this new year has more adventure in store for all of us. Let’s intend that should it be stressful it be positive stress. That sounds good. But even if some of the other kind sneaks in there, lets intend that we support ourselves to keep shifting from fear back into love.
I've been through a number of dog training (really, owner training) classes. I know the fundamentals of dog training. But I quickly ran through my repertoire. In desperation, I finally told him to “Sit!” trying to give him something else to do. Much to my amazement, he obediently sat and looked up at me expectantly. I patted him and effusively told him what a good boy he was. That was all he needed. He stood up, Goldie’s leash forgotten, and trotted off to look for other adventure. I stared after him, bemused.
Still feeling anxious and irritable when I got back home, I went upstairs to my office, thinking that I needed to do something to fix my feelings. (Wouldn’t you think I’d know better by now?) I sat for a moment gathering myself and realized what I needed was not to fix or struggle against my feelings, but to redirect my ego fears. Just like with that young dog who couldn’t stop grabbing the leash, I needed to give my ego something else to do, to distract myself from continually grabbing onto anxiety. I needed to change my focus and place my attention on love, telling my ego to, “Sit!”
The easiest way for me to do that was by listening to Dr. Joe Dispenza’s short meditation, GoLov-20.
After that, I felt calmer and more balanced. I was able to appreciate the lesson offered me by a young golden retriever. He reminded me that struggling against anything becomes an energy loop, attracting more of the same. Redirection into positive action, positive thought, appreciation and love, is what resolves the issue. This works with anxious, irritable blog writers as well as with young dogs.
It also works with young children. The best way to handle my five-year-old grandson when he just can’t seem to stop himself from doing something he has been asked not to do, is to redirect him into something positive. Because he doesn’t really want to misbehave, he’s just stuck in a loop, he takes the cue and throws his considerable energy into the redirected positive activity. Then, both he and his harried grandmother (me) feel better, and the negative thought cycle we both participated in is redirected into a positive thought loop. That positive thought loop attracts more positive thought.
I can tell which loop I’m participating in by the way I feel inside. I’ve tried the negative thought loop on for size for a couple of days now, and I don’t like the fit. It’s uncomfortable, and just keeps getting tighter and tighter. I’m going to try on a positive thought loop for a while and see how that feels.
This idea has bigger implications as well. Our nation has been in a collective, negative thought cycle since the inception of the pandemic, perhaps even longer. This negative cycle has rapidly escalated with recent events. Each of us has the choice now, whether to continue to participate in this collective negativity by struggling against it and worrying about it, feeling more and more anxious, or we can redirect our thinking into more positive thought loops. As each of us redirects our focus into positive channels we attract additional positivity. In time that will ripple outward, and the collective will be able to respond with more positive thought, creating more and more positive action.
My inside is smiling now.
Where do we look for the exit from this spinning hamster wheel of survival fear? There must be a way we can we make 2021 different, more positive than 2020.
As individuals we may not be able to do much about the world events swirling about our lives, but we can look to our inner environment. That’s where we can create a 2021 that feels and lives on a different, more positive level than we may have in 2020. We can hop off this hamster wheel, open the door to the cage and step out into the fresh air, one appreciative moment at a time.
The other day I was enjoying our backyard. It is bordered by trees, standing like sentinels at the edge of a grassy field. The tallest are the black locust, their bare black-brown branches reaching high into the sky. In front of them stand the junipers, dusty green and full. As I gazed at the treetops high above, branches outlined against the sky, I saw two squirrels chase each other up the trunk of a black locust, all the way out onto the twiggy ends of the uppermost branches that just barely supported their weight. Then they leapt into the air, one after another. The grey forms seemed to hang suspended in midair, their agile bodies curved like commas in a sentence, heads, tails, and paws reaching for the juniper branches below. Then the juniper caught them like a loving parent, in branches that bent and swayed beneath the aerialists, breaking their fall. The squirrel chase continued on down into the thick foliage of the juniper and I saw no more of them.
The image of that leap stayed with me. Later that day, this quote from Abraham-Hicks showed up in my email inbox. I had to laugh. The message was clear.
“By thinking and speaking more of how you really want your life to be, you allow what you are currently living to be the jumping-off place for so much more. But if you speak predominantly of what-is, then you still jump off —but you jump off into more of the same.”
2020 was our jumping off place, the twiggy ends just barely supporting us as we leapt off into 2021. The question is what are we jumping off into? Will it be more of the same?
As I type, a fire crackles in the woodstove beside where I sit, embraced by our once white, leather barrel chair. The chair is marked and speckled with years of laughing, spinning grandchildren and territorial felines. Golden flames dance above the dark shadow of wood in the hearth and the fire warms me as I turn to look out the wood-framed bay window of our living room. A wintry mix of rain, snow and sleet is decorating the branches of the crabapple which shelters the front of our home. Frozen droplets of rain hang like twinkle lights strung along every branch. Tiny, burgundy red crabapples dangle below, each one encased in ice. A slate sky hangs above, contributing an increasing supply of much-needed moisture to branch, berry and ground. The usual community of birds who frequent the crabapple are nowhere to be seen. No doubt they are hunkered down within the sheltering branches of the junipers.
It feels good to hunker down myself, safe, warm and dry, and consider this transition time in which we now find ourselves.
The biggest lesson for me from this passing year is that of letting go of how I think things should be and appreciating what is. Throughout the year, unexpected and unwelcome events kept piling up and it became clear that I couldn’t anticipate what the next month or even the next week would look like. I had to let go of my ideas of what was, and allow what is and what could be. Most of all, I had to learn to take pleasure in the positive parts of my life that I might have taken for granted, but do no longer.
I learned at a whole new level, how to enjoy the little things, spread over the branches of my life, like berries from a tree, waiting for me to savor and appreciate. A warm fire, a good roof over my head, the beauty of nature just outside the window, the antics of my grandchildren as posted on Facebook with riotous subtitles by their Dad, the love and health of family and friends, my own health, learning how to use Zoom, my small yellow-lab, dancing and twirling on the end of her leash, hip-checking the neighbor’s huge, young golden, plenty of toilet paper, paper towels, and food to eat. And did I mention toilet paper? I have a whole new appreciation for that humble roll of white. Everyday life, so easy to take for granted just because it is always there.
Until it’s not.
We are lucky here in the Midwest. The shortages of supplies have been short-lived. The pandemic has been survivable for most. The political situation hasn’t affected our everyday lives too, too much. Yet, as each thing threatened from the outer world, the little everyday things we depend on became that much more precious.
I look out the window once again and a single robin, harbinger of hope, alights in the crabapple and helps herself to the frozen crabapple banquet spread before her. 2021 stands before us, a banquet of tiny, delicious moments awaiting us. May we be as the robin, hope-filled, braving the storm, and appreciative of each moment of happiness and enjoyment spread before us in 2021. May we be as the squirrels, leaping off into a new year that supports and holds us in loving embrace.
Happy New Year to you, dear friends.
I had it all backwards. Self-care is the foundation upon which all else rests. I’m not just talking about eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising. I’m talking about spiritual Self-care. With a capital “S” for the larger self, the God self. As you have probably figured out if you’ve read any of my blog posts, the spiritual path is central to my life’s journey. How odd is it then that connecting on the inner has been so sporadic for me?
I think about God and Spirit a lot. I think about how the Universe works. I see Spirit moving in my life. I write about it all and feel that sense of connection through the writing process. But still, I know there is more. I yearn for it, and now that I’ve reevaluated my priorities, I’m willing, driven even, to take the time to pursue what that yearning is all about.
What is taking priority in my days now? Care of Self.
What does that look like? It begins first thing in the morning. Now, instead of getting immediately out of bed when I wake and stumbling into my usual morning routine, letting the dog out, feeding the dog, emptying the dishwasher… you get the idea, I stay in bed for an extra few minutes and listen to a guided meditation about visioning who I want to be (as in being rather than doing. Or, I’ll place my hands over my heart and mantra my way into heart/brain coherence. (See the blog post Got Heart.) Then, when I get up and move into the usual morning routine, it feels different, better, more graceful. During the day, at odd times, I refocus through gratitude, breath and prayer. In the evening I do another guided meditation. The result is that I’m sleeping better and feeling more aligned and balanced throughout the day.
It has become the basis of better days.
It is true that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
Enter the guided meditations by Dr. Joe Dispenza. Dr. Joe as he is affectionately called, combines science and spirituality, teaching his students how to access and rewire their energy systems for healing and mystical experience. He has done extensive research into the effects of meditation, providing the explanations and proof for the Western mind, as well as the methods for how to achieve higher levels of consciousness.
His combination of rational scientific explanation and inspiring, exciting, guided meditations strikes the right balance for me. I am like a kid at a candy store, wanting to practice the many different guided meditations he offers on his website.
So, why is it that in the past I’ve given up on meditation? I’d stick with it for a little while and then I’d go back to focusing my attention and energy on the mundane aspects of daily life.
I believe there is a natural ebb and flow of energy between our small self and our large Self. Our small self, our ego, has a job to do. That job is about survival, which equates to managing the ins and outs of daily life. The ego will usurp all our attention if we let it. Focusing all of our time and energy into the 3D world of doing and having. That is until the large Self, our God Self, gently reminds us to refocus upon our being.
My God Self has reminded me not so gently during this year of 2020. The highs have been higher. The lows have been dark and deep. It has been challenging to find my balance, and even more challenging to maintain it. Fortunately, I’ve discovered an unexpected ally in my search for balance. Through the meditations I’ve had the unanticipated, loving experience of connection with my God Self and the inspiring experience of something very much greater. The natural effect of that is a desire to give back, to be of service.
This year of one calamity following another is a wake-up call. Now is the time to focus attention on what is most important. For me, that looks like putting the connection with my God Self, that is, Self-care, at the top of my list of priorities each day. From there, all else flows.
The TV blared sports casts just outside the door. Various magazines and newspapers were scattered haphazardly across the tables. The walls were covered with a matte light grey paint and fluorescent lighting glared down from white Styrofoam looking dropped ceiling tiles. The whole effect was one of cold austerity.
The room was warm and stuffy. Not a lot of air circulation going on. I had left my water bottle in the car which was now inaccessible, and my throat felt parched. The TV was droning on about acid reflux disease and I considered checking out the games on the computers around the corner.
An elderly gentleman entered the room with a middle-aged woman, wife or caretaker, maybe both, it was hard to tell. He sat in a chair in the well-lit area. She gently insisted that he get up again and move to the other side of the table out of the glare of the overhead light.
“You will be more comfortable,” she said.
“I can sleep anywhere,” he jibed, as he pulled himself to his feet. He moved over to the chair she pointed out, his socked and sandaled feet shuffling along the carpeted floor.
She sat down at the table in the seat he had just vacated and watched him settle in. She was unsmiling, her cheeks a ruddy pink, and brown hair curled over the collar of her jacket. Then she stood and walked over to the adjacent table picking up several magazines and a newspaper.
“They have Road and Track here. Or today’s paper, if you want them,” she said, holding out the selection.
“I’ll just sleep,” he answered, and pulled the rim of his green and tan baseball cap down over sparse, white eyebrows and pale, red-rimmed eyes. Large pink-edged ears and thin wisps of white hair stuck out from under the cap as his breathing slowed and deepened.
His care-taker wore a brilliantly striped sweater, jeans and black leather walking shoes. Her brown, pouchy leather bag sat on the table in front of her. She flipped absently through a women’s magazine reading with one hand folded under the side of her chin, jaw resting on her knuckles. Her wedding and engagement ring, obviously long-time residents, sat upon her finger, occasionally sparkling in the glare of the lights. She read quietly, patiently waiting, as we all waited. Some of us not so patiently despite the paragon of patience before me.
The elderly gentleman snored gently, proving that he could indeed, sleep anywhere.
Someone had changed the channel on the TV and a soap opera filled the room with erotomania and desperate conversations about kidnapped sisters. I found it hard not to get caught up in it. I peered around the doorway to see two other waitees in the next room. Settling back into my chair I could hear their occasional comments to each other about the unfolding soapy histrionics taking place in front of them.
I glanced about at the unchanging greyness of the room about me, filled with the panicked voices of the TV actors creating drama, heartache and murder for entertainment. Then the program went to commercial break and strains of “You Are My Sunshine,” replaced the script of desperation. The two watchers in the next room sat entranced, the old man slept, and the bright-sweatered caretaker read about skin cleansing and make-up tips.
I was surrounded by patience, but I didn't take the hint.
I sat for an hour and stewed. Surely they should be finishing up and coming to tell me my car was ready. I might never find out how the melodramatic kidnapping on the TV turned out, thank goodness.
Just then I remembered that when I’d checked in, I had neglected to mention the replacement hub cap I ordered by phone the previous month. I gathered my books, pad, jacket and purse and went in search of Bob, the service technician who checked me in an hour earlier.
I found him in a room with three other service techs, all working busily at desks spaced around the rectangular area. His desk was at the end of the room and feeling impatient I didn’t wait for him to look up from his work, but blurted out something about ordering a hub cap a month ago. Bob looked up at me briefly, blue eyes considering, then down again at the stack of papers he was going through.
“No problem,” he said in a cheerfully distracted way, still thumbing through the papers, “I can go down for it and pop it on for you.”
Looking about while he finished what he was doing, I saw my car pull up outside the window, and pointed it out to Bob. He got up and left the room. I waited, still standing in front of his desk, vastly relieved to be almost free.
After a few minutes, another service tech asked if I was being helped. I answered in the affirmative. Several more minutes and the tech at the desk next to Bob’s made a good natured comment about how the sun was going to peek out any minute now from behind the clouds, outside the large wall of windows. I was feeling better now that I was almost out of there and I responded in kind. We had a conversation about the beauty of the fall weather this year, the abundant rain of last summer and the good weather predicted for the upcoming week. Then we fell silent and I continued to wait, surrounded by a general atmosphere of conviviality. I stood and looked around as if interested in the sales displays posted around the room.
Bob returned, escorted me to the payment desk and left once again. I paid the bill, told the woman I would wait at my car for Bob and the hub cap. I was so ready to leave.
Out at the car, I threw my jacket, books, pad and purse on the passenger seat, heaved a relieved breath and got into the car to wait. Any minute now, I thought. I rolled my window down to let in the air and breathed deeply, feeling glad to be almost on my way, my mind already on all the many other things I wanted to get done that day.
Bob appeared shortly thereafter walking up to the open window.
“I’m sorry but they’ll have to put in another order for the hubcap. Some kind of mix-up,” he said.
Disappointed, I sighed, “Uh, OK. Will you do that?”
“They are on it.” He gave my car door a pat as if sending me on my way, then glanced over at my wind shield, “Say, did you know that you’re thirty days overdue for an inspection sticker? You can’t drive the car like that. We can take care of that now if you’d like.”
My head drooped till my forehead rested upon the edge of the steering wheel. I began to bang it slowly and methodically.
“Mam? Are you alright?”
Bang. “Just give me a moment Bob.” Bang. Sigh. I looked up at the young, concerned face peering in through the car window. “OK Bob,” Deep sigh. “I’ll wait.”
Our walk is a delightful morning ritual for the dogs and for myself. They get to catch up on all the nightly news by sniffing every leaf and blade of grass, and I get to listen to what Mother Nature has to day about the new day. This morning, she said, “You might want to get back inside where it’s warm. It’s cold and wet out here.”
Not that I mind cold and wet so much. It is par for the course in Kansas in the Fall, and it is Fall. Despite the fact that the solstice is still weeks away, the leaves are all green, and we’re due for summer-like temperatures later in the week. Today I snuggled into a long-sleeved sweater and layered on a quilted vest on top. That makes it officially Fall, at least in my heart.
You might have guessed that I love Fall. Fall is filled with pumpkins, cornstalks, and colorful mums. The trees get dressed up in reds, golds and russet orange. A freshening wind blows surrounds us in a blizzard of fluttering leaves. Cooling temperatures speak of picking apples and making warm, cinnamon-filled apple crisp, stirring up hearty chilis and soul-satisfying stews.
My birthday sneaks in there along about the start of October, shared by my son-in-law, with joint celebration. Then Halloween arrives after several months of anticipation during which our grandchildren vacillate back and forth between delightful possibilities.
“Mima,” says Eden, dark brown eyes framed with long, black eyelashes, serious in his cherubic face. “Should I be a dinosaur or a transformer?”
After deep consideration I say, ”I don’t know, which would you like to be?”
His face lights up in a grin. “How 'bout I be both?”
The big night arrives and the grandchildren are beside themselves with excitement about their costumes. Their imaginations are in overdrive as they get to be anyone they want for one special evening. Then the big event, trick-or-treating. Racing in an excited pack from house to house. They run to ring the doorbell, sing out a happy shout of, “Trick or treat!” and hold out their bags in expectation of candy. Smiling neighbors answer the summons and exclaim over the princesses, ghosties and dino-transformers at their door.
As if all that weren’t enough to make the Fall season glorious, Thanksgiving makes its abundant entrance. Family and friends gather to share the giving of thanks, loving companionship, humorous banter, games and way too much food. Roast turkey, sweet squash, buttery mashed potatoes holding a pool of gravy redolent with sage, crisp topped stuffing, ruby red cranberry sauce and the best for last, pie. Oh my! Pumpkin, chocolate cream, mince, lemon meringue, pecan chocolate chip, all topped with mountains of whipped cream.
OK, I might have gotten a little carried away with my culinary memories of Thanksgiving largesse. It’s all part of the mystique of Fall in my heart… and tastebuds. That’s OK, because this year, Fall of 2020, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to all that brings joy into our hearts, allowing ourselves to relax into the comforts of ritual and Fall celebration.
I’m not complaining mind you, well, not much anyway. Just painting the picture, because I feel great…now. And I’m going to tell myself that as often as I need to throughout the day today, until I take my sleep deprived body to bed tonight.
I haven’t slept well the last couple of nights. Maybe it’s because there’s a lot of disturbing stuff going on the world. Maybe it’s because menopause plays havoc with the hormones. Whatever the reason, sleep deprivation usually sets me up for low energy, irritable days. At least until this morning, because this morning I remembered that I have a choice about how I want to feel.
We all have that choice.
It may come as no surprise to you when I say that how we feel physically and how we feel emotionally are not the same. The physical body and the energetic emotional body are two separate entities, parts of the whole. They do affect each other, oh, how they affect each other, for better or for worse. But we can choose to make it for the better.
When I was growing up my mother listened to a news broadcaster who ended each morning program saying, “Make it a good day.” Such good advice and I’m taking it to heart. As I sit here on my porch typing away, I choose to make today a good day.
I’m focusing on the blue sky behind the storm clouds. I’m letting go of trying to fix myself or anyone else for today. I’m surrendering my egoic desire to agonize over things and try to control it all. I’m surrendering it all to God and accepting peace.
This is how. First, I remembered I have a choice and I made the commitment to myself to feel great. Then I tapped it in using Faster EFT and the simple words, “I surrender it all to God and I feel great.” By the end of a few rounds of tapping I felt better.
Afterwards, I looked through the porch screens at the stormy sky outside, and saw the grey clouds now wispy at the edges with blue sky peeking through from behind, even as thunder still grumbled in the distance. It was a lovely metaphor for how I was feeling inside. I could feel light-filled blue sky appearing within, as the storm clouds of grumpiness parted and wisped away.
I sat and patted myself on the back as I enjoyed the bits of blue sky outside and the fact that I was feeling pretty good. As I continued to gaze at the sky, the wind picked up, darker clouds rolled in and it wasn’t long before the storm outside my porch came back with a vengeance, wind blasting, rain pelting, thunder roaring.
Huh, so much for my metaphor. Or, to carry the metaphor a little farther, perhaps my resolve to feel good would be challenged and I’d have to make the choice to surrender and feel great all over again. It does work that way. Often when we choose to make a change our resolve is tested. It is as if our soul self says, “Get through this and you’ll really know you’ve changed.” It’s all part of the growth process. Awareness, change, test, awareness, change, test and so on.
This morning’s stormy weather taught me that we can choose to feel good, even great, despite what our habitual responses have been in the past. We can choose to change. Why not give it a try the next time storm clouds threaten your emotional horizon? And if the storm clouds come back again? Repeat your resolve and make a choice for the better, as often as you need to.
As a teenager, belonging was the driving force of my life. When I was fourteen (a loooong time ago,) just about to enter high school, I longed with all my heart to be part of what I considered the ‘in crowd.’ You know, the popular ones, the self-confident kids everybody wanted to be friends with. Then I changed schools and my priorities shifted. In my new school I just wanted to make some friends. So, I joined the chorus. From there I joined the big, seasonal musical productions run jointly by two schools and met a whole group of new friends. There I found the belonging that I’d searched for.
At least until I didn’t. Huh?
I never quite belonged enough to feel secure. I always needed more, more reassurance, more acceptance, more belonging. I was astonished when one day I heard someone who hung on the outskirts of our group, mention something about us being the ‘in group.’ What?! I was part of the ‘in group?’ Then how come I didn’t feel confident and popular and totally accepted? Surely those ‘in group’ kids felt that way all the time. Right?
Then it was time to move on to college. There, I joined a small singing group of women with whom I became good friends.
Hey, it worked the first time, sort of…
Fast forward through marriage, motherhood, remarriage, many moves and many lifetimes and I joined another singing group. Another group of friends, spiritually oriented this time. Yet, somehow, I was still searching for belonging.
Why wasn’t I finding what I was looking for? Could it be that I was looking in the wrong place?
“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
Could it be that an enduring sense of belonging can’t be found outside oneself? Perhaps it can only be found within.
“When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible.”
I turned my eyes inward and searched there for belonging. I encountered all those dark places, the parts of myself that felt unacceptable. The aspects that I didn’t like about myself and still am not overly fond of. Yet, I’ve declared an armistice with those bits and pieces in favor of overall peace. Oddly enough, the more I am able to accept those parts of myself, the less I seem to need to express them. Go figure.
So, where does that leave us? It brings us back to understanding the need for belonging. Understanding that it is an inner sense of belonging that fills the need more completely than the ephemeral acceptance of others. It is the absolute acceptance of God that feeds the starving.
When I think to myself, “I belong to God,” my heart feels full. And that is enough. From that place I am able to do as St. Francis of Assisi recommended and offer to others what I desire for myself. As I offer deep acceptance to others, I too am accepted. I belong, because I belong to God.
Peace Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi
What this means for the current state of our world is that its healing begins within each of us. For as we grow into the willingness to accept all aspects of ourselves, even those parts that feel unacceptable, then we know that we belong. When we know we belong, we can do no less than offer acceptance and belonging to others, because we all belong to God.
*Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Texas and She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers based upon her research.
But before I get further into that, let’s get to the point of this blog. Yes, this blog does have a point, and that is, that I’ve realized there are two ways I’ve gotten things done over the years.
The first was to decide what I wanted to do, make a plan and then rush through it to completion. I was motivated by fear, most particularly the fear of not enough. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough energy, not enough ability to create whatever it was the way I really wanted it. The result being that I often settled for “good enough” in what I created.
The second way was to decide what I wanted to do and carefully do my homework, researching and planning. This process was akin to priming the pump. Once the pump was primed, I released my hold on the process and allowed the project to move at its own speed, unfolding one step at a time. A little bit of guidance received here, a synchronicity there and the end result often looked very different from the original plan. Yet I was delighted with the outcome everytime.
The two processes are not unlike traveling on a river in a boat. You can paddle furiously along, not understanding the current that carries you, believing you won’t move unless you work hard, and exhaust yourself with your efforts. You arrive at your destination tired and anxious. You don’t appreciate the journey or enjoy the process. Or, you can trust that you will be supported, put the paddle away and allow yourself to be carried along on the current. You arrive energized and calm. You enjoyed your journey and the process of it. Either way you get to where you are going. The experience however, is very different.
In the past, I held several office jobs in which I remember taking the first approach. I felt pressed for time, worried that I wasn’t doing a good enough job. I couldn’t stop paddling furiously, the results were predictably mediocre, though I didn’t understand why at the time. My response was to paddle harder and harder until finally I was exhausted and quit.
Recently however, given a project to do, I’ve taken the second approach and it’s worked a whole lot better for me. The results not surprisingly, have been successful.
The difference is working from fear and lack of trust or working from love and trust. So simple, and so profound in its implications.
Anyway, I’m trying to figure out what to do with five or six of those tentacular cable things. I think they’re breeding back there behind my TV. Worst are the baby ones. They haven’t grown long enough, so there are enormous plugs to be dealt with half-way to the wall outlet. Grrr…
OK, enough ranting. I’m breathing deeply and relaxing now. I’m approaching this part of the basement project one step at a time, priming the pump with research and planning, allowing space for intuitive leaps of guidance, taking the next step that feels right, then some more research and planning, a synchronicity or two, and taking the next step after that. Allowing the process to unfold.
I’m right in the middle of it and even with all my planning, I can’t see what the outcome will look like because I don’t know where the current will carry me. I’m going to trust in the process and take my time. Sooner or later I will be successful, and my TV set-up will be neat, take up minimal floor space, and blend in with the décor, because I'm going to allow that to happen. That’s how I roll nowadays. 😉
Life is full of spiritual lessons. Some feel good, some not so good. All support us to grow. This blog is about my life lessons. Perhaps you'll find yourself within these stories.