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Writing about what really matters

Tag: kindness

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.

The beauty of compassion

Kuan Yin

This is the SoulCollage card I made last Sunday afternoon, in the midst of being strongly irritated by (in my estimation) a friend’s immature behavior.

This is Kuan Yin, goddess and bodhisattva of compassion, kindness, mercy, and protection. She has beautiful energy–as, I suppose, bodhisattvas do.

Usually when I decide to make a SoulCollage card, I have an idea of what the theme is going to be, but on this day I didn’t have anything preconceived. I sat down to look at images I’d saved, and before I knew it, I’d pulled out three of Kuan Yin. At first I wasn’t sure they were all her, because they weren’t all labeled, but I noticed all of them held the same upside-down vase (which a little research revealed is a water jar).

I understood that the trait of compassion was being emphasized to me, and took the message to heart.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Kuan Yin.

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

 

Unshakable beliefs

Lover

Recently I came across a “Something to think about” question in an old issue of O magazine that made me want to sit down and answer it … “Which of your beliefs are unshakable? In the space below, write the fundamental principles you live by.”

Such an interesting question. I was raised in a fundamentalist environment chock-full of “unshakable beliefs,” virtually none of which I subscribe to at this point in my life. I’ve changed my mind so many times that there isn’t a lot that I like to say I’m absolutely sure of. But I suppose there are a few things …

  • Love is stronger than hate.
  • Karma is for real, and there are no exceptions.
  • Doing the right thing as best I know how is the key to a peaceful mind.
  • Justice does prevail, though it may not be anything like immediate.
  • I live in a benevolent Universe.
  • I chose to be here.
  • I am here to learn.
  • Life is difficult, and also beautiful.
  • I prefer the truth to anything else.
  • Change is constant–you might as well welcome it.
  • Positivity beats negativity.
  • Ego is incompatible with enlightenment.
  • Meditation–preferably twice a day–is essential to my living my best life.
  • Healing is worth the effort.
  • Kindness matters.

How would you answer this question … what are your unshakable beliefs?

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card The Lover, the last of the cards I made at the archetypes retreat I attended last month.

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

Stretch yourself

Stretch

Lately I’ve been noticing that as I get older, a flexible, limber body doesn’t come for free anymore. Last night as I spent time stretching, the subject of the SoulCollage card I made today came to me.

I’m challenging myself to stretch this week in as many different ways as possible–and I hope you’ll join me (and share your experience here in the comments section, if you like). Here are 10 ideas to get us both started …

  1. Make a monetary gift you wouldn’t otherwise have made. A couple of fun ideas are making a Kiva loan, or adopting a child for Christmas through a program such as Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. (Be aware that they have more gift requests to choose from, if those on display don’t appeal to you. I like to dig for low-tech requests like a tea set or doll’s chair … the kinds of things I liked to play with myself back in the day!)
  2. Instead of an e-mail or electronic conversation–nice as those can be–send a beautiful card with a hand-written note to someone you care about. The best e-mail you’ve ever sent has never been given pride of place on anyone’s mantel, but your card probably will be. This year I got a lovely Halloween card from someone who’s sworn off Christmas cards–and it’s on my mantel as I write. Bonus points for needing an extra sheet of paper to finish your note!
  3. Instead of running one more errand–let’s face it, the to-do list is everlasting and will never truly be completed no matter what we do–take time to enjoy something beautiful. Take in a museum show, watch ice skaters (or be one of them!), visit a sculpture garden.
  4. If you see homeless people as you go about your business, keep food in your car to share with those who are looking for it (I keep protein bars in fun flavors), along with an encouraging word.
  5. Be kind to an animal. Stock treats for the neighbor’s cat who likes to say hello, or take your dogs to the dog park. If there’s a stray animal nearby, make sure it has food, take it to the vet (and be sure they check for a microchip!), see about finding it a home or getting it back to the home it already has. Or, if you have room, adopt a dog or cat. If you’ve never done it (or even if you have), it’s a tremendously rewarding experience, and guaranteed to stretch you.
  6. Have a little more in-depth conversation with someone you interact with on a casual basis–your barista, someone on the elevator at work, a neighbor. You never know when a few kind words may change the course of someone’s life. A simple kindness could be among the most impactful things you ever do.
  7. Express something you might normally keep to yourself. Voice a compliment. Thank someone who’s been important in your life. You could write a letter to your alumni magazine, for example, expressing appreciation for your professors and your college experience.
  8. Put an electronic device away–for an hour, the day, the weekend. Remember what life was like before you had a smartphone, a GPS, a TV (OK, maybe I’m the only one who remembers what life was like without TV!), or a laptop. It won’t kill you, I promise!
  9. Do something different. Go crazy–change your drink order or your route home. Try a new restaurant or ethnic cuisine; cook a new dish. Buy a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tasted before. (If you’ve never had a pomelo, they’re in season now, and they are fabulous!) Jump out of an airplane, if you’ve always wanted to.
  10. When you’re just about to say No, if you suspect it’s out of unhelpful fear, say Yes instead.

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

How to handle a narcissist

narcissus1

You might assume that the way to come out on top is to focus relentlessly on your own agenda, desires, and needs–but that’s what narcissists do, and narcissists are not effective players in the game of life. Self-obsession will take you only so far. –Phillip McGraw

I don’t like to brag, but I consider myself somewhat uniquely qualified to address this topic, as I’ve been associating with narcissists since the very moment I was born. And for the past year or so, I’ve had one within a few feet of me at the office. I sincerely hope that you, dear reader, find yourself with less expertise on this particular topic.

First, how to identify the species? I was well into adulthood before I realized what was ‘off’ about one of my family members. It may be that you, too, are an expert, and don’t even know it!

  1. The narcissist is deeply engaged with what other people think.
  2. But the narcissist doesn’t care about much else. S/he may tell you that you care too much. (I sometimes wonder if a narcissist coined the term do-gooder, for those who, you know, care so much they actually try to do something about it.)
  3. It is all about the narcissist. Not about you … never about you.

Any questions? (No, it’s still not about you.)

I recommend the following strategies for dealing effectively with narcissists:

  1. Keep your distance. Need I say that a narcissist is never going to improve the quality of your life? So arm’s length is good, and much further away than that is ideal.
  2. The narcissist is likely to attempt to use and/or manipulate you, and will likely be frightened if these attempts fail, because the world isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. Your mission is to ensure that these finely-honed manipulation techniques do not work on you.
  3. To this end, let it be known that you are serene in the face of judgment and insult. Let it be known that you don’t much care what other people think. Let it be known that temper tantrums don’t affect you one way or the other. Let it be known that you do not accept double standards or unreasonable boundaries.
  4. Some experts say that the narcissist may have became one due to an emotional wound. So have compassion for the narcissist, as this cannot be a good way to live, and may in fact be a hell on earth … cut off from others, from caring about all that’s truly important in life, from knowing that we are all one, and that ultimately, love is all there is. Be grateful that you have dealt with your issues (I assume you received your share) more productively.
  5. Remind yourself how truly lucky you are to not be in the narcissist’s shoes, by engaging in one of the many activities unavailable to him or her. Reach out in love and kindness to someone else, expecting nothing in return. Look into the eyes of someone different from you and say to yourself, I am you, you are me. Hug or kiss someone and feel the love flowing between you.
  6. Realize you are truly blessed.

What I know for sure

Today I thought I’d take a page from Oprah’s book (based on Gene Siskel’s original question), and write what I know … for sure.

  1. God is Love.
  2. Central heat in November is a beautiful thing.
  3. Old things have soul.
  4. No such thing as “loyal to a fault.”
  5. It’s not necessary to believe in God; God believes in you.
  6. But a world with a God you can believe in is a much, much nicer place to be.
  7. Kindness cannot be overrated.
  8. Intelligence can be.
  9. Following the crowd definitely is.
  10. Beauty is everywhere. Appreciating it is one of the best things in life.
  11. The hard things in life, the things that require effort most people aren’t up for, are among the best things I’ve done.
  12. Yield to overcome.
  13. Negativity sucks.
  14. Smile. It’s a good thing.
  15. Laugh. It’s even better.
  16. You never know what’s going on with other people. When people are having the worst days of their lives, no neon sign lights up. Imagine what could be going on, and give people a break–it’s free.
  17. Expect respect and you’ll get it.
  18. It takes all kinds. One kind would be not just boring, but dangerous.
  19. Wear sunscreen. The fairest of them all wrinkle first.
  20. Help is always available for the asking.

What do you know for sure?

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