Please Don’t …

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… mistake my lack of engagement in your argument as a sign that I don’t care — or don’t understand — your point of view.

Please don’t think that just because you speak louder than me that you will convince me that I’m wrong and you’re right.  The louder you speak, the less I listen.  If we agree to disagree, we’re both right.  And peace wins.

Please don’t use my faults as weapons against me when you’re feeling scared and vulnerable.  Accept your own misgivings, and know that your human foibles are the very things I love most about you.

Please don’t think you can hurt me with your perfectly crafted mental arguments.  Those may work in a court of law, but in the courtroom  of the Queen of Hearts, the pain you hide from behind those arguments will ultimately be exposed.

Please don’t think that my unconditional love for you gives you permission to deny my unconditional love for myself.  I’ve been told to love my neighbor — in this case you — as I love myself.  And though it may sound selfish, it’s only by putting the oxygen mask on myself first that I can save both of us.

Please don’t think our challenges are meant to tear us apart, because if they were, we would not have survived as long as we have.

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White Trash Wardrobe

barb-pedicure

I hate shopping.

I shop for things only when I need them.

Today, I needed only four things:

Dishwashing liquid, bananas, asparagus, and almond milk.

For some reason, known only to the gods of life lessons and comic relief, my record-breaking dash down the aisles of my neighborhood Winn-Dixie supermarket was interrupted only by the sudden realization that I might run into someone I know.

And my nanosecond decision to take a break from my writing to buy those oh-so-important items, would turn into a Facebook-haunting, lifetime-regretting moment on social media.

Now, I’m not a celebrity — nor do I play one on TV — but my wardrobe of choice as I stood in the dairy aisle would leave any publicity-seeking celebrity salivating with envy. And her profit-seeking paparazzi would be well paid for being at the right place at the right time.

As I reached for the container of 50% more calcium than dairy milk almond milk, I realized I’d left the house wearing this: A pair of camouflage capris, a bright orange T-shirt from my trip to Croatia, a black Nike cap, and white flip flops.

In my defense, my pedicure looked quite hot in those flip flops.  Otherwise, I was quite the hot mess.

It was quite possible that I might run into someone who might use my shoes and wardrobe of choice to judge me.

But you know what?  I didn’t care.

A few days earlier, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a few months.  She gave me a great big hug and told me something that sums up how I’ve been feeling …

“I love your Facebook posts,” she said.  “You look so happy!”

And for the first time — in a long time — it dawned on me.

She’s right.

I am happy.

I can go out in public knowing that what’s inside will more than make up for what’s outside.

Real happiness speaks louder than whatever distractions we use to cover up our doubts and insecurities.

I can’t wait to see what I’m wearing tomorrow.

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Passion’s precipice

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Lima, Peru: Photo by Barb Besteni

 

Sometimes inspiration comes to me in the form of an article’s title.

It happens so much, I no longer question this somewhat backwards way of following my muse’s calling. But I’m often stuck for days staring at a blank page, trying to find words that support the title.

I was sitting at a red light the day after Christmas when “Passion’s precipice” jumped into my head. I waited for more, but nothing followed.  Realizing that my muse was leaving this up to me, I turned to her cyber counterpart.

This morning, Google came to my rescue.

At the very top of a Google search for the meaning of passion, I found this:

pas·sion

  1. strong and barely controllable emotion.
  2. the suffering and death of Jesus – crucifixion, suffering, agony, martyrdom

“This is going to be interesting,” I thought.

Think passion and — let’s be honest — you think sex.  Indeed, sex is all about strong and barely controllable emotions. But passion is much more than hormones.  Passion is meant to color every part of our lives, from our careers, to our relationships and everything in between — and, of course, sex.

Fulfilling our purpose on this planet depends on injecting passion into everything we do.  Remove passion from the equation and routine sets in. Apathy soon follows, leaving you unfilled, bored, depressed and cranky.

If you’re experiencing these feelings in any area of your life, chances are you’ve lost the passion that was once the guiding force behind it.

How do you regain passion for something — or someone — once you’ve lost it?

First and foremost accept that you can never go back.  You can’t force the excitement and feelings you felt the first time around.  That’s the mistake most of us make, longingly looking at the past, comparing it to our present, and wondering what it means for our future.

Perhaps a better question is: How do you keep passion alive?

Passion is an emotion that stirs parts of your being — sometimes dark parts — that you didn’t know you were capable of.  Those emotions can be deliciously overwhelming.  But they can also cause you much suffering.

Welcome the darkness … the unknown.  Embrace it.  Break bread with it.  Let it guide you to the deepest depths of your soul.

In “Dark Nights of the Soul,” Thomas Moore refers to the emotions that passion stirs — jealousy, envy, fear, rage — as “temporary insanities.”  But are those emotions the result of passion?  Or are they the byproduct of suppressing the passions that stir within our soul?

Those who chose to live lives of quiet desperation dabble only in passion’s positive side.  They will never experience the sense of purpose that lurks deep beneath the surface of offering themselves completely to passion’s pain.

Sadly, when going beneath the surface gets too scary, quiet desperation seems the better alternative.  And too many choose the safety of the known over plunging into the unholiness of the unknown.

But the unknown holds the key to the sacred.

Only if we’re willing to suffer, be crucified, suffer pain unlike anything we’ve ever known, and offer ourselves as martyrs to passion, will we ever hope to become what our Creator expects us to be.

When standing on passion’s precipice, there really is only one choice.

Jump.

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The Zen of Christmas tree decorating

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It happens every year.

I procrastinate about decorating the Christmas tree, mostly because of the overwhelming sense to “get it right.”

Decorating the Christmas tree is a tradition I’ve never missed.  It’s a tradition I picked up from my mom … one that always brings me back to a place of innocence and trusting that lives deep within my heart, safe from whatever disappointments life throws at me.

It’s a symbol of hope, no matter how hopeless things may seem.

Last year — two days before her journey to the Rainbow Bridge — our beloved Queenie lay in her little bed next to the tree as I decorated it.  My dad’s spirit was right there with her.  He had continued his journey into eternity a few months earlier.

Each time I glanced at Queenie, our eyes met.

We both knew it was the last Christmas we would decorate the tree together.

Christmas past …

Christmas mornings had always been magical for me.

They became even more magical after Queenie came into our lives.

There’s nothing quite like watching a 10-pound mini Dachshund forage under the tree to find the gifts Santa brought her — Her human moms pausing long enough to open our own gifts, taking turns to throw the latest squeaky toy our “daughter” brought to us — All the while delighting in the precious, blessed — and oh, so fleeting moment.

It’s a fleeting moment that all parents share … no matter how many legs our children have.

I am blessed to have found a partner who treasures Christmas as much as I do.

She and I have quite the array of ornaments and decorations that we’ve collected — both at home and during our world travels — throughout the years.

Each year, the process of decorating the tree gets more complicated as I attempt to add as many of our ornaments as possible.

Everything is placed on the tree in a particular order.  The bows and balls, the poinsettias, the garland, the gold and maroon splashes of color that are the foundation upon which the magic is built.

The ornaments are last.   cuba-ornament

They are the most fun to place because they conjure up so many memories.  Most are grouped by the country in which we purchased them — the ones from our latest trip always go front and center, near the ones that started it all for us — the ones from the trip to California when Queenie was just a puppy.

But now we have so many ornaments, that we could fill the tree at Rockefeller Center and still have a few dozen left over. monterey-ornament

And that’s why the process has become more and more daunting.  And it’s precisely why my procrastination grows with each passing year.

A few years ago, we stopped buying a real tree and opted for a pre-lit “fake” one that looks pretty real.  At least it saved me the frustration of getting the lights “just right.”

Two weeks ago, I took the tree out of its box and put it together.  But there it sat in front of our dining room window, only the lights coming on each night.

Christmas present … 

My procrastination this year was so intense that I even considered leaving the tree naked, with only its lights as decoration.  It has both colored and white lights from which I can choose at the click of a switch, so even “undecorated” it looks pretty awesome.

But in my heart of hearts, I knew the Dachshund angel looking down from the Rainbow Bridge — next to her grandpa — were rolling their eyes and laughing at my naked tree idea.

And then, one night I simply began.

I let go.  I asked the tree to tell me how it wanted to be decorated.  (No, the egg nog was not spiked.)

I released the outcome (a lesson I’ve been getting good at learning these past few months.)

I stopped trying to decorate the tree the way I thought it was “supposed to be decorated” and just started placing the ornaments where they led me to place them.

And, in record time, the tree was done.

Christmas future …

As I stood back to survey the finished product, I said a prayer of thanks to the One for whom I celebrate the Season.  That One may be different for you and me, but the Spirit of the Season is the same, no matter how different our beliefs may be.

This year, my Christmas tree reminded me of the value of surrender — a theme that’s been the undercurrent of my life lately.

It’s by letting go — by getting out of life’s way — that we attract the things we most want for ourselves.

The secret is to place the ornaments we are given to decorate our lives wherever the Spirit guides us to place them.

And when we stand back to survey the finished product … it will be perfect.

 

 

 

 

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Never assume …

Sunset June 16

… that someone is happier than you are.

Just because they look happy doesn’t mean they are.

Don’t judge someone’s inside by what you see on the outside.

They may be faking it as much as you.

They may be envying your life as much as you envy theirs.

Never assume …

… that just because someone doesn’t take your advice that they don’t value it.

Trust that they know their journey better than you do and they’ll use that advice when they’re ready … when the Universe guides them to follow — or not follow — what you had to offer.

You’ve done your part by speaking your heart.

Release it.  Let go.

Hard as it may be for you to believe … the Universe is smarter than you are.

Never assume …

… that just because you don’t do big things in life that you’re not living on purpose.

Nothing is small in this perfect Universe.  Every piece of the puzzle fits together perfectly.

Don’t compare.  Trust the Universe’s wisdom.  Surrender to It.  Listen.  Follow Its guidance.

You may be more on purpose than those to whom you compare yourself.

Never assume …

… that a Dark Night of the Soul will last forever.

What you seek is closest when you’re about to quit.

Don’t quit.  Surrender.

There’s a difference between quitting and surrendering.

Meditate on that difference.

Pray that you can recognize the moment when you’ve done enough and when it’s time to let go.

Never assume …

… that just because you don’t see instant results that you’ve failed.

Patience, release, and trust are the seeds of success.

When God says, “I’ve got this,” know that you have succeeded.

Never assume …

… your life doesn’t matter.

You are a child of an ever-powerful, ever-loving God.

And God isn’t done with you yet.

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Why does this keep happening?

sunsetIf something keeps showing up in your life, it’s because you haven’t learned its lesson yet.

That’s the common theory in the world of “Your life is broken, this is how I can fix it for you” gurus.

Sometimes it can take years for that thing — whatever it is — to show up again … years during  which you were comfortable thinking you’d finally conquered the demon.

Years during which you thought you had successfully figured out a way to deal with it.

Years when you slowly let your guard down.

Years you forgot the demon even existed.

And then one day … when you’re blissfully living in demon-conquering amnesia, it smacks you upside the head so unexpectedly that you are left battered and quivering, not knowing when — or if — you will ever recover.

Welcome to the turning point.  The road less traveled.  The path to your passion.

Now, I mean no disrespect to the gurus who share with you just enough information to entice you to buy their book, course, or attend their next seminar.

But consider this.

What if that something shows up again in your life, not because you missed its lesson, but because you missed its value — and its joy — the first time around.

Perhaps you were too young and eager to appreciate it.  Perhaps you were so busy focusing on your next step, that you fast forwarded through a priceless and precious time in your life.

And the Universe, in Its infinite wisdom, forgives you and offers the gift again so that you can accept the beauty of what you were too blind to see when It first offered the gift to you.

Take, for example, relationships that ended in pain and bitterness only to be rekindled years or decades later.  Or the opportunity to come back to a career you put on hold — or abandoned altogether — while you pursued something you thought would bring you greater fulfillment.

These are not lessons to be learned.  These are opportunities to appreciate things you once abandoned while you were too busy learning the lessons that prevented you from appreciating them.

It’s a subtle but crucial difference.

And now you get to go back and relive those precious moments with the wisdom of hindsight to guide you.

What keeps showing up in your life that you thought you had been done with?

Instead of pushing it away, try living in the moment and basking in its opportunity.  You never know where it might take you.

It’s your do over.  And this time you just might do it right.

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Hot dogs for breakfast

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Sadness is but a wall between two gardens. — Khalil Gibran

“I’m so sad,” the little girl said to me.

We’d been having a marvelous day, riding our bikes, feeding the ducks by the edge of a pond, and delighting in the everyday pleasures that children find so easily and adults usually take for granted.

The casual way in which she spoke those words shook me to the core, forcing me to consciously remember to exhale.

I’ve known her all my life, and from day one she’s been a happy-go-lucky little creature who has taught me that life is meant to be lived and laughed.

Her sudden shift from joy to sadness further compounded the importance of her statement, stopping me in my tracks, not knowing what to do to make her feel well … unsad.

If she’d been a grownup, I’d have invited her out for a drink.  After all, that’s what grownups do when we want to quickly feel good about ourselves.

But that’s just a bandaid for what’s really at the root of our discomfort.

Happy hour does nothing to ease the other 23 hours of discontent. It just postpones the inevitable soul searching that leads to the core of what’s really making us miserable.  But we just don’t have time for that, do we?

All that aside, asking a 7-year-old out for a drink was clearly not the solution in this case.

“What are you sad about?” I asked.

“I don’t really know,” she replied.

Ah, the wisdom of little children. Admitting that you don’t know is the first step in opening yourself up to the answers you seek.

The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy. — Jim Rohn

I struggled for something to say.

“Sometimes doing something silly and spontaneous helps me to stop being sad,” I said.  It was the  best I could come up with at such short notice.

She thought about it for a second, a smile toying with the corners of her mouth.

“You mean like having hot dogs for breakfast?” she asked with a slight giggle.

“Something like that,” I said.

The prospect of having hot dogs for breakfast seemed to distract her enough to help her forget that she was sad.  Or maybe just saying she was sad out loud was what she needed  to dissipate the feeling and whatever power it threatened to exert over her.

But it got me to thinking — because that’s what grownups do … we think.  Sometimes too much.

Why, as adults, do we hide our sadness? Why do we see it as a sign of weakness? Too taboo to even bring up.

Every human walks around with a certain kind of sadness. They may not wear it on their sleeves, but it’s there if you look deep. — Taraji P. Henson

Sadness is acceptable in situations such as death or loss, but overall, it’s not a welcome subject.

After all, no one wants to be a Debbie Downer.

But someone has to be.

Someone has to have the courage to  challenge a society that insists we deny our most fearful of feelings, and accept that admitting our sadness is the first step to genuine happiness.

Otherwise we are destined to continue to live our lives seeking the next big thing that we think will make us happy, only to reach the end and realize had we stopped covering up our sadness with distractions, happiness would have walked beside us all along.

The word ‘happiness’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. — Carl Jung

Why was the little girl sad? If she could have expressed it, here’s what she would have said:

She was sad that what once was will never be again. Sad that what is now will one day be what once was. Sad that people spend too much time fighting and arguing about things on the surface, when the underlying theme is that all we want is to be loved and understood.

Sometimes you just have to give yourself permission to be sad. And maybe eating hot dogs for breakfast with a little girl is what you need to feel the joy again.

How do I know?

Because that little girl is me.

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