Have you noticed how emotions buildup steam around the holidays, emulating a runaway train? Far reaching stressors often halt the holiday joy ride — be it time with difficult personalities, over-spending, trying to mirror picture-perfect celebrations, too little rest, dashed hopes on a “Dear Santa List,” and of course alcohol consumption (usually in excess at this time of year). But those unscheduled stops don’t have to become your final holiday destination.
This may be a time of traditions but it can also be a time of breaking them. Are you the caboose chugging along well-worn tracks, or the engine choosing more fulfilling activities? Only you know how you feel around the family contrarian, when you over-indulge in special holiday treats, or struggle to pay bills. No matter when or how holiday difficulties appear, step back to see how to handle them differently, rather than traditionally.
Challenging opportunities can be unexpected sources of strength when initiating change to rise above them.
When approaching a disquieting juncture, try the unfamiliar. Respond instead of react. Shorten the visit at difficult family get togethers. Politely walk away from an argumentative platform to an affable track. Prioritize time-sensitive tasks on the schedule, and include self-care on the timetable. Ask yourself if overloading on those tempting holiday sweets is worth risking diabetes. Good old fashioned discipline still works. Set a budget for gift giving and stick to it. Better yet, offer a gift from the heart. Most of all, be kind. To yourself and others.
A few sayings I find helpful, and particularly at this time of year:
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
Let it begin with me.
May your holidays fill your heart with joy, peace and love.
Digging through clay caked soil to plant something somewhere in my yard I usually hear that familiar clang. It’s my shovel hitting rock. I work it loose, sometimes easily freeing it, sometimes needing other tools or adjusting my approach. Soon after I often hear another clang or scrape and then another, and usually more — depending on the size of hole needed. Some rocks are larger, some smaller, some pebble size like the tiny annoyances in a day.
I work around colossal rocks, accepting that the tree I wanted in that particular spot is not going to thrive in that particular spot. I move on. Shift my focus to another area, a solution.
Usually, about half-way through clearing rocks, I’m chuckling at Nature’s metaphor for life’s challenges.
Learning through Grief
I began this post before the untimely loss of my best friend — Bess my beloved 14 1/3 year old border collie. Acceptance soothes my broken heart when acknowledging this will happen to each and everyone of us and everyone we love, that this behest of time is a transformation of life. I continue learning through my loss of Bess…such as doing what I can then letting go, and the power of thought and perspective. I anticipate sharing more from time to time on insights gained through this experience…
“All of life’s experiences are to be either enjoyed or learned from.”
— Alan Cohen
Bess gave me both.
I am curious to know how you process grief. A sage shared this short (18 minute) video with me. Hopefully, you will benefit as well — not just in a time of need.
The color red symbolizes steadfast faith. Some Christians believe it represents Christ’s blood. But the cardinal inspiration I’m talking about isn’t from the Catholic church — it’s from those eye-catching red birds that perk up winter’s indeterminate grey, like a spark of hope in darkness.
When faced with challenges like enduring the winter cold, the cardinal bird chooses to sing a lovely song. It stays strong and positive, exhibiting persistence and grace.
I am increasingly convinced that Mother Nature guides us by offering her own Divine space to us as a spiritual well. We simply need to open our eyes to see, accept, and contemplate her generosity.
Such is the case with the red cardinal.
Some believe the cardinal encourages us to “find our life song,” to create new ways to love our life and show our gratitude for it.”
Others say the cardinal warns us to be mindful of our thoughts and what we are creating. Are we continually replaying past hurts, thereby deepening the groove of misery (and setting the stage for more to come), or are we choosing to be at peace in the present moment? It may be helpful to visualize that red stop sign when these negative thoughts occur.
Many cultures believe cardinals are messengers from someone who has passed.
Five years ago on the morning of New Year’s Eve, my dear friend Mary died from breast cancer. A lover of nature and all animals, Mary encircled her home in the woods with numerous bird feeders. On the day of her memorial a red cardinal held vigil at the window to the room where Mary passed in her home. We believed it was telling us that Mary’s spirit lives on.
Others have had similar experiences. How ’bout you? Do you have your own story of a symbolic message a cardinal carried into your life?
Summer 2018 Rainy. Grey. Humid. Rainy. Grey. Humid. Flooding. Scorching heat. Rainy. Grey. Humid. Flooding. Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire. Make me run inside for shelter. AC. A spurt of sun appears. Some tomatoes wear tough rain jackets, many others split on the vine while unlucky peppers turn soggy rather than red and basil’s aromatic gifts are non-existent this year. The grill waited to be fired up but the fire and enthusiasm in me drowned out.
What to make of this autistic summer? Although many people disagree on the “causes” of autism and of climate change, they both exhibit blatantly foreboding signs:
Climate change – an increase in the frequency and strength of extreme events (storms, floods, droughts) that threaten human health and safety.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characteristics – social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors.
Six full days at best I could work in the yard this summer, and grill on two. Tall grass is as unkempt as the autistic’s personal hygiene. Weeds are poised to take over. They know I will not be tugging at them in the rain or with mosquitos biting my neck. Arms. Legs. Scratching for relief. Scratching. Scratching. Where is the relief? Summer use to be a break from the long, cold, stressful winter but Mother Nature’s fighting, hitting, kicking, biting, throwing objects from her autistic corner. Does she feel cornered?
Autistics struggle with severe anxiety, sensory dysfunction, and deficits in social communication. Half are considered aggressive toward others, and nearly one-third of autistic adults are unable to use spoken language to communicate.
I hear the thunderous banging and wailing. Her words trail behind the clouds…the rain, and tears of desperation. I see her utter frustration.
I often viewed challenges as problems, headaches, when in reality my narrow perspective was the constricting chokehold. My limited vision obstructed a panorama of possibilities in what appeared a seemingly bleak situation.
Hearing someone say they were so busy looking at the thorn that they missed the rose, wiped the spattered looking-glass for me. Working in the garden and studying the Tao pryed open the door to a scopic reality.
While I now see both the roses and the thorns, I am learning to not judge either as good or bad but as a unified connection, one simply needing the other in life.
Digging in the dirt…unearthing rocks, weeds, my thoughts turn to life’s struggles…times my heart was breaking and I did not see a way out, a reasonable solution, how to get past the pain of the moment. Not knowing what else to do, I dug in the dirt. I weeded. I carried rocks. Pails of small ones, and wheelbarrows of large ones until I ached. Ached so bad I could barely sleep but went back out and did it all over again the next day. And the next.
Unable to remove the boulder that was there, and would always be there like unresolved abysmal hurt, I tried to conceal it. Find a way around it. Moving on, I cultivated the impermeable soil to breathe and grow while filling my thoughts with affirmations and new perspectives. Taking time to nurture nature, nature began nurturing me.
If you’ve ever felt dishonored or abandoned, turn to nature. Love her. Honor her. Nurture her to soothe the soul. She is always there for you.
Take orphans — or any neglected children — into the garden. Create. Nurture. Love. Watch them grow.
Photo by Jamie Mink on Unsplash
Photo by sean-malone from Unsplash
Photo by Tong Nguyen van on Unsplash
Photo by Robert Fischetto on Unsplash
Photo by Matthew Pla on Unsplash
Featured black/white photo (original in color) by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash.
World Tai Chi & Qigong Day sat on my bucket list for several years. With no events offered in my small, semi-rural community, I made up my mind last year to drive 1.5 hours to participate. The powerful group energy felt like a profoundly calming universal hug, not to mention the good people I met and now have the pleasure of studying the Tao with. Yes, I make the 3 hour roundtrip drive to do this monthly but it brings me so much pleasure it’s a worthy investment. Now, World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is an annual must do event for me. (FYI, it’s always the last Saturday in April at 10AM local time.)
As an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), safeguarding my own peace and serenity (aka well-being) is critical for me. Detaching from the bombardment of frenetic and frantic energy through sensationalized “news” while staying engaged with humans and the environment is key, and I’m meeting numerous others with similar observations. Like the waitress who sadly said, “I’m serving more and more families who come in and sit glued to their phones rather than talk to each other. It doesn’t make sense!” Or the fellow concert goer who high-fived me after first responding in shock, “You did what?! I’d like to give up this thing too and get my life back.”
For the record, I recognize some value in having technology like GPS or locating a restaurant in an unfamiliar city, but it’s not worth the expense to me — financially, mentally or emotionally. I just don’t need technology. My life M.O. has changed to “discarding” rather than “adding” non-essentials. I value my time more. I see how easily I could become addicted. And I see the stress — whether to the user or those around them — from constantly pinging phones interrupting each moment, deteriorating eye contact and banishing personal interaction. I see others trying to remedy their lives after their electronic financial accounts were hacked… What I don’t see is the value of turning my life over to technology.
But anyway, the point of this post is to encourage you to try World Tai Chi & Qigong Day if you haven’t already. Whether you are or aren’t engaged with technology, Tai Chi and Qigong are certain to bring a calmness into your life. And couldn’t we all use that these days?