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“525,600 minutes, how do you measure the life of a woman or a man… how about love?” – Rent

All day long I see people, including myself, with something to complain about. We have a problem. We need someone to blame. Life, everyone’s life, is full of imperfections. It is full of unforeseen bumps, walls, bruises, breaks, tragedies, etc. And it’s full of readily known, easily seen bumps, walls, bruises, and breaks, and in some cases tragedies, as well. None of these, however, are easy for us to deal with. Not on a deeper level. They are things that require time. Sure some are easier for us to process, but to deny that they affect us, to deny that there are residual scars, is simply as stated, denial. It is ultimately unhelpful for all of us.

One of the things that I’ve seen numerous times recently is this statement, “I wish we could return to the morals on which this country was founded.” The statement seems well enough at first glance. But ultimately it is pining for something that never existed in order to blame everyone else for the problems in existence today and tag them as different. It is different, we are different, and that’s why things are the way they are. In reality, we are not all that different. In fact it is how much we have stayed the same in many cases that causes the issues that we have. See, our country was founded on the premise of religious freedom…if you were a protestant. It was founded on morals that included drowning, hanging, and burning females who might be perceived to be a witch. It was founded on denying any human rights, respect or decency to anyone who wasn’t white – as was obvious with slavery and the treatment of native Americans . And to denying a majority of rights, respect, and decency to those who were white, but happened to be poor or a female. You were allowed to murder someone for stealing from you with almost no civil process. It was common practice to allow abuse and mistreatment of women, children, and anyone who wasn’t a powerful (not in the physical sense here) white male. It was founded on the idea that anyone who strayed in any way from the ideas set forth by the males around them could be considered a heretic. It was a time when they believed and practiced the idea that God felt them to be the only worthy members and it was okay to kill, steal, and manipulate their way into power. And the law of the land was much more in line with “an eye for an eye” than a democratic justice system.

Maybe we should go back to the times before this. Perhaps the Renaissance, that was a good time right? Sure our country wasn’t founded then, though it was “found” by a tyrant. Back when we (a human we, here) were crusading around, killing people who thought any differently than us. Taking their land, their money. “Screaming convert or die.” Burning people, hanging people, raping women and children. No? What about the Dark Ages? Should we go back there? What time in history is it that we should return to so that we can find these uplifting morals that I’ve heard so much about?

In truth, those morals are present at all points in time. There are people, probably the majority, who want to do good. Who want to be good. What do we measure a life in once it’s gone? In love? In hate? In blame? What do we measure it in while we are still living? With what do we measure our own lives? If it is not love, then, this is what we have to blame for the way that things are going. If we aren’t learning to love, ourselves, others, and teaching ourselves and others to be better people every day, helping one another rise up, then today will remain just as it was, yesterday, and last week, and even back in the good ole days when this country was founded. It is those who adapt who survive. It isn’t the strongest, or even the smartest, it is those best able to adapt. And it starts with a drop. Just one. One person to start measuring the year, the day, the minute in love, and this ignites the spark.

–It’s been a long time, and this was a bit long – my apologies.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful entrance into the new year. I actually wanted to go to sleep, but Jack stayed up, so I didn’t really have a choice. But we had a very enjoyable evening with the family.

I used to hate new year’s eve. It always reminded me that I wasn’t with anyone, which was always very lonely at the time. It reminded me I wasn’t where I wanted to be in terms of figuring out/following my career. I was really, really good at looking at all of the things that I didn’t do or didn’t happen for me in the past year, and assuming that the next year would be just the same.

It’s funny, because as I look back on it now, some of my favorite memories come from those new year’s eves that at the time I felt so lonely and frustrated in. I really did have good times with people I still love and have as friends today, though it didn’t always seem that way. But, I have had the fortune of having some really amazing new year’s memories since having Jack. But even moreso the past few years I have had a great new year’s because I was happy. Because even though I didn’t get to all the places I wanted to get to, and even though everything didn’t go the way I wanted, I was trying. I was trying to become the person I want to be. I was putting effort (flawed as it may be) and that made the difference. I failed, but I also succeeded. Even if the successes were small, they were real. And small steps when added together turn into giant strides. And looking back over the past few years, I have actually made much more progress than I thought I had. I’ve chased a few dreams, made a few improvements, made a few mistakes, and worked really hard. And it turns out that is a recipe for a good year. A year that has ups and downs, highlights and low, but certainly more good than bad.

So I hope everyone has the chance to do just that this year. Make some plans, chase some dreams, work hard, let the failures drive you harder, let the successes lead you forward and find your way closer to whomever it is you want to be. The you that makes you proud, the you that gives you hope that your future will truly be bright. That’s how you light the way for all who will follow you. And someone is always looking to you.

Happy new year everyone! Thank you all for your kind words and support, and I hope you feel the happiness and love I’m sending to you all!

Pondering the ‘end of days’ talk

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This is my mom and her siblings on a trip leaving California when she was little. I just happened to run across it on my computer, and thought I’d share. 🙂

I really don’t have much to say, but I guess since the world didn’t end today, I should really get a move on Christmas shopping. Lots of people will be getting gift cards this year!

However, I would like to take this time to say that all this talk of the end of days and in light of recent events, it really has become an even bigger priority of mine to make sure that I am staying in a state of awareness when it comes to Jack and my nephews. I want to make sure that there is real attention given, that we are spending not just time, but quality time together. That we are interacting in a way that moves beyond simply just talking, but my mind being somewhere else. I want to make sure that I have focus when we interact. Don’t get me wrong, it’s impossible to constantly be focused in and to have that sort of interaction. But it is important to do so at least for a bit each day.

I tend to look at it as if something crazy was to happen, I want to make sure that those experiences exist in his recent memory and mine. There is comfort in knowing that I’m putting forth the effort. When we do things like that it really makes a difference. There has to be balance, kids need their own time, they need to play outside, and sometimes it is just being in the same room that makes a difference. But just like any other relationship, we all want to be heard. We want to be given that focus and attention, too. And I have to say, this week really has been a good week. It’s been a calmer week in terms of the way we all interact. There’s been less hostility and when you’re talking about two teenagers, a two year old and a four year old, calm is not normally a word used to describe the time! 🙂 But it really has been very nice. And that’s a good reminder that these changes do need to happen. That there are things within my control, our control, that are easy and can make a difference. And that is reassuring in such trying times.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and a very Merry Christmas (belated happy Chanukah) and are filled with love and hope over the end of this holiday season!

The holy or the broken Hallelujah

“Hallelujah” via nbc.com

Silent Night, Children’s Choir via nbc.com

Sometimes we find that life places holes in our hearts. Holes that never fully disappear. They house emptiness. They house sorrow. They house all of the things we wish to have never experienced. But, hopefully, over time, little by little, moment by moment, day by day, month by month, year by year, those holes begin to fill. They fill slowly, not always steadily, but if we let them, they fill. And if we let them fill, they will fill with love. Love that doesn’t remove the memory, but brings it peace. Love that allows us to wake up again and begin to heal. Love is the only thing strong enough to fill those holes. To overcome those sorrows, that emptiness. So I pray that each day slowly, but surely those holes that we all have begin to fill. That love can find its way in.

“There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah”

– Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

 

Where rises inspiration, rises hope, even if it is from a “silly, little show.”

This is the Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHuRusAlw-Y

So, while watching “The Voice” tonight one of the judges commented that this is a “silly, little show.” Not in a bad way, but in a “in the grand scheme of things this isn’t curing cancer kind of way”. And though the show may not showcase researchers in a medical lab, I’m going to very kindly disagree (sort of) with the notion.

The thing about talent, is that it inspires. And inspiration is an amazing thing. There is power in inspiration. Inspiration rarely happens absent of a connection. We connect with something, and suddenly things make sense. We feel what others are feeling. And that gives rise to hope.

One of the main ways many of us find inspiration is through the arts. Whether it’s drawings, paintings, sculptures, writings, readings, and music to name a few. What exists within these forms of expression are extensions of a person’s soul. We use the arts to tell others what lives inside of us. It tells others how we connect, and gives them that same chance. When we make that connection we feel alive in a way that we don’t normally feel without that inspiration. The talents that we have matter. Sharing the talents that we have matters. I love that there are now forums for people to constantly find sources of inspiration any time we want now. It’s an amazing thing. And the show, silly or not, truly does allow for those types of connections to be made. It has the capacity to inspire millions each week. That is an awesome power. It allows people to see that following our passion truly can lead us to somewhere amazing. Somewhere unthinkable. What exists within us, each of us, can truly change lives. It can give rise to inspiration, and give rise to hope. We can bring one another to higher heights by taking a chance and doing our best.

Music is my vice (one of them, writing is as well). I don’t know how to survive without it. When I need to escape, when I need to think, or when I need to just smile there’s a song for it. There are usually multiple songs for it. Music is diversified and designed to make us feel. Even without words, music can move us. I think the universe is inherently musical. It’s how it communicates with us and how we respond in kind. Every culture on earth has some form of music as a component in it. It’s one of the few universals out there.

When I was little the only shows I would watch on TV were ones that had people singing in them. So as you can imagine growing up in the 80s I watched a lot of Kids Incorporated and Jem (who truly amazed me). Billy Joel was my first concert. I was somewhere around the age of 2. And that was quickly followed by the Beach Boys. The music I remember most from when I was really young comes from that era… It was the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Billy Joel and Motown. People find it funny in conversations when the Temptations come on and my response is always that it brings me back to my childhood, because the songs were popularized 20 years before I was born. But that’s the great thing about great music. It lives on. That connection lives on. Great music touches lives forever. Even if it’s on a silly, little show. I’m sure “The Ed Sullivan Show” could be classified in a similar manner, but it had an unprecedented impact on people around the world simply because a band played a few songs on February 9, 1964. And the impact lasts to this day. So in short, Adam and I actually agree. Everything we do matters. Everything we do has the potential to change lives.

(PS guys I promise I’m going to stop writing about “the voice”…. and you know, buy my book. Seriously, it’s a worthwhile, cost-effective gift for any occasion, and everyone you forgot to put on your list this year!  🙂

Bursting the independence bubble

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You know how you grow up with an idea of what independence is? You know, especially as a teenager, that you will “grow up,” graduate high school and be independent. You will make your own decisions; you will do whatever you want to do. You will be on your own. And it seems like that is what true independence is. After talking with a lot of teens (you know, like) recently who (fine one of whom) asked my opinion on being independent (hey, the others asked my opinion on headphones!), I realized that I didn’t really have an easy answer or even any answer on the subject. At least not that was appropriate in the setting. So I think I stammered off something about the importance of decision-making skills in being independent. But I started thinking, as I have before on the subject.

Independence is viewed differently around the world. Here you turn 18 and move out! You have your own place, your own mode of transportation, your own stuff. It’s yours. You’re officially independent. Your happiness. Your choices. Your life. But around the world, particularly in collectivist cultures, you don’t move out. Not in that way. Families stay together. They live in the same homes or on the same property. They work together to raise the children and grandchildren. They gather often. They celebrate often. Independence is not created by a person’s ability to live on their own. Independence is, in many cases, considered to be when one can contribute to the family through work, through parenting, through assistance, even at a young age. It is responsibility that makes you independent. Because it gives you the ability to make choices.

And I think there is a lot of truth to that idea. That it is our ability to make choices that makes us independent. And whether or not we make good choices, choices that will grow us as individuals, grow us as families, and grow us as communities makes all the difference. Many times the quality of our choices determine whether or not we can remain independent by the definition we have when we are young. Can we live on our own? Not if we make poor choices. Is it in our best interest to live on our own? That is a deeper question, and of much more importance than if we can live on our own. Most of us here live on our own, but if something were to go wrong, an accident, a disaster, a lost job, any unexpected news then many of us wouldn’t be able to sustain ourselves. What makes independence great, is that when we have enough forethought we can truly go where we want to go. The understanding that independence does not necessarily mean functioning in singularity, but instead functioning in a manner that contributes to bettering, furthering ourselves and our passions makes all the difference in the world. That is the only place we can find true independence. And that independence gives us the grace to fall and to get back up, instead of falling without end.

 

(On a side note you should absolutely give my book to everyone you know this year. It’s cheap, life-changing, fun, smart, great, easy to read, and easy to order. You do it from home, no holiday crowds to deal with. And that’s always a plus! So why not knock those people you have no clue what to get off the list in one, pleasantly fell swoop??)

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!!

This is an old post, and actually from my book, but it is perfect for today because it begins to embody what thanksgiving is supposed to be about. Truly being grateful for those things that we have, even the most minute details. The walls of the homes, the streetlights that light our way home at night, the sheets, the bed, the food, the trees, the people, the love, and the potential that exists within all of us. It’s all there, it’s all real, it all matters. So here’s the post:

One day when I was driving home with my son in the back of my car, he started to cry. I tried music. I tried talking to him. I tried getting out and giving him juice and snacks. I checked to make sure he didn’t need anything else. I tried everything I knew to convince him that it was going to be okay. I gave him everything he could need. As he continued crying we began again with just a few more blocks to our house. I remember sitting at the stop sign and saying to him, “If you could only see, my love, we’re just a few minutes from being there. Just a few more minutes. It’s almost over. You don’t have to worry. Everything will be just as you want it to be soon. ”

In that moment I began to realize just how similar that sweet little baby and I were. I thought to myself:

How many times do I sit there wondering, crying, ‘God why isn’t this happening yet? Why can’t I see what’s going on? Why isn’t it the way I want it to be? What can I do to make things different? I can’t use what I have, I don’t even want this stuff I’ve got. I want something different, something better. Why can’t you just give me what I really want? Why is it like this? Why can’t I see the way out?’ and all the while God is sitting there saying, ‘It’s okay. I’ve given you everything you can possibly need. It’s all right there. Everything is waiting for you to arrive. You’re so close. You don’t have to cry. You don’t have to worry. I promise it’s all right there. If you could only just believe me, it would all be okay. ’” 

 

I spent so much time worrying about why things weren’t right, that I failed to understand everything that was right with where I was. I didn’t appreciate it. I wasn’t thankful for it. I just threw it aside thinking I didn’t really need it. What’s the use in all of this stuff? I let myself get to a point where I couldn’t see past the hurt, the worry, the fear. It consumed me. And so it consumed everything I did for the most part, as well.

When we got home that day, I turned on Oprah, and there was a woman who had survived the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11. As I watched, she talked about all of the things she goes through each day just to get up and going. She had been burned over a large portion of her body. She could no longer hold her children. Up until recently, she couldn’t even open the peanut butter jar to make a sandwich for her children’s lunch. While watching, I realized all of the things that I had to be thankful for.

I can hold my son. I can touch his face. I can hug him. I can pick him up. I can see him smile. I can hear his laughter. I can play with him. I can drive him anywhere he needs to go. I can feel him breathe. I can run and jump with him. I can teach him to play sports. I have so many things to be thankful for, especially when it comes to him. He and my nephews make me smile every day. They fill my heart with joy every day. They let me love them every day, and I feel so honored to be able to do so. And I am so thankful to have the chance, all day every day to try again.

Even when I get things wrong, I have learned to be thankful that I have the chance to try again. And one of the ways I try to show my gratitude is by trying to make the right choice after I’ve made the wrong one. If it is something that can be undone, then I try to undo it. If the chance has passed, then I make sure to try not to make the same mistake again. With gratitude comes the possibility for change. If we recognize that it is possible for us at any moment to show that we are thankful, somehow, some way, we can seize the opportunity instead of allowing it to pass us by.

A bit of gratitude!

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier” Mother Teresa

I am pretty sure I have quoted this before on this blog, but it’s truly one of my favorite quotes. I just wanted to take a little bit of time tonight to say how thankful I am for all of you who have taken the time to stop by this blog. Your support is truly amazing to me, and I am so thankful that I have had the chance to connect with so many people.

My goal for this blog is to make it so that when people come here they feel uplifted and perhaps find a little bit of insight as well. There are so many things around us that work to easily bring us down, and I think it’s important to have a place of refuge that we can return to lift our spirits up when we want. And I hope that when I write, I write things that do just that. I want the words to be places that can be returned to for moments of encouragement and inspiration.

And when I started out deciding to make a blog like that, I didn’t realize that it would be returned. That I could come here and see such support and such encouragement. It’s overwhelming the community that has formed here sometimes and I am honestly grateful beyond words for it. So I humbly thank you all, for stopping by, and I hope that as you do, you leave happier.

Thank you!

I also wanted to say thank you to the following people for nominating me for awards. Again, it’s incredibly kind of you to take the time to do so!

 

http://notesflow.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/one-lovely-blog-award/

http://hometogo232.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/illuminating/.

http://colourtheday.wordpress.com/awardsinspiration/

 

And a very special thank you for taking the time to read and review my book! It really means a lot to me!! Thank you so much!

http://alastairfk13.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/review-of-between-fear-and-love-self-worth-the-ties-that-bind/

A bit of good news I hope!!

The kindle version of my book is now just $.99! (it started at midnight, I am excessively uncomfortable with self-promotion!) Which is very exciting!! One of the reasons I opted to make a kindle version was to keep prices low. I think that we all have to pay attention to how and what we spend our money on, so I’m really excited that I get the chance to do this!

So, if you are interested in changing your life, following your dreams, understanding your relationships, sharing the difficulties of parenting, feeling inspired, motivated, encouraged, and understanding why you really are worthy of all of the wonderful things life has to offer and learning how to achieve them, it truly is a dollar extremely well spent. It’s a short read (it is 260 pages, but it feels so much faster, honestly!) It’s written in the same format as my blog. It’s like we sat down in my living room to have a conversation about everything worthwhile that I’ve learned in my years studying psychology and in my personal life. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (except those of you who are manly enough to hold it in, but you’ll want to), It’s a chance worth taking, and it costs next to nothing. Give it to someone as a gift. You don’t need a kindle to read it. So please share it with everyone you know. It’s time and a tiny bit of money well spent.

Between Fear and Love – Kindle

And I want to thank all of you for creating such a wonderful and supportive community here. It really is impressive, this blogging community. Thanks for letting me in, encouraging me, and helping me accomplish my dreams. I hope I help you all do the same!

I also want to thank the following people for nominating me for awards this past week. I appreciate the thought. It means a lot, because I really want people to enjoy this blog and to feel inspired when they read it. So thank you. Check them out:

http://smilesalot1969.wordpress.com/

http://voluntaryfiber.wordpress.com/

http://panichold.wordpress.com/

Part 2 of forgiveness continued from yesterday

And I think with each realization, I began to release that fear a little bit more, and a little bit more. I tried it again the next day and the next. Until I finally felt like I was able to really let go of all of the angst that I felt about school and the way things happened when I was younger. I decided it was time to try something bigger.

Figuring out a way to forgive someone who I didn’t know, as my uncle’s murder case had gone on unsolved, was a very hard thing to do. I didn’t know his face or his name. I just knew that in a matter of seconds he sent more fear through me than anyone I had ever met. He took away the most precious gift we have. He was callous and cruel. And forgiving that seemed an impossibility and probably not a necessity. But somewhere in me, I knew that I had to find a way to stop letting fear rule over me.

I honestly don’t know that I have completely let go today, although I feel that I have. I’m fairly sure that since forgiveness like most things is probably a continuous process the fear will reemerge from time to time. But what I was able to do by saying that I was letting go of all of the hurt and fear that you’ve caused me over my life was to take back control of who I wanted to be. I was no longer going to be scared with so much of me stuck in place by the actions of that person. I wasn’t saying what happened was okay. It was not. It was and will always be a horrific, unnecessary act. But letting that act interfere in my life by continuing to worry, hate, and fear was no longer going to happen. My uncle was not living in fear and hate anymore. He is no longer bound by such human emotions. He simply exists in love, and to honor him, I should try my best to, as well.

Maybe it’s easier not knowing who to blame. But there was a time when I would look at everyone and think, “It could have been you.” Or I would refuse to look at anyone, because I was completely unwilling to let anyone in at all. To be in the place I am at now, where I’m no longer afraid to live and look people in the eye is amazing to me, because sometimes I was worried I’d never get here. The place I am at would have never been possible without the option of forgiveness. Forgiveness gave me the means to take my life back. It was able to help me restore my joy and my ability to love. It has truly made all of the difference in the world.

Even when I do have moments where I go back and I feel like I did back then, they are fleeting. I know they won’t last even when I’m experiencing them. That is the most wonderful change of all I think. Living in happiness, feeling worthy of what I have is something I hope I never trade in for fear again.

As for the boy I loved, I forgave him initially a long time ago. Maybe it sounds pretentious and maybe sometimes it didn’t seem true, but the day I asked for the rainbow, I had also asked for forgiveness. I wanted it for me and for him. And my experiences with him are the most prominent reminder I have that those moments of unforgiveness do reoccur, but I always have the capacity to utilize my self-control and refuse to allow any of the things either one of us have done in the past to keep me down.

At my very core, I wish him the best. I want him to believe in himself and to experience all of the wonderful things there are to experience here. And although for a time it felt like it was necessary for me to be there and see those things through with him, I did finally get to a point where it doesn’t matter if I ever know. I don’t want those things because I want to be with him. I want those things because I refuse to be angry and upset with him. That only stifles us both. I want them because he’s worthy of feeling this joy and chasing his dreams, too. With forgiveness I can choose love over fear.

When it comes to forgiving myself, it really is a challenge sometimes. What we have when working internally is the insight that we knew better ahead of time. When I made choices that were not consistent with the things I wanted in my life, it was always hard to feel like I should be forgiven for those choices. But when it came to forgiving myself for putting Jack in the position he is in, that was the hardest thing for me to do. We label someone a liar after only one lie, but how many truths must a person tell to be labeled honest. The negative is just so easy to hold on to.

Sometimes I still go back and note that I really did know ahead of time that I could do things differently. I didn’t have to listen to what the people around me were saying. I didn’t have to listen to what his father was saying. I had the chance to say no. And I didn’t. I gave in. I let go. And I hurt the person whose life I was responsible for. I cried many, many times trying to think of how it could even be conceivable to forgive myself for that. I wasn’t asking Jack to. I knew that was far too much to ask of him. But I also realized that keeping that guilt and holding onto that self-contempt was unhealthy for both of us. We both needed me to be the mom he deserved, and the only way to do that was to choose to let go of that pain.

I had to forgive myself, because holding onto something I couldn’t change was irrational and detrimental to our progress. I was determined to love him. I was determined to be the best mother I could for him. And to do that I had to choose to forgive. Sometimes I do still get a little overwhelmed, but I know how to bring myself back to where I need to be for us both. Back to forgiveness. Back to self-worth.

I promise not to publish such long posts again. But I had a lot of people asking me about forgiveness and if they thought it was real, or if it could truly happen, and I felt it would be good to just go ahead and post the chapter, because it does matter. It does happen. It is real. And it makes all the difference.

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