Author: DSander

Living From Our Heart

Living From Our Heart

“My flame burns brightly. I live in integrity with myself and my God.                                                 I am not the sum of what you think of me.

I am who I was created to be and work daily to continue to be more                                                 and more of that wonderful creation called me.” 

Affirmation by Jill Davis

 

Living from our heart seems to be a difficult thing for most of us.  Our pure, honest voice, lost or muffled in infancy, has been replaced with a façade cobbled together to create someone who is acceptable to the world. We like to think the face we present to the world is real, but it rarely is. From the time we take our first breath we modify our behavior, our thoughts, and our reactions in an attempt to please and appease our care providers. We need them to stay alive and healthy, at least initially. Our natural survival instinct drives us to gain the attentions of those responsible for our care.

The lucky among us had care givers who not only recognized but were able to reflect to us the unique gifts and individual character traits with which we were born; care providers who fostered, nurtured and created a safe environment within which we could bloom and flourish and become ourselves. Real. Honest. Fearless.

Most of us were not so lucky. To one degree or another, those charged with our care hammered away at our uniqueness attempting to diminish traits not to their liking.  They could not see or ignored important gifts that make us who we truly are. In the process, we understandably lost sight of where we began, and forgotten who we truly are.  What remains is a pseudo-self that we present to the world and believe to be who in fact we are. We wonder why we feel out of step with ourselves.

Underneath the mask, the real, true and honest us still exists.  Waiting.  Ready. Willing to be freed, to live and breathe and find expression. It is our job, particularly as we age, to remove the mask we may have created to survive, piece by piece, bit by bit and to rediscover our birthright.

Too often we simply create a new mask to replace the old one, thinking that it will cure our dis-ease. We whittle away at our bodies, using diets, exercise, and plastic surgery to create a more perfect image of ourselves. We launch off on new careers, leave our spouses or significant others, sell our home and take to the road in search of better life, a better way, a better us. We look outward for the answers and find a temporary fix.

If we are not careful we can go on this way until our days on this earth are done and never have sung our song, for we are looking in the wrong place to find our truth.  Our truth lies within us, and will always be found in the recognition and acceptance of who we are inside of ourselves, in our souls. It is only when we find that place that we can begin to live in integrity with ourselves, with our God and with the world. Then, we will know the meaning of our lives. The, we will know peace.

And What is your Truth….

And What is your Truth….

by Nicky Perryman ~ Textile Artist

Words float in my head, unbidden, wandering trying to go somewhere. Like me. Phrases lurk in the shadows looking for a home, a purpose, a connection to something, somewhere. Like me. Beauty rests somewhere unfamiliar, somewhere in yet to be charted territory. Peace and tranquility. Joy. Meaning. Purpose.

The truths of life are the same, from one to another. The real truth crosses all boundaries of time, space, creed, nationality, age and utters its whisper softly and gently to all who listen. I raise my head from a pillow of tears just long enough to look into the eyes of truth and then turn away. Frightened of what, I do not know.

Our truth connects to a bigger whole should we be fortunate enough to find it. When removing the gauze of indifference, or fear, from our eyes we may look upon the face of God…of truth…of that which gives life and takes it when it is ready. Truth is etched upon the hearts of women throughout history, before, during, now, and future times. A string runs through our lives connecting one to another drawing us in, weaving us carefully into a patchwork quilt that is life.  There is no beginning, no end, only now and eternity.

Our lives are our own and yet they are not. Our lives belong to the universe, to the whole, to the patchwork quilt. What we give of our truth will find its way into the pattern, into the beautiful, kaleidoscopic tapestry of eternity, bright with colors, shapes, sounds and above all else, love. What we love will be our legacy. How we love will be our truth.

Its written across the pages of history that as mere mortals we are called to speak the truth and to love. They cannot be divided. One without the other is incomplete. Find your truth and live it in love and your legacy will unfold bit by bit to find its place in the tapestry of eternity.

A Note about photo: I stumbled across the photo of the quilt and loved it. I have discovered it was designed and made by Nicky Perryman, a textile artist in the UK.  You will find more about her and her work on her website Nicky Perryman Textile Artist.  She also has a fan page on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nicky-Perryman-Textile-Artist/176159875736012.

Finding Our Story

Finding Our Story

We all have a story to tell.  It may be a short, sweet, simple story, an intricately woven esoteric story, or a fierce and volatile drama that plays out in the midst of mind numbing chaos. Nonetheless, it is our story and to truly live I believe we must tell it. Our journeys are powerful lessons for kindred spirits who are longing for a connection, or understanding, or compassion.  If we keep our story to ourselves, it will die and a thing of value will be lost.

Telling our story does not require us to be writers or speakers.  There are as many ways to tell our stories as there are people, but first we must find it. Then we can grab it by the tail and dance with it, allowing it to create us and us it.

Our stories come from the deepest yearnings of our hearts and souls ~ those rumblings and urgings that have yanked and pulled and pushed us through life even as we tried to ignore them. They are not the noises of our parent’s commands that may still meander through our conscious or unconscious thoughts ~ those are the echoes of their stories left untold that still reverberate in their offspring.  Our stories are unique to us, but they may likely rest beneath a protective shield, carefully held in place through years of denial. Now it is time to remove the cloak that hides our truth and discover its power.

I turned away from the telling of my story much of my life. I was taught not to value it, share or even recognize it by parents, teachers, and a society that valued different things. Consequently I shoved it out of sight and wandered aimlessly as I tried to live everyone else’s story.  There came a time when I could no longer push it aside. I could no longer find a reason to make the dictates of others more important than my own. I would tell my story or I knew I would wither and die. It took time to even begin to recognize its shape and texture and each day I choose to share it, it becomes more vivid.

Find your story by listening to any voice that you know is truly your own. Heed its advice, even if it is not clearly defined. Follow your inner directives whenever possible and you will chip away at the layer of protection that may be keeping it hidden. The still small voice that speaks to you in quiet moments, the intense passion evoked by a favorite song or a thing of beauty, these are the things that will lead you home.

When you discover a truth, write it down, even if it is only one or two words. These are building blocks for the  magnificent structure you will create.  If you can’t name it, draw a picture of it, sing a song about it, dance it. Let the creative director of your story shape it for you. Then, share your truth in any way that makes sense. The sharing is what will bring it to life.

Mining the Past

Mining the Past

The past holds many treasures that can serve us well as seek to discover what we are supposed to be doing now that we’re almost old. Not only does it contain the wisdom born of hardship and pain, but it also holds the key to the joy and meaning that has enriched our lives. When we mine these multifaceted jewels, they will lead us on a path of self-discovery that promises to provide us with an instructive map to age abundantly.

I don’t know about you, but I have spent most of my life running from my past mistakes and running toward the future where I believed a better path could be charted. It was an effective method in that it kept me moving, trying new things, and gathering experience, because boy, did I make a lot of mistakes! When I recognized a wrong turn, I chalked it up to experience, buried it as best I could and vowed never to do it again, and kept moving.

Now, however, looking toward the future has lost its appeal as the end of life becomes more palpable.   But there is more to the past than the debris of failure and now is the perfect time to mine it for all the gems it can provide our todays. Setting aside the running to and running from way of living, allows us the opportunity to take a deep breath and begin our search for the joy and richness that only living can bring.

Our past holds treasures personally crafted just for us. They are personal, rich and substantial. They hold the key to hope, gratitude and as yet undiscovered benefits. As we sift through our memory banks in search of these golden nuggets we will find our own personal map to meaning and purpose.

Begin by picking a period of time — a decade, a year or a day — during which you felt particularly in tune with yourself and life. Close your eyes and sink into the memory. Feel it, absorb it, and allow it to fill your mind and senses with all the good things it has to offer. Then ask yourself what was it about that moment that was so special? What were you feeling, doing, experiencing? Can you repeat it in some way today? Can you use it to live happier today?

I spent so many years looking at the negatives of the past and not enough time holding on to its treasures. Today when I closed my eyes and did this little exercise I thought of a time when I was in college. It was summer. Two of my best friends from high school (twin guys*) and my roommate joined up for a series of adventures. We went to watch the Thunderbirds fly over the Long Island Sound, took in a number of rock concerts and had a blast. We just enjoyed each other and had fun ~ no strings attached kind of fun. We laughed. We lived. We soaked up the excitement of the moment.

What I felt during those days was the excitement of doing something new, the warmth of being with people I enjoyed, a sense of freedom, and time in the great outdoors. I had no expectations of myself or my companions other than to enjoy the moment, taking it in, absorbing life and love.

By living for a few moments in that recollection I am able to absorb its teachings for my life today. The experience helped me to realize four things. First, I have forgotten how to live in the moment and to absorb all the pleasure and knowledge it has to offer.  Second, it revealed to me that I place entirely too many unnecessary expectations on myself. Third, I haven’t done anything new and exciting in a very long time and lastly, I realize I don’t spend near enough time laughing with people I enjoy. Just that brief moment of reflection provided me with all the information I need today to make my life more comfortable. Here’s what I can do now:

  1. Learn something new.
  2.  Focus on doing those things I enjoy doing and aside the uncomfortable and unnecessary expectations I have placed on myself.
  3. Call a friend and get together for coffee or a phone conversation.
  4. Share laughter with someone I love.

Your past will undoubtedly reveal something different, something that is uniquely yours, a personal message from your heart. As we begin to use our past as a teacher, rather than a litany of what not to do, we will allow it to blow the breath of life into our todays.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.

* I married the other twin ten years later.

What is Normal?

What is Normal?

I see a common thread running through conversations among older women lately. There seems to be a struggle going on ~ an inner struggle and, for many, an outer struggle. So many of us are struggling with financial pressures and uncertain financial futures, job upheaval, parents and children in various stages of “unsettled”, not to mention the often perplexing experience of physical aging. As a result, we seem to be looking for a place to “settle”, to feel comfortable, to feel at home in our skin, to feel “normal”, if we ever did.

Whether we were once on top of the world in our careers, marriages, etc. and now find ourselves without one or the other or both, or never have attained our goals and realizing we’re running out of time, we seem to be longing for a sense of comfort that comes with what we once perceived as normal. We yearn for pre-911 security, a pre-internet and satellite awareness of the world’s difficulties.

We struggle to rest, to relax, to feel comfortable in our own skin and we are perpetually looking for answers. We seem to be ill prepared for the effects of aging and are desperately trying to “catch up” with ourselves ~ inner and outer.  We feel the weight creeping up, the skin sagging, the wrinkles forming, the gray threatening to win and we’re not done yet done with being “young”. We are fighting the fight and while sometimes we are sure we have conquered our fears, anxieties, and misgivings, sooner or later the uncertainty creeps in again, or some new issue arises to throw us off track.

Wasn't this the kind of parents we were supposed to be?

Our generation was raised on Leave It to Beaver, My Three Sons and Mary Taylor Moore. As much as we thought we were aware of this fantasy that made up the building blocks of our very foundation, we have underestimated its impact on our expectations of what our lives would be both then and now. Part of what threw us off track is that for many the American Dream seemed to be coming true. Money flowed like water as our economy rose to extraordinary heights at the peak of the technology boom and if we had not yet made it we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and advertising fanned the flames of our expectations. The values of the 60’s were lost in a whirlwind of buying and spending and feeding ourselves a heavy dose of materialism, believing that we could have it both ways.

Wealth, fame, and material abundance are potent drugs no matter how deep our non-materialistic values run. Mesmerized, we lost sight of reality and were ill prepared for what followed. When the rug was pulled out from underneath us we were shocked and dumbfounded. Now we’re struggling to find “normal” again. We long to be back where life seemed easy, or at least more comfortable than it is now. We long for the innocence and optimism that was in abundance in our youth. We long for the powerful belief we once held that “all will work out”. We long for the time when God and religion made sense. At least I do.

Many of us started our lives as regular church goers. Belonging to a church was normal in 1950 and 1960. Fewer of  us raised our own children in the church and a skewed fundamentalist perspective has become the religious norm. We are out of our comfort zone in so many respects. The things we thought we’d have to depend on when we reached old age have slipped through our fingers, one by one.  We’re left wondering, now what? What am I supposed to be doing, believing, thinking, and feeling? How am I supposed to order my world? Around what or whom? We are adrift in a sea of uncertain unfamiliarity.

Even the most difficult situations were coated in love and happy endings.

Acknowledging a problem or a situation is the first step to acceptance.  In noticing our deep discomfort with life as it is and acknowledging that it isn’t what we expected will allow us to turn our face toward acceptance. We may never get back to where we thought we’d be ten years ago, financially or otherwise. This is our plight. This is the life we’ve been given. Acceptance may be all that we need to free up the energy necessary to mine what we can from today, and collect the gems still available here and now, in this moment. This is the new “normal”.

What do You Really Want now that You’re Almost Old?

What do You Really Want now that You’re Almost Old?

Photo by D Sander

The only way to get what you really want is to let go of what you don’t want. ~ Iyanla Vanzant

Getting what we want in life not only seems possible when we are young, but inevitable. Even in my darkest moments I believed with utter fervor and commitment that if I worked hard enough, did the right things, and followed the right path, I would have a fulfilling and meaningful life. I knew it would not be perfect, but it would be good enough.

Little did I know that I would be trapped by a mindset, passed down for generations, that would keep me bound and guided by forces that I could not see. Driven by a combination of habit, ego, and an immature idea of love and caring, I plowed through the first half of my life as if my days on earth were endless. Though that may sound extreme, it is crystal-clear to me (now that I have really “come of age”), that life is not what it seems when we are young!

When I woke up from a life, that upon reflection seems like a bad dream, I was nearly paralyzed by the awareness that in spite of the fifty years of effort and determination I was no nearer my original destination than I had been thirty years earlier. I felt as though I had wasted my life and that I had given it all away, keeping very little for myself.

My immediate response was to announce to myself and to anyone who would listen, “I’m done doing for everyone else. I’m done living my life for my children, my parents, my husband, my friends, my animals, my job! It’s time for me!” Those who bothered to listen undoubtedly heard the panic in my voice, and heard what I was really saying, “I’m running out of time! I need to pick up the pace!”

It has been almost ten years since my “mid-life crisis”. I still battle some of the same false beliefs that had pre-programmed my life, but the battle is fought with a little more wisdom…and compassion. One of  my most important lessons can be summed up by the quote by Lyanla Vanzant. “The only way to get what you really want is to let go of what you don’t want”.  We cling tenaciously to so many things in life, many of which have no real meaning or purpose in the overall scheme of things. These “things” keep us trapped, bound, and unhappy, whether they are material possessions, jobs, ideas or concepts.

The “letting go” is not always simple, or easy, and it isn’t a once and done kind of thing. In order to find a life of joy and meaning we must let go, over and over again. It is the only way to keep moving forward toward the life we were meant to live. The minute we begin to cling to something that does not bring joy and meaning to our lives, we can be certain that we are going away from our true selves instead of toward them. What drives us then is not passion but fear or insecurity. As we cling tenaciously to what we are doing, we use up the emotional and practical space we need available for something better. Sometimes we heap another layer on top trying to kill the pain and discomfort of living our wrong choices, by dousing ourselves in alcohol, material things, vacations, a new romance and a myriad of other escape tools. By filling our days with placebos, from the hedonistic to quasi-spiritual, we simply muffle our fear and accomplish only temporary escape from a life of true joy and inner peace.

Gradually, one by one, day by day, we can let go of those things that do not make us happy and create space for those things that do. If you do not know what to put in the empty space, consider embracing the silence. Sit with the discomfort. You will discover new and exciting possibilities that lie in wait just beyond your current awareness. They will move in to fill the void when you are ready.