Sunday, November 24, 2013

Happiness is a Journey

In the course of this life, I have struggled with getting to know my essential self. It’s a part of the struggle of being a sentient being with a moral compass, to struggle to find your way all while dealing with feelings of desire, greed, jealousy, love, anger, egotism…the list goes endlessly onward. I didn’t understand the importance of getting to know myself until after my marriage failed. I suppose you could say it was the spark that ignited my pursuit of finding my core. I was tired of feeling angry and having my feelings be whipped around at the whim of someone else’s. I am a 21st century female, capable of voting, acquiring gainful employment and still rockin’ it out in the kictchen (my choice!), so why was I still letting my partner influence so much of who I was and how I felt? I’ll share what I’ve discovered in the next few paragraphs, with the hope that it will provide you with some clarity, or maybe kick-start your own journey into being happy to settle in with your own thoughts and find the love you’ve been looking for waiting patiently for you to take notice.

Exactly what is Love? I’ve come to discover that love is the sincere wish for others to be happy, and to be free from suffering. Love is realistically recognizing others' kindness as well as their faults. Love is being aware of another person’s feelings but not being swept away by them. There are no ulterior motives to full-fill our own wants or desires, there is no pull to make someone just a little “better”, we love simply because that person exists, exactly as they are. Attachment is a close cousin of love and often exaggerates others' good qualities and makes us crave to be with them. When we're with them, we're happy, but when we're separated from them we find ourselves un-happy and tempermental. Attachment is linked with expectations of what others should be or do. Is love, as we have come to understand it in our culture, really love or a form of attachment…or in some cases a form of addiction to sexual gratification and the good feelings associated with being in an intimate, physical relationship?

Generally we are attracted to people either because they have qualities we value or because they make us feel good/wanted. If we observe our own thought processes mindfully, and carefully - we'll notice that we look for specific qualities in others.

Some of these qualities we find attractive, others are values that we have inherited from the society we live in or from our familial circles. Someone who has grown up in a family with little financial stability will often have the emphasis placed on finding a partner who has the ability to provide that stability. American society has created this attraction to others who are tall, lithe, bronzed Gods and Godesses’…

We examine someone's looks, body, education, spiritualism, hygiene, employment, and social status. This is how most of us decide on whether or not the person holds any true value to us. Subconsciously, we think “Will this person make me better.” In addition, we judge people as worthwhile according to how they relate to us. If they help us, praise us, make us feel secure, listen to what we have to say, care for us when we are sick or depressed, we consider them good people, and it is this type of people we are most likely to be more attracted to. But this is very biased, for we judge them only in terms of how they relate to "us", placing ourselves at the center of all existence, as if we are truly the most important person in the world. How does this person treat the people around you? How do they treat strangers? How do they act in traffic? Around children? We overlook that people are capable of being one way in the presence of one group and another elsewhere.

After we've judged certain people to be good for us, whenever we see them it appears to us as if goodness is coming from them. We expect to have that feeling of “goodness” radiate into us because we are with them, but if we are more aware, we recognize that we have projected this goodness onto them. How many times have you fallen in love with the expectation you have for a person rather than the person themselves?

The desire to be with people who make us feel good causes us to become dependent on getting that feeling from them. Your feelings cease to be your own and your emotions and reactions to life are linked directly to the source of your good feelings. Furthermore, we form fixed concepts of what our relationships with those people will be and thus have expectations of them. When they do not live up to our expectations of them, we're very disappointed, or may become angry! How dare they challenge the idea we have created for them!? Don’t they don’t they are responsible for not one person, but two? We want them to change so that they will they will match what we think they are. But our projections and expectations come from our own minds, not from our partner.

Our problems arise not because others aren't who we thought they were, but because we mistakenly thought they were something they aren't. What we call love is most often attachment.

We then cling to tightly to that person, thinking our happiness depends on that person.

Love, on the other hand, is an open and very calm, relaxed attitude. We want someone to be happy, and free from suffering simply because they exist. While attachment is uncontrolled and much too sentimental, Love is direct and powerful. Attachment obscures our judgment and we become impatient, angry, and impartial, helping only our dear ones and harming those who we don't like. Love builds up others, and clarifies our minds, and we access a situation by thinking of the greatest good for everyone. Attachment is based on selfishness, while Love is founded upon cherishing others, even those who do not look very appealing to the eyes. Love looks beyond all the superficial appearances, and dwells on the fact that they are just like us: they want inner peace, happiness, and want to avoid suffering. If we see unattractive, dirty, ignorant people, we feel repulsed because our selfish minds want to know attractive, intellectual, clean, and talented people. Love, on the other hand, never evaluates others by these superficial standards and looks much deeper into the person. Love recognizes that regardless of the others' appearances, their experience is the same as ours: they seek inner peace, to be happy, to be free from sufferings, and to do their best to avoid problems.

When we're attached, we're not mentally and emotionally free. We overly depend on and cling to another person to fulfill our mental and especially our emotional needs. We fear losing the person, feeling we'd be incomplete without him.

This does not mean that we should suppress our emotional needs or become aloof, alone and totally independent, because that too does not solve the problem. We must simply realize our unrealistic needs, and slowly seek to eliminate them. Some emotional needs may be so strong that they can't be dissolved immediately. If we try to suppress them or pretend they do not exist, we become anxious, insecure, falling into a depression. In this case, we can do our best to fulfill our needs while simultaneously working gradually to subdue them.

The core problem is we seek to be loved, rather than to love. We yearn to be understood by others rather than to understand them. If a person can learn to subdue their own attachments, we can most definitely have successful friendships and personal relationships with others. These relationships will be richer because of the freedom and respect - the relationships will be based on. We'll care about the happiness and the misery of all human beings equally, simply because everyone is the same in wanting and needing inner peace, happiness, and not wanting to suffer. However, our lifestyles and interests may be more compatible with those of some people more so than with others and that is alright. In any case, our relationships will be based on mutual Love, mutual interests, and the wish to help each other in life.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Neverland Ain't What It's Cracked Up To Be

I was thinking earlier today about Peter Pan. I've been dealing with a particularly stressful situation in which someone I am close to, that is my age, absolutely refuses to be responsible and it's directly affecting me. Actually, looking back, it's been "affecting" me for years and I'm just now realizing it. That kind of thinking, in my Disney re-wired brain, conjured up the memory of the illustrious figure who literally fights growing up. Is there a lonelier figure than that of Peter Pan, the boy child trapped by his own selfish desire to avoid responsibility and growth? Even when I was younger, I remember feeling sad for Peter who was so scared of change that he created a reality that didn't allow it. He stole away others to join him, but because of his inability to accept change, he never fully accepted them. Peter Pan was utterly depressing in my 8 year old mind (I was emo before it existed, y'all!)

So, of course, dealing with a "Peter Pan" of my very own, has been trying to put it lightly. I have always accepted change and growth...maybe not with the utmost grace initially, but I learn and prosper. It has tempered me into what I believe is a resilient and well rounded individual. The past year has moved me into a level of "grown up" that only loss can bring about. I lost my proverbial "safety net" when my Pops passed on. He had always been my protector and "righter of wrongs." If I needed anything, he was there, ready to take care of it. The last year has really emphasized just how intricately he had been wound into my identity. It isn't so much that I needed someone to catch me often, but it was the knowledge that someone would and could that kept me strong and seemingly invincible.

I am naturally a nurturing person, but I can see now that there are certain types of people who become enabled when in my presence. Essentially, it becomes an un-healthy symbiotic relationship. I feed out sympathy and kindness and instead of using it as fuel to get up, they wallow in it and never move forward. Why should they, I'll take care of everything! Who wouldn't stick around for a gig like that? We learn from our parents how it is we should interact with the world around us. I'm lucky that I had two guides who could exist together while maintaining their own identities. Parents who encouraged me to wander out and find my own way, but let me know the door was open to visit whenever my feet got tired. Parents that let me fall so that I understood that my actions had consequences. I realize that I have failed the Peter Pan in my life by not allowing them to fall, setting un-realistic expectations. I enabled a crippling behavior that stunted their emotional growth and it hurts to accept that. I had always thought I was a great friend, but looking back I can see the wrongs I have aided in. I'm finding my way and growing into a person I want to be each day. Maybe someday, after some time has passed, my Peter will have learned to fly outside of Neverland and we'll find a way to mend fences. For now, I will accept my blame, and bow out before I sacrifice one more minute of my peace of mind.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

An Open Letter To You, Ladies

Ladies, When did we decide that subtracting from who we are would make us mean more to this world, that guy, or "them" in general? When did we start hiding the fact that we actually enjoy the taste of chocolate, and sometimes we eat a lot of it, in hopes that it will distract others from noticing the "extra" being carried in our waistline? Chocolate is delicious, you have curves, why the shame?

You have been conditioned to believe that you are wrong. Wrong for even entertaining the notion that you are beautiful, even if you aren't average. And when did "average" become beautiful? When did we all start striving to assimilate, to mold ourselves into replicas, when we are born as bold originals?

Remember a time before you were told who you were supposed to be.

Turn off your television and close that magazine that target faceless consumers. You will never be special to people who call you "consumer" or "target audience" so stop believing anything they propose right this minute.

Think back to a time before you hated your thighs for touching and appreciated their strength when you were the fastest girl playing tag. Remember a time when your father told you he loved you, that you are beautiful and special, and you believed it without hesitation because he never wanted you to be anything but what you were. A time before the internet created a photo-shopped world view, all smooth lines and porcelain faces or you never wore that dress you died over at the store because you suddenly developed the notion that your curves are all wrong.

When you perceive yourself in this way, when you present this fragile being ready to be shaped by anyone's hands but her own, you are giving the world permission to judge you. Why give someone who doesn't know you the right to shape who it is that you are going to be?

Take a breath, and stand in front of the mirror. Look at your skin, freckled and lined, scarred and bruised, that protects the softness inside. Appreciate it for holding you all together, for being strong even when you are weak. Look at the softness of your stomach, that portion of you that feeds the rest. Admire your strong legs, your bright eyes, your firm forearms and realize that you are more than the sum of your parts.

You are more than skin and curves, you are life itself.

Your potential is only limited by the thoughts you think, so be vigilant and, above all, kind, when forming them. Challenge the world not to love you, all of you, and rest easy in the truth that you love you and that is enough.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Being Human

Sometimes the most difficult thing in the world, is to just be present in what it is that you're doing. Multi-tasking has become not only a social norm but an expectation. If you aren't checking your email, while you're paying your phone bill all during your trip to the grocery, then you're a slacker.

I call bullshit.

It's makes us sloppy and disconnected. We miss things that matter for things that we'll forget next week. Our memories are being clotted with alpha numeric passwords and deadlines and we're overlooking the changing of the seasons, the laughter filled nights with friends, the plethora of experiences that helped create our "offline profile."

Earlier today, I was at the grocery store during my lunch to pick up some tea (it's kind of a crisis when I run out of decaf tea during a busy morning working from home). While in the line at the store, a young mother (I'll call her Cyber Momma for the sake of this blog) and her absolutely adorable kiddo starting checking out in front of me. Seriously, this kid was Shirley Temple cute and was putting on a full scale production from that buggy. We're talking singing, dancing and jazz hands emphasized with the leafy green lettuce she was holding. It was a hoot and something that I'm pretty sure would have been committed to Cyber Momma's memory had she not been staring at her phone the entire time she was scanning items. I watched the enthusiasm fade from that little girl and she sat down and asked for her IPad, which her mother pulled out of her gargantuan bag and stuffed in her tiny, previously marvelous, hands. In that moment I wondered how many other memories she had sacrificed in order to be "connected." I thought of how fast life would turn that adorable little kid, filled with vitality and enthusiasm, into another user staring at a screen.

Yes, I had a philosophical moment in a Kroger checkout.

When you're present, "moments" can happen anywhere and with anyone. I looked around and I would dare say about 70% of the people in my line of vision were on their cell phones in some capacity. I've been in that number many times, sacrificing making eye contact with someone who might reject me and instead checking a Facebook status update. To be human is to be exposed and raw and the influx of technology at our disposal is making that feeling optional. We face a conundrum because as human beings, we crave social interaction. We need to be around others, even if only sporadically but we're terrified of it. We've been taught to tear one another apart for appearance, financial and political status, and even geographical location (Oh, the teasing about Kentucky Fried Chicken and being barefoot, will it never end!?) So, we plug in, upload a perfect version of ourselves, and connect on the most superficial of levels.

Technology is a necessity in the professional world, I'll give you that. However, who says we have to make it a focus in our personal life? If you're reading this thinking "This is isn't about me" then I have a challenge for you. Turn off your phone from 6p.m. until it's time to get up in the morning for one week. Your computer is not to be used either (unless you're only streaming music, that is forgivable.) No excuses about how someone could call you in the event of an emergency. You not being available for a night, when you should be connecting with your friends and family, creating something, going for a walk, looking up at the sky, maintaining your home, will be okay. Now, pay attention to the urge to pick it up. Process why it is that you feel a sense of loss for not having it in your hand. Why does it make your anxious? Why do you care if that little device is on or off? You have formed an attachment to a machine, my dears. You have developed a relationship with an inanimate object.

Ultimately, remember that you have warm and beating heart that longs to be used. It can withstand being put at risk when you seek out relationships with others. Stop making easy choices. Unplug and be human.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Growing Things

How is that we are the superior species? My dogs do not spend their day stressing out if the internet is down. They don't forget to give me a cuddle because they are in a hurry. If the electricity ceased to exist tomorrow, they would still be able to feed themselves, whereas my ability would be iffy at best. Our shining technology and brains thick with contemplation fail to realize how short the distance is between us and our pre-historic breathren. There are days when I think, wouldn't life be better in the dirt, hands calloused from use and sun, my reactions guided by my most basic needs? When the the glitter and gold of this bright world didn't distract my mind from the truth of life, that we are fragile, that we need little and that joy comes from hard work, human touch and food to eat. When did we decide that we should create so much distance?

I long for a world without internet, which is ironic, given that this is my medium for storing these thoughts. In a world "connected", I have encountered more lonely souls than I ever did when socializing meant sharing a space with someone. Sometimes I wonder what a person traveling from the past would think of our "progress". In my heart, I believe they would be amazed and saddened, hypnotized and repulsed. Our round bodies, our glazed eyes, our SUV's carrying one passenger, our waste, our decadence, our sleeplessness, the relentless noise.

Run far, time traveler, and good luck sleeping knowing the fate of your race.

I am a product of my generation, banging my head into the wall I put up. Sleep is stolen from us, and yet, our life lengthens. We have lost our balance.

Green spaces are healing. Plant something and watch it grow and know that your hand grew something free. No uploading necessary. No firewall protection needed. Hold someone's hand. Don't like their photos or email them. Connecting existed long before electricity did.

Think about whether you are spending more time with your computer than the people you love. That box full of wires isn't going to give a damn if you never turn it on again, but the people in your life are dying a little everyday. Do you want your life flashing before your eyes to be filled with Google searches and Facebook? Improve your quality of life by living it! It's okay to take trips into the cyber world, but build your life with things you can touch, taste and smell as well as see.

You have so much potential. You are a living thing, move, breathe deep and rejoice! Surround yourself with life and not static. Treat yourself like a growing thing, nurture your heart and mind. You will be surprised with the peace you will find in letting go of what it is you think you need.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


"It is singular how soon we lose the impression of what ceases to be constantly before us. A year impairs, a luster obliterates. There is little distinct left without an effort of memory, then indeed the lights are rekindled for a moment - but who can be sure that the Imagination is not the torch-bearer?" ~Lord Byron

In the midst of all of the BBQ's, intoxicated buffonery and road trips, Memorial Day is time set aside in a world that often moves too fast, for those of us fortunate enough to still be among the living to remember those who has ceased to exist as we do. For my family, Memorial Day is a time to remember how the dead lived. We share stories and rejoice in lives that made ours richer. We exchange our sweetest memories like children sharing a melon in the middle of summer, happy for the company.

Personally speaking, it was restorative to share stories about my father with my family this weekend. His loss is easily one of the greatest in my life, but when I talk about him with others that knew him, I feel his presence. I can hear his laugh when my Mom shares a story about early in their marriage when she was coaxed by him to assist on the farm by guarding an impossibly high gate used to keep hogs in a particular pen while he and his brothers tagged their ears (so if they were to get loose, they could be returned.) Somehow, the hogs became startled and made a beeline for her, causing her to abandon her post and somehow jump a fence that was double her height. When she smiles in the telling of this account of her younger years with my father, I can feel the warmth of a love that lasted a lifetime. When I close my eyes I can see him taking her hand and saying he owed his life to her, that she had been his entire world. My Pop's was always the storyteller in the family until his passing. My mother has now taken up the tradition and tells them in such an animated and passionate way, that I just know my Pop's would be proud. It was a small gathering that we had at my mothers house this weekend, and I was the only one of her children that could make it, but we were a group rich in memory and love. When my mother blessed our meal, her voice cracked when she expressed her gratitude to have everyone gathered at her home and I could practically hear my Pops whisper "You did good, sis."

While I didn't move terribly far away from those mountains I called home for nearly 20 years, I might as well have moved to another planet when it comes to tradition. You don't see as many people gathering to decorate cemeteries, or reaching out to one another to remember their dead. Death is clinical and formal. Death is a severing thing, cold and insurmountable. The dead are gone, unreachable, disconnected. People are always moving forward, believing that strength is forgetting. This is alien to me. The dead are guides to those of us raised a little further South (or who have been raised in homes by those who have). My Dad always paid his respect to members of our family and community that had passed on. He always sent flowers, he always shared stories, he always visited grieving family members. Always. When I was younger, I didn't understand why we always had to pack up and go to what felt like every funeral in our small town. I didn't like the heaviness and grief. Why would a person want to be spend their weekend shouldering someone else's pain? Did he like having a shirt that doubled as a handkerchief? Now that I'm older, I see that he was alleviating some of the heaviness and that his XXL heart needed to have time to grieve every life that he no longer got to share. He always brought kind words and funny stories with him to any funeral. Even in the most tragic of situations, he had a way of lightening the mood and giving the families a minute to breathe in air not entirely saturated with loss.

I suppose all this rambling is my way of taking that breath. Visiting his grave with Mom this weekend was tough, in spite of the beautiful weather and the humbling beauty of his final resting place (imagine the Shire and this is pretty darn close to what the memorial garden AKA cemetery, looks like.) Spending time with Mom, my brother and his wife and my Aunt and Uncle and really reminiscing was comforting in a way that you can't describe to someone who see's death as a medical term instead of a spiritual passage. I don't want death to be a wall that locks him away from me. Talking about him doesn't hurt, it a balm that soothes. It encourages his memory to live, strong and tall in my heart and mind. When my family gathers and the stories about him begin to flow, he is there, once again providing comfort, joy and a commitment to family. Memorial Day is no longer just another paid holiday for me.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I really and truly love rainy days. I love the way rain makes everything look and smell so vibrant. Honestly, I think the only time we get to smell true nature in this age of oil and machine is when the rain can wash away the chemicals that coat our grass, the pollution that pumps into the air from our know, all the stuff that hippies like myself are always complaining about. Spring rain is especially promising. After a good, steady, spring rain you can practically see life in motion. I was convinced yesterday that after a storm my cucumber plant had grown an inch. Maybe it perked up like I did after getting a dose of cool rain drops kissing my face. I don't run when I get out of my car in a rain storm. I walk and let the rain drops gather in my hair, on my clothes, in my eyelashes. I let it permeate me, my entire being, and wash away any negative thoughts that have been clouding my naturally silly and sunny disposition. Rain inspires frogs to sing sweetly to us. I can't think of any sound more soothing than that of a frog chorus (which is probably why I have a playlist dedicated to the sound.) Growing up, my family and I lived next to a pretty formidable creek. Spring was always heralded by nights filled with frogs harmonizing, most likely dancing together until morning came. I don't live anywhere near a creek now (yet!) but frog songs still soothes the more savaged parts of me after a long day. Rain encourages us to slow down and look at what we're doing instead of blurring from one task to the next. It comforts us and lulls us to sleep with loved one's. I'm pretty sure rain is responsible for every great story every written. Without out, we wouldn't have food to eat (I need not mention how essential water is for these bodies we're inhabiting, shall I?), oceans to swim in, we wouldn't live. Appreciate the rain. Let it inspire you. Let it renew your perspective.


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