Wedding with Eternity

My son, Max, is a singer-songwriter. I am neither. However, one day I sat down  and wrote this tune. I sent it to Max, and he put it to music. No bells, no whistles, and no mixing or mastering – just Max and his guitar. Here it is (lyrics below).

Wedding with Eternity

My heart moves through a tunnel,
lost to you and me.
My struggles continue,
but now you’re free.

And fears that were hidden,
lost in useless action.
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Lips of blue,
There’s no separation.

It’s a wedding with eternity.
Life’s an obscene mystery
Purple winds moaning,
how beautiful you were.
But now you dance.

The way it was,
The way it was,
Oh when you touched me.
The world breaks everyone.

Flames of razor steel.
Life’s deep red wine.
It don’t feel real.
My despair is your peace of mind.

It’s a wedding with eternity.
Life’s an obscene mystery.
Purple winds moaning
how beautiful you were.
But now you dance.

Intuition

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.” – Albert Einstein

Intuition is not easy to define, but in simple terms, it refers to something one “knows,” likely by instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning. Other terms that have been used to describe intuition include hunch, sixth sense, instinct and insight. Intuition is generally not a conscious process, but it does involve being open to information.

Some say that intuition is a finely tuned psychic ability while others see it as the ability to make good decisions. To me, intuition has an element of both the spiritual and the scientific. While I believe it comes from an inner voice and can open one up to spiritual truths, it is also based on a deep awareness of the capacity of our physical senses.

Intuition is something we’re all born with, yet in a sense, it’s a learned skill and can be improved with practice. From a practical viewpoint, intuition is a way of accessing and using information, and even if this information is accessed through a “sixth sense,” it is ultimately put into action through the physical senses.

When we are faced with issues and challenges, we too often think the answers are found outside of us – advice from parents, partners, friends, religious and spiritual leaders, mentors or professionals. Unfortunately, subscribing to this belief often renders us powerless, keeping us on a treadmill of confusion, anxiety and doubt.

What we need to do instead is explore our inner frontiers, and this is where intuition comes into play. Author Carol Adrienne says, “The most empowering and practical tool we have – already within us – is the ability to receive intuitive guidance, linking it with our rational and emotional processes and taking action based on our authentic responses to the moment.”

A while back, I read a book called The Intuitive Way in which the author, Penney Peirce, outlines a process that helps access inner knowing. The essence of the book is that our intuition is an accessible and powerful tool that can enhance our lives as well as bring spiritual comfort and revelation of higher truth. In addition to providing great information, the book offers a lot of practice exercises. Here’s one related to making intuitive decisions through use of the senses. Give it a try. You may find that one of the four options resonates with you more.

Sense Decisions

Think of a current problem in your life and make up several potential solutions. Close your eyes, become quiet, and center yourself. Feel the reality of your need to solve the problem.

 1. Imagine that each potential solution is a kind of food, and notice what happens as you try to “eat” each one. Notice your body’s comfort level and natural resonance to each. Afterward, make notes about your insights.

2. Imagine that each potential solution is a kind of music or a sound. Bring up the solutions in your mind, one at a time, and see what each sounds like. Afterward, make notes about your insights.

3. Imagine that each potential solution is a smell. One by one, bring the solutions to mind and notice the odors they give off. Make notes about your insights.

4. Imagine that each potential solution has a texture. One by one, bring the solutions to mind and imagine feeling them with your eyes closed. What do you learn about each? Make notes.

Life can be unpredictable, but we all possess intuition, that inner guidance that can help us navigate the twists and turns. The wonderful thing is that even if you don’t feel connected to your intuition, you can fully activate it regardless of your age. The issue is not that you don’t have it or you’ve lost it – you’ve just forgotten to pay attention to it. Learn to tune in, and let the adventure begin!

(Visit Penney Peirce’s website for more information and a list of books related to intuition.)

 

 

 

Care Less

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” – Bernard Baruch

It came to me in a rare flash of brilliance. I was surprised, and then a little bit hurt, but once I got over myself, I felt relieved…then liberated. It was the day I realized that with very few exceptions, people basically aren’t thinking about me.

At one time, I was fairly concerned about what others thought of me, and don’t get me wrong, I still am to a certain extent but certainly less than I used to be. That’s a good thing, though, because now I realize how this type of thinking holds a person hostage.

In all my worry about what people might think of me, I’ve done things I didn’t want to do or didn’t do things I wanted to do. I found myself agreeing too much instead of voicing my opinion. I spent time with people I didn’t really want to be with. I wouldn’t make up my mind about things and feared people’s reactions if I did. I was super sensitive to people’s reactions.

Recently, I read a statistic that said the average person knows 600 people. It’s estimated that the world’s population is 7.5 billion. At that rate, pretty well no one knows me, and of the 600 who do, most aren’t thinking about me too much because from what I’ve learned about human nature, they’re too busy thinking about themselves.

I’m not being sarcastic here. This is great news! This is freedom! For the most part, it doesn’t really matter if you mess up. Beyond being fodder for short-term gossip, it’s not really going to do much, and even if you really mess up in a public way, take comfort in the fact that you’ll be yesterday’s news before you know it. Yes, people will jump on the bandwagon for the short term, but then they’ll quickly return to their own problems.

I find the older I get, the easier it is not to care what people think. Note I didn’t say “easy” – I said “easier.” For example, the thought of running into someone I know when I duck out to the grocery store without washing my hair is usually enough to make me reach for the shampoo bottle. On a larger scale, I’m not overly keen on people’s knowing all about my foibles, misdeeds and failures. Plus, I imagine that caring, to some extent, what other people think tempers the most extreme behaviours and actions.

(Photo credit: Mitchel Lensink)

Still, caring too much about what others think can hold you back, keeping you from expressing yourself and doing the things you want to do. If that’s the case, here are a few things that might help.

Choose your friends – No matter how thick your skin, you’re going to care, to some extent, what others think of you, so you may as well associate with people who like you regardless of your eccentricities. Plus, true friends will likely tell you if you’re being really weird and off the wall. The bonus is that even if you don’t want to change, they’ll probably still like you anyway.

Develop a thicker skin – Does it really matter that certain people don’t like you or think badly of you? In most cases, probably not. If everyone likes you, it probably means you’re being more of a chameleon than an honest to goodness individual. Be true to yourself, come to terms with it, and let the haters hate. There will be others who will like – even love – you.

Spend time by yourself – Find some ways to make yourself happy that don’t depend on other people and their approval or consent. It’s great to have some time alone to do what you want without having to worry about other people’s needs, wants and expectations.

Get a dog or cat – Pets don’t care if you need a shower, break out in a horrid rash, have varicose veins, or sing at the top of your lungs even though you’re tone deaf. Look after them, and they’ll love you unconditionally.

Practice speaking your mind – Sometimes it may not be appropriate to say what you’d really like, but within the proper context, it’s good to voice your opinion even if it’s not popular. Plus, being a bit more vocal builds confidence.

Find some role models – Martin Luther King, Malala Yousifazi, Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt…all of them human…none of them perfect. Yet all of them took unpopular views at personal cost. Did they care what the naysayers thought? No, they overcame their fears, persevered, and became change makers. You don’t have to perform as impressively as these folks, but learn something from their attitudes.

Being true to yourself isn’t easy. You need to demonstrate courage and perseverance, but in the end, you’ll be a whole lot happier with yourself. By not worrying so much about what others think, you open yourself up to a more meaningful life. That said, don’t be careless, but please…care less.

 

Zen Habits for Criticism

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” – Norman Vincent Peale

I don’t love being criticized, and although I’m getting better with it the older I get, those barbs can still sting!

On Zen Habits, well-known blogger Leo Babauta says, “Use my content however you want…reprint it with or without credit…change it around…it’s ok.” So because I’m on vacation and don’t want to think too much, I’m taking Leo up on his offer by adapting a post he wrote about criticism. I’ve taken a lot of artistic license. I haven’t included his post in its entirety, I’ve modified it a lot, and I’ve added some thoughts of my own which are italicized in brackets.

How do you deal with criticism? (Sometimes not so well.  In fact, when I’m criticized, I don’t usually like it.) 

I think the first reaction for most of us is to defend ourselves or worse yet, to lash back. (True, and although I’m not proud to admit it, I’ve often resorted to putting down my critics, usually behind their backs.)

And yet, while criticism can be taken as hurtful and demoralizing, it can also be viewed in a positive way: it is honesty, and it can spur us to do better. It’s an opportunity to improve. (Usually after I cool down, I realize that my critics have the right to their opinions even if I don’t agree. And if I’m being honest, sometimes they’re right.)

It’s not that bad…

Recently, I thanked one of my critics who later admitted to being a bit harsh and went on to suggest that I write an article about taking criticism with grace and appreciation. (I once emailed a critic thanking her for her feedback, but I didn’t get any response. Maybe I took her off guard?)

I really liked that idea, so here are my thoughts:

Stop your first reaction – If your first reaction is to lash back at the person giving the criticism, or to become defensive, take a minute before reacting at all. Take a deep breath, and give it a little thought. This allows logic to step in and lets emotions run their course. (Good old logic. Sometimes I’ve managed to step back for a minute, and it often helps.) 

Turn a negative into a positive – Find the positive in criticism. See it as honest feedback and a suggestion for improvement. Without constant improvement, we’re just sitting still. (It’s true that in a lot of cases, my critics were indeed giving valuable feedback. The hard part was getting off my high horse long enough to realize it.)

Thank your critics – Your attitude of gratitude will probably catch them off-guard, and they may appreciate it. And even if your critics don’t take your “thank you” in a good way, it’s still good to do – for yourself. (This actually works a lot of the time, and it often leads to helpful discussion. If nothing else, it keeps my ego in check.)

Learn from the criticism – Actually try to improve. That’s a difficult concept for some people, because they often think that they’re right no matter what. Yet you may, in fact, be wrong, and the critic may be right. (Even though I don’t usually want to hear the criticism, I will admit that my critics are sometimes right.) 

Keep the right perspective – Too many times we take criticism as a personal attack. Perhaps it is sometimes, but we don’t have to take it that way.  Take it as a criticism of your actions, not your person. If you do that, you can detach yourself from the criticism emotionally and see what should be done. (This one’s tough, because it sure feels like “my person” is being criticized. Even if that’s the case, though, I suppose changing my perspective might help me feel better.)

Based on what Leo says, here’s my takeaway: Our critics provide an opportunity for growth for the very reason that they challenge us.

So the next time you’re criticized, listen with the intent to understand. Ask for more clarification, if necessary. You may gain a new perspective, and you may discover that there is, indeed, some room for improvement.

 

Helping

“The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.” – Albert Schweitzer

Someone close to me recently experienced a loss. Of course, my initial reaction was one of wanting to protect, comfort, and solve the problem. Upon further reflection, however, I realized this was self-serving to some extent – my way of dealing with the loss and trying to comfort myself.

When you’re about to jump in to save the day, it’s important to realize that there are times people will want your help and times they won’t. Therefore, it’s best to ask permission, and if it’s granted, consider your approach.

I once wrote a paper about helping. In it, I shared my view on “good” help which, to me, means:

  • providing people with a safe and confidential environment;
  • respecting boundaries;
  • listening attentively, patiently and with empathy;
  • giving people a venue to explore their thoughts and feelings; and
  • avoiding judgement and labels.

It’s also important to keep in mind that unless you’re a counsellor, you’re not a counsellor, so it’s best to leave the specialized help to the specialists. If someone truly wants your help, remember that this isn’t the time to talk about how you handled a similar situation nor is it the time to talk about your own difficulties.

Sometimes people need professional help, and if that’s the case, you should encourage them to do so. Often times, though, people simply need a shoulder to lean on. In those cases, the best thing you can do is support them in helping themselves.

50 Things I Believe at 50

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates

A lot of the time when my husband asks me a question I reply, “I don’t know.” He says I’m just being lazy. Sometimes, maybe, but most of the time I really don’t know. In fact, the longer I’m alive, I realize how little I know in the whole scheme of things.

That said, I just turned fifty – half a century – and I suppose that in that time, I’ve come to believe some things. So in honour of the occasion, I decided to list fifty of them. Here they are…50 things I believe at 50.

(Thanks to Nathalie for #40.)

  1. You won’t always be happy nor should you be.
  2. Having one true friend is better than having a lot of fake friends.
  3. It’s better that you, not others, decide what you want.
  4. If you think you can’t do it, you’re right.
  5. It’s good to step outside your comfort zone.
  6. When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, it helps to do something nice for someone.
  7. Even introverts need to spend time with people.
  8. A good rule of thumb is to talk less and listen more.
  9. A walk in Nature solves a lot of problems.
  10. Confidence is great; arrogance is not.
  11. Most of the time it’s good to say what’s on your mind.
  12. It’s important to have a creative outlet.
  13. People really aren’t thinking about you that much so do your thing, baby!
  14. Meditation will relax you.
  15. Exercise increases longevity.
  16. Your body deserves a healthy diet.
  17. Hugs are great even if hugging makes you feel weird.
  18. Time with loved ones is time well spent.
  19. Long meetings are a waste of time (note to self).
  20. You need to say no sometimes.
  21. You need to say yes sometimes.
  22. Saying please and thank you will never go out of style.
  23. Kissing butts to get ahead really stinks.
  24. Malicious gossip is a soul destroyer.
  25. Asking for help is a sign of strength.
  26. Laughing is good for you.
  27. Crying is good for you.
  28. Sometimes Mother does know best.
  29. Most negative behaviour is caused by fear.
  30. It’s good to do things that scare you (within reason).
  31. Some questions are stupid.
  32. Buying lottery tickets is a waste of money (unless you win).
  33. Despite the problems you face, there’s a lot going right in your life.
  34. Being grateful can change your life.
  35. Learning a second language is good for the brain.
  36. In 95% of situations, it’s wise to think before you act.
  37. Everyone needs a mental health day.
  38. A daily bowel movement is essential for good health.
  39. The only person you can control is yourself.
  40. Hiring people to do the things you don’t like doing supports the local economy.
  41. Sometimes just showing up is the best thing you can do.
  42. Water is the best beverage to drink.
  43. Fundamentalist thinking is dangerous.
  44. Everyone needs to spend time doing nothing.
  45. Wrinkles are better than the alternative.
  46. Mistakes are inevitable.
  47. A career is good but it doesn’t define you.
  48. The younger generation has a lot to teach you.
  49. The older generation has a lot to teach you.
  50. You will die so don’t worry too much about it.

So there are 50 things I believe at 50. Stay tuned for 2067 and my list of 100 Things I Believe at 100.

 

 

 

 

What Your Doctor Doesn’t Always Tell You About Anxiety

“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.” – Aesop

I’m going to get straight to the point. There are six major types of anxiety disorders:

1- Generalized Anxiety Disorder

2- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

3- Panic Disorder

4- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

5- Social Anxiety Disorder

6- Phobia

I have a lot of experience in this area.  For at least the last thirty years, I’ve dealt with #’s 1 and 3 (official diagnoses), and I believe #’s 2 and 6 are skulking around a bit in the background.

I’m not alone.  According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada, “…one in four Canadians (25%) will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime.”  That’s a whole lot of anxious people.

(Photo credit: Hailey Kean)

In his article “A Path out of Depression,” clinical psychologist Stephen Ilardi discusses the reasons for the epidemic of depressive illness in industrialized nations and how to combat the problem.  One line sums up the essence of his article: “Our Stone Age brains just weren’t designed to handle the sedentary, isolated, indoor, sleep-deprived, fast-food laden, stressed-out pace of 21st-century life.” I’m certain that Dr. Ilardi’s findings also apply to the current anxiety epidemic.

For details, please take the time to read Dr. Ilardi’s article.  In the meantime, here are the highlights:

– The traditional western diet leads to a lack of omega-3 fats which affect levels of the mood-regulating neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. The lack of omega-3 fats also promotes inflammation which triggers the stress hormone cortisol.

– We live a lifestyle that encourages rumination (replaying our trials and tribulations over and over in our minds).

– We are a more sedentary society, and this is disastrous for our brains.

– We are light deprived because we spend too much time indoors. It’s important to note that our eyes have special light receptors that respond only to the brightness of natural outdoor light.

– We’ve lost the sensibility of the tribe and spend way too much time in isolation. (I’m an introvert yet I realize the critical importance of social connections.)

– We are chronically sleep deprived. Our ancestors slept when it was dark and worked when it was light. They weren’t serial watching Game of Thrones into the wee hours.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to combat anxiety so if you’re serious about dealing with it, don’t just read these tips. Practice them. And if you don’t have any issues with anxiety, think of this as advice for a healthier life.

  1. Diet – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Garbage in. Garbage out. You cannot eat junk all day, every day, and feel well. I’m not going to espouse any particular method of eating, but here’s a general rule of thumb that will work for most people: keep it plant based. Whether you eat meat and other animal products is up to you. Just get that plant food into you! And for heaven’s sake, eat REAL food.  (Omega-3 supplementation is great too – in addition to the brain benefits, many years ago, it fixed chronic bursitis in my knee within ten days.)
  1. Exercise – I’m shouting this one from the rooftops: MOVE YOUR BUTT! While exercise is wonderful for your physical health, it’s just as important for your mental health. Some studies indicate that regular exercise works as well as medication for some people to reduce symptoms of anxiety (and depression). I know this from experience. If I don’t do enough cardio work, anxiety rears its ugly head. In fact, this happened to me lately, so I’ve been pounding the pavement with almost daily power walks in addition to working out at the gym. We all need exercise, but if you suffer from anxiety, it’s non-negotiable. While you’re at it, do some of that exercise outside. Nature is essential for your health and well-being.
  1. Sleep – Sorry folks. Record your favourite late-night TV shows and watch them another time. You’ve got work to do? Go to bed anyway and re-organize your life. You MUST get your sleep. And if you’re having problems sleeping, everything I’m writing here will likely help with that. For those of us who are vulnerable, sleep deprivation = anxiety. And even if it doesn’t make you anxious, it’s hurting you in many other ways. This is extremely difficult for shift workers who often work into the wee hours of the morning. If this is the case, read this. Also, if you are prone to anxiety, you may just have to face the fact that you should not or cannot work in professions that require shift work. At one time, I thought I’d be interested in the health care field, but I decided against it for the very reason that my health simply would not allow working at night. Sometimes those are the hard choices we make.
  1. Meditate – Yes, I know, it’s hard to sit still. So what. Anyone can do it for five minutes once or twice a day. You don’t have to sit there with a blank mind. As the thoughts arise, just let them go, and bring your attention back to your breathing. If you absolutely can’t do this, go for a ten-minute walk minus the ear buds and let your mind wander. You can also practice mindfulness, i.e. being in the present moment. Check out this fantastic free course.

  1. Quit the Bad Habits – Take it from me. Alcohol does NOT make you less anxious (or depressed). Nor do other drugs (maybe marijuana but I’m not an expert so talk to your doctor). Eating yourself into oblivion won’t help either. These habits often start out as a means to self-medicate for anxiety, and usually, they end up exacerbating it so get whatever assistance you need to quit. Follow some of my other advice (plus get outside help if necessary), and you may be able to give up those bad habits for good.
  1. Create – I’ve found that writing has allowed me to release what’s inside. Writing may not interest you at all, but I guarantee you can find one creative outlet that you enjoy, the thing that makes time pass by without your even being aware of it. Don’t worry about whether you’re “good” at it. Just do it.
  1. Unplug – Ping! Ding! Ring! Darn it, we’re addicted to our devices. Most social media isn’t going to further our cause so try to cut back. You really do have more interesting things to do with your life. Plus, if you’re on social media all the time, you won’t be able to engage in many of the other anxiety busters I’ve been writing about. I try to keep social media and texting to thirty minutes a day. A lot of days I fail, but I’m working on it, because I know it’s largely a time waster. Thankfully I DETEST talking on the phone, so that’s really easy to give up.
  1. Be grateful – Look around you and try to appreciate what you do have – both material and non-material. Sure, you may be lacking in some areas, but you’ve likely got a roof over your head and something to eat. That in itself is worth a lot. Plus, always striving and wanting more is very anxiety provoking. Even if you suffer from anxiety, you’re likely not in the acute stages 24/7, so be grateful for the moments you feel at ease.
  1. Try the Alternative – There are so many complementary therapies that can help you deal with anxiety: massage, Ayurveda, TCM, acupuncture, energy work, hypnosis, counselling, spiritual practice, and so forth. Try something out to see if it helps you. I know that money can be an issue, and I await the day that our health care system will focus more on preventative – rather than reactionary – medicine. However, have a close look at your budget. If you cut out that cup or two of Tim Horton’s coffee every day (not good for anxiety anyway), you’d have enough money for some sort of monthly treatment. It’s all about choices.
  1. Medical Intervention – I’m not a medical doctor, and I have no authority to give medical advice, so if you currently use prescription medication to deal with anxiety, keep doing so. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or that you’re doing things wrong, and it could be a life saver. However, I know from personal experience that taking the steps I’ve outlined may result in your being able to reduce your medication. However, DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT CONSULTING YOUR PHYSICIAN! Sorry for screaming that, but I don’t need any lawsuits.

(Photo credit: Tj Holowaychuk)

Anxiety is a terrible affliction, but there are many terrible afflictions that people have to deal with. The good news with anxiety is that in most cases, it can be reduced and in some cases, eliminated.  It was only with experience and trial and error that I learned enough to keep my anxiety under control most of the time.

Do I still deal with anxiety? Absolutely, but it’s much less severe and definitely more manageable. Over the years I’ve made a lot of changes in my life. Some of those changes meant difficult decisions, but without making those changes, I’m not sure I’d be alive and well today. So there is hope, but success depends on you. No doctor or pill is going to do it all for you, but I guarantee that if you follow my advice, you’ll notice changes in how you feel. And those changes will be for the better.

Keeping Up Appearances

 “Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.” – Lao Tzu

There used to be a hilarious British comedy called Keeping Up Appearances that I watched on Saturday evenings.  The main character, Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced boo-KAY), makes it her purpose to impress everyone.  She can’t stand people who pretend to be superior because, as she says, “It makes it so much harder for those of us who really are.”

Hyacinth Bucket

Switching gears a bit, my daughter, Hannah, recently spent time in India, a country she fell in love with.  Hannah travelled a lot by bus and took some very long rides.  There were no toilets on those busses, so every now and then, the bus would stop, and if there were no washrooms around, people would relieve themselves on the side of the road – as Hannah said, “#1 AND #2.”

So what’s the point of talking about an upper class wannabe and people pooping on the side of the road?  Appearances of course!  Hyacinth tried to maintain appearances at all costs while those weary bus travellers didn’t care – they just needed to relieve themselves.

Most of us want to be regarded in a positive light and feel like we fit in.  There’s an innate human need to belong, and if you’re too different from the members of your target social group, chances are they won’t be too keen on letting you join.  Thus, we get caught up in the game of appearances.

We may pretend that all is well when it really isn’t; spend money on bigger houses, flashy toys, and more stylish clothes; ensure that our children lack for nothing; and spend a fair amount of time trying to get noticed or get ahead.  It’s a hamster wheel that’s hard to get off.

Can we learn to care less about appearances?  Think about this: Will you lie on your death bed and bask in the glory of your perceived status in society?  Unless you’re on the same wavelength as the Donald Trumps of the world, probably not.  You’ll more likely be thinking of the people you loved and who loved you.  You’ll probably be hoping that someone who cares is holding your hand.

I’m not suggesting that we never care about appearances.  Why else would we jump in the shower and slap on some deodorant in the morning?  Still, caring a little less about appearances might be good for our health and wellbeing.

So how do you save yourself from becoming another Hyacinth Bucket?  Here are a few ideas, realizing these things are often easier said than done.

Release yourself – From the time you’re born, you’re socialized to belong.  You’re taught how to act and how to dress.  You’re encouraged to support certain ideologies.  Social media adds some additional pressure.  How many friends do you have?  How many likes do your posts get?  Managing our real and online personas can be exhausting.  So stop trying.  Disengage a bit from all of this and just be YOU.

Care less – At times your behaviours have likely been the subject of curious or disapproving glances; however, if you stopped for just two seconds to realize how little other people really think about you, the more relaxed you would be.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do, what you have or don’t have, because most people are too caught up in themselves and their own close circle to care.  Plus, you have NO CONTROL over what people say, do, or think about you.  In fact, what others think about you is really none of your business.  Your ego will resist this, but if you can get past that, it’s pretty liberating.

Love thyself – Rather than worrying about whether other people accept you, spend more time accepting yourself.  That way, when people talk about you behind your back (and they will), it won’t really matter.  And remember the old saying: What other people think and say about you has very little to do with you and a lot to do with them.  Self-love and acceptance don’t happen overnight, but work on it.  You really are lovable.


(Photo credit: Bart LaRue)

We all have times where we try too hard to look good and fit in.  This often means trying to present the illusion of a perfect life.  The thing is, it doesn’t exist.  We all experience bad hair days, money issues, relationship issues, health problems and kid problems.  It’s what makes us human.

With this in mind, let’s cut the pretense and stop worrying about measuring up to an ideal that doesn’t even exist.  Let people love you for who you are instead of who you think you should be.  Sometimes it’s ok to say, “Screw appearances.”  That’s empowerment, and that’s healthy.

 

 

 

 

Give Them a Break

“I think we should bring up our children with much less pressure to compete and get ahead: no comparing one child with another, at home or in school; no grades. Let athletics be primarily for fun, and let them be organized by children and youths themselves.” – Dr. Benjamin Spock

I saw a quote on Facebook the other day that bothered me:  “I don’t want my children to follow in my footsteps.  I want them to take the path next to me and go further than I could have ever dreamt possible.”

Although I understand the positive intent of this quote, I’m sorry to say I sense an underlying message that, to me, is anything but positive, a message that sets children up for almost certain failure and a hefty dose of stress and anxiety in the process.

Why, you ask?  Because to me, the idea expressed in this quote suggests a narrow preoccupation with a certain kind of success: significant athletic or artistic achievements; university degrees; respectable, high-paying careers; big homes and fancy cars; perfect health; perfect relationships, and so forth.

Madeline Levine, psychologist and author of Teach Your Children Well and The Price of Privilege, says:

“Every measure of child and adolescent mental health has deteriorated since we’ve decided that children are best served by being relentlessly pushed, overloaded, and tested.  Our current version of success is a failure.”

Dr. Levine notes that while a lot of children today look like high achievers, they are, in fact, more depressed and anxious and are experiencing both psychosomatic disorders as well as a sense of inauthenticity.  She points out that when asked, parents say success means their children are happy, well-adjusted, and all that other nice stuff.  However, when children are asked what constitutes success, they indicate “making a lot of money.”  So what’s happening?  Do the children’s responses simply indicate a childlike perception of success or are they absorbing (not so) subtle messaging from their parents?

Let’s face it.  There are all kinds of children.  Some excel academically or possess entrepreneurial skills, others do not.  Some are athletic or artistic, others are not.  Some are naturally high achievers while others just get by.  Some of our children will end up being janitors, service industry workers, clerks and garbage collectors.  This sort of work needs to be done, and no one is the lesser for doing it.

Some of our children will struggle with health, relationships, and finances.  For those young people with physical or mental health issues, managing to hold down a job, any job, is the best they’ll do, and depending on the extent of those issues, that may be a major accomplishment.  Some of our children will be dealing with relationship breakups and custody battles, credit card debt and bankruptcies.  Does this mean they failed or, ahem, we failed?  At the end of the day, most of us will not have children who reach the pinnacle of professional, athletic or artistic achievement, so why do we try to raise them like that with all the pressure that ensues?

Sure, we all want to see our children do well for themselves and succeed, but I think it’s time to re-define what success means.  Rather than pushing our children to excel, be involved in endless activities, go to university, and rise to the rank of CEO, how about letting them figure out their path?  How about teaching them to look after body/mind/spirit, be good to people, care about the fate of the world, be independent, live within their means (whatever income they earn), and participate in activities they enjoy?

I know many adults who aren’t working at high-flying jobs, making tons of money, living in huge homes, or driving expensive cars yet are still pretty content.  For them, it doesn’t all boil down to prestige and the almighty dollar.  Yes, if our children want more material wealth or social status, they’ll have to figure out how to do that, but a lot of them will be happy with less while having more time to relax, be with family and friends, and do things they love.

I have two university degrees, and I’m a federal public servant.  I’m happy to have the job I do, and I’m thankful for the great benefits and pension plan.  Am I working at my dream job?  No, but it works well enough for me.  Does my job make me any better than the lady working the cash at the local supermarket?  Nope.  My education and good job have not spared me from a marriage break-up and a chronic health issue.  Nor have they prevented me from making poor choices.  I suspect it’s the same for most people, and it will be the same for our children.

I’ve seen many “successful” people who are caught up in the trappings of success while leading unhappy lives.  I’ve seen people working very long hours and enduring a lot of stress in order to climb the professional ladder or maintain a certain lifestyle, often at the expense of their health and family.  Heck, I’m guilty of working too many hours myself a lot of the time and to what end?  I’ve seen people counting the days, hours, and minutes to retirement so they can finally do what they want.  Is that what we wish for our children?

I think the best thing we can do for our children is to support them in their interests and endeavours, allow them to experiment, give them responsibility, and let them figure out their path.  Let’s stop pressuring them to be perfect and teaching them that success is defined by reaching the highest levels of academic or professional success.  Instead, let’s model good judgement and decency.  Let’s teach them that life can be hard and that they won’t make it to the end unscathed.  But let’s also help them build the inner resources to deal with the issues they’ll face.

Our children have their own lives.  They are not here to live the way we think they should and do the things we think they should.  They are not here to measure up to a narrow vision of success.  And most importantly, they are not here to fulfill our wishes, dreams and fantasies.  They’re here to fulfill their own.

 

 

Seeing the Future

“No, I would not want to live in a world without dragons, as I would not want to live in a world without magic, for that is a world without mystery, and that is a world without faith.” – R.A. Salvatore

I have a crystal ball.  It’s a nice decoration but dusty from lack of use.  I admit that I’m intrigued by crystal balls and other types of divination tools.  In fact, I’m fascinated by the mystical, and I believe that a lot of things we term weird or freaky really aren’t.  We just haven’t figured out how they work.

Personally, I’ve experienced some mysterious things over the years, things I can’t explain.  For example, there have been times where I saw (or heard) things that later happened.  Before you write me off completely, let me explain.

Back in early November 2003, my husband, Raymond, broke his back.  It started out as a misty, grey November day.  We had been raking leaves on our property when Raymond decided to clean the upper story bathroom window.  He situated the ladder and up he climbed, Windex and paper towel in hand.

Meanwhile, I was in the backyard still raking leaves.  While I was looking down, mentally bemoaning the fact that we had too many trees on our property, a picture flashed right before my eyes: Raymond, in his yellow rain jacket and rubber boots falling off the ladder from the second storey, the ladder crashing down on top of him.  I gave my head a quick shake and kept raking.  About ten or fifteen seconds later, I heard a loud noise, and as I spun around, there was Raymond falling to the ground, the ladder in hot pursuit.  It was the exact scene that had played out in my mind only seconds earlier.  Two weeks in the hospital, a few weeks wearing a brace, and he was back in business.

Fast forward a few years later.  I was in the bathroom one evening and opened the mirrored medicine cabinet above the sink.  I picked up a bottle of prescription medication when a voice, as clear as a bell, said, “You better get that renewed.  Sherwood Drug Mart is burning down.”  Sherwood Drug Mart is the drugstore I go to for prescriptions.  Of course, I put the bottle back on the shelf, closed the cabinet, and started brushing my teeth.

About thirty seconds later, the phone rang.  My daughter, Hannah, picked it up.  Next thing she yelled, “Mom, Sherwood Drug Mart’s on fire!”  It was one of Hannah’s friends who lived not far from the drugstore calling her to report.  I went downstairs to tell Raymond about the experience I had just had in the bathroom.  About twenty minutes later, Hannah’s friend called again to say that the drugstore and adjoining restaurant had burned to the ground.

I know many people will say that I imagined those premonitions after the fact or that I’m delusional.  But I can say with absolute certainty that I imagined nothing, I did not mix up the time frames, and I’m no more delusional than the average person.

My experiences have led me to question if we really can glimpse the future.  Are premonitions real?  Most scientists don’t delve into this kind of territory, but there are exceptions.  Psychologist Dean Radin at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) performs experiments where participants see and feel into the future.  Daryl Bem, a respected social psychologist from Cornell University is well known for his precognition experiments.  Both have made some interesting findings.  As expected, much of the scientific community discounts their research because it challenges the established worldview.

So, do we dismiss the results of researchers like Radin and Bem because they challenge the dominant paradigm?  Before answering that, here are a few things to consider:

– When Galileo Galilei claimed that the earth orbited the sun (building upon the work of Nicolaus Copernicus), he was placed under house arrest for committing heresy.

– When Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis introduced the idea that hand washing reduced the incidence of puerperal fever in obstetrical clinics, his findings were rejected by the medical community.

– Dr. William Harvey, who first proposed that blood passed through the heart, not the liver, was ridiculed and ostracized by the scientific community.

– Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, proposed the idea of dominant and recessive genes, only to have his work dismissed until years later.

And the list goes on.

I know some people will say, “Yes, Heather, but in those times, we didn’t have the knowledge or the technology to measure and understand these things.  Now we do.”  My point exactly!  I think much of what happens that we dismiss as fictitious, superstitious or hocus-pocus is, in fact, very real.  We just haven’t developed the knowledge and technology to prove it.

I appreciate science.  I don’t appreciate fraud and quackery.  But one of my criticisms of science is that it can be slow to change its paradigms.  There is much about life that is mysterious and cannot be explained.  Perhaps some things will never be explained.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t real.

My favourite scientist, Albert Einstein, said, “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”  I agree, so let’s be open to the mysterious, and let’s not be too quick to discount what we can’t explain.