18 December 2015


Something to think about during this season of giving:

The Golden Ladder of Giving
1. To give reluctantly, the gift of the hand, but not of the heart.
2. To give cheerfully, but not in proportion to need.
3. To give cheerfully and proportionately, but not until solicited.
4. To give cheerfully, proportionately, and unsolicited, but to put the gift
    into the poor person's hand, thus creating shame.
5. To give in such a way that the distressed may know their benefactor,
    without being known to him or her.
6. To know the objects of our bounty, but remain unknown to them.
7. To give so that the benefactor may not know those whom he has relieved,
    and they shall not know him.
8. To prevent poverty by teaching a trade, setting a person up in business,
    or in some other way preventing the need of charity.



12 December 2015

Families--Strategies for Getting along

When I think about families, of course the first thing that I think of is my own.  If you can imagine a hugely dysfunctional family with tons of issues, then you have my family.  In many ways, my family has made life difficult for me, especially in my young adulthood.  I went through many issues that other people never have had to deal with, and there were times when I thought that I wasn't going to make it.  But the simple fact is that my family is my family.  There's not a thing that I can do to change that fact, and not a thing I can do about what's happened in my life.  So my choice now is what to do about my family--allow them to continue to make my life difficult, or accept them for who they are and still have them as a part of my life.

I do have to say that even with the dysfunction, there has been no systematic abuse in my family, so accepting them is not as difficult for me as it may be for others who have abusive parents, for example--including emotional, sexual, or physical abuse.  So what I say here has to be tempered with that realization.  The line "That's easy for you to say" is an important one to keep in mind when talking about dealing with issues in our lives, for we cannot know what other people have gone through and the difficulties they face as a result of their pasts.

But that said, I've found some important strategies of dealing with my family that help me to understand them better and get along with them better.  And here are some of them.

I leave the past in the past.  What happened, happened.  But today is not thirty years ago.  What happened when I was a kid is long gone, and it's important that I relate to my family members based on who they are and who I am today.  If I keep things from the past in mind, then relating to them is tempered by resentment, anger, frustration, even fear.  So when I'm with my family, the past is not with us.  That's not true of them--they often dwell in the past and bring up old resentments--but I refuse to play that game.

I take my leave when I need to.  One of the times when I need to is when they bring up old issues from the past.  I find something else to do when this happens--I go read or take a nap or go for a run or a walk.  I let them hash out that junk, and I come back when things are no longer focused on old issues.  Sometimes I get frustrated with the way my father talks to my mother--but that's something they're both okay with, as they've been together for many, many years, so if I don't like it, I go into another room to do something else.  Years of experience have taught me that saying something will change nothing and will lead to arguments and confrontations, so I don't bother.

That leads in to the next strategy I've developed:  I let them be who they are, and I don't try to change them or the way they do things.  They are pretty much set in the ways that they act and the things that they do, and it's not my job to change either.  So I don't try.  I don't necessarily like things that they say, especially when there are racist or hate-filled ideas involved, but their ideas and beliefs are theirs, and it's important that I accept them as people, even if I don't accept some of their ideas.  And not accepting their ideas doesn't mean that I have to correct them--again, my experience tells me that correction will have no effect other than making them upset, so I just do my best to change the topic to something more pleasant.  I can tell them that I don't agree with them, but I can't tell them that they should change their ways of thinking--that's their business.

When I'm with my family, I watch and listen more than I talk.  One of the things that I notice is that they still do things and say things that they did and said decades ago.  They've developed their own strategies for getting on in life, and I've found that things that I used to think were personal are actually pretty impersonal--it's just the way they are.  Things that they said to me, they still say to other people--so why should they hurt me at all?  And even if they seem to be hurtful, often the intent is not to hurt at all--it's just been the way that I've taken things that has made them hurtful.

When I'm with my family, I do my best to say only positive things, to bring up only positive memories, and to not bring up past pains of resentments.  If I'm with them today, why do I want to bring up yesterday?  They don't need to apologize to me for the past, for they were only doing the best they could, no matter what mistakes they might have made.  I don't need them to make amends--if I do, then my acceptance of them and love for them is conditional, and then my conditional love becomes another barrier between us.  And we certainly don't need any more barriers!

04 December 2015

Violence and communities

The focus in our country is very strongly shifting towards the number of murders that occur here on such a regular basis.  To be honest, it sometimes feels hard to think that I'm living my life fully while other people are suffering so often from such tragic and useless violence.  Am I really living my life fully if I'm not doing anything to stop this violence?  Am I contributing to the problem if I'm not contributing to the solution?  And couldn't the same questions be asked about my relationship to hunger and homelessness and domestic violence and all of the other problems that permeate our society?

I believe that we're all called to something.  In my case, as a teacher I try to help my students learn about conflict resolution that doesn't involve violence; about developing communities that support people, not alienate them and make the feel disenfranchised; about finding ways to help others who need it; about how to identify those people who do need help.  I don't feel that my calling is in politics right now (though of course, that may change), so I'm not helping to develop political solutions; I have no professional psychological or psychiatric credentials, so I'm not researching ways to stem violence; I am not qualified as a law enforcement officer, so I'm not joining the police or the FBI in order to combat the violence.

No matter what our calling, all of us can contribute to a society that's more peaceful and in which people feel that they belong.  It's important that our communities offer support to others, not alienate people.  We can be a part of that support.  We can teach our children tolerance, not hatred.  We can talk to that person that no one else seems to want to talk to--knowing full well that there's often a very good reason for which others don't talk to him or her.

The question that constantly comes to my mind is this:  what can we do to develop communities in which such things wouldn't happen, because the members of the community don't feel like they don't belong, and because they have outlets through which they can deal with their frustrations and aggravations?

Some of the most simple things that come immediately to mind:

We can not create and perpetuate division by constantly referring to others using derogatory terms.  Our political divisions are the worst these days--who cares if I'm a liberal or conservative?  I have my views and you have yours, and we should respect each other rather than insult each other.
We can find an organization in our community that helps the disenfranchised, and we can help that organization to thrive.  That doesn't mean that we have to spend three nights a week working at a soup kitchen--but we can put aside a weekly amount to help them to do what they do.

We can encourage and compliment others regularly.  Our criticisms come quickly and easily; our compliments come rarely.  It should be the other way around.

We can teach our children how to solve problems without resorting to violence.  And it's not enough to tell them they're wrong if they fight--we have to give them an alternative.  Telling a kid that he or she is wrong without teaching them another way of acting is completely unfair to the kid.

And that's just a start.  We can all think of ways through which we can help our communities to thrive and to be inclusive--I'm sure there are hundreds of ways to do so.  I firmly believe, though, that the most important long-term changes that we can make to affect our society have to do with building communities that are loving, caring, and inclusive--and that starts with you and me.

29 November 2015


I like winter a lot.  I say that with full acknowledgement that I love being outside and that I love warm weather, and that winter keeps me from enjoying both of these things.  I'm not a skier, and I tend not to spend a lot of time outdoors when it's really cold.  Most of my running is done on a treadmill, which is something that I don't particularly care for.  So when all is said and done, there are many aspects of winter that one could say are fairly negative for me.  However, that doesn't stop me from loving the season, no matter what it may bring.

Because I choose to live in a place with a cold climate, it really is important that I do love the season.  I'm not in northern Canada, of course, so it isn't like winter lasts for nine months where I live, but we do have a long winter season that's quite cold most of the time.  And that makes it important for me to find the things about the season that I really like, so that I don't spend a lot of time thinking negative thoughts and wishing things were other than they actually are.

Most importantly, I love the intimacy.  Because people aren't outside nearly as often, the indoor parts of our life are much more dominant.  To me, there's nothing like coming inside after being out in the cold, enjoying the warmth and the light and the company wherever I am.  Days tend to be darker, so the light is warmer and more inviting.  Because people are together more, the sense of connectedness is stronger.  People can spend more time talking and enjoying each other's company.  Of course, this was better when I was young and people didn't turn to the Internet or put in movies or play video games when they couldn't go outdoors.  When I was young, winter was a time for baking more, playing board games, building forts on the couch, or simply drinking a hot cup of coffee or cocoa and talking.  But even if we don't connect with each other as much as we used to (one of the real shames of our modern society), I still love the intimate feel of being indoors on a cold winter day.

I also love the scenery.  The silhouettes of the trees against the grey sky, the glittering snow and ice under blue skies, the snow drifting softly to the ground, the snow lying softly (or heavily) on the branches of the pines.  We don't have any outdoor flowers for a while, but we do have beauty to behold nonetheless.

Winter also brings a mood.  Early in winter, we feel the shift as we go from the beautiful autumn days to the harsher winter days.  In mid-winter, we may feel even a bit of nervousness as we wonder what kinds of storms and snowfalls the season may bring.  Winter has its hold on the world, and we have to let go of our want for warmth and completely accept what the season brings.  But that's also the time when we feel the first sparks of the hope in our hearts that spring will come, that the darker and colder time will eventually run its course and move out of our lives once more, leaving us with more light and more warmth, allowing us to go outdoors once more and enjoy the new flowers and warmth and greenness of the world.

Of course, there are also hikes in the winter through the snow, either in boots or snowshoes or even on skis.  There are skiing and snowboarding, and many other winter sports that are quite enjoyable.  And they're different.  They offer us ways to enjoy the snow and cold rather than giving up on being active altogether, and they offer us chances to enjoy the scenery and to challenge ourselves in different ways.

I have to say that food is one of my favorite things of winter, too.  We tend to eat differently, with more heavy stews and soups with rolls and vegetables.  The colder temperatures keep us looking for sustenance, and while it's important not to overindulge and sabotage our health, it's also nice to enjoy what's offered in the winter.  In many places, some dishes are offered only in the winter--I remember a restaurant in Germany that served a wonderful Apfelstrudel, but it was available only during the cold months.

There is much to love about the winter.  The season offers us many new and different experiences, and if we spend our time simply hating winter and wishing that spring would come, we face a very real danger of not living our lives fully, not taking advantage of what each day has to offer.  No matter where we are or what we're doing, we can find positive aspects of our situation, and often it's up to us to make the best of what we have if we want to be happy and fulfilled.

16 November 2015

Small Pleasures, from Andy Rooney

From our Articles and Excerpts pages:

It's too bad all of us don't have some way to remind ourselves how good life is when life is going well.  We are more apt to think of it as merely average and normal.

When I was fifteen, I had an appendectomy.  There was some minor complication, and I was in the hospital for almost three weeks.  (It's always surprising how serious a minor operation seems when you're the one who has had it.)  But I recall then appreciating the colors and the action of everyday life when I got out of the hospital.  My perception of many things I had always taken for granted was razor sharp.  The grass looked greener, our house looked better and my mother's cooking tasted great.

The fact is, any time we or someone we love isn't dying, it should be considered a great time in life.

Just now, in the course of writing this, I was trying to remind myself of small pleasures I enjoy almost daily:

--My shower first thing in the morning is a wonderfully pleasant and exhilarating way to start the day.  I like the warmth, I like a good cake of soap, and I like the idea that I'm part of a civilization that has organized itself to get water to my house and have it warm and waiting for me when I get up.  It's difficult to remember to be amazed every day, but it is amazing.
--The morning newspaper and that first cup of coffee are two things I'm sure they have in heaven if there is one.  I always pick up my newspaper with a great sense of anticipation.  I'm a newspaper nut.  There are times when I don't find much in it that interests me, but that never changes my enthusiasm for getting at it again the following day.

--I love my work.  I love writing.  I even like the physical process of hitting the keys of the typewriter with my fingers, although I only use three of them.  I enjoy thinking of things to write, and there is always a vague sense of excitement about whether I can do it or not; this heightens my interest.  And to finish a piece of writing is a great satisfaction.  It's as good as getting a sliver out of your finger.

--By noon I'm getting hungry and feeling desk-bound.  I know a hundred good little restaurants, and it is a wonderfully civilized pleasure to find a friend and go to one of them for lunch.

--In the afternoon I'm not nearly so smart as I am in the shower eight hours earlier, but if I'm not pressed to do something for a deadline, I'm just as happy.  It's pleasant to browse through the mail and the debris on my desk, looking for a job easy enough for my brain to handle at that hour.  Perhaps I call one of my four kids working in Boston, Washington, New York, and Providence.

--By late afternoon I can't wait to get home--the same home I couldn't wait to leave that morning.  It's a pleasant place.  My wife is glad to see me, I'm glad to see her, and we sit down and have a drink while we watch the evening news on television.

--On Saturdays I have fresh orange juice, one of the great luxuries of my life.  As I sit there sipping it, I think how lucky I am to be able to make enough money to squeeze three oranges for a drink.  After a great time with coffee, toast, and the newspaper, I go down to my cellar filled with tools and good wood.  I've had some of the pieces of wood for twenty years.  I sit and consider for the hundredth time what I might make of a wide piece of walnut.  I feel it and enjoy it and decide to save it.

I am not sick or dying at all right now, and I'm determined to remind myself how good life is.


09 November 2015

Figuring Out Why

Things happen in life.  Sometimes they're obviously positive, and sometimes they seem to be quite negative.  Sometimes, of course, they are negative--but even in the very negative events, it's possible to find some sort of spark, some sort of message for us, some sort of learning that we're meant to do.

Recently, some negative things have happened to us, most notably a dramatic reduction in work hours.  Because I wasn't in a position in which I could actively look for other work, I had to accept the reduction and make do with it.  About a week after I found out about it, and opportunity came up for me to become involved in a program that seemed really fascinating.  It's a program that gives help to people who are hurting, and it will allow me to work one-on-one with people who really do need some sort of support in their lives.  The main reason I hadn't considered doing it before was that there's a fifty-hour training requirement--and guess what the reduction in my work hours allowed me to do?

Yes, we have to watch our money for a while.  No, we're not getting rich--or even comfortable, for that matter.  But I'm now able to do a type of work that I've always wanted to do, as we finished the training this past weekend.  The very negative occurrence of losing a lot of hours and making much less money is very real, but one of the outcomes of that negative situation has been very positive.  And there have been other positives--I've outlined my next novel, I've been able to do a lot of running (which keeps me in shape and helps me to clear my mind), and I've even cleaned and rearranged much of the house, something that my wife appreciates a lot.

Some things are very bad, and they help us to learn about our own limits and needs.  Some things are very bad, and they open up doors in other directions that we might not see if we don't keep our eyes open.  Within every occurrence are the seeds of positive and negative, but sometimes we get so caught up with the negative that we completely fail to see the positive.  That's a shame, and it is our own doing.  So let's stay focused on trying to find the silver lining in each dark grey cloud.  It is there.

28 October 2015

From "Eyes Wide Open"

I sometimes ask myself if on a given day or at a given moment I'm contributing to the positive energy of the world, or if I'm contributing to the negative energy.  Are my words or actions causing someone else to be angry and defensive and frustrated, or are my words and actions helping someone to feel more calm and at peace?  Of course, any time I make this judgment I'm just taking a guess, but I'm pretty sure that I can come close to the right answer if I follow some simple rules for my own behavior, rules that will help me to make things better for others, rather than adding to their challenges.  They're a pretty simple set of don't's and do's, and here they are:

Don't criticize and find fault; do encourage and find the positive.  This way, I won't be creating negative feelings in others, and I may be adding to their self-confidence.

Don't let fear determine my actions; do act from my heart doing what I know is right.  This way, I'll be living a more authentic life and facing risks that will make me stronger by dealing with them head-on.

Don't be quick to judge; do try to find out more about a particular person, story, or incident.  This way, my actions and attitudes will come from a place of knowing, not of reacting, and I'll be much more fair in dealing with everyone; my fairness can't help but help any situation in which it's called into play.

Don't focus on what may happen in the future; do focus on what's happening now and what I can do about it.  We have only the present moment, and I know from experience that my actions now based on possible future problems are often wastes of my time, for those problems tend not to materialize, as they're figments of my imagination, creations of my fear.

Don't hold on to anger and resentment; do work hard to let go of these things and focus more on the positive.  This way, my interior life will be more relaxed and more balanced, and I won't eat myself up from the inside out for things that are completely beyond my control.  I know plenty of people who refuse to let go of things, and they make themselves miserable while the people around them just shake their heads and say "What a shame."

Don't take the easy way out by doing things that I know aren't right.  I may need money, but stealing it is wrong.  I may have made a mistake, but hiding it will only make matters worse later.  Do try to do what's right and best at all times.  This way, I'm giving myself a chance to have more positive things in my future, rather than setting myself up for having to pay for my mistakes.

Don't try to build myself up by breaking or keeping other people down.  Do try to build up others at all times.  This way, I'm helping to develop strong, courageous people all around me.

Don't give up as soon as things look tough or bleak, and don't give in to discouragement.  Do persevere when I believe that it's important to see something through to its end.  When I do this, I'm not doing something that will make me feel weak or useless later, and I am doing something that will benefit me in the long run.

Don't try to do everything myself.  Do ask for and accept help when it makes sense to do so.  If I do this, I'll help myself by learning from those who help me, and I'll help others by letting them help me--I know it's helping them because of how good I feel when I'm able to help someone else.

I'm very sure that there are more ways that I can brighten my world by avoiding certain actions and following through on others.  What I find most important, though, is simply to be aware that there are certain things that I shouldn't be doing if I wanted to live a happy and fulfilling life; and I can make my day and my world a bit brighter by doing the "opposite" of those things.  And every little bit of light that we can bring into this world will be helpful to everyone in the long run.


26 October 2015


If I could give a gift to everyone, it would have to be discernment.  I'd give that gift so that people could be able to see whether things are good for them or bad for them before they actually do them.  This gift would allow people to realize that some of the things they want in life are actually harmful, and it would allow them to see just how positive it would be to do some of the things that they don't really want to do.

Of course, with discernment would also have to come the strength to make the appropriate decision.  That dessert looks good, but I'm going to pass on it because I've already eaten enough.  I have the chance to have an affair, but I'm not going to do it because of the inevitable harm that it will cause.  This person is offering me an interesting business chance, but it doesn't seem quite right, so I'm not going to involve myself in it.

If we all could develop this pair of talents--discernment and decision-making--we could turn our lives into something completely different.  We could free up time to pursue the positive things that we do and develop our skills and talents and passions, instead of dealing with the fallout that has come from our poor decisions.  We wouldn't be spending so much time trying to repair relationships and situations that we've harmed, so we could spend that time doing things that we love.

Discernment isn't taught very well at all in our society--in fact, it's actively discouraged by the people who are paying for advertising to try to get us to pay them for their goods or services.  But it is something that we can learn and develop on our own, and if we do so, we can fill our lives with many more positive experiences, while avoiding much of the negative garbage that we so often cause ourselves.  It's worth looking into--how well do you discern between choices?  And what could you do to improve that skill?

23 October 2015

Dealing with My Beliefs

Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself.  We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem.  We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.    -Iyanla Vanzant

I'm working on my beliefs.  I've been going through life with a set of limiting beliefs ever since childhood--I inherited them from my parents, and I haven't been able to fully change them yet.  I've always believed that good things are for other people, that prosperity is something that won't happen to me, that someone else is going to get that job or that promotion.  And sometimes, because I believe these things, they actually come to pass.  Not always, but often.  So it's up to me to change my beliefs if I really want my life to change.

Don't worry--I'm not blindly believing everything I read from self-help gurus.  I don't think that there's any magic potion or wand that's going to change my whole life immediately.  My new belief--the belief that my beliefs are holding me back--comes from observation and thought, experience and reflection.  I've noticed that people who believe certain things tend to think in certain ways that make those beliefs come true.  If someone believes that he or she doesn't deserve to have a loving, caring, considerate spouse, then guess what?  That person is going to tend to feel suspicious when he or she meets a loving, caring, and considerate person, and isn't going to feel comfortable with the relationship; very often, that person will sabotage the relationship--even subconsciously--in order to perpetuate the belief.  And then, when that person meets someone else who isn't kind and caring, they'll gravitate towards that person because he or she "fits" the belief, and is someone who's more in line with what they feel they "deserve."

People who believe that they're not good enough for certain jobs often sabotage themselves at interviews by saying things that kill their chances to be hired.  Later, they'll say things like "I have no idea why I said that."

I don't want to be like that.  Not anymore.  So I'm going to work on my beliefs.  I am worthy.  I am caring and loving.  I am deserving of good things.  Hell, I'm even a beautiful person.

I'm going to be realistic and not expect immediate and drastic changes.  But I'm also going to be realistic and expect changes.  Most of those changes will come from me, but many of them will come from the ways that other people treat me as I internalize my beliefs, and begin to act based on my new beliefs.  But eventually, I'll be like a new person, one who trusts in life and living and God, and one who lives my life in positive and caring ways.  And one who believes that he is worthwhile, and who expects to be treated as such.

17 October 2015

The Strength of Discouragement

There are those people in the world who seem to think that things like discouragement are possible to banish from our lives, that it's somehow possible to go through life never feeling down, never feeling any negative feelings at all.  With all due respect to them, I'm sure that there are people on this planet whose brains never take them to a place at which they're discouraged, who do always feel positive.  But those people are quite rare, and their ability to think positively a gift that truly is remarkable.

The rest of us, though, face feelings like discouragement rather regularly.  And those feelings are strong.  It's incredibly difficult to save money for months in order to do something important, only to have the car break down, with the repair bill wiping out the savings.  It's very hard to search for a long time for work, only to be rejected time and time again.  There are so many situations in which discouragement is a factor that it's sometimes amazing that we don't feel it more than we do.

When it comes, it's incredibly strong.  Discouragement is so strong that it can cause other feelings to emerge, such as sadness, frustration, hopelessness, even depression.  It would be silly for us to deny the strength of discouragement, but it would also be very positive for us to think about what we can do when the feelings shows up in our lives.

When I get discouraged, the most important thing that I can do is to try to get a positive sense of perspective on the situation.  Something may be going wrong over and over again, but there are still many things going right--my discouragement often is a result of focusing only on the one or two things going wrong, while ignoring those things that are going right.  Of course I'm going to feel discouragement if I focus only on what's going wrong--that's the only thing I could feel.  So when I get discouraged, I try to remind myself that the area of discouragement is only one area of my life, and there are others that also deserve my attention.

Another thing that helps me work through discouragement is remembering lessons that I've learned from others.  The simple saying, "This, too, shall pass," is one of the most important sayings that I've ever heard, and it has helped me through many a difficult moment--because I truly believe it.  Months or weeks from now, the discouragement that I'm feeling today will be naught but a memory.  One of the reasons that I love quotations is because they give me lessons that are important to me.  When I'm discouraged, I can read short lessons about hope, perseverance, action, perspective, courage, and even discouragement, and realize that others have gone through situations much more trying than mine, and have come out fine.

If I'm discouraged about money, I need to find some sort of action that I can take to deal with money issues.  Perhaps for a certain time I'll lose my free time in order to work--as long as it's not permanent, it doesn't bother me at all to give up something in order to deal with other issues.  There are times when compromise is very important, and if it means that I need to take an extra job to deal with the discouragement, then I'll do so.  If I'm discouraged about relationships, then I need to re-evaluate my relationships and decide which ones are healthy, which are unhealthy, and which are neither, and give up those that are unhealthy while either strengthening or giving up those that are neither.  If I'm discouraged about my job, perhaps it's time to look for another one, or to look for another line of work entirely.

Discouragement is strong, and it's often difficult to deal with.  But it's not the end of the world, unless we allow it to be so.  When discouragement strikes you, strike back at it.  Don't wallow in it.

Develop success from failures.  Discouragement and failure
are two of the surest stepping stones to success.

07 October 2015

Limitations or Possibilities?

Sometimes it's kind of sad to see just how early our young people learn to focus on limitations rather than possibilities.  We had a discussion in class (college freshmen) recently, and one of the students brought up a very interesting and realistic possibility--only to have several other students immediately shoot down her idea with a long list of limitations.  "It would be nice, but other people would ruin it"; "That would never work in our society because. . ."; "That can't be done because. . . ."  And when I asked them why they responded immediately with limitations, they said that one has to be aware of limitations in order to be able to overcome them.

The effect of their limitations, though, would have been to squelch the idea immediately--there would have been no chance to try to make the idea work, for they would have come to the conclusion that "That will never work."

When I graduated from college, I bought a one-way ticket to Europe--I went to Spain.  People thought that I was crazy.  I had no money, no job, no possibilities that I knew of.  But I felt in my heart that I could make it work.  I ended up staying in Europe for three years, and I came back actually having a bit of money saved from my three years there.  If I had listened to the people who spoke only of the limitations of my plan, I never would have gone.  Instead, I spent two years in Spain and one year in Germany, and I learned two more languages in addition to Spanish.  It was all possible because I didn't spend time focused on the limitations and the "impossibilities"; rather, I got there and I started immediately doing everything I could to make things work.

Do we teach our young people to focus on the possibilities and potential available to them, or do we fill their minds with limits and reasons not to try things?  And if we fill their minds with limits, are we even giving them the slightest chance to succeed in things that they want to do?  Or are we shutting them down before they even start to make the effort to make things happen?

And what are we doing to ourselves if we focus only on limits?  Are we even giving ourselves the chance to succeed if all we consider are limitations and potential barriers?  Yes, it is important to look at barriers and adversity and figure out ways to deal with them--but we cannot let them be our major focus.  If we do, we give them far too much strength.

And if we give them too much strength--more than they really have--they will keep us from moving ahead and taking chances that now seem far too risky to us.

05 October 2015

A Few Thoughts on Community

The American city should be a collection of communities where every member has a right to belong.  It should be a place where every person feels safe on his or her streets and in the house of his or her  friends.  It should be a place where each individual's dignity and self-respect is strengthened by the respect and affection of his or her neighbors.  It should be a place where each of us can find the satisfaction and warmth which comes from being a member of the community of human beings.  This is what people sought at the dawn of civilization.  It is what we seek today.     -Lyndon B. Johnson

* * * * *

We are all citizens of one world, we are all of one blood.  To hate people because they were born in another country, because they speak a different language, or because they take a different view on this subject or that, is a great folly.  Desist, I implore you, for we are all equally human. . . . Let us have but one end in view:  the welfare of humanity.     -Johann Amos Comenius

* * * * *

We are responsible for one another.  Collectively so.  The world is a joint effort.  We might say it is like a giant puzzle, and each one of us is a very important and unique part of it.  Collectively, we can unite and bring about a powerful change in the world.  By working to raise our awareness to the highest possible level of spiritual understanding, we can begin to heal ourselves, then each other and the world.     -Betty Eadie

 Quotes and passages on community

01 October 2015

Some thoughts on happiness

I want to be happy; you want to be happy, too.  And all of the people that we see each day--guess what?  They want to be happy, also.  We can contribute to the positive side of their world by offering them a smile and some positive words, or we can contribute to the negative side of their world by criticizing and speaking in anger or hatred.  But those are merely contributions.

Their own happiness depends upon their own perspectives--about what they see to be true, what the accept and what they let go of, what they desire and what they have.  While my negative words may hurt them, their happiness shouldn't be affected by my words.  I should be able to stay happy no matter what someone else says or does.  My happiness is in my own hands and my own heart.

Here are a few passages that address the concept of happiness.  Perhaps they can light a light inside of you that will allow you to see your happiness and feel it completely!

If we want to know what happiness is we must seek it, not as if
it were a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but among
human beings who are living richly and fully the good life.
If you observe really happy people you will find them
building a boat, writing a symphony, educating their children,
growing double dahlias in their gardens, or looking for
dinosaur eggs in the Gobi desert. They will not be searching
for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled
under the radiator. They will not be striving for it as a goal
in itself. They will have become aware that they are happy
in the course of living life twenty-four crowded hours of the day.
To find happiness we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves.

W. Beran Wolfe

* * * * *
We may think that happiness is a result of happy circumstances.
A more mature view of happiness is that it is a by-product of
sharing our good and serving others.  It is a sense of doing a
job well, honest communication with another, visiting someone
who may be ill, or sharing a sense of humor.  Happiness is a
spiritual principle that we can lay hold of and use, regardless
of outer conditions or circumstances.
It isn't necessary to wait for circumstances to bring happiness.
When we try to give it to others, it returns to us multiplied.  We
can make our own joy, and let it act upon circumstances!  One
of the great paradoxes of truth is that a happy heart draws to
itself what it needs for happiness.

John Marks Templeton

* * * * *
As long as our self-identification centers around what we call the real
world, no profound happiness is possible.  Happiness requires that we
give up a worldly orientation--not worldly things but a worldly
attachment to things.  We have to surrender all outcomes.  We have
to live here but appreciate the joke.
   In order to become happy, we must become bigger than the worldly
self. . . . Just as children play games in which they pretend to be adults,
and thus pave the way for adulthood, so you and I must pretend to be
angelic, noble, enlightened spirits just visiting here,
in order to actually become them.

Marianne Williamson

Please have a great day!

25 September 2015

I Wonder

If there's anything that I hope I never lose during the days that I'm on this planet, it's the sense of wonder that allows me to see life as a beautiful, amazing process that I'm very fortunate to be able to witness.  The sense of wonder that I've been blessed with allows me to feel much more of life, and it keeps me looking for more and more things to wonder at.  It keeps things fresh and new, for there's never any telling what any new moment will bring.  When I take a walk downtown I may be seeing the same sights, but there's always something amazing to see, even if it's just the leaves on the trees that continue to produce oxygen all the time and convert sunlight to energy for the tree to grow.  It may be the way the light hits a certain building, or the way it reflects off of a window to illuminate something in a way I've never seen it before.

There's much in life that I wonder at.

I wonder when I see the eyes of a child--I wonder at the brightness and the curiosity and the openness to new ideas and experiences.

I wonder when I see the eyes of an adult--I wonder at the experiences that have come together to give this person his or her particular view of the world.  So many people have lived through so much, and it's a wonder that so many people have come so far.

I wonder when I see the rain fall--what held it up there in the first place if it's so heavy?  It's wonderful that it's going to soak into the earth and help the plants grow and give us water to drink.

I wonder at the wind--we can't see it or touch it, but there it is, and this unseen, untouchable thing can give us a beautiful soft breeze or be one of the most destructive forces on the planet.

I wonder at the sunlight, which has traveled millions of miles just to be with us.  The light that warms my skin and nourishes the plants left the sun eight minutes ago in order to travel the 93 million miles to get here.

I wonder at the songs of birds, who share their voices with us all the time, asking nothing in return.  Even without harmony or rhythm, their songs are beautiful and amazing.

I wonder at the many wonderful people who spend their lives helping others.  Many risk their lives to provide that help, and what they do is simply amazing.  Doctors, researchers, emergency personnel, teachers--the list is almost endless.

I wonder when I look at the things on my desk.  The books have been inspired by some, written by someone else, edited by others, printed by someone else, distributed by yet others, stocked in the store by another person, and sold to me by someone else.  And so it is with everything here--their existence can be traced through an incredible number of people, all of whom have worked to bring it to me.

I wonder when I turn on a light.  From the vast chain of people involved in producing the light bulb and getting it to me, to the chain of people involved in producing the electricity and making it available to the home in which I live, the fact that I can flip a little switch and get light is nothing short of a miracle to me.

You see, in these days when so many people claim that no more miracles happen, there are many amazing miracles happening every single day, in every single moment.  We are incredibly blessed with an amazing world, and our lives will be much richer the more that we allow ourselves to maintain the sense of wonder that we were born with--it's that sense of wonder that keeps open the door to appreciation, and the appreciation that allows us to feel gratitude.

This world is a wonderful place, and it's up to us to see that wonder, to feel it, and to let it be an important part of who we are.  The wonder is always there--the only question is whether we notice it and allow ourselves to feel that wonder.  Sometimes it takes practice to get back to a point at which we can, but it's time and effort well spent.

 quotes and passages on wonder

23 September 2015


I'm one of those people who love autumn.  It's by far my favorite time of year for many reasons--the cool, crisp air, the changing colors of the foliage, the shorter days, the foods, the harvests. . . I think the list could go on for a long time.  Every year, I'm grateful that I get to live through another autumn, and this year is no exception.  Of course, today is the first official day of the season, but I've already had a couple of weeks of autumn weather and scenery, so I'm grateful this year, too.

On a philosophical level, I think I like autumn because it's a season of preparation.  The world is preparing for a rest during winter, and life seems to be slowing down all around us.  People spend more time indoors (in places where the weather demands it), and thus there's much more intimacy in human relationships.  (Of course, if our relationships are weak or damaged, then that intimacy may not be desired, but that's another story entirely.)  People can spend time together, indoors, over a cup of coffee and a piece of pie without feeling that there's a need to get outside and get something else done.

Just as the world is preparing itself for a long rest, we can spend time in autumn reflecting on our lives and the issues that are present in them.  Autumn gives us a chance to watch much of the world coming to an end, especially the leaves and flowers that have accompanied us all through summer, and witnessing these changes can help us to focus on the changes in our own lives.  What are we passing through right now that will soon be no longer with us?  Is it time to change something important, such as a job or a living situation or a financial situation?  What parts of our lives are coming to an end?  I've had hobbies that I slowly lost interest in, but that I kept up out of habit--it took me a long while to realize that they didn't interest me anymore as much as they had before.  What parts of our lives are turning yellow and orange and red and preparing to fall from the trees?

Life is about cycles as much as it's about anything else.  We go through them, our spouses go through them, our children go through them.  And one important truth about cycles is that they come to an end, and it's important to let them do so and to move on gracefully to something else.  Autumn is a wonderful reminder to us that these cycles are not only natural, but important to us.  When leaves fall in a forest, they form a layer of material that in the future will become fertilizer for following generations of plants.  As we move on from one thing to the next, the lessons that we've learned from one will help us to take full advantage of the next, making our lives richer and fuller.

Today, I think, I'm going to sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and write down some of the things that I need to let go of, and some of the things I long to add to my life.  Autumn is reminding me that perhaps I need to do so.

 Quotations and passages on autumn

17 September 2015

I Do Get Discouraged

When I started Living Life Fully all those years ago, my goal was to present positive words on life in order to provide people with encouraging material that might be able to help them through difficult times in their lives, or even to help them maintain their positive attitudes.  I knew that the positive quotations and passages that I had read had always helped me, and I wanted to share that source of encouragement and motivation with the world--and the Internet actually gave me the possibility of doing so.

With all of the focus on the positive, though, sometimes I feel a little bit guilty when I feel things like discouragement and sadness.  My brain tells me that there's no reason to feel discouraged, but the feeling is still there.  It happens over many things--relationships, money, work, projects, writing.  Sometimes things seem to pile up--car problems and money problems and job problems at the same time--and the discouragement becomes an unfocused sense that "nothing ever goes right, no matter how hard I try."

In the quotation below, the writer says that people won "because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats."  I don't buy that completely--I think that discouragement is completely natural sometimes, as long as we treat it as a temporary feeling and work ourselves past it.  Discouragement can actually be a great motivational tool if we tell ourselves "I don't want to feel like this any more, so I'm going to do what's necessary to move on past the feeling."

Often, talking about what's making us feel this way is enough to help us to see that things aren't so bad.  Getting advice from others never hurts, either, whether we follow the advice or not.  But the key is to remember that all of our situations are temporary, and that discouragement occurs when we're afraid that there will be no changes in the future, that things are going to continue being just as they are now.  But we can't know the future, so it's important that we stay focused on the here and now.  What can I do now to try to improve things?  Or should I just keep on keeping on, doing what I know in my heart is right, in spite of false evidence from the world that I'm failing?

I'm discouraged now.  That's why I'm writing this.  Because as I address the discouragement in terms that are as objective as I can make them, I see that there really is no need for my discouragement--it's a very real feeling that I'm not going to deny, but I'm also not going to let it control me or my life.  There's too much life that I would miss out on if I were to focus on what seems to be going wrong, so I'll focus on the things that are going right and do my best to do things now that may help to make sure that the future turns out better than it seems it might.

History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually
encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed.  They
won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.

Bertie Charles Forbes

14 September 2015

Learning Limits

Somehow, the word "limit" has become almost a dirty word in our society.  Over the years, we've decided somehow that we shouldn't focus on limits, but on possibilities and potential.  We should focus on what we can do, not what we can't do.  In this way, we've helped a lot of people who previously thought only of limits.  They've been able to learn that they shouldn't be focusing just on what we can't do, for if we adopt that focus, then guess what?  We're going to severely limit ourselves and our lives, and we're probably never going to reach our potentials.  In this way, we've done some very positive things.

But has our shift been balanced?  I often think that in making the shift, we've caused a lot of damage because we haven't kept in mind that there are still some very real and very important limits in our lives--limits on what we can and can't do, and limits on what we should and shouldn't do.

I see this a lot in students and other young people.  Somehow, many of them seem to be learning that anything goes, that they can do or say whatever they want because they want to, or because they see something as "true."  They haven't learned anything at all about tact or diplomacy--they're completely self-centered, and they're unable to recognize the feelings and needs of others.

I also see a high level of frustration in young people who have been taught that they can do whatever they want, only to choose a venture in which they're not very good.  A person who isn't an innately skilled thrower, for example, shouldn't choose to be a pitcher in baseball or softball--it almost never works out.  But because they've been told they can be "anything they want to be," they go out for the team and they think that with enough work and effort, they'll be great pitchers.  The truth ends up being, though, that they get cut from the team.

As a teacher, I see one of my most important tasks as trying to help students to recognize their strengths and to work on developing them.  I try to help them to see the limits that exist for them and to work at overcoming them--if necessary--but to focus more strongly on getting really good in their areas of strength.

A happy life is not one that is built on frustration.  I think it's wonderful to try to overcome limits, but I also know that limits are real.  I'll never be a four-minute miler, no matter how much I work at it, and that's okay.  I can get to be as fast as I can.

And in social situations, I'll be much wiser--and kinder--if I recognize that there are limits to what I should say and do.  I need to understand the messages that others are giving, and be sensitive to those messages.  If a particular item of clothing seems very unattractive to me, then I have to decide if the best thing is to say something or to let it slide.  Usually, the latter is the best course of action because other people dress to please themselves, not to please me, and my opinion is completely irrelevant, and it could be extremely insensitive of me to say exactly what I feel.

On the other hand, if my wife has a job interview and she asks me if a certain shirt looks appropriate, it's important that I tell her if I think it doesn't.  Then it's up to her to decide what to do about it.

We have limits, and that's okay.  Once we recognize them and accept them, we'll be fine.  And more importantly, we'll be more able to help others through their lives, and we can help them to be fine, too.

The main thing is to be honest with yourself, know and
recognize your limits and attain maximum achievement
within them.  I would for example get more satisfaction
from climbing Snowdon, which I know I could, than
from attempting Everest, which I couldn't.
-Stirling Moss

22 August 2015

New Starts

It's the beginning of the school year for many young people these days.  Some are very young and are starting new grades in elementary school, while others are starting college or starting their second, third or fourth years in college.  For all of them, this is a new start, a new set of opportunities to learn and to grow and to make more of themselves.  They're going to be leaving behind the people they were in order to grow into being someone else.  Perhaps they'll change their perspectives on some things, and maybe they'll discover new things that they love and want to spend more time doing or studying.

All of them have in common the fact that they're starting out in something new.  They're meeting new people and they're studying new material.  They're going to be thinking about new things or thinking about old things in new ways.  And they have their new starts because that's where they are in life--at an age at which our culture pretty much makes a new start mandatory for them.

But what about the rest of us?  When was our last new start?  How often do we give ourselves the opportunity to start all over again, to meet new people and to learn new things?

There are many ways we can do this in our lives.  We can join a new club or group, or we can start a new habit, like going to the library for a couple of hours each week or taking new walks along new routes where we'll see different things and different people.  We can sign up for a class in some topic that we've always wanted to learn about, or we can register at a college for a degree program.  In any of these cases, we're bound to meet new people and learn new things.

New starts are sometimes out of our hands--if the company we work for transfers us to a new city, guess what?  But sometimes they're a matter of making up our minds to shake things up a bit and start something new on purpose.  And as long as we do so with the willingness to let things unfold as they will--in other words, without artificial expectations of how things are supposed to turn out--our new starts can bring new richness to our lives.

09 August 2015

Some thoughts on letting go

To let go isn't to forget, not to think about, or ignore.  It doesn't
leave feelings of anger, jealousy, or regret.  Letting go isn't about winning or losing.  It's not about pride and it's not about how you appear, and it's not obsessing or dwelling on the past.  Letting go isn't blocking memories or thinking sad thoughts, and it doesn't leave emptiness, hurt, or sadness.  It's not about giving in or giving up. Letting go isn't about loss and it's not about defeat.  To let go is to cherish the memories, but to overcome and move on.  It is having an open mind and confidence in the future.  Letting go is learning and experiencing and growing.  To let go is to be thankful for the experiences that made you laugh, made you cry, and made you grow. It's about all that you have, all that you had, and all that you will soon gain.  Letting go is having the courage to accept change, and the strength to keep moving.  Letting go is growing up.  It is realizing that the heart can sometimes be the most potent remedy. To let go is to open a door, and to clear a path and set yourself free.


29 July 2015

Out of My Mind

I've been spending a lot of time learning how to go out of my mind.  It's usually not a problem for me--many people would say that I'm out of my mind anyway, and that's fine with me.  I tend not to worry about what other people think about the things that I do, and while I don't do things that would hurt or inconvenience others, I tend to enjoy things like climbing trees and walking places instead of driving, even if it takes a couple of hours.  I often wonder if people who see me think that I must have lost my driver's license for some reason or another.
But when I say that I'm learning how to go out of my mind, what I'm talking about are two very specific things:  first, I'm trying to learn how to escape the non-stop barrage of thoughts on every possible topic under the sun (and even beyond the sun), and second, I'm trying to pull myself away from the beliefs that I've adopted because other people have taught them to me, and I've believed those people and basically adopted their beliefs as my own.  My mind's tendency to hold on to these beliefs in many ways keeps me from growing and learning, and that's something that I never want to have happen.  Of course, when I use "mind" in this way, I'm referring to what we've come to call the ego, which likes to think that it's in charge, and which defends itself when our higher selves try to release themselves from its control, for it thinks it always does what is best for us.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and my mind is racing, going over thoughts about something that had happened the day before or some current issue in my life.  Normally, I'm not able to get back to sleep when my mind is going like that, which makes for some unpleasant time, laying there in bed wishing I were sleep, but having my mind continue to race over something that I don't even want to be thinking about in the first place.

Other times, my mind will go through hundreds of different consequences when I feel that I've done something "wrong."  Of course, it usually turns out that there are no consequences at all because no one else has even noticed my "mistake," but I've spent many a miserable hour worrying that someone is mad at me or that I've lost a friend.

I've found that there are many principles of meditation that help with this problem.  One of them is to find a focal point, such as my own breathing, a mental image of a beautiful place, God, a rock in the garden--whatever you can use as something to focus on.  As I relax and keep my mind focused on this thing, trying to notice everything about it, the other thoughts start to fall away as I neglect them.  My mind quiets down, and I'm able to feel peaceful and relaxed.

Of course, I know that there's much more to meditation than just this, but this is one technique that I use that allows me to get to sleep or just to quiet my racing mind.  And this technique doesn't require that I fight these thoughts, for doing so would usually make things worse, adding conflict to the problem of the thoughts.

Many people have taught me their beliefs over the years, and many of those beliefs have survived in my mind ever since.  Beliefs that things should turn out in certain ways, beliefs that other people should act in certain ways, beliefs that I should try to control certain situations, beliefs in other people's versions of what spirituality or religion should be--all of these beliefs keep me tied down to certain ways of understanding the world, and the longer I remain tied to them, the more difficult it is for me to fly free as an individual, as truly my own person.  I don't want to go through life as a reflection of what other people believe--I want to find my own way and my own beliefs so that I may become the person I truly was meant to be.

Whenever I feel tension between what I think I should believe and what my heart and soul are telling me to be true, then I know that something's wrong with that belief.  Even more importantly, whenever a belief isn't reflective of unconditional love I know that there's something askew with that belief.  The question that I ask myself in these situations is quite simple:  does this belief of mine reflect unconditional love?  If it allows me to judge or to condemn other human beings for their thoughts or beliefs or actions, then no, it doesn't.  I never know the whole story behind anything that another human being does or says, so it's impossible for me to judge accurately what he or she has done.  And when I do judge, I'm leaving love behind.

My mind likes beliefs, for they keep things quite orderly.  These beliefs make things easy for me if I hold on to them, but they don't help me in the long term, and they don't help me to be able to uncover who and what I truly am as a human being.  They really are little more than limitations, and while other people in the world may be fine with limiting themselves, I'm always going to do my best to make sure that I don't do so.  I know that if I do, I'll keep myself from reaching the potential that I was born with.

Going out of my mind isn't a bad thing at all--it's actually something that can help me to reach my goals and my potential.  There is, though, a pretty big difference between what our societies define as "out of my mind" and what I see that as being.  As long as I know how and why I'm trying to limit the effects of my mind/ego, I know that I'll keep working my way towards becoming the loving, hopeful person that I have the potential to be.

15 July 2015


I don't know how it came to be, but I've become a person who constantly challenges himself.  From very long runs to seeing how well I handle long periods out in very cold weather to writing novels to trying new and different things to fixing things that I've never fixed before, I find that challenges are invigorating and rejuvenating.  I often actively search them out when I find that there aren't many for me to deal with in life.  On some of them, I do very well.  Other challenges that I take up are less positive, and I do very poorly on them.  Either way, though, I come out of it learning something--about the challenge itself and about me and my life and my mind.

Some of the most important challenges to me have been physical--running in a 100-mile race, hiking up certain mountains (or down into certain canyons).  Some have been mental, such as reading certain books, learning certain topics, or pursuing certain degrees.  Others have been emotional, such as talking to a certain person after something bad has happened, or going ahead with something even though I'm not feeling at all up to it.

It's the last group that is the most difficult for me, for those are the challenges that, for example, force me to deal with my fears.  In fact, dealing with my fears--especially my fears of other people--is the challenge that most often defeats me, that I most often do not succeed at.  Yes, when I do try to face my fears I do learn a lot, but sometimes the lesson is simply to learn how strong those fears actually are, and how deeply ingrained they are.  Not succeeding at such a challenge is sometimes more difficult than not succeeding at other challenges, for when I fail there, it seems that the fears become even more deeply entrenched, and much, much stronger.

I'm not alone in this.  I see people dealing with fears every day, and I see many of them not succeeding in their efforts.  But I also see a lot of resilience, and a lot of people who keep on keeping on despite their inability to successfully face their fears.  I learn from their example, too, that not meeting a particular challenge is not the end of the world--that I can go on and continue to keep trying to face those challenges.  I've been in runs that I didn't finish for various reasons, and I've continued to be a runner.  I've tried to fix things that I've ended up throwing away, yet I've continued to try to fix things.  There's nothing saying that my lack of success in other areas should keep me from trying to meet those challenges, from trying to face my fears and succeed in things in which I don't have a long record of success.  The challenge is still there, and it's up to me to do my best to meet it as well as I can.

As we rise to meet the challenges that
are a natural part of living, we awaken
to our many undiscovered gifts, to
our inner power and our purpose.

Susan L. Taylor

06 July 2015

The Problem with Problems

Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution.
If you don't have any problems, you don't get any seeds.

Norman Vincent Peale

I have a problem with problems.  While generally I tend to appreciate them and try to learn from them, there are some problems that make me feel much more stressed than others.  I can deal with problems in a project that I'm doing, problems with my students in the classroom, problems with schools or classes in general.  I can deal with problems with my car or with the house we're living in.  The problems that frustrate me the most, though, and the ones that are darned near debilitating, are the problems that seem to point to my worth as a person.  They are the misunderstandings that occur when words are interpreted in a way different from the way they were intended.  They're the problems that happen when someone else makes assumptions about me based on some random action or statement.

They are the problems that seem to say that I've done something wrong, even when I haven't.  Especially when I haven't.  They're the problems that deal with blame.

I got blamed for a lot of things when I was a kid.  All of us kids did--that's one of the dynamics of living in a family with an alcoholic parent.  We had at least one parent who was constantly looking for things that we did wrong in an attempt to compensate for his own actions.  Because he wasn't willing to look at what he was doing in an honestly critical fashion, he had to look for things that we were doing wrong to somehow make himself feel better about what he was doing.  After all, the drinking was justified when things were so bad at home, wasn't it?

So nowadays, whenever a problem arises that I may be blamed for, it feels like some sort of blanket is being thrown over me, making me incapable of seeing anything but the problem, and making me feel that no matter what I say or do, I'm going to be blamed unjustly for something that I didn't even do.  This, believe me, is an often overwhelming issue to be dealing with.  For much of my life, I've spent tons of time and energy trying to prevent any sort of problem from happening.  It didn't work well as a strategy, though, and I wasted a lot of time and energy on my efforts--often even making things worse or causing problems where there were none before.

Now, though, I realize that it's important for me to reframe such problems, to do my best to see them as temporary misunderstandings and not as permanent statements about who I am as a person.  I need to look at any problem that arises and try to find that seed inside of it that will allow me to deal with it effectively, for that seed also will help me to grow and develop as a person.

When I allow problems to overwhelm me, I'm not able to love and show compassion as much as I'd like to.  My energy is wrapped up in fear and damage control, and that's not where I want my energy to be.  Problems are what they are--simply problems--and it's up to me to make sure that I see them for what they really are and not blow them up into something they aren't.  I can learn from problems, and I can grow as I learn, and because of that, I can see problems as positive things.  Just because a problem arises that threatens to make others see me in a bad light doesn't change a thing about who I am, and it's important that I keep that in mind, no matter what seems to be happening.  I don't want to allow problems to threaten my self-worth, for once I lose that, I pretty much lose everything, don't I?

25 June 2015

When I'm Stressed

It's somehow kind of frightening just how much stress in my life is created by my own mind.  Something can happen that really isn't that big of a deal at all, and my mind will seize upon it and turn it into something that will make my life more difficult, that will get me fired from my job, that will cause someone else to be angry with me.  Very rarely, these things actually will happen, but to be honest, most of the time I'm simply creating negative events and thoughts in my own mind, and I'm causing myself stress with my thoughts--the situation itself isn't really causing me to feel anything.

I do know where this tendency of mine comes from.  As a child, there were very few things I could do that didn't get my father angry for some reason or another.  I was always walking on eggshells, always afraid that something would set him off and cause me to feel his anger again.  In my adult years now, my mind is simply trained to see any sort of thing that could create conflict or that could be "wrong" as something that's going to get me into "trouble."  My brain was trained that way.  I do all that I can now to combat this tendency of mine to think this way, but the many years of training were very effective, and I constantly have to battle the feelings that come up rather automatically.

Don't worry--this isn't an attempt to blame a parent for all the ills in my life.  It's simply a straightforward explanation of how I've come to think in certain ways in certain circumstances.  I've had many years to deal with the effects of my early training, and I've come a very long way from where I used to be.  But I still have quite a ways to go until I'm free from the training that happened so long ago.

It's very important to me that I keep this in mind whenever I start to feel stress about something having to do with my job or a relationship.  I have to be careful that I don't allow my fear of being blamed--and then punished--for things that are beyond my control, rob me of my peace of mind from day to day.  Something might have happened at work that doesn't seem right, but sometimes, such things happen.  I can deal with it and make it right without feeling the stress of the fear of being blamed.  I'm very capable, and very good at what I do, so there's no need for me to worry so much.

I write this because my brain kept me up for a couple of hours in the middle of the night, focused on something that happened at work yesterday.  And it's something very trivial, but there are some things I'm going to have to explain--and they're fully explainable.  There really is no problem, but my mind has decided to fill me with stressful feelings that keep me awake at night.  It's rather silly and unfortunate, but it is what it is.  As long as I keep in mind that the stress is a result of years on negative training, I can hopefully circumvent it and not allow the situation to make me miserable for a certain amount of time.

Sometimes, it really is important for us to know the source of some negative feelings so that we can deal with them effectively and still live our lives fully.