Sunday, July 13, 2014

REJECTION - I’m OK . . . You’re OK

I live in a world where there is always someone willing to tell me what or who I am.  I can do something as simple as post a new profile picture on Facebook, and others are quick to share their thoughts on what I’m thinking, feeling, intending, wanting, and doing.  It could be said that through this external feedback, I should be able to get a pretty good idea of what I’m really like.  I should also be able to tell who accepts me, and who rejects me.  After all, I've posted things that have caused others to "unfriend" me!

What seems most accurate is that everything said about me is true!  I am all things that you see in me, I just self-identify with some viewpoints more than others.  Therefore, it becomes my responsibility to get OK with myself.  It’s not your job to convince me that I’m good, bad, or otherwise.  And believe me, I don’t need you too.  It would not matter anyway, I’m only going to agree with you if your description matches the thoughts I already hold about myself.

Lately I have had to face what seems to be an inordinate amount of rejection.  Now let me state that this is one of the key issues I deal with when it comes to my self-esteem.  I could cite a lot of psychobabble about how I was adopted, therefore rejected by the very mother that should have wanted and loved me, and maybe there is some truth in that.  But beyond that, I have faced rejection many times in my life, just like everyone else.

Beginning when we are children, friends get mad and go play with someone else, we break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, families fall apart, we lose our jobs, and people die and leave us.  Life is a lesson in dealing with rejection, and hopefully figuring out that it’s not personal.  That is usually not an easy thing to do.  I believe that by nature we are loving, caring, and connecting beings.  It’s really only our thoughts that make us feel like we are separate from everyone else.  It’s the stories we tell ourselves about how we are personally to blame, or someone else surely is, for all the things that we let tear us from each other.  Sadly, for some reason the mind is often a more powerful force than the heart.

Several years ago I attended a two-week school for The Work of Byron Katie.  Katie has found a way to examine all stressful thoughts to get at what’s really true.  It’s quite a simple, yet effective way to unravel our negative thinking.  During the training, one of the exercises required that we take a walk, and in our minds pose the question “How do you handle rejection?” to everything we encountered along the way.  

A second part of the exercise required us to approach people and say “I’m hungry, will you feed me?” or “I’m thirsty, will you give me something to drink?” or "I'm lonely, will you sit and talk with me?"  We were not allowed to carry any money with us so that we could immerse ourselves in the experience of homelessness.  This part seemed more daunting to me, so I set out on my journey along the streets of Santa Monica, California, with the intention of completing the exercise in a way I’m not proud of.  I decided to cheat.  I had an old high school friend that lived about 8 blocks from our starting point, and I determined that I would go to his house and ask him for company, food and water.  

As I walked, I half-heartedly started working on the first assignment.  I asked a car how it handled rejection, and heard a reply of “Hey, I just go to a new owner, or end up in a junk yard where I get a long vacation while having the opportunity to give 'life' to other cars.”  I asked the sidewalk and heard “What’s rejection?  Aren’t people supposed to walk all over you?”  You get the idea. 

As I got closer to my friend’s house, my mind started going crazy with thoughts of how I would be interrupting him, and how he wouldn’t want to talk to me.  Finally I sat down on the grass feeling a bit frustrated with the entire exercise, and started crying over my fear of being rejected.   

While sitting on the lawn an acorn fell in my lap.  I picked it up and asked “How do you handle rejection?”  Very clearly I heard the following response in my mind, “Why, it’s what I live for.  By being rejected I am allowed to fall to the ground where I might take root and grow to become a mighty oak!”  I was stunned.  It seems silly, but it was quite profound.  

Armed with my new perspective, I continued on to my friend's house, but discovered he wasn't home.  All that worry for nothing!  However, a suspicious neighbor was curious about what I wanted.  We began talking, and I discovered he was quite lonely and wanted some company.  We talked for about an hour and he shared with me some of his challenges and his sorrow over the recent passing of his dad.  For a short while, he had a friend, and neither of us was lonely.

Next, I headed to a nearby park, where I met a homeless family who asked if I was thirsty.  I said I was, so they gathered up the last of their money and handed it to me, charging me with the task of walking a few blocks to a liquor store and buying the man a "40-ouncer" and me a bottle of soda or water.  I had no idea what they were talking about, but happily ran the errand for them.  When I got to the store, I discovered that I was simply buying a large bottle of beer.  At first, I wasn't going to buy a drink for myself because I felt guilty taking money from someone with so little to give.  However, I realized that if I were truly homeless, I would accept their generosity, so I bought myself a bottle of water.  While walking back to the park, carrying my brown paper bag with the drinks in it, I was crying, and I cradled it in my arms like is was something precious.  After all, these people had given the last of their money to a total stranger, and I was humbled.

Later, while walking along Venice beach, I stopped to listen to a street performer, and he invited me to join in.  After singing a few songs together, he asked me if I'd eaten.  When I replied that I hadn't, he reached into his guitar case and handed me enough money to buy a slice of pizza from a nearby vendor.  By the time I rejoined my group, I had been given food, drink, and companionship . . . all from total strangers, with seemingly nothing to give. 

At the end of the exercise we were each given $20 to eat at a restaurant along the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.  When I came out of the restaurant, I had about $10 remaining.  I saw the street performer again and went up to him and told him my luck had changed, and I wanted to share with him as generously as he had shared with me, so I gave him the money.  He thanked me and said he was hoping he would see me again because he wanted to marry me!  By pushing through my fear of rejection, I had the opportunity to meet people who accepted me unconditionally.

As I look back over my life, I realize it’s true that “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”  Every time I have been rejected, I have been given an opportunity to become someone greater.  The experiences from my past have made me who I am today, and I am the only one who can tell myself whether that is a good or bad thing.  In other words, I am the one that rejects me . . . even if it’s you that walks away.   


So, continue to tell me what you think of me.  I will listen, and go inside myself to find the truth of it all.  And by now, I have hopefully discovered that because of my experiences with rejection, along with my experiences of unconditional acceptance, that I’m OK.  And because I know that I’m OK . . . even when I think negatively about myself . . . I will look at you and know that you’re OK too . . . just as you are.  Then maybe we can spend our time connecting with each other, instead of worrying about whether or not we are up to the task of trying to help someone else feel good about themselves.  We can just be together, and love.

7-14-2014

Saturday, May 24, 2014

NOTHING LOST, NOTHING GAINED

I was having a conversation with a friend who had gone through his own divorce a few years back.  He said one of the most difficult things he has had to deal with post-divorce, was the loss of so many extended family members.  He lives in a community where the majority of his friends came to him through his ex-wife.  Though they had not rejected him outright, the relationships that were once comfortable, now felt a bit awkward.  I think I understood what he was expressing.

My ex-husband was the second of 11 children.  When we started dating, and he introduced me to his family, it was a bit overwhelming . . . even though I had a lot of extended family members on my dad’s side.  But the family welcomed me, and I became a part of this close-knit family circus. 

Today is the anniversary of my former mother-in-laws birth, and her family is on my mind.  Davida passed away several years ago, but when I think of her, I think of love.  She was a wonderful example of compassion, kindness, patience, loyalty, faith . . . the list is endless.  While I was married to her son, she was always kind, and never critical.  But the impact that she really had on my life came after my divorce from her son.

Davida would call me at least once a month to see how I was doing.  She would proceed to ask me about each of my children (her grandchildren), and she would inquire about me, and what I was doing.  Then she would always apologize for the actions of her son, as though she were somehow to blame.  I would always remind her that she had raised 11 strong-minded children who each made their own choices, and she was in no way to blame for her son’s decisions about his life.

But the thing that meant the most is that she would tell me she was proud of me, and she would remind me that I was doing such a good job with my family.  She would talk about my strength, and how I had shown courage in doing what needed to be done to meet the daily needs of my children.  During my marriage, though she was not critical, she was also not particularly complimentary, so this meant a great deal to me.  In fact, there were moments that her words of encouragement were what got me through a particular challenge.

When she passed away, I missed her calls.  But then, her sister, Beth, began calling me and having similar conversations with me, saying she knew Davida would want her to keep in touch.  Since then, Beth’s health has not allowed her to continue the calls.  I miss her calls too!

The thing about all of this is, we just don’t know when someone we love will enter or leave our lives, and we are often mistaken as to how others see us.  We are so quick to judge ourselves, and believe that those around us can only see our thorns, instead of the beautiful rose that we are.  Lately I have been so blessed to have a couple of my former in-laws post messages to me on Facebook which have shed a different light on my self-perceptions.

Their words reminded me that I am good.  That though I have my share of negative traits, I have also been graced with wonderful qualities.  I am courageous, kind, smart, and witty, loving, generous, optimistic, compassionate, and on and on . . . as well as sometimes grouchy, judgmental, frightened, etc.  I am like a perfect, beautiful rose . . . thorns and all!

The comments have also reminded me that although I may not get to spend a lot of time with my ex’s family, they will always be important, and they have played a valuable part in helping me become who I am today.  The words of Alfred Lord Tennyson come to mind here . . . “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all!”  Perhaps if I drop the story that I have permanently lost something by losing touch with people who have been an integral part of my life, and instead choose to look at what I have gained by knowing them, the sense of loss will diminish.  I am better for knowing them.  The fact is, if I had not married my ex, I would not have had the 10 amazing children that are now such an important part of my life.  I would also never have met his mother and the other incredible people in his family.  I can focus on what I have lost through our divorce, or I can choose to discover what I have gained.


It’s really no different with the friend I had the conversation with that started this entire train of thought.  I had not seen him for 40+ years.  I never imagined we would meet again.  However, we have since reconnected, and that place in my heart that has always been his (yes, everyone I have ever known holds their own place in my heart), has been reawakened.  His kindness, authenticity, compassion, encouragement, humor, intelligence, and strength are helping me to see myself in a better way.  Maybe, just maybe, the ebb and flow of individuals in our lives is designed to help us see ourselves . . . in our entirety, and to accept that no matter what, no one is truly ever lost to us, and that we are all perfect . . . just as we are! 

5/28/2014

Thursday, March 7, 2013

THE BLESSINGWAY . . . FROM FAR AWAY

I am thrilled.  I am going to be a grandma . . . again!  My son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first child, a son, who will be given the name of Asher.  I am excited to meet this new little one.  He will be here in about 6 weeks.  After considering the many options for birth, they have decided that Asher will be born at home with the assistance of a Midwife.  My son, Jonathan, was the first of my children to be born at home, so this is especially fitting.  

As part of the "spiritual" preparation, my daughter-in-law, Gemma, is being given a gift of a Blessingway from Far Away.  Each of her dear friends and loved ones has been asked to select a bead of any type . . . plastic, metal, wood, stone . . . and any shape and size . . . and send it to Gemma.  After we have selected the beads, we have been asked to write something about why the bead was chosen, and share the personal meaning or symbolism with her.  We have also been asked to write a special blessing for her that will be with her throughout the birthing process, and remain with her on her journey as a mother.  The beads are all to be sent to her, where they will be strung together so that she can have them with her during the birth.  Here is my contribution . . .

Dearest Gemma,

How to begin . . .

First, I am so pleased you have such creative friends so that I am reminded to stop and focus my thoughts and love on you and this most blessed event.  Of course, I think of you often, and always with love and gratitude that you are connected to me, and a part of my life.  Every mother wants her children to grow to find happiness and fulfillment in their lives, and I feel that Jonathan has done an amazing job in this regard.  I could not have designed a more perfect life-partner for him.  So, thank you for taking this crazy family on!

Now, for my beads and blessings . . . I chose two, of course, because I always have trouble choosing just one of anything!  There are so many things that I love, and that bring me joy . . . how could I ever settle on just one?

The HEART is symbolic of several things.  I love hearts and all that they represent – life force, love, connection, strength, health . . . the list goes on and on.  But on this occasion I thought of your mother.  I know she loved you and was so joyous that you were her daughter.  I am also positive that she would be so proud of the wonderful woman you have become.  If she were here, she would be worried (as moms are apt to do), but reassured because of how mindful you have been of your well-being, and that of little Asher’s.  I am honored that I get to take her place on those occasions when only a mother will do!  So, with this simple HEART bead I share, and bless you with, a “mothers” heart and love.  You will come to understand, though you may already have an inkling, just how powerful this love is the minute you first hold him in your arms.  And, like all mothers, you will lose your heart to him.  That is exactly how it should be – an unbreakable bond – no matter what!  I can say this with absolute assurance based on a great deal of experience!  :-D

It probably comes as no surprise that my second bead choice would be a RAINBOW bead.  My children all know of my love for the vibrant colors of the rainbow.  To me, a rainbow symbolizes hope for a brighter future, and what mother doesn’t have that wish for her children?  However, a while ago I realized that my love for the rainbow was connected to the colors and symbolism of the Chakras.  Raising a child is difficult at best, and the ability to remain open on all levels will be a challenge.  If I have regrets, it is that I sometimes lost the wonder that is present in every part of me, and my life.  Hopefully, this bead will remind you to stop when things seem difficult, and go inside to gather energy from within yourself to guide you through with love.  Though I know that sometimes you will fail miserably, I also hope that you will be able to forgive yourself, and know that you are perfect, even in your imperfection.  I also want this bead to symbolize the RAINBOW of life, and I trust you to share this with my grandson!  Introduce him to people, places, and things that will make up the many colors of his life.  I have every confidence that both you and Jonathan will be able to instill in him the knowledge that every person, place, and thing has something beautiful and valuable to offer him.   

May these beads remind you to show him how to have an open and accepting HEART and, to be considerate and mindful of everyone and everything.  Show him by example how to live in awe of the gift of this life.  Guide him to find his way in creating a better future, and in improving the world around him, just as the RAINBOW promises.  Finally, know that both your mother and I will be with you during this most sacred of events . . . if not in person, definitely in spirit!  (AND, I sincerely hope to be there.)  If I can give you any advice it would be . . . just breathe . . . and know you are surrounded by love! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

PASSION


Seething beneath the surface I am experiencing a force of emotion that I have spent my entire life attempting to contain.  At times, I have failed miserably, and it has escaped in a fit of rage.  I have lashed out at the world, and those around me, sometimes over the most trivial things.  However, in this moment I am clear that those explosions have had nothing to do with what was really going on. 

I feel deeply.  I have a passion inside that I have never felt free to truly express for fear I would be viewed as utterly insane.  I am frightened of how big the feelings are, and I wonder if I will ever feel safe enough to express them.  I look around me and it seems I live in a world of barely contained passion.  How much illness, depression, and rage are the result of misdirected or tightly held passion?  I wonder what would happen to passionate feelings if it were more acceptable to be real, rather than nice.  The interesting thing is, I sense that my passion is more about love, rather than anger.  It only turns into anger when I have thwarted its expression.

Let me back up.  Tonight I have been listening to one of those PBS Telethons featuring the amazing voice of a talented tenor.  As he began to sing Nessun Dorma my entire body clenched as I felt overwhelmed with passion . . . passion for the music.  But more than that, I felt as though I would explode from the depth of feeling that I was experiencing.  I don’t believe it was simply a reaction to a beautifully performed piece of music.  I have a similar experience when I travel through a tree-lined canyon, look at a colorful bouquet of tulips, or gaze in awe at an exquisitely crafted piece of architecture.  Something deep inside of me erupts, and I want to stretch out my arms and embrace the beauty I see with all of the passion I feel inside.

But I stop myself because I have been told to quiet down, settle down, and tone it down from the time I was very young.  I wonder what would happen if I did not hold my feelings in, but instead allowed them full expression?

I often think I am the only one who feels this way.  Sometimes I want to scream at someone just so they will scream back and I will know that they feel as strongly as I do.  In fact, I spent most of my married life holding it in until I could no longer contain it, then unleashing the feelings in a fit of rage, and repeating the process all over again.  Every time I was told that I needed to calm down.  Instead, what if I had someone to just grab onto me and hold me tight, or someone who was able to match my passion and help me channel it in a different direction?  But I am clear that is not someone else’s job.  So I write. 

I pour my passion onto the page and it eases a bit.  It’s still there.  In fact, I hope it never goes away, or diminishes in the least little bit.  I just want to find ways to express it so that I feel seen and heard.  This world is an endlessly amazing place, full of the most passion inspiring people, places, and things.  And I want to “Come and rejoice . . . and [I] don’t even have to make a sound” (Rejoice, Il Divo).



Sunday, July 1, 2012

BEAUTY . . .


What is Beauty?  This has long been a topic of discussion with my friends throughout most of my life.  The opinions vary.  To one, beauty looks like “this” and to another “that” . . .  there never seems to be a consensus.

Even the well-known sayings about beauty leave room for disagreement.  Sayings such as: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” or “Beauty is as beauty does,” and finally “Beauty is only skin deep.”  No clarification here.

Now, I can appreciate a beautiful man or woman.  I see the chiseled jaw, perfect smile with gleaming white teeth, and the powerful physique on the male model, and call it beautiful.  I notice the flawless complexion, wide clear eyes, full lips, and slender silhouette of the woman in a movie or in the latest issue of Vogue, and envy her perfection.  Because of thoughts like these, it is easy to understand that my own idea of beauty has prevented me from ever seeing myself as beautiful.

Throughout my life I have spent an inordinate amount of time mentally comparing myself to those around me to see where I fit in on the scale of 1-10 perfection.  My thoughts ran on and on as to whether I was more or less attractive than I viewed others to be.  Yet in spite of such limiting thoughts, there have been many times that I have been surprised at what I saw as beautiful.  I would see someone and be astounded at how beautiful they appeared, even if that beauty did not match my previously held ideas, or the predominant view promoted by current experts.  It is because of such experiences that my ideas have been changed.

Several years ago I ran into an old friend from high school.  He was someone I dated for a short period of time, and I remember he was considered to be one of the best looking boys in my school.  I also remember that when he would walk by, many of my girlfriends would stare at him with teenage longing. 

What I noticed when I saw him again, after nearly 30 years, was that he was still very handsome, in spite of a few wrinkles and some gray hair.  In fact, he appeared to be even more handsome than I remembered.  As I pondered this I realized that though he was beautiful to behold as a young man, his beauty was like that of a newly mined rock.  The rock may contain various veins of color, with hints of gleaming metal, but only after it has been put into the grinder and had all of its jagged edges worn off can the true beauty of the “stone” shine through.  It appeared as though life’s experiences had polished him, worn away all of his rough edges.  Thus I saw, that with age and experience often come wisdom and extraordinary beauty.

So now I wonder, is beauty as simple as physical perfection as all of the glossy ads would lead me to believe?  Or, is it more?  I still don’t know why one person might think that someone or something is beautiful and another might not.  It is obviously a case of preference, and that is as varied as people on this planet.

For me, it now comes down to this one thing.  Can I drop the walls that separate us and find a way to connect with you?  Can I look past our differences and see how you and I are alike?  Will you tell me what you love, hate, think, and feel?  If so, then I will see you as beautiful because I will see that we are one and the same, and that is love.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

MY LIFE . . .


Several years ago, a dear friend told me I had a book inside me.  I have been pondering this thought for a long time.

Recently, several other friends have expressed similar observations, so once again, I am pondering.

I mean, what would I have to write about that others might find interesting?  

My conclusion . . . it doesn't matter if others find it interesting, or if anyone even reads this.  What's important to me is that I just start writing.  If nothing else, it will be cathartic.

So here goes . . .

If I were to tell you the story of my life it would be full of contradictions . . . high and low, good and bad, happy and sad . . . and everything in between.  The only constant would be inconsistency.

I once heard someone say "I was born at a very early age."  I adopted this saying as though it were my own.  I was so very clever as I found ways to fit it into my conversations.  However, now I am not too sure about it since I feel I have been born many times over . . . in this one lifetime!  So how do I start to tell you about me?  The most reasonable place would be to begin with things as they are right now.

As I sit and ponder the events of my life, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for everything I have experienced.  Each moment has been amazing . . . in retrospect.  But, while I was in the midst of living it, when I was immersed in the day-to-day happenings, life sometimes felt unbearable.

I often wanted to run away and not face any of it.  I lived in fear of so much that appeared before me.  At times I felt anxious, and went around frantically trying to keep safe by allowing myself to become distracted by "busy-ness."  But along with the incredible joy in my life, the feelings of never having enough, being enough, or doing enough were always there . . . a constant, nagging presence.

Things are different now.

The thoughts that used to keep me in a state of perpetual motion are still very active in my mind.  However, now I find that I no longer run away, or attempt to busily fill time and space, so they will subside.  In the face of the continuing barrage, I notice that I am experiencing a sense of calm.  I am also aware, and give more consideration to the other parts of me . . . the many other parts . . . that have been regularly sent to the back of the line to await their turn to appear center stage in the theatrical production that has been my life.

I don't know when it changed . . . or how.  I only know it did.  I could sit here all day ruminating over this. My best guess is that the change in my approach to my own thinking is due to my survival.  In spite of the many challenges . . . I am still here.  Those things I thought might kill me, fulfilled the words of the well-known saying by making me stronger.

The result of all of this seems to be that I am more allowing of my own very human self.  And, in doing this I find that I am also more allowing of the faults and foibles of those of you I encounter along the way.  I feel more connected to everyone around me, and I am discovering that no matter what I have done to try and hide my true nature from the world, it is there . . . as it has always been . . . and I suspect, always will be.  It is so simple . . . it is love.


Friday, June 1, 2012

UNCLE . . . and thoughts about the weather!

UNCLE!  A phrase used to indicate that someone has had enough . . . and I have had enough!  Or so I think.  I have lived 58 years, and there have been times when I feel like I am about to break under the pressure of life.  Today is one of those times.  I am weary . . . in fact, I am downright exhausted.  Sometimes I wonder how I keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I want to go home, climb in bed, shut out the world, and catch up on 35 years of too little sleep.  If only I dared.

But that is the problem.  I don't dare.  Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I have a belief that the world will fall apart if I stop doing what I do.  I know this is irrational . . . the world continues in spite of who stays and who goes . . . and in spite of what I do, or do not do.  In fact, it seems a bit vain to believe that I am indispensable!  Though I know there are those who would miss me if I were suddenly gone, I also know that life would go on, and everyone would adapt.  So why can't I give myself a break?

They say stress is not good.  That is saying the obvious in an understated way.  Stress wreaks havoc on a person.  I am a prime example.  My health is deteriorating, my energy is depleted, and my usually sunny disposition is cloudy, with a chance of thunder storms.  Right now, the only thing I know, is that storms pass.  I have lived through enough of them to know that dark clouds dissipate, and the sun shines through once again.  But for now, maybe I should just find a corner to curl up into and allow the rain (tears) to fall.  It can be cleansing.

In the poem Yesterday I Cried, by Iyanla Vanzant, a woman sits on her bed and cries for all of the heartaches and regrets of her life.  Perhaps tonight I will sit on my bed and do just that.  I don't know if I will feel better for having done so, but the persistant Pollyanna inside me is reminding me that I will likely find something to be glad for among my own heartaches and regrets.  That the sun will shine again and that, ultimately, nothing can defeat me except my own negative thinking. 

And though I may cry UNCLE today, and face other UNCLE days in the future, I do trust that the valleys of my life help me appreciate the peaks that much more.  I know from my own experience that storms pass, and the sun shines . . . and that is enough to get me through this UNCLE day!