"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." A.A. Milne

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I Am Beautiful...and That Is Good For Me To Know

This is me. I am strong, beautiful and fierce. I love how my arms look. I am completely holding up my own body weight and can do so for quite some time. The strength in my lovely shoulders, chest and back coupled with my powerful core enables me to do this. I love looking at this picture.

Perhaps my glowing terms for myself make you uncomfortable. After all, we women shouldn't really think so highly of ourselves, should we??? I mean come on self criticism and flagellation are almost to an Olympic level in our society. It seems to be expected we will totally run our appearance down and so many of us comply. I complied. Not only did I comply, I had full blown body dysmorphia. When I was more slender than the above picture, I saw a fat, bloated, ugly woman looking back at me in the mirror. I have pictures that I more resemble a skeleton than a healthy young woman. At that time I had a very small measure of relief when size 0 did not fit me because they were too big. But 5 little bitty pounds would send me into a frantic, self loathing spiral.

I am beautiful. I can say that now. I can believe that now. I embody that now.

Several years ago in the middle of a chaotic storm of metaphysical and emotional angst I threw up my hands and screamed, "ENOUGH! I do not want to live like this any more!!" I wanted to change and be happy. I want to truly know joy. Most of all I wanted to find peace and allow it to flourish and grown in my heart. Much of that journey consisted of, and still consists, of good nutrition, vigorous exercise, yoga, and meditation. I love to talk about those aspects. But there was a deeper, darker part.

I truly felt in my heart of hearts that I was an ugly, horrible person. I truly thought I was unworthy. I thought I deserved all the hardship, heartache, and yuck that filled my life. I was paying penance for a person I perceived myself to be.

I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.

I stepped back and really looked hard at who I was. Slowly I peeled away all those horrible, wrong messages laid upon my heart by a myriad of sources. I sorted through experiences and began to look back at the person I had been with grace, compassion, and love. I grieved for all the self imposed heartache I had put myself through. I cried for the destruction my self hatred had upon my precious, delicate soul. Thankfully souls are made of sterner stuff and mine was battered but still strong and hopeful.

Over the next years I learned to see myself with compassion and love. I began to treat myself with grace and warmth. I began to fall in love with the good person I was. Yep, I finally saw that I was a good, loving, and compassionate person. I was worthy of all the amazing things in my life. All of that abundance was well spent on me. I saw the beauty and wondrous nature of my soul. It was incredible. It IS incredible.

I treat myself very differently now. Yes, I still very much have flaws. I am impatient, prone to self focus, and the one I like least, I sometimes gossip. I really don't care for that one. But it is okay. I embrace the person I am right here and right now. That perspective urges me to work on those issues and grow as a person. I work on those with joy now, eager to be better and to do better.

The ability to embrace myself just as I am has given me the ability to accept others just as they are. Well, most of the time. I still struggle but it is so much easier for me now. I am more apt to see the beauty and amazing qualities of others. I see what is lovely far more readily than I see what is not as lovely. I focus on the joy and thrill of life, all life.

Then one day after avoiding the mirror for so long I looked into one. It took my breath away. For the first time I really saw that I was beautiful. Just gorgeous really. It stopped me in my tracks because it was so alien to my former way of thinking. The most beautiful thing is I can see the beauty of my spirit coming through.

I hope you see your beauty. I see your beauty. It is there. I see your goodness and how very worthy you are of joy, love, happiness, and peace.

Yes, peace lives with me now. It is always growing and expanding allowing me to deal with things in a new and more fruitful way. The coolest thing is, it can reside within you too.

May harmony and peace find you my friends.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Do I Really Mean It?

Yesterday out of the blue my husband lost his job. This came after being out of town and away from us for a week. It was the proverbial blow to the solar plexus, I must say. We have too much debt, no savings to speak of, and my grocery bill has almost doubled in the past year due to rising prices. It is scary. I am not going to lie.

But it is also an amazing opportunity to truly find out how deeply I hold my convictions and beliefs. Do I really believe happiness is choice not tied to material possession and circumstances? Do I really hold in my heart that it is better to wish good things for those who would hurt me and mine rather than to wish them ill. Have I really cultivated the peace in my heart necessary to traverse this rough and tumble storm?

Well, it is very early in this game but I think the answer to all of those questions is a resounding yes. That knowledge alone causes joy to fill my spirit and gives my heart flight. It an an amazing experience.

I am not saying I don't have those opposite thoughts. Nope, still very much human over here. But what I have learned is I have the ability to choose to not linger on a thought filled with hate and resentment. I can let it go from my mind and choose instead to focus on a gratitude. I have so very much to be grateful for each day. Even now. Especially now.

We have talked about the absolutely worst, worst, worst case scenario. The worst thing is we could lose every material possession we have. Now the likelihood of this happening is infinitesimal but hey, let's really look at the bottom line. The bottom line is, so what? So what if we lose all material things? We have our family. We have our friends. We have the skill sets and ability to care for our young children. Heck, waiting tables pays the bills if you are absolutely against the wall. Ultimately we will be just fine. Our relationship is strong and because we are both on the same page mentally, I don't see it getting anything but stronger.

I find the peace in my heart is growing rather than being depleted. I find the more I focus on joy and gratitude the more it builds. I didn't really now it worked that way. It is remarkable.

Now let's talk about the big one. I am not going to lie, I am not happy with how my husband was treated. He is a good man and the whole thing was wrong. But where do you go with that? What do you do with the situation at hand?

"Holding on to anger is like 
drinking poison and expecting 
the other person to die."

Those words are just so unbelievably true. If I allow those feelings to fester within me it will only damage me and those I love. Anger, bitterness, and resentment do not help. They only destroy and leave chaos and tears in their wake. My family deserves better. I deserve better. 

Besides, I find I truly want good for these people. I really do. They have a lot of employees under them. There are really good people there. I want those people treated with compassion and dignity. But more so, and I am going to be honest I find this surprising, I want good for those actual people who treated my husband in such a shabby manner. Why? Well because I think we have all been there. We have all been so mired in unhappiness and misery that we don't treat others well. There is a saying and I am not sure the original author but it says, "Those who feel badly act badly." Isn't that just the truth for all of us? But I have learned to have true compassion and love for others. Well, I am still learning but it seems I have learned enough at this point to apply it. I want the best for them because I want the best for all people. I want the best for all animals too but that is a different post. 

So here we go on an adventure. I have no doubt we will look back and be utterly grateful for this bump in the road. I know what we learn and where this will take us in our lives will be so worth it all. 

So yes, I guess I do really mean it. 

May harmony find you my friends. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

What If They Don't Deserve It?

Due to recent economic factors there are many people struggling to make it financially. More people are going to food banks. More people are falling behind in bills It can be rough for people who made it just fine a few short years ago.

My family is exceptionally blessed with abundance. My husband makes a good living and his work is steady.We feel the squeeze of  increased food and energy prices but with a few cuts, we are doing okay. I want my children to understand we live a life of abundance. I am gently teaching them not all families have the privileges we do. They are learning not all families can even cover the basics.

Compassion, love of others, and doing good where we can are important lessons in our home. I don't care to raise obedient children but truly loving children. We talk about these things a lot. My 5 year old is quite perspective and insightful. She gets things. Her ability to sense underlying currents recently led to an crucial lesson for us all.

There are many people on the road ways with signs. They are say they are hungry. They say they have nothing. Is that true? I have no idea. I am not comfortable giving money for a variety of reasons. I have meant to put together some bags containing toiletries,granola bars, nuts, gloves or sunscreen (depending on the season), etc. but well, I haven't. I have two little kids and sometimes getting everyone's teeth brushed is a victory to be celebrated. So I will go to a local fast food place and buy a value meal with the condiments on the side to give to the person we saw. This is a great opportunity to talk to my children about generosity and caring for others.

Normally the food is received with gratitude and thanks. Recently, we had a different experience. He didn't want the food. He wanted money. He was insistent about it. Why? I don't know and I am not going to even go there if I can help it. I told him, I don't have money but I have food. Take it or don't. He grudgingly took it and we left.

Hannah was....concerned. She understood something was not normal. Why didn't he just take the food and say thank you? As I sat there fighting with the anger and resentment trying to take over my mood I realized it was an amazing opportunity to teach her something important and to remind myself. I believe that what you put out there is what you get back. I believe in what comes around goes around. I believe in karma.

So we talked about sometimes people don't appreciate or don't want the generosity we are offering. Maybe they just want what they want. I also told her that charity can be really hard to accept and some people act poorly because they are sad and embarrassed. But most importantly I told her none of it matters. Our karma is what we do. Their karma is what they do. We are responsible for our own. We see a need and we try our best to meet it with the best of intentions. That is all we can ever do. How it is received is out of our control. No matter what, we need to learn to have a peaceful heart and continue on to the next opportunity to do good.

This goes for so many situations. I run most Saturday mornings with a group. Our route passes by a heavily used food pantry. The people line up HOURS before it opens to get food. I have noticed some of the cars are a lot nicer than they were in the past, nicer than mine, and the quality of clothes are much better. It could be human nature to assume they are cheating the system to get something free. But we cannot know their stories. There is a good chance the trappings of their life are from a former life they can no longer afford. Maybe their high paying job disappeared over night due to the company going bankrupt. Maybe they made horrible choices with their mortgage and are now so house poor they can't feed their children. Maybe they are total scammers and want it for free when they easily could afford.

Doesn't matter, it is not our place to judge. Not only is it not our place, I would venture to say it is unhealthy and detrimental for us to judge. What will it really do? Will it punish them? Nope. Will it make them change their ways? Nope. What it will do is fill our heart with anger and resentment. Those feelings will burn through our good health and well being, scorching the peace and equinimity from our hearts and spirits.

Our karma is our karma. Their karma is their karma. We are responsible for our own.

A lesson I am teaching my children and learning myself each and every day.