Thank You Gabby Gifford

Gabby Gifford  (Jezebel.com)

Gabby Gifford (Jezebel.com)

 

Gabby Gifford’s determination, while partially blind and with  difficulty speaking and walking, to speak out for gun control was moving.  “Be brave.  Be courageous.”  Gabby inspires us to do so.

The Silver Lining of Negativity

Stuck (mirror.co.uk)

Stuck (mirror.co.uk)

Grouchy, depressed, irritable, anxious, angry, frustrated, resentful, bitter, jealous, fearful…. Embrace it!  Savor it!  Feel every bit of it!

I want you to feel it so acutely it’s painful.   I want the pain to be something you cannot and will not ignore.

That pain you feel is a good thing.  That’s your body and subconscious trying to tell you something.  Just like if you get too close to a fire, you know to change direction.

“Change happens when the pain of holding on becomes greater than the fear of letting go.”

― Spencer Johnson, author of the One Minute Manager

So feel your pain.  Let others feel theirs.  It means change is coming, or change is needed.

The question then becomes:  Do you wait to make the change, and suffer in the interim, or do you make the change now and spare yourself all that unnecessary grief?

It seems like the answer to that question should be a no-brainer but change is easier said than done.  I also believe the ability to change is a learned skill, and is hardest the first time.  Sort of like eating sushi.  Once you get over that ICK factor, then you can really be open to how divine it is.  The reward for letting go and then discovering something wonderful is itself an incentive to do it again for the next ICK food, the escargot, the brussel sprouts, the tofu.

The same is true for change.

Even just choosing to let go of negativity is freeing.  You’re free to have more energy, more positivity, more creativity, more satisfaction and gratitude.  After you’ve done it a few times, it will also feel like a no-brainer to you.

Take forgiveness* for example.  There were times in my life when I nurtured my anger and resentment toward others like I did my infant sons.  I was wronged. I was mistreated.  I was a martyr.  I was right.  I was making myself miserable.

Some people say that they can’t forgive because the other doesn’t deserve it.  They may not deserve it, but you do.

“Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself” – Suzanne Somers

I have a friend who is stuck in the Should I Stay or Should I Go quandary. He’s been complaining for years about his partner, and the frequency and intensity has been escalating recently.  He knows, deep down, that it’s not going to work but there are many good, valid reasons that are making him hesitate to leave.  In the meantime, he’s miserable and probably not doing his partner any favors either by clinging to an unhappy relationship#.

So he has a choice:  either let go of his expectations regarding her and the relationship and release his resentment, or move on and find someone who doesn’t violate his minimum standards for behavior.   There is no right or wrong choice.   He is capable of bringing success and happiness to either decision.  While he sits on the fence, however, he is only committing himself (well, both of them) to further resentment and animosity.

You have control over very little in your life.   You can’t control the weather, the stock market, or how others treat you.  But you can control how you treat yourself, and clinging to negativity or an unsatisfactory situation is shortchanging yourself of the gift of positivity, optimism, opportunity and forgiveness that you, and those around you, deserve.

So invest in yourself.  Be courageous and make that tough decision, “man up”, take a forgiving view of yourself and others, find a new way to look at the world or your situation.  Don’t wait until you reach rock bottom and an unbearable level of pain to do it.  You deserve better.

Please see my previous blogs on forgiveness* and dysfunctional relationships#.

Your Passion is Right Under Your Nose

Find your passion (thepastonaplate.com)

Find your passion (thepastonaplate.com)

We’re supposed to find and pursue our passion, our sort of personal Holy Grail.  But that’s easier said than done.  How does one find their passion?

When your passion is combined with aptitude, or natural ability, then you are in what Ken Robinson calls the Element (in his book, The Element).  Positive psychologists refer to it as “flow”.  You will catch glimpses of your natural ability or talent when you yearn to do or learn something, when you are a quick learner, if you are intuitive about a subject, if you lose time  because you become engrossed in what you are doing, if you are showing glimpses of excellence, are very satisfied by your activity, and if you receive positive feedback from what you do.

It’s possible your passion is an activity that you do all the time, but since it comes so easily to you, like breathing or walking, you may not even notice it.  You take it for granted that, since this activity is effortless, it must be easy for everyone.

I found my passion when I realized something that I’ve been doing all my life, that I love doing, that I do naturally and effortlessly, that people have told me for years that I am so good at and I should do for a living, was right under my nose.  Like Dorothy, I had the ability already within myself to pursue my passion.  I just had yet to recognize it.

For someone who considers herself high on the self-knowledge scale, it’s somewhat embarrassing to admit that it took me this long to figure it out.  A friend must’ve seen my potential and so nominated me to coordinate a leadership development program.  Though I love my job, until I participated in this activity, I never really understood when people said, “I can’t believe they pay me to do this.”  That is how it feels to be in the Element.  Yes, the leadership component is awesome and cool, but the part that I absolutely love, and feel I have some ability for, is the personal development piece. I would do it all day for free (if I could).

So, this was always just right under my nose, there for my discovery.  Therefore, I believe an important element of finding your passion is to be open to the possibilities.  This passion is not exactly aligned with my training as a scientist and job teaching in a STEM subject, so I had to be willing to part with a portion of my self-conception of what I do and who I am.  Also, I had to be willing to try something new.  Fortunately for me, this opportunity was offered to me because someone else saw my potential, and I was willing to take the chance when offered.   So, try to identify those talents that maybe you are taking for granted.  Ask others what they think your talents are.  Don’t be afraid to explore and release any self-limiting thoughts about who you are and what you can do!

In the absence of opportunity coming to knock on your door, I also recommend being proactive in trying things you’ve always wanted to try.  Our passions were there in abundance when we were young, but because of the demands of real life, and the focus of the educational system on traditional academic subjects, many of us hid or forgot those passions.  Some years ago, when trying to re-invent myself, I used as a guide a book entitled Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  The author takes you on a journey exploring your past with the aim of re-discovering your lost passions.  One of my lost passions is dancing.  I used to fantasize about becoming a ballet or Broadway dancer, but my practical side put the kabosh on that idea. The kabosh never extinguished my yearning, and so a few years ago I signed up for Highland dance, tap dance and ballroom dance.  Now I’m interested in learning hip hop.  I will look ridiculous at my age doing it, and I’ll never make a dime at it, but who cares?  I’m going to have a blast.

“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” 

— Joseph Campbell in Reflections in the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion

Silver Lining

I was inspired by the human race yesterday.

I went to a woman’s leadership conference yesterday where I was surrounded by hundreds of like-minded, similarly-passionate people. It wasn’t just the feeling of being like a carb addict in a bakery.  There was definitely that.  It had more to do with seeing the abundant evidence of the human spirit striving for the divine.

Ironically, I spent a fairly sleepless night the evening preceding the conference, as I kept having dreams of not being prepared, not being good enough to guide the workshop participants toward the discovery of a healthier, more positive self- and world-view. It could be partly because I spent that evening feeling uncentered and unbalanced.   Clearly, the teacher is also the student, learning just ahead of, but sometimes following the pupil.

To me, the concept of the reciprocal relationship between student and teacher reflects this amazingly wonderful and beautiful…

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Growth and Change: The Human Symphony

Reaching for the divine

Reaching for the divine

I was inspired by the human race yesterday.

I went to a woman’s leadership conference yesterday where I was surrounded by hundreds of like-minded, similarly-passionate people. It wasn’t just the feeling of being like a carb addict in a bakery.  There was definitely that.  It had more to do with seeing the abundant evidence of the human spirit striving for the divine.

Ironically, I spent a fairly sleepless night the evening preceding the conference, as I kept having dreams of not being prepared, not being good enough to guide the workshop participants toward the discovery of a healthier, more positive self- and world-view. It could be partly because I spent that evening feeling uncentered and unbalanced.   Clearly, the teacher is also the student, learning just ahead of, but sometimes following the pupil.

To me, the concept of the reciprocal relationship between student and teacher reflects this amazingly wonderful and beautiful synergy – that we are all journeying together, stretching to do, to be, to feel, to act in a bigger, better, more creative, more authentic, more productive, more empathic  (you name it) way.  And that when we travel together, we can create symbiosis that is beyond gratifying.

I believe being a participant in, and hopefully a catalyst for, stretch or change is the reason I love teaching.  The teaching can be with a group/class or individual, but in either case, the “student” is trying to inch the boundaries of their ability one idea or action at a time.  They are also consenting to share that endeavor with me in some way, which I have come to realize is an incredible gift.

It is also something, I regret to say, I have somewhat taken for granted.  The human ability and desire to push, pursue, to alter, to rearrange, to improve is itself a miracle.  This ability has created the pyramids, the Great Wall, space flight, telecommunications, symphonies, athletic world records and innumerable other marvels.  But this ability is also present in abundance in our daily lives, often overlooked.

I see it in my “students” who are pushing the boundaries of their knowledge, one lecture, sometimes one sentence at a time.

I see it in my colleagues who are moving the edges of the sphere of scientific knowledge, one hypothesis, or maybe one data point at a time.

I see it when I watch my son’s volleyball team attempting to inch their win record forward, one match or perhaps even one pass at a time.

I see it in the blogosphere, contributors reaching for originality, authenticity, clarity, insight, one blog or maybe even one word at a time.

It’s not even limited to people.  I see it in my aging dog who, despite his painful arthritis, rises to come lick my hand.  Or the flower that is blooming in the cracks of the asphalt.

(I can go on and on, but thankfully, I won’t.)

The human desire to stretch towards something better is ubiquitous.  It’s mere existence inspires me to stretch and grow beyond what I can even envision.  We are all in this human race, or more aptly, this universal human quest.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  And our respective journeys are enriched when we collaborate and share.  But sometimes the human potential is wasted by stretching not towards improvement but towards negativity, destruction, obstruction, judgment, separation, division or nurturing feelings of fear, anger, hate, bigotry, revenge, jealousy, or bitterness.  Instead of inspiring, negatively-directed effort is discouraging, depressing and destructive.  Not to mention a big, fat waste of our precious resources of time and energy.

Even for those directing negative efforts, I also believe that such individuals are similarly on their own journey, and their journey is not for me to judge.  A take home message from the women’s conference is that we’re all messed up inside, no matter how put together we appear on the surface.  Every person has their own path to walk.  That path is not always straight or pretty.  We cannot know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes, as tempting as it might be to judge the choices.  After all, at any given time we likewise may be unwittingly engaged in negativity without realizing it.  We will then require patience and forgiveness as well.   In the end, we are all striving and yearning for self-actualization, one day, or perhaps one minute at a time.

There are also those who do not appear to be stretching or doing anything at all.  But like yin/yang, change can only happen where there is also stasis.  Thus stability is necessary before change can occur.  In other words, if change is constant, is there really change?

That being said, it is ultimately our responsibility to ensure, to the best of our ability, that we stretch ourselves and in a manner that is conducive with our authentic selves.  Our evolution should bring us closer to the person we want to be, the person who is engaged, thriving and contributing in our unique way to our community or discipline.  It takes real courage to honestly assess whether we are being or becoming that person. Are we pursuing our passions and desires, or just avoiding our fears or someone else’s disapproval?  Are we resting between change, or just becoming complacent?

Are you reaching?  If so, what are you reaching for, and why?

If not, why not?

Perserverance (123rf.com)

Perserverance (123rf.com)

The Joy of Loss

This morning I am trying hard not to throw myself a little pity party, complete with doting guests and a big, fat slice of succulent chocolate cake.  Last night, not so much.  Chris and I had a nice dinner at a new Indian restaurant and he held my hand and listened to me whine.

Thus, this morning I am feeling better but reflecting on the nature of love and loss.   I won’t go into details of the profound or superficial losses that are accumulating in my heart as I’m not indulging that pity party anymore.  But rather, I’m somewhat comforted by the fact that I have something to lose.

I think dogs are a perfect example of having something to lose.  You know from an earlier post that I lost my beloved little dog last month.  I’m fortunate to have two other dogs to blunt the sting of that loss, and some day, when the time is right, we’ll get another dog.  We tried to have multiple dogs separated in age, so that we wouldn’t lose them all at once.  The two remaining dogs are also getting up there in years as well, and since Max was supposed to be the dog that lived the longest, we may well lose them all within a short period of time after all.  I bring this up just to point out that the choice to bring a dog into our home is a choice to have the inevitable heartbreak of loss, 10-15 years later.  It’s a choice I will make over and over again until I’m too old and feeble to care for a dog.

But it’s not just dogs for whom we are inevitably choosing heartbreak.  It’s everything and everyone we choose to put time, energy, and love into.  I made that choice when I chose to love a friend who is 70 years old with a chronic illness.  We made that choice when we bought a house, fixed it to our liking and within it, raised our children.  We made that choice when we chose a career, because it will eventually end in retirement.  We made that choice when we get married, because regardless of whether it’s due to divorce or death, there will be a separation in the end.  We made that choice when we even chose to have children, because if you do your job right, they’ll eventually leave home and be successful and independent.  Likewise when we are born into the world with family members or good health, for we will eventually also part with each someday.  I make that choice every time I choose to teach, mentor or tutor a student.  In short, everything in our lives is as impermanent as the snow that fell while we slept last night.

Recently I was talking with a friend about her recent divorce and how she’s afraid to get hurt again.  She was married to a particularly schmucky schmuck so that feeling (and all feelings for that matter) are entirely understandable.  But to love is a choice to make yourself vulnerable.  To choose life without love is not an option.  So life, love and vulnerability, loss, and pain are one and the same. And I will gladly choose the joy of love, and the inevitable pain of loss, every time.

Pain and loss

Pain and loss

In Defense of Crankiness

The title is your first clue this is not going to go well.  Go ahead, say it:  “This coming from the Positive Perspective blogger?”  Why not?  I’ve heard it a zillion times already.

Which tells you there have been a zillion times someone has felt the need to chastise me for being cranky.

YOU WANNA MAKE SOMETHING OF IT?

What has me in such a good mood today?  No, it’s not that time of the month.  No, I didn’t get into a disagreement with someone or wreck my car.

I’m doing my taxes.

I spent all weekend procrastinating by cleaning my kitchen, oven, refrigerator and baseboards, taking a toothbrush to every crevices and the corner of the floors and cabinets.    Balanced my checkbook, brushed the dogs’ teeth, made a dental and GYN appointment… all preferable to getting into the mind-boggling numbing details of tax season.

It’s not all bad, is it?

Here’s the upside to doing stuff you hate.

First, it teaches you discipline.  Discipline discipline discipline.  That’s pretty much all that’s going to get me through this.

Second, it teaches you delayed gratification.  So, I admit I “indulged” myself by doing my second-least-favorite activity first… cleaning.  However, I decided to reward myself when I’m done with my taxes AND FAFSA to go shopping.

Third, no one likes a Polly Anna.  So I have to have a certain amount of cynicism and grouchiness spread around, lest one thinks I’m just being insincere or naïve.

Fourth, you must to have some negativity to develop positivity.  The yin to the yang.  Plus people appreciate you so much more when you are sweet after being the byotch, especially within your clean kitchen.

Finally, you feel a sense of satisfaction when you finished what you set out to do.  I came, I saw, I conquered.

I go shopping.

Ta ta for now!

To procrastinate or not procrastinate?

To procrastinate or not procrastinate?

Commitment: A Hallmark of an Excellent Friendship

friendship

friendship

If relationships are like beds (we can talk about that later), then friendships are “juuuust riiighhht”.   But not all friendships are created equal, and that’s one of the things about friendship that I like.  They can be just as superficial or deep as you want or need.  There is no need for one-size-fits-all.  You just have to make it work for both of you.

Having a friend associated with each of my interests and phases of life is like hiding chocolates for myself around the house:  there’s a wonderful burst of endorphin as I go about my day when I encounter someone whom I care about and whose company I enjoy.   Each person brings something different and unique to the equation, and if they regard me as a friend, then I am probably reciprocating.  I may not be necessarily that close or emotionally intimate with each friend, but I feel the ones that are the best, the ones that will endure, are those where there is a mutual commitment to the relationship at whatever level the relationship resides.  That commitment is on par with the depth of the relationship.  For example, my work buddies are committed to sitting next to me at meetings, or backing me up when I need it, but they may not necessarily come hold my hand while I cry at the prospect of being an empty-nester. My exercise buddies may call to make sure I’m OK if I don’t come to class, but they may not necessarily volunteer to help set up the fundraiser that I’m organizing.   This type of friend are my little Hershey’s kisses, See’s scotchmallows or Godiva truffles that I squirrel away around my life.

The Ghirardelli Earthquake Get Ready For the Big One Sundae ($24.95, “rocky (sic) your world with this treat of epic proportions 8 scoops of premium ice cream, 8 delicious toppings, finished with sliced bananas, whipped cream, chopped almonds and cherries”) of friendships are those where you know you each can be your worst self, it’s safe to be your best self, you can have your worst argument or your most lively discussion, and you will cross the globe if needed by the other.  These friendships have no distance, age, race, religion, socioeconomic or emotional barriers to them, and they persevere through all obstacles.  These friends are never too busy for you, never to upset with you, never too frustrated for you, and will do anything for you even if you are getting on their last nerve.

These friendships are as vital to me as clean air, clean water, and a warm, dry shelter.  My friends provide context to both my external and internal reality, and provide a level of fun that is just not possible by myself.  They bring new ideas and perspective to my world view, which delights me.  They help me see my blind spots, both good and bad.  They see the best side of me without ignoring the part that needs work.  They love my children like they’re their own.

So, dear friends of all types in my life, thank you!

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend “  – Albert Camus

Personal Power: Use It or Lose It

Channeling your personal power

Channeling your personal power

 “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us”Marianne Williamson , Founder of the Peace Alliance

Here’s how you know that you might be giving away your personal power.

If you ever feel powerless to change your feelings of anger, helplessness, impotence, sadness, resentment, despite your best efforts.  If you feel victimized by or angry at people or situations because of how they make you feel.  If you find yourself allowing others to influence your choices despite your own wishes, desires or judgment.

What do I mean by personal power?  My definition of personal power is taking ownership of your life and how you feel.  Ownership of your life includes owning your choices and the consequences of your actions in an honest way.

When I was in college, some loved ones did not approve of my boyfriend and pressured me to break up with him.  They were resentful of him and did not treat him civilly.  They gave away their power because they were not able to control their feelings and take the high road. Fortunately, I was mature enough to know that breaking up would make me feel like I was doing the wrong thing, and for the wrong reason.   In this case, I kept my power, my integrity and acted true to my principles.

In other words, I give away my power when I let situations or other people control what I do or how I feel.

I haven’t always been so consistent about using my personal power. I have been willing to believe the negative things other people have said about me to me.   I have chosen to nurture anger, blame and resentment instead of looking to understand.  I have judged other people and felt superior.  Each time, I made that decision to give away my power and chose my Darkness.  When I chose my Darkness, I created more Darkness, sometimes in myself, sometimes in others.  Usually it was not a conscious decision to give away my power.  Usually I just gave myself over to my emotional reaction or my belief I was right, not stopping to question either.

If I had gotten onto the balcony for a dispassionate look at my choices, I would see that I chose judgment over compassion, blame over responsibility, resentment over forgiveness, impotence over empowerment.  I would see that I allowed someone else to determine my level of happiness and my path rather than taking ownership of my feelings and my destiny.

At the time I did not realize I was giving away this incredible power, my happiness, my peace of mind, my Light, to others.  There were a series of Aha moments where I regained my power, a fragment at a time.

The first one came when I realized I didn’t have to believe what other people said about me.  I regained in that moment the power to decide how I felt about myself.  I gave up my feelings of self-recrimination and replaced it with self-acceptance.

The second one came when I realized I didn’t have to believe what I was telling myself* (some of this self-talk was subconscious).  I regained in that moment the power to forgive myself for being imperfect and to view myself with a more realistic lens. I gave up my feelings of inadequacy and need for control and replaced it with an increasing self-appreciation and acceptance of others as they are.

The third one came when I realized that I was just as responsible when my relationships were going well as when they were going poorly*.  I regained in that moment the power to make improvements in myself and my relationships as well.   I gave up feeling like a victim and became empowered to take a fresh perspective and improve both myself and my relationships.

The fourth one came when I realized that how I interpret the world through my emotional filters was not necessarily reality.  I regained in that moment the power to free myself from the emotional baggage that tainted my interpretation of the world.  I gave up being a slave to my feelings and replaced that with the ability to choose a more balanced, positive perspective and to have a large dose of peace and serenity.

The fifth one came when I realized that we were all connected in a mysterious way.  I regained in that moment an appreciation for the right half of my brain and my connection with the universe.  I gave up believing my left brain defined my identity and instead sought to reinforce that mysterious connection whenever possible.

The bottom line?  Clearly, I was beyond clueless. Now, at least I have begun getting smarter and happier.

What’s even more cool is that I’m sure that there are many more Aha moments for me.  What other ways am I giving away my power?  What will I learn that will help me be more confident, competent, graceful, kind, empathic, self-actualizing?  Where can I replace within me more Darkness with Light?  How can I make my corner of the world a little brighter?  I’m excited to find out.
This blog was inspired by VC.

*Footnote:  Discussed in other blogs –Healing the Perfectionist and Control Freak, How Difficult People Are a Blessing.  Part I  – Those Closest To You, How Difficult People Are a Blessing. Part II – Acquaintances, The Blessings of a Dysfunctional Marriage, Newfound Respect for My Right Brain