Saturday, April 28, 2012

Say What?

Here's something to ponder. We are the stories we tell about ourselves.

No, no, wait. Read it again. The point here is not that we tell stories or that we tell them about ourselves. The point is that we ARE those stories. There's a difference. Jane knows people (and admits to being one herself, though she is working on that) who do this all the time.

"I'm so clueless that..." "I can't..." "I'm not..." "My body isn't..." "My life isn't..." "My potential isn't..."

Sounding familiar?

It's sneaky, this story telling. It quietly slips into conversation, once...twice...look out, because after the third time it might easily become a habit. And that's okay if the stories are about how you handle adversity (by rising to the occasion) or how you confront challenge (with squared shoulders and a good attitude) or how you are proud of your good strong body and your creative mind and your serene inner peace. But you know what? Those things aren't often in the stories. Because somehow along the way, we (as a society, as a culture) decided that the good stories, the ones that build us up in a nicely positive way, aren't what people want to hear. They want to hear about our flabby arms and our inability to get over hurt. They want to hear about our negatives. Makes a better story and assures an audience ready to listen to each word. If we talked about the good stuff, if we told positive stories about ourselves, maybe they would whisper about how we think we're all that.

Okay, okay. Jane gets it. Nobody wants people whispering that we love ourselves too much. But still...isn't loving ourselves way better than putting ourselves down at every opportunity?

The obvious answer is that yes, it's way better.

Jane can't even think of enough good adjectives to convey how much better. And Jane knows a lot of adjectives! Basically, without excessive adjective embellishment, it comes down to a simple difference. Do you want to become the stories about a flabby-armed person holding onto hurt who has no luck in life and would probably step in poo if there is any in the vicinity, especially when wearing those new heels? Or do you want to become the stories that show a person who loves herself, who allows herself time to grieve but then makes a plan for moving on, who laughingly avoids the poo?

This is all very specific and Jane realizes that some of the stories we tell are simply...stories. No harm in that, right? Sure, no harm except that the little stories have a way of repeating themselves until they really do become us. Or we become them.

Why are we so hard on ourselves? We offer compassion and understanding to friends. We hug away their hurts. We listen gently when they need it and we laugh freely when the mood is lighter. And we encourage them. That's the big thing. We encourage our friends and our family and our children. What happened to encouraging ourselves? Since when were we exempt from that need?

You might be thinking that you don't do this, you don't make negative comments about yourself. Maybe you don't. But it's Jane's guess that you don't realize how many sneak into your daily conversations, either with yourself or others. So Jane is going to challenge you (and herself) to keep track.

Every time you think "that was stupid" about something you did, every time you put yourself down, every time you describe yourself in a "can't, won't, don't" kind of way, make a note of it. Every single time. Jane bets you will be surprised.

You might be thinking that you get along just fine, thanks, so there's no need to keep track of anything. But...what if you still did, what if you still paid attention and discovered the negatives in your conversations and in your stories and what if you decided that getting along fine is...well...fine, but how much better would you get along without all that? What if? What if?

What if the stories we tell about ourselves are kind and loving and brave and positive? And we believed truly that we ARE those things? What if we taught our daughters to do that as well? What if we embraced our positives instead of emphasizing our negatives?

Jane will leave you to consider the possible outcome of such behavior. She feels that it would be not only life changing but quite possibly world changing.

The stories we tell about ourselves become our reality.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Paragraph breaks

Jane apologizes for the lengthy muddle that was her most recent post. Blogger has changed formats and along with that, apparently, the ability to create paragraph breaks has been lost. Jane hopes this loss is temporary.

Jane ponders yin and yang

It's all about balance, you know. The idea is that you lead a balanced life and things work out rather nicely. Right? Is Jane right? Balance your energy, balance your eating, balance your interactions, balance your work and play, balance, balance, balance. Create and maintain a good balance and it's all smooth sailing from there, yes?

Why, then, when balance seems to be in order, do bad things happen to good people? And for that matter, why then do good things happen to bad people? Where's the balance in that?

Jane has heard various theories about why this happens. Some say that it's karmic debt being repaid and so if you were a stinker in previous lives the universe will extract retribution this time around. Jane supposes that could also be the reason some stinkers in this life seem to get such an easy ride. Where they *that* good at some point in their vast histories? Meh. Jane finds this less than satisfying.

Another theory is that God is up there playing Point the Finger of Fate. It's God's will, people say. Ummm...seriously? It's God's will that babies die? It's God's will that happy families are blown apart by bad behavior and bad choices? It's God's will that diseases have no cure? This paints an image of a God that Jane can't accept. Her God doesn't peek down one day after consulting the list in His hand and decide to smite this one and that one. You there, you in the red plaid shirt. It's your turn!

Nope. No, thanks. When it comes to karma, Jane does believe that we create an energy for ourselves, something that is at times palpable. There are people who radiate such joy and positive energy that others are drawn to them and respond with more of the same. There are others who radiate such negativity that people withdraw. This doesn't mean that the joyful and positive people are spared challenges. It does mean, though, that when confronted with these challenges they have a stampede of loving friends coming to help. We can't live good enough or perfect enough lives to avoid the bad stuff. We can live in a way that keeps us from being alone when the bad stuff happens.

And as for God? Jane has never and will never accept that God creates the bad stuff. God does not create the whammies or double whammies that sneak up and surprise us. He's there to comfort us, inspire us, strengthen us and hold our hands, but not to punish us.

How, then, to explain why these things happen? Maybe there is no explanation. No tidy reason why. Maybe the point of seeking balance is not for the ultimate protection from stuff that happens but instead is for the ultimate survival kit when it does. Balance is not a talisman to keep you safe. It is, though, a wonderful tool to keep you secure.

Why do good things happen to bad people? Jane has no earthly idea. She does believe, though, that bad people do not have the balance to ultimately embrace the good and so it will slip through their fingers and they will be left grasping exactly nothing.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Jane believes there is no reason why. No explanation, nothing that can make sense of it all. She also believes that the balance in their lives creates the strength they need to cope. Step by step, with their hands held securely by people who care, with their faith in place and their hope and their love leading the way. And because of that, they consider themselves blessed.

Maybe that's the greatest balance of all. Finding blessings in the midst of despair.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Surrender is not a bad word

Sounds like it, right? Jane's mental image of the word surrender is one of an army, bowed with fatigue, laying down their weapons and awaiting their fate. Official definitions seem to concur.

Verb: cease resistance to an enemy or opponent, submit to their authority.
Noun: the action of surrendering.
Synonyms: yield, submit, give up, capitulate.

Well, okay then. Who can really get excited about that?

But, wait...what about this quote that Jane read recently?

Surrender is faith that the power of love can accomplish anything...even when you can not foresee the outcome.
Deepak Chopra

That doesn't sound so bad. Jane kind of likes the idea of having faith about the power of love and what it can accomplish. So in this case, surrendering is a GOOD thing. And this kind of surrender is far more applicable in Jane's life because she can't recall ever needing to lay down her weapons and await her fate.. She feels rather blessed by this.

Now when Jane searched for more quotes about surrender, she found many that made it sound like the very last thing you would ever want to do. But then she came across someone who seemed to be thinking like Deepak Chopra.

Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.
Gail Sheehy

Oooh, and here's a good one.

Surrender to what is. Say "yes" to life--and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.
Eckhart Tolle

So lemme see here. Surrendering our tight hold on our own circumstances, on what we deem essential in our present and in our future, means unclenching that tight hold on it all. Relaxing the grasp, letting our hands rest peacefully, letting our thoughts calm. If we, as Eckhart Tolle suggests, surrender to what is, we are no longer quite so intent on what should be. Maybe that feels a bit wobbly, a bit less than secure. Can we believe that very feeling could lead to growth?

Jane is reminded of those gadgets...and there have been many over the years...that challenge our balance. The notion being that your core works harder to regain balance and the harder work results in a tighter core and...drum roll, please...better balance. Aha! So the fitness gurus have just proved what philosophers have been postulating about all along. Finding ourselves in situations where we do not have absolute control results in growth.

It's not easy to balance on one of these contraptions. It's not meant to be easy. Jane has a large exercise ball and it's not uncommon, when she is attempting to get in exactly the right position to work her abs, for the ball to shoot out from underneath Jane's...well, you know. Plop! Jane lands on the floor. Confession: sometimes this results in Jane frowning at the exercise ball and there might even have been times when she kicked it once or twice, just to show that darn ball who was boss. Or at least who was boss when Jane was back on her feet.

You can't kick at life, though, however rewarding that might be. You can only hang on, regain your balance and remember that growth, when it comes, will be all the more rewarding. Really. Yes, really.

Marianne Williamson writes about how something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. Jane believes she is talking about loving ourselves and offering love to the world, neither of which are easy things to do. So what happens?

We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change, the world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world.

Surrender, when viewed that way, is not a bad word. It does challenge our balance, though. For a stronger core, isn't it worth a try?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Jane flows with the current

Change is scary, exciting, overwhelming, scintillating. It can make your spirit soar or your stomach hurt. But one thing Jane has learned? Change is inevitable.

Jane thinks of change as a current. Sometimes it moves along very slowly so you almost don't realize you've gone from point A to point B. Gentle, easy, painless. You arrive at the new destination, climb out of the boat and stretch your legs with anticipation. Here I am, ready for action!

Sometimes the current is swifter and the ride somewhat less comfortable. Maybe there is some hand clenching the side of the boat going on. Maybe the scenery slips by so quickly that once the destination is reached there has to be a bit of recovery. Whew, that was fast. Okay, time to steady those legs and step carefully onto the shore. Hang on, take a few deep breaths. Look around. Regroup. Gingerly move on.

Any of this sound familiar? Jane has experienced change in both those forms and she bets you have, too. The second type might take a bit longer to embrace, but once those legs regain their strength after the bumpy ride things generally go along in a way that, while different, isn't overwhelming.

And then there's the other kind of change. The one where you don't even realize you're in a boat at all. In fact, you're not. You're standing on the shore minding your own business when the current reaches up and grabs you. And what's more, it's not a calm, quiet current. It's not a quicker but manageable current. This is a swift, rolling current of change and no matter how you hold onto the shore, to the branch that might happen to be within reach, you're not going to be able to remain in place. Nope. No way, no how. You can cling with determination but at some point the current will loosen your fingers and you'll be bobbing downstream before you know what has happened.

It's not a gentle ride. Jane has discovered this and she can say, with the assurance of anyone who has experienced the dazed confusion of such a turbulent ride, that the only way to get through it is to simply let go and flow with the current rather than fighting it. Eventually you'll wash up on shore and crawl to some point that is not, thankfully, moving. And you'll rest there and breathe. And that's it for awhile. That's enough for awhile.

Ultimately your breathing becomes deeper and calmer and you regain feeling in your legs and you might even stretch and sit up and look around. There's no rush to stand just yet. The landscape is completely different. Survey a bit. Nobody expects you to leap to your feet and navigate through the new terrain.

Jane knows the urge to walk back to the river and look upstream and sigh. She knows the longing to find a boat that will take her right back to where she started. There's no such boat, though. There's only Jane and her new location and the aftermath of change that brought her to this point. And the only real option is to turn away from the river and face the trees and the paths that disappear into whatever the future might bring. The only real option is to put one foot in front of the other and move towards those paths. And pick one. And bravely march into the unknown.

Change is scary, exciting, overwhelming and scintillating. Change is inevitable.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Seize what you have been given

Yes, that's right. Seize it. Grab onto it and embrace it and make whatever you can that is good and beautiful and right with what you have been handed. Not just seize the moment. Not just seize the day. But seize the life.

Why? Because it's not a dress rehearsal. This is what you have and if you spend moment after moment wishing things were different you are essentially squandering that time. You are squandering those moments. Is your life perfect? Probably not. Can you seize that imperfect life and make the absolute most of it? Most definitely you can.

Jane wishes this and Jane wishes that, just like most everybody else. Jane thinks "oh, if only" as many times as the rest of you, she is sure. But Jane also knows that "oh, if only" gets you absolutely nowhere in terms of progress or happiness or satisfaction. Jane doesn't want to go absolutely nowhere. She wants to grab onto life. She wants to inhale life with a great big gobble of enthusiasm and she wants to seize her joy and her dreams and her possibilities. Oh, yes, seize them and use them to create a life worth living.

We wait for perfection. Truly, it's no surprise that we do, considering how society insists that the next latest and greatest whatever will be coming soon to fulfill our every need. The next gadget. The next car. The next person. We wait, because once that perfection comes our way, THEN we can embrace the moment with enthusiasm. Then we'll be happy. Then we'll be fulfilled.

Only...and maybe you've noticed this...perfection doesn't come. Or if it comes, it doesn't linger because soon there is the next latest and greatest coming along and we all know that it will be what brings us happiness and fulfillment. It's coming soon. We'll wait.

Jane doesn't want to wait. Jane wants to take what she has been given, no matter how imperfect that might seem, and she wants to gallop around shouting "Whoopee! Look what I've got and better yet, look what I'm doing with it!" Oh, yeah, baby. Jane wants to seize what she has been given and spin it into pure gold.

Seize what you have been given. Seize life. If it isn't perfect, learn from it. Take the lessons and the love and let the rest go. And when you do that, you'll be able to open your arms and seize whatever else comes your way.

You can wait for perfection or you can create perfection. You can wait and wonder and wish and watch time slip steadily by. Or you can grab on to what you have been given, you can seize life and you can soar. It's a choice. What's yours?