Know Yourself

“Love the world as your self; then you can care for all things.” ― Byron Katie

It is easy to love the world when surrounded by the beautiful parts, and not so easy when we are faced with the darker side of humanity (or ourselves).

When I was in Greece, it struck me how long humans have been searching for the answers to the same questions.

Humankind’s greatest struggles start within each individual and are projected into our outer world.

Some of us seem to be wired to heal the world, and others seem to be wired to destroy the world. Most of us are a mixture of both. Lately I’ve been contemplating our collective movements, like ants, bees, wolves, or termites, all being driven by the goals of the pack. I am starting to think we are not much different than these creatures, other than some of us being ants, others bees, and so on. We may have free will, and I suppose ultimately we can choose to take a  different path, but there is no denying that phantom drive lurking inside of us, leading us to do things we don’t understand or want.

Or is it the insatiable want that drives us to destroy what’s in our paths.

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“You can’t not work…” and other Holiday Greetings

“People are… Full of contradictions. They’re lonely. And then they’re not. They’re missed. And then they’re not.”
― Kou Yoneda漂えど沈まず、されど泣きもせず [Tadayoedo Shizumazu Saredo Naki Mo Sezu]

The holiday season has never been my favorite. Mainly because I can only handle so many social gatherings before needing to retreat into my own space. This is a relatively new discovery about myself, rather, a part of myself that I am just now allowing myself to acknowledge. When I get together with a group of people, I can handle it for about two hours, and then I am ready to go home. It doesn’t matter whether I am having a great time or not, I just don’t have the capacity to do it for much longer than that. I suppose this has to do with my anxiety levels, and even though I don’t struggle nearly as much with it as I used to (thanks to years of therapy and a little medicine), I am careful not to exceed what I know is my limit. When I exceed those limits,  I tend to overeat, over drink, and become hyper-focused on things that bother me.  It is funny though, that once rested, I am ready to do it all over again.

Since quitting my job at the beginning of December, I have had a surprisingly full schedule of traveling, babysitting, spending time helping my friend through a mental health crisis, hosting my fiance’s (I’ll call him Alto) family and then my family, and going to many holiday parties. I am not sure how I ever would have managed all this if I was still working. In the past, going to work was my excuse to get away when I had exceeded my limit of tolerance. Usually work was quiet during the holidays, with many people taking off; and going into an empty, quiet office was a welcome escape.

Not working has been a blessing this year, though it was challenging listening to everyone’s comments about it.

“Why did you leave such a great job?”

“Are you looking for another job, you’re too young to retire?!”

You can’t not work….”

“What are you going to do now, isn’t it going to be hard to find a job at your age?”

“It must be nice to not have to work! I’m the only one in my family who works…”

“Wish I had the luxury of not working”

I’ve become particularly prickly when Alto says things like, “what do you mean you didn’t have time to go grocery shopping?”, “you slept til what time?”, or “what did you do all day?” The good thing about him is that all I need to do is tell him how I’m feeling and he listens and responds kindly. Indeed he was the one who supported my decision to quit the job and seek other opportunities; so it is mostly my own guilt and insecurities causing me to react the way I do to his comments.

The best part of the holiday season for me is having both of my daughters and my grand-daughter staying at my house this week. It was wonderful waking up and seeing their adorable faces. We haven’t been able to all be together in one place in over a year. When everyone departs, I’ll be sad, and the quiet house will be both comforting and a poignant reminder of how much I’ll miss them until next time.

Practice Accepting What We’re Given

“The reward for practicing accepting what we’re given is we become intimate with everything that’s not us. We become intimate with the nature of life.  And it’s the rhythm between our own nature and the nature of life that allows us to find the thread we are — the thread we are in the unseeable connections that hold everything together.” – Mark Nepo

I love the concept of finding the “thread we are” in nature.  Sometimes I find it hard to get out of my head, especially when I am trying to make a decision or solve a problem. It seems counterintuitive to simply let go and accept where I am in the moment, not to mention incredibly difficult given my obsessive compulsive personality.

The other day I decided to take a walk and as I strolled along, I realized I was stuck in my head, oblivious to nature around me.  I remembered what Mark Nepo said in his Book of Awakening about dealing with difficult thoughts and emotions by finding something in nature that most represents how you are feeling.  I started looking for things during my walk, and slowly I was able to stop the obsessive thinking.

I would recommend giving this approach a try, and remember to go easy on yourself if you have trouble letting go of your thoughts — they are part of nature too.

I like to pretend

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Each day when I walk out my back door,

Taking the well-worn path to my garage, where my gray car sits

waiting to take me to my next destination,

Barely noticing the tender buds of the crocus

sprouting up around me,

I like to pretend

I like to pretend that I know what is going to happen that day,

I like to think that I am driving, rather than being driven

That I am accelerating, rather than being accelerated

Breathing, rather than being breathed

I like to pretend that I am working, rather than being worked

That I am choosing a path, rather than a path choosing me

I like to pretend that I am in the know,

Rather than the know being in me

I like to believe I am embracing life,

When in fact, life is embracing me.

Amy Jones

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Judge not….(or Maybe Just a Little)

“When you think yours is the only true path you forever chain yourself to judging others and narrow the vision of God. ”  ― Shannon L. Alder

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Happy New Year! Here is my first Writer’s Quote Wednesday post of the year.

My friend and I were lamenting about how we set this great intention for the New Year to be less judgmental, quickly realizing that no sooner than we had set the intention, we were already breaking it. Much like going on a diet, the more we tried not to judge, the harder it was to stop.

So I’ve decided to take a different approach now, a softer, more compassionate approach, by recognizing that this activity must be serving some purpose in my life. If recognizing this part of myself is the first step to changing the behavior, then perhaps I can slowly replace it with something more kindhearted. Being more conscious of when I am engaging in this one-dimensional cerebration may lead to some greater insights into myself and can be a good indicator about how I am feeling about myself.  Being judgmental of others is often the result of feeling bad about myself and can ultimately make me feel worse.

If I examine my judgments more closely, I realize there is some momentary payback that is satisfying and possibly even comforting.  Lamenting about someone to my friend can be a way to blow off steam and work through my petty grievances without creating unnecessary conflicts with others. When I am dealing with more serious concerns, it can help me to put a little space between myself and the person I am judging in order to think things through more carefully. In the latter scenario, I can run the risk of increasing my frustrations, but most of the time it seems to have the opposite effect, allowing me time to examine my own part in the transaction more clearly.

I haven’t abandoned my quest to be less judgmental, but I am realizing it may be a life-long endeavor to figure out how to manage this part of my personality.  There are plenty of good reasons for me to keep on striving to improve. In its most innocent form, it can be entertaining, and in its worst form, it can be quite destructive and toxic.

We live in a society that seems to revel in being judgmental, and we are constantly seeing posts on social media as well as news and television programs that are all about tearing people down.  I don’t want to get caught up in that kind of negativity, so all I can do is to start on a personal level.

When I am having a particularly difficult time, I utilize an excellent tool from the Work by Byron Katie, called the Judge Your Neighbor work sheet. The goal is not to self-censor but to put my judgmental thoughts down on paper and then examine them more closely. I have found this tool to be extremely helpful in identifying how to make peace with my most troubling thoughts.

I would love to hear how others deal with this aspect of their personality. Do you find yourself judging  frequently? Any good tips?

Caring in this Moment

“Maybe this one moment, with this one person, is the very reason we are here on earth at this time.”  From The Caring Moment by Jean Watson

As we continue on our journey of helping my father to heal from his recent open-heart surgery, I am reminded of one of my favorite nurse theorists, Jean Watson. I first became familiar with her when I was taking a nursing theory class. I had become somewhat frustrated with some of the other theories which seemed too complicated to figure out how to put them into practice.

When I discovered Jean Watson’s Theory of Caring Science, I loved her message of authentic mindful caring. The essence of all caring is that brief moment in time when we can truly connect with another human being, and in that moment, create the essential bond that leads to healing at the deepest level.

I am thankful for each member of my dad’s healthcare team who have taken the time to get to know him, listen to him, and care for him.

It is hard to see this man who cared for me all those years in such a dependent state. Sometimes I become impatient with the baby steps he is making.  It is in those moments that I try to remember what is stated best in my favorite meditation by Jean Watson, beautifully illustrated in this Youtube video.

I’m hoping my dear father will be discharged from the hospital today, moving on to the next step into a cardiac rehab center. But it is in his time, not mine, that he will heal.

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Affirmations – Writer’s Quote Wednesday

For my friend, Colleen’s, Writer’s Quote Wednesday I’ve decided to also post a clip of one of Stuart Smalley’s affirmations in case you are feeling under the weather today.  Hopefully it will at least put a smile on your face.