Connection, not Distraction

Connection provides hope; distraction provides a pause. We need connection in our lives to thrive. We seek distraction in our lives for temporary escape. Both have validity. The problem is when we get out of whack between connection and distraction. It is not a 50/50 relationship. Connection way outweighs distraction. Or it should. Because connection builds us up, whereas distraction offers no such hope. Connection helps us grow; distraction keeps us where we are. And too much distraction kills connection, making it stunt our growth. We need to be aware of why and how we direct our time and energy.

Connections are emotional. Connections make relationship. Usually, the relationship is with an ally, friend, family member or colleague. But we can also make temporary connections with people under certain circumstances when we are drawn together. (Same boat syndrome connections are brief but powerful.) When we connect with someone else, we are joined, linked, united. It buoys us. We are seen.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”  – Brene Brown

Relationship is a connection. Distraction is a void. Definitions of distraction include “extreme agitation of the mind” (Oxford Dictionary),”inability to concentrate or give attention to something,” and “having one’s thoughts or attention drawn away.” (Meriam-Webster Dictionary). And having one’s thoughts and attentions drawn away makes you less of yourself.

In this fast paced world, distraction is often a drug of choice. The problem is that distraction is so easily accessible and marketed, that we don’t even know how much time we are spending in the void. And the void is not a place where we think or feel or grow. Visit there, but don’t stay.

We must let nothing distract us from our purpose – which is to grow and thrive – to become our best selves. We all are a unique contribution to this world, and connections and relationships grow us and grow those around us.

“It is an absolute certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being .”-John Joseph Powell

I Am Light

Be radiant. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself time to heal. Be light.

“I Am Light”

I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light
I am not the things my family did
I am not the voices in my head
I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside, I am light
I am light, I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light
I’m not the mistakes that I have made
Or any of the things that caused me pain
I am not the pieces of the dream I left behind, I am light
I am light, I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light,
I am not the color of my eyes
I am not the skin on the outside
I am not my age, I am not my race
My soul inside is all light
All light, all light yeah
All light, I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light yeah
I am divinity defined
I am the God on the inside
I am a star, a piece of it all
I am light
By India Arie

 

Play, Laughter, & Joy

 

“Your body cannot heal without play. Your mind cannot heal without laughter. Your soul cannot heal without joy.” ~ Catherine Rippinger Fenwick

Deep wounds take time to heal. When we are hurting, and when we are healing, we need to deliberately seek out play, laughter, and joy to help us heal. Play, laughter, and joy remind us that there is still good in the world and hope for us. They provide us with inspiration and relief when we need to take a break from the mental, emotional, and physical work of healing our wounds.

Feel like play is not an option for you? Well then broaden your view of play and/or spend time with playful people and children. If you can, be a participant. If you can’t, be a voyeur. Either way, the playful energy will have a positive effect on you and also give you more ideas on how to play. Karaoke anyone? Ultimate frisbee? Minature golf? Art night out with friends? Sing and dance in the kitchen? Flirt with your spouse? Etc….

People say that laughter is the best medicine. So how do we laugh when we are in the midst of healing? Look to others. Look to the survivors who have been through what you are going through and have lived to tell the tale infused with a little humor. Example – my mother told me that when she was struggling with depression, her mother told her “Well no one in our family has ever had mental health problems or had to see a psychiatrist.” I told my mom, “Well, now I don’t have to worry about that.” We couldn’t stop laughing. We can also watch comedies for escape to give us the chance to remember what laughter looks like and feels like – even if it is just a short reprieve.

And joy? Best places to see joy include time spent with friends, pets, and children. Fun friends bring their playful attitudes right to our doors. Pets are always happy to see us and often eager to play. Children’s natural play and joy brings us joy too. No pets or kids around you? There is always youtube to bring fun funny videos to your home.

Life is all about balance. Balancing the work of healing with (re-learning) the joy of living will speed the process.

 

 

 

Inspiration In Nature

Need some awe? Go outside. Looking for inspiration? Go outside. Need comfort? Go outside. Feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed? Go outside.

Mother Nature will embrace us. All we need is to go to her. Inspiration comes in so many natural forms. We can seek out our favorite times and places in nature. Yet, her beauty and power will also seek us out. She will remind us to breathe, to heal, to listen, to see, to pay attention.

Nature inspires us in:

1. A sunset – when you know that you made it through the day

2. A sunrise/dawn – when a new day opens with new opportunities

3. The ocean – we see how vast is the world and equally vast our experiences in it

4. Light streaming through the clouds – looking like the hand of God reaching out and shining upon us

5. The wind – giving play and power to get our attention

6. A meadow – all that diversity of life co-existing in harmony

7. A waterfall – how mighty is the water and how cleansing are our tears

8. Warmth of the sun – the great equalizer that shines the same on us all

9. Spring – re-birth and joy, just joy!

10. Fall – changes comes from letting go

So when we are not feeling the inspiration around us. When we need some restoration, healing, or peace. Nature befriends us. In good times and bad. Through sickness and health. Richer or poorer. It’s a come as you are party. The best kind. Just be.

*This post is dedicated to my sister who appreciates nature and lives as much as possible outside.

 

Better Can Happen

 

Do you believe that better can happen? If you do, then you’re an optimist. Because at the core of optimism is hope.

Hope for a better day. A new dawn. A better outcome. A fresh start. A better life. A recovery. The sun will shine. We will walk out of this.

Hope is not for the feint of heart. Hope is for the strong of heart. Or the getting stronger. It is for us. It teaches us resilience. Letting go. Moving on. Lifting up. Being present. Believing in something. Believing in better. Better chances. Better opportunities. A better life.

A hopeful person learns how to get unstuck. We will fight to get unstuck. A hopeful person will hate being trapped. We will fight to get untrapped. We will rescue ourselves by looking for a way out and a way up and grabbing onto a helpful hand, wise advice, an open door when it is offered (even if it is unexpected). We will not stay in a dead relationship or a dead job forever. We know that there must be a way out of this mess. There must be a way to get unstuck. And we will keep searching until we find it. (A friend once told me that there are always at least 3 solutions to any problem.)

Hope takes time. Hope needs patience. Consider the jellyfish analogy. Imagine two (or more) jellyfish with all of their long tentacles hanging down. Now imagine a storm that blows in unexpectedly. The jellyfish tentacles get all tangled up together (seemingly) hopelessly entwined. Talk about stuck! Forever? This is where we need to remind ourselves that it takes time to get tangled up with someone else or in some situation, and it will take time to get untangled. Be patient, but keep trying. With a bit of maneuvering, we CAN get away and float away to open seas again – and to the freedom of new possibilities.

Better can happen. With a bit of luck and a bit more planning. With a bit of hope and a bit of help. With some effort and some struggle. With a lot of faith and many prayers. Believe better can happen at the hardest of times. Because we all deserve some better in our lives.

Anchors Needed

It’s a storm filled world out there. Literal storms, emotional storms, medical deluges, familial hurricanes, political thunderstorms….Storms seem to be everywhere. We need our own personal anchors more than ever to not get blown away.

Anchors as symbols of strength, security, stability, and faith go back several thousand years. Although not seafaring people, early Christians used anchors as symbols of their unshakable faith when they were being hunted and persecuted by the Romans. The phrase “Hope anchors the soul” is derived from a longer verse in the Bible in Hebrews. Nowadays, others have adopted this belief too, and this anchor quote has become quite popular these days on tattoos!

Anchors hold down ships during the stormiest weather. When you drop your anchor, it is self-protective. You know that you are in for a storm, and you are prepared to weather it and get to the other side. The storm may come in the shape of a disease, an accident, a loss, a relationship, a confrontation….You may have time to prepare your ship, or it may come upon you without warning. Either way, your anchor will  provide emotional stability.

Did you know that ships can have more than one anchor? So can we! The anchor that most people count on is faith, belief, and hope in a higher power that will see you through. However, an anchor can also be a person who you can count on and who always has your back in a storm. An anchor can be a practice like yoga or walking meditation to steady you. A meaningful object or affirmation can also help to anchor us when we are scared or worried. Whatever helps fortify you – do that, believe in that. Stay grounded.

“The important thing about anchors is that they give us roots. They remind us of our values and who we are. They reaffirm what is important to us, and why weathering the storm, without giving into behaviors, is totally worth it.” ~ Claire Milliken

 

The Crying Balloon

My step grandfather had a crying balloon. Whenever we cried, he would pull it out. The same sturdy red balloon. He would blow it up large, then stretch the opening, so it would make a loud whining sound. And he would laugh at us. Our tears were funny. Our fear was funny. And nobody stopped him.

Therein lies the problem . . . . that became a much bigger problem . . . . that nobody stopped him.  Indifference can be destructive.

Toddlers cry. Young children cry. It’s a part of one’s emotional make up when as a child, one is figuring out the world. My grandparents’ house was a big, old, scaryish place for a little kid. We sometimes got scared or sad or hurt and would cry. His reaction to us alarmed us even more. But why was it not alarming enough for the other adults around us to tell him to knock if off? They were silent bystanders to his shameful theatrics. Making us feel alone and unprotected.

Bullies aren’t born. They are made. My step grandfather did this because he could. My grandmother said nothing. My parents did nothing. My aunt sat mute. Everyone watched him mock and frighten us – small children. He could do what he wanted without rebuke. And he did. Eventually, he did much worse. So bad that my cousin and I needed years of therapy and hundreds of miles of distance to heal from his abuse.

So why am I telling you this story? It is a cautionary tale. Do not stand idly by when you see bullying – no matter how small. Speak up. Name what you see. Stand up for the innocent. Because a bully’s actions will continue to grow much worse and more dangerous. If they can. And silence will fuel a bully’s behavior. Smaller actions lead to bigger more harmful actions. If they go unchecked. And silence is a bully’s biggest ally.

In our families, in our communities, in our governments, in our world, we can see unchecked bullying that preys on the most defenseless in the room/situation. Stand up! We must speak out to injustices both small and large. Empathy seeks justice. Bullying denies it. But indifference denies it too.

3 Truths

3 truths:  You are not alone. Evil exists in the world. There is hope (because you are not alone).

No one knows what we are going through. We may be too scared, too ashamed, too confused, too sad, too angry, too trapped, all these too’s….to tell anyone. Or maybe some people do know, but they don’t care. So we feel even more alone and lost in our problem, our relationship, our circumstance, our addiction, our hurt, our….Too paralyzed to get out, to get over, to get up. We are stuck in the mire. What are we to do? Reach for a life rope.

Evil is a presence in our world. There are bad people who do bad things for bad reasons to us or to those around us. Deliberately. Evil can be up close and personal or it can wave at us at a distance.

“The best definition of evil I’ve heard comes from Columbia University professor Andrew Delbanco, who has devoted much of his life to its study. Evil, he has concluded, springs from ‘the absence of imaginative sympathy for other human beings – a choice NOT to care about their suffering.’ ” – William Falk 

No sympathy or empathy from others is one of the biggest problems we currently face. The “I don’t give a shit about you” attitude is rooted in evil. And we must fight to counteract it with active empathy. Because for every person who doesn’t give a shit, there are many more who do. You are not alone when you reach out.

There is strength in numbers, strength in therapy, strength in telling the truth about what happened or what is happening. Tap into that strength. Begin by talking to one kind person and by not hiding anymore. Move forward – even if it is one inch at a time. You are not alone. Hope combats evil. And faith grows hope.

“I think this is what we all want to hear:  that we are not alone in hitting the bottom, and that it is possible to come out of that place courageously, beautiful, and strong ” – Anna White.

 

Going the Right Direction

Only you have to live with you. I remind myself of that when other people give me advice – i.e. – tell me what to do. And let’s face it, most of us really don’t like being told what to do by someone else. Because what’s right for you, may be wrong for me. And what’s right for me, may be wrong for you. Regardless of what anyone tells you, we have to decide for ourselves what is right for us.

So where is our moral compass for decision making? The right path has to do with perception. The problem is when our perception gets distorted by circumstance – when we can’t see the forest through the trees – and we feel hopelessly lost in it. Keep in mind, when you feel you are going the wrong way, you can always turn around a start up a new path.

To help focus, we can remember that happiness is subjective, so the road to happiness is also subjective. A good litmus test for making decisions on your journey derives from the Hippocratic oath of First, do no harm. I would add to that – First do no harm to yourself or to others. (We often forget the to yourself part.) Will what you decide be good for your health and good for the health of those around you?

What’s right for you may not be popular or understood by others. (No matter!)  Because people often say it’s okay to think outside the box. But when they are confronted by the outside box thinking, they don’t like it. At all. People will often yield to convention because it is familiar and comfortable. So be ready for all eyes on you when you are making a big change or big decision. Many will be eyes of judgment. Some will be eyes of understanding. Others will be eyes of admiration. Just don’t let any eyes change your “I” direction.

There is no “my way or the highway.” Because our roads and journeys are different. Ask and pray for guidance and assistance to keep going the right direction for you. Trust yourself.

Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.” ~ Buddha

Change

Does change come to you or do you go to change? Do you seek it out or does it seek you out? Do you take a step toward change or does it take a step towards you?

Change = “to make or become different.” But how different do I want to be? How different do I want my life to be?

The expression the winds of change implies that they will blow your way at some point. They are coming for us. Ready or not. (Like it or not.) Often we think not – but we usually are more ready than we know. Or at least as ready as we’ll ever be. (We likely are way past ready.)

Sometimes, we hope and pray for change. Sometimes, we dread it. Either way, change is difficult for us. Because it is the unknown. And the unknown can be scary. So we hope that the winds of change are gentle. We hope that the winds of change don’t approach us as a damn hurricane.

If we embrace them as they approach, the winds won’t flatten us. But the more we resist, the stronger they get. And they are coming. And they are necessary. Because they can make you look at the stormy issue that you have been ignoring. They can make you deal with the unhealthy situation that has gotten out of control. They can force you to take a good look at your darkening sky. They can blow away the emotional debris of your life to clean house. The winds of change will force catharsis. They will make us become different, and become better.

Weather the storm when the winds of change blow in. Seek help from some and refuge from others. Live one day at a time. Take one step at a time. Those who don’t want you to change (for the better!) will eventually be driven off by the storm. Good. This makes room for new people and new opportunities. And changes will lead to growth.

Change may be hard, and it may or may not be welcome. But either way, it will arrive on your doorstep or blow in through your windows. It will make you pay attention to it because change usually comes to you when you need it most. And once you are different, YOU are changed, the winds will simply blow away.