Empathy and Tattoos

So yesterday I went and got my tattoo. Yes, it seems even strange to me the person who said she would never deface her body and here I am at 57 yo getting my first. I have to tell you that it felt great! A way of taking back myself and giving a gift to myself in the form of myself.. My authentic self. The tattoo is a message to myself.  It is a reminder of the way I hope to carry myself and to act throughout this process of separation and divorce. I suspect I’ll spend a lot of time in the bathroom looking in the mirror trying to instill these words into action. 

I put a lot of thought into where I wanted it placed. It is very small and very personal to me. So I put it right below my shoulder where I have to make a conscious effort to see it. Without further ado:

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 I suspect there are times I will fail mightily as I try to maintain and even grow my dignity and grace, but somehow I also suspect that in just knowing it is there, like a ghost following behind my well-worn path; it will serve me well.
I did think that this thought from Thich Nhat Hanh might be a good alternative to DIGNITY & GRACE…but it was just too long and I am just too chicken…so I leave you with his lovely words.

 

Empathy

Voices In My Head

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Okay, I know this will sound kind of psychotic, like I am hearing “voices” in my head. But lets face it, we all do. Whether we call it our conscious,ego or intuition; there is something in our heads that from time to time influences and directs us. Usually, listening to this voice can be a good thing except when what we are hearing is negative self-talk about ourselves.

When I first started this “maybe divorce” journey I immediately took steps to change my attitude and my outlook on life. And it helped a lot and for quite a while. But lately I have realized I am slipping back into the negative self talk and decided that I needed to revisit those practices that I began which quieted this negativity. So I am back to “CANCEL, CANCEL, CANCEL”  when I hear negative self-talk, followed by the exact opposite of the negative said three times. It might look like this.

“He doesn’t love you”

“CANCEL, CANCEL, CANCEL”

“HE DOES LOVE YOU, HE DOES LOVE YOU, HE DOES LOVE YOU” or instead I just stop and look around taking note of what I see around me.

“OH THE CLOUDS ARE BIG AND FLUFFY WHITE TODAY. LOOK AT THOSE BIRDS SITTING ON THE TELEPHONE WIRE. MUST BE 20 OF THEM”

I refuse to give this negative self-talk the time of day.

So far this correction of my negativity has been helping to decrease it. By paying attention of what my inner dialogue is saying to me; I am aware of how negativity begets negativity and how negative internal dialogue influences your external life. Once again, I am reminded that living with negativity is such a caustic way in which to live on a daily basis.

As I contemplated this a few weeks ago it occurred to me that I am my worst critic. The “Constructive Criticism” or negative self-talk I indulge in is often cruel or mis-guided. It seems strange that I so readily accept it of/for myself. Because, frankly, if another person treated me the way I treat myself… if that person said the words to me that I say to myself… well, I wouldn’t put up with it. In fact I would probably tell that mean gurl:

“SEE YAH. DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU IN THE ASS ON THE WAY OUT!”

Yet, for some reason, many of us give this negative person who dwells within us too much power. We believe that THEY are on our side and have something valuable to say when in fact they don’t. We treat THEM like they are some sort of expert on how we should live our day-to-day lives. We give THEM the power to guide us regarding how we react to most everything we encounter during our day, when, this type of negativity does not need to be in charge of ANYTHING in our lives. In fact, when we hear it speaking, unless it is doing so with kindness and compassion, we should ignore it. We should refuse to believe anything it is telling us.  And we should “CANCEL, CANCEL, CANCEL” until we cannot hear it anymore.

Why? Because it is only natural that when we talk to ourselves with loving kindness that is how we will treat others. And if we can’t be nice to ourselves it is doubtful others will be either.

So today, be mindful of what you are saying to yourself. Listen and figure out if what is being said is coming from a place of compassion or one of self-loathing. And if it is not coming from a place of gentleness then walk away and leave those words behind. For there is only one you and you deserve to hear about the best of you and not the worst.

So be it.

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Sometimes Sorrow Brings Its Own Kind Of Joy

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The first one-and-one-half years after the “Maybe Divorce” were full of sorrowful hours and weeks. Often I imagined myself like Eeyore as he experienced a “splendid” day. Sometimes it felt like I dived into a tank of oil filled with alligators, weighted down as I tried to keep my ass away from the razor-sharp feelings and anger that was making ribbons of my heart. During those times, I was never sure I could rise to the top…but I did and I have. And in doing so, I have discovered something amazing. That those days of sorrow, when I thought the world might be better off without me, that those pain-filled, soul-searching, scorched earth days taught me the most because they allowed me to find joy again in the little things. Things that went unnoticed prior to the “Maybe Divorce.”

My son’s laugh now brings joy to my heart. It is one that is unrestrained with smacks, giggles, and a love of slap-stick humor that rises up from the bottom-of-his-toes. His laughter booms around the house bouncing off the walls and climbing the stairs drifting like a melody to my ears. When I hear that joyous laughter of his, I automatically smile because my heart pings like an arrow shot straight to the center of it full of all the goodness that a hearty laugh makes you feel.

Andre’s sense of humor brings me lots of joy. While he struggles with social skills, because of his autism, one thing he holds is a wicked sense of the absurd. While there are times he uses his wickedness to tear me down, often I find that in the heat of the moment his sense of humor defuses my fuse and I begin laughing so hard that tears come to my eyes. Don Rickles would have loved this kid.

The youngest brings me joy just by being around here. Her fun breezy nature makes the day feel like there are just a few more rays of sun lifting me up and holding me above the chaos. Her natural joy in contagious and it makes me see things in life to be joyous about like painted toenails with rhinestones, fresh baked cookies and a game of Farkle.

The grandkids sense of discovery brings me a sense of renewal and joy. Each of them reminds me that time is precious and that when I see things through their eyes I am young again and can find joy in simple things like caterpillars, the color purple or watching streams of water flow out of the can as we are watering my garden. They make it easy to find those simple streams of joy and keep them nearby as they slowly drip down my arm and make a puddle near my feet.

West makes joy enter my life just by calling. As a busy executive he doesn’t have much time for his family…not complaining…it is just a fact. To hear his voice reminds me of that little boy who would grab me by the neck and pull my head to his whispering, “Mommy, I love you.” A surge of joy zips down my vertebrae like the thrill one gets when riding a zip line when those tender thoughts of yesteryear surface just by hearing him tell me about his life.

Our two oldest daughters whom I had difficulties relating to as teenagers now talk to me on a daily basis. At one point in our lives I thought there was the possibility that their silent treatments might last for weeks at a time. Yet, these days there is a deep sense of respect and love that reminds me that when joy is out of reach, it will sweep in again like the ocean tide and wet your toes just when you least expect it.

These days my husband is bringing me a sense of joy once again. Although some days it feels like we are climbing a mountain, at this point in time I am able to trust that we are making a journey to one other with each slow and steady step. Sometimes it feels like we are on Everest and are needing to carry an oxygen bottle with us to survive but more days than not it feels like we can discard that bottle and live on the small occasional joys that we find connecting with each other again. It is a work in progress.

But by far the person bringing me the most joy these days is me.  Decreasing the negative self-talk and seeing all the wonderous and joyful things that make me, ME, has given me a sense of happiness and pleasure that I once denied myself. I feel joy in meditating and aligning my psyche with the beauty contained within my soul. I am no longer content to live life as if a river controls my destiny by pushing me through the current instead of me acting as my own oarswoman and charting my own path. Today I seek JOY and find it much easier than I once did because I look for the little things instead of the grand occasions and I am able to still find contentment on those days when it is elusive.

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I guess at this point in my life finding the small JOYS in my life are enough. And while my family helps me recognize some of those things that bring me happiness; I now know that it is my job to seek those things that make me joyful and live my life as if it is full of joy even when it sometimes is not and on those days there is always….

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Right Speech, Better Communication

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Throughout my life I have been a person who is expressive. A person who uses lots of words and used them well. Too well it seems. I used words to let everyone know exactly what was on my mind at all times. I let words leave my mouth like flying monkeys swooping up people without thinking about the true meaning of my words. I didn’t care how I said IT just as long as IT was said.

Recently, it has occurred to me that my words were hurting others and as a result they were hurting me too. I realized that I was not connecting my heart to my tongue and had no idea how to do so. Even though I knew I wanted to change how I communicated I had idea of how to go about it. But then I chanced upon the Daily OM and the course How to Communicate Like a Buddhist : Lesson 1: The Elements of Right Speech by Cynthia Kane.

Kane’s way of approaching communication is different from anything I had ever seen. She states that the real purpose of communication is to help ourselves and others suffer less. And when communication is looked at through this lens it tosses convention aside and it makes it crystal clear that if we wish to change our relationships then the words we use, the intention behind them, and the way that we speak through them must be radically changed into talk that is kinder, more honest and most importantly… helpful… to those receiving our words.

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The thing I love about this course is that you pay for it based on what you think it is worth to you. Kane’s talks are detailed, thoughtful and in short…amazing. In addition, there is nightly homework to help firm up the ideas you are learning and put them into practice.

So here’s to better communication everyone! May your words be true, kind and helpful and may your well-chosen words spur you on to better and more rewarding relationships!

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Under The Strawberry Moon

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Tonight, the first night of summer to be exact, a strawberry moon rose steadily from horizon to that place so high in the sky that it appeared to take up almost all the space in the galaxy, leaving room for nothing but a few pulsating stars. The moon’s color was like a Mary Magdalene rose…fluffy and full the luscious golden pink  tinged color. I have seen better strawberry moons where the sky had the hue of a hearty David Austin Sharifa Asma rose, it’s brilliant pink filling the night sky; but if you were just looking for something like a miracle of nature, the other night would do just fine.

As B and I held hands in awe, gazing at the nights passion play, I thought about how the moon had changed from when I was a child. Back then, I would search for the Man in the Moon, who seemed to hide in delight every time I tried to get a glimpse of him. Later, as children arrived and the busy demands of motherhood intervened; I stole quick glances at the sky seldom appreciating the miracle that was unfolding above me. But tonight, my appreciation for the moon peaked when B said, “I love to see the glow of the moon as it shines over you.”

These days as I settle into the later part of my life, I see in the moon what I see in myself. A creation that is glorious in its simplicity, sparkly, and has no ambitions to be anything but what it is…a moon. Like the moon I wish to be appreciated for the light that shines outward from me and for producing those joyous high tides can help change the landscape around us.  And as moon also provides stability to the earth, its gravitational pull ensuring that we don’t spin violently out of control, I would like to be seen as possessing that kind of dependability and support to my family and friends as life shifts around us. And while the moon is moving away from the Earth at a rate of 4 cm per year, I would like to think that when it is my time to move on that I will have left just enough light in my children’s lives to guide them even when clouds linger overhead.

For I am like a strawberry moon…I am brilliant, full of life, and just freakin’ spectacular.

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