About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Category: Aha moments

Forty-eight things I’ve learned along the way

Leo cropped

Nora Ephron famously felt bad about her neck (though hopefully she no longer does). I do not, despite having the sort of neck not found on any swan, the sort of neck not flattered by a flaw-concealing turtleneck.

In those moments when I could be feeling bad about my neck, I instead choose to feel good about the head sitting on top of it–specifically the many contents that were missing in the days when the neck beneath was flawless.

In honor of my birthday, a list of 48 random things I’ve learned thus far. (Links are mostly to previous blog posts.)

  1. How to choose my battles. It’s amazing when I think about it now, how many (unimportant) things I was once willing to pitch battle for.
  2. Being able to recognize my ego’s involvement has really made all the difference. At least 99% of the time, that’s what the battle was really about.
  3. Compassion is a great thing to have on hand when your own or someone else’s ego flares up.
  4. Kindness is also pretty important. Even when you need to draw a boundary firmly, it’s generally possible to do it with kindness.
  5. How to forgive continually.
  6. And how to release bitterness–also key.
  7. I used to think being smart was a lot more important than it really is. It’s nice, sure, but far from the most important thing.
  8. Love–that would be the most important thing.
  9. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear …” (I John 4:18, KJV). When fear comes up in one of its many guises, love is the antidote.
  10. Learning to meditatelife-changing for sure.
  11. I learned I was an artist–and I bet you are too. I’d love to see everyone find a really good way to access their right brains.
  12. I grew up laboring in a huge organic vegetable garden, but only as an adult did I discover the joy of working hand-in-hand with Mother Nature to unleash plants’ amazing desire to grow and thrive.
  13. I still remember reading the magazine article that taught me to recognize a narcissist. Based on my early experience, I was choosing narcissists as friends. (Word to the wise: they don’t make very good ones.) I’ve finally learned to stop doing that. Woohoo!
  14. I’ve also learned to allow others to be exactly who they are. If people in my life are behaving badly, I generally do say a few words about it–and leave it at that. People have to change, if that’s what they’re going to do, at their own pace. I hope that if they’re not ready to hear now, they will be later.
  15. But just because I must allow people to be exactly who they are doesn’t mean I have to allow everyone into my inner circle, regardless of their behavior.
  16. Much if not most of what I was taught as a child simply isn’t true.
  17. It’s OK to be uncertain. Embracing a model that offers a complete set of answers about how the world works is certainly tempting, but it’s also a pretty good way to be wrong.
  18. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter a great deal what people believe, if anything. What really matters is how we treat others. Living a good life isn’t dependent on a particular worldview.
  19. Therefore, beliefs are generally not worth fighting for–but a value might be. Justice is worth fighting for.
  20. Karma is real–a universal law to which there are no exceptions.
  21. At the same time, if you’re a graduate student in the school of life, expectations are higher for you than for someone at the elementary-school level–and that’s fair.
  22. I no longer believe you only live once. I find this comforting, because it means there’s no need to try to accomplish everything, see everything, do everything, in this one lifetime. Accordingly, I don’t have a bucket list–or if I do, it’s a short one.
  23. It’s OK to relax. In fact, it’s a really good idea.
  24. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert. Oh, I am an introvert. (I was quite sure for awhile that I was right and Myers-Briggs was all wrong.)
  25. Models are really helpful, but there’s still a lot they don’t reveal.
  26. Life is not a competition.
  27. Cooperation is really enjoyable.
  28. Sarcasm is best in small doses, and is probably not one of the world’s great art forms.
  29. Participation in social media is not a measure of the validity of my life. And Facebook friends are not the same as real friends.
  30. Complaining isn’t a tool for making anything better, though feedback might be.
  31. Having companion animals is totally worth the trouble and mess. And just think of all the money I’ve saved by eliminating carpet and rugs from my life!
  32. An old house is worth the trouble too. But it’s best to have an excellent plumber, electrician, carpenter, and painter on speed dial.
  33. I am the very best person, bar none, to define what my life should look like.
  34. A good, hot bath can cure what ails you.
  35. A good cup of hot tea (my favorite: acai green tea) is also a pretty good idea. I leave my desk for at least one cup of tea every day I work.
  36. Whether or not you should listen to your mother depends entirely on what your mother has to say.
  37. The leaders of my country may or may not be wise. If they are not, I should notice and take an active role in electing those who are.
  38. Self-help is ultimately the only help there is.
  39. But we could all use a hand up.
  40. No one asked me to judge.
  41. The less I judge, the happier I am.
  42. This is what a feminist looks like.
  43. I should decide what is and isn’t BS on the basis of how well it works, not what other people say about it or what it looks like on the surface.
  44. But when in doubt, follow your gut.
  45. It’s a good idea not to abdicate control, but it’s a mistake to think that every aspect of my life can and should be within my complete control. Forces of nature came by their name honestly.
  46. I am responsible for making the world a better place–and so are you.
  47. I’m not perfect, and neither is anyone I know. Discovering anyone’s imperfection should not be surprising. We’re all human.
  48. The best is yet to come.

What have you learned along the way?

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage® card Personal power + Leo.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

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Crawling out of my skin

snake

More than most, I prize calm and serenity–more so the older I get. My home and the hours of the day and week that belong to me are organized to cultivate calm. But this past week, calm and serenity were elusive.

Yesterday as I stood at the kitchen counter making breakfast I thought, “This week I have really felt like crawling out of my skin.”

Aha! At that moment I realized that for someone about to shed a skin–or make major life changes, for those of us who aren’t actually reptilian–that feeling would be completely natural.

Today my calm and serenity are back–and I also am truly looking forward to shedding a skin or two.

The power of acceptance

Nurturer cropped

Often, it seems, when I’m told I’ve done something well, it’s not the thing I’ve struggled over and really worked on. No, many times it’s something I’ve taken for granted, barely given a second thought to. This happened most recently when I spoke with my animal communicator a couple of weeks ago.

A little background on animal communication … it doesn’t require the physical presence of the animal, or even for the animal to be in physical form. Once, when I was a foster for my breed rescue, I contacted my animal communicator to let her know I’d recommended her to help with a lost dog. I was surprised to hear that she doesn’t work with lost dogs! The reason is that she has difficulty distinguishing between an animal that’s here, and one on the other side that is what she calls “very present” (as she says my dog Cherry is right now). So a lost animal might truthfully report that it’s fine, and actually be on the other side–which its people may regard as far from fine.

In my experience, though, there’s always a significant difference in an animal’s perspective when she’s here, and when she’s not. After Honeycomb’s death, when I asked what she was doing, she said she was speaking with the Wise Ones. (Hey, just what we do over there! I thought.) She also gave me some advice about my own life–something she’d never done during our sessions when she was still alive.

In those sessions, typically I get very useful, practical information, like that a foster dog I haven’t gotten yet has bad teeth, including which quadrant of the mouth (I asked for the vet to do a dental if needed along with the spay or neuter–it was), or that a dog’s skin is itchy due to the dry air (I got a humidifier), or that a dog wants to take more walks so that she can smell some new smells!

With Cherry, the main theme was again something she’d never mentioned in our sessions when she was alive–how grateful she was for how well I’d understood her, how I’d accepted her and allowed her to be just who she was.

This took me aback at first, because it’s not something I’d ever tried to do, or put any effort into. It just made sense to accept her as she was, value the contributions she made, and not try to make her into something she wasn’t.

I do remember being a little disappointed when I realized she was never going to make a therapy dog. That had been my original dream, but my first dog, Honeycomb, was an unsocialized breeder’s dog, so when she came to me, my complete focus was on overcoming her terror so that she could function and have something approaching a normal life. She also (until she started to lose her hearing) always startled at the slightest sound, like a loud light switch or a clicker. Being able to tolerate loud sounds is required for a therapy dog, but attempting to acclimate her to something she hated seemed cruel to me. At the end of her life she was tremendously loving, and I think would have been a great therapy dog–especially if people could have come to visit her, rather than the other way around!

Cherry, whose original person or people had been elderly, absolutely hated wheelchairs and walkers, and barked in their presence! She was very friendly, happy, cheerful, outgoing, affectionate, loving, and loyal, but she was also fairly empathy-free. She admired strength, but didn’t understand that those who appear weak are often the strongest of all. (Granted, a lot of people haven’t figured this out yet, either.) The ability to tolerate medical equipment is an absolute requirement for a therapy dog, but while it may not be on the test, so is having a heart for those who are struggling in one way or another. So I let go of my dream … and perhaps one day it will come back around.

Cherry was always with me at home, and two of her favorite things to do were to watch me work in the kitchen–especially loading and unloading the dishwasher, because she loved how fast I moved–and watching me get ready to go out, because she loved being beautiful and valued beauty rituals.

If you’re thinking that these are not old-soul values, of course you are right. This was just one waystation on Cherry’s journey, one that we’ve nearly all experienced in some way, and no doubt she will eventually choose other, more challenging lives where she is not gorgeous, strong, and dominant.

These are some of my notes from our last conversation …

She says you got her like no one else. She is so grateful that she got to be who she was. Thank you for honoring who she was. She has a true sense of completion.

“I was gorgeous and I knew it! … Thank you for everything. … We were the steady ones, Heather and I. We were a team. … Without a doubt, I’m not done protecting her. … I love her so, and it was a great, great life.”     —Terri O’Hara, animal communicator, communicating with Cherry

Afterwards, I thought of how truly wonderful it would have been to be accepted for who I was and what I came to accomplish by everyone along the way in my journey. Whenever I’ve had that experience, it really has been wonderful and validating.

It also occurred to me how karmic debt is incurred–by doing something that throws someone else off their intended path. The most definitive way to do this, of course, is to end the person’s life prematurely–war must have huge karmic implications, especially for those making significant decisions–but it can also happen in much subtler ways. No doubt failure to accept and honor the other person and their intended mission is always part of the problem.

So conversely, I saw that accepting another being, their place on their path, and what they came to do and be is really a profound expression of support for their soul’s intention–and, by extension, for the purpose of the whole Universe, our collective growth and expansion. I’m remembering this as I go about my business and observe others being and doing differently than I would.

That’s what I learned from my dog Cherry.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card The Nurturer, made at last weekend’s SoulCollage Archetypes retreat to represent the Mother archetype.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

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