Unstoppable

I used to think a photo of a cardinal in the winter was so cliché

Now I understand the symbolism in this breathtaking image

Resilience in the midst of the coldest days and nights

This brightly colored bird atop the barren branches

Screeches defiantly into the cold air

You cannot stop me, cold

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Learning not to Fear Failure

“When we begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves” — Katherine Mansfield

In any given day, we will succeed at some things and fail at others. Failure happens to some degree every day. Over time, If we lose our sense of humor, we can begin to feel badly about our failures, letting those feelings compound into a statement about our self-worth. After all, who wants to fail?

There are times when a failure seems too big to make us laugh, and indeed some mistakes aren’t that funny. In those cases, does it make sense to continue to wallow in self-loathing, or to earnestly move forward in a new direction. Every moment offers us a chance for a new direction, and if we are mired in self loathing about our failures, we lose the chance to see the new opportunities that are available to us in the present moment.

I am resisting the temptation to see my move into a job that didn’t suit me as a failure. It was a learning experience, and I do not regret making the decision to change directions after several attempts to make it work. Resilience is one of my strengths. Having gone through much harder times, bigger failures in my life, I remain an eternal optimist, with a healthy dose of sardonic cynicism to keep me from being too naive.

Early in my recovery from an eating disorder, I had a sponsor who gave me a stuffed, quilted pig she had lovingly made for me. It seemed rather ironic, given my condition, but the words she said when she presented it to me have always stayed with me, even 35 years later. Her words were simple “Don’t wallow in it!”

I don’t expect everything in life to work out, and I don’t expect myself to be perfect. I know I will make mistakes, fail, fall down, and do dumb things. Sometimes I will be able to laugh at these things, and sometimes I will need to take a moment to cry.

Life itself fails us at times, and all we can do is decide, and decide, and decide again. Where to next?

Winter of the Soul

“Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.”  — Robert H. Schuller

Planning my Next Adventure

I went hiking in West Virginia this past weekend with my niece. There is something so exhilarating about hiking in the freezing cold with several inches of snow on the ground. I like the feeling of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, especially right now when my life is in flux.

I’m still grappling with my feelings about the way this past year has turned out, having left the comfort and security of a job I had for twenty years to try something new, only to find out the new job was a bad fit. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the comfort of my old job, even though the last couple of years there were especially difficult.

Now, here I am, searching for something else. I am impatient with the process, having worked since I was a teenager. I have a little time to figure out how I want to spend my final years working. The time off is giving me room to breath, recoup a little, and set some personal goals for the upcoming year.

During the past year, I have become obsessed with listening to and reading stories about women who have gone off on big adventures, and I dream about doing something like that myself some day. Recently I’ve been fueling this desire by listening to Tough Girl podcasts, and I have decided to set a goal for myself in honor of my big birthday this year, and also the ten-year anniversary of my dear brother’s death. The year Scott died, I did my first half marathon and also went on a medical trip to South Africa. I never got to talk to him about these adventures. Scott and I had always dreamed of doing the Amazing Race together, and I want to honor that wish by doing a week-long bike ride this summer. I will write more about it once I finalize my plan.

View from Skywalk Window

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I’m still playing with yesterday’s assignment. The fun part of participating in the photo101 class is that it makes ordinary experiences more interesting. One could even say it helps me to be more mindful of my surroundings. I also look forward to seeing everyone else’s interpretations each day.

I stopped and took these pictures on the sky walk on the way into work this morning. I have had so much fun experimenting with various shots. Following the assignments and looking through a photographer’s eyes makes me aware of all the small, intricate details that are there for the noticing in any given moment.

I think this process would be helpful for anyone who is working on their emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being.

 

“Wild” – a great movie for the restless soul

I saw “Wild” a few days ago and would highly recommend it for an uplifting movie about a girl whose spirit is broken by the death of her mom, addiction, and a failing marriage, and how she finds strength and resilience from within.

Suffering is not enough

“Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful…How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow? It is natural–you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.” 

Thích Nhất Hạnh

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During our holiday festivities yesterday we got started on the topic of the “resting bitch face” and how at some point in our lives, we’ve all had that moment of being told to smile when we didn’t feel like it.  The women at the table were especially sensitive to these encounters, believing them to be somewhat sexist in nature.  My son-in-law quickly pointed out that it happens to men as well, and  he was tired of people asking him “what’s wrong” because he usually has a serious look on his face.

So how do we “smile” during those tough moments.  Do we pretend to be happy when we are not?  I do not believe that is what he is suggesting in his quote above.  Rather, I believe he is reminding us that we are not defined by the circumstances that happen in our lives.  At the core of our beings, we are radiant and beautiful, and peace can always be found within us.

I chose to post this picture of myself because I was going through a really tough time when it was taken, having experienced the recent death of my brother, my daughter’s illness, and the deterioration of my marriage. I smiled not because I was happy about those circumstances, but because I was able to find a glimpse of peace in that particular moment.

 

 

Notice what you are reacting to

500px-Sad_LookNext time you are having a strong reaction to a person or situation, chances are you may also be reacting to something from the past.  Oftentimes, if you take a moment to think about the feelings you are having, you will notice that they take you back to an earlier time in your life when someone or something made you feel that way.  In fact, you may have been replaying a scenario over and over again with different characters and settings, searching for resolution.  Next time you are feeling hurt, rejected, or treated unfairly, try to recall the first time you felt that way.   If you can’t think of anything right away, then let the thought go, with an open mind to allowing it to come to your consciousness when the time is right and you are more relaxed.

If you are having trouble with the concept, I recommend reading Love is Letting Go of Fear. The author, Gerald Jampolsky, does an excellent job of illustrating it in easy-to-read  terminology.

For now, all you need to do is raise your awareness and be open to the idea that things are not always as they seem on the surface.  This awareness will take practice.  Once you have developed an awareness of these moments, then you will be able to examine your feelings on a deeper level.  Approach this exercise with a loving attitude, remembering that you are doing the best you can, and so is everyone else you know.