A Little Life – Or so Much More – What Will You Choose? ©

I’ve led such a little life. I have allowed myself to lead this little life, when inside me there is so much more.” From the movie, Shirley Valentine, the heroine is 42 when she realizes that her spunky, risk-taking, outrageous self of her youth has disappeared a midst the layers of a “normal” life.

Just like Shirley Valentine, I’ve had this yearning to be more and do more – I’ve had it all my life. I suppose if I compare my journey to most others, I’ve done my share of scary, outrageous things and achieved quite a lot.

Yet there were many times I applied the brakes on my desires, rather than going full speed ahead. (Sometimes I’d tromp on the brakes and the gas at the same time – imagine the tailspin then!) When I watch what others have achieved, I sometimes feel as if I’ve been standing still.

Phrases that start with, I wish I could… I’d love to…Wouldn’t it be great if…I always wanted to… are all signs of that inner drive to be bigger, to be more than we currently are. What stops us in our tracks from fulfilling our hearts’ desires?

It often starts when we’re young. A dear friend recently shared that she had loved music and art in school, but because she struggled with book-learning, the teachers removed all the activities she was good at and forced her to focus on those weaknesses. She’s done some amazing things despite those set-backs, but it makes me wonder how much more she could have done had the focus been on her strengths.

The story we tell ourselves about who we are plays a role, too. “I’m nobody fancy.” I’m just an ordinary guy.” I recently heard the lyrics to a new country western song that had me bubbling with indignation – o.k. it was rage. He said, “I don’t want to be someone’s super hero, I just want to be an average guy.” Give me a break! My personal belief is that each human being is not only unique but extraordinary in his or her own way. It’s important to acknowledge that specialness in every one of us.

When I first ventured into the online dating world, I can remember reading and discarding an astounding number of profiles that boasted of being ordinary. Mostly they were looking for a good, honest woman who was willing to settle for ordinary. I felt I was so much more than that. It took some time to find extraordinary – someone who wanted as much as I did and knew his own worth.

In the business world, complacency, risk aversion, and too much time in a particular comfort zone can signal the death knell for companies. I believe the same holds true for us as individuals. It’s so easy to get distracted by gadgets, re-runs and external things that have no meaning and add nothing to our lives – far easier to settle for less.

Now don’t think that I’m advocating that we strive to be someone we’re not. But I do think it’s about challenging ourselves, stretching ourselves, and growing ourselves in ways that add to the meaning of our lives. For example, when I was 40, I gave myself piano lessons. As a child, I’d taken a year or two of lessons but I hated practicing, so Mom stopped the lessons. It left me with a yearning to try again.

It was hard work, far harder because I’m better at playing by ear – musical notes on the page didn’t make much sense at first. Imagine my horror when the teacher begged me to play on stage at the year-end recital – along with all those 8-year old prodigies!

My goal was to get up there, play my piece without too many mistakes, and not have a heart attack. Mission accomplished. That was over 20 years ago.

At 50, I enrolled in a stand-up comedy course. Our goal – perform five minutes of our own material at Yuk Yuk’s on Amateur Night. Now that was scary – more terrifying than anything I’d done previously. My fear escalated each week when no one laughed at any of the material I wrote and delivered – it was all crap. Disaster loomed!

I wanted to back out more times than I could count. But I didn’t. I just didn’t invite anyone I cared about to the event. If I was going to make a complete fool of myself, I would do it in front of strangers! None of my fears of impending disaster came true; my routine had the audience laughing and clapping, and it gave me a high that I can still feel to this day. Even the headliner that night commented, “Very funny material.”

The message I’ve taken from all those “out of my comfort zone” experiences is that I am capable of so much more. It isn’t about doing more because I’m not good enough as I am, or that I don’t feel I measure up. Rather, it’s that I feel compelled to do more to show myself that I can do even better than I’m currently doing. I can grow beyond what I first thought was possible for me and successfully venture in many new directions that call to me.

Knowing all this, I also know that I’m still just scratching the surface of all that’s possible for me and for others. Now what about you? Are there things on your bucket list begging you to play, do and be more? Please share – I’d love to hear your stories!

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Finding the Love of My Life ©

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Are you one of the lucky ones when it comes to relationships? Early on, you found that one special person and are living “happily ever after”.

I have not been one of those lucky ones. Before we even tied the knot, I suspected that my first love (I married at the tender age of 18) was not the love of my life. But he provided a safe port in the storm at that time. In the eight years we were married, I was able to safely grow and blossom into a much more confident young woman. My dad said, “Well, he never did you any harm, but he didn’t do you much good.” (Dads are so protective!)

After a couple of years of trying to figure myself out and figure out what love was all about, I fell in love with a man whom I thought would be my happily ever after. We raised a wonderful son together and had some good years. But stuff happens. It’s not unusual for relationships to founder because of life circumstances and various traumas. My second marriage lasted over 23 years, but then it ended.

Four years passed before I felt ready to date again. This time I figured, “third time lucky”. And for awhile, I felt lucky. We met on the shores of the online dating pool and were delighted to discover how much we had in common in so many ways. Here I thought was my soul mate. Although I invested heart and soul into our relationship, I was ever so sad when it ended after five years.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating throwing my hat into the ring yet a fourth time. As I reflect on what has gone before, what I don’t want, and what I do want in a new partner; I’ve had an epiphany about the love of my life. I finally realized who it is – it’s not Mr. Right –

It’s me!

All my relationships to this point have been amazing reflections of who I have been in any given moment. Each person showed me facets of my mind, body, and soul that I might not have paid attention to otherwise. Sometimes it felt like the movie, “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly”, but really, it helped me to fall in love with myself all over again.

I grew enormously because of each relationship, which of course prepared me for the next relationship.

Today it dawned on me that all of this learning and growing within my relationships has been propelling me toward affirming again the most important relationship of all, the relationship I have with myself.

If I allow it, I am my own best friend. When I treat myself and honor myself as I deserve, I come to trust and value the love that I am.

I can never physically abandon me, because I’m always here. When no one else is there for me, I’m right here to comfort and rock myself to sleep. I can call on me any time of the day or night. I can surround myself with all the love I have inside.

Does that mean then that we have no need of relationships? Not at all! Being in relationship is the way we see ourselves as we couldn’t if we were alone. A totally white wall cannot know itself as white until a black thumbprint shows up on its surface.

A woman does not experience ultimate femininity without the presence of ultimate masculinity. Contrast through connection is vital to our own growth.

So now where do I go? Well, part of my plan is to keep honoring my own magnificence as a human being. I’m not any more magnificent than you are, but I am unique – as you are unique; I plan to keep celebrating that uniqueness and keep cherishing the fact that I truly am the love of my life, just as you need to be the love of your life.

And if I’m blessed enough to find someone new and special to share the love of my life with, that will be spectacular!

How Can I Be Happy If I’m Not in Control? ©

I've Been Thinking Woman

Photo from: zazzle.co.uk

I confess, I ‘m a closet control freak. One day I might come out of the closet – that’s if I can find my way through all the stuff in there. (I said I was a control freak, not a neat freak!)

As a child, I really wanted to control my world. But I was little and female. Tantrums, in my efforts to be “the boss” were swiftly crushed by my mother. My older brother had way more power than me – and he never hesitated to taunt me with it.

But even he didn’t have the kind of power I thought he had. When he was only 13, my parents sent him to boarding school to shape him up, civilize him so our mother would be proud of his behavior. (He had been acting out, in typical teenage boy fashion.)

Whoa! I thought, “Keep your head down and follow the rules, or the same thing will happen to you!” So I followed orders – “be a good girl, get good grades, and take care of your brothers”. I saw how the world worked. Big people had power. Big people controlled the order of things. It was important to play along until I was big.

So for a while, I played along. I did what I was told – mostly – and the world continued to turn in an orderly fashion – at least on the surface.

Chaos beat down the door of our “Father Knows Best” existence when my mother died suddenly. I was 17. At 18, I’d finished high school; my dad had remarried and moved my younger brothers to Saskatchewan. I was all grown up and on my own. There was no one to tell me what to do.

What freedom I felt to be in charge of my own destiny. I could stay out all night, eat whatever I wanted, and do my own thing. Who-Hoo! In control at last!

Of course that euphoria lasted about five minutes – once I remembered that the food I was so fond of cost money, plus it was a bit too scary staying out all night if I had no place to live. The refraine “No work, no eat” drummed in my head as I pounded the pavement looking for a job, any job.

Then, of course, the big boss was in control. Damn! When would it be my turn?

I thought I could control my first husband, then my second – that was like trying to teach the proverbial pig to dance, it was impossible; and it annoyed the hell out of the pig!

It has taken me many years to realize that while I will never have control over anything, I do have some measure of control over my thoughts and my state. I might never be certain of any outcome or result, but I do have some say about my choices and my actions. (I’m still undecided about my control over my closet!)

While I continue to be disgusted that I have no control, I’ve surrendered to happiness in the moment. At this moment, I have a lovely cup of tea – Earl Grey – with a touch of vanilla and milk. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the birds are singing.

I’m happy – even though I have no control!

Help! My “That was Easy” Button is Broken! ©

push buttonDumbfounded, I wasn’t sure what to do next. I’d put my coins in the vending machine and pressed B 0 – nothing happened. I pressed those buttons again. Nothing! Then I noticed the LED readout: “Make another choice.” I couldn’t see another choice for the chips I wanted. All I could see was the package that wouldn’t drop from its row. My irritation factor rose from 3 to 9.

A young woman came to my rescue. “Pick B 4,” she said. I looked at B 4. Sure enough, it was exactly the same product. Down the chute it came. Easy! I was so grateful.

As I walked back to my chair in the spiritual workshop I was attending, the metaphor struck me upside the head. How many times in my life had I chosen the tough, go-it-alone route, the path of struggle, of bare survival, when I could have simply asked for help?

Was it not time to “make another choice”?

Like a stubborn “I want to do it myself” four-year old, I have been fiercely independent for most of my life. If something wasn’t working, I’d spend hours in frustration trying to figure it out. Some of the time I’d have to give up, but once in a while I’d succeed. Then victory was sweet! See! I did it – all by myself! (Usually the investment of my precious time was not worth all that effort.)

Of course it’s human nature to want the thrill of victory that occurs when we overcome some obstacle. As a Baby Boomer, I hate to admit that my victories with technology have been few and far between. I confess I’m the low tech tool in the high tech shed. It’s not that I can’t learn – it just takes so damn long. Forget the romance of technology.  I demand a divorce. One instance comes to mind.

Take my cell phone for example – please! That fool thing has more apps and buttons than the space shuttle. I sarcastically asked the clerk, “But does it actually make a phone call?”

My friends, particularly the younger ones, keep  me to keep in touch. I struggle valiantly to reply, but my fingers fumble over the tiny keys. Spelling mistakes abound. I hit the send button by mistake. Oops – didn’t mean to say that! I give up and dial the number – sheer relief washes over me when a real person answers. (Note to self – there are no more dials on phones; those went the way of the dodo bird.)

I’m tired of learning curves that are steeper than Mount Everest. I admit it. I long for easy street – where things just magically happen because I wish them to. “Make it so, Number One,” said Captain Picard. Obviously his “that was easy” button worked – at least on T.V.

Hmm. Now here’s a novel idea. What if I ask for help more often instead of being the lone stranger? Might that be the ticket to easy street? It’s worth a try. I think I’ll just make another choice!

I HATE MOTHER’S DAY! ©

 

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“If you can’t be bothered with me any other time of the year, don’t bother coming round or buying me flowers on Mother’s Day!” C’mon, Moms. I bet there isn’t one of you out there who hasn’t felt this at least once, even if you never said it right out loud.

Mother’s Day is tough for many women I know. For some, it’s the only time they get any attention from their families – the older they are, the more invisible they become. In seniors’ residences, the number of cards on the dresser is like a badge of honor and the main topic at the dinner table. Talk to any of the staff and you’ll discover who’s good to their mother and who only comes around on Mother’s Day.

Dear friends have other reasons to have heavy hearts when this day rolls around – one’s oldest son was murdered at this time of year, the others have lost daughters and sons to drugs and alcohol and car accidents.

It’s tough for kids, too. Some have mothers who mis-treated them when they were little and aren’t nice to be around. Should you still show her respect, even if you don’t feel much for her?

My own mom has been gone since I was 17, so I transferred my attention to my grandmothers while they still lived, and now I have aging aunts and a stepmom whom I send cards to. But there’s still a little pocket of sadness inside because I can’t participate in the idealized Hallmark way.

When my son was about three, I remember feeling so resentful on Mother’s Day because my husband forgot what day it was until mid-morning, then rushed to Safeway and brought home a pot of chrysanthemums – not a flower I ever liked.

It was a tense, instead of a beautiful day, with him feeling guilty and me feeling hard done by. Then we talked about it. We talked about which occasions in the year were ones that we wanted to honor. My mother had placed a special emphasis on birthdays, so that was important to me. Our anniversary and Christmas were the two other days that had significance. We agreed to resist the commercialism of the other designated days and established our own family rituals.

With the pressure off, we had more fun being spontaneous. Since I liked the ritual of breakfast in bed, my family would surprise me with memorable times of French toast and tea on a tray with them beside me. A homemade card from my son added an extra bit of delight.

Paying tribute to all moms who work tirelessly and often selflessly throughout the year is a good idea, but why have we turned it into yet another commercial time of sappy cards, wilted roses and long waiting lines at restaurants? Phew! Got that over with – now let’s get on with our lives – Mom will understand how very busy we are!

Here’s my question – do we use this day as an excuse to ignore our mothers the rest of the year? My grandmother once said, “All I really want is some of your undivided attention.” We don’t need all the hoopla of one day if we already feel special because of continuous regard and contact. A regular phone call to check in or an unannounced drop-by means so much more, especially to seniors dealing with health and mobility issues.

As for me, I like to pamper myself on Mother’s Day. If I can entice a friend – we go to a concert or get a pedicure. My son will be away on his honeymoon. I do not expect a phone call!

When the Student Becomes the Teacher

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More years ago than I prefer to count, I was blessed to have in my personal growth class a young woman by the name of Lezlie. She was eager to learn all about herself and the power within. She proved to be an apt student.

The more often we shared, the stronger the bond became between us – we were certainly sisters of Spirit. We lost touch for a while when I changed cities, but in reconnecting; it was as if we had never been apart.

Over the years, there were triumphs we celebrated and tragedies that we helped each other through. Mostly we connected by email or phone, but the occasional visit found us exchanging book titles and trying to solve the world’ s problems over a cup of tea. By that time, I rarely saw myself as her teacher, and she my student. We were sisters on a whirlwind of adventure.

In 2012, our relationship continued to shift. That July, Lezlie and Ron had dinner with us on one of their rare trips through Edmonton – heading to Hinton for a family re-union. We had such a delightful time; no one wanted the evening to end.

In September, Ron called with the heart-wrenching news that our beloved Lezlie had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and had died during surgery. Her celebration of life in Calgary proved that she had become a teacher to us all. I drew strength from the final words she had written, inspiring us to live our lives with joy, passion, and purpose.

More than once since then, have I been blessed with wise counsel from her when she appeared in my dreams.  She gave me the courage to fight on that October when I faced cancer surgery.

Earlier today, Good Friday of 2014, I was reviewing old Facebook messages. (Lezlie was always more embracing of social media than I was!) As I scrolled down, there was a gift from her dated four years before she died – a message I had not seen until now. It was like finding a beautiful gift at the back of the closet that I’d forgotten to open. The message included a poem she wanted to share.

May you find the wisdom that I found in her poem that follows.

One Moment Please

By Lezlie Molyneaux 2008

I take flight and all the world is spinning

Every need rushes in to whack at me.

I cannot grasp one stick to shake at,

For all shake furiously.

The spinning is becoming tortuous.

I can’t remember who I am.

Then

One tiny feather floats

Between the blades sharpened dangerously.

My eyes blink, yet I am wary

One moment I shake ….

I breathe

One moment I shudder…..

I breathe

One moment I close my eyes

I breathe …..

I breathe

One moment I am totally protected

In a blanket of downy white

One moment – I am

I am.

Dearest Lezlie,

Thank you for transcending time and space to share your wisdom and teach us your truth. We are bountifully blessed as we remember that we are all students and teachers of each other.

Photo courtesy of How to raise your vibration blog

2010 A Year of Choices

IMG_9150The number of choices each of us makes during any given day is astounding: what time to get up, what to wear, what to eat, what route to take, where to go for coffee, which piece of work to tackle, who to call, how many e-mails to send/respond to, whether to go out at night or not, and so on, and so on.

Then, of course, there are those times when ‘no choice’ is also a choice. That’s when we let others choose for us: where to take us to celebrate, what movie to see, what plans our bosses have for us etc. I know that I choose most of my activities based on what I want or what I think will make me happy. We’re constantly faced with opportunities to choose between what we want and what we don’t want.

The longer we’ve been on the planet, the more experienced we are at making action-oriented choices. As I ponder my goals for 2010, I see before me a fascinating array of new choices to make. One of the more interesting choices has been triggered as I read Esther and Jerry Hick’s book, Money and the Law of Attraction. In the Teachings of Abraham, they strongly recommend the choice of positive thoughts over negative thoughts – suggesting that we focus our thoughts on what we want, rather than dwelling on what we don’t want or don’t have.

Some might argue, as I once did, that we have absolutely no control over our thoughts – they just plant themselves in our minds because of what we’ve seen or what has happened. Besides which, what we think doesn’t really have any bearing on what happens to us, does it? Well what if it does?

According to Wikipedia, “The Law of Attraction argues that thoughts (both conscious and unconscious) can affect things outside the head, not just through motivation, but by other means. Essentially, “if you really want something and truly believe it’s possible, you’ll get it”, but putting a lot of attention and thought onto something you don’t want means you’ll probably get that too.”

Hmm.  Since I can only speak to this from my own experience, let me say that whether the Law of Attraction has been “scientifically” validated or not, I do know that when I think good thoughts, happy thoughts, I feel better. And when I feel better, I actively look for other thoughts and things to support me in feeling even better. It becomes a lovely upward spiral filled with happiness, joy and wonder. The opposite is also true. When I think negative, unhappy thoughts, more of those come into my head. If I let it continue, my feelings spiral down into a pit of despair, worry, loneliness – well, you get the picture.

But, you say, life is tough – I have no job, no money, not enough food in the frig, people are in pain all around me. True though that may be, it doesn’t change the fact that you still have the power to choose what you think and feel about every condition. Our thoughts will trigger a variety of emotions.  According to David R. Hawkins in Power vs Force, it has been scientifically proven that the words we use to describe emotions have the power to either energize us or zap us of our strength. The most life-giving word is enlightenment, followed by peace and joy.  Shame, guilt and apathy are the most debilitating.

Why would anyone want to hang out in the misery that negative words cause? For example, if my life is sailing along in a wonderful direction but some of my friends are really struggling, I am tempted to feel bad, sad, and/or guilty. If I do that, not only do I dim the light of possibilities that I could hold for my friends and family, it dulls the glow of me feeling great about what’s good about my life. To dwell on that negative seems to be such a “lose-lose” position for all concerned. Why would I want to feel less than, just because of others who aren’t where I am? If everyone’s in the pit, who is left to pull us out?

A number of years ago, a dear friend called in great distress with the news that she had lost her business. This vibrant, take-charge woman was just beside herself with pain and worry for her future. On my way out the door to her house, I grabbed a book from my shelf to loan her.  As women do, I listened  with great empathy to her story, but felt somewhat helpless in the face of it all. So I gave her the book I’d brought, suggesting it might be useful. One day later she called with such a joyful note in her voice. That book (Even Eagles Need a Push by David McNally) was the lifeline she needed to pull herself up. It was onward and upward from there.

Though I may feel bad initially over someone’s situation, when I make the shift and focus my thoughts to how strong, resourceful and determined humans are in the face of adversity and how much I admire their courage, that support holds a much greater potential for forward movement than choosing to wallow with them in the muck of despair. Plus, the gift of rocky road ice cream can change someone’s state of mind in just one spoonful!

Which leads me back to choices.  If one of my goals for 2010 is to feel good in every moment, then I will work to consciously choose my thoughts about any given situation. If bad things happen, I can ask myself, “What is it that’s good about this situation?” or “What will make me feel a little bit better?” Every small shift to the positive opens a doorway to better things.  Then, if I think of a positive action to take, however big or small, that, too will support the ‘feel-good’ vibrations.

The other choice I will continue with is to disengage from the media negativity.  Sixteen months ago, my mate and I decided to cancel our cable and only use the TV for DVDs.  As a result, I haven’t watched the evening news for quite some time (my grandmother called it watching the doom and gloom). I get brief snippets from the radio when listening for the traffic report, but mostly, the pain of things I have no control over does not enter my life. Call me crazy, but this one action has added tons of time to spend on activities that make me feel just great – such as writing this article!

One other thing I do to boost my feel-good meter is subscribe to daily e-mail meditations that lift my spirits and start my days off right. As TUT.com says, “Thoughts become things. Think only the good ones!” What thoughts will you think in 2010?

Permission is granted to copy this article for personal use, providing credit is given to the author, Sue Paulson, and it is not altered in any way.