It seems that many of us go through life flinching, with our arms flung out across our eyes, wary of what might be coming our way. We guard our hearts against deep, emotional interactions in order to stay safe. Because for us to embrace living with our eyes wide open and with our hearts made vulnerable might seem like a death wish.
In fact, it is a death.
A death to fear.
To living boxed in.
To feeling less-than.
In order to receive all this world holds for us, we need to partake of it to the fullest! And how can we possibly do that if we are shying away from experiences and emotional investment?
As long as we are afraid of feeling deeply–whether it be grief, remorse, loss, rejection, or joy, fulfillment, love, and excitement–we cannot reach our full potential in life. And I dare say that we won’t have the satisfaction of a truly fulfilled spirit.
Most people welcome the “positive” feelings, but really, really do NOT want to feel the “bad” ones. Perhaps as a child we were taught that feeling anger, sadness, disappointment, and depression was wrong and that we needed to “buck up Buttercup” or “act like a man”. Whatever our reason, beside the obvious one that they hurt, many of us do not welcome those less-than-desirable emotions. And this stifles us and our creative power.
Picture a bubbling brook gurgling its way through the countryside and liken our “bad” emotions to the sediment and rocks found in it. What is that stream without the rocks and sediment? Stagnant, because IF it is gurgling through the countryside, following the course as it’s meant to, there WILL be sediment and rocks in it! Same with us: living in our flow and to the fullest means “rocks and sediment” mixed in.
We, as humans, are designed to create. We are makers of a vast assortment of things, using words, art, wood, electronics, music, material, paint, and problem solving, to only list a few of the amazing ways humans create. Creativity flows from an open spirit, not a spirit that is fearful or stagnated by suppression. (Have you ever felt “stuck”?)
When we open our hearts to others and to feeling deeply, we will realize that even more passion and creativity flows. True, opening our hearts to feel emotions makes us vulnerable, and allows us to experience “bad” emotions too. So we have to be brave! We have to risk it. But that is what living an adventurous life is really about, isn’t it? Taking the risk and not living with regret.
Perhaps you have already heard that when you experience deep grief you are also able to experience an abounding joy. Something about how allowing that depth for the bad emotions creates space for the good, and I agree. I’m no therapist, but I’m speaking from experience. Having been “wired” for feeling all emotions deeply, there were many times I was ravaged by them. But I must say, on the other end of the spectrum I also feel joy, excitement, and love very deeply. So much so that people are amazed by and drawn to my joyful energy (or so they say). So yes, I believe that when the well in our spirit is created by allowing even the undesirable emotions to be felt deeply, there is a larger space for all the wonderfully nourishing ones as well.
And really, why would you want to stifle yourself from feeling life? We have a depth of resources within us, usually just barely tapped by us. Working through difficult emotions to let our light shine can produce some of the most amazing pieces of our lives yet.
Our world is over-saturated with visual assault which can actually cause us to become numb. We have seen it all, bombarding our senses at a rapid-fire pace. A prime example is the weather channel’s flashing of the top stories. Or the movie theater’s practice of showing the loudest, fastest-moving clips during previews. It’s actually so bad that my special-needs son, who is fearful of something scary showing up unexpectedly on any screen, hides outside the theater until the previews are over. Perhaps we have all grown a bit too numb. That much visual impact on a daily (hourly) basis causes desensitization.
So how in the world do we return to seeing with “new” eyes? Eyes that are wide open?
Turn it off!!! Seriously, stop bombarding your senses with so much visual garbage. Be brave enough to stand the silence. Be brave enough to spend time outside without ear buds in your ears. Take a chance on going to dinner with a friend and actually looking them in the eyes and talking! No telling what you will discover about each other. And while you are there, notice your surroundings and the people next to you (who each have a story, you know). How can we possibly have room in our creative spirits to create if it’s full of the garbage our world shoves in our faces and ears every day? Make room! (Oops, did I just raise my voice at you? Hmmm, guess I’m called “Passionista” for a reason).
There are many practices you can use to begin to experience life fully: meditating, visiting art galleries, camping, hiking, (without devices), even–daringly–taking a “vacation” from your electronics. Find what works for you. For me? I need lots of quiet. My brain runs at full tilt, and in order for me to harness the creative flow, I must have no other distractions. You will know what works when you do it–your spirit will be at rest and rejuvenated. Then…
Once you begin to look around you in wide-eyed wonder, you will discover treasures, opportunities, and reasons to be awestruck, which will enhance your life and creativity. And let me remind you that “creativity” is not limited to artists, but to every human alive. We all possess the creative spirit within us.
It takes bravery to embrace living with your eyes and hearts wide open, but I would encourage you to choose it.
You will find that a whole new world awaits you! And I’m rooting for you!
I wanted to tell you that I appreciate you. Is it weird that I think about my readers during the day? Perhaps that’s what bloggers do. I wouldn’t know, I’m still relatively new at this and haven’t talked to other bloggers.
I have been wondering….how are you? No, I mean really. Not what you think I want to hear. Not what you feel you should say. But really. Is your heart heavy? Is your spirit grieving? Do you feel pressured by all you think you should be doing right now? Are you comparing yourself with others?
First of all, WHATEVER you are doing during this quarantine, it’s enough. In fact, you are pretty wonderful to even be surviving what is happening in our world. And if you have been blessed with health, wow, what a gift!! If you know someone who has gotten sick, I know that has been stressful, and I pray they have recovered. If you have lost someone dear to you, oh goodness, I am so very sorry that your heart is hurting. I really am. So much loss and grief right now. It weighs us down.
Perhaps you haven’t labeled what you might be feeling as grief. But, there is grief from the loss of our normal life. Of losing our jobs and source of income and the camaraderie of co-workers. There is a LOT of grief over the loss of highly-anticipated activities, such as graduation celebrations and vacations that had been planned. There is also the loss of our country’s health and the stress that loads upon us. And the grief from missing family and loved ones and their presence in our lives. There are times that I grieve losing hugs and human touch.
Considering that you are carrying a large amount of grief,
I want you to view yourself differently.
Treat yourself as if you have suffered a huge loss, because you have.
Give yourself grace.
Grace means that you don’t HAVE to perform. Grace means that if you need to sleep more, take breaks to read, spend time outside just to maintain some sense of sanity, then you give yourself permission to do just that. To do whatever it is you need!
We are conditioned to work hard to be enough. To succeed. To keep up. First of all, that’s a horrid way to live anyway, but especially when the rug has been pulled out from under you. You are dealing with situations that are brand-new to you, for goodness sake!!
You may want to deal with stress in healthy ways:
*Spend less time on Facebook cuz that could lead to comparing.
*Spend less time watching/listening to the news, cuz that builds hopelessness and stress.
*Spend more time talking with positive people and those you love, and laugh, cuz that builds endorphines.
*Go outside, breathe (the air is cleaner now and it’s SPRING!! Yay!) Play some.
*Read, study, discover something new.
*And lay off the self-pressure. 🙂
Like Grandmama’s quilt we will emerge from this horrible pandemic stronger, and perhaps wiser, and hopefully more compassionate. One thing for sure, this season of our lives will affect us. We are all woven together, connected by the threads that bind our lives. I’m praying that you all learn things about yourself, and are able to come out of it stronger.
January. Ugh. People are like, “Oh I love the beginning of a new year! I’m setting my intentions. I’m writing my goals. I’m picking a new theme or word of the year”. And I’m like, “Nope, just let me crawl back into bed.”
In Michigan where I live it’s one of the grayest, dreariest months of the year. Holidays and fun are over. Now it’s just the tasks of every day in front of me. Don’t get me wrong. I love my life. I’m very blessed and I’m so full of gratitude. To be honest, though, by January I’m usually pretty tired.
I make a trip to Kentucky every Thanksgiving (eight hours on the busiest travel day of the year—and this year I was battling 40-60 mph winds!). And then for Christmas I drive eleven hours to Missouri. I take these trips willingly and with joy because I am visiting my closest family members (the rest are even further away) and I love being with them. But I am the only driver so it is a bit exhausting for me.
The months of November and December are full of activities, of course. By the time January comes around, every bone in my body hurts. Did I mention that I’ve lived a few decades? (Ha!) But again, I’m so very grateful I’m able to do these things.
Back to wanting to crawl into bed. Honestly, it’s the best thing for me. After my son is on the bus and my daughter is dropped off, because I work from home I’m able to take a few days in the beginning of January to replenish. For me that means going back to bed or taking several hours to sit and read so my body and mind relax, or just puttering around the house with my plants or cleaning a bit. I try to keep my calendar as empty as possible, giving myself time to rejuvenate.
I spend time in prayer, seeking. My most earnest desire is that others see Jesus in me. So I seek direction on what that looks like. I want to be used of God. Effectively. But I know my ideas are not usually His so I need to hear His voice. I order to do that, I need to be still, and quiet.
Lately, in blogs across the internet-o-sphere, there is much talk about self-care. Taking care of myself has been a work-in-process through the years, and I’ve only begun to give myself permission to sleep when needed and read when I can without feeling guilty. Isn’t that wild? I’ve been a serious go-getter for most of my sixty-seven years, and “deserve” to take breaks now and then. But that old mindset of “I need to be doing something” wants to re-surface constantly. I am a warrior woman, and I’ve done battle with that lie, but it dies hard.
In January I am exhausted enough to put that lie, and myself, to rest. And that is I what I do.
Does this resonate with any of you? Are you like me and kind of detest the “let’s set goals” emphasis in January? Are you also too exhausted for the mental and emotional work that it actually takes? I’d love to hear from you! Let me know I’m not alone in this, or if you have any suggestions for me. This year, if I feel the need to set goals, I think I’ll do it in October! 🙂
The words I used to put after “I am” were not very nice words at all. I didn’t like myself much. I felt like I could never measure up or please everyone, although I spent most of my waking minutes trying. When I’d do something just for myself I’d feel extremely guilty and like I had to hide it. It seems pretty silly, huh?
But my beginnings were a bit rocky, which led me–a person of peace, huge emotions, and big heart–to feel as if I really didn’t deserve love, or even much of a place in this world.
After going through a LOT of healing, prayer, reading/study, and consciously changing my thought patterns, I began to view myself differently. Believe me, this process took a long time, but the journey has set me free. When I begin to think of myself with words that cut me down, words that undermine the fabulous person God created me to be, I pull myself back and change them.
I remember who I really, really am, the good stuff I’ve discovered about myself, and I change my thought pattern. It does work! I even say some of those things out loud to others, and I haven’t gotten struck by lightning yet!!
I urge you to try it. This world seems to thrive on criticism (not the constructive kind), comparison, bullying, and zillions of images that could leave us feeling like a mess. We certainly do not need to be our own enemy by fueling that fire with negative thoughts and beliefs about ourselves!!
If you have no idea what makes you fabulous, then ask a friend. (Our friends see and know what we do well, how we have helped them or others, what our personality is like and our strengths.) They can give you a few characteristics to get started.
But first of all, above everything else, you are loved.
I do not know you well enough to say I love you (but I do care about you). The One who really, truly loves you unconditionally is our Creator, God, our heavenly Father who wants a close and personal relationship with you. And knowing we are loved can change how we feel about ourselves.
So go ahead, discover some good things about yourself, and begin replacing the ugly self-talk with uplifting, affirming words instead. I’ve given you an alphabet card below full of suggestions. You are welcome to print it, (please be kind and use only for yourself, as it is my own work) or you can buy a 5″ x 7″ hard copy from my Etsy shop if you desire. I guarantee that if you read these words daily–using them to describe yourself–and begin to believe them (because of course you are all these things), you will become empowered and equipped with stronger self-esteem, self-love, and confidence.
Why shouldn’t these words–and more–describe who you are? I now believe that I am these things, and I’m certainly no better than you!
So there you have it–strong, uplifting words to fill in this blank:
I am ______________________________.
I am very excited to hear about your journey. Let me know how you do!
And comment below if you, like me, have struggled with negative self-talk.
I wish you blessings, truth, and the heart-knowledge that you are loved.
I’m thinking that we all could show ourselves some grace this time of year. I originally wrote this article for the August/September issue of Women2Women Michigan Magazine (I’m the editor and write a column). I believe it is quite timely for now, during a time when we are so stressed, and demanding of ourselves. Read it, take heart, breathe deeply, and try the “grace experiment”.
The Grace Experiment
She was done. She just couldn’t do it anymore. And the worst thing? She felt like a failure. Nagging self-criticism kept bombarding her brain: she’d not done enough, she should work harder, and she was so unworthy. She had tried. Oh how hard she had tried! But she had come to the end of herself. She could barely breathe, much less keep pushing herself to “get it all done” just to make everyone happy. She collapsed on the bed, tears dripping down her cheeks, and wondered how she’d gotten to this place. Utterly exhausted, hardly able to move, her brain overloaded with the many requirements and expectations from others, she wondered if she’d ever be happy again.
Do you recognize this woman? Have you seen her in your mirror?
Everyone gets exhausted and comes to the “end of their rope” at times during their lives. Unfortunately, with women it is often the result of our “super woman” mentality which believes we can be all things to everyone, do all things to please people, be the caregivers of the world, and completely dismiss our own needs. It’s a mindset that has been driven into us by our culture, our families, and by societal expectations. Often it is the result of believing there is no other way and our own driving need to prove ourselves.
Well Darlin’, if this is you, it’s time to bestow upon yourself goodwill, favor, and mercy, (grace) just as you would a best friend who was criticizing themselves for falling short. You would give her encouragement and tell her how accomplished she is. It’s time to do the same for yourself.
“If beating yourself up worked, you’d already be rich, skinny, and happy. Why not try loving yourself for a month and see what happens?”
My friend Stephanie Dalfonzo wrote these words on her Facebook page this week. I asked if I could use them because they fit so well with what I was writing.
Do you realize how powerful this suggestion is? Could you do it? It takes twenty-one days to change a habit, so how about instead of self-criticism you rejoiced in your accomplishments for thirty days? Do you understand how that could change your brain and your outlook on life?
Instead of thinking, “I’m a bad mom because my meals are not really healthy enough for my kids”, think, “I buy groceries (an accomplishment that deserves a medal in my book!) and provide food for family.” (SCORE!)
I am such a bad parent, missing my kids’ games (recitals, plays). However, I am working to provide a life for them, and there are others who love and encourage them.
Instead of, “Will my children be okay without me tonight? I feel so guilty!” Think, “I really need this time to laugh with friends so that I can be more content at home. They are just fine without me, and we all need a break from each other.” And you know, they really are just fine with someone else for a while.
And during those times when you just can’t seem to keep your head above water and the doubt and lies and guilt are attacking you? Start listing all the things you HAVE accomplished that day. Perhaps you worked all day (which brings its own set of frustrations), did four loads of laundry, bought groceries, read with a child, cleaned the toilet (does anyone else clean just one item a day like I often do?) spent 5 minutes outside, folded the laundry (ugh, 3 days later), put the devices aside and cuddled, cooked dinner (or collected drive-through), made the bed (ha!), talked to your mom, encouraged a friend, got out of bed this morning, or got into bed at a decent hour (you do know we desperately need 7-8 hours of sleep don’t you?). There are so many things that we do each day and we need to celebrate them. Others expect and take for granted. But you, my dear, need to begin seeing what a powerhouse you truly are!
Need to start saving? Celebrate the five dollars you were able to tuck away this week or how you resisted buying that really unnecessary item (maybe at Hobby Lobby or Target? Stay away from those places!).
Want to lose weight? Celebrate that you didn’t eat the whole bag of chips even though you really, really wanted to. Perhaps you signed up with a therapist to help you understand the underlying reasons behind overeating, or that you have partnered with a friend to support each other. Or that you did not buy the three-pack of chocolate chip cookies at McDonald’s (do they stare you in the face too?).
Need to lose weight and save money? Celebrate that you have weaned yourself from that sugary Starbuck’s on the way to work or that you brought your lunch to work and walked for ten minutes.
Did you take the stairs today instead of the elevator? Did you call a friend to encourage her? Did you turn up the music and dance with your kids? Did you clean the house—or even one room? Girl! You need to celebrate!!
This list can go on and on. If you have trouble remembering your accomplishments by the end of the day, jot notes to yourself. Perhaps carry a little journal with you. Many people carry “gratitude” journals, and being conscious of all they have to be grateful for has changed their outlook on life. I believe the act of recognizing all you accomplish during your day will change your life drastically. You will begin to see that you are not lacking in any way.
And take a bit of time for you each day: read, sit outside, meditate, take a bubble bath, or do yoga, and breathe. You are completely worth it—and until you believe that of yourself, it will be hard for others to believe it either.
I realize I am focusing more on doing rather than being, which is not my usual approach. But I feel it’s important for women to learn to give themselves grace rather than beat themselves up for not doing all they think they should (which usually turns into feelings of not being enough—something I struggled with most of my life). I really do hope you will try the “Grace Experiment”. And please let me know how it changes your life! Email me at email@example.com. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Happy March! (This is from my “Wings & Dreams” calendar. You can still purchase one on sale in my shop.)
As Lucille Ball said, ” Love yourself first, and all the rest falls into line.” It’s pretty difficult to accomplish what your heart desires if you don’t feel as if you are worth it. It’s tough to offer love to others if you feel really cruddy about yourself.
It’s almost impossible to be confident and positive if you really don’t like yourself.
What can you do today to nurture your soul? As women we nurture everyone else, but not ourselves.
Speak up for your right to take time to do something that nurtures YOU. (Convince yourself you are worthy of it. It will make you a better person, dissolve resentment, and empower you!)
Tell me below what you are going to do for yourself today. Me? I just got my heart rate up for 15 minutes. Go me! Now let’s see if I keep with it! Cheer me on.
And tell me your self love intentions. Lots of love. I’m with ya, friend!
Today is my birthday!! I thought it quite appropriate to post this today, since I am entering a “milestone” birthday this year–that of receiving Medicare. Yes, this lady right here is turning 65 years old today!! I can’t believe it. Because I am waaaay too young at heart to be 65!! Right? That’s what living with gusto and passion will do fer ya!! Ha!
The above picture is an excerpt from a poem written by Jenny Joseph in 1961 when she was 29 years old. You really should read it all. This poem became Jenny’s most popular one even though she wrote all her life and won several awards and published numerous poetry books.
Perhaps it gained popularity because it speaks of women doing what suits them instead of what others expect of them. A freeing thought to women of the 60s and continues to be even now.
Our clothing standards for “older” women (whatever that means) have loosened some in the last decades, but conquering societal expectations on women is still a struggle. So here is my take on this idea of what to wear:
I’m older—I guess—and I enjoy wearing purple and many other colors. But how I most want to clothe myself is by wearing the honest, true version of my own essence. Not someone’s idea of who I am, not anyone’s opinion of how I should behave, and certainly not another person’s idea of what I should be. Who’s with me?
Age has given me perspective and wisdom. Navigating through difficult times—suffering because of wrong choices, persevering through grief, loss, and change—as well as experiencing wonderful and joyful things like parenthood and being loved, will do that for you.
Age has given me guts. Guts to break free and throw out all that isn’t truly my authentic self. Age has liberated me. I finally got tired enough to call it quits. I couldn’t take care of everyone else any more. I couldn’t be what “they” wanted and demanded. And good Lord, why should I be? How does allowing someone else to frame my character, personality, and behaviors honor myself or my Creator?
As with most of us, the reduction and dismissal of my true self started at an early age when I began believing lies about myself. Experiences in my young life caused me to feel “less than” and that was the filter I used to interpret what people said about me. I heard words and perceived behaviors that convinced me I was, indeed, less than I should be.
For the record, when we hear something, we must accept it and agreewith it before it can become truth to us. How we feel about ourselves, often determined early in our lives, affects that.
As I got older and began to dismiss other’s opinions and expectations, and tasted the freedom of determining my authentic self, I’ve discovered lots of treasures in my character. I’m not really those awful things people said about me. I know that they were lies. And I’m fervently hoping that you, too, will make the same discovery of truth.
So what about that purple? Please wear whatever colors make you feel alive and vibrant! But, most importantly, clothe yourself in the dazzling radiance of your perfectly true self.
And, darling, won’t we SHINE!!
I wrote this for the Women2Women Michigan Magazine. You might really enjoy reading the whole magazine online, as it is FULL of great articles for and about and by women! Here is the link to read the free magazine: W2WMichigan Magazine
Women need a tribe because we crave those who will listen to, support, and encourage us. We do those things for many other people, and sometimes we become resentful if we aren’t allowed the same privilege.
There’s freedom and strength in having friends who listen to you, allow you to voice your dreams without stifling them, and encourage you to be your best–whatever that looks like. If you don’t have a group of friends, or at least one special friend, I encourage you to seek out people you relate to, who share your spark and interests, and who will honor and treasure you. Perhaps you will find these friends in an online group, a club friendship, or co-workers. I found a tribe like this in an online group called Women On Fire. I also love the Women2Women community and have found my tribe here. Finding your tribe takes being open to making friends, cultivating relationships, and seeking ways to meet other women of like mind and heart. If you are determined to find your tribe, you will.
You are fabulous!! Don’t believe it? Maybe you should change your self-view. For you to be your most authentic and confident self, you need to love and value the person you are. Take inventory of and celebrate your strengths and skills (ask a friend for help if needed). Declare yourself amazing and delightful and strong! Make life happen for you. Remember, although you are a queen worthy of a crown, you are also a warrior woman with killer stompin’ boots.
and A COOKIE…
So eat the cookie, already. Buy those flowers, soak in the tub, and take a nap! Women are characteristically nurturing souls. But who nurtures us? Most likely no one. It’s up to us to nurture ourselves and that means self-care; giving yourself permission to do the little things that restore your joy, your health, and your energy.
Here’s to living your life so that your sparkle shines for the entire world to see.
As a contributing writer to the Women 2 Women Michigan magazine, I wrote this for my “Sparkle & Shine” column in their first 2017 issue. You can read the whole issue for free here. You will most likely enjoy the magazine because it’s full of great articles and information for, about, and by women.
You can buy the “Tiara” card shown above here. I enjoy giving it as a neat gift for a friend. Here’s how:
In a cute gift bag place the card, a Dollar Store tiara (from the kids’ party section), and a shrink-wrapped cookie (the kind you find at Starbucks).
Here’s what you say on the card:
“You’ll always have my love, you were born to wear a tiara, and here’s your cookie.”
Or something like that. This gift has made many women smile!