Monday, December 19, 2011

Jane and the wolf

There's a Cherokee legend that Jane likes. Keep in mind, it might not be Cherokee in origin at all and it might not be a legend. Jane didn't check the origin or the authenticity because she feels that doesn't matter. What does matter is the point. And what is the point? Well, it's all about wolves.

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life...

A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

"One is evil...he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt and ego.

The other is good...he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

This same fight is going on inside you...and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old chief simply replied...

"The one you feed."


It's hard to feed the right wolf. That other one is hungry, too, and besides that he's pushy. But the more you feed the good wolf, the stronger he grows. And at some point you might be aware of the bad wolf sliding back into the shadows. Jane is convinced he never really gives up, but perhaps when denied what he wants most he becomes nearly dormant.

Like many legends, this one makes the right choice sound almost too simple. Feed the good wolf and all will be well. If it really were that easy, why aren't we all filled with those characteristics, those wonderful traits that accompany the good wolf? Because (and this is just Jane's bit of philosophy here) it is often very, very easy to convince ourselves that we are actually feeding the good wolf when in fact we are tossing food willy nilly to the bad one. It is very, very easy to become so wrapped up in justifications for our own behavior and choices and to feel entitled and deserving of what we want without any regard to what we are actually encouraging inside us.

Let's be clear. Jane is no saint. She's not standing here offering judgment about anyone's choices or anyone's wolves. She can't. She's far too busy dealing with her own. But she likes this legend enough to want to share it and she likes it enough to have it printed out and hanging on her refrigerator. What better spot, yes? Whenever she reaches for food, the wise Cherokee chief's words are right in front of her. She can nurture the body and consider how she is nurturing the soul all at the same time. Multitasking, Jane style.

The thing is, current life events have brought this lesson home time and time again. Jane realizes the temptation in her own life to wallow in resentment, pride and ego. She knows the lure of anger and self-doubt. Some might offer that Jane is entitled to feel a good bit of that. Jane, however, disagrees. As tempting as it might be to feed the bad wolf, just for a bit, the truth is that negative hunger is rarely satisfied with a snack here and there. Negativity and everything else associated with the bad wolf, demands more no matter how much you give it. Soon, all too soon, there is little room for anything else.

The good wolf also has a constant appetite and feeding it again and again also results in little room for anything else. But choosing to feed this wolf means you are filled with so much that is beautiful and bright and positive. You are so filled with it, you glow. Jane knows this to be true and she would far rather embrace those attributes. Even when it's not easy. Even when part of her wants to wallow down with the bad wolf and work up a great big sulk.

Jane is determined to turn her back on the bad wolf and to reach out time and time again to the good wolf. She arms herself with positive energy and daily gratitude and words of affirmation and she notices that every day the good wolf gets stronger. And when that happens, so does Jane.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jane the Alchemist

Sometimes change is forced upon us. That doesn't mean we can't then take the reins of change and create what we want, what we envision, what we dream. Isn't that far more appealing than the unexpected whomp to the emotional balance of our lives when we feel powerless in the face of someone else's choices? Takes a bit to realize this and a bit more to actually embrace the notion. But when that happens? Jane the One Who Got No Vote becomes someone else entirely. Meet Jane the Alchemist.

Right. But what's this alchemy stuff? Sounds like Harry Potter has turned to mainstream midlife America and is doling out wands to all. What's alchemy got to do with anything?

Definition, first, Then philosophy. Alchemy is a medieval chemical science and philosophy aiming to change metal into gold. Jane's scratching her head. You, too? Nod, smile and let's move on. Alchemy is also the power to transform something common into something special. There you have it. Transformation, beautiful and mysterious and thrilling. And, it should be noted, powerful. The lack of power that had Jane's shoulders drooping and her mood less than sunny is now transformed (oooh, there it is again!) into options and choices and dreams. Good stuff? You bet it is.

Big loss, overwhelming challenges, unexpected rejection and any number of other difficulties can leave us feeling figuratively...and sometimes literally...face down in the garden mud. But there comes a point when the wallowing needs to stop. Why bother? Because you are worth it. Maybe your boss doesn't think so or life doesn't seem to think so or your spouse obviously doesn't think so but you not only think so, you know so. Yes, you do. Jane went through her moments of grief stricken wallowing when she felt that truly all had ended. She let herself think it, dwell on it and sob about it until she realized that it was time to do something other than thinking, dwelling and sobbing about one person's choice. Dick made his choice, Jane reminded herself, and it was his right to do so. But should that choice result in increased profits for the Kleenex Corporation forever more?

No. Jane realized that she now needed to take action for herself. She didn't look in the mirror and see an alchemist, not right away. At first she saw a sad woman whose plans and dreams and hopes had been pulled from her and ground to a discarded dust beneath the feet of the man she had loved. Wow, she thought. Sucks to be me. Then she practiced pulling her shoulders back and looking at herself with a nod (which wasn't very convincing at first) and reminding herself that she was good and wonderful and powerful. She didn't necessarily believe it but she kept saying it. And once that sunk in a little bit Jane was able to find a few other things that helped. Things like affirmations and journaling and yoga and Zumba and a bit of this and a bit of that, all of which will be discussed later on. The point is, Jane took charge. From the moment she looked in the mirror and told herself a truth that she eventually believed, she took charge and she stopped being powerless. She began the process of transforming. She became an alchemist.

No magic robes, no magician wands are required. We are all, Jane thinks, something special. We simply have to reach for that and nurture it and applaud it...and ourselves. We are, all of us, alchemists with the power and the potential to create a world for ourselves of wonder and beauty and dreams.

Jane intends to do exactly that.

Monday, December 12, 2011

One more mini-rant...

...and then Jane promises to stop. Truly.

But this has to be said and it kinda sorta relates to the previous disgruntled ramble about long vowels and excessive sympathy when a bit of you-go-girl enthusiasm is what's needed. Now Jane realizes that it's hard to tell what is needed. Isn't that the challenge faced when dealing with anybody at any time? Still, it seems like a good general rule that telling someone (repeatedly) that they look tired is never the best option.

Yes, that's what this mini-rant is all about. And it applies to everyone, not just Jane and not just people going through major life transitions who might be considered prickly if not downright difficult. Telling someone they look tired does nothing at all for them. Nothing. Not one blessed thing.

Jane has had recent experience with this exact situation.

"You look very tired, Jane."
"Ah. Well, um...thanks for your concern. I actually feel fairly perky."

Now let's just pretend the conversation stopped there. It did not, but let's pretend that it did. Jane would have walked away feeling a bit concerned about her apparent fatigue but not overwhelmed by the desire to race to the nearest store and buy facial restoratives. She might wish that her friend did not need to always point out how tired she looked. Maybe she would try to put more spring in her step. Still, the issue would have come and gone and Jane would have continued about her business still feeling fairly perky.

What actually happened was that after Jane's response her friend continued to point out how tired she looked. Several times. Several times too many, in Jane's opinion. This becomes awkward very quickly because there is no response to repeated comments on your level of fatigue. If you keep pointing out that you feel just fine, the conversation spins into something that is nearly an argument about how you feel. Absurd? Indeed. A gymnastic Jane might leap and bound into a few handsprings, just to prove her point. That seems unnecessarily extreme, though. A tolerant Jane will try to change the subject and will remind herself that this friend is prone to such behavior and Means Well. A frustrated Jane might point out that her friend's hair is looking unusually limp these days and wonders if she is getting enough nutrients in her diet.

Blogger Jane will not own up to any of those strategies, though she will point out that she is not gymnastically inclined, that her tolerance for that comment from the same friend far too many times in recent months is dwindling and that it was shamefully gratifying to watch her friend walk away with a hand stroking her hair and a concerned expression on her face that had nothing to do with Jane's supposed fatigue.

Yes, it must be said. Jane is human. But, really? Who doesn't feel tired when told they look tired, even if their energy had been humming along at its proper level?

It's a silly thing. A silly, petty thing. But that's what mini-rants are all about. Jane suggests that before you become the Means Well friend who points out fatigue (real or imagined) every single time you see someone, you stop. Think. And check your hair in the mirror. Might it be looking a little limp these days? Jane thinks it might.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jane, disgruntled

First, let it be known far and wide that Jane appreciates sympathy, empathy, encouragement, support and all cheerleading in general. She's encountered a wide range of wonderful folks who take boosting her ego and demonstrating care for her well-being to a rather humbling level. Names might not be named, but the love is felt. And returned.

And then there's the other kind of folks. Good people, most assuredly, with equally good intentions. But please allow Jane a moment of candid response to their oozing sincerity. Succinctly, it needs to stop. There is a huge difference between checking on Jane, between inquiring about Jane's level of fabulousness and between bellowing approval of that level (Jane has a neighbor who does exactly that from across the street and her volume makes this quite powerful. Somewhat overwhelming at times, but powerful nonetheless) and...the other type of sympathy. The type that stops them in their tracks, whether while walking through their yard or driving down the street. The type that causes expressions of melancholy to fill their faces. The type that changes their voices from whatever pitch, tone and volume might be normal to long-voweled, low-pitched, oh-poor-you expressions of grief.

"Jaaaaannne. How aaarrrrreee youuuuuuuu?"

Well, gee. Jane was feeling pretty darn spectacular a moment ago. But now she's wallowing in a wave of good intentions. Still, she rallies and replies with a smile and something along the lines of "Super, thank you." You'd think that would give these good people a proper nudge. You'd think that then they would shake off the Poor Jane blues and take a good long look and realize that in spite of everything there really is a sparkling person standing in front of them. "You know what?" They would say. "You look super. Way to go, Jane!"

Ahhh, but unfortunately this does not often happen. Instead, Mr. or Mrs. Means Well can't go with the cheerful flow. They are sure that Jane is only putting on a brave front and that she is secretly getting in touch with her inner Eeyore. "Ohhhh," they respond. "Reeaaaaally?" And they shake their heads and stretch the vowels out to impossible lengths.

At this point Jane must fight the temptation to walk up and shake Mr. or Mrs. Means Well until they lose either their long vowels and sad expressions or until they lose all inclination to ever stop and speak to Jane again. But she must not do that, because then the neighborhood would be fueled with rumors that Jane is Out of Control. The grief has done her in, poor thing. Poooooor thiiiiiing.

Jane knows that the Means Well people really do mean well. And she also knows that reaching into the car and slapping them hard upside their sympathetic heads will not solve anything and will only feel good for a brief moment. A very brief moment. A very brief and highly rewarding moment. Okay, but no. Can't do that. So Jane beams joy rays at them, or at least she does until she realizes that the combination of joy rays and holding in what she would really like to say actually results in a somewhat alarming baring of her teeth. No wonder the Means Well crowd scurries away.

The point of this disgruntled rant is that Jane wishes you, the gracious reader, to consider your tone when greeting someone who has gone through a Big Awful. Take your cue from them. If they cast themselves into your arms and weep, hold them and rock and make those oddly comforting murmurs that nobody can really understand beyond the tone of caring that they offer. If they shuffle and sigh and slump their shoulders, draw out those vowels. They need them. But if they are marching along with their head up and their shoulders back and an expression of "I really AM that fabulous" on their face, stand back and smile and maybe even applaud.

Jane's Neighbor Across the Street: "Jane! How are you doing, sweetie?"
Jane: "I am fabulous and amazing!"
Jane's Neighbor Across the Street: "You're d*** right you are!" (this is followed by enthusiastic hooting and arm waving, which might sound extreme but is actually rather pleasing).

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The state of Jane-ness

Why Jane? Oh, I don't know. Because I'm old enough to remember the classic learning to read books that featured Jane as a representative of every little girl and Dick as a representative of every little boy. I imagine that Jane grew up and discovered Dick lived up to his name. Oddly prophetic, those books.

I also imagine Jane became a wonderfully independent young woman who took charge of her life and who welcomed men into it on her own terms and as equal partners in the relationship. At least that's what I hope happened. Sometimes, though, the plan goes a bit askew and the best dreams turn into something else entirely. What's Jane to do then? Well, she's got a choice. She can lie in the mud and wail as Dick plants a foot on her back as he walks to his car. Unappealing choice, that one. Or she can cry her tears and bid a sad farewell to the dreams she cherished, and then she can hitch up her panties and start over.

Because, you know...maybe Jane learned a few things along the way. Maybe she realizes that this is Dick's loss and maybe she knows that she will be just fine, thank you very much. She likes herself, smart woman. She doesn't hate men, either. Not as a general rule. But right now she agrees with something she read that compared men to high heels. They make you feel real pretty for awhile, but eventually you just want to put them back in the closet.

Jane is starting over. She could be any age, but for purposes of this blog she'll be fifty. She'll be fifty years old, standing at the starting line of a new stage in life and she'll be giddy and scared and happy and disgruntled and a whole realm of other emotions depending on the mood and the moment. And you know what? That's okay.

The state of Jane-ness is going to evolve because Jane is evolving.

Go, Jane, go!