Decluttering Your Life With Love

cottage

These last few years seem to be a process of decluttering for me. Lately, this has extended to my social life. I have always been one to believe that being positive, respectful and kind to others will result in them extending the same to me.  But then I hit my fifties and I realized that this is not always the case; that there are some social connections which are just not healthy. And I have been disconnecting from them. I no longer attend functions that I am not interested in or excited about. I finally feel free to simply say no. Over time,  this backing away has created distance with certain acquaintances which is fine with me. In truth, I never really clicked with them in the first place. I just thought “nice” girls were … well … always nice. But “nice” can be over rated when your own emotional health is sacrificed.

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in being kind and loving. This is not about “hating on” people, or jealously or judgment or anything else along those lines. Sometimes it’s just a matter of chemistry. Sometimes certain people just don’t mix well together. Maybe it’s because we are all broken in one way or another. And, perhaps, certain variations of “brokenness” are not compatible with others. In fact, I would say, some combinations are toxic. Now let me be clear: People are not toxic. But some relationships are. And the best thing one can do is to excuse themselves from the whole narrative, then go and focus on more positive connections.

Look, at fifty something, for the first time in my life, I really think about Time. I want to spend the rest of my time doing positive things with positive connections. I still care about people. I still want to help others. It’s just that some people are best loved from a distance.

I have warned my daughters about the type of people who are highly competitive. These are the ones who are only satisfied when they feel they have outdone others. Heaven help you if they set their sights on you. They will absolutely, heart-breakingly put you  down to their own satisfaction. Your words will be twisted, facts will be slightly altered, comments will be hurtful and “jokes” will be anything but funny. These are the type who encourage a mind-set of their superiority and your inferiority. And if you stand up to them?  Forbid that you actually treat them as they treat you! They will tantrum and attempt to cause all sorts of drama. How sad for them that the only way they feel good about themselves is by putting the rest of us down. Interestingly, in the end, these people are actually a slave to others. Because without feeling superior to every one else, they have no self esteem at all. They need prayer. From afar. Very far.

In reality, there is no place for competition among people. We all have our own individual backgrounds, talents, gifts, phobias, etc. So, the priorities and challenges of each life are individual. For example, I had a traumatic first few years of life. This is nobody’s fault or failure. This was just some tricky circumstances for a little girl to maneuver. I remember being an anxious child. I also remember being well loved by my Grandparents, especially my Grandmother. However, it took me to 16 years of age before I finally started smiling and laughing. I know this because some close adults at the time mentioned the change in me and made positive comments. Well, since this time, as an adult, smiles and laughter have defined my life. “You have a beautiful smile” and “I love your laugh” are the two most popular compliments I have received. Now, this – smiles and laughter – are a great success for me, given my early years. I would say, for my Grandma, this would be considered a little “miracle”. But to others, hey, it’s just some smiles and some laughter. Easy peasey. This highlights my point that there is no valid competition against others. We each have our own struggles and success for me is not necessarily success for you. And vice versa – you may have struggles that I just breeze through without thought. This is why relationships work best when people encourage and help each other reach their own personal potential. With no judgment. With no comparison. With no winner/loser mentality. But with love.

I have let go of relationships that are unhealthy like I have let go of foods and habits that are unhealthy. This is not necessarily an emotional thing. It doesn’t even have to be a “labeling” thing. I compare it to my daughter who can’t eat bread because she is allergic to the gluten in wheat. In reality wheat is not toxic; gluten is not toxic; bread is not toxic. But to my daughter who is celiac, these items are toxic. Now, my daughter does not crush the bread, or stamp on it, hurl it in the garbage or scream at others who enjoy bread. She just recognizes that bread is toxic for her. And she lets others choose for themselves.

So it is with some relationships and some people.

Love without limits.

But set boundaries that show your love extends to you too.

 

A Prayer for The Rest of Us

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As anyone who has followed this blog will know, my Spiritual Journey  has been a bumpy, beautiful, exasperating, and unexpectedly winding road.

I grew up as a regular church goer and raised my children in the same manner. All was wonderful. Until I hit a rocky road. To be quite frank, it was at this point that I got hurt in the church. Let me say up front, I hold no one to blame. Grace and Love has erased any judgemental attitudes. And, as always, I take full responsibility for my role in the whole muck-up. Finger-pointing is not what today’s writing is about. This is a reflection on life in the after-math. It is about my struggle to re-enter a spiritual community, and how any attempts I make leave me with a feeling of dread and fear. In short, though I will plan to go to church, the ensuing thoughts of this leave me riddled with anxiety. Again, nobody’s fault. This is just how it is for me right now.

I do, however, maintain social media contacts with church people I know. This has generally been beneficial for my Spirit. Today, though, is a different story. Today, while flipping through facebook,  somebody posted “A prayer for those of us gathering for worship and fellowship today”. And this prayer left me feeling cold, alone, and an outcast. So, in response, for me and for anyone else struggling with a church-hurt or feeling alone, I have composed this:

A Prayer for the Rest of Us

God, of all Outcasts, the Lonely and the Hurt

Be with us as we navigate this day

Send healing to our broken hearts

Bring Your Light to any darkness

That has descended upon our Spirits

Ease our anxieties

And remind us

That we, too, are made in Your Image

And, so it follows

We, too, are valuable and  worthwhile in Your Sight

Soothe our souls

with Love and Understanding

Reveal to us

That You will meet us Anywhere

and Everywhere

That even if we are unable to gather as a community

We are still Precious to You

We are still United in You

That we are not alone.

Amen

Carpe Diem

If I knew (really knew) there was an expiry date on my life, would I go inside now and finish my ironing? Or would I polish off this exquisite bottle of 2015 Shiraz, sitting here in my gazebo, surrounded by tall so-typically-Canadian evergreens, backgrounded by the steady rumble of crickets?

Would I worry about the size of my thighs, my slightly too soft “mummy tummy”, how many steps I walked today, and whether or not that small cluster of spider veins will turn varicose? Or would I breathe in this early-night air, feel the August breeze on my skin, flex my toes, and exhale “ahhhh” contemplating how incredibly beautiful it is that I got to be ALIVE on this wonderful summer day?

If I knew my days were numbered, would I let minor annoyances grow into mountainous misunderstandings? Would I fight with my loved ones? Or would I simply whisper: “I love you”and leave the rest to sort itself?

Would I worry about who did me wrong? The time someone hurt my feelings? Would I even have time to think about who dislikes me and why they feel that way? Or would I celebrate the miracle of being completely, totally MYSELF?

The truth is, we are all mortal. Not one of us will be around forever. Some are awakened to this fact. Others still sleep.

As for me? I want to embrace and enjoy every single minute of this One Precious Life.

seize the day

Relationships and The Beautiful Gift of Inquiry

I have once again found myself in the forgiveness realm. This is nothing new for me. Neither is it foreign to humanity as a whole. Either I am the one who needs to be forgiven, or I need to forgive. None of this is for the faint of heart as forgiveness carries with it a cornucopia of strong emotions. Nonetheless, I have found that healing only truly comes when forgiveness has occurred.

This is my current story.

I recently left a very difficult and hurtful friendship (I referred to it as an “entanglement” here). I tried to do it as gracefully as possible. Unfortunately, the other person did not take it well. We have known each other “forever” and I suspect she had grown very comfortable with the dynamics of our relationship. Truth is, it was very dysfunctional. In all honesty, I don’t think she likes herself very much. At any rate, it seems that she coped with her own internal dissatisfaction by projecting all the things she disliked about herself, onto me. I put up with this for far too long. Some reasons being:

I knew her since we were 11 years old, and I was so used to the style of our interactions, it took me a long time to realize how very unhealthy they were;

I truly cared for her. And I loved to “save” people. I believed that by constantly returning kindness for rudeness I would somehow eventually teach her to treat me (and others) better. This never happened. After decades, things were even worse. Which brings me to today’s writing on forgiveness (an addition to a former blog entry here).

After years of hurt, broken confidences and outright spitefull remarks, I finally had to be straight with my friend. I had to tell her the truth. I no longer felt close to her. I could not trust her. The friendship had been trampled on so much for so long, it no longer existed in my heart. I told her it was over.

And my friend reacted as I always knew she would – aggressively.

(Which is frankly another reason I stayed so long – fear)

A lot was said. Publically.

My friend quickly reacted by slamming me on facebook to all our mutual friends (and anyone else on her friends’ list). She wrote that she was now “free” of me. She described me as “toxic”. She indicated that she hoped everyone will come to realize how “toxic” I am.

I was hurt.

I was angry.

However,

I did not give her what she wanted – which was a public fight.

Instead, I turned to Byron Katie at The Work.

This was the attitude I started with:

“She should not have called ME “toxic”. SHE is the toxic one! SHE has treated me terribly for years! How dare she!”

Then I opened my mind to other possibilities, and I turned the above statement around.

“She SHOULD call me ‘toxic’ … how is this statement true?”

“How COULD that statement be true after ALL I have put up with!!!”

Well, I realized something.

I realized that I had allowed her to treat me in a shoddy way for decades (DECADES!) I began to understand that during all those years of allowing her to treat me that way, her brain has become wired to do so. I had originally believed that she would unlearn that behaviour. But, instead, it has become completely ingrained in her. It is now second nature. This is how she relates to friends. And this is not healthy. In fact, this is very unhealthy. And so it follows:

I am toxic to this person.

I have, unwittingly, encouraged in her, a very dysfunctional system of relating to others.

Understanding this has allowed me to let go of any residual anger and hurt; it has allowed me to move on from victimhood. It has freed me and forgiveness has become easy.

I wish my friend well, though from a distance.

I honestly hope she finds the peace that we all need.

friend

Yes, I Have Changed …

change

Queen Street West, Toronto

I simply could not continue to survive in this world the way I was.

I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did.

Yes, folks, there is such a thing as being too kind, too giving, too compassionate, too forgiving and too loving.

It becomes too much when it is done without regard for oneself; when serving others is prioritized to the point that the giver’s own needs are sacrificed.

What follows is a state of being which is decidedly not spiritual. What follows is the definition of martyrdom. In my case, martyring myself to useless, superfluous and thankless causes.

Take it from one who knows, this mindset attracts the wrong people.  Interestingly enough, this mindset can also extend to attracting the wrong reactions from the right people.

Not a happy place to be in.

In my own personal situation, it was very easy for others to push the right buttons to manipulate me into agreeing with and doing things when my heart and spirit were screaming “NO”!

Simply:

allude to a lack of compassion or hypocrisy;

mention selfishness and sprinkle on a little guilt;

add a dose of “What will other people think?”

And certain characters had me exactly where they wanted me – doing backflips and jumping through ridiculous hoops for their viewing pleasure.

As I look back, I see it was almost comical.

Until it wasn’t.

Until I was so exhausted, and so resentful and so burned out that I did not even resemble the original kind and compassionate person I started out as. All that was left was a threadbare, used up doormat.

So I changed.

I realized kindness and compassion are only authentic when they are first applied to oneself. And this is where boundaries began. Take it from me, there are some things we cannot do for others, because the resulting impact on ourselves is far too great for us to bear. Which brings me to the next point –

Sometimes we will disappoint people, and this is perfectly fine. They will survive it, and so will we.

In the same manner, sometimes we will be misunderstood. Also fine. Things generally become clearer as time passes.

Now we come to the hardest part –

Sometimes when we stand up for ourselves and exercise our right to say “no”, we will not be liked. Not always. But sometimes. I have come to accept this. I have no control over what other people think of me. Their opinion of me is their business – not mine. In the end, a “friendship” that is based on us not being our authentic self by saying “yes” when we mean “no”, is no friendship at all. Rather, it is an “entanglement”, in which both parties are better off without. (Trust me on this one. I spent over 30 years on such an “entanglement” and barely made it out with my heart and spirit still intact).

Over time, I have come to acknowledge that not all people carry positive motives in their hearts; that “acquaintance” is not another word for “friend”; that people can say one thing and in the end do something else entirely; and that, even those who are close, will sometimes make choices that are not in our best interest. I am okay with all of this. I have learned to look after myself and my own needs. This is my job to do. Nobody else’s. I truly am a “grown up”. Finally.

I still believe in love, compassion, kindness, goodness and having a generous heart.

But now, this is tempered with reality.

I  still am a “nice girl”.

But, make no mistake, I am no push-over.

My eyes are wide open.

The Choice of Joy

happy

I choose to walk a path of joy, in all circumstances

I know this is not always easy; that in every life, circumstances come and go. Some are conducive to happiness, while others bring pain.

Yet, still, I choose happiness.

I am committed to finding at least one beautiful blessing in life each day – even if that blessing is as “ordinary” as a warm comfortable bed, a beautiful sunrise, or a lovely gentle breeze on my neck. I want to focus on what is available in the here and now that has potential to bring joy. I want to nurture that joy. And I want to pass it on.

This does not mean there are never days of tears, fears or sadness. It just means that, along with all the other emotions I am feeling, I will also pay attention to the ones that bring a smile to my face. I hope others will smile too.

I choose the road of joy. I hope you will too.

Albert Camus

The Dreaded “Shake Up” Call

bird

By this age I have discovered that change is the only constant thing about life.

Our bodies alone are always morphing into something new; over a 24 hour period we loose almost a million skin cells. We were born a  baby, grew to toddlerhood, then childhood, then teenhood, and finally on to adulthood.

These changes are reflected in our lives. Our priorities shift and alter as we pass through the various ages and stages.

And then, of course, there are the changes that are individual to our own personal lives. People come and go. Things that were once so important, become a distant memory. Busy houses filled with children’s laughter become a little quieter and a little more adult.

Sometimes life will take us down paths we would never have chosen for ourselves. We may become

unsettled,

disjointed,

uncomfortable,

confused.

We have experienced a “shake up” call. We become acutely aware that control is an illusion; that certain aspects of life are beyond our command.

What we do have control over, though, is our response to the various happenings life tosses our way.

I have found that when I let go of what I think my life should be, and I accept life as it really is, a tremendous space opens. I now have room to replant and revamp. I have room to enjoy what I previously did not envision.

I know that life sometimes brings suffering. I have suffered myself in the past.

But I have discovered something that has helped; a little shift in perspective that has added insight to what previously may have looked dismal.

I have learned that when I focus on “should be’s”, my life becomes a closed box. But when I open my eyes to the truth of what “really is”, I become free to enjoy and to create new things. And, yes, I also become free to cry things out, to grieve, to be sad. All feelings are normal and natural. I believe in accepting and embracing all emotions before they can be laid down and let go of. Only then are we prepared to truly move forward in peace and confidence. And we are always moving forward. We have no other choice. Time ticks by and propels us into the future whether we are digging our heels in, kicking and screaming or whether we are gently accepting the change.

By all means, I believe in holding on to my dreams. I fight for the future I want.

But I also know that it’s important for me to find ways to love the here and now. And I allow the here and now to assist me in shaping the future.

It’s in the choices I make right now,

It’s the way I endeavour to find beauty and lessons in the present moment,

It’s in those silent prayers of gratitude for what is, what was, and what will become,

It’s in letting go of the preconceived plans of how life should go and embracing the life journey that really exists for me.

By this point in life, I have faith in two things:

The first being my track record for successfully navigating any challenge (or joy, or crisis, or loss) that life has offered so far, is One Hundred Percent. That’s pretty good odds. Please remember that we are all working with these odds;

The second would be, I have complete trust in our Beautiful Creator*. I know that I may have one thing in mind that I believe is good and I believe I want. However, when I let go of what I think I want/need (and I let go of any residual bitterness, anger or resentment at not getting my way), I find I am led to a future that is beautiful beyond anything I could envision for myself. Please understand that I am not saying this facetiously. Some of the paths I have walked have been extremely hard. Yet pressing on has paid off.

At the end of the day, Life itself is gift enough.

In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity – Albert Einstein

*I respect every person’s interpretation of what “Beautiful Creator” would mean. To some, this may be “The Universe”, to other’s “God”, or “Nature”, et cetera.