is for Trust
The idea for 26 Days to Practice Peace came to me months ago as a list of 26 words flew through my fingertips onto a page in my notebook. I thought what a great idea to create something for people to work their way through for 26 days in the hopes that at the end there would be a subtle shift in their life from one place, maybe isolation, maybe stagnation, maybe scattered feelings to a place of comfort, focus, and confidence.
I made the list of 26 words in a matter of moments not really thinking about them at all. Then the list sat and sat and sat for a few months until now. I have never changed one of the words corresponding to its letter. I think the word that popped for me is a word that I myself need to spend a day with and spend some time getting to know and understand why it came to me on the list.
Trust is very much one of those words that needs some serious work on my part.
Lately I have given up the need to feel in control of my life and the direction it is taking. I tell myself that I trust the Universe to point me in the right direction to learn all that I need to learn. I just need to consistently show up each day dedicated to being the best version of myself, take what life offers, learn the lessons presented, and keep the faith so to speak. Trusting the Universe is a piece of cake for me; trusting my fellow man is where I am struggling.
Like everyone I’m sure, I’ve been let down by the people I know, the people I love, the people I trust. My problem is that after a few let downs I have chosen to withdraw and stop investing myself in trusting others. When people say they will do something for me my typical reply is “No thank you, that’s not necessary.” Why do I do that? Because over the years people I loved and depended on to deliver on their promises did not. It occurred to me that it was safer to stop asking for things—like help—because if I never asked I could never feel let down and disappointed by others.
A small example of this is a story I tell to demonstrate that “let down” feeling. It happened about 20 years ago around Valentine’s Day. I was asked by my significant other (at the time) what I wanted for Valentine’s Day. I said that if he really wanted to do anything at all for me it would be to take the dogs to get groomed. Not very romantic on my part, but it was a luxury I wanted to give my dogs and myself because this way I would have to bathe them. I reiterated how desperately I wanted this; I said I didn’t want any Victoria’s Secret (the typical gift) and if he really wanted to be my hero he would take the dogs to the groomers for me. When I got home from work on February 14th I found two lovely pink boxes from Victoria’s Secret on my bed.
These types of events are what I started to notice was a pattern of me asking for A and getting B in return. So I ultimately have stopped asking because I don’t trust people anymore. This is a dangerous place to live—not trusting others. My dog/under garment example is not a huge betrayal or let down in the grand scheme of things, but my loss of trust in others is a result of a series of these tiny events along with much larger and more painful series of abuses both emotional and physical, that have made me perhaps a little too stubborn and resistant to seek help or kindnesses offered by others.
I have decided to use this day to continue to trust that the lessons I need to learn will present themselves to me in ways that I can understand and resolve with little pain. I will work on learning to take people at their word and more importantly to not feel as though I am somehow to blame if they don’t follow through, and to not determine I wasn’t worthy of their follow through if they are unable to deliver, and to stop assuming that just because I may ask for a certain type of help in the form of A that perhaps B can’t be useful too.
It is okay to ask for help and to trust the people in your life, but if other people don’t behave in ways that we perhaps expect them too, well duh…that’s not really realistic in the first place is it? The only person I can control is me; I need to re-enter the world of trusting my fellow man and letting go of my expectations.
I will enter my day with a sense of trust that things will go exactly as they should, and if someone offers something I will trust that they mean it and hold only good intentions for me.
is for Service
A 24 hour period to be of service to anything and anyone in need is where today will take us. Look around to see where it is you can lend a hand. It’s true that helping others is really helping ourselves. Whether or not I get acknowledged for providing a little extra help has become completely unnecessary. I admit I used to want a little bit of praise for how wonderful I was to do this or that for you, but the more help I gave the less I wanted any attention. I grew out of it I guess you could say.
It is easier than you may think to find little ways to be of service. Picking up bits of paper as you walk the halls at work, throwing away the trash on the sidewalk you find as you make it from point A to point B. Opening a door for someone, sweeping the sidewalk, mowing the side yard shared with a neighbor, or letting some frazzled looking person ahead of you in line.
Simple things that might impact someone else’s day are acts of service. Exploring the extra things that need help getting finished around you might lead to exploring the larger things around you where you can lend a hand. Finding the time within your life to take part in larger service projects like neighborhood clean up, food banks, or animal shelters can seem overwhelming because of how busy your life feels. Finding that elusive time starts with finding the small bits of time within your current day that you can fit in some extra help. Start small perhaps by picking up a few extra things at the store when you’re shopping and dropping them into an extra box that you keep in your pantry, closet, or under a desk and when it gets full move it to the trunk of your car and when your trunk gets full of boxes drop them all at a shelter or food bank. Maybe look around your house and find a few belongings that sit and stare at you unused and longing to be useful to someone else.
You never have to leap into the deep end first thing if you don’t want to. Being of service to others becomes a habit if you start small and introduce the mindset to yourself with the little things. Remember that just because it’s a small act of service doesn’t mean it isn’t filling a giant need for someone else.
is for Respect
One of the three definitions of respect in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary is “due regard for the feelings or rights of others.” This is the respect I am offering today.
The primary definition (if they are written in a hierarchy) typically focuses on an admiration based a person’s qualities or achievements, but this is not where I place my attention today because I think I might neglect many people and things if I waited for them to impress me with a particular quality or achievement.
In fact I prefer to extend respect to others regardless of whether or not I agree with them, like them, or even know anything about them. The feelings and rights of others…a person’s right to maintain an opinion contradictory to my own…I respect that. I respect a person willing to disagree with me politely. I don’t like confrontation; I enjoy civil discourse; I love a good debate; what I don’t love is another person’s refusal to let me speak my piece. I will, however, respect the fact that they have different feelings, opinions, behaviors, or social protocol than I and then will then remove myself from the unpleasant interaction.
Because I respect you never means I need to continue to interact with you if I am no longer enjoying the interaction. Disagreeing with you doesn’t imply a lack of respect. Any behavior toward you that is mean, hurtful, malicious, or spiteful would demonstrate a lack of respect for your existence, and this is the kind of behavior I avoid because it literally causes me physical pain to witness these types of interactions.
Lately I’ve had many interactions that feel either confrontational to me or that feel as if I have been completely disregarded as being present in the room or conversation. I’m not a big fan of these feelings, but I realize they have something to teach me about how I interact with others. I will work on paying deep attention to others in order to feel less ignored, and I will work on listening intently to others in order to help myself feel heard.
I firmly believe “you get what you give” so I offer up my respect for the day to all the people, places, plants, and animals that I encounter. You deserve it.
is for Quiet
In the not so distant past when I was busy being a stay-at-home/work-at-home Mom, I noticed a shift as I was working at—but not really succeeding in my business endeavors. I noticed that I would get nervous as Sunday would end and Monday would begin.
All the noise and activity from the weekend would end as I would send my daughter off to school and close the back door. The peace and quiet I had wished for mid-Saturday had finally arrived and because I’m an introvert I desperately needed this time because I love to be re-energized by some good old fashioned alone time, but during this past year Monday mornings started to feel different to me. The house was so quiet it hurt my ears. Really. The silence was so loud it seemed to echo a noiselessness in my head that was a little scary. I had never been afraid of the quiet before. I had never dreaded alone time before.
I had to make friends with this new quiet or I was certain I would go crazy. Some people love to turn on music or the T.V. to drown out the silence, but I really do appreciate the quiet. I love it when it’s quiet, but it had started to feel different and I found myself turning on the T.V. to avoid dealing with the constant noise of my quiet.
I think my “new quiet” was holding a mirror to me and my life. I had to face some pretty big truths about my life. The biggest one was probably the fact that I was hiding. I had been hiding from admitting that I needed to make some major changes in my business and my life. I was hiding from the truth that I wanted to be writing but I wasn’t writing. I was hiding from the truth that I was angry about several things that had recently occurred and instead of admitting I was just plain pissed off I wanted to “behave” and put a forgiving face on it for others. I was hiding from the truth that I needed help but was afraid to reach out to friends for fear of refusal.
This new quiet was so damn loud that there were moments when I would walk through the house and scream to drown it out as I moved from task to task. I had to start talking to it, asking it what the hell it wanted from me. There were moments of self-loathing that I had to get through in order to find out all the things in my life I had been hiding from, and thanks to this quiet I realized that there wasn't anything I couldn't handle, nothing was really going to hurt me, and most of all I wasn’t going to be able to hide anymore. The quiet wasn't going to shut up until I learned all this.
I finally forced myself to face it and make it my friend. It helped me start writing again, it kept me company while job hunting, it supported me through some self-exploration, and I am happy to say that my quiet time is once again quiet. My entire life I have never been afraid of silence and didn’t understand other people’s need to fill the void, but now I know the fear that comes with silence.
My only advice here is that silence is not fatal. The fear you feel during the quiet is perhaps trying to teach you something, and if you take the leap of faith to talk to the quiet I’m sure there are lessons there for you too. Try to take a day without the music and T.V. to see if there is anything the quiet is trying to tell you. Trust me, you won’t have to work at it, if your quiet wants to tell you something it will be crazy LOUD!
is for Pray
We are more than half way through our 26 Days to Practice Peace and I’m here to say that the word “pray” gives me the willies. It was difficult to type it as many times as I did. It's not a word that rolls off my tongue; I avoid saying it actually.
BUT before you click away I hope you will stay with me through this one because I’ve earned your trust over the past few posts.
When I was little I said my prayers before bed; I imagined God up in heaven listening to me smiling through his long white beard and wearing his soft white robe. In fact God and Santa had very similar faces in my mind.
At the years passed my connection to religion faded but my commitment to being a better person expanded. I’ve committed myself to kindness, compassion, honesty, love, forgiveness and the most important one for me is my commitment to refraining from being judgmental and critical of others. I haven’t quite mastered not judging or criticizing myself yet, but I’ll get there.
Back to why “pray” give me the willies. When I am in a church I feel so self-conscious and nervous—so many rules, procedures, traditions and protocols. You would think a rule follower like me would love that but I don’t. The perfectionist in me is always worried I’ll screw it up some way and offend the old lady next to me or worse—piss off God in some way.
I also get twitchy when people say they’ll pray for me. I don’t know why I’m so stubborn; my insides say, “Please don’t. I don’t need it.” I just feel weird having people pray for me. It makes me feel like they have passed judgement and have decided that I’m so screwed up and Godless that I had better get some help fast before the Earth cracks open and takes me down to Hell.
Clearly I have some issues. I can see it all unfolding here as I write,
But I do pray—in a way—my way. I talk to “God” I guess you could call it. It’s hard for a pragmatic spiritualist like me to say with conviction that "I’m talking to God" because I would prefer some sort of proof or memo “from the desk of God” to know for sure who I’m talking to, but I do believe there is a universal life force that vibrates through everything so I guess that’s who/what I talk to—but God for short works for me.
When I pray I complain, I cry, I wish, I yell, but I also send love off to anywhere and to anyone I think needs it. At other times I pray for strength, I pray for money, I pray for good health, I pray for my daughter to have a great day, I pray for anyone blowing out birthday candles that their future is happy and healthy. I pray my big dog lives a lot longer, I pray my little dog stops waking me at 4:30 A.M. to go out, but then I suck it up, roll out of bed and realize that I now have to thank God that she does wake me up so I have fewer pee spots on my floor.
I guess I pray a lot. But I won’t tell you that I’m praying for you. I will say I’m thinking of you. I won’t say you’re in my prayers. I‘ll say you’re in my thoughts. Wherever my fear of prayer came from I’m not sure, but it’s okay; I’m certain God, the Universe, Spirit, Whatever, understands and loves me anyway.
So for each of you just know that I’m thinking of you when I read your comments, and I wish you Love, Light, Clarity, Peace, and Joy, and now you know exactly what I mean.
is for Open
Be open. Be open to trying new things.
That sentence makes me chuckle inside because I don’t think I would consider myself particularly adventurous and open to new things anymore, so my suggesting to you that you should be open to new experiences seems a bit ridiculous. But I know it’s correct; I tell it to you because I need to tell it to me.
For me if my regular lunch table is already full and I have to sit somewhere else with new people I can get a little twitchy and off my game. I guess I like routine maybe a little too much. I don’t go out. I don’t dress up anymore. I don’t travel much. So maybe I’m in a rut.
I have a million excuses for why I don’t do any of these things anymore, but no more excuses. For one day I can be open.
It has been a long time since I’ve opened myself up to others because being closed off feels safer and more comfortable. It’s spring so I should be opening the doors and windows inside of me and outside of me and let the fresh new breezes blow through. And if you’re listening Breeze, feel free to take all the dog hair and dust with you, thanks.
Grab a pencil and paper and start to make a list of phrases that start with, “I will be open to…” and just keep going until you stop. I was amazed at some of the things that came through me onto my list, and I feel better now because I am also open to learning new things about myself.
is for Now
I’m not gifted at “being in the now” yet, but I work at it enough to know that it can pull me out of panic attacks, worry, unrealistic expectations, and most of all my tendency to try to predict my future.
My ability to predict my future sucks. I could fill countless pages with all the things I thought “today” would be like going all the way back to my childhood when I was assuming that being 49 was like blue hair, support hose, and wrinkles, or my predictions that I would live out West and ride cross country on the back of a motorcycled driven by my husband who just happened to look like the Marlboro Man.
Well, here I am still living in Ohio, happily hanging out with my daughter, working a temporary position at a Data company, writing my heart out, experimenting with my love of paper and paper filigree--not with the Marlboro Man, not a model, not a Rockette, not an actress of stage or screen, not a middle school principal, not an accountant, and not living in Wyoming or Alaska. Yes, each of those were a prediction at one time of what "today" might have been like.
Those were all my fun predictions; my point is that for every fun prediction I have also predicted many horrible things for my future as well. These predictions typically fall into various stories of poverty, isolation, and illness. They are the scary scenarios I play out in my mind when my life gets unpredictable—the common triggers being death, divorce, injury, unemployment, betrayal, etc. and none of these predictions have come true either.
It dawned on me that most of my mind energy was spent inventing these horrible scenarios of my future and clearly I’ve already proven that I am in fact terrible at predicting my future, so I decided I had to learn to pull myself back in and focus on right now instead.
I simply cannot know what tomorrow holds—period—and every tomorrow I’ve ever imagined has been different from what I either expected or planned. Some better some worse, but never like expected. So it doesn’t make sense to me any more to let my mind scare me so much.
I’ve learned to bring myself back to right now by thinking of all those hairs that stand out straight because of static electricity. Each hair is one of my tiny thought pieces, worries, memories, to do list items, fantasies; anywhere my mind happens to go is one of those floating static-filled hairs. I take a deep breath and imagine attracting all those strands back into me wherever I’m standing or sitting. I do this a lot when I’m washing dishes, or before bed, or whenever I start to panic.
I can actually start to feel the energy coming back to me from its crazy worry-journey and I feel stronger and more solid—a bit static electricity-ish but better. Nothing bad is happening to me right now. Right now I’m just sitting here. Right now everything is okay. Right now no one is telling me bad news. Right now I hear birds, not a bill collector. Right now my dogs are sleeping and so is my daughter.
Pull the stands back in and just stay here for a minute because at this moment you’re safe, and here, and fine. Trust me, whatever you’re imagining the worse case is or may be—the reality never matches it, so stop imagining what it could be like and deal with it when it comes.
Right now you’re here reading and that’s just fine.
is for Meditate
Ugh. Oh how I wish I could do it “right.” I know that’s silly because to put rules on something so wonderful as taking a moment to feel still defeats the whole purpose of feeling still. So…stop putting rules on it.
I don’t want to offend any Masters of Meditation here with my technique (if you can call it that) but if you’re anything like me—a beginner and a perfectionist—then the mere fact that you’re “not doing it right” makes you stop all together and walk away (for years possibly) because you would rather not try at all than to fail. There. I said it. That is me in a nutshell.
I have decided that mindset is effing stupid. In celebration of my decision I have once again picked up my practice of sitting still and listening to my breathing. Guess how many days I did it last week…two. Yes, it makes me sad that I didn’t do it every day. The week before I reached three days, and the week before I went back to work I hit six days! So it may look like I’m getting worse but I’m really just figuring out my new schedule.
My goals are 10-20 minute “sits” four days a week for now. I typically do it in the morning during the time before I need to make sure my daughter is up for school, but after I shower and have some coffee. I sit on my bed, lean against my pillow against the wall, eyes usually closed, trying to be straight, cross my legs—sometimes—hands in my lap or on my knees. I take a big breath and let out a huge sigh. This gets me started because my ability to hear that giant sigh reminds me to stop listening to my crazy mind talk. I listen to my breathing as long as I can still hear it before my mind starts talking again which might be 5 seconds or it might be 20. Then when I realize I’m “talking” again I switch over to “saying” In…Out…In…Out…alongside my breathing until that gets boring, and then I try listening to my breathing again. That works for a bit then I’m back to In and Out all over again.
This process goes on until I scream inside and my eyes pop open. I usually laugh and try not to beat myself up about it. Some is always more than none.
Sometimes I try again at night when I’m lying down getting ready for bed. It even puts me to sleep occasionally so I don’t know if I can really count that as meditation, but I’m not following rules anymore right?
Good luck everyone. I hope your moments of sitting quietly can pull your stay pieces all back to center and give you a sturdy start to your day!
is for Love
I entered an essay contest once about “love.” The problem I had was that the contest asked us to write about a time we learned the meaning of love. The more I thought about it the bigger and more confusing the word love became to me.
I was spinning! Which kind of love? Unconditional love, conditional love (I remember learning about this one really well) romantic love, true love, lasting love, platonic love, brotherly love, sisterly love, parental love, love of oneself. This list kept on growing with love as the base but the actual experiences of each love being so very different, and each with their own very different attached lesson.
I couldn’t articulate what I meant into my contest entry, Willie’s Home, so I wrote about trying to teach an aspect of love instead. The essay is HERE if you want to read it. It didn’t win, but it is one of my favorite memories of writing losing essays.
Honest feelings of love are of course wonderful sensations. They are a wonderful place to live. Any aspect of love, any version of love, and any honest moment of sharing love is important. I no longer worry about finding romantic love—I missed that boat. I choose to focus on motherly love, the love I extend friends in need, and my ability to demonstrate love by accepting others and circumstances without judgment.
It seems to me that learning about love is a lifelong activity. I didn’t understand unconditional love or how that truly felt until I was 38 when my daughter was born; having a no strings attached love for another human being blew my mind.
I am still learning about selfless love as I watch other giving so much of themselves expecting nothing in return. To have learned how that feels though, I don’t think I’m there yet.
I don’t have any sisters so I will never learn exactly how that love feels—not in this lifetime anyway—and that’s okay.
I am working on the loving of oneself thing, it has been very hard, but I can honestly say that right now as of today, I still do not know how that love feels. I imagine it to be this awesome wave of love, similar to unconditional, that will just wash over me one day when I least expect it. I am guessing it will be life-changing and will open me up to other kinds of love in the process, but I’m just not there yet and that is also okay.
Love is big enough to keep on teaching me for the rest of time.
is for Kindness
There is only one consistent rule in our house—be kind. Now I break this rule way more than I care to admit, but I am quick to apologize, point out my lack of sensitivity, and try to make it better as soon as I can. To be kind for one day is achievable but it is always the day I choose to focus on kindness that all the irritating crap (i.e. people) confronts me in order to test my resolve.
I think my focus on kindness in general stems from an awkward adolescence that consisted of a lot of insecure moments, a lot of being teased, a lot of not fitting in (and having it pointed out to me just for the enjoyment of others) as well as some all around just mean people doing their best to make me feel small and insignificant by maybe…say...yanking my sweatpants down in front of the boys P.E. class as they ran by.
All of this turned me into the all-around-root-for-the-underdog Queen of Empathy. As a child I watched The Charlie Brown Halloween Special every single year hoping that Charlie Brown would NOT get a rock and wanting to squeeze myself into the TV to be his friend and share my candy. I vowed that I would NEVER pull the football away from him if I ever got a chance to meet him.
The reason my teaching career primarily resided within the middle school years was my need to be a “protector” for anyone feeling awkward, intimidated, insecure, or vulnerable—which pretty much describes the entire early adolescent experience. My underlying need of course to make sure no one was ever treated like I had been.
I encourage empathy from my daughter as well, but I got lucky, she was already wired this way from the start so I can’t really claim that I “taught” her anything about being kind. I point out situations on TV or in real life where we can talk about how alone or sad or embarrassed someone might feel, and what I would do to make them feel better and she will add her own ideas as well. I also encourage her to notice kids at school that look lost or lonely to say a quick “hi” to if she feels comfortable doing that.
Being kind to someone else never implies that we have to be “besties” it implies that I value you enough to extend my best behavior, and hopefully they will return the favor. I’m just hoping that if I remember to be kind, hold my acid tongue, and not feed into anyone’s lack of kindness then my overall area of existence will start to become a better place for me, my daughter, and anyone willing to visit my corner of the world.
I’m hoping that my kind corner of the world will touch all of your kind corners and then we can each breathe a giant sigh of relief.
J is for Joy
Be joyful today! This is your tenth day of your 26 Days to Practice Peace. If you have placed your focus on any of the previous nine words I am hopeful that you found joy or comfort at some point during that day.
Being joyful is something that feels “bouncier” than being happy does—to me. I don’t know why that is. A smiling baby seems to embody joy. My big Newfoundland Mix, Grover, seems joyful when he hops around in the snow like a 80 pound bunny rabbit. Joy seems to have a distinct look and feel to it.
Before I headed back to the working world a few weeks ago I stood at the kitchen door watching my daughter walk across the yard, out the gate, across the street toward her friend’s house, looking back to wave multiple times on her way to school. I felt joy watching her. It was different than just being happy, it was both a knowing and appreciating that these moments would soon be gone and that I had better soak up the feelings of these mornings and make them last. Me standing at that door is something we had done every morning since the day she let me know it was not cool to have her mom walk her to school anymore, but since it was coming to an end I just felt so joyful watching her head off to school knowing I’m her Mom.
“Tears of joy” is also something I cherish. A moment so wonderful that your eyes leak; there is nothing quite like that. Tears of sorrow or shame sting my eyes; they have a distinct burn as they well up in my eyes. They make it too cloudy to see as I typically try to hide my face and walk away. Not tears of joy though, they are light, crystal clear, and almost refreshing.
I am trying to think of a recent moment that I had tears of joy--exercising my imagination—but I am struggling at the moment. The reason is simply because I have had a lot of those painful stinging tears lately. Now you know why I needed to start writing my 26 Days to Practice Peace.
I will focus on joy today. The joy I feel when I see my child after work, the joy I feel when I know I made a difference in someone’s day, the joy I feel when I make someone laugh at work with my goofy comments, and the joy I feel when I watch my daughter from across the room while she is busy being a child.
I wish each of you all the joy in the world today.
is for Imagination
I love it when it is so quiet I can hear the snow falling.
I love it when I see a shooting star.
What tiny moments do you love? Not because you receive their gifts every day, but precisely because you don’t.
These tiny seldom occurring events are the kind of moments you can use to exercise your imagination. I have to close my eyes to hear the snow in my memory, but I can keep them open to see the memory of a shooting star. I think that’s weird. The image of a shooting star floats in my imagination somewhere above this page. It almost seems to be floating in a bubble above my head.
I love the way imagination works.
Imagination can certainly be used to create brand new never before seen things, sounds, stories, solutions, etc. but I like to think that I am more likely to imagine that “great new thing” if I insist on using my imagination often—giving it practice. So I exercise mine by filling my imagination with details from things I do remember, but I don’t worry about accuracy. It might sound like I’m exercising my memory, but it’s more than that. I don’t just remember something—it’s the practice of filling my mind with sounds and pictures that I can really “see” that is helping me improve my imagination. I have practiced hearing my snow falling so much that I am now able to close my eyes and hear it when I’m in a crowded place to help me feel centered and calm.
Think of a moment you remember seeing or hearing. That moment you are imagining belongs only to you, it's a special moment that you were graciously invited to witness and now it is being imagined once again by you. Didn’t that just add a whole new level of “special” to your moment?
Thing are perceived in only one way—your way—and it happens for each of us (which is probably why there are so many misunderstandings.) Your memory, your moment is unique to you—mine is unique to me. Fascinating. I think that makes these moments treasures to behold and definitely worth spending at least sixty seconds with every day exercising your imagination. How about you?
is for Heart
Today I will focus on the center of my chest. That fist sized beating heart that feels as though its purpose is so much more than a pumping system.
Pay close attention to all the feelings in your chest today. Whenever you can place your attention there choose an image that makes you smile. Imagine a rose blossom—any color—opening as in time lapse photography. Imagine blue-green fairy dust falling into a beautiful leaf—can you tell I watch a lot of Tinker Bell movies with my daughter? Or you could imagine two hands gently holding your heart as it glows a beautiful color of your choosing. Whatever color lights up in your imagination is just fine. I’m sure you can think of an image that will redirect your focus to the center of your chest. You're attempting to just notice your heart and pull away from all the mind chatter that distracts you.
The heart is an amazing organ. I have felt the pain of my heart breaking from sadness, despair, and disappointment, but I have also felt my heart swell from the joy of pride, love, or amazement.
Does my physical heart literally swell or break—no—but to seemingly feel those sensations is certainly experience enough to warrant my respect, tenderness, and attention for the day.
My wonderful heart also warns me of my tendency to live in a place of fear. I will feel a nervous fluttering that most folks would consider to be panic. That feeling used to scare the shit out of me, but now I use it as a reminder that there is a distinct possibility that my imagination has run away with me again. My imagination enjoys taking me on “worst case scenario” adventures. Lately when my heart pulls this "warning" I try to pause, breathe, and reconsider the nervous thoughts flying through my head and remember that not one single “worst case” imaginings has ever actually happened as bad as I played it out in my head.
Place focus today on the power of your heart. It's a beautiful messenger of sorrow, warning, reality check, and love.
is for Generosity
Generosity of spirit is where I place my focus today.
It’s easy for me to first associate generosity with financial generosity but because I’m working through some of my own financial setbacks I personally need to focus on as many other types of generosity that I can.
Be generous with your smiles. In the store if I see someone who looks completely sad and defeated and I can make eye contact I will give them a smile with a hint of “been there—done that—got the t-shirt.” If I can pull a hint of relief from their face then my generosity has been received.
Be generous with your time. Spending a few extra moments to really listen can be one of the most generous things I do in a day. I spend my extra moments with anyone needing to share a story with me; sometimes it’s the crazy old dude in the coffee shop telling me how to live my life and sometimes it’s my neighbor with the “guy troubles.” My favorite extra time is with my daughter listening to her invent a story while we run errands or just sitting near her while she does homework.
Be generous with your prayers. I try to send off a positive thought when I’m feeling uneasy, annoyed, or scared. A fire truck blasts by loud and scary and I say “I hope everyone’s okay.” Someone drives around me dangerously cutting through traffic and I say, “I hope you arrive safely.” Whatever, whoever I come across during the day that needs some extra love I simply send off a little prayer. My prayers aren’t a typical prayer like I learned when I was a child, but taking a moment to send a focused thought of pure goodness can’t hurt.
For today give of yourself, your heart, your smile, your time, your ears, instead of your dollars. This form of generosity pays itself back instantaneously. You might get to hear a fascinating story, make a new friend, or quite possibly extend some emotional relief to someone who is in desperate need.
Today say, “I will give whatever I can to whomever I can whenever I can.”
is for Faith
Faith can be difficult; I should say faith is difficult for me. To trust, rely, and believe with unwavering conviction challenges me—but not if I'm trying for just a single day.
If for just one day I focus on trusting the day to take me where it goes safely, then I can smile through the day. My goal will be to link a bunch of these single days together and create a confident, trusting life filled with trustworthy friends, loyal confidants, and faith in the beauty and madness of it all.
For one day focus on faith. Believe in yourself first and foremost before you put your faith in another. Those empty spaces inside you that don’t contain faith in yourself that you can handle it, can do it, can accomplish it are the exact spaces that get taken over by others to be used as they please. These people may be wonderfully kind and full of good intentions wanting to help you in your hour of need, but then again why not believe in your own ability first, and then call upon others to assist you.
Unfortunately for me the people that took over those empty spaces in my life were not especially kind with good intentions. The opposite has been my experience more often than not, and my faith has been shaken, but I refuse to give up. I see faith, confidence, and trust working for others so the way I see it my day has to be coming!
For some, like me, it is difficult to ask for help because it is difficult to trust. Other times it is difficult to ask for help because you don’t know what to ask for. Having faith in yourself first leads you to the right questions to ask, the specific needs you have for seeking help. Faith that you can handle what comes no matter what—be it a job loss, a death in the family, a broken bone, a car accident, a broken heart, an addiction, an assault, whatever life throws at you, believe first that you can handle it, then sort out those pieces of help you will need.
Have faith that you will always be able to handle what comes your way today. Don’t give your crisis away to someone else to handle for you. If you do you have just given away life’s greatest opportunity to learn exactly how strong you really are. You can earn yourself another new badge of supreme courage if you like to imagine yourself in a decorated coat of armor--or maybe that's just me. Have faith that you are never alone, never isolated, never not capable—you are able to own your crisis or problem, and once you believe that you're able to learn from it is the moment you know exactly how to seek help and guidance without giving away your opportunity to learn. I always like to say, "Feeling alone is a human experience; being alone is a spiritual impossibility."
Today try saying this, “I have faith in ME today. If it rains let it pour; this I can handle.”