If It Makes You Happy

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English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy is subjective isn’t it?  Two people at the same water park may be having two totally different reactions to the new super-loop water-slide. Or how about news about weather? My sister is happiest at 50 degrees or less, dark clouds and rain. I am happiest when the air outside is in the seventies or eighties, and the sky is blue and the clouds are white and bright. It is all a matter of degrees, too, when it comes to how we feel and how we express our joy. In the make-up of the chemical soup that pulses through our bodies, happiness and joy imprint on the cellular level, right along with sadness and grief. Could it be true we can be addicted to seeking more happiness, more joy so we can keep our spirits riding high or more drama to ensure we stay bitter and cloaked in a depressive state? Even more importantly, do we choose to stay sad because that is what feels right? I choose happy, and it has been a struggle to see life through half-full eyes. Practice makes perfect, and as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out; if we do something about 10,000 times we become masters at that something. With thoughts rolling in every millisecond, could I get to that 10,000 before the day is over?

I see the gravitation toward drama and sadness a lot in my line of work. The same people report the same negative messes on a regular basis. Like a heat seeking missile, these people tend to make relationships with those who will, without a doubt, keep them feeling bad about themselves. Or, if the days are going well, they freak out with the foreign feelings of joy and life being more than shadowy doubt. And, like an addict, will ingest sadness in huge quantities to meet their need to be back in their dungeon where they are safe and know where all the torture equipment is placed.

The good advice I have received most of my life meant nothing. I was told as a teenager by step-mummy, that I wear my feelings on my sleeve and that was not good. What? And…..what? I didn’t understand that other than it was a criticism and I had no idea how to fix it if it needed fixing. Maybe she meant I was sensitive. Sensitivity is okay and a normal human thing like awareness of others’ feelings. What if she had said that to me? I could have put it to better use at a much earlier age! My favorite advice has been “let IT go!” Now, I KNOW it means to stop thinking about the IT, keep away from the IT, stop talking about the IT and pushing the IT completely out of my life. IT usually won because 10,000 thoughts made me master to IT, and unlearning what I mastered just isn’t as easy as “let IT go” sounds.

My happy may not look like any other person’s happy and that is super okay. But, I can honestly report that being happy is my goal, and because that has been my life’s journey, I am becoming.

I can also report, becoming has been awesome.

Seeing the past through ‘becoming’ eyes has taken the negative emotion out of my journey; my life as mapped out by all that was and is. ‘Becoming’ eyes have given me the joy I always sought. ‘Becoming’ eyes have given me sight that has finally allowed me to forgive. Breathing in is much more nourishing than it used to be.

The cards I was dealt early in my life sucked, and that little girl deserves honor and respect with what she did with it! A pat on the back and acknowledgement that those cards were my tools to build me. I am fascinated at what builders use in homes, or those unusual homes made of unusual materials. I am reminded of the man who built a coral home in honor of his true-love, or homes made from tires, or how about those homes reconstructed from missile silos? My material, my tools, made a pretty amazing person.

All of us must use what we are dealt, then life goes on and what we do with our ‘hand’ is totally up to us.

I wish to be a master of joy, gratitude, and of my life in general. It is with joy I write this and gratitude toward those who read it, or those who do not. Master of my own life means joy is settled in and at home in my soul. When sadness and grief do come knocking, and in life it will, they may come to visit, but they may not stay.

This is my house!

MOB: Mother of the Bride

wedding

Holding the office of MOB, Mother of the Bride, can be a navigational nightmare! Just watch a few Say Yes to the Dress episodes and you are sure to see a few MOBs who are tripping all over their daughter’s moments. I have been a MOB twice, and both times, if I was caught unaware one may have seen in the visage kaleidoscope  a deer in the headlights look of fear, contemplation, love, sadness, pride, reservation, honor, and did I mention love? Oh yes, I did!

My first MOB experience was in 2009. My daughter actually came home to me for a month prior to her wedding. We did fun stuff like go to the gym and shopping. After she was married and whisked off on her honeymoon then new home I was alone again, and re-vistited empty nest syndrome which hurts like hell. Her mantra to me was her marriage was her moment- something she had dreamed of and was now creating. The reality is it is a chore to create the magical moment of I dos.

I remember watching her walk down the isle; though she was walking with her father I felt as if I was beside her, so surreal to see my baby in her gown, radiant and ready! I watched her the entire night: dancing, laughing, enjoying the event so well planned and executed. I learned, being MOB meant letting your daughter shine and never taking one inch of her light unless she pulls you in. There is so much going on at a wedding but the bottom line is that it is a celebration of the couple, not anyone else.

I felt the same way during my second daughter’s wedding. It was her moment, her time. Even when she said yes to her dress, I made sure not to give negative feedback, and to help fan each positive moment. My oldest daughter had given me the Wedding Dress Shopping Rules…I was NOT to make faces, comment when not asked and to keep it positive. When she came out in a dress I did not like, my facial expression betrayed me and my daughter became anxious. I promised her I saw the beauty in the dress! She didn’t buy it. I had to work on my game face!

When she came out wearing THE dress I forgot all the rules and sprang up from the velvet couch and teared up due to how magical she looked! She began to cry and I asked if I had made a mistake in liking the dress a little too much to daughter number 1. I was assured that my behavior was just fine and the moment was as it should have been! Whew!

During the second MOB experience I marveled that I was so blessed to have this moment a second time; I was experiencing magic! I again felt as though I was beside her all night- I watched her as I had her sister, I caught almost every smile, tear and look of love. I saw her interact with her friends, new family members, old family members and her husband. I felt her love all night.

When I left the reception I was accompanied by the bride and her husband. We took a tram to our rooms so we could change and go back for more festivities. My daughter said to me that she hadn’t seen me, she missed me and wondered why I was so quiet. I looked at her and reminded her that I was the one who helped put her dress on earlier that day then stayed with her until the last moment before her father walked her down the isle. I was one of the first to hold her after she had said I do and before the pictures were taken. And, as it was with her sister, I watched her the entire night, taking in her laughter, tears of joy and sheer excitement of a dream come true.

Being a MOB has been such a wonderful experience and for anyone who needs a little help from those of us who have been there just remember, it is all about them, and not about you.

Work that truth and the rewards will be that you will experience the love and magic of their moment cleanly and joyfully! And that is worth it!

The Drama Pool

Every young girl has taken more than a few dips in the drama pool. Compared yet opposite to the spiritual awakening of the Ganges River, it is a ritual for our teen girls to go in and dip themselves like sacrifices to untruth; bathing in the pond of gossipy proliferation. Our male youth is not immune to the drama pool,however, their swims are less lengthy yet the gossip clings to them as heavily.

Fast forward to adulthood and there are those who truly understand the damage the spoken word can cause, be it true or not. God lets us know that the tongue is like a two-edged sword, and His people often use the edge most damaging in His name. There are many who never get out.

Gossip is the storm which causes so many to be swept up by the enticement of knowing something “juicy.” Gossip takes on a life of its own, and if some of the pieces are missing, they are then created to fit the picture perfectly, showing no doubt the story is true. I have experienced a whole town, small yet powerful, take a few items of information and turn on an individual like the town that came after Frankenstein: holding their torches high and chanting for his death. Or, like Little House on the Prairie, but with no denouement of Michael Landon’s character chastising the community from the church pulpit or school board meeting for their behaviors, resulting in hung heads and softened hearts. What I have witnessed is the opposite. The town wins and judgment and hatred rule the land which retreats after a victory then lies in waiting for the next attack.

I have been attacked recently, my character judged by a round table of those who have never once had a conversation with me, yet deemed me prejudiced and of unworthy character. I was mortified. How could ANYONE judge me and stamp me with a ruling which makes no sense? I was given the recommendation to introduce one of my accusers to my fiance which would really deflect, in his opinion, the unjust prejudice label, but stupid cannot be reasoned with, even with illustrated examples. Judging someone as prejudice is saying that person is full of hate and that hate is compartmentalized toward a race due to whatever reason. I may be a work in progress, but my progress in race relations is better than my accusers, and that is a fact. Do people not see that when they yell prejudice, they may just be blurting out their own shadowy belief system?

Lucky me to have been a part of a town whose residents (not all but a very vocal aspect) will think the worst of others due to what they hear from others. Am I naive? Maybe, but I honestly cannot come up with conclusions about people that are negative. Once I had a student in my class who was arrested for drug use and sent to re-habilitation. She came back and was a bright-eyed teenager who had life and seemed so happy. She told me she had been stoned every day in my class. “Couldn’t you tell” she asked? I replied honestly, “No, I thought you were not getting enough sleep, and possibly you were a bit depressed; not uncommon in teen girls.” I never go to the labels: drug abuser, liar, thief, philanderer, prejudice, first. I believe it is because I do not have these applications downloaded in my system and they are not there to access for blame.

I am learning to take the news that someone is lying, cheating, stealing with less of an affront on my psyche. I really want to live in peace, love and light. Because of that, I refuse to jade my belief system about others and use a negative source for how I perceive them. I am no saint in my perceptions. I do still stereotype, and I work on that. The difference I believe, is I am open to truth, and realize my eyes may deceive me. Close-minded, judgmental behavior is the epitome of stupid and also a state of complete self-UNAWARENESS. I am given a full body check when I step out of line with my behavior, with what I say and when messages I am transmitting to others is not healthy. I do sometimes fall in the drama-pool, and when I do, I am sickened. Healing waters of tears are sometimes needed to begin rebuilding my integrity.

Take the pledge to stay out the the drama-pool. Keep your tongue in check and if you are bothered by another’s actions which do not have anything to do with you, check yourself. Look around. Are you swimming in the truth or in the drama-pond? Look around, are you surrounded by those who make it easy to fall into the deep-end in denial of the truth and play with other’s lives as if it is a beach ball to be whacked from one person to the next: everyone getting their hands on the destruction of another’s life and name?

Get out, wipe your eyes and dull your tongue. Edification comes to those who edify. Getting life right means you are not in the drama-pool.

 

Stepping Consciously

These days step-families abound. Step-moms and dads and all of the kids in-between who are connected by marriage have to navigate the waters of family with more rules than usual. Unfortunately, those rules are often times left unwritten and these relationships hit major ice-bergs in icy seas of misunderstanding due to plain lack of caring and love. Blending a family is not as easy as placing the ingredients in your vita-mix and hitting start, resulting in a perfect, good-for-you concoction. Nope. It takes a lot more than that. In the process of blending a family, moms and dads should never ever walk away from their biological children and replace them or ignore them. Moving on never means moving away from our children. But I am guessing for too many, that behavior is the easiest. Since the subject is complex, my focus is on the children and their vulnerable hearts and souls.

I feel for the children left behind. When I was nine my father called and told me that he had a cute little girl who was my age sitting on his knee. I was replaced in my world view and this moment seared my soul and heart. Many children don’t get that literal call, but they get the call- their father or mother have moved away and other children sleep in the rooms down the hall. Other children are getting the attention, the face-time, the relationship. No mater how healthy the split, the child will feel pain. It is the nature of the beast.

In my line of work I see the failures much more often than the blueprint for success. Since humans mess up a lot on being human which makes us human, melding a family is never an easy road. In the biblical sense we are taught that the number one relationship is with God, then the marriage, then the children. But what if the marriage is asking a parent to place the biological child further down the scale? That is a heavy load to put on a child’s psyche. I personally cannot understand or comprehend a parent looking at their biological child and loathing them due to the fact that half of their DNA comes from their enemy. Adults need to separate the emotion and place it in the correct boxes, some with a lock and key. So often the new spouse is given the control to dictate the rules of the new home’s relationships. Though spouses are second on the list after God, we must remember that The Word was geared toward the two and the two’s children; not  the second, third and fourth and so on.

Your babies need to be loved and feel safe and should never be used as a weapon, pawn, tool or rag in the melding of the new relationship. Ever.

Marry into a teenager and life may throw a big rod in your engine. What to do when the teenager you now refer to as step-daughter or step-son hates you for being step-parent and for no other reason? What if they are being schooled by the parent left behind on how to feel and act in their new situation? It gets trickier and trickier the more people there are in the new melting pot. Some are content to the mix and others fight the family recipe and the batch is bad twenty-four hours a day seven days a week.

The easy answer is to actively parent no matter the circumstances. Kids know when an adult cares- when they really care. Humans have innate mechanisms for survival, and step-family survival is tactical. Do they have to fight for attention? Beg for it? Become a problem and get it by default?

They should get unconditional love and attention. They should be parented; period. That is the key…parenting; it unlocks doors to life relationships which is an ongoing transference of energy.

Step-moms and dads need to step back and allow their new spouse to be the most important person to their children. I have seen adults become jealous of a parent/child relationship and it is the ugliest of faces a step can wear. Can the biological parent become over-permissive to make-up for the pain of the broken home? Yes. Can they become overly giving in money, lack a bit in saying no when they should? Yes. Even when the step-parent sees this it is possibly not the battle to engage. Talk it out, present in an adult/parent space and maybe both in the new-couple bond can learn.

But I know that for many step-families there is no thoughtfulness when it comes to creating a healthy mix. Socio-economicly speaking, even the haves do not. I watched a little boy be completely ignored by his father after he married a woman with no children. The new family, one that could make the cover of  Christian Living, excluded in every way the first born biological son of the father.

There was no room in her heart and she was never confronted with the prospect of opening a space for him at all. I often wondered how she has reconciled the pain her step-son felt while his siblings literally had the best of everything? The child who was left out found a nice home in jail as dad and step-mother shook their heads and placed the entire blame on biological mom and of course the child himself.

Not every abandoned child becomes a literal prisoner, but many are held hostage to their own emotions. They feel not good enough, shame, less-than, invisible. These thoughts do not magically disappear at age 18. No, they may become the corner stones for their lives.

If you have a child, raise them. It is not the step-parent’s job immediately upon saying “I do.” They need to grow into the new job and learn their new children. They may need help, counseling, prayer, understanding. You see, Steps, it may not be God first, then you then the children from the other marriages, and it may seem unbalanced at first, BUT, if the step-parents learn to love and desire to protect these children, order will be restored to the Universe.

The Apology

Forgiveness is a form of gratitude. When we fo...

Apologies. I am pretty good at knowing when to give one. In my life, I have apologized… a lot. I am not proud of this. Every apology came from my heart which was laden with grief. I know when I hurt someone. It is almost like I can feel their pain, annoyance or anger. With each apology I truly wish to salve the emotional wound for them and me. With each apology, I hope for forgiveness. This whole self-awareness thing is hard, but rewarding.

Apologies are an important ingredient within the social structure. We are appalled when one is lacking, or if when one is made, it is not quite what we needed. I have made many, but received few. So, with this ability to apologize I have also been sharpening this thing called forgiveness. Apologies and forgiveness goes together like peas and carrots, or Forrest and Jenny. I find my anxiety can be squashed by this comforting duo. Lately I have learned to allow them into my past life to help heal some old stuff, circa late 60’s and all through the 70’s. The growing up years.

Facebook has been a great way to reach out to some of the people I treated poorly in those early years and so far, no one has told me to go to hell. I think it helped me to say to them how this teenager, who was so angry lashed out in hurtful ways, and now like a loving adult, I sort of present this troubled kid and say, “She is really sorry for the pain she may have caused, but she gets it now and wants you to please forgive her.”

I have written letters in the same manner and asked for forgiveness. But those are the ones from the past. These days I apologize in real time! I cannot imagine going a full day knowing I have made a mistake without trying to rectify it. So, my question is, when someone hurts me in some way (and I could name about two dozen right here but I won’t) why is there no apology or recognition of my feelings? It is so very rare. In the last two years, the people who have been so quick to apologize, really didn’t harm me in any way. One of my co-workers came to me and said they owed me an apology and was feeling worried they had crossed some kind of line in our conversation from the previous day. I couldn’t remember what it was we had even talked about and they were so relieved. I felt  happy to be able to ease their mind and heart and at the same time I felt cared for and honored.

I had a crazy situation happen not too long ago where I was threatened, ridiculed and judged so completely wrong that I am still perplexed at this person’s ability to love another human being. If they brought this type of hatred to a small table, dealing with me, a person in service to them, I cannot imagine how cruel and dark they are to those closest to them. I remember thinking, right after the attack, if this person will somehow come to the realization that they were wrong about me, and that telling me I was worthless hurt deeply and maybe they would apologize for their words.

Hasn’t happened yet. Funny thing is that a phone call is what it took to cause a load of pain, a phone call would ease it.

But, apologies are more for the trespasser than the trespassed. I have written that incident off as, that person is mean and hateful, and I need to FORGIVE them!

Forgiving is harder for me than asking for forgiveness. Which is probably why God, Life, the Universe, sends me so much to forgive. It is my weakness. Once crossed, I find it hard to forgive, not impossible as I do have many forgiving victories, but it is never easy. Disliking someone is VERY easy. What is wrong with that picture?

When I applied for my job as district counselor, I was asked this question: “what is the one thing you can say about yourself that would give you success in this job?” I said, “I am very self-aware: I know how to interact, I can read a situation, I learn from my mistakes, I can admit when I am wrong and I am not afraid to apologize.” The second question was, “What could keep you from doing a good job here?” I said, “I have never held a counseling position, I need to learn everything….but I am aware of that!”

I got the job.

I think that is true in life. We learn from our mistakes, we grow, we change, and the cycle continues. I think the person who was super-mean to me is missing the blessing of a soft heart. As I continue to completely forgive  them, I am blessed with the struggle that comes with personal growth. Maybe when I reach level five, self-actualiztion, upon hearing a judgement I will immediately forgive their hardened heart, and stunted nature, because the truth is hatred like that does not live in the light of love.

As I write this I offer my open heart to anyone who holds me in a moment of social contempt. Forgive me, I really am trying to get life right.